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Domo Arigato Japan

March 12, 2006

Back from Japan! Here is a subset of my thoughts and experiences from the trip, which comprised 5 days in Osaka, and 2 days in Kyoto (map):

  • The trip started at DTW, where TJ & I almost missed our flight whilst enjoying beers at an airport bar.
  • The planeride to Osaka was about 14 hours, 12 of which I spent reading Bukowski, taking pictures, chit-chatting, etc. Halfway through the flight we heard the NWA Pilots had reached a tentative agreement, meaning we’d be able to get a flight back to the US. So that was nice.
  • Flying over a frozen Alaska and Canada made for some breathtaking views. I’m making a weekend trip to AK in June, so the views definately piqued my excitement re: going there.
  • Our first night in Osaka was spent at Papa’s Pub and Samanddaves. We accidentally had TOO much to drink over the course of the evening, which made for some REALLY entertaining (in retrospect) stories. It’s safe to say Osaka wasn’t prepared for the likes of us, a fact confirmed by an 9:30am call from the American Embassy the following morning, hahahahahahaha.
  • The 14 hour time zone difference KILLED for the first four days. Trying to sleep at 11:49PM there was trying to sleep at 9:49AM here. Suffice it to say we took a ton of “two hour naps” which turned into 10 hour naps.
  • Japan is an extremely safe country. Eight year olds (dude!) ride the train alone and it’s not a big deal.
  • For 1/3 of the trip, we were saying Arigato (thank you). Turns out, Arigato (alone) is used when talking to someone “below” (age, or subserviant) you. We felt kinda bad after saying the subserviant form of thank you to all those people by mistake.
  • Japan TV is crazy! They insert cartoons and puppet skits into seemingly every show possible. Imagine having a serious nightly newcast, similar to Nightly News with Dan Rather or something, with segments being reported by puppets or cartoon characters. It made zero sense, but was pretty funny.
  • The Japanese people are unequivocally the nicest people on earth. We were treated like kings throughout our trip, despite an obvious language/cultural barrier. Throughout our trip, people went WAY out of their way to help us and stuff. At bars, drunk Japanese guys would come up and say hi (or give us a hug), school children would take pictures of us (I felt like Brad Pitt), one guy bought us an informational book, etc.
  • The word for yes, or okay, or I understand in Japanese is hi. Sometimes, they say it very pronounced, like HI! in the middle of your sentence. It’s kind of neat.
  • Cars are driven on the opposite side as in the US (which takes some getting used to). Every car (literally) has a cheesy English Name. There is virtually no honking done whatsoever, despite there being heavy traffic at all times. In comparison, a car in Chicago, by my estimation, honks every .34 seconds. In Japan, by my estimation, a car honks ever 334.87 seconds.
  • Some other generalizations we made: The Japanese hate surprises, they love umbrellas, fire extinguishers, loud noises and blinking lights.
  • Everyone in Japan pretty much knows English, or at least, knows some/many English words, so getting by not knowing any Japanese wasn’t so hard. That said, the sentences of things written in English were 98% of the time grammatically (and hilariously) wrong (“stay out the garden”).
  • In Japan, the norm is for girls to wear short skirts/culottes and high boots. That’s hot.
  • Vending machines are EVERYWHERE and sell EVERYTHING!
  • Our stomachs were not used to the Eastern-style food (all of the meals we had in Japan, except for one, were seriously amazing) and so we spent a large amount of time on Western-style toilets.
  • In Osaka, Dotonbori is like a mini-Times Square. It’s full of lights, sounds, sights, sex shops, all that.
  • Japan is full of Pachinko parlors. It turns out that I am comically bad at Pachinko.
  • We spent my birthday at The Pig & Whistle, where we met up with a friend of a friend, had some Tako (Octopus) with some Sake. Later, we went venturing through Ame-mura (America town), and then to a “Japanese Style” karaoke bar. A “Japanese Style” karaoke bar is unlike “American Style” karaoke. “Japanese Style” karaoke is where you and your friends get a room for 300 yen per half-hour, with free drinks, a video screen, climate control, and a dimmer switch. It was kind of neat. PS Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday greetings!
  • Turns out, Giencke really does mean healthy in Japanese. In fact, it can also mean powerful. BAM!
  • The journey home comprised about 26 sleepless hours for me, from waking up, to getting a different flight back home (I couldn’t sleep in the airplane) through LAX, to ultimately getting to DTW. Once I got home tho, I slept for 16 hours. Amazing!
  • There’s a few other stories that have not made this post. You’ll have to bug TJ or I for those. lol
  • Almost forgot, there was a possible Ryan Seacrest sighting in Kyoto!
  • I’m sure there are some things I’m forgetting, I’ll update the post as required. We took a ton of pictures and videos, I’ll post those shortly.

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  • 1. anonymous  |  March 12, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    Your trip sounds amazing! I am extremely jealous. And you didn’t get arrested, good job!

  • 2. SandLizard  |  March 13, 2006 at 6:36 am

    ‘The word for yes, or okay, or I understand in Japanese is hi. Sometimes, they say it very pronounced, like HI! in the middle of your sentence. It’s kind of neat.’

    I believe it’s ‘hai’, though, why I would argue english spelling for a japanese word is beyond me…

  • 3. Eck  |  March 21, 2006 at 2:22 am

    Ok I’ll bite…what was the call from the US Embassy about?

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