Wow, thanks for all of those travel tips! It’s overwhelming how much you guys were willing to share about Japan!
Haha just kidding. Really though, these entries do take me quite a long time to put together and out of the thousand unique visitors I’ve had this month so far less than ten of you have said hi. Don’t make me beg! If you’re reading this, just be like “I read this. It was cool. My name is Joe-Bob the Raccoon” every three or four posts. Then I’ll be like “oh, cool, they like it, it’s worth my time.”
OK, so today’s topic is a bit more controversial than usual. If you are under 13 years of age, please close your browser window now. What follows is not in the least bit interesting. Really.
All adults now? Good.
A SEX SHRINE! Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you discover a shrine that’s just a little bit different from any you’ve seen so far. It has usual the layout: stone lanterns, cherry trees, torii, all arranged in perfect harmony. Even a few statues of Buddha. And many, many gigantic penises and vaginas. Seems normal enough.
Because we’re all such mature young gentlemen, of course we didn’t behave in an inappropriate manner or take any inappropriate pictures in such an environment, but rather calmly and peacefully appreciated the uniqueness of the newly discovered area.
No, really. We’d never behave like a group of immature college students in a place like this. Really.
After our little physiology field trip, we all rode our bikes back to the pond I passed by a few days ago…only this time the one old fisherman had been replaced by hundreds of little children all competing for whichever poor shrimp wandered within sight of one small bridge.
And although the sky was again overcast, we all felt extremely fortunate that it was such a nice Sunday afternoon. Virtually every day for the past two weeks I’ve had someone tell me “tomorrow is when the rains are going to start,” but they still haven’t. Sure makes riding my bike all over town a lot more pleasant, even if it has started to get pretty humid.
Anyways, after hanging out and observing the locals for while, the group headed out into the nearby rice fields.
Even though I’d just explored the area a few days earlier, it still amazes me how incredibly diverse of a country Japan is. Ten minutes by bike in one direction and I feel like I’m in the middle of the countryside 500 years ago; an old man wading through a rice field sifting around in the water as a kid runs up and down the little walkway calling out for his grandfather to come play with him. Wait, what am I talking about “feels like 500 years ago.” Three times a week on my way to the grocery store I ride my bike through a thousand year old Buddhist temple complex. Women walk around in kimono all the time and I don’t even notice anymore.
And then you go thirty minutes by bike in the other direction to arrive at Shijo Kawaramachi, wall-to-wall buildings covered with neon lights, live street music and blasting loudspeakers, bumper-to-bumper traffic and dense crowds, drunken salarymen, young girls in tiny skirts and too much make-up. And that’s just downtown Kyoto, nothing in comparison to Osaka or Tokyo. I’ve lived here for over six months now and it still amazes me at times.
I feel like the pictures I post can give a fair sense of the traditional side of Japan, but don’t even begin to convey what the big cities feel like. That’s part of the reason I rarely post city pictures. For those of you who have been to Tokyo, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. The feeling of stepping out onto the streets of Shinjuku or Shibuya for the first time is like something out of a dream, everything you know just tells you that what you’re seeing can’t be real.
I know this probably sounds like it’s coming out of no where, but I was just thinking about it this morning while talking on the phone with my cousin for the first time in awhile and trying to describe to her what life in Japan feels like.
Another thing I realized is that I really have done very little traveling, and have spent the vast, vast, VAST majority of my time just studying. When I got here I had very little formal Japanese language instruction in comparison to the other people who I live with, and on top of that I really am bad at memorizing. But I refuse to give up and WILL be able to read this language before I leave here. So I must study.
In addition, class has prevented me from taking any significant trips, because even if I have a long weekend I usually have a test or report that I need to do, making a trip not really worth the cost.
But if I get accepted to extend at Ritsumeikan (which I should be finding out any day now), I’ll have to move out of the dorm and find a new place to live sometime during August. What a perfect time to pack up all of my stuff and go somewhere else. There’s absolutely no reason why I couldn’t just leave the bulk of my stuff with a friend and live out of a suitcase in Tokyo or elsewhere for three weeks or a month during the summer vacation. And even if I continue to spend most of my time studying, it will be nice to have a change of environment, to have a new place to see, a new subculture to observe.
OK, that was quite a little digression, but now it’s late and I have to get to sleep. To wrap this post up, we continued to ride around in the rice fields for a bit, took a quick 30 minute hike up a nearby hill for a panoramic view of the city, and discovered yet a new type of vending machine (pictured here). To add to the list, I have now seen vending machines for soda, coffee, tea, alcohol, cigarettes, CDs, DVDs, condoms, batteries, medicine, girls’ panties, live gold fish, and fresh vegetables. They sure do love their convenience!
And I finished the day up with…studying at Starbuck’s! Fancy that!