Mount. Shosha and Himeji

13 06 2010

The Last Samurai, staring Tom Cruise, is one of the most successful movies of all the time. Mount. Shosha is the place that this movie was recorded.

Our hiking journey started here …

We hiked up to see some temples and the actual movie plot… We were lucky to have Bryce as our leader up there …

I’m not quite sure why, but this is like a movie poster , and every one is posed so well … I assume the atmosphere of the Last Samurai had some minor effects on the group …

Specially on Bryce…

And here is the place that the movie was captured.

And here we headed back to take the bus to Hyōgo.

We reached Hyōgo, and got the chance to see the Himeji Castle.

Even though our happy faces do not show, we only could see it from outside, since the castle was closed to public for maintenance.

It would have been so nice to walk into the castle and see how kings used to live in Japan. The castle is surrounded by a huge moat, in order to protect the king. Moreover, long walls with gourd towers were making it more secure.

Over all, it was a long and memorable day.

Tōdai-Ji Temple

13 06 2010

“Tōdai-ji (東大寺, Eastern Great Temple) is a Buddhist temple located in Nara City, Japan. Its Great Buddha Hall (大仏殿 Daibutsuden), the largest wooden building in the world, houses the world’s largest statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as Daibutsu (大仏).”

You see here that from schools, kids come here (Organized Japanese kids!)

This place was HUGE, and very beautiful…

Like many other times, as foreigners we were in center of attention of Japanese girls… You can see how existed Eric was about them…

This Buddha also was very different in terms of shape (It should be, since it is the biggest of in the world.) I think Buddha’s hand was bigger than me !!

And, time for some adventure…

Japanese believe whoever passes through this hole, will be blessed by the Buddha.

The hole was so small !! SO SMALL !! Almost every one needed help to get through that. I have some nice shots taken during Vida, Carly, and Bryce are passing.

Here Bryce was so happy, because he couldn’t believe he had made it through …

I passed as well. It wasn’t as hard as it seams here.

When the kids were going through, they were like a train passing one after another; we took much longer …

By the way, did anyone feel the blessing of this hole yet ?

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony in Yokohama

13 06 2010

May 25th, we got an other chance t learn more about Japanese tradition and culture. We enjoyed a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in Yokohama Royal Building.

The ceremony itself was incredibly traditional ! All the staff were dressed in a very traditional way.

This lady was preparing the tea in a very classic way. It almost took her 10 minutes to make that tea, but it was worth the wait …

This is how one should appreciate for the tea…

Here is the view from up the building …

These two are very delicious hand made sweets…

She gave us some Origami Crane birds, that she had made them herself…

And here are our group shots in the Tea Ceremony…

After the ceremony, we went to Yamashita Park; a beautiful place next to the Tokyo Bay …

This ceremony once more showed how in the Japanese tradition one respects others, regardless of who they are. You appreciate the servant that prepares a cup of tea for you. On thing more that I realized: Like other Eastern Cultures, they hand objects to others with both hands. This is also practiced in my country, and is considered very respectful.

Shibuya: The Most Crowded Intersection in the World !

13 06 2010

Shibuya, 4 minutes away from our home station Aoyama Ichone on Ginza line to south west, is called the most crowded intersection in the world !

I had heard that 3000 people at the same time cross the street in rush hours in Shibuya intersection. I could not imagine seeing that many people in one street! But when I went there, I totally believed it !

This picture was taken on May 12, our first visit to this beautiful intersection. From high tech to high heel, in Shibuya you find variety of stores. It is also a fashion mega place, with Shibuya 109 shopping mall, which is an attraction for tourists.

OK, 3000 people ! But, how would all these people cross ? Answer: So organized ! All the people start at the same time, in 5 directions. In Japan, all the routs for side-walkers turn green at the same time, which is different than other countries that they need to wait for the next cross rout to turn green. Almost no one gets hit while passing next to 3000 people.  In my country if that many people cross an intersection, they might hit others to open their way.

These Japanese people are amazing…

Subway Time

13 06 2010

If you want to know what ‘Subway Time’ means in Japanese, here you go:

  1. Reading books,
  2. Text messaging,
  3. Sleeping,
  4. Or, listening to Music !

Sleeping in train is so normal for Japanese, and they have their very unique ways of doing it. For me sleeping in train with all the unexpected moves and shakes is almost impossible !

This is a typical scene in a Tokyo subway train:

Useful time for Japanese…

Text messaging is also very a popular way of spending time while in subway.

But many times they just fall sleep easily ! In this unique picture, 5 people are sleeping.

Doesn’t really matter if they are sitting or standing, since they sleep anyway!

This random guy was standing and sleeping, and all the time I was wondering. I had my camera ready to capture the moment when he looses his balance, never happened !

Music, is a major part of Japanese life style. As you see, sleeping doesn’t keep them from enjoying their subway ride with their music collection.

Comparing it with other countries and cultures, spending time for looking around and checking out other people is pretty much most people do. Japanese use their time very efficiently; I like that.

Mai Dreamin’ Café

12 06 2010

Mai Dreamin Café

I can’t say much, pictures are a worth thousand words…

This café is one of the typical Japanese Maid Café, in which you will be the Boss, as long as you are sitting there.

In these shops, you are not allowed to take a photo !  But, I did it anyway ! 😀

What you see up there, is Bryce’s, Carly’s, Eric’s, and my order. It contained ice cream, fresh and dried fruits, jelly, cereals, and cream on top. It was delicious…

After you’re done, as a part of service they provide, you will have a chance to take a picture with those maid waitresses . We all gathered to take a group shot, but they caught me before I could get everyone in the frame. Though it is not very good framed, it shows around well enough. This place was designed and adorned with colorful walls and frames. The maids or waitresses were dressed up, and had beautiful make up. They were really cute…

When they bring your order to your table, they sing a song, and ask you to sing along with them again. I couldn’t understand what they meant, but from hand gestures I would say, I was about love and friendship.

As a part of service, they also provide a small birthday party. So, I told her that it was my friend’s birthday, Bryce; and we want to make a memorable birthday for him. They brought this birthday dish for him with his name on it, and later asked him to join them on the little stage they had, to sing a “Happy Birthday Song.”

Happy Birthday Bryce !! 😉

Who’s picture should be on money bills ?

12 06 2010


Fukuzawa Yukichi (福澤 諭吉, January 10, 1835 – February 3, 1901) was a Japanese author, writer, teacher, translator, who founded Keio University, a very famous high-ranked university in the world.

Hideyo Noguchi (野口 英世, November 24, 1876 – May 21, 1928), also known as Seisaku Noguchi (野口清作), was a prominent  Japanese bacteriologist, who discovered the agent of syphilis in 1911.

Natsu Higuchi (樋口 奈津, May 2, 1872 – November 23, 1896) was a Japanese author, also know as her pen-name: Ichiyō Higuchi (樋口 一葉)

This is how Japanese are respecting their culture and cultural background.

If we compare it with other countries, all we see on banknotes are politicians, presidents, or supreme leaders.

Authors and artists form cultures, and politicians run it. Besides money, are we really honoring authors good enough ? Countless artists or authors died while starving, and had no money to live. On the other hand, politicians pay unbelievable amount of money to achieve some positions.

After all, who is really appropriate to be printed on money bills ?


12 06 2010

Roppongi, a Mega Place of Entertainment in Tokyo

Photo By Bryce

15 minutes away from Aoyama Ichome Station to south, Roppongi is a district of  Tokyo and famous as home to the rich Roppongi Hills area. Many countries have their embassies located in this area,

Roppongi is full of active nightclubs, bars, restaurants, Karaoke bars, and other forms of entertainment. Therefore, many people, including tourists, like to spend their weekend night at a place like this, with variety of entertainment. From 10 PM to late night Roppongi as really crowded.

Walking through this place requires self-confidence, since often happens that you’ll be disturbed by some Nigerian blacks, appearing on your way and inviting you to their club. Sometimes they offer you free entrance, or free drinks for ladies, but no one really knows if they are trustable or not… (We were advised not to!)

I used to go to a Turkish restaurant in that area, and I was used to see Nigerians all over the place. Thanks to Dr. C, his tips helped us survive these people.


11 06 2010

Although Japanese are typically short and slim, you find Sumo wrestlers quite fat !

The Sumo game is the traditional Japanese wrestling, which has centuries of history in Japan. The game starts with both wrestlers stretching out, some times several minutes, and then siting on their feet.

The game starts when both wrestlers are mentally ready. If one starts when the other one is not ready, the game will be started again…

In two cases, the winner will be chosen, either :

  1. The first wrestler to force his opponent to step out of dohyō (the ring.)
  2. The first wrestler to force his opponent to touch the ground with any part of his body other than the bottom of his feet.

Spreading salt on the ground for each round of the game is their way to purify the dohyō.

The ceremony of announcing the winner is also very interesting:

All the wresters gather around the Gyōji (referee) and do some special moves, and one will receive the certificate.

Monja-Yaki: The Tokyo’s Okonomiyaki ! Best Day in Japan !

10 06 2010

Nothing could be more friendly than this invite! After a long game, cheering and singing, we were exhausted ! So, a good meal would make a perfect day.

Reon, and his girlfriend that was earlier with us in stadium,  invited us to have a traditional Tokyo food that we had not tried yet. So, after watching both teams singing their respecting song to their competitor team, we proceeded to exit. Bryce went back to hotel to wash his shorts, which was adorned by a bird in the middle of the game…

I can’t say we were lost, but i know Reon wasn’t quite sure how to get to the place he wanted. By the time we reached the restaurant, I was so hungry ! The main difference of this Tokyo food with the Hiroshima Yaki was that you cook your own Yaki, on your table. As you see Reon was doing it for us. I have to confess he was a great chef ! The food was just so delicious !

After few times ordering and cooking, Reon taught us how to cook a Monja-Yaki ! Here is Nicholas trying to do what Reon said. He did a good job.

This kindness in Japanese people is adorable, since we were almost two totally strangers to them who had a short conversation in a classroom few days earlier. But they invited us to this memorable restaurant, and and made our day. They guided us to subway, and showed us how to get to Aoyama-Ichome, our home station. On the way back, Nicholas and I were just still wondering how perfect that day was for us…

Yes, The Best Day in Japan… Thanks Reon.