Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tokyo City: Day Three

Email To: Sardina Family, Rochester, New York
From: Akasaka, Tokyo 15 June 2009 6:48:33

Hello Ma, Dad and Jenn,

It is bright and early (and humid)...Here is the latest from Tokyo...

Yesterday was an incredible day. I met up with Mari here at the hotel, and we rode the Ginza Line to the Omote-Sando station. I purchased a Pasmo card, which allows you to simply tap the turnstile with the card to gain access into the station, instead of relying on paper ticket stubs. Using it makes me feel like a seasoned commuter! (Except for once I am inside the station, I have to stop and gawk up at the signs in an attempt to determine the correct platform)...

From the Omote-Sando station we walked up the street, along an extremely congested route to Harajuku, which is an even narrower and more congested street, littered with corner shops selling flashing tee-shirts and bright colored sneakers. It is nearly impossible to describe the scene; there are so many people, including lots of Japanese dressed up in outlandish costumes (little bo-peep was a popular choice). With a sheepish grin on my face, I kept remarking to Mari, "this is amazing!" Harajuku is certainly a must-see when you visit.

From there, we looped around to Meji-Dori, and walked towards the center of Shibuya. According to Mari, this is a popular city district for the younger, more fashionable Japanese crowd. Here is where the recognizable five-point intersection (junction) is located. I think it was feature in 'Lost in Translation'. We went up a few stories to a Starbucks window and watched the people gather, waiting for the light to change so they could cross the street in one giant throng of moving bodies. Again, the site was incredible.

We walked around a little in Shibuya; there is a place that Jenn would like, it is called Shibuya 109. One tourist brochure states that "the fashion building is hugely popular among teenage girls..." and, from what I glimpsed as we walked through the lobby, it is 9 floors of crowded shopping pandemonium. Jenn and Ma can check that out, while Dad and I browse the electronic store across the street. We only had time to walk through the 'cell phone floor', but I saw numerous devices that puts the iPhone to shame!

Also, nearby, we briefly stopped into one of Mari's favorite Sushi places. Inside, a conveyor belt slowly rotates around a square bar. In the center of the island bar, two sushi chefs are preparing fresh rolls, and place the plates on the conveyor belt; when a particular plate you want goes past, you simply grab it off and enjoy! Payment is based upon the color of the plate (blue plates 105 yen, red plates 200 yen, etc.) Mari said that this particular place featured very fresh sushi and was extremely reasonable in price.

Later, I rode the subway back to the Asia Center for Orientation, which was more of a meet-and-greet affair than anything else. We received a CD with a PDF file on it with our coursework for the first section of the course, the Japanese Legal System. Our first class is later today. The internship assignments will be distributed tomorrow, and we will have our first opportunity to make contact with someone from our respective firm on Tuesday night at the reception.

Following orientation, a number of us who are staying at the Asia Center (just over half of the students are staying here as well) went out to the New Tokyo Beer Hall for dinner and drinks. The Beer Hall is a frequent haunt of Professor Jimenez, who informed that it was tradition for him to go out with students to the restaurant the first night of the program. The food (sausages, thin-crust seafood pizza, teriyaki beef tips, and spring rolls) was amazing, and the beers were HUGE! The atmosphere was terrific; the table next to us was a party with all these older Japanese guys in suits, who were tossing back beers and singing traditional Japanese songs. Professor Jimenez suggested that the group was a good representation of the Japanese after-hours professional life and culture.

Overall it has been a great start to the program; the other students who are staying at the Center seem to be good people. There are several from Santa Clara and another kid who was an undergrad at Ohio State from 2004-2008, as was I. One student even went to Binghamton as an undergrad (he has previously studied abroad in Japan, through a Binghamton program like Jenn will be doing to Spain)...

That's all for now...until later,

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