Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Harajuku, The Chiba Jets, and Ueno Zoo

This is what happens when I don't blog for a while - I have to write a post describing at least 3 different adventures. I must admit, my friend Sam is in Granada, Spain for the semester and she is really on top of her blogging game, so I feel pressured every time I pull up her blog and see a new post. The link to her blog is samingranada.blogspot.com in case you were wanted a reminder that you're slacking in your life, too! (you're welcome, Sammy Jo!) ;) 

But I digress, back to my cool life in Japan.


Last weekend, when it was freshly October, we finally made our way to Harajuku. This is the fashion capital of Tokyo, described in all the guide books as somewhere you'll find crazy preteens parading around in "cosplay" (which, I just learned, is 'costume play' - people dressing up as anime characters), way too many people, and way too many stores. One of our friends, Henry, has his field placement in Harajuku. He found a cute little restaurant where they had real American pancakes, so we were obliged to go. What a great way to start the day, right? After stuffing our faces we made our way to Meiji shrine, which is a very famous shrine in Harajuku. It's surrounded by trees and kind of secluded which is something I'm coming to appreciate more and more with all these skyscrapers around me. We then ventured off to do some shopping. There are two famous streets we visited, Takeshita dori and Omotesando. Takeshita dori is tiny and packed wall to wall with people, while Omotesando feels more like fifth ave than anything else. My guide book (thanks to my wonderful Aunt Joyce) led us to a few great stores, one being the coolest thrift store I've ever been in. Anything you want, you can buy in Harajuku. I was pretty disappointed with the lack of bazaar sights, though. I only saw one person in "cosplay" (sorry, I just have to put it in quotations to ease the pain). Maybe when we go back to visit with my family it will be a weirder experience. Below are some highlight pictures of the day!

Prayers written by visitors to the shrine.

Takeshita dori Street

I hope Emily gets this message because I sure don't.

The Chiba Jets!

In the same weekend we went to Harajuku, we also went to see a preseason game for the professional basketball team in Chiba. My friend, Janel, has her field placement with them (good thing I have cool friends or you'd be hearing about homeless people a lot more). The game was pretty funny. It seemed more like a high school basketball game than anything. There were 4 teams playing that day. Each team is allotted 4 foreign players and, trust me, they take full advantage of that. All the tall guys are foreign. One of the major highlights of the day was the hot dogs we had for lunch. They tasted just like in America! (right now Kaitlyn is disgusted with me - sorry vegetarian friends). Such an enjoyable lunch, though. After each game the players go around the gym and high five all the fans who come down around the court. It felt so much like an AAU tournament to me, I couldn't believe this was their equivalent of the NBA. It was such a Japanese concept, though. 
After the Jets played we left during half time of the next game and on our way out we got to meet the players and talk with them about Japan. It was pretty funny because here we are some dorky American kids and these huge pro basketball players were SO eager to talk to us. That's what a language barrier does to you -- you talk to weird foreign exchange students. Anyway, they were really cool and hopefully we get to see them a lot during the season. I think they're looking for some people who speak english and some Japanese considering they're not even taking classes. I'm game for being their friends! I'll take one for the team in exchange for Chiba Jets swag :)

Janel, BJ league employee

High five parade

Ueno Zoo!

This past weekend our adventure was to Ueno Zoo. The agenda for the day was actually a lot more packed but, being the cultural children that we are, we only made it to the zoo. It's quite a small zoo but they of course have panda bears so that made up for it completely. My favorite part of Ueno wasn't the zoo, though. The actual zoo is located within Ueno park, which is something like the oldest park in Japan (0% fact). Whether or not it's the oldest, I think it's the most beautiful. There were modern plant arrangements, columns that bubbles came out of, museums surrounding it on all sides, a huge center fountain, and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. So far, this is my favorite place we've been. I need to go back to visit the museums and explore for a while, but I could easily spend a whole day just trolling around the park. Add to the list of places I need to go (again)!

Every weekend I'm trying to make it to a new prefecture or major area of Tokyo. There are so many different things to see and places to go that I feel like being here for years wouldn't even suffice. So, since I'm sure 1% of people who read this blog will actually make it to Japan, I hope you can live vicariously through me on my weekend adventures.

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