mood: sleepy

shocked Zounds! The night after Tsukiji and nothing to do. My original plan was to pull another all-nighter with Tokyo Josh, Ray, and a couple J-girls from school at some clubs in Shibuya. Unfortunately, the girls couldn't go cause their boyfriends feared the masculine prowess of the American man. This crushed Tokyo Josh so he decided to stay home and have a good cry. Ray apparently never really heard about this plan to begin with. So I was left with no plans for the night. I was kind of tired anyway so I didn't mind as much.

It was gyoza night at my house. Gyoza is my favorite food here. It's chinese I know (I don't like Japanese food to tell you the truth) but I love it anyway. When we make it at home I always eat more than my stomach can handle then go into a deep slumber of rare happiness. After i finished my gyoza meal though, I received an email to my phone from Ikuta.

In my second post I introduced Ikuta. 2 years ago I met him with some other members from Freemode when visiting the 05' Tokyo Auto Salon. We've been friends ever since and freuqently hang out when I'm in Tokyo. Since I live here now, I see him at least once every two weeks. He messaged me inviting me out to eat with his friend Hide (pronounced hee-day) in Ueno. Since Ueno is a mere hour from my home, I agreed.

As I said before, the most common thing to do is hang out in an Izakaya. We ended up going to the same Izakaya that we went to the last time we were in Ueno. They have this cheap person menu which I'm a big fan of ($2.50 per item). We ate, we drank, and I learned lots more slang Japanese. Here, I'll share one with you: futsukayoi. This word is most important. It translates to "Hangover" but exactly means two days drunk. Those wacky japanese with their words.

Hide bought some Korean slop pancake. It wasn't that bad to tell you the truth.

Those of you from the bay area or sacramento, you'll know what I'm trying to teach Ikuta just by looking at the above picture. If you're not from those areas, I'm in fact trying to show him how to display his Thizz Face. He didn't get it though and it didn't sound nearly as hip describing it in Japanese as "illegal drug face reaction".

Man....all this beer is making me thirsty...

Look as he explains the finer arts of Hashi use (that's chopsticks to us baka-gaijin).

That screen to the right, which isn't working cause our table is lame, is a touch screen order menu. High-tech restaurant I tell you what.

Like I said cheap, my beers and order of squid legs only cost 1,000yen.

Yea, I have Japanese buddies. crazy
Mason on 02.25.07 @ 09:42 AM PST [link]

Tsukiji Fish Market and Nomihodai

mood: Tired

I'm smack dab in the middle of midterms. This passing friday marked the half-way point which called for a bit of adventure celebration. 14 or so other students from Temple had planned an all night Karaoke and Drinking party followed by a trip to the famous Tsukiji fish market. At the last minute I decided to attend.

Two of the other homestay students like myself who also live in Saitama were going. We all decided to meet up at the Shin-Koshigaya train platform and travel as a group to Ginza where everyone else was meeting.

The all-night Karaoke is called nomihodai, which translates to all-you-can-drink. Nomihodai is very popular around Tokyo due to the fact that last train service generally ends around midnight and many people don't want to call it quits that early. It is common to then decide to stay out all night with a group of friends until the first train service starts. Nomihodai is a popular choice because it gives you a place to stay from 11pm-5am with unlimited alcoholic beverages and karaoke for not too bad a price.

During our introduction to Temple, Kyle Cleveland, who runs the OIS (Office of Int'l Students), gave us several ideas of the more famous places to visit while touring Tokyo in our free time. The most difficult of which was the Tsukiji fish market. The largest open fish market in the world opens at 3am and hold auctions for the larger fish at 5am. The whole event ends by 6am, so the only way to see it is to stay out all night and walk to Tsukiji at 4:30am.

Karaoke in Japan is always in a private room for you and your party. You can order things from the room using the phone and they bring you food, drinks, etc. Here are some of the other students from America. Since we all ordered nomihodai, most everyone in this picture got pretty belingerent.

To choose your song, you used this hand held wifi remote. You could also put in orders from food using this. On the current screen we have the search function up in Japanese. This proved to be of little help since barely anyone knew any Japanese songs by their names.

On a trip to the bathroom, a random drunk Japanese man sitting on the stairs started talking to me. After about 5 minutes of slurred conversation he asked me and one other homestay student to go to his karaoke room to hang out with his friends. I said sure why not, I didn't know most the people in my room either. I ended up spending most the night with these Japanese people I didn't know. They all worked for a pharmaceutical company and were pulling an all night celebration with coworkers.

The guy in the back was very friendly, and loud. Good times were had by all. The man who took the picture spoke a little English and we actually took him to our room for a bit cause he wanted to practice his English with other native speakers. Overall, these people were uncommonly friendly and I really appreciated their hospitality. Like I said before, it seems many of the younger generation see us as a carnival attraction or a novelty.

Here's mr.drunk again. For some reason, he took off his shirt and installed a fuzzy vest. I really have no clue as to the reason why. They later invited me to a football game for next weekend with them, I hope I end up going. And by football I mean soccer, not american football. Once you're outside the United States you quickly learn the rest of the world really really loves soccer. Alot.

Heres the entrance to the all-night Karaoke bar we were at. The price for the whole evening with unlimited drinks per person was about $30. Not bad considering the cost of hotel or other all night venues such as clubs or bars.

Many of the Temple students we were with went home after the nomihodai leaving a smaller group of around 7 people to continue on to the Tsukiji fish market. Here we are walking through the streets of Ginza at 4:30am. It was super cold, around 40 degree Fereheit.

I snapped a group picture near the entrance to the Tsukiji market. We walked from Ginza to Tsukiji since trains weren't running that early.

That's what Tsukiji looks like from above during the daytime. The second picture is the main entrance to the market at 4:45am. Even this early in the morning, it is as busy as can be. Total chaos all around us as thousands of people rushed about moving fish and selling their catches.

The market it split up into two sections. The outside market where most of the several hundreds of booths are, and the inner market, where the world famous auction is held.

Here is what the inside of the auction house looks like. The biggest catches come into this room to be auctioned off to different registered bidders. The bigger fish weigh over 250 kilos (550lbs+) and their average selling price is roughly $8,000. The smaller fish which weigh about the same as a human go for around $1,000. Buyers purchase these fish (as it doesn't get fresher than this) and then sell them to different restaurants and establishments throughout Tokyo during the day. Rumor has it that some of these fisherman go so far into the pacific to get the bigger size fish, that they almost reach american waters. They also don't return home until they catch something, which may take a week or more. The ones pictured above are the smaller human weight ones.

Here is one of the more expensive larger fish.

I'm don't normally see seafood this large so I'm bewildered.

This is an auctioneer selling off the fish layed on the ground. Different registered bidders go around wacking at the fish with a mini sickle to feel for freshness and consistency of the flesh. The whole auction takes place between 5-6am.

After the auction we went back into the larger outer market to see some different fish. Much of the fish and seafood were still alive at each of the boothes. There are some 400 species of sea life that is sold here.

Also, the market is built like a deep and complicated catacomb. Working out way through proved difficult but rewarding.

Lot's of interesting species that I didn't even know existed were on display throughout the market.

Many of the sellers take this ninja-like swords and cut up the fish they bought at the auction into smaller pieces and weigh them out for sell to restaurants.

Octopus legs, mmm mmm.

For the large, several thousand dollar tuna, they use these bandsaws to cube into smaller, more manageable sizes. In the above picture, you can see them sawing one in half.

That yellow/orange thing to the left is a small electric trolley type device the different sellers use to move the heavier loads of fish to and from different booths. These trolleys are riddled throughout the market and gives an added sense of danger to navigating the market. They go fast and don't stop so you get a healthy frogger experience. I read that on any given day, several hundreds of metric tons of fish is bought and sold in this market.

Mmm crab, $65 for one though, a bit pricey.

I've never really seen an ice salesmen before. I always considered selling ice as kind of fraudulent since water is pretty free. But nonetheless, I've always wanted to see large blocks of ice and hooks to pick them up. I can think of endless uses for such hardware.

After we left Tsukiji, we stopped by a random temple that was adjacent to the entrance to the market. Large dragon heads served as a good picture op. The person I'm JDMly posing next to is Lindsey, another homestay student who unfortunately also lives in Saitama.

very Edo looking building inside the temple grounds.

After we left the temple on the way home, we noticed a very famous Kabuki theatre just hanging out on the side of the road. Kabuki theatre is traditional Japanese theatre. This theatre has been around for quite awhile and is very well known, from what I'm told. It was right across from the subway station so I thought I might as well include it.

I ended up getting home around 8:00am and immediately went to bed. It was my first all night excursion here, and likely not my last. I put up a new gallery in the gallery section if you're interested in seeing more sights from the fish market. It was really quite amazing. Anyway, time for more studying, thanks for reading!

Mason on 02.25.07 @ 08:28 AM PST [link]

Cruise through Yashio

mood: ZOMG Turbos

This past Sunday I was supposed to go to Yokohama for the Chinese New Year but the cost along with 6-hour round trip train had me changing my mind. Instead, I sat around the house preparing for midterms in the next week. Near the end of the night, Neil gave me a call and said he was hanging out with a Japanese friend of his and were going for a cruise and asked if I wanted to come. How could I say no, I needed to get out of the house and couldn't turn down an opportunity to see some tuned cars.

On sundays the trains are pretty much empty making it easy and comftorable to get anywhere

A quick 20 minute ride to Yashio later, I met up with Neil and his friend Masa. On a side note, something I'm a big fan of here is that they put christmas lights in trees all over Japan year round to give the lighting a bit of charm and a friendly feel. Blue is my favorite color, so I snapped a couple pics of the trees outside the station.

I was very surprised to find that Masa spoke only a few words of English. Somehow, through the use of hand gestures and universal car part names, Neil had forged a friendship with this guy. I was happy to get the chance to practice my Japanese in a more car-oreinted environment. A difference from talking to people who know why you are in Japan versus someone who just is a normal joe is that they will talk to you in normal speed and complexity and expect you to respond in the same manner...especially if you make a point to speak to them in Japanese first. I felt I held my own and was able to have very lengthly conversations about everything from cars, to video games, to girls. I wish I had recorded some of it cause he had some interesting things to say about life in Japan.

Masa is in a car club based out of Chiba. In his car club, he has 5 or 6 members who all specialize in "drift style" driving. He himself owns two cars, a highly modified S14 and a slightly modified R32 GTS-T. That night, since both his cars were down, he was borrowing a female friend of his's S13 Silvia. I also got a chance to ride in this S13 during our cruise through Yashio.

Excuse the pictures, it was totally dark so I had to use flash. Here is the female owned S13 (girls in America take note). Masa didn't seem to think very highly of the car but I was thoroughly impressed. He said this level of modification is very normal, and in Japan, there was nothing really special about it.

Here is the engine bay. Like he said, for the most part stock, but clean none-the-less.

On the left you can see his Skyline. One of the reasons Neil asked me to come hang out was so I could take a look at his RB20(skyline's engine) which was acting up. Neil had told Masa about the Skyline I owned back in the states and about my experience with the RB20 motor so he wanted my opinion. Masa told me a few weeks back that he was driving his car hard with some other car guys and when he reached home, it started idling funny and died. He hasn't been able to get it started since and wanted my take on what it could possibly be. I don't know what magic they thought i had in my fingertips cause we had absolutely no light and no tools. I made an educated guess on what he should try to tackle first and told him that I'd return in the daylight next week to help if he wanted me to.

Afterwards, we then headed over to his Apartment complex to check out his S14.

Yea, it's hot, and has about 20k invested total throughout the car. On the exterior, he has full aero, wide body in the rear, a carbon wing, ultra ultra deep dish wheels, and a custom fiberglass dropvent hood to go with his custom V-mount intercooler.

Here's his mmmm sexy engine bay. He told me he used a Trust core and custom fabbed up the V-mount intercooler setup to give him maximum turbo spool up time (cause of the small amount of tubing used). He also told me that he installed that Apex'i RX6 turbo and used engine management to utilize his custom GTI-R individual throttle body setup. Shortly after, I'd say about 30 seconds, I collapsed from testicular excitement caused by the sexiness of his SR20 engine.

The shop that helped him put the whole car together is Tec Arts. I guess they are also based in the area as we cruised by it when we went out in the S13. Tec Arts is also famous in Japan and specialize in AE86 Truenos/Levins. They even compete professionally with an 86 in the D1 Grand Prix Series.

Here is his interior. He has the usual goods inside, momo detachable steering wheel, greddy gauges, dildo shift knob. He also has this priming extra fuel cell... or something? I didn't quite understand his explanation but he had this custom made extra fuel cell in the back seat area that did something special and fancy. Of course, he also had a full cage. Only losers in Japan roll around their tuner cars without full cages. Hell, even his skyline, which he bought for only $1,500 by the way, has a full cage in it. They're all about safety when it comes to their vehicular racing. rolls eyes

I tried to get him to do an Option Magazine style pose so I could take a cooler picture but I don't think he understood my translation...that, or he did and just ignored it on purpose.

We then hopped in the S13 and cruised around with the Laurel through Yashio. I proceeded to ask Masa more questions about the S13 and racing spots throughout the Kanto area (tokyo area). He gave me the scoop on the better places to go. He also explained that if I wanted to see drifting, Saitama wasn't exactly the best place to do it. He also told me some interesting facts about the cops in the area. The cops got wise and started fighting fire with fire. Cop cruisers made to combat modified cars, use the exact same cars and performance parts as the tuners. He was telling me about how he would see fully tuned GT-Rs and RX-8s cruising the C1 loop looking for trouble makers. Also, the cops go through an extensive drifting school to ensure they have the highest driving skill possible. He also popped my illusion about the freedom of drifting in Japan and told me that in the city, the cops are very hard on racing and that most people just go to the Touge or one of the many tracks in the area when they want to drift. Difference is, here, you have 3 world famous tracks in close proximity, open everyday all day for cheap.

I tried to record a quick race between the Laurel and S13 but I failed and only recorded right after, where I talked to masa about the car. I know I blurt out with random English from time to time when I know they don't understand, but, it's ok. The Japanese in the video is pretty simple, but if you haven't taken any classes, I pretty much just comment on how fast I thought the car was. He told me he thought it was never fast and I told him I thought the turbo was fast and asked him if it was stock. He then told me it was from an S14 Silvia.

After our cruise we went back and parked next to the Skyline and I learned something a bit troubling. Japanese car enthusiasts have the exact same problem as American car enthusiast, having nothing to do. And... do the same thing we do once we finally decide on something to do. We sat there going back and forth asking what the other wanted to do and if anyone had any ideas. After about half an hour of sitting in the parking lot like a bunch of boobs, someone finally recommended going to a Coco's. Oh god no, that's exactly what I used to do in sac. In sac we always sit in a group in a parking lot with nothing to do and eventuall go to a Denny's. *sigh* oh well. We drove over and ate at the restaurant and continued small talk about different ish. I also found out Masa is a big fan of the Final Fantasy series, especially #7. Hey, that makes him A-OK in my book. After awhile, we went back to the station and I headed home. Good times.

Mason on 02.21.07 @ 09:12 AM PST [link]

Izakaya with Tokyo Josh and Ray

mood: drunk

First let me tell you about our ragtag team of Temple students. In my long '1st month impression' post (which most of you probably didn't read cause it didn't have shiny pictures) I explained how lonliness was a big problem for me in my first month here. Being a homestay student made it difficult to make friends at school since I pretty much lived in China. Well one night I was wandering the ever-popular Myspace and saw someone with a Skyline as their main picture on the friends list for RBmotoring, and without thinking, I added them. At the time I didn't really care, but the next day I got a message from this cat Tokyo Josh of whom I just requested the add. His message pretty much said, "hey I think I've seen you at school blah blah blah." Confused, I went to his page to find that he lived in Shibuya and was a student in Japan somewhere. Surprised, I went on to search through his myspace friends to find people I knew from Temple...nani!?!?(Nick).

So I messaged him back and found out that not only was he another student at Temple, he was also the only other student who was into cars like I was. The coincidence got even crazier when he tells me he's from Sacramento and tranferred from Sierra college (the opposite community college to ARC in sac, where I transferred from). I was stoked, a friend who would actually understands my nearly dangerous love for Japanese sports cars who was also from the same town as me. It didn't stop there though, this doppelganger also ran a website dedicated to a blog about his life and experience here in Japan, pretty much the brother to UrbanSlide. The only difference is he only makes video blogs as opposed to my usual text and pictures. Awesome, finally someone else to talk to.

I made this quick banner for him to use, and so I thought I'd also post it here. Please check out his site and videos, they're almost as interesting as mine.

So I started kicking it with him at school and met Ray, who was also a guy into cars who attended Temple. One night we decided to go wander around and go to some restaurants. We left from school and wandered around from Azabu, to Harajuku, to Roppongi. I didn't take too many pictures, but thought I'd share the highlights.

I found a subway near Azabu. All you cheap bastards like myself will be happy to know that the daily special is still alive and well in Tokyo. That 290yen price you see there converts to $2.38USD. Believe that we ate the bulk of our evenings meal there. It was chotally awesome.

Near Tokyo Tower there is a super famous university by the name of Keio. In Japan, there have some equivalents to our ivy league schools. They are Tokyo University, Keio University, and Kyoto University. Keio has a huge campus with a large number of gothic style architectured buildings. The size of the campus is also more so amazing because of it's location in one of the richest real estate areas in Japan. Normal people aren't really allowed to just walk through the campus and they have fulltime guards walking around at all hours. Being the rebel that I am though, I picked up a piece of paper from their information booth and made like I was a student with a backpack walking between classes. I'm clever I know. Josh, Ray, and I wandered through some of their more interesting buildings and gave ourselves a tour. This picture above is of one of the entrnaces to the campus.

I tried to grab a quick shot of a Toyota Soarer tearing through traffic.

Ray(left) and Tokyo Josh(right). We hit up several Izakayas throughout the night. Izakayas are pretty much the most popular hangouts for young people in Japan. How it works is you sit down and order lots of small orders of different kinds of food and share it all whilst drinking your fill of beer. It's popular cause it's cheap (for the most part) and gives you a place to sit and talk for awhile. There are thousands upon thousands of Izakayas throughout Tokyo. Some are themed, some are normal, all are fun. The one where I took pictures was a chicken themed Izakaya.

Beer, enough said.

This is the kind of normal stuff you order. I personally like to buy gyoza but they went for chicken wings and this weird fried vegtable dish. Those fry looking objects on the right taste just like fries but are actually a root vegtable that's been breaded and fried with seasoning.

After a couple Izakayas we left for Roppongi to meet Josh's friend. I'm not a super big fan of Roppongi which I'm sure they could tell cause I got kinda moody. As I probably mentioned before, Roppongi is the foreigner center of Japan where it's common to see more foreigners then Japanese on the strip. It's also more dangerous and several people will constantly try to approach you to go to "their bar" to see "naked women". In reality they're trying to get you to a hostess bar where they charge you exorbent amounts of money to talk to mildly attractive women. It's not a good plan so play like you don't speak English when they approach you. There was one guy who had this lame line of "come to my bar 'Angels', we have angels there, but they were naughty so they were kicked out of heaven and came here". I about sunk my mechanical pencil into his throat. I also had to battle off some transvestites who wanted us to go to their bar. They described my callous response as spunky. Anyway, I don't much like Roppongi.

In the Roppongi train station I scoped out this guy. I guess he was really tired since he couldn't wait to take a nap. That, or he was homeless. If I was homeless though, I'd pick a less active place to catch some Zs.

The last stop for us(or me) was an English pub. I didn't stay long though as I had to leave early to be able to get home before last train. I departed from the party and walked briskly to Azabu to hop a train home.

On the way to Azabu though I saw this FD3S RX-7. Oh my lord that is pure perfection on wheels. I looked around for the owner, and after seeing that the coast was clear, lightly caressed and stroked it. It felt good. hehe

Izakayas are a good way to spend time with friends without spending alot of money. If/when you come to Japan, be sure to check a few out. Be careful though, don't go ordering the whole menu or you'll see how quick things can add up in Tokyo.
Mason on 02.21.07 @ 07:48 AM PST [link]

Trip to Up Garage and 2nd Hand Autobacs

mood: Ballin'

I know this is a little late as I did this over a week ago but here it is anyway. Before leaving I used to sing the praises of Up Garage on a daily basis and share the stories of amazing parts for cheap prices. As a favor for friends back home, I promised to open up this resource to them so they could get what they wanted for cheap.

What is Up Garage? Oh, I suppose I should explain that part first huh. In Japan there is little value held on used products of any kind. As a social quirk, if it isn't new, it isn't worth having (which is strange because they hold incredible value for their tradition and their past). Because of this, used goods depreciate amazingly quickly. This fact is true whether you're refering to car parts, cars, books, movies, or anything else. To give you an example, I went to a used book store and bought a stack of famous car-related books for 1/5 their original cost even though they were in perfect condition. What does this mean for you and your tuning parts needs? It means you can get brand name performance parts, in good condition, for insanely cheap. That in essence is the business model behind the Up Garage store chain. Up Garage has locations spread out all over Japan, all linked together with a massive online website where they keep close watch on stock on anything you could possibly need/want.

This of course meant I had to find a location near me and go as soon as humanly possible. Last weekend I headed out to Neil's house for a night of tomfoolery with a saturday packed with car parts shopping to follow. After a quick morning install of a boost controller on his Laurel, we set out for the Up Garage in Koshigaya (a location 3 train stops from my station).

Immediately upon entering the parking lot I was in need of new panties as I had soiled mine from joy. Outside, different zesty cars were parked with enthusiasts tinkering around in the engine bays.

Here is the entrnace to Up Garage Koshigaya. This specific location is one of the smaller locations compared to the ones I had visited on previous trips, but, it still had a large stock of awe-inspiring goods. You can see Neil's shit-eating grin as he walks without looking where he's going into the store.

Half of the entire store is wheel and tire combinations with everything you could possibly want from oldschool rare wheels to newschool volks, works, and gram lights. The prices for the wheel and tire setups were ranging from $200 to upto $1100 (for options like 19X10" Volks).

This is the wall of sexy. Bride, Racaro, performance stock, etc; all found for price less then half of retail. Also, they had a pile of seat brackets and sliders for every application for pennies. blush

Want an exhaust system? want a brand name like HKS or Trust with dyno proven performance? Got $100-$200 bucks? Done.

Hallways full of intercooler kits littered the store. Stacks of blitz, ARC, and trust sold for $300 bucks to whoever would want them. It really is quite amazing seeing all the parts you used to only being able to shop for online, stocked on shelves like it was Walmart. Being in the presence of such quality parts all the time has desensitized the Japanese as they kept giving me weird looks everything I'll let out a squeal of excitement.

An aisle entirely full of coilovers for every car was also on point.

And on the other side of the aisle, performance springs for pocket change. Interested in lowering your car? A $50 bill can get it done with brand name springs.

I know a certain few who have a special place in their heart for Kazama suspension this picture is especially for you. Yes, it's cheap, yes it's in stock and ready to pickup that day. Still, the idea of wanting something for your car, buying it that day at a store, then having it on your car by the end of the day...fantastic.

After I got kicked out of Up Garage for dry humping some S13 aero parts, Neil told me that Autobacs also had stores devoted to second hand parts. The location nearest to us was also much larger in size compared to the Up Garage in Koshigaya.

Whenever I get a chance, I always snap shots of Skylines cruising down the road. I think it's fair to say you'd probably do the same thing if you were me.

In a previous post I shared a trip to Yashio Factory. Yashio is the city Neil lives in and is about 20 mins from my house as well. Yashio is simply the name of the city Yashio Factory is located in and has no special or myserious Japanese meaning behind it.

And viola, here we are. A cool thing about second hand parts stores in Japan is that after you buy the parts, you have the option to then have them perfessionally installed on your car right then and there. That's what the service pit you see before you is for.

Here is their much larger wheel selection. That sign up top denotes RWD wheel sets. They're sorted in inch size (17", 18", 19", etc.) along with the type of car they should be put on. Again, all these wheel and tire sets are cheap as all hell and installable right there on the spot, same day. MMMMmmmmm.

Here is Autobacs wall-o-sexyexhausts. I found a an Apex'i N1 catback without a single scratch on it for an FC3S for $175. It's like a magical world where all the cheap low quality american performance parts have been changed out for Japanese performance brand name parts without a price change *Glee*. I suppose to them though, these are just domestic manufacturers so what's the big deal right?

Strut Bar aisle. Cusco strut bars going for $20-$50.

I actually liked this selection of racing seats better then the one at Koshigaya Up Garage because of the amount of Bride seats they have. If you knew me back in the states, you knew I have a great love for Bride seats (evidence of which is a pair of pants with a Bride patch affixed to it). Oh, those R32 GTR stock seats you see on the ground, those are $100 (price in the states is like $600 or some retarded price).

This aisle is dedicated of performance ECUs. Mines tuned, Power FCs, whichever, all here. I didn't buy much except a present for a friend of mine who just had a baby (CONGRATS SHEM!) back in the States, and a set of S15 tailights for $20. Heh, funny thing about the S15 tails is that it cost me less to buy these tails and turn them into a lamp for my room, then it would for me to actually buy a real lamp at a store.

After we were done shopping we headed out to the highway to do some cruising. Due to rain though, most highway racers and car enthusiasts stayed home. We decided to go to Daikokufuto (see previous post for my last visit there) to see if anyone was hanging out there. We were in Luck! There were a few performance cars but mostly performance sound system cars and trance heads where hanging out.

This guy has way too much money in his little girl van. He was also playing California rap videos at obscene volume levels. I guess snoop dog is well received out here in Tokyo....even though these Hip Hop kids have absoultely no idea what he, or other rappers, are saying in their music.

This R33 gave my loins a quiver when he decided to rev it up. Actually...I recorded it. There was some failure with the audio but you still can get the general idea of his fire breating RB26.

Just for Brian, here is a cleanly modified Honda S2000 for you.

What the ugliest green in the world is going on?

That's better.

I noticed a hangout area set atop the rest stop which I hadn't seen in my previous trip. This is an overview of the left side of the parking area at Daikokufuto.

The last thing I saw before we packed up and went home, was this guy. I guess he felt a large parking lot was the best place to practice his trance DJing. I don't think he had enough speakers though...

It was a pretty good day. I'm all about cheap awesome parts. Time for me to install my S15 lamp next to my computer, good night and thanks for reading! big grin
Mason on 02.21.07 @ 05:43 AM PST [link]

Midterms = Pain

mood: ultra tired

First let me apologize. I really meant to update earlier, believe me I really did. I even have two moderatly interesting posts in the cue waiting to be put up. I've just been incredibly busy with midterms. Since I'm pretty much halfway through my first 4 month semester, all of my professors are throwings gobs of midterm work at me. angry, grr

A total of two three page essays for Japanese Culture, 2 4 page essays and 1 2-3 page journal essay for Japanese Literature, 1 extensive test on Language and Race, 1 extensive Japanese grammar test, and 1 Japanese conversation interview test crammed into a little over a week is getting me a bit fried. On top of that each of these collective assignments for each class represent on average about 30% of my final grade.

As you can see, even now at 3am after finishing a Japanese Literature essay, the amount of work is levying a heavy toll on me. Whether I'll stop crying tears of crimson blood, only time will tell. But, I wanted to give reason for the long delay without an update so here I am.

Worry not though, before you know it I'll have more excitingly JDM content for you to enjoy. wink
Mason on 02.19.07 @ 01:59 PM PST [link]

Trip to a Japanese all girls high school

mood: entertained

Two weekends ago the school asked me if I wanted to participate in an open house they were putting on. My job was to make an introduction about myself along with a couple other students to give the Japanese prospective students an idea of what the student body was like. In addition to that, I was supposed to talk to the students and give tours. I guess it worked out pretty well because they asked me to return for similar outings.

The next one they asked me to go on was a trip to a Japanese high school to visit an English club. We were to act as a sort of panel while the students got to ask us questions about our home country and backgrounds. The day we left I also found out it was an all girls high school ..... hehe Awesome.

Here we are heading out in a taxi to the school. The man you see in the back is Steve. Steve is a veteran TUJ student and is graduating this semester. He also hold an important position in the OIS (Office of International Students). His Japanese also pwns most all foreigners. Needless to say, his abilities in the language hurt my feelings. The JDM guy on the left is our taxi driver..let's call him BOB

Cruising through one of the richest areas of Tokyo. The school we're going to visit is a private school and has boatloads of cash that they bathe in. The school is the oldest all girls school in Tokyo. An interesting note that the english club leader later told me is that the school's founder lived to be 103 and taught classes up until 2 weeks before she died....damn.

When we reached the school we switched into stupid slippers and walked to the English club room. Inside, 3 Jr.High club members met with us. Their job was to take us on a tour of the school and reach prompts to help explain to us what they were showing us in English. High school students were coming later but at the time were busy with some testing.

This is the average Japanese classroom. Nothing too exciting, but I'd seen enough anime to be interested to see one in person. The next stop was a commons area where the student proceeded to show us art that their classmates had been working on. Quick to a photo opportunity, I had Chizu, our fearless leader, take a picture of us and the students.

This is the view from the 6th floor of this U shaped school. As you can see, this school is rooted deep amongst the very urban landscape of Tokyo. Believe it or not, under the tennis courts you see in the courtyard down there, there is a full sized gymnasium with a raised track and volleyball courts.

We visited it but I failed to take pictures of the class in session. After the gymnasium we went to the dance room where we saw a PE class that was split into several groups to develop an original dance to go with music.

While we were being shown around many student seemed very surprised to see us (being both gaijin and male). They seemed excited to wave at us and say greeting in the little English they had learned. It was kind of fun but I couldn't help feeling a bit like a circus freak being paraded around. The girls in the tennis courts seemed especially interested in us because everytime we'd pass by the windows on our way to another section of the school they would stop and wave vigorously to say hello.

The students seemed very startled when I came in and took pictures. I imagine running in saying "Surprise! AMERICA *click* *click* *click*" added to the suspense. I asked them to perform the dance they were working on and I recorded it.

While they sucked....bad, in all fairness they were doing way better before they noticed we were there (nervous I would imagine). I imagine they wouldn't want this video of them dancing on here but I'm gonna go ahead and bet these kids will never find this site.

This was a very Japanese thank you note I found in one of the classrooms that I felt compelled to share with all of you.

When the tour finished we returned to the English club room and met with the high school students. We talked about many things such as movies, hobbies, etc. It was alot of fun I must admit. It was kind of funny though because all the student were so nervous and shy to speak to us cause we were native speakers.

The left three are some of the high school students and the right three are some other Jr.High club members. It was such a blast that the 2 hour expedition flew by. When the time came to leave the all escorted us out and waved by to us in front of the school and asked us to return again. If we are given the opportunity to do it again I think it'd be awesome to return on another visit. There are other high school expeditions further in the semester and since this one went so well I'm looking forrward to the next one. satisfied
Mason on 02.08.07 @ 12:49 PM PST [link]

1st Month Impressions

mood: Frustrated

I recently passed the 1 month mark since I moved here and I thought I'd give a more first person account on my experience and opinion of the country. I've been through big ups and big downs since arriving but now I think things are settling down and I'm getting a good grasp on how to manage my life here.

Everyone has an outside vision on how they think this country is. They see what is exported or what is highlighted (Anime, culture, cars, movies, etc.) and take it at face value. These impressions are further propagated when foreigners enter the country whilst not speaking or understanding the language and see only what they choose to see (the real life version of their japanese exported fantasies and hobbies). Visitors also commonly only come for a short stay for vacation or business trip. This too is how I viewed Japan my previous 3 trips up until now. With my increased ability to speak, read, write and understand cultural nuances, granted to me by having a daily grind and living with a family, I now have a much different view on how things work here.

About now, I'm sure many of you are pushing your noses up in the air and cursing my name thinking, "boy what an asshole, he's so lucky, how can you not have fun every day that he's there." That's fine, you can do that and stop reading here.

In no way am I saying I'm an expert on this culture (especially only being here 4 times and only a month on this current stay). I don't think any foreigner can fully understand a country they aren't raised in. Neither am I saying I hate this country or hold any particular grudge against it. I only wish to share with you my observations as I've come to see them.

The first thing that impressed me about this country's people is their exceesive dedication to manners and respect for the fellow citizen. To me, it seemed deeply rooted in their culture to treat eachother with equality and respect. But...after a time, I starting seeing that this culture was, at the same time, very devoted to understanding one's social status and position in the work place and at home. People seemed to have their places or roles, and accepted it. This seemed highly contrasted by my culture, where one of our base values is, fight for what you want to be and you can eventually be it. Noticing these two cultural nuances co-existing, I began to think that possibly the manners were simply programmed into them and probably not heart felt when practiced. To give you an analogy, in America when you meet someone, you ask how they're doing, regardless if you actually care how they feel. You also responsively wait a moment after passing through a door if you notice someone following behind you to help them. In that same action, the person then hurries to the door and thanks you. These are manners of our culture that we don't even think about. In the same way, I think Japan has developed their way of respect to the fellow man. Whether it is heart felt or not, I must commend them for it.

Japan also has something in their society which is refered to as the "wa". The wa is in short, the social peace of a groups surroundings. For example, if you're on the train, it is not likely to see someone listening to music loudly, talking rudely with another passenger, talking on the phone, or otherwise being disruptful to the other people on the train. It seems that to the Japanese, disrupting this peace when in social crowds, it an offense to never commit...very taboo to say another way. I'm sure you're thinking, "Great! I wish America was like that!." And yes I agree with you to a point. Where this devotion to the wa is not so pleasant, it when disruptions happen accidently. When people disrupt the peace, they're seen as deviant from the crowd, and are almost always ignored. This could mean, if a fight breaks out, someone is hurt, someone falls down, everyone will simply ignore it. This is practiced in America to a degree, but the point in which we will speak out and help another, is much sooner then here. Since not breaking the peace was higher valued then helping others in need, I began to grow disgusted with people who would ignore shit happening around them. To give you a specific, but in no way rare example, I was on the train at about 11:30pm a couple weeks ago and there was a person who was so belligerently drunk that they collapsed on the floor and couldn't get themselves up after a time of trying to explain his ailment to the other passengers. To my surprise, 5 minutes passed and noone helped this man on the ground, obviously in serious need of asisstance. Apalled, I looked around at the other passengers who went on acting like the man wasn't right in front of them on the floor sick to near unconciousness. I got up and picked the man up and helped him off the train. I talked with him and found where he lived and physically dragged this man through the train station to the proper train, and helped him on his way home. Things like this happen everyday everywhere, and noone will act to help the needs of others (granted, extreme situations will call at least a few concerned Japanese to the aide of others). This fact hit me hard as I viewed it as an inhuman feature of the Japanese people as a whole. The idea that peace was more important then the needs of someone else, regardless if they're disrupting everyone, far from sits well with me. Whenever you have a social norm that highly values the peace of the group, people who deviate are left behind.

Another thing to know about my circumstances here is my experience with my host family. A part of my agreement with the school in my first semester was to live far into Saitama away from Tokyo to completly immerse myself in the language and culture. A biproduct of this I didn't forsee was the accompanied lonliness that would follow. While I may have many people around me, none of them understand me and treat me as they would normally treat one of their own. On top of this, since I am so far away, I never see other classmates outside of class and my social life is non-existent. Having noone that understand me on basic levels like another American could, is increasingly frustrating. This lonliness breeds resentment in my heart because all of others I see is how I'm treated by Japanese people in Saitama (I am not refering to my family who in their nature are very loving to me, even if we may have cultural misunderstandings).

In America, seeing races and cultures from around the world is a daily life experience pushed upon us from birth. It is the norm to see someone different from you, and while you may or may not have racist opinions of another group, you unconciously accept their existence as normal (save the extremist who want people out of the country who are different...but hey, those people are fuckheads and I'm only talking about the general American citizen). In a country where at one time, we were all emigrants, we lose a strong sense of what's foreign and what's not. The line where one culture ends and another begins is much harder to define. Because of this, we take our base acceptance of foreigners existence for granted and in the same action, assume the rest of the world feels the same way. In reality, many countries still are incredibly homogenous and the sight of someone else's culture is quite rare and foreign. In this country, where over 99% of the inhabitants are Japanese, a level of innate racism spawned from a mix of fear and misunderstanding can be expected. Due to this, racism is not only blatant, it's legal and somtimes encouraged. There are still many businesses throughout Japan that have signed posted outside their doors reading "No Foreigners Allowed!" (hilarious enough, it's usually written in only Japanese). Born after the civil rights movement, hearing of this seemed like a blast from the 50's and almost surreal. That's just once example though, racism is experienced on a daily basis, be it blatant or subtle. I experienced racism on previous trips, but my lack of language abilities saved me from the majority of it (hey, ignorance is truely bliss). As I speak more and more as days pass, I understand more and more of what people say and mean when speaking to or about me. Since it's expected of me to not speak but a few words of Japanese, people will straight out say some racist as fuck shit about me thinking it was alright cause I couldn't possibly grasp what they're saying. Racism here can also be found in forms as making it near impossible to find housing on your own, be unecessarily harrassed and questioned by police (rare though), be treated as having the plauge on trains, and generally treated as a second-class citizen.

I was esepcially sensitive this, probably because I'm a moderately liberal american raised in California. Try to understand though, that I don't speak of this as every Japanese person being the culprit. There are extremes of blatant racists and biggots and that can't be helped. They're found in every country and equally as ignorant and stupid wherever they may be found. The subtle racism of the general public I think is unintentional and is purely a cause of fear and lack of knowledge. I can understand how someone can be weary of a foreign person if all they've seen their entire life was one race. Imagine how you'd react is martians started living in America. I also notice that even this subtle racism is dying more and more with coming generations. The youth here is becomming so integrated with an international setting, and are raised with seeing the occasional foreigner, that they see us more of a cheeky attraction rather then a war-loving demon that killed their family in WW2. In the same way, you can see how American youth are so closely connected with Japan and foreign cultures, and in general, are much less racist then their parents or grandparents.

My attempt here was to absorb the culture as a second one to my own so that I could better understand it to give myself a huge boost when it came time to start my international business career. This killed me inside as the more I learned the undesirable features of the culture, the more I felt I myself was undesirable because I wanted to absorb it. Every culture has its positive and negative attributes, that can't be avoided. I recently learned a less damaging way to deal with it. Instead, I must continue acting as I really am, American. Being myself whether the Japanese may like it or hate it, won't limit me from learning their culture. Besides, not being yourself always turns out poorly. I think this realization is one that many people obsessed with this country while being American really want to dodge. And while these people who love Japan wholeheartedly without living here don't want to hear it, it's not as great as you expect it to be.

This phenomena is a two-way door. Japan being an economic super-power as they are, got that way from their industralization movement in the Meiji era. From that point on, they embraced so much of the West in many ways. Even more so is post-war years, the west is integrated here and is here to stay. You can walk a few blocks and see american fast food at every corner. When you see businessman or general public on the trains, they wear western styled suits, and clothes. With this being the case, there are many Japanese who idolize America from what they see of us from the outside. Many times, out of curiosity, I've asked a Japanese person what they thought of America. They say such cliche statments as "oh I can be free and get rich there easily" or "I'd be scared, everybody owns a gun". People here are just like people in America, viewing us from what we export here. Movies, clothes, and music to name a few. Because our two countries are so closely connected, it is natural that we view one another as the alluring other. While I think people in my specific circumstances are rare, I think my experience of that "other" becomming more real and less fantasy, can be a bit depressing. It further depressed me that since what I'm doing is rare, I could hardly find someone who could share in my pain. Furthermore, people back home would easily write me off as ungrateful and undeservingly lucky for even thinking of talking bad about the almighty and wonderous country that our beloved hobbies were born from.

To me now, this country seems like America, with all the problems and advantages that go with it. While the flashy Japanese Life as I dreamt it becomes a reality of hard work including the ups and downs, just like home, I found myself depressed. Over the past week, I pondered to myself if it was worth it. Now that it no longer held the alluring mystery and rarity it did before, did I really want to do what I came here to do? I understand that as time passes and my skills increase in this language, the culture will only more and more seem real and common.

Yesterday, after a conversation with a more seasoned JA about some of the aspects of this culture, I sat for a long while and thought about my situation.

I looked back on my life prior to coming and thought about my future. I'm a very goal oriented person and while I chase after dreams, I can easily derail from my course of action if parts of my plan go awry. With that in mind, I realize my fault of not easily adapting to changes in my plans. But, like I said before, I'm still a very goal oriented person and have big dreams I'll refuse to give up on.

While it took me a rough month to reach this realization, I find that regardless of the reality of this country, where I want my future to be has not changed. I will adapt and my resolve is stronger now then before. I will become bilingual in this language and I will achieve the goals I've set before me. I just now understand that I can't be inflexible on my views on the exact route to get there. I also can't be anyone but myself reagrdless if the people of this country can't handle my super american-ness. All I can do is work my damn hardest to get where I want, and if something changes, adapt, and re-apply my drive.

To sum things up, things have been hard dealing with what I guess is commonly refered to as "culture shock" which because of the lack of language before, I completely missed on previous trips. But I think I'm making better moves towards my goals and will be alright. If you actually read this and didn't leave when you noticed no humorous .jpegs with japanese themes, thanks. Otherwise, if it was too much text for you, please refer to the above post for a more light-hearted topic. smile shocked
Mason on 02.08.07 @ 11:45 AM PST [link]

Trip to Ueno Park and Ameyoko Market

mood: bored

This past weekend a majority of the student body left for school sanctioned trips to either Hakone or Sapporo. Since I'm a "lifer" (term for us matriculated students rather then the one-semester study abroads), I don't have gobs of cash to be able to waste $400 for a two day outing. I had no other particularly exciting events going on besides playing the new Zelda, so I thought I'd put together an outing that'd cost me $0.

My 3-month train pass happens to travel through Ueno, where a famous park and market existed, so I figured I might as well try some traditional sight-seeing.

So Saturday early afternoon I hopped a train to Ueno Park. As stated in my previous post, Ueno is famous for it's cultural and historic value. The largest attraction to Ueno is Ueno-Koen (Ueno Park). Inside this HUGE park you can find a zoo, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Art Museum, 3 large ponds, temples, statues, and many other noteablely interesting locals.

My first stop is a temple by the name of Kiyo-Mizu. This temple was erected in honor of Senju, a 1000-armed god...or something. I didn't really understand the monks explanation very well. Point is, it was pretty to look at.

This is the very front of the temple. It is against the rules to take pictures inside temples so this is as close as I was able to get. That large rope hanging has some significance, but the exact reason eludes me at this time (If I paid more attention in my Japanese Culture class I'd have a better answer for you).

This picture came with an interesting story. At the end of the Edo period and entering the Meiji Restoration in Japan's history mid-19th century, the Samurai class fought against the quickly westernizing/industrializing Japanese imperial forces. The new emperor Meiji was opening up Japan to the rest of the world to help advance the country as a world superpower and many of the Samurai felt this would threaten the existence of the Japanese culture. This picture depicts the deciding battle which took place in Ueno July, 4th 1868. If that was a little too scholarly for you, go rent The Last Samurai to get an idea of that general period of history.

And this is the shrine to remember the Samurai who died in the Battle of Ueno.

Not too far away (maybe 50 ft...ish), another statue of Saigo Takamori, the leader against the Samurai resistance, has a statue. I guess he really liked his dog cause it made it with him to immortality.

There are also countless numbers of strays that live inside Ueno Park. They are fed by passer byers and regular visitors so they are very friendly and come up to people to be pet. These two were hanging out on a blanket a person left for them. I'm fond of cats so it was kind of cool to see a fleet of felines wander through the area like a gang.

A cool entrance to another temple area. Those red things are called torii and signify a Shinto shrine. You walk through a long series of these tori and eventually exit into an Edo era styled mini-town as seen below.

This is a popular character in Shinto Mythology. It is an Inari fox which in mythology was pure white and a messenger of the god of fertility and rice. In the couple days following I asked several Japanese people why he was wearing a red bib but noone knew. Today I learned that the bib is like a good luck charm to keep away evil spirits.

It is also a custom to get a fortune at the shrine. If it's a good fortune, you have to fold it up and tie it on a tree, or that rope thing, to make it come true. Here is a pic of a young couple doing just that. Yea I was spying on them, voyeurism is fun...anyway

Sakura viewing is a popular pastime in Tokyo around spring. You can see some are already starting to bloom in this area. Japanese people LOVE those pink flowers. The majority of the people in this area were guys taking pictures of sakura blosoms.

Next, is something that choked me up a little bit. Also near the temple area there was a memorial to the people who died in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Below is a picture explaining it a bit more indepthly. Please click on the picture to see a bigger version.

If you're too lazy to read that passage (cause you're a heartless jerk), it in short says this flame has been burning since the day of the bombings. A man went to his uncles house to see if he was still alive to only find rubble from the atomic bomb. Among the debris, this fire was burning and the man encased the flame and protected it. He kept it alive for years until it was taken to Tokyo as a symbol of abolishing atomic weapons. Walking up close to the flame, being but a few feet from it, really touched me deeply. The idea, that before me was a flame that still burns from when we dropped the bombs in WW2, brang the reality of the situation to be much more real. As an American, with all the pride I have in my nationality, I couldn't help but feel some shame for my country at that time. After a time of reflection, I walked on to another part of the park.

Ueno Park has 3 large ponds that are a main rest stop for ducks who are migrating. When I was there, the waters seemed more of a sea of mallards rather than a body of water. This walkway separates two of the pond and leads out of the park and back into the city.

As night began to fall over the city, I left the park and headed towards the famous Ameyoko market.

On the way there, I saw a pet store. 2 trips ago I remember being appalled at the prices of pets. Low and behold, they were still expensive as shit. If you're too lazy to do the price conversion (which you probably are), that cat costs around $1,100. I found this particularly amusing considering all of a half-mile away you can go steal a stray for free.

Here is the entrance to the famed Ameyoko Market.

These pictures don't really do the market's size justice. It is rather expansive and takes an entire area out of the city. Ameyoko is one of the most famous bazaars in all of Asia. In the morning, it's a very lively fish market. The fisherman who sell here also have developed a very unique style of speech. It's really impossible to explain well, just imagine a very unusual tone and accent. I first visited this market on my first trip to Japan with my brother Devon.

Yea, that is a whole..full-sized red tentacle for sell crazy (about $30). This market is a Shmorgusboard of visual candy. Jewelry, clothing, arcades, and more are found in this labrinth styled market.

Nighttime in Ueno while I walk back through the park towards the train station.

I thought I'd end with this final image. At night, Ueno Park lights up with many different displays. This one of circus bears was one of many interesting light displays in Ueno Park.

Mason on 02.05.07 @ 11:22 AM PST [link]

Let's go (to) school!

mood: rushed

I've been talking with many people from home about my trip to and from school and how long it generally takes. Because of this I thought I would make a post about the whole process from start to finish. A sort of a "day in the life of-" minus everything but my commute.

A short overall info: I live in Saitama, go to school in central/lower Tokyo, takes 2 hours one way. When people think of Japan they immediately think of Tokyo. While Tokyo plays a large role in Japan as a country, there are other places here. Japan is split up into what's called prefactures, similar to our States and Canada's provinces. And much like different states, different prefacturers have different governments, styles, living costs, etc. Tokyo the city is in the Tokyo prefacture but it's size is so massive that it bleeds over into surrounding prefacturers. Tokyo prefacture surrounds Tokyo bay and even has several man-made islands in to supply more land for the insanely large metropolis.

Here is a map of the kanto plain area prefactures. As you can see Saitama is directly to the north of Tokyo. I live somewhere in north eastern-ish Saitama. As you could see from previous posts, where I live is pretty spread out and not so crowded.

So every day I head out from where I live and head into town by train to Azabu in Tokyo. Azabu is a very ritzy rich area. I can say, without lying, that everyday I see ferraris, moseratis, bentleys, etc cutting through traffic on my walk from the Azabu-juban train station to my school's campus. A one room apartment, from what I was seeing, can cost you upwards of $1,200-$2,000USD/mo.

This is how I start my day just before I leave for school. I sit on the laptop I'm on as we speak, check my webcomics (penny arcade, megatokyo, and reallifecomics), chat a bit with friends, and check to make sure I finished all my homework. On M/W/F I leave about 9:30am, Tu/Th about 11:30am.

This is what I see just after I park my racing bicycle and am walking towards the train station.

Here is the entrance to Sengendai station.

At the top of the sairs I turn right and see the gates. The line of people in the back are buying tickets for the train. They then take the ticket and put it in the slot at the entrance of the gates, which then opens a barrier, and spits out the ticket on the other end (when they reach their destination they do the same thing and the gate keeps the ticket).

After passing through the gates you walk down the stairs onto the train platforms. At my station, there are 2 platforms, one for each direction. On M/W/F I always hop into the 9:51am rapid train to Kita-Senju, where I first change train lines.

Trains outside of tokyo usually aren't subways, and are therefore above ground. Take special notice of sub-zero next to the door. One respectful part of the Japanese culture is, if you are sick, you wear a mask in public as to not spread germs onto others. An awesome biproduct of that practice is the opportunity to look like sub-zero or scorpion without it being halloween.

This leg of the trip takes the longest, even when on a rapid train. Probably around 38 - 45 minutes. Once I arrive at kita-senju, I exit the train and go up two levels to board the Hibiya line and ride to Ueno. Ueno is a very famous station as it was the center of traditional Edo in the Edo era( for those who don't know what the Edo era is, think Samurais). At Ueno station I switch onto the Ginza lane, which is a subway, and ride through and around tokyo.

On the ginza line above the doors, there is a map depicting the current location of the train on the line. The red line next to the station name to the left is where I do another train change. Above the ginza line map, there is an overview map of the Tokyo metro train lines. The long red line shows where the ginza line cuts through Tokyo.

This is what it looks like on an average Tokyo subway train. Ginza line, for some unknown reason, is particularly hotter in temperature than the others. I ride this train line for probably 20 - 25 minutes.

Here is the closeup as we pull into Tameike-sanno, where I change train lines for the last time.

This is what the average subway underground train platform looks like. In this picture, I am 3 or more floors below ground.

Above is an over-simplified map showing where I go to get to the next platform. Yes, as you noticed, they have many things in English in Tokyo to help foreigners from getting lost. This, though, is not an excuse to be lazy and not learn Japanese if you live here as a foreigner (no specific people in mind with that statement...).

Here is the last platform I change on. This is the Namboku line which in this area travels through Roppongi and to Azabu.

I think this picture is pretty self-explanatory.

Heh, yea. A thing to know about Roppongi: it's most famous for it's concentration of foreigners and expatriates. You know you're in Roppongi cause you see alot more American, Australians, English, Indian, etc. Roppongi also is probably the most dangerous area to be at at night in Tokyo. Whether it's due to the foreigner concentration, Yakuza concentration, or the sleazier Japanese businesses trying to take advantage of the foreigners, it's a place to be on your guard. Personally, I never go to the Roppongi night scene.

Here I am walking out of the Azabu-juban station into daylight. The Azabu-juban train platform is about 4 floors underground.

After exiting the subway, it's a straight walk for about a mile or more to school. This road is a main fairway in the area. I believe it's actually highway 1, which you can guess from the number, was one of the original main roads in Tokyo.

And here we are finally at the front of Azabu hall (the name of one of Temple's buildings).

When I was researching Temple, I tried to find it on google earth with no sucess. Since Tokyo, especially Azabu, is so dense and expensive, the Japanese build up to supply more room. Due to this, Temple Japan Campus is made up of two large buildings that go by the name of Azabu Hall and Mita Hall. It so happens all of my classes are in Azabu hall, so I won't be showing you Mita. This is what the entrance to Azabu hall looks like.

The whole process including walking times starting from my front door to Azabu Hall is roughly 2 hours. That means a total of 4 hours commute time by train. By no means is that normal. It is because I live in a Homestay that I'm so damn far from everything. Even normal homestays aren't that far away... I guess I'm just lucky. The majority of the international students live in the Dorms which are a little under an hour away.

yup, that's my daily grind to and from. Thanks for reading!

Mason on 02.05.07 @ 09:00 AM PST [link]