September 13, 2008

Semester at Sea - Japan

From my journal.....(I don't want to skew my memories from my first visit with memories from living there.)


We arrived in Osaka on Tuesday and it was kind of gray outside. Kaycee and I took the subway to the bank and exchanged money. On the subway there were all these elementary school children who were amazed by us. Kaycee has bright green eyes and one girl asked her if she was wearing contacts. She was the only one who could really speak any English. The rest of the kids just shouted after us ďHallo! Hallo! Please to meet you!Ē It was really cute. Osaka is a very industrial city. It wasnít the lush Japan that I thought it would be. But we also stayed very close to the port area. We got very lost on the subway on the way home so we ended up just taking a taxi back to the ship. I think it was a Mercedes and the interior was lined in lace and the driver wore white gloves. It was pretty cool. Very different from the taxis in the US. Kaycee and I still felt sick and wiped out so we skipped the baseball game and went back to the room to watch movies. We felt a little guilty but found other people doing the same thing. 5 countries in about 4 weeks is exhausting. We are all just burnt out. It sucks because for a port that used to excite us, we were all pretty blah about being here. It felt good to have a lazy day though. We havenít had one of those in a long time.

The next morning I went on a trip to Kyoto. Sandy was on the trip too which was nice because it gave us a chance to hang out. We havenít seen a lot of each other since Mauritius so it was good to have alone time together. Was that an oxymoron? Kyoto was really fun. It was much more like the Japan I expected. We first went to the Golden Pavilion which was really neat. It is this temple that is on this small island in the middle of a lake and the roof is plated in gold. We went to a lot of temples that day. It was really cool and the last one we went to overlooked the most beautiful panoramic view of Kyoto. It was what I thought, typical Japan. I canít really describe what that is, but I know what it means. Anyway, after I returned from Kyoto Lauren and Kaycee wanted to go out to dinner as sort of a last night roommate bonding thing.

QUESTION: How hard is it to find sushi in Japan?
ANSWER: Nearly impossible.

I donít understand it. Arenít the Japanese famous for sushi? We walked around for two hours looking for places but couldnít find any. We finally ended up at a ritzy hotel which didnít have a very extensive menu but we got sushi nonetheless. It was really good at least. We were just so bummed out that we couldnít find it. They sell a lot of prepackaged sushi in the subway and at convenience stores but we couldnít find a good restaurant anywhere.

The next morning I was supposed to go to a city called Nara. I didnít really want to go because it basically involved visiting a deer park and seeing some more temples. I had already paid $54 for the ticket though. Kaycee and Lauren were going to Hiroshima and were peer pressuring me into going with them. I woke up at 7am and sold my ticket (at a discount) and went to Hiroshima with my roommates. We took the Bullet Train which was so super cool. I say that about a lot of things. Anyway, it was such a nice train. They sold sushi. We should have waited. The seats were so comfy and there was so much leg room. The only downfall was that we didnít see much scenery. It was seriously moving too fast. We got to Hiroshima in about an hour and a half. The city was pretty. We were looking for the bus to take us to the Peace Park and the Hiroshima Memorial Museum when a group of high school students, all about 18, stopped to ask us if we spoke English. I guess they wanted some practice. So we figured that they must actually know English and thought we would ask them for directions. When Lauren asked them where we could catch the number 6 street car they thought she said sex and became obnoxious and so we left. The park is really pretty. It rests near the river and we went on the perfect day. In the park there is this dome building (the name currently escapes me) which was the tallest standing structure in the city from after the bomb. It is the only remains that are left in their natural place. It was really eerie. Then we saw a man on a bicycle get hit by a man on a motorcycle. Interesting. Everything looked to be okay though. The museum was very intense. I had to skip through the section on the people showing the effects of the radiation on their bodies. Clothes were burnt onto people. It was so sad. The creepiest thing though was the shadow burned into the stairs. A person was sitting on the steps to the bank, probably waiting for it to open when the bomb dropped. It turned the whole building this bleached color but the spot where they were sitting is gray. They call it their shadow. They were killed instantly. At the time someone thought it may have been their mother. I am not sure if the identity was ever known. Overall though, I thought that the museum as very fair. It was very factual and it presented everything very straightforward. It was a lot different than Vietnam. We didnít do too much else in Hiroshima because we wanted to get home at a descent hour. We decided to save some money (the bullet train cost about $80) and took the regular train. It was more like a subway than a train. For a while we had to stand. It took bout 5 hours and was probably due to miscommunication. We switched trains about 3 times and who knows what route we took. But on this ride we got to see a lot of the countryside. It was a really pretty ride. We finally got home at about midnight. Kaycee threw up into a plastic bag. She wasnít feeling well and when she knew she was going to hurl there wasnít a place in sight to do it. She kept saying ĎWhat am I going to do?í She was definitely starting to panic. There werenít any trash cans. Well, there were, but they all had ashtrays on top and the hole for the garbage was on the side. The rest of the station was spotless and empty. Luckily I had a plastic bag from a pastry I had that morning. She was able to laugh about it though. Once again we were there to help each other out. I supplied the bag and Lauren supplied the gum. It was really funny. We all laughed about better her than me.

This morning was our last day in a country until Seattle. We are all ready to go home but arenít exactly looking forward to the waters ahead and saying goodbye. I had a class trip to go on this morning to a Japanese TV studio which was kind of cool. We first went to the Osaka history museum which was very modern. (Another oxymoron?) The TV studio was neat. We got to sit in a news anchorís chair and see how a teleprompter works and then deliver the news. Then we got to stand in front of a green screen and get chased by dinosaurs. We saw the live taping of some kind of TV show. And then we saw some of the futuristic TVs they are experimenting with. We took a general tour of the studio but overall didnít learn as much as I was hoping. The remainder of my day was spent with my friend Kristen Hannah (Darryl Hannahís sister). We went shopping to try and spend the last of our Yen. I tried a tofu teriyaki burger at Subway, which was so good. I hope we get them in the states. Then I bought some souvenirs and some food for the trip home. I was kind of cranky and hope I didnít make her angry. I made it on the ship on time and am anxiously awaiting the conditions of the Pacific. Tonight we are going through a massive time change. We are losing 4 hours tonight so that we donít have to lose any hours during our finals. Then we repeat a day later in the week, gaining all those hours back. We will be home in 13 days. They say we will experience culture shock in our own country. It is hard to believe that we have been out of the country for so long. I am excited to eat American food and watch American TV and drive a car. It has been nearly 4 months since I have done any of that. I will be home soon and while I will miss the ship immensely, I am looking forward to seeing all of my friends.

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Posted by karen at September 13, 2008 08:18 PM
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