Another visit to Japan

Between the 26th of July and 4th of August I made another visit to Japan (just one and a half weeks this time, I needed to recover from the jet lag before going back to work!). I stayed with my friend again but this time she had to work on several days, or else sleep or sort things out, so I also got the chance to walk around Tokyo and it’s surroundings on my own, testing out my horrendous Japanese.

Perhaps the best example of this being when i needed to buy new shoes after my old ones, well worn away as it was, got filled with water during a particularly heavy downpour on one day. I first asked the bloke who owned the shop if he understood movies (Eiga) instead of English (Eigo). Oh well knowing the words for big (Ooki) and small (Chiisai) meant I was able to eventually buy some that fit OK.

Oh yeah, speaking of “downpour” the weather is worth a mention: It was HOT. Never seemed to dip below 30°C at any point, not during the downpour,  not during strong wind and scattered rain and not even when I went into my friend’s shower room, with a tiled floor and wide-open windows, at 5 in the morning! The extreme humidity seems to hold the heat in like a blanket and maintains the same temperature at all hours.


First proper day of my visit. Here’s the Asahi beer tower and  “super dry hall” in Asakusa again. Behind them is the new Tokyo Tower, intended to be just over double the height of the old one. It’s already the tallest structure in Japan and has quite a way to go before it’s finished! It is actually being built for purely practical reasons – the old one is not high enough for broadcasting digital television signals, so a new one was needed! However the inevitable observatories are likely to provide wonderful views and bring in a lot of money too.


Senso-Ji temple. Last time I visited it was encased in a big white cube for repair and strengthening work. This is now finished and the cube is being dismantled. For protection against the elements and earthquakes the new roof is made of titanium! The temple cannot yet be seen in it’s full glory… so i’ll just have to visit again one day!


The side of Senso-Ji giving some impression of what it looks like. Very colourful! Many other shrines and temples are a  lot plainer. I believe that Buddhist ones are colourful and Shinto ones are plain.


Just a fun picture. Japan loves old British-style car designs more than Britain does! This is probably a Nissan or Lexus or something, but with a front resembling a 1950’s-60’s Bentley! The rear had tall and thin lights not unlike a 1970’s Cadillac!


Part of the “normally” accessible parts of the Emperor’s gardens. I believe on certain occasions visitors can get closer to the actual imperial palace. This house was once for samurai to live in, and challenge any visitors to the royal grounds!


Part of the palace gardens, lovely reflections. 


A nearby “fountain park” with many water features, fountains and little shallow rivers.


We were lucky enough to see a religious festival at this shrine. There was a small stage with men drumming and singing along to very upbeat, jolly music. People in traditional dress danced around the stage in circles and also sang along to the choruses.


The streets leading to the larger temples have market stalls arranged along them, which were doing a roaring trade because of the festival, it was difficult to get through the crowds of people coming, going and buying – many of them in colourful traditional costumes.


Some kind of sculptured alien in Roppongi. It probably comes from a video game, which have been taken seriously as an “art form” for a lot longer in Japan than they have in Britain. Or maybe a comic, which have never been taken seriously in Britain like they have in Japan, France, Holland, Spain etc etc.


I went to a shrine dedicated to an admiral of the Japanese fleet during the 1904-5 Russo-Japanese war. I thought perhaps if I made an offering he’d help me get on the JET programme from beyond the grave, considering that Japan and Britain were close allies at the time (In fact we damn near sparked off World War 1 a decade early). However the shrine itself was under heavy repair.


Other parts of the shrine, a lot of Torii gates leading up to a smaller one, and then a sculpture near one of the exits from the grounds.


The downpour that got in my shoes. It was extremely heavy and the drains on a road adjacent to this one were rapidly overflowing, creating huge puddles and small streams. As quickly as it started it ended and all this accumulated water dissapeared!


On a bus going into the countryside of Chiba, to a small town called Kagoshima, and Sea World! This is a river we passed.


Part of the journey back to Tokyo station, where the bus tour ended, was made by ferry from the edge of Chiba across the bay to Tokyo. This is the town of Nokogiryama, which contains the giant Buddha’s from my first post. By the way Top Gear’s race across Japan did end here, they simply lied about the Buddha’s being dedicated to road safety XD.


On the toll roads…


Some shops close to Tokyo station (which is also undergoing heavy work and is covered in grey sheeting). They are made up of heavy thick glass blocks like a 1960’s office. I wouldn’t want to be standing nearby in an earthquake!


The main Catholic cathedral of Japan. The old one actually looked like a cathedral but was wooden, and so was burned down in the war. This one is a horrendous concrete construction with a chrome-plated outside and an inside that looks like a multi-storey car park. Though apparently the slabs of concrete reflect a Bible quotation along the lines of “The Lord is my rock”. Still when the next major war happens in Japan, with giant robots shooting lasers, this reflective building will be immune.


Toyota maintain a small showroom / museum in Tokyo, with some old Japanese cars (some not even Toyotas XD). This is one of the first Japanese cars, based on an Austin 7. The exhibits also a 1998 Yaris (known as a Vitz in Japan) and a weird car called a “Flying Feather” which I initially thought was some ‘retro cool’ design. Should have known better though, it had a flat wooden dashboard and no airbags! I asked a woman if it was a new car. I should have told her I like dangerous ones XD.


Views of the Meiji shrine. The Meiji period was the one in which Japan opened up to the rest of the world and in only a few years advanced from a virtually medieval society (albeit one which had become peaceful and quite cultured on it’s own) to one of railways, steamships and telegraphs. The first modern Japanese emperor was Emperor Meiji, who is now enshrined with his wife as a deity in this impressive shrine set in huge grounds.


I travelled to a small island (now with many bridges and an underground rail station so it’s not really an island any more) which escaped the firestorm of 1945, and so has a few (very few) pre-war houses and very narrow, old-fashioned streets. These houses are no preserved museum pieces but still lived in, so they have modern additions like air conditioning units. They are also right up against brand-new houses as the relentless pace of development continues. I wonder if they are ‘listed’, or whatever the Japanese equivalent is?


A shrine on the island for fishermen to pray for a safe voyage and large catch. I don’t think a huge deal of fishing goes on from the island any more, but some of the old streets from that period remain, they are narrow enough for your elbows to touch the houses either side! The grounds of the shrine also have many small shrines (more like open cuboards). Perhaps these are dedicated to the crews of vessels that sank?


A mini! During the 90’s “Mini revival” in Britain they were also popular in Japan and some are still seen. I even saw an old Estate from before 1970! Given the strictness of the Japanese MOT and thier known rusting qualities you won’t be seeing them for long… though i can remember from my last visit seeing many in people’s gardens in the countryside being restored. You don’t really see any other type of car getting that kind of treatment in Japan – once they get too worn out they’re gone, not preserved! 

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Views of / from Tokyo tower. My friend’s brother and his girlfriend took me out that day. They couldn’t speak English so wrote “What interested?” on a piece of paper and I wrote back “Anything Japanese”, so we went here and then later to a sushi resturant with touch-screens for ordering and ‘bullet trains’ that delivered stuff to your table XD.


A wander along the river as it got dark…


A resturant the four of us went to. It has parts with transparent floors and fish living under them! It also has individual rooms with tatami floors for parties to eat in. We had Shabu-shabu which is bits of pork or beef cooked on a pan on the table.  You hold it in with the chopsticks until it’s cooked and then eat it, very tasty!

In actual JET application news, I followed up my university project supervisor about my reference as she had forgotten about it – if you are in the same position contact them again! It’s better than missing out. I also asked my current boss for one, which surprised him a bit as I haven’t left yet. I explained that even if I get on JET (which is hardly guaranteed, the number of places is shrinking fast and competition is tough)  I wouldn’t be leaving for another year. I still need to make “photocopies” of my passport and degree certificate, as well as sort out some other bits and pieces of paperwork. The application forms will be released on the UK JET website within the next 2-3 months, and then this process can really get started!

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