Journey Through the Eastern Capital

IMG_1850IMG_1847IMG_1842IMG_1844IMG_1839As of now, i have been in Tokyo for 50 days exactly and of course, i have been exploring it one way or another each of those days. The thing about Tokyo is that it is like New York City, the actual city of Tokyo is made of 23 separate wards, most of which I know that I have to at least once, so it takes quite a while, just to go to all the different parts of the city and as well, just like NYC, Tokyo is a prefecture, Japanese equivalent of a state, so there is plenty more to see than just the city. Just hop on a regular train and you will find yourself in the countryside with forest, mountains and open fields. Within Tokyo there are many beautiful parks, places, museums, buildings and a very pleasing aesthetic balance to the city as a whole. Of course, I have explored the neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, which just like New York`s neighbors have been absorbed under the umbrella term of the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area, all easy to visit with the use of the Japanese rail system, which i am able to navigate better than New York`s. I was well aware of my limited time here, so I started planning my adventures months ago. Every day or time I get, i am going somewhere and there are so many amazing things to see and do in Tokyo!

As soon as I shook off the Jet lag, i was tackling every thing I could think of or had heard about. Thanks to the tour book that I bought last time, I had plenty of places to check off. Wikipedia, local friends and somethings just using Google maps to find interesting places has also given me things to do. Luckily, my Commuter pass covers probably the most interesting route in Tokyo, with 2 Baseball Stadiums, the National Sumo Stadium, the Pop-culture mecca of Akihabara, the fashionable district of Shinjuku and various connections to other amazing places being no extra charge!

My favorite kind of place to visit are Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, which are beautiful and magnificent with history and artifacts dating back centuries to over a millennium. Despite how many i have seen, each one has its own distinct theme and local influence, to the people who consider these sacred places to be a part of their culture, these places are their greatest treasure. While the places themselves are amazing, they are usually the site of various festivals, which are a blast to join in! To make my pilgrimages to these places more memorable, i got this special book at one of them, how it works is that for 300 yen (about 3 dollars), a monk or priest, depending on if its Buddhist or Shinto, will write Japanese calligraphy in it and put in a Japanese stamp seal or two, which is an awesome souvenir, as of now I think I have around 35 or so and I am on my second book, so I especially love this souvenir! Charms and Talismans are also great souvenirs though they can get pricey and as every place sells them, choosing is hard!

Aside from temples and shrines, Akihabara is where I often find myself as I have transfer there in order to get home from class. All the shops there are filled to the brim with all kinds of awesome anime & manga goods from light saber chopsticks to intricate giant robot models from series even I have never heard of and even anime figurines with prices on par with used cars. It is astonishing the variety and quality of these products and the massive clientele that this industry has! My most memorable trip was to Mt. Takao, which is about an hour west of Tokyo city, I went with a friend and we climbed it, it wasnt a very high mountain or dangerous, but it was so steep that I slept like a log that night out of exhaustion, still it was a great experience and the views were amazing. The mountain is famous for the a type of bird goblin called a Tengu, that are said to live there, though we didn`t see any, though they did have life-sized statues of them, they were really impressive and imposing. However, my most recent trip also was quite memorable as I took a train for over an hour to Saitama to see the Railway Museum, which I did not realize was closed that day, fortunately I knew of a famous nearby shrine there, so my day was enjoyable. It is dedicated to a legendary god, Susanoo, god of the sea and storms, who is the Japanese equivalent of Hercules and viewed as an epic hero. I also went really far out to the countryside to see a famous temple complex, it was so rural that we passed rice paddies and even a Dutch windmill with a Netherlands flag on it, who says the farmers aren`t as quirky as the city dwellers?

I really got to experience living in Japan, when I went to see Captain America in Shinjuku, the theater was huge and the movie was in English. To make it even more awesome, it had been released earlier in Japan and the theater had a life sized Godzilla head, which is another movie I have got to see here, when they release it in July. I also went to Disney Sea on Saturday, it was a nice, but it was not crowded, the park was really awesome, with all kinds of great rides and shows, I ended up buying a ton of souvenirs! I also have tickets to the Sumo tournament for Friday and planning to see a baseball game on Saturday, so this weekend will be great! I also booked a trip to Kyoto and Himeji, so I will be plenty busy traveling all over the place. still have over 80 days here, but I have to see as much as I can because I don`t know when I will be able to come back! CARPE DIEM!

Aaron is a History Major with the desire to see the world and learn as much as possible about it. He cannot wait to write about his adventures in Japan, making new friends, living in Tokyo and exploring both new & old Japan. This is Aaron's second Study Abroad program to Japan through SUNY New Paltz!

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