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OMG I must tell everyone I know right now

Channeling Cordelia Chase in "Welcome to the Hellmouth".

So I emerged from the subway station, having meant to keep track of which way was east but having forgotten after going to the bathroom. East being the way the train was going, north being where I wanted to go. I emerged into a surface world with no landmarks and not enough visible sun. So I decided to try asking the natives.

"Yasukuni-dori doko des ka?" (Where is Yasukuni-dori?, probably missing an o or e particle.)
Answers apparently ranged from "I have no idea" to, after looking at my map, "I don't know and that's so far." A woman with limited but serviceable English did the famed "walk around with you trying to get better help" thing, asking other people who either didn't know or had vague directions. Asking for compass directions didn't work much better, though I realize that she did know landmarks which in fact pointed north for me; I doubted her for a while given my judgement of the light.


Perspective: Yasukuni-dori is a major thoroughfare running through central Tokyo, somewhat north of the Imperial Palace, running by (surprise) the Yasukuni shrine of war criminals fame, just south of a river branch or canal, crossing the Sumida river (though changing name to Keiyo-doro, due north of where I was.) And once I got oriented, I reached it -- in fact, my own personal major intersection -- in 2 minutes. So much for "very far". This seems like New Yorkers on Sixth Avenue being unsure of which way Fifth Avenue was.

(Edit: if it wasn't clear, my incredulity at people not knowing in what direction lies a nearby major street is what prompts my Cordelia Chase. Also, my hotel is on Yasukuni-dori, which I've walked up and down a fair bit, so all I needed to do was head north. I can't really get lost if I know what half of the city I'm in and which way is up; head to the street and go home from there. It's like following slopes to a river, only without the natural gravity gradient.)

Lesson: get a compass.

So, you might have guessed from all that that today I figured out the subway system, and you'd be right. The hardest part ended up being buying a ticket; my machine didn't have English, and I had no idea what the different fares meant. I got the highest and got directed to station personnel when I left; I'd guess in retrospect because I was using a 3-zone ticket in the same zone. Later I found a Passmo machine, which can make electronic pass cards, and did have English. The thing even works through my wallet, you don't pass the card through but touch or wave it at the gate.

Where'd I go? To Yasukuni-jinja in fact, the aforementioned shrine. Mindful of yesterday's torment, I had a much lighter backpack, which included my umbrella; this was good, because right as I got to the shrine it rained. Heavily. Lots of people taking shelter under things, or scurrying back and forth. I took photos of the shrine, and also of the rain and puddles, which seems Zen, although it's a Shinto shrine. But hey, Shinto is about respecting nature. Also about washing up, and there was a tank of water with ladles for purification of the hands, which I did -- admittedly, as I left, not as I entered. Physically it's very nice, and I see now that there's a museum, which I missed. Cute shrine maidens (or at least employees) in white shirts and orange pantaloons.) And an English/Korean/Chinese pamphlet, describing how the Japanese were unfortunately forced to defend their independence and enforce peace in Asia, so people died. So sad.

After that I wandered. I followed a bunch of people, mostly but not entirely high school or college age girls, to the Nippon Budokan, where there was a long for something. I have no idea what was going on, and didn't enter; the local police box was no help. I found a soba place, to have perhaps my first soba, dipping cold noodles into shoyu? sauce. And torodon for the main dish; sorry Sushizaipan, you didn't get my torodon virginity. I still love you though, and not just for your Western-style bathroom... soba place had great green tea, though.

Then south, to the art museum, and the public grounds of the palace, though too late to enter either. Well, not sure about the museum, but my feet really hurt after 4 hours mostly on foot, so I subwayed back, to the opening adventure. Even from outside, the palace is impressive, though. Apart from infant travel and my limited autonomy Soviet Union trip, this is the first time in a city dominated by a palace or castle; we just don't have those in the US, or families whose privacy is permanently a matter of state policy.

Tonight's plans: I don't know. I could subway out to feel at sea in Roppongi. (Nightlife district, some foreign catering. Keep in mind I hardly do nightlife in my own country, especially on my own.) Or stay home and relax or study. Or find some Starbuck's or other coffee place and hang out. Especially if one served green tea -- per an old LJ post of mlc23, that's actually not as ubiquitous as anime might have us think. Ramen place didn't have it, donburi did, for free -- out of a giant dispenser machine -- Yoshinoya didn't.

Tomorrow: a race for my time between Ai and a family friend. Or race conditions maybe, depending on relative availability and such.

No one's on AIM. Oh, right, it's 6am EDT. Those wacky time zones!

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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
slow_war
Aug. 16th, 2008 11:44 am (UTC)
Welcome to Japan
Roppongi has some restaurants and shops (and bars and clubs) that will be accessible - it's worth a trip. I assume you are hitting Akihabara at some point in your trip. There are malls there that consist of tiny stalls selling specialized electronic components, like one guy sitting in a closet surrounded by bins of different resistors, and another selling only project boxes...also maid bars and random people dressed for cos-play. I think they block off the main street on Sunday, so tomorrow might be a good day to go.

Did you check out the museum next to the Yasakuni Shrine? More useful info on how Japan just had to get involved to solve the rest of Asia's problems, like in 1931 when they had to help out Manchuria's ethnic minorities who were being oppressed, or in 1937 when they unfortunately had to execute a few spies disguised as civilians in Nanjing.

While mlc23 is right and tea is not as popular a drink as coffee, it seems to be very commonly drunk with meals and is usually free including refills (unlike coffee); I am amazed that the ramen place and Yoshinoya did not have it. At the Yoshinoya here the water dispenser also dispenses tea if you push a different button. Also, it is possible that people at restaurants are assuming you want black tea - if you ask for ryoku-cha you should get green tea.

"Wa" is the particle you're looking for: it marks the topic of the sentence, meaning something like "with regard to" but used a lot more frequently than we would use that construction in English. "E" means "to" and "o" marks a direct object.

slow_war
Aug. 16th, 2008 11:51 am (UTC)
Particles
Oh, and you could also have used "ga" which is the actual subject marker. Wa substitutes a lot but does not have quite the same meaning, since you could have an overall topic that was different from the actor of the sentence. I would have gone with "wa"....
mindstalk
Aug. 16th, 2008 12:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Welcome to Japan
Hey Z! Thanks for the comments. Hopefully I'll get to see you and mlc again someday.

No, I'd totally missed that there was a museum, until I was checking the pamphlets I brought back with me while writing it all up. I did get two pamplets, so some lucky soul in Bloomington can get a copy. I've got some exposure to Japanese history, actually: my parents' 1911 Britannica, presumably the article on Japan, has a fascinating section on how they had to intervene in Korea to stabilize, or something along those lines -- was a while ago. The article was by some Japanese professor or official, person at any rate, part of the 11th edition's "go to the experts but make it easy to find who they are" policy, something I still prefer to wikipedia.

I asked for o-cha at the ramen-ya; at Yoshinoya I think I just looked at the menu and saw nothing there. Your dispenser sounds like what the donburi place last night had. Though my second cup from that gave new depths to the word "dregs".

Hah, technically I do know my basic particles, but I got confused, with "Eigo o hanashimas ka?" bouncing around my head. Also "Nihongo o hanashimasen" except I now see my phrasebook has "Nihongo wa" and I'm cofused about the difference between those two sentences. I'd thought the ramen lady was confused/amused by my saying in Japanese that I didn't speak Japanese, but maybe my grammar was bad, though what should they expect from a halting gaijin?

I've seen a bit of Akihabara -- don't know if you've seen my earlier posts -- but not little resistor stalls. I got taken to a maid cafe too, but most of my attention was on talking about anime with my companion[1]. I did have thoughts like "somehow they manage to stilt all the fun out of sub girls in maid outfits", "I have no idea what she just said", and "she's talking so softly I doubt I'd understand her even I did know the language", the last possibly exacerbated by the directionality of high-pitched voices and her not facing me.

Yoyogi by Shibuya got recced for the Sunday cosplay. I wonder if my Toei pass will work on JR Yamamote.

[1] Lest that seem quintessentially otaku, see the subsequent comments, and also the fact that my companion was a cool female herself.
aiwritingfic
Aug. 16th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Welcome to Japan
Pass will work (if you mean Pasmo). They integrated Suica and Pasmo earlier this year (or last).

*happy to be cool female*
mindstalk
Aug. 16th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Welcome to Japan
The pamplet has a dove on it. A dove with a bow tie.

Museum charges money. I wonder if I'd get a discount if I said "gakusei des" and waved my IU ID card around.

Hungry Damien is hungry meme-infected. Also hungry. Let's see who's open this late.
aiwritingfic
Aug. 16th, 2008 04:36 pm (UTC)
I give up the race? I'm a little swamped... T_T
dsgood
Aug. 16th, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
Suggestion: Get a compass.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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