Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Today dad had to go to the office to do some wheelings and dealings, so I was left in the middle of one of the largest cities on the planet, with ¥ 30,000 (about $300) and a rail pass which lets me go to wherever I want in the entirety of Japan on its rail network (if you plan on going to Japan, you must buy either the Japan Rail Pass, if you are going all over Japan like we are, or a Regional Rail Pass, if you are going to just one section of Japan). Wow. The first thing I decided to do was go to a part of the city which was informally claimed by the “Otaku”, or geeks. This mecca of gamers and other assorted geeks is called Akihabara. To get to Akihabara, I took a local train around the center of Tokyo. Bunched in with many other passengers, and at least a head taller than the rest of the crowd, I had my first experience with the real side of Japan. People (general populus, almost no children on the train) were almost all listening to music, and also were either messing with their phones (text messaging, checking messages, etc.) or they were reading manga. Manga is the name for those Japanese comic books which you see in the back of book stores with the Dungeons and Dragons manuals. Here, every generation was reading them, from one of the oldest passengers all the way to the teenagers. And us in the US make fun of people who read books with pictures! Once in Akihabara, I start down one street. Not much is found until I spot a Arcade. All of you who actually know me know that I am a Gamer (geek who specializes in video games), so I of course have to try every game there. One of my favorites is this game called Taito Drum Master. This is a game where you have a Japanese style drum and two stick to hit it with. The two places in which you can hit this drum are either in the middle or on the edge with a rim shot (technical term). This game is all centered on the rhythmic tappings and drummings displayed on the screen. I give a game a 5/5. Other than that, there were many claw games and other random games. After the arcade, I found a street bustling with shoppers. I am finally here. In downtown Akihabara, you can buy almost every commercial electronic device made (exceptions include UNIVAC and Cray Supercomputers; there’s simply just no market for those these days!) I buy myself two games, one is an English version game which will not come out for a year in the US, and a game which I so far have not found anywhere on the internet or in other markets, and a remote for my iPod. After I am done with my shopping, I grab a train down to Tokyo. In Tokyo, I check out the Imperial Palace (you aren’t allowed to go on the grounds) and putter around Tokyo. Now the Adventure begins. When arriving in Japan yesterday, dad and I took the Narita Express from Narita Airport to Shinjuku, making a stop at Tokyo station. I saw that the express was in, so I grabbed it thinking I was going to Shinjuku. At this time, I was really tired from hiking all over Tokyo, so I sit down and fall asleep. When I awake, I realize I am almost at Narita Airport, oops, wrong way. I freak out, then get off the train at the next stop and rush to the schedule screens (screens where the destination, train number and track number are listed). Here, I see a local train going to Tokyo, I rush down to the track to see it just closing, so I holler to the station conductor (guy on the platform who whistles to the train conductor that it’s time to leave) that I need to get on. He stops the train and mutters baka gaijin (stupid foreigner) and I get on. Once on the train, I settle in and watch the scenery. Since this is my second day in Tokyo, I don’t really know the surroundings, and after a long time, I start seeing the ocean. Let me repeat that, the OCEAN. (Tokyo is not on an ocean for those who do not have a map with them.) I once again freak out but then calm myself. I get off at the next train stop, Mobara. This stop is right next to the ocean and the area reminds me of Monterrey, blissfully foggy and a little rocky. I then go to the Station Conductor and ask in the most simple way possible, how to get to Tokyo. He then looks at me kind of weird and points up to the station terminal. Inside, I ask the ticket person how to get to Tokyo. She tells me to go to Chiba and then connect to Tokyo. I take her directions and finally get to Tokyo Station. At Tokyo station I grab a bowl of Spicy Udon and as all of you know what I would do, add more spice to it. The other businessmen inside the cafĂ© keep giving me looks which are a cross between respect for the dead and that I was crazy. I finish the bowl without a glass of water and get up to leave. The businessman next to me gives me a little head bow and mutters something like crazy foreigner. I then start to make my way back to the Hotel. Halfway there, I check the cell phone my dad’s company lent us and see that my dad’s friend/coworker, Shiogeo Shiobara (Shio) who was with my dad had tried to call multiple times. I then call and assure him that I am fine. I then make it to my room and get undressed and take a shower because I am going to dinner and Karaoke with dad and his friends/coworkers!


Kaaren Marquez said...

Wow, talk about an adventure. Sounds like you're really learning how to get around in Japan, whether you were planning on it or not. You're going to have some great memories (and stories to tell)!

Take care of yourself. We're thinking about you!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your graduation Jon. Enjoy your trip. We are enjoying reading about it.
The Hardys