Tokyo tour day

Although slowed by fatigue and jet lag, our first day in Tokyo went well. In the morning, we met with Ozaki-san, a friend of Aridome-sensei who gives tours of Tokyo. I gave my first jikoshōkai, or self-introduction, to Ozaki-san. I was pretty nervous beforehand, but once I got into it and finished, I felt relieved and more at ease with the new setting. Jikoshōkai will likely be important for me throughout the summer to introduce myself to my teachers at the language immersion program which I will attend.

We spent the whole morning in and around Tsukiji fish market, but we did not go to the early morning auction. Seeing the space and the vendors at work helped put together a picture to go with the chapter on the market which I discussed in my previous post. The production and consumption of food is part of process with various stages and I think we got a good sense of how the more industrial aspects of seafood production meet the commercial and individual consumption aspects of the food cycle.

Please forgive the brevity of this post, as I’m getting over jet lag and need to rest my mind a bit. Tomorrow I will be working in the National Diet Library by gathering research materials for my project and making photocopies. My advisor and I will break away from the rest of the group, who will start discussions with professionals of fields relevant to each student’s project. I’m looking forward to getting some hard copies of research material that will be invaluable to my project.

Tokyo Walking Tour

(I am skipping the travel day because plane rides are one of my least favorite things in the world, especially over 12 hours plane rides.)

With plenty hours of sleep, I gladly started the tour of Tokyo. It has been a long time since I am in a country/city that I cannot freely communicate in. I can understand, but I cannot respond. Luckily, because of frequent visits to cities in China, I am not *scared* by the fast-paced lifestyle. I do wish that I can better express myself in Japanese. If this trip taught me nothing else, it, at the very least, provided me immense motivation to keep working hard at Japanese this summer.

Back to the tour… we met Ozaki-san quite early. What a genki and sweet lady! It is hard to believe that she leads walking tours daily and can still show us so much positive energy. We started in Tsukiji -> Shiodome -> Ueno Park -> Municipal Building -> Shinjuku. I am very grateful to not only have Ozaki-san explaining but also the dear senseis inserting their historical/cultural knowledge at certain points. I will now begin with a random assortment of thoughts:

  • Tsukiji is famous for fish, but the meticulous representation of fruits and veggies is the most attractive of all to me (along with a number of household items one could purchase). Everyone has a designated role and is dedicated to fulfilling the role.
  • Gaijin excuse
  • I am still getting used to walking on the left side of the street.
  • People extremely adept at dodging the flow of other people.
  • The attractiveness of viewing the city from above and afar.
  • Terrible thought: cities are more similar in superficial appearance than not. I know that each place has its distinct history, but it is hard to distinguish at times.
  • The extensiveness of “thank you” culture
  • Being able to think about the city from an academic POV is very enjoyable compared to one from a popular guide book.
  • I used to follow a lot of Japanese Tumblrs/Instagrams and would marvel at the posts. The built and “natural” environments are both very aesthetically pleasing, hence the very postcard-worthy photos.
  • Efficiencyは最高です。

At Bowdoin, we are tricked with the illusion of being carbon neutral by 2020 through using “reusable” water bottles, etc. In Japan, a country known for its “convenience,” the price of the ease comes at the expense of the environment. Most common are the prevalence of plastic bottled drinks and meals packagings with disposable chopsticks. I do feel extremely terrible when I have to use certain things, which is why I tend to carry metal utensils with me. As I always tell myself, 5 minutes of ease for me, but how long for the environment to have to suffer?

I have just finished the readings for tomorrow (kanpo and Edo-Tokyo Museum) and I am very excited to be meeting professionals and seeing the exhibits. Museums are my favorite places to go in any city/place and I have always wanted to practice “East Asian” medicine (I really don’t know what to call it…). I want to focus on looking at the very “everyday” practices, sometimes overlooked. What lies outside of the official discourse? For example, in kanpo, how does the herbal medicine usage directly impact the amount of herbs available and the need for energy to transport the herbs from abroad?

We shall see!