Sunday, May 27, 2007


My favourite spot that I experienced on this trip is hard to really decide upon. I loved the tea garden with the bloody footprints on the ceiling and Todaiji. I think those were my favourite places. The tea garden was beautiful and relaxing, and when I saw the footprints and hand prints stained on the ceiling it was exciting. The history is amazing and even with the gory history of the ceiling it was relaxing and calm. Todaiji was simply amazing. I really can't think of many words that would do justice in describing it. I tried to take pictures but they really don't even get the point just have to be there to experience all that it is.

Really this trip was amazing and all aspects of the trip were well worth the time. I enjoyed every part of the trip, and if I had the chance and the money I would happily do the trip again and spend more time to explore Kyoto and Nara. And, I did like the deer. ^.~

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Lateral View

Generally all that Donald Richie wrote of Japan still holds true, and I think that can be seen from the week and a half that I've been here. There is a sameness in change and Tokyo is much like an organism that grows and changes and in certain aspects remains the same. The contrast of old and new and east and west all snugly assembled into something all it's own. I wonder about familial life and how it might possibly change because this is something I haven't experienced myself in Tokyo. The 'rabbit hutch' or 'chicken coop' housing that keeps the wife and children as the men go to work and then out with their coworkers to strengthen company bonds. I've seen many salary men out late at night, so I'm not doubting that it still holds true, but rather just curious as to whether or not the women have careers and how this affects the familial life. Would the women be committed to an evening with coworkers in order to in some ways secure that position in the company?

The whole idea that there is no word for home in Japanese, but rather hometown, would make sense to the way of life. Just one little fact that I found quite interesting. As far as towns are considered, Donald Richie was right in saying that the city is in fact made up of little towns. In a sense, the fact that there is no zoning makes these multiple towns that create the city much more homogenous than the cities that I'm accustomed to. Though one area can be vastly different from another, they are the same enough that you understand. I find this and the public transportation system incredible about Tokyo. In so many ways i find it much more efficient and comfortable than anywhere I've experienced.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Project Post Two: Revisions to Idea

I've decided that I still want to focus on the wrapping of things, and the furoshiki, but to incorporate my block (which I've changed to the area around Tokyo Tower for reasons I'll explain in a moment), I'm going to design several Furoshiki with patterns I've created from different visual aspects from the area. The block itself has three things that in their own ways remind me of Japan, a temple for obvious reasons, Tokyo tower for the technological aspect, and a park for the strong natural ties (which kind of goes with the temple or shrine). I kind of think it would be fun to create a bento that housed inside a cd soundtrack, a book of small and brief histories and inspirations, and perhaps something else all packaged up and packaged again in one of the furoshiki. I'm going to try refining my ideas today and I'll post again on this probably tonight after I post my reactions to the readings.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Project Post One: Inspiration

I think I might settle my idea for my project off of some things I saw in Azabujuban. When we were walking through Ron briefly explained the history of the wrapping of items, the way they are presented and packaged. I wanted to pair this wrapping with the idea of the kimono and the wrapping of people for special events. I've done a little research online and was hoping to visit the library to possibly take out some books to further investigate this.

I would like to do a traditional Japanese style book that has a sound track. Noises and perhaps music that might invoke the idea of the area, the history, or the meaning behind this wrapping.

Tsutsumi is the wrapping of gifts in paper as a means of keeping any ill feelings or disharmonies from passing on to the recipient of the gift. They said that the only paper originally used was washi paper, though I haven't found a clear definition on that yet, but I also read that it was originally wrapped in white paper only, to show the purity.

Furoshiki is wrapping with cloth and originated as a way of wrapping your clothes while taking a public bath. This too has very specific ways of wrapping, but rather than paper uses large beautiful cloths.

And the Kimono, also, has a very specific way of being put on, or wrapped around the body.

I wanted to explore historically the importance of these three things and then how they've adapted to a more modern culture. I'm really very interested in this subject and the history and adaptability of it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A clean and Alien place

I love Philadelphia in it's own right. I am home there. But I love Tokyo. I've been back to Harajuku to see the Gothic Lolita and other eccentricities that the young crowd there has to offer and I want to do some shopping there at some point, even if I don't get to buy anything from the incredible stores within La Foret. Tokyo is so clean and well worked, things are how they are supposed to be. I don't feel any more foreign here than I do among the crowds at Temple, I just don't feel that I can disappear into the background as well. So while I'm no more alone here than I am back home, I stand out twenty times as much. But that's okay.

Some of my Japanese is returning. I'm so rusty after not being able to take it for three years. My guides names are Toko, Yuka, and Harumi. I talk to Harumi most. They're all very sweet.

The metro yesterday was an experience to say the least. While I've been on the metro here quite a bit since I first arrived (I've probably spent 5,000 yen on it being as it's the best way for me to get around) it has never been quite so crowded. Yuka said that there was probably a train suicide on the other line which is why it was delayed and everyone was piling onto the train we were taking. We could have entered one of those contests to see how many people you can fit in one tiny car, there were so many people on that train. When we started out, we barely pushed ourselves on and were standing on the left side. By the end, we had been squished in so tight that we were more towards the right side of the train. And as people got off and on there was a current of sorts, it felt very similar to being swept away by the ocean tides. Luckily we were to exit the train at our stop on the right hand side so when the doors opened (we were right up against them, no lie) we stumbled off and quickly out of the way of the swarms of people. Incredible.

Tokyo is an amazing place. I wish that my Japanese was better. Tokyo is also a fairly expensive city if you're not careful. Or maybe I just feel that way since I have no income and am eating away at my savings. But while I love this place, I feel no different here than I do back home. No more alienated, no less alienated...maybe I'm just gaijin no matter where I go.

visual acknowledgement

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The stars from somewhere else

First full day in Tokyo.
6:30 a.m. I get up to get ready, I have to walk downstairs past the entrance of the dorms to get to the shower, but it's pretty cool because I got a new shower robe for this trip. It's fuzzy and comfy and long.
8:30 a.m. Our 'guides' are waiting for our group in the front of the dorms. I can't really recall their names exactly (I'm terrible at names, that transcends language unfortunately) but I think they're Yuka, Toko, and at the moment I can't remember the other girls name but it began with an H. I feel horrible that I can't remember their names because they're such sweet girls.

So we leave from the dorm to the train station which is really close, and we take that line to Gotanda and then transferred to the JR line and took that to Shibuya. There, we are shown two variety shops, one called Don Quihote (not that I know how to spell that) and the other called Tokyu Hands...where I bought a power adapter and this nifty watch. It's the coolest thing ever.
The robot actually comes off and I can wear it as a necklance. He's adorable!! His arms move up and down. Two other kids got watches similar, Helen got a smaller version that was the same price as mine but her robot doesn't come off the band and it's bright orange. Brian got a metal one (by which I mean the band is metal) and his robot is like mine.

Then we ate. The food was good and we had a good time sitting and eating and laughing together. I really like this group so far. After that we had some free time to kind of explore so we just wandered around and got pulled into a couple of shops...all hip hop attire...but it was pretty crazy all together. I wish that my camera battery wasn't so dead so that I could have taken more pictures. But I'm sure I'll be going back.

We then walked to Harajuku and to the Meiji Temple.

I have more pictures but I'm a little tired right now so I'll put them up perhaps at a later date. Or you can just see me when I get home and I can create a digital presentation of my journeys. There were three weddings going on within the temple, and they were really cool with the procession and the kimonos and everything. The whole thing was great. When we left the temple there was a line of kids handing out free hugs. Ben and I laughed and decided that we'd take he took a picture of me and I took a picture of him. We also saw one or two cute Gothic Lolita girls before we headed on to Yoyogi park.

We sat in the park for a while, played frisbee, then got up to travel to where Temple was buying us dinner. Free food is good food. So we ate up, decided that tomorrow we're going to the festival at Asakusa. Took the travels back to the dorm where we had a brief dorm meeting, Nicholas and I went to the grocery store to buy some water which was on sale (yay!) and skipped out on the bar for tonight and instead just chilled and had some hot green tea and chatted (which is fine with me because it's a little more personal).

That's the gist of it for today, my first full day in Tokyo. I'm terribly excited for what tomorrow holds and I have my camera ready with fresh batteries. Huzzah!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Pre-emptive Blogging

I leave Thursday from the Philadelphia Airport. I will arrive at the airport at 5 a.m. and my flight leaves at 6. I have a connecting flight in Chicago...I can't recall off the top of my head when my flight lands in Tokyo. Exciting!