Sunday, November 27, 2011

Torii, Rainbow Bridge, and some J-Pop

The archway in the picture, and others like it, are a sort of symbol of Japan to us foreigners. So elegant, and yet so simple, torii (literally meaning "bird perch") are usually found in or around shrines and temples.

I'll readily admit that I had no idea what these things were until a few hours ago, even though one is prominently displayed in this page's background. But, thanks to the power of Google, I was able to learn that they "symbolically [mark] the transition from the profane to the sacred" (Wikipedia). Aside from doing that, they make good postcard material.

rainbow bridge
Moving quickly onward, I have decided on one thing in Tokyo that I absolutely must see: the Rainbow Bridge.

During the day, it's a rather drab, white-ish bridge. After sunset, though, it becomes the stunning work of art that you see in the picture. It would be sin for me to be in Tokyo and not see this in person!

So, I'll squeeze that into the itinerary box on the right side of the page. Also, now is a good time to mention that I added another $50 to my travel fund, bringing me to 19%. It's not much, but every penny counts!

Now, let's bring this entry to a close with the song below, called 負けないで (makenaide, "don't give up"), by Izumi Sakai.

First image retrieved from Sydney Morning Herald.
Second image retrieved from Flickriver.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oyakodon and days of the week

Oyakodon (親子丼) is a simple dish, consisting of chicken, eggs, green onions, rice, and such like. The reason why I mention it isn't that it has some amazing flavor that we westerners shouldn't live without, but rather because of its name.

The first character in the word oyakodon is oya (親), meaning "parent". The second is ko (子), meaning "child". The last is don (丼), meaning something like "bowl". So,  oyakodon is the "parent and child bowl", because we eat the parent (the chicken) and the child (the egg) in the same bowl. Horrible, right?

japanese desktop
Anyway, moving on, I now use my laptop and iPod entirely in Japanese. No, I really can't make sense out of most of the text, but I am slowly learning useful new words, such as 時計 for "clock" and 天気 for "weather", through forced immersion. The most immediately useful thing that I have learned this way, though, is the days of the week:

  • 日曜日 (nichiyoubi) - sun day 
  • 月曜日 (getsuyoubi) - moon day
  • 火曜日 (kayoubi) - Mars day or fire day
  • 水曜日 (suiyoubi) - Mercury day or water day
  • 木曜日 (mokuyoubi) - Jupiter day or wood day
  • 金曜日 (kin'youbi) - Venus day or metal day
  • 土曜日 (doyoubi) - Saturn day or earth day 
It's worth noting that their weekday names are very similar to ours. Our first day is "Sunday", which is followed by "Monday", and our last day is "Saturday". This is no mistake — it would seem that the practice of naming days of the week after the visible planets was borrowed by China and Rome from Mesopotamia and Egypt, and then eventually was delivered in whole to Japan and in part to us. For comparison, here are the Latin day names:

Dies solis - "Sun day"
Dies lunae - "Moon day"
Dies martis - "Mars day"
Dies mercurii - "Mercury day"
Dies iovis - "Jupiter day"
DIes veneris - "Venus day"
Dies saturni - "Saturn day"

Well, I'd better stop here. I am about to fall asleep on the keyboard! I really need to do this earlier in the day.

First image retrieved from
Second image is my own

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Recent news (最近のニュース)

Note: This image of my favorite punctuation mark is irrelevant. However, I thought that I'd take this opportunity to say that every picture in every article here is set to display a description or some other sort of message when highlighted by the cursor. Now, moving on...

I'm sorry for having gone so long without posting — I'm trying not to give my first readers too much to catch up on.

First off, let me say that I updated my funds again. I managed to add another $200 this week, bringing me to $600. However, I think that this is the last consecutive week that I'll be able to add so much. I'll have to slow down considerably in order to have enough left to live on before the trip!

A week ago or so, I subscribed to all news articles with the keywords "free tickets Japan" through Google News. Since then, I've received two relevant email updates. Let's see what we have:

PR Newswire: American Airlines and Japan National Tourism Organization Offer Tips for Making the Most of Travel to Japan

Traveller: Room at the inns 

ryokan room
The first includes good tips for a Japanese vacation, but it seems to be targeted more at people coming this winter whereas I intend to visit in the spring or fall. The second shows the devastating effects of March's disaster on Japanese businesses, especially the traditional ryokan inns.

These, together, show just how badly Japan not only wants, but needs tourists. They need to dispel the fear that outsiders have of earthquakes, tsunamis and radiation. This is why they are planning to pay for the flights of ten thousand visitors — they need people like us to tell the world that Japan is a great place to visit.

First image retrieved from The Realm of Ryan. I wouldn't want to steal credit for his hard work!

Second image retrieved from My Rooms Japan.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

First stop: Tokyo!

After some deliberation, I have decided that want to take the bull by the horns and start my vacation in Tokyo!

For some time, I had considered that it may be better to save my stay in Tokyo for the end of the vacation — sort of "saving the best for last", if you will. Today, though, I have decided that I want my vacation to start with a bang. After coming out of my culture-shock induced coma, I should be thoroughly converted to Japan-mode, and I think that I will actually better appreciate the rest of my trip after partaking of the vital essence of the capital.

While I'm there, I plan to rendezvous with my friend Suzuki-san and see if I can't coax him into showing me some of the city. This might well be the highlight of my trip!

That's all that I know. I haven't decided how long I will be staying in Tokyo, where I will go next, or whether I will return before flying home. Once I have put together a comprehensive plan for my time in the capital, I'll try to make these decisions. Suggestions are more than welcome!

Now, before I end this entry, time for a status update. I have added $200 to my travel fund, bringing me up to 12% at $400. I have also decided to wait until spring before exchanging my dollars for yen, since I might get better rates then.

That's it for now. またね!

Image retrieved from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Sushi: vinegared, short-grained, sticky white rice served with fish, vegetables, or other ingredients.
— Wiktionary
I included the definition of the word "sushi" above because of the common misconception that it means "raw fish". No, it doesn't, and raw fish (called sashimi in Japanese) is not a necessary ingredient of sushi. However, let's be honest: all of the best and most popular varieties of sushi do have raw fish.

Rather than write a needless article about what sushi is and what kinds there are (that's already been done by countless others before me), I will write a needless article about my experience with sushi. It's my blog, right?

When I first tried sushi a few years back, I approached it with a skeptical mind. The sushi was served, and I, fork in hand (as I had yet to master the art of eating with chopsticks), tried my first roll.

I was not impressed.

You see, we (meaning myself and some of my family) ordered two rolls that I remember. One was called the Rainbow Roll, which my dad had tried and enjoyed before. The other, which I never intend to eat again, was the Philadelphia Roll. All that is important to know about these two is that the first has a lotta fish and the second has a lotta cream cheese.

I tried the Philadelphia Roll first. I nearly gagged — I didn't know about the cream cheese, which I can't stand in the gratuitous amounts present in my sushi. I moved from that to the Rainbow Roll, which looked quite intimidating with slabs of raw fish piled on top. It tasted alright, but I couldn't help but think "rawfishrawfishrawfish" as I ate it.

As such, my first experience was not great. But, something strange happened. After a few days, I began to crave that peculiar flavor of sushi. I couldn't explain it; I didn't enjoy myself the first time, but for some reason my body was telling me to get more.

So, I eventually went back again with my dad and my brother. This time, as I bit into a tuna roll, I found that I actually liked it. I can't explain it.

So, to make a long story short (as the hour grows late and my bed beckons), I am sold on sushi now. I highly recommend that you give it a chance yourself if you haven't already. But, a word of warning: don't try that horrid, vomit-inducing stuff that you see at your local Chinese buffet. Go to a Japanese restaurant and order something fresh.

Now, photo credits, then bed:

First and second images retrieved from Wikipedia.
Third image by Epstein Design.