Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kayoubi: Tuesday 1/12/10

After catching a train at nearly 6 in the morning, we follow a bustling crowd, all armed with wicker baskets, through the intersections of Tsukiji to the fish market.

From 5 to 6:30 fishermen auction off their catches to local vendors. After that, the primary selling items are produce. Almost any kind of food is found in these busy markets, but the fish is overwhelming. The Tsukiji fish market supplies Tokyo with all of its fish. After a quick stop at wikipedia, I can confirm that it is in fact the largest fish market in the world.

Constant mopeds, tractors, and cars are speeding by, so you have to constantly be moving. Everyone in the market moved with such intent, it was hard not to feel in the way. We stopped at a small restaurant for what was, needless to say, the freshest sushi breakfast I have ever had.

We walked the Hamarikyuteien park while we waited for a shuttle to Asakusa. 

The shuttle provided us with a beautiful view of some of the more metropolitan areas of Asakusa. 

We began walking deeper into Asakusa, visiting some of the ancient shrines the area is known for. The roads were lined with vendors, where I was able to practice my Japanese and buy a much needed umbrella as the weather took a turn for the worst. 

The most famous in Asakusa is, of course, Asakusa shrine. The large complex has multiple temples surrounding its courtyard.

After succumbing to rain and poor sense of direction, we hopped in a cab and came over to Ueno park. After a turn at these orange arches, we stopped at a traditional Japanese lunch house. The experience was jarringly sophisticated and different from our own. Every step in the meal was made blindly and with caution. I can't help but think the waitress was amused by our efforts.

Despite the bad weather, the park, a sight of street performers, university campuses, and museums, was a beautiful walk with plenty of more shrines along the way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getsuyoubi: Monday 1/11/10

We woke up to get our first glimpses of the view at daylight. What was just outside our window was fairly indicative of the rest of the city. The old and new architecture seem to exist harmoniously and every inch of space is efficiently used.

 The area we are staying in is Akasaka. It is a bit quieter than most other areas of Tokyo, with its main attraction being the Tokyo Broadcasting System building. Where Shibuya is a Time Square, the TBS center is a Rockefeller Center, ice-skating rink and all. We caught a subway and headed over to our first sight of the day, the Imperial Palace.

The Imperial Gardens exist as an ocean of gravel and grass within the city. We did a full walk of the historic areas, dating back to when this land was the Edo Castle. The Imperial Grounds are off limits to civilians on all but two days. New Years, and the Emperor's Birthday (December 23rd.)

By far the most beautiful view was of one of the guarded bridges leading to the Imperial Castle. After a quick visit to the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, we caught another train to Ryogoku to catch day 2 of the January Sumo Tournament

We had lunch at a restaurant attached to the Edo-Tokyo Museum (which we would return to later), only a few feet from the Sumo Stadium. I also had my first opportunity to test out my hiragana here. When you walk into the restaurant, you have to write your name on a sheet of paper to reserve your spot. After a moment of panic, I wrote the closest thing to my father's name that I could. When they called us, we stepped forward, slightly shocked that it even worked. The waiter immediately began speaking to us in Japanese. After only a moment with our mouths open and faces stunned, he said "Upstairs?"

The Sumo Stadium was already packed. It was only 2:30 and the highest ranked bouts didn't start until 4:00.

After struggling to find our seats, we watched a few of the earlier fights, then decided to head back to the Edo-Tokyo museum until the big fights started.

The intensity in the stadium was incredible. Fan were cheering loudly as their favorite wrestlers circled up around the ring before the next stage of fights. Each match had higher ranked sumo fighters than the last. Hakuho ended up being unbeaten in his 38th straight match. The stakes are high, there are almost eight hours of fight, and each fighter only gets one fight a day, lasting as short as ten seconds. With the highest ranking wrestlers, they will approach the starting line, step back to their corner, and approach the line again at least five times before starting the bout. They will grab salt and throw it into the ring as a sign of good luck. After a train back from Ryogoku, we were still jet-lagged, and ended up falling asleep right away. Plus, we needed to wake up early for the Tsujiki fish market tomorrow morning.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nichiyoubi: Sunday 1/10/10

Well, here we are! Finally in the hotel room. It's small, but already feels like home. We left early in the morning, bags packed and ready. I was very excited to use my new suitcase, only to be rejected by a TSA officer. She made me put my bag into a metal case to prove it's dimensions. It fit, but it was still too tall apparently. No huge deal, we checked the bag and got on our connecting flight to Atlanta. We were on the waitlist for the flight, and after a close call, managed to get on as the last people for the flight. We ended up flying business class since we were using passes (courtesy of my uncle, a Delta Pilot), and these were the only seats open. Well worth the luxury in my book. Alas, when we landed, it seems that my luggage didn't make it off the waitlist with me. It only had my clothes thankfully, nothing I really needed immediately, and we should have it back tomorrow. Still, can't help but think back about that one TSA agent who wouldn't cut me a break.

After filling out the necessary paper work for my missing bag and stopping at a few information centers, we got on the Narita Express train to Tokyo. Aside from a minute of confusion when using my first restroom (buttons to open the door?), this was my first cultural faux pas. The Narita Express has assigned seats, something I somehow didn't catch from my ticket which was completely in Japanese. A Japanese man politely told us we were in his seat. I wish I could have seen the look on both of our faces as we stood in the aisle looking at our tickets confused and embarrassed. The same man took a quick look at our tickets and pointed to the aisle across from him. It's always nice to have the kindness of strangers, especially in a foreign country. The train ride was a nice look into some of the more rural areas of Japan. The small towns we passed appeared strangely familiar, most likely though various Japanese tv shows, movies, and video games. Or maybe it was the Vicodin sinking in for my tooth pain. Fairly quickly though, the quaint houses and pine trees, became neon-sign and fluorescent apartments. We got to the Tokyo Station and exited into the city. A taxi brought us to our hotel, the "b akasaka," giving us a glimpse of the city at night. So far, I am ecstatic. I can tell this will be a trip to remember. Things are different, and even easy things will be difficult. I think that's part of the enjoyment. Out to dinner now. More photos can be found on my Picasa account through my profile. Konbanwa to sayounara!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Death and Life of Languages

I will not be posting tomorrow since I will be packing and preparing for Japan! I leave on Sunday and will post each day there one, exclusively on Japan. I have some good post ideas for the future. For now, excerpts of a Q&A found in the New York Times with french linguist Claude Hagege, the author of "On the Death and Life of Languages."

Who says English is going to dominate forever? Last I checked, India and China are ascendant and the US is in decline … – Brian Bailey

Hindi (the most spoken language in India) and Mandarin Chinese might replace English as dominant languages some day. But two reasons at least lead one to think that the process could be long:
(i) Hindi is not widespread outside Asia, and there is presently no special effort to promote it worldwide. As for Mandarin Chinese, it is true that a great number of Confucius Institutes are scheduled to be built by China in various countries, but we cannot know today the result of this decision;
(ii) The publications (books, internet, etc.) in English cover all domains of knowledge, let alone the presence of English in all other activities. These traces of the worldwide spread of English will not disappear.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Dangers of South Asia

The Middle East has had national attention as a trouble spot (to say the least) for thousands of years. It is a cross-roads between three continents and the home of our three major world religions. From the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia, to Alexander the Great, to the Umayyad dynasty, to the Ottoman Empire, to the inception of the state of Israel, it has been heavily contested, even more so with our growing dependence on oil.

However, with a great number of troops moving from Iraq to Afghanistan, is our geo-political focus shifting? As Al Qaeda operatives began moving across the southern border, Pakistan has come into focus, argued by some like Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria to be of utmost importance in U.S foreign policy. The U.S Government has been executing drone bombing in Pakistan, which has already resulted in civilian casualties. The Pakistani government insists it is on our side, but with internal population issues, government inefficiencies, and an unfolding military coup d'etat (one that is Al Qaeda friendly), it is difficult for them to execute the job we need them to. Militants moving in from Afghanistan in the regions of Swat and South Waziristan have caused the Pakistani Army to intervene, displacing more than 2 million families from the region, only adding to the turmoil.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Trafford Publishing Presents: 'Globalization from Genesis to Geneva'

Trafford Publishing Presents: 'Globalization from Genesis to Geneva' -- GENEVA, Jan. 5 

The opening quote of of this article I think speaks a lot about the current issues in globalization.

"...arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity." - Kofi Annan

More effort needs to be put into understanding globalization and using its forces for the greater good instead of hopelessly trying to resist. Ray Woodcock's new book "Globalization from Genesis to Geneva: A Confluence of Humanity" acknowledges this. In fact, our current globalization is actually considered a period of "new globalization." We observe the changes in technology around us a rapidly revolutionizing our world. However, the period just prior to WWI had the most rapid period of globalization ever seen.

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