November 6, 2013

You Can Do A Lot With 5 Days of Free Time

Lacus tea set from Gundam Cafe

Lacus tea set from Gundam Cafe

Wow, so I have a really good reason for a late post this week.  Though I find it funny how I go from last Sunday going to the Gundam Cafe with my friend to going to see the life-size Gundam model in Odaiba with my  dad.  I am gonna go through the week quickly ’cause I have some interesting stories to tell.

But yeah, after I saw my friend in Tachikawa, we met up the next day and I went to Akihabara for the first time since I came here.  I don’t really go to Akiba much but it’s famous for its cheap electronics and anime stuff.  My friend and I decided it would be a great idea to eat at the Gundam Cafe.  They were having a Gundam SEED special event thing and we ordered food from that menu.  Japanese “otaku” are kind of scary.  There were people on dates with figures of characters from the series at the cafe.  I mean, I understand why and how this comes about, but it’s a little shocking to see it in real life.

Warm corn soup in a vending machine

Warm Corn Soup in the Vending Machine

With the weather changing, vending machines are starting to change.  Not only do the vending machines start adding hot drinks, but they are adding their (surprisingly) popular corn soup.  Yup.  Corn soup.

Soup is something you drink in this country.  You don’t “eat” soup.  In Japanese, it’s denoted specifically with the verb “to drink” (飲む).  Anyways.  This soup is actually incredibly popular.  However, even though I have eaten, and continue to eat, a lot of strange things in this country, this is one thing I won’t go near even though everyone tells me it’s good.  I don’t know….I don’t particularly like corn that much and hot corn soup from a can that is roughly the same size and shape as the can I drink my canned coffee from every day is a little strange.

A Starbucks sign featuring holiday drinks in Japan

Starbucks Holiday Drinks–Japan

I regretfully don’t have any photos from Halloween here.  It’s a fairly new phenomena actually, but Halloween here is on the rise.  They don’t have trick-or-treating (considering imposing and asking things of your neighbors isn’t really culturally acceptable), but everyone just dresses up and walks around.  It’s like a giant costume party on the trains and everything.  And since there is no Thanksgiving here, the Christmas season has started!  Starbucks has their holiday drinks and all the stores and buildings are starting to put out Christmas lights and decorations.  Christmas is a huge couples holiday here.  I hope I can celebrate it….I will be here for Christmas and into the beginning of January after all.

Marlene First makes the peace sign while posing for a photo with her dad

Me and My Dad

So my dad came to visit me over the long weekend.  He flew in on Friday but I didn’t see him until Saturday.  On Saturday I just took him to some of my favorite places–like Ikebukuro ’cause I tend to just live in Ikebukuro even though it’s far.  And afterwards we went to Harajuku.  We walked around and accidentally wandered into the meiji Shrine.  I knew about the shrine for awhile but I didn’t really know where it was nor had I ever gone.  We stumbled upon a shinto-style wedding as well.  It was very interesting.

Marlene First poses for a photo in Kinkakuji in front of water and a building made with gold.

Kinkakuji. It’s real gold.

On Sunday, my dad and I went to Kyoto for the day.  I have been to Kyoto before.  In fact, I lived here for a few months last year.  I like Kyoto a lot more than Tokyo as there is history literally everywhere.  We took the Shinkansen (bullet train–which took about two hours) and then got into a car.

Some locations we went to I have been to before, some I hadn’t.  We drove past Mibu Dera, one of the places I had never gone to before.  I was really happy.  I am a not-so-secret fan of the Shinsengumi. I  love their history and some of the members were really, really cool.  I got to see where they trained and where they lived.  My dad was confused but I was super happy.

Our first actual stop was Kinkakuji.  I had never been to Kinkakuji either.  It was really beautiful–and gold.  It was funny hearing high school students surprised by this fact.  The surrounding gardens are also beautiful.

Ginkakuji

Ginkakuji

Next stop was Ginkakuji.  If Kinkakuji is gold, you can probably guess that Ginkakuji is silver.  Though it’s actually not silver in the sense Kinkakuji (which is actually a rebuilt version because the original was burned down) is gold.  In the moonlight, the wooden and white paper/stone pavilion glows silver.  But instead of being aesthetically sparkling, it prides itself on a natural beauty.  The concept is “Wabisabi”….It is sort of like a “less is more” principle.  It’s difficult to explain in English though.

Marlene poses for a photo before a building in Kiyomizudera, Japan

Kiyomizudera

Our last stop was Kiyomizudera.  You know that iconic picture of Tokyo with that temple looking out over the red leaves?  That’s Kiyomizudera.  It’s a fun hike to get there because it’s full of shops and food stalls.  There are a lot Yatsuhashi vendors, which is a sweet specific to Kyoto (of course I bought some).

What’s also interesting about this temple is that it shares the grounds with a shinto shrine.  The area is huge and at the bottom are three rivers that each carry a different blessing–but you don’t know which river is which blessing.  You can drink from one river and receive that one river’s blessing.  It’s pretty cool and interesting.  It started to rain so we didn’t stay long.  We went back to Tokyo and then had a 9 course meal–too much food.

Marlene First poses in front of the Gundam statue in Odaiba, Japan

I FOUND THE GUNDAM!!!!

On Monday we went to Odaiba.  Odaiba is like a man-made Island that boasts a ton of malls, the “palette town” amusement park and Toyota car garage, the giant ferris wheel, Fuji TV’s observation deck, the fake statue of liberty, a few other cool things, and of course, my favorite: The life size Gundam Model.  Honestly, the Gundam was the reason I wanted to go to Odaiba, but the whole island turned out to be worth it.

The Gundam statue, a giant robot, at night

Gundam at Night

Even at night, the Gundam looked really, really cool.  My dad and I never got bored here, even when it started raining.  We just went inside the Fuji TV observation deck or we walked to the Ferris Wheel and rode that for 16 minutes.  At the time that Ferris Wheel was built, it was actually the tallest in the world.  It was really nice seeing Tokyo from the sky view.  There is a cooler Ferris Wheel in Osaka actually, but this one was nice too haha.

A DUCK Tsuritama poster at Noitamina Cafe in Aqua City, Japan

DUCK!!! Tsuritama poster. Noitamina Cafe

We had dinner in Aqua City at a place called Gonpachi.  It was kind of like a fancy Izakaya.  While walking to the restaurant, we passed by this giant Tsuritama board with the DUCK Alien extermination team, with Yamada (the guy in the middle) and Tapioca (the duck) and their DUCK Curry sign.  I kind of freaked out ’cause I had seen pictures of this before but had no clue it was in Odaiba, much less Aqua City.  Turned out it was the Noitamina Cafe.  My dad was confused, once again, by my sudden excitement.  But a lot of what I watch and like airs on Noitamina, so I was very happy.

Anyways, a lot of stuff happened this weekend and I am back at school.  I am currently trying to set up a little something for my birthday and I have another friend from the US coming here next week.  I have a paper due and start production on a final project for my editing class.  I have learned to hate looking at my computer this semester too.  I am really starting to feel like a film major–“Let me tell you about how I am married to my Computer Software” sort of feeling haha.

Anyways, I am not sure if this week will be as exciting as last week.  But we’ll see.

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