Monday, March 27, 2006

Spring break in Japan

I haven't posted in awhile for two main reasons: First, Alexandra was here in Berlin visiting. We had tons of fun imitating statues, imagining my new roommate as Batman, climbing the Siegesäule and getting lightheaded on the climb down, and eating lots of Kartoffelsuppe. If you want to see pictures (which I must say are pretty hysterical), go here.

The other main reason why I've been M.I.A.? This tiny little archipelago in Asia called "Japan." I was there visiting Dan for the week and we went to Tokyo and hung out in Kyoto. We made a pretty funny couple since everyone assumed that I knew Japanese, though the extent of my Japanese is "Arigato" (thanks). People would direct questions and comments to me, to which I would just stare at them blankly or just give a puzzled look, say, "Um, Dan...?" and Dan would answer in Japanese. I think we confused quite a few people. On the flight to Osaka Airport, the flight attendants assumed I was Japanese and passed me by when handing out landing cards, even though I raised my hand indicating I needed one. D'oh.

The first day I was there, we went to see a light festival that was being held in Gion. I was surprisingly not dying of jetlag and we walked all over looking at temples and shrines. It was really beautiful despite the fact that it was lightly raining. On Sunday, we went to Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is this huge shrine with tons of torii (gates). If you've seen the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, it's the place where the little girl runs under all these orange things. There was a lot of climbing up stairs and hills, wandering on paths that took us through clusters of bamboo trees, and we got to see Kyoto from above. We wandered off a path a little too far and actually accidentally left the Fushimi Inari Shrine, so we had to climb back up a large hill and find the path again. It was a beautiful day and much walking/hiking/wandering was done. By the time we were done discovering the shrine, we were beat.

Sunday evening after the Fushimi Inari Shrine, we took an overnight bus to Tokyo. The 8 hour ride itself sucked because neither Dan nor I could really sleep and the bus was ridiculously hot. When we got to Tokyo, it was too early to do anything, so we ate breakfast in Tokyo Station (we found a McDonald's). Once the city began to wake, we walked to the Imperial Palace, which wasn't actually that interesting. We saw the big wall surrounding the palace and everything was closed. It was a bit disappointing, but Dan said that the Imperial Palace in Kyoto was far more impressive. On Dave Ly's recommendation, we went to Odaiba, this district near the Rainbow Bridge.

We went to Decks Tokyo Beach, which is this weird cluster of malls. Why weird? Well, we found Little Hong Kong on the top two floors of one mall. It was strange and a bit cheesy, but we managed to find a good Chinese restaurant. (This made me pretty happy, considering I can't find Chinese food here in Berlin to my liking.) We then went down a few floors and crossed to a mall that was directly next to the first. It was even more bizarre than the first; it was as if someone transported us to 1950's Tokyo. All the stores sold nostalgic goods or just plain strange Japanese things. For example, we found this store that sold all this crazy stuff with cats dressed up like humans (samurai, ninjas, students, etc.) Check this website out if you don't believe me. Although it was a bit strange and foreign to us, we enjoyed walking around nonetheless.

Tuesday was Dan's 21st birthday, but instead of doing the usual let's-get-drunk-because-you're-legal thing, we went to Tokyo Disney instead. We chose to go to DisneySea instead of the main Disneyland park and we spent the whole day there. You would think that it wouldn't be so different than Disneyworld or Disneyland in the US, but oh, is it. Besides lots of crazy little Japanese girls running around, the stuff they sell is different, everything is in Japanese (even the characters talk in Japanese, obviously), and the atmosphere is very, well, Japanese.

The rides there were pretty sweet. I was most psyched about the Indiana Jones ride, since I'd been on the one in Disneyland in California. It was pretty much the same, except Indy speaks in Japanese. (I definitely made a video of that.) Our other favorite ride was Journey to the Center of the Earth, which seemed a little boring ("What is all this colorful stuff?"), then suddenly there's this big ass monster ("What the fuck is that?!" was my reaction), and finally, a big ass drop and you zoom along really fast. I convinced Dan to go on Raging Spirits, a roller coaster that had one loop, and he actually enjoyed it. We also went on a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride that made me claustrophobic and motion sick (it didn't help that the ride simulated being under water), a small roller coaster that was Little Mermaid themed, and some others that I can't recall. Of course, we also saw some shows. One was really weird and trippy (I fell asleep for a little) and the other was a live performance of Little Mermaid songs. The songs were in English, but when the characters spoke, it was in Japanese.

I'm not going to detail the whole day in DisneySea, but it was a really good time. Dan and I were both amused that we were kids for a day instead of being legal and getting drunk. We just had a beer each when we got back to our hotel. Oh, and I would like to say that I bought the best hat ever from DisneySea, which is super Japanese. I look Japanese. Here's a picture of me in it imitating a Japanese tourist:
Yeah. So the next day, we wandered around a cemetery and then went to Shibuya. Shibuya is the part of Tokyo with tons of bright lights and ads and tons of people. People will collect waiting for the pedestrian lights to change, and when they do, there are just swarms of people crossing every which way. It's a bit intimidating and chaotic, but at the same time, it's what you think of when you think "Tokyo." We met up with Dave for dinner to have shabu-shabu, which is Japanese hot pot. There is a small pot of water and sauce that sits on a stovetop on your table and you continually add vegetables, tofu, and meat. It was sort of strange because Dan kept saying, "More meat!" I suppose it was strange because the entire trip, I would hear, "More meat!" or "Mmm...meat" or something along those lines from him. Newsflash: Dan eats meat now. It was probably the weirdest thing that happened in the week I was in Japan. More so than the crazy Japanese people.

We left Tokyo on another overnight bus ride back to Kyoto and Thursday, we slept at Dan's host family's. At night, we met up with Dan's friends Sam and Mason, Sam's visiting friend Clay, and Mason's Japanese girlfriend whose name I can't recall. We had dinner at a sushi place that had a conveyor belt with all the dishes just rotating around the room, and yes, I did try sushi. However, I still can't get over the texture of fish, and thus, I still don't like it. But I tried it!

After dinner, everyone but Mason's girlfriend went to do some karaoke. We got our own room, had some drinks, and did tons of songs from Weezer's "Buddy Holly" to Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" to Madonna's "Like a Prayer" (Dan, Sam, and I were all about Midd Pride!) to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" (Jersey Pride!). It was lots of fun. I even did Nena's "99 Luftballons" in German by myself. I'll admit that it's too bad I don't do karaoke more often, even though I think I'm pretty awful at singing.

My last day in Japan was spent with Dan wandering around near the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. Tourists and ordinary folk aren't actually allowed within the walls of the palace, so we walked outside it. The cherry blossoms ("sakura" in Japanese) were starting to bloom and were extraordinarily beautiful. Too bad the sakura festivals are a little later. Nonetheless, I took tons of pictures. Dan and I sat under the sakura enjoying our time together, watched some mothers struggling with their children, and relaxed in the amazing springtime weather. We also went by his university where the Japanese students were starting second semester and then returned to his host family's house to have dinner. Dan's host mom cooked a Japanese feast of tempura and other goodies. It was pretty delicious.

On Saturday, Dan and I woke up at 5:30 a.m. so that I could catch a train to Osaka Kansai Airport. It was a good week all in all, we sorted things out, and we're still going strong. This trip was actually the first trip where I didn't think, "Thank God! I'm going back to Berlin!" When I got back here, all I could think was, "Hmm, I miss Dan, I miss the food!" I have nothing to do for the next two weeks before classes start up again except watching movies, planning my next semesters (this coming and fall back at Midd), and basically, just bumming around. Even so, I'm looking forward to relaxing and time alone since the past month has been filled with visitors and visiting. It's time to recover.

If you want to see more pictures from my trip to Japan, go here. I'm warning you, though, there's 283 pictures!!


Dan said...

I just updated my blog too! But I think I like your entry better. I was kind of lazy so I left some stuff out.
Oh man, that was such a good week. Have you worn that hat and used your lunchbox around Berlin yet? I'll get a box together soon and send you some udon!

Joel W. said...

Damn! I had some time this morning while our software was being updated at work, so I watched the slideshow of all your Japan pics and Russia too. (yeah, LOTS of time on my hands today) haha Amazing pics! Beautiful country and sites. I LOVED the little "smoking room" on the sidewalk. That's a great idea. We should have those here. Sorry-I don't like smoke.
Anyways, mad props to Dan(was it?) for the Trogodor t-shirt from Homestar Runner. Great game.
Have a great weekend!! It's FRIDAAAYYY!!!

Jackie said...

Ahhhhh!!!! You went to Japan!! Nuts!!! That sounds AMAZING. You totally should have started screaming jibberish at people when they spoke to you in Japanese. There are surely extreme benefits to being mistaken for a legit Asian. I hope you gave Dan-o lots of love from the rest of us :)

Meg said...

ok, this entry was a double-whammy Make-Others-Miss-Sannie-AND-Dan kinda thing...cruel, Sannie, cruel.
in conclusion, you are missed by a little girl named me in a little state called vt.

Dan's Dad said...

Hey Sannie,

I just got a look at this latest posting and it was great to know that you and Dan had a good time. You both look very happy. And Japan as a can it miss! Thanks for posting. It has been nice to keep up with your news while keeping up with Dan's.