Monthly Archives: May 2011

Exploring Japan: Kawagoe – March 14, 2010

I’m a sucker for historical places.  I love seeing old architecture.  One of the best places to see well preserved Edo Period architecture is in Kawagoe, Saitama.  The city is sometimes called Koedo, or Little Edo, because it has so much Edo Period buildings.  There are also many temples and shrines.  I didn’t have enough time to see everything I wanted to see, so I’ll have to go back again to see more.  Please enjoy the pictures!

The entrance to Crea Mall, north of Kawagoe Station.

A shop for hip hop and street wear. Is it for horses?

Walking down the street, the first old buildings can be seen.

Many of the old buildings are European style.

And many are Japanese style, like this shop.

Everything looks old here.

Next door is an old Japanese style building. I wonder if it's from the Edo Period.

This one impressed me. It has a nice classic design from when European architecture was popular.

There's even an old little car next to an old building.

Quite the mix here. It's old Japan meets modern Japan.

Across the street are some great old European buildings. Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of traffic.

A shop in an old Japanese warehouse.

Lots of temples and shrines are in Kawagoe. This is Houzenji Temple.

More old buildings. There are so many along this street!

And more traffic obscuring my view of these old warehouses.

Here's another wonderful old building. This is Saitama Resona Bank.

These buildings look old, but great!

Doesn't this just make you want to go back to the Edo Period?

Now I could see Toki no Kane, the famous landmark bell tower in Kawagoe.

Looking way up!

If you walk under the bell tower, you can see a small shrine.

And here's the bell tower from the other side.

Here's a gate to Yojuin Temple.

And Yojuin Temple itself.

Here's a very popular location in Kawagoe, Kashiya Yokocho. It's an old market street with many sweets shops.

Lots of old traditional sweets and snacks!

All the shops are in old buildings.

Even though this street is short, there's a lot to see and buy.

This is a small cafe which includes a VW bus.

Koi in a pond just outside a restaurant.

Finally, here is Gyodenji Temple. It has beautifully kept grounds.

The temple itself is also quite beautiful.

Here's a closeup of the carvings on the temple.

If you have a chance to visit Kawagoe, I definitely recommend it.  The street that most of this is on goes north from the east side of Honkawagoe Station.  The following map should help.  The street I was on goes from Honkawagoe Station up to just west of the Motomachi area.  Kashiya Yokocho is west of Motomachi.

This post is also participating in “Show Me Japan #27!”

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Filed under Japan, Kawagoe, Saitama

Addicted to Instagram

Recently, I started using the iPhone application Instagram.  It’s an app that allows you to take pictures and share them through various means, such as Instagram’s own system, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  You can follow other people on Instagram, leave comments and like photos.  It’s another kind of social network.  One thing you can do with Instagram is apply filters to your photos and make them look like old photos.  There’s also tilt-shift.

If you’d like to see my photos, and you have iPhone and Instagram, please follow me at jaydeejapan.  If you don’t, that’s ok.  You can still see my photos if you use Twitter (subscribe here!).  I’ll probably link to the photos in the near future from this blog.  Finally, I’d like to blame/thank the man who got me hooked on Instagram, Loco of Loco in Yokohama.  He has a great blog, and always a very interesting read.

Here are a couple of example photos: The sky is screwed and Fast flowing mini river.

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Filed under Blog Announcements

Exploring Japan: Yokosuka – February 21, 2010

On a pleasant winter day in 2010, I visited Yokosuka for the first time.  Yokosuka is the home of both the American Naval base and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force base, so there is a lot of military in the city.  There are many Americans walking around here.  I started my visit at Yokosuka Station, through Verny Park and ended at Mikasa Park.  Enjoy the pictures!

Across the water is the American Naval Base.

This is Verny Park, dedicated to Leonce Verny, the man who helped create the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal.

Here's a bit more of Verny Park.

This is a major shopping centre in Yokosuka with a Daiei store.

The tall building is the tallest commercial building in Yokosuka.

This is the Mikasa, a pre-dreadnought ship built in Britain in 1900, and is now a museum. It's the only pre-dreadnought ship left in the world.

Mikasa guns. This ship was actually sunk in 1905, then refloated and back into service.

Sarushima, or Monkey Island. There's a boat that goes over to the island, and is a popular picnic area.

Here is the nearby Mikasa Park.

Looks like there are performances here sometimes.

A big metal arch in the park.

This park has plenty of fountains and ponds.

A look back to the Mikasa.

Here’s a map of the area.

This post is taking part in “Show Me Japan #27.”  Check it out and see many other blog posts!

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Filed under Japan, Kanagawa, Yokosuka

“Yes, I can,” and other answers to Japanese

I’ve been living in Japan for more than 6 years now.  I’m a foreigner living in an area of Japan that has a lot of foreigners.  I’m not unique.  I see other foreigners regularly, usually every day (and I don’t mean at work).  In the beginning, I was asked a lot of questions that I didn’t mind.  They were curious about me, so I answered.  But after 6 years, I still get the same questions.  Here’s a sample of the most common questions:

Can you use chopsticks?

Yes.  Yes, I can.  I’ve been able to use them since I was a kid, long, long before I came to Japan.  Don’t act surprised.  Many people in Canada can use chopsticks.  Asian food is popular, and Asian restaurants provide chopsticks.  That’s where I learned how to use them.  Most of the time, convenience store clerks ask me if I want chopsticks, which is a very normal question for every customer who buys a meal.  However, some people will clearly ask me if I can use chopsticks.  And sometimes, when people see me use chopsticks, they are amazed.  Why?  I have fingers and hands just like other humans, including Japanese people.  They’re easy to use.  Stop being surprised.

Can you eat raw fish?

First of all, the question is wrong.  It should be “Do you like raw fish?”  Asking my ability to eat something should get this answer:  “Yes, I can put the raw fish in my mouth and I’ll chew it, then swallow it.  See?  I can eat it!”  But I’m polite, and say that I can.  I go further and say that sushi and sashimi are quite popular in Canada, so many, many people eat it.  One time about a year ago, I bought some sashimi in a supermarket, and the cashier looked at me in surprise and asked me in Japanese if I like sashimi (at least it’s better than if I can eat it), and I told her I love it.  She seemed happy with that answer.

You must be very good at Japanese!

I get this a lot when I tell people I’ve lived in Japan for 6 years.  There’s an understandable expectation that I can speak Japanese well.  I always answer that I’m not good.  I can get by with basic everyday things, but my ability to speak is quite bad.  I’m far better at listening.  I can understand the general topic of conversations, and get some details, but if I’m asked to join the conversation, I freeze.  I have little experience with general conversations outside of shopping.  I guess this comment that I receive isn’t so annoying, but I get it several times a week.  It should be motivation for me to study, shouldn’t it?

Wow!  You can read hiragana?

On the other hand, people are surprised that I can read the basic phonetic written characters of Japanese.  I learned them in 1 week in university several years ago.  It’s easy!  Hiragana is not difficult.  But many Japanese people seem to think that it must be difficult for foreigners, because it isn’t the Roman alphabet.  It’s just a few extra letters for me to learn.  After 6 years in Japan, I most definitely should be able to read hiragana, especially if I’ve passed the JLPT 3rd grade test.  That test required 300 kanji, too.  My students study English.  I don’t go to the lessons and say “Wow!  You can read the alphabet!!!” So, why is it so surprising that I can read hiragana after several years of somewhat inconsistent Japanese language study?

Why did you come to Japan?

This is just curiosity, I’m sure.  My simple answer is that there are too many reasons.  I find it hard to answer this question every time when the answer is quite complicated.

Gaijin!

I often want to say 2 things:  “It’s gaikokujin, and you’re rude” or the even better “Nihonjin!”  I think I’ll try the second one next time.

And finally, while there are no words exchanged, there is some nonverbal communication with this one.  Occasionally, I’ll get stared at on the train.  It’s not so often, but when it happens, it’s almost always an elderly man.  My response is to stare back at him.

One thing that many Japanese people don’t realise is that many foreigners in Japan have been here a long time.  Globalization is a fact in Japan, but many people are very slow to accept that fact.  Japanese culture and pop culture is spreading around the world, as well.  Japanese food is popular, especially sushi.  It’s not a surprise to me, but it is a surprise to many students that I teach.

Comments?  Have any questions for me?  Fire away.

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Filed under Daily Life

About the new header

As you may have noticed, I’ve changed the header.  Every once in a while, I change the header to go with the season.  This time, it’s a Japanese garden at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, which is near Meguro Station in Tokyo.  The museum is called Teien because of the garden.  I will have a post in the future about the museum and garden with plenty of pictures.

Most people I talk to have never heard of the Teien Art Museum.  Have you heard of it?  The museum is the former home of the Prince Asaka Family, and was built in 1933 in the Art Deco style.  I definitely recommend taking a look.

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Filed under 23 Wards, Blog Announcements, Japan, Minato-ku, Tokyo

The architectural style of Katase-Enoshima Station

Many train stations in Japan have a pretty ordinary look, but there are some that are designed to look good. One of them is Katase-Enoshima Station on the Odakyu Enoshima Line. It’s quite colourful. Have you visited the Enoshima area of Fujisawa and seen this station?

This is my entry for the 26th weekly “Show Me Japan!”

Update:  I checked into the design of the station.  It was designed to look like the Ryugo-jo, or Dragon Castle, which is from Urashima Taro.

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Filed under Fujisawa, Japan, Kanagawa