Jet lag is very real. It doesn’t help that I went from Japan, to California for a day, to Washington D.C. where I am writing this, so let’s hope my body can find some form of a normal sleep schedule eventually.
My last three days in Japan were incredible and I am so thankful for the people I met along the way. In three days I was able to experience a great deal of Japanese culture including karaoke, a maid-themed café, various shrines, a Japanese professional baseball game, and even seeing the Japanese emperor.
Japanese karaoke is legit. They give your group your own (mostly) soundproof rooms where you can sing all sorts of songs, eat, drink, and even dress up in costume! Now tell me how that isn’t a fun time? I went with two of my friends and we belted some country, attempted to rap along to Eminem, and danced to the cult classic “Barbie Girl.” Each came equipped with a cheesy music video and it turned into one of my best nights in Japan. We ended up going to a karaoke place in Shinjuku where the building was around 20 stories tall with several karaoke rooms on each floor. The amazing part is that there are karaoke bars in pretty much every city! Japanese karaoke is nothing like American karaoke and I highly recommend you experience it if you ever have the chance.
Early on in my trip to Tokyo, my friend Sayuri and I were at the train station and she led me around the entire station as well as took me to see the Emperor’s palace. Well you wouldn’t believe our luck because as we were coming to the front of the station we saw areas roped off with a ton of people in suits. We asked what was going on and one of the suited people told us the Japanese emperor was coming and was actually going to be there in less than 10 minutes!
So of course we had to wait and see the Emperor. He arrived in his personal vehicle escorted by
many other agents on motorcycles and in other cars. When he pulled up to the front of the station though, the car slowed down and both he and his wife waved to the crowd, which is when I snapped this picture on my phone. Seeing the love that the people of all ages had for him and his wife was awesome to see.
Growing up, I was really into anime and manga, one such title I read religiously growing up was Maid-Sama. And before anybody asks, it was not dirty; it was about a high school class president who worked at a maid café. The thing about maid cafés is that people try to sully them and imagine them as “naughty” places without ever experiencing them or understanding their purpose. In Japanese culture, the whole idea behind maid-themed cafés is to be cute, and nothing beyond that. On one of my days spent in Tokyo, Sayuri took me to a maid café for a post-lunch treat! The deserts were adorable and every time they brought something to our table, they had us sing a song or chant they taught us on the spot to make the item magical. In the end, it was a super fun experience and made me wish that I had had the time to visit the other themed cafes.
During my Tokyo adventures I was also fortunate enough to find a bunch of shrines tucked into random parts of the cities. The first one we found in Tokyo was after a super long walk that Apple Maps led the group on to find a currency exchange, in the end we never found it and I didn’t use Apple Maps again in Japan, but we did find Koyasan Shingon Buddhism Kongobuji Head Temple in Tokyo Minato! It was huge and absolutely beautiful. I even used some of my Japanese to speak with the priest to find out the meanings of the different charms they had for good luck, warding off evil, and more.
Later that day I met up with some other friends in Shinjuku where we went kimono thrift shopping and we randomly came across the Hanazono Jinja Shrine. One of the really cool things learned when we were in Rikuzentakata was how to properly pray at these shrines and the really cool thing about Shinto-Buddhism is that you can pray to your God, whomever you believe in. It is a religion on respect and opening yourself to have God (or more in the Shintoism, gods) everywhere in your life. I also managed to pick up a translation page for the different charms for if you are ever in Japan.
Finally, one of the most exciting parts of the trip was getting to go to Japanese professional baseball game. The only game that was playing somewhat near me during my three days in Tokyo was the Yokult Sparrows in Jingu Stadium. If you ever go to Japan, make a point of going to one of the games, as while it is the same game of baseball, it is a completely different experience than you would ever have in America. To start, the games are faster paced, without the tv timeouts though the games are still broadcasted live so we got all nine inning done within three hours. The fans are also incredibly passionate, much more so than in the states.
They split the fans up to their own side of the stadiums, right down the middle so the opposing sides don’t intermix and in the outfield, both sides have bands giant flags, with them all singing a special song for each player who comes up to hit. Then, whenever the Sparrows scored, all of the fans would take out their umbrellas and start singing the team song. And don’t you worry, you can still get your cotton candy and peanuts, but cracker jacks? Well those have been replaced with soybeans, better known as edamame, in the Japanese sports parks. Another interesting aspect of the game is that they had girls walking throughout the stadium
with what looked lie a smaller keg on their backs. They literally walked up and down the steps throughout the stadium selling and filling drinks. In the end, I would have to say that one of the best parts is the appreciation the Japanese fans have for the game of baseball. It didn’t matter if the huge catch, or giant hit was against your team, they appreciated great plays and hits and would celebrate those as well.
Overall, my experience in Japan was incredible. I am a bit behind on blog posts covering it so be on the lookout for my recaps on my trip to Japan!