Turning Japanese

http://blogging.la/archives/images/2007/09/28897669_86cfa37776-thumb.jpgThe great thing about living in a sprawling metropolis like Los Angeles is how you can travel to certain parts of the city and feel as though you’re in a completely different country. I’ve never traveled outside of the continental United States (unless you count a few underage drinking excursions to Tijuana) so I can only guess at how similar or different places like Little Tokyo (similar?) or Little Armenia (different?) are from the real deal.

Well, next year it’s gonna be the real deal for sure. I’ll be making my first pan-Pacific trip to Tokyo, Japan in the fall. Now, when my girlfriend and I plan any kind of vacation together it’s a customary practice that we obsess over any and all things destination-related. This trip will be no different.

Between now and next summer I’ll be posting with semi-regularity tidbits highlighting aspects of Los Angeles’ rich Japanese culture including art, food, fashion, and technology. I’m also going to make an effort to familiarize myself (and all of you) with notable individuals in LA’s Japanese community. Hopefully by the time I’m Nippon-bound, we’ll all be a little bit more familiar with the Land of the Rising Sun both at home and abroad.

Of course if any of you out there have specific story suggestions, just post a comment or click here.

Photo by young grasshopper. Used under Creative Commons.

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9 Replies to “Turning Japanese”

  1. The thing I thought so weird about Japan is that not nearly as many people spoke English and (knowing Japanese is very helpful) as I would have thought (I know it’s Japan audience from the peanut gallery, let me finish though) but in China it’s easier to find English speaking people(you know as long as you stay in the economic zones, if not you’re on your own, but they make it so easy to not leave, it’s like the French Quarter in comparison to the rest of New Orleans), outside of even Hong Kong. I went to China before I went to Japan so I was all expecting the experience to be maybe like Venice Beach is to Hawaii…I was very ignorant…It’s more like France to Sweden.

    Oh what you’ve got to get. I’ve been looking all over for these they are these minty eyedrops that keep you awake. They only sell the full strength version in Japan. Out here they have rules and crap, because everyone is allergic to everything.

    I wish I could go to Beijing for the Olympics. It’s such a beautiful place. There are lots of bad things about China, but there is lots of beauty there too and I think the best thing about Asia is that it never closes. You can sleep all day and then get up at 12am and completely have a full day (if you’re full day is smoking and dancing at bars…lol.) Like Vegas without the dry heat.

    Browne

  2. I was surprised by how few Japanese spoke English as well. I wonder if the Japanese are merely too modest to be willing to speak English, unless they feel they must because they are working.

    When you go, you gotta take the train to Akihabara Electric Town and geek out over all the gadgets and anime and stuff, and have a bowl of zenbuiri ramen with katamen noodles and kotteri soup (after 8:30pm) at Kyusyu Jangara. It blows away anything you can get here.

  3. Get yourself a Japan National Tourist Office guide—the fat, red one. Read it cover to cover.
    You’re gonna find the local Japanese American community has little in common with what’s going on in Japan today, perhaps with the exception of food.
    A lot of conflicting info out there, like the comments above about English speakers.
    Talk to a lot of people who’ve been to Japan recently.
    Start reading the English editions of Japanese newspapers, like Yomiuri, Asahi, Mainichi, Japan Times.
    Read some of Edwin Reischauer’s books.
    See some contemporary Japanese movies or watch Fujisankei or UTB local Japanese language television broadcasts on the weekends.
    Google is your friend.
    epicanthus.wordpress.com

  4. Talk about baptism by fire, Cutter! Never been abroad and you choose JAPAN as your first trip?
    Yow. I’m a seasoned traveler and Japan intimidates me.
    Take all these above suggestions and godspeed!

  5. If you’re going to be there for a week, and you want to see places outside Tokyo, I strongly recommend the Rail Pass that JR offers- it’s a little pricey (like.. .$250?) but it’s unlimited train access for one full week- it’s great to travel around and see the countryside (take the bullet train down to kyoto or hiroshima, or osaka)… Tokyo is amazing, but I found the rest of Japan just as charming and beautiful… You have to get it before you go over to Japan, though.

    OH! and if you are at all into toys, you HAVE TO check out Yamashiroya toy store outside of Ueno station. 8 floors of toy heaven bliss- hands down the most fantastic toy store I have ever stepped foot in.

    Other fun things to do are the Tsujiki fish market, the Sensoji
    Temple in Asakusa, and if you like japanese animation, the Ghibli museum is in Mitaka a quick 20 minute train ride outside of Shinjuku station on the Chobu line.

    You’re going to have a fantastic time- Japan is just so much fun to visit, and even though it can be confusing and overwhelming at times, it’s a very rewarding destination. :)

    (PS- another quick thing; I have found from personal experience that travellers checks are a bitch to get exchanged; try to get it at a bank or the airport, because it will be hard otherwise. Also, outside of Tokyo, japan is a very cash-based society; not many places take plastic as they do over here, so make sure you always have some cash on you. I think the post office ATMS accept american ATM cards, but most ATMS do not (and post offices are closed on Sundays). You won’t have as much trouble in touristy areas about credit cards, but don’t assume that most places will accept them…

    hope all this helps! sorry for the long reply…

  6. Japan is awesome!

    My first trip nearly nothing was in English, which only added to the sense that you’re on another planet, but that’s changing rapidly. On my last trip all the transport and public signage was in English so you should be able to get around without trouble.

    It’s true that it’s hard to know how much English they speak, because they really are extremely modest and don’t want to speak badly.

    Go. Eat. See.

    What’s to be afraid of?

  7. I think what DAISY above trying to tell you is about Tsukiji fish market.
    Not Tsujiki.

    If you wanna visit Ghibli museum, make sure you make reservation for it. they wouldn’t let you enter the museum without it.

    Check out this web site. good info here.
    http://www.visitjapan.jp/

    There will be another web site wich contains many coupons and event/campaign informations but still under construction. it might be helpful for you to enjoy Japan once it’s open in January, 2008.
    http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/(JNTO)

  8. Everyone, thanks for all your great suggestions! The only problem with them is that none of them have to do with Los Angeles!

  9. Okay, ummm…Little Tokyo is like a dirtier, watered-down, sparsely populated version of Tokyo with far less confusing streets and more parking. A public parking lot in Tokyo has like 2 or 3 spaces, and lots of storefronts are in twisty alleys and such – very difficult to find sometimes.

    Although I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Tokyo, I have to admit that Kyoto is a really nice place, probably more liveable city, and closer to nature. Kiyomizu Temple is awesome.

    If you want to go to Tsukiji, I believe it closes at 1pm.

    The seaside resort town of Atami is really nice too. Wonderful hot springs.

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