1. Tokyo (東京), Japan – The “Megalopolis”

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    Metropolis:13,185,502 people, Metro: 35,682,460. The world’s largest megacity.

    This past weekend, the Stanford Study Abroad Program (thanks to the Bing Family) sent us to Tokyo for the weekend. Although we visited SO many places and did SO many things (all in 4 days), as Professor Horvat, director of the Kyoto Bing Program, mentioned: “we barely even scratched the surface of Tokyo…” = proof of just how massive Tokyo is. You really can’t just spend 4 days there if you want to digest everything. Quoting an article: "The prefecture is part of the world’s most populous metropolitan area with upwards of 35 million people and the world’s largest urban agglomeration economy with a GDP of US $1.479 trillion…” Thank goodness we didn’t have to be shoved/crammed into a Train this past weekend (check this video out).


    Above is a map showing where we traveled: from Kyoto to Tokyo. Here’s a list of places we visited/things we did this past weekend:

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    • Mt. Fuji  (富士山) – the tallest mountain in Japan – 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft)(hiking the mountain is in my bucket list). Here’s a video I recorded of Mt. Fuji, along with video clips of when I was riding the Yurikamome  (ゆりかもめ), which I’ll talk more about later on.

    • Akihabara (秋葉原) – also known as the electric town, the place for おたく – otaku (meaning “geeks”). "This place was extremely colorful and, quite frankly, colorful. Its name is frequently shortened to Akiba (アキバ) in Japan. It is a major shopping area for electronic, computer, anime, games and otaku goods, including new and used items.” It’s also where “ was filmed!

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    • Hachikō Statue(ハチ公) – the sad, sad story of "the dog who followed his master" and everyday waits for him at the train station after he finishes work. Even after the owner died, the dog kept going back to the train station to hopefully see her master’s return. Hachiko continued to do so until she died.

    • Shibuya(渋谷区)perhaps you may know as having one of the most crowded crosswalk in the world (supposedly the busiest on Earth). "As of 2008, it has an estimated population of 208,371” – and is a major nightlife area. Just watch the video below – you’ll know what I mean by “crowded”… such an eccentric city district.

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    • Shinkansen (新幹線, new trunk line) –  or: the “Bullet Train,” as many would call it. "…The network has expanded to currently consist of 2,387.7 km (1,483.6 mi) of lines with maximum speeds of 240–300 km/h (149–186 mph)." Took the Shinkansen to and from Tokyo – feels like I was on a jet.

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    • Harajuku  (原宿) – “Every Sunday, young people dressed in a variety of styles including gothic lolitavisual kei, and decora, as well as cosplayers spend the day in Harajuku socializing. The fashion styles of these youths rarely conform to one particular style and are usually a mesh of many.” I was lucky enough to run into tons of cosplay participants – took tons of pictures there.
    • Meiji Shrine(明治神宮) – ”the Shinto Shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.” It is also perhaps the largest shrine within the metropolis, and one of the only shrines (along with Yasukuni Shrine) found in Tokyo (compared to Kyoto, Tokyo barely has any shrines or temples).
    • Roppongi Hills  (六本木ヒルズ) – New Urban Centre and one of Japan's largest integrated property developments, located in the Roppongi district of Minato, Tokyo.” It is also where all of Western technology/companies/firms are located, places like Goldman Sachs, Google, etc.

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    • Yurikamome  (ゆりかもめ) & the Rainbow Bridge – an automated guideway transit service operated by the Tokyo Waterfront New Transit Corporation.” We circled around Tokyo, elevated about 30 stories high, and crossed the Rainbow Bridge, passed by a Marathon run, Diver’s City (Diversity?), and more (watch the other embedded video on this post).

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    • Ghibli Museum (三鷹の森ジブリ美術館) – ever heard of Spirited Away, Ponyo, Castle in the Sky (Laputa), Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, etc.? Yup, the museum dedicated to the world-renowned animation film director: Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿). 

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    • Yasukuni Shrine  (靖国神社 or 靖國神社) – a Shinto shrine ”..dedicated to those who died on behalf of the Empire of Japan. It also houses one of the few Japanese war museums dedicated to World War II.” We visited the famous controversial museum there as well as part of the academic portion of our trip.  

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    • Many other exquisite, idiosyncratic Tokyo restaurants

    To be honest, this trip also made me realize how fortunate we (the Stanford group) all are to have this opportunity to study abroad, and visit places like Tokyo. I can’t thank Bing enough – the experience is not just an adventure and a cultural immersion in a whole new world, but to me also a life-rewarding, maturing process. Studying abroad is where I can test my personal skills and see if I could manage myself as an adult, and adapt quickly to the turbulent, ever-changing world. 

    On the other hand, it’s also the best time to find out about myself as an individual, and discover where my truest passion in life lies. In retrospect, I’m still young, and sometimes I feel that I’ve worried too much about the non-important, trivial commodities in life that get in my way, and slowly sucks the soul out of me. It really destroys my creative, adventurous half. My passion lies in many things (one being traveling, of course), and I don’t want worldly, materialistic desires and greed to consume me. 

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    But anyway, hope you enjoy looking through my pictures – I took around 1000 pictures at this city alone, and it was worth taking the time to select the best pictures for this blog post :D I definitely need to come back. I love this city too much.

    #megamegametropolis

     

  2. Day 4 of Bing Tokyo Trip: Yasukuni Shrine & the controversial museum, and Yurikamome (the automated guideway transit service) & the Rainbow Bridge 

     

  3. Day 3.2 of Bing Tokyo Trip: Meiji Shrine & the famous Harajuku District of the Cosplay world, & a picture with my Tokyo friend Kana-chan @ Shibuya!

     

  4. The colorful world of Akihabara.

     

  5. Day 3 of Bing Tokyo Trip: The anime, nerd, & Otaku world of Akihabara & lunch @ a Gundam Cafe! (seriously)

     

  6. Day 1 & 2 of Bing Tokyo Trip: Downtown District of Shibuya!, Dinner @ Foreign Correspondents’ Club of JapanGhibli MuseumHachikō Dog StatueRoppongi Hills!

     

  7. So, before I begin mass-posting pictures of my Bing Tokyo Trip this past weekend, I’d like to give a glimpse of the insanity of Tokyo; here you see a map of all the available train/subway lines in the city… how on earth do you commute/travel without getting lost!…

    …to me, it’s no more than a bowl of Ramen.

     

  8. Tokyo (東京) - frighteningly massive, frighteningly crowded. The #megamegacity

    In a few moments, I’m going to upload tons of pictures taken at my Bing Trip to Tokyo!

     

  9. This was taken in Tokyo at the Ghibli Museum!

     

  10. Beautiful, gorgeous works of art/decorations found at one of the shrines I visited. And actually, the whole Stanford group (about 2 weeks ago) was invited to one of the Buddhist Temple to learn calligraphy, taught by one of the monks there! Pictures will be posted very soon (delayed once again - about 3000 pictures behind schedule haha… busy times here in Kyoto)

     

  11. And it finally snowed in Kyoto!! Feels like Christmas all over again… visited Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺) beforehand with Shunya, and the next thing we knew snow was falling like cats and dogs. This post is dedicated to the fun times my friends (Shunya-kun, Sandy, Tsukidate-san, & Colby) and I had that Friday night! 

    And the best part: getting back home to my host family, listening to Christmas music, sipping Jasmine/Green Ocha, and watching the snow fall outside… it’s almost like falling Sakura in March.

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  12. Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社):

    A Torii world, quite literally, located high up in the mountains of Inari in Kyoto. This line perhaps says it all: Since in early Japan Inari was seen as the patron of business, each of the Torii is donated by a Japanese business. First and foremost though, Inari is the god of rice. Merchants and manufacturers worship Inari for wealth. Donated torii lining footpaths are part of the scenic view.”

    I, along with the rest of the Stanford BOSP members, visited Fushimi Inari about 3-4 weeks ago with the help and guidance of my Japanese Contemporary Religion 先生、Professor Ludvik! It was an extremely fabulous introduction to contemporary & historical religion, and I’m really glad she brought us up all the way here to adventure through this Torii-crowded world-renowned site. Plus, it was an amazing historical place to take beautiful pictures… take a look at some of my selected/favorite shots that I took while I was up there, hope you enjoy perusing them!:

     


  13. 今生、今世界


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    Believe it or not, this is the scenery right outside of my host family’s house @ Nishikyōgoku (西京極). I study/relax out here often - it makes me feel like I’m literally in one of Miyazaki Hayao or Shinkai Makoto's many awe-inspiring films.

    Stunning. Formosus Natura.

     

  14. Finally done with Japanese mid-term – phew! Definitely need my break, and happy I could have some time again to blog. 

    I realized I never had the chance to talk about where I’m living! Currently, I’m staying at the guest house of my host family, and it’s exceptionally comfortable (at times it’s cold due to the absence of insulation, but I’ve learned to deal with it). My host family is extremely kind, and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality; a guest house is already more than enough. Here are pictures of where I’m currently living at – if you saw my other blog post here, you’d notice one of the picture is the room where I had the Tea Ceremony with my Okaasan! (Yes, it’s right below my room – the guest house is that huge!)

    Also, living here has taught me something important: to never take things for granted. Unlike having the luxury of drying your clothes anytime in Stanford dorms, no one in Japan uses dryers, and instead uses a natural alternative: air dry! (look at my last picture). I wasn’t used to it at first, especially since my jeans took around 3 days to completely dry, but it really allows me to appreciate what I have and how to better manage my time.

    Oh and yup, that’s an おふろ (Ofuro - hot bath tub - lower mid/middle picture)!

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    Also, the guest house is a multi-purpose house; one time, I went downstairs to find a teacher teaching English to 10-year old students. Surprised me for sure!

     

  15. A wish hole!

    Unfortunately, I completely forgot what this is called in Japanese, but you’re basically supposed to write a wish on a white traditional wish paper, then glue it on top of the rock as you can see. Then, you’re supposed to go through the hole, and then back out in the opposite direction. If you do so, your wish will eventually be granted - I did it with my other Stanford friend, Vince!