Category Archives: Temple Japan

L is for Lawson, Loppi and Love

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If there’s one store that all TUJ students (whether they are under Japanese Admission or Study Abroad) know about, it’s Lawson. There’s one right next to the Azabu main building and it’s where they can go to get a quick bite to eat, catch up on some quality reading from a selection of magazines and pay their bills. (Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?) Yes, in Japan, you can pay your bills at the convenience store and this alone takes the word “convenience” to a new level. But I digress. It was Lawson that made me the happiest person this week. Just how did this little conbini make me the happiest person in the world in one day? Loppi, (ロッピー) that’s how.

But you may be wondering, “What the heck is Loppi?” Loppi is magic, that’s what it is. It’s a machine that you can find at any Lawson. Although it looks like an ATM machine it’s used to buy tickets to events (for concerts, sports, museum exhibitions, etc.) Thanks to Loppi, it was possible for me to buy a concert ticket to see Miyavi, one of the first Japanese artists I listened to that paved the way for my love of all Japanese music. It’s extremely convenient for those like me who are terrified of calling a Japanese venue for ticket information or going through complicated online registration in only Japanese in order to purchase a ticket online. Loppi was a lifesaver and a time-saver for me. Even though there isn’t an option for English, Loppi is fairly easy to operate for those with limited Japanese. But before I proceed, allow me to clarify one thing. The Loppi machine does not print out the actual tickets themselves. It allows you to pay for the ticket and receive it at Lawson. With that, here’s the step-by-step breakdown for what I had to do to get my concert ticket:

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After touching anywhere on the screen, you will see this screen. Touch the option on the left to search for your event via L-code or name of the event.

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Input the L-code for the event. This is a five digit number that is often available when you search for an event on Lawson’s website. I had an L-code for the concert so I found it to be a lot easier in terms of getting to it quicker. Touch the orange button that will appear on the lower right. However, if you don’t have an L-code, just search for the event by name, venue or artist. You will be taken to a page where you will be given options and must select which event and on what day you would like to attend.

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There it is. My desired concert. Artist, venue, date, time all correct. Now to select my preferred seating. 1st Floor please.

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Select how many tickets you want to purchase using the arrow buttons and the price at the bottom right will adjust itself. Some can only go up to a 4 ticket maximum while others have the option for up to 10. But seeing as how there’s only one of me, I think I can be satisfied with just one. Then press the orange button. If an error message pops up, that means the particular show/seat you selected is sold out or not available. If you need to go back, simply touch the back arrow on the top left corner of the screen.

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This page is just to accept the store’s minimal fee for using their Loppi machine. It’s literally a dollar so no harm in it. Press the orange button again.

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This is for those who have a Lawson card. Didn’t waste my time on this one. I didn’t have one so I selected the option that said いいえ (or no).

Enter your name (in hiragana) in first bar (doesn't matter if it's last name, first name or first name, last name). Make sure you hit the

Enter your name (in hiragana) in first bar (doesn’t matter if it’s last name, first name or first name, last name). Make sure you hit the button that says ー字あけるbetween your first and last name otherwise an error will pop up. You will see the katakana appear below the hiragana just to be sure that it is right. When you’re done, press the orange button that will appear on the lower right.

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Enter your phone number. I have a Japanese cellphone so I put in my number. You can also use the Japanese phone number of a friend. When you’re finished, press the orange button that will appear on the lower right.

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Time to confirm the order one last time. Artist, venue, event, date, time, number of tickets, seating all correct, but what is this? My full name isn’t there. I was missing a character in my last name.

As you can see, I had some trouble when the confirmation screen came up. I didn’t see my full name so I ended up going back several times and retyping it only to get the same result. It wasn’t until I asked one of the employees that I felt like a fool. It seemed that my full name would never come up on the screen because……wait for it……it was too long. (Gasp!) Luckily, the employee assured me that it was fine and I finished placing my ticket order.

Note: A final message will pop up after you push the orange button on the confirmation screen. It will ask if you understand that you cannot cancel the ticket once it has been purchased. Touch the button on the right, which says “はい”

Yes, print me out that lovely receipt so I can be one step closer.

Yes, print me out that lovely receipt so I can be one step closer.

Little receipt, you are what is going to help me see Miyavi live for the first time!

Little receipt, you are what is going to help me see Miyavi live for the first time!

After the receipt printed out, I had to take it to the front counter. They scanned the receipt and had me confirm the event, location, date and time. All was correct so I wrote my name on the receipt in katakana to make it official, (last name then first name of course.) The cashier took the receipt back and I paid for the ticket (cash or credit was fine.) At that point, all that stood between me and my concert ticket was an mere 60 seconds. (Yes, I said it, 60 seconds!) The cashier handed me my ticket and I’m pretty sure I heard a choir behind me.

やった!私のコンサートチケットを買った!私はMiyaviを見に行こう!

やった!私のコンサートチケットを買った!私はMiyaviを見に行こう!(Alright! I bought my concert ticket. I’m going to see Miyavi!)

In my hands was my ticket. My glorious ticket. The ticket that would allow me to see one of the artists I thought I would never in my life get to see. That evening, I went home with a smile on my face and a happy bounce in my step.

Study abroad student, Vivienne Shao, was able to get a ticket to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka thanks to Loppi.

Study abroad student, Vivienne Shao, was able to get a ticket to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka thanks to Loppi :)

Now you may be asking, “So where’s the love part of this?” Perhaps you’re wondering, “Did you find love at Lawson? Did you find some tall, handsome Japanese man capable of prolonging your stay in Japan?” Well, you’re only half right. I did find love but it wasn’t with a Japanese man. It was with a Japanese machine. (Woah, what?) Before you start panicking, let me clarify:

I Love Loppi!

That wasn’t too lame, right?

私は気にしないから、もう一回いう (I don’t care so I’ll say it one more time):

ロッピーが大好きです!

(I LOVE LOPPI!)

Freedom and Fun stuff!

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The thought that “maybe I signed up for too much” always occasionally slips into my mind whenever my schedule starts to overwhelm me. Japan has been the adventure I have always dreamed of, but lately there is just so much to do and so much to absorb, I can’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed. It’s not a bad thing, but I’m not used to constantly being under a time pressure. The days back at home, following a mundane and repetitive schedule seems so far away nowadays. Kind of like how when you first enter college and thinking to yourself “wow, I feel like I had much more free time during high school!” Well I guess with more freedom, comes more responsibilities.

Freedom and Fun stuff:

The Otaku Cultural Center!

The Otaku Cultural Center!

One of the places I was most excited to see upon arriving in Japan was Akihabara, also known as the world’s Otaku Cultural Center. After finding each other at the station, we decided to experience having lunch at a maid café. (Yeah, I know Tiara, also did a blog post on the same place—I guess it’s almost a tradition to visit one when you’re in Japan!) Our maid knew just enough English to ask where we were from, demonstrate a really cute “ritual” to bless our food to taste good, and told us how excited she was to have us.

Here’s a picture of my meal! It’s so adorable! I wonder how they made it.

Here’s a picture of my meal! It’s so adorable! I wonder how they made it.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures of anything else, but they did give us a keychain and photo with our maid to keep!

Here’s a picture of me with our maid! She was very energetic and great at dancing!

Here’s a picture of me with our maid! She was very energetic and great at dancing!

Next stop Animate! So if I was to summarize this place with one word, I would probably pick “paradise”!

Heaven on Earth!

Heaven on Earth!

This store is literally six floors with nothing but anime merchandise. I have never been more tempted to buy everything I saw in a store before. We literally spend hours here and never got tired of it! I am definitely coming back here to for souvenirs for friends!

This place is HUGE!! Unfortunately the panorama picture came out a bit weird since people were still moving about, but I guess this is why I'm a blogger and not a photo blogger!

This place is HUGE!! Unfortunately the panorama picture came out a bit weird since people were still moving about, but I guess this is why I’m a blogger and not a photo blogger!

For dinner, conveyor belt sushi!

おいしそう! Looks yummy!

おいしそう!
Looks yummy!

My friends who came back from study abroad total me that the sushi here is super fresh and taste so much better in comparison to what we had in the US, so I just had to experience the difference myself. Needless to say I was not disappointed.

The plates are color coded by price!

The plates are color coded by price!

We also made a pit-stop by the Gundam Café!

Greeting us at the entrance of the Gundam Cafe!

Greeting us at the entrance of the Gundam Cafe!

Much our surprise, there was actually a decent about of girls in there! We were expecting a bunch of guys since that’s usually what we are used to when it comes to the Gundam fan-base in the US. It’s cool to see some diversity in something I once thought was a predominantly male hobby.

Is it weird for me to take a picture of their bathroom? In addition to being super clean, they designed it to make you feel like you were actually piloting a Gundam!

Is it weird for me to take a picture of their bathroom? In addition to being super clean, they designed it to make you feel like you were actually piloting a Gundam!

After a fun Saturday with friends, I stayed home on Sunday to catch up on homework and spend time with my host family. Around evening, otou-san told me that there was a local Matsuri, and asked if I wanted to take a break from homework to walk with him. And I’m certainly glad I did!

Wish we had these in the US!

Wish we had these in the US!

There were kids doing taiko drumming, all the fun games you would normally see in an anime Matsuri episode, and the food smelled delicious!

To the left we have the shrine, to the right we have the taiko drummers!

To the left we have the shrine, to the right we have the taiko drummers!

The goal of this game is to catch a goldfish, without breaking your net! It's a lot harder than it sounds!

The goal of this game is to catch a goldfish, without breaking your net! It’s a lot harder than it sounds!

The food smells and looks amazing! But I'm pretty sure it has nothing against okaa-san's cooking!

The food smells and looks amazing! But I’m pretty sure it has nothing against okaa-san’s cooking!

We did a quick prayer to the gods, enjoyed the festival, before returning home to okaa-san’s world-class cooking.

It looks just as good as it tastes!

It looks just as good as it tastes!

Face Your Fears-Morning Rush Hour Subway Commute in Japan

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Since Fall semester has officially begun, it’s time for students to revisit their class schedules, decide whether or not they want to add, drop or withdraw from one or more of their classes and overall get reacquainted with the real world, which includes commuting to and from school.

I had only seen pictures and heard frightening stories about the dreaded morning rush hour subway commute in Japan. In an attempt to avoid having to experience it (as well as any level of claustrophobia that may decide to do a sneak attack on me) firsthand, I tried to schedule my classes accordingly, but alas, I could not escape. With my first class at 9:20AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I leave the dorm just in time for the 8’oclock rush hour. Oh joy….here we go.

Well, what can I say? It is certainly…an experience? (Yeah, experience, we’ll go with that.) I arrived at the Itabashi-kuyakushoumae Station (“いたばしくやくしょまええき” or “板橋区役所前駅”) and when the first train came, I could not believe what I saw. There were so many people packed in the train like sardines. Then I looked around me and realized there was a large number of people who were all intending to board the same train. At that moment, my eyes widened and I said to myself, “Nope! You’ll get on the next one.” Oh, foolish, naive me.

The next train came within 10 minutes and by that time, an entirely new large group of people had formed on the platform. The second train was packed even tighter than the first, with people pushing their way in, entering backwards and trying to avoid getting caught in the train doors as they were closing. I stood there in both amazement and fear for my fate. I was finally brought back to reality once I realized what time it was. I thought, “Ok, clearly this is not going to get any better and you will NOT be late for your class. You’re getting on the next train, no matter what!” I stepped away from the wall and up to the line to wait for the next train.

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O_O—my face when I saw this. NOPE! Next train, you’ll get on the next train.

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O_O I thought…it wouldn’t be so bad….Next train, you’ll DEFINITELY get on the next train. Time to face your fears!

As expected, it arrived and it was packed, but I boarded anyway. Immediately, I was pushed further in by those behind me. I spent the last 20 minutes watching people pack into a train car like sardines and now I was one of them. It would be another 30 minutes until the train would reach my stop and hoped I would survive until then.

I didn’t know where to breathe. I was surrounded. There was someone in front of me and I didn’t want to breathe in his ear (like Brainy from Hey Arnold, the one who would always breathe heavily behind Helga.) My solution? Look up and admire the wonderful Japanese advertisements! Luckily, they had the air conditioner on because if they didn’t everyone would have died from carbon dioxide poisoning. But alas, I survived the rush hour experience and lived to tell the tale (which in and of itself calls for a self-congratulatory pat on the back,) and now I know what to expect on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. All in all, the morning rush hour is an adjustment and once I get used to it, it will get better. We learn from our experiences and taking the Japanese subway during morning rush hour is definitely one I will never forget.

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The next day around 10 AM. Oh, what a difference an hour or two makes when it comes to the morning subway commute.

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Evening Rush Hour—not as bad as morning rush hour. Phew!

 

Welcome to Japan! Now What? TUJ Study Abroad Student Orientation!

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August 26th was the day that began everything. I arrived in Japan at Narita Airport and was officially on Japanese soil. My heart was ecstatic, but unfortunately, my body was exhausted from the 13 1/2 hour nonstop flight it had just been through. Nevertheless, I had finally made it to my destination. I was in Japan.

After making my way to the Kitazono Women’s Dorm and getting a good night’s rest (or a much needed coma really), I realized I had to overcome another obstacle: Temple University Japan Campus Study Abroad Orientation. (Insert intimidating thunder and lightning here.) Dun Dun DUUUUUUN!

Welcome to Temple University Japan Campus (^_^)

Welcome to Temple University Japan Campus (^_^)

Various TUJ staff members gave presentations throughout the orientation, including Dr. Kyle Cleveland, the Study Abroad Coordinator, Jonathan Wu, the Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Wataru Nishida, the Chief Information Officer and through the wonders of technology (aka the Iphone), Mariko Nagai, the Study Abroad Academic Coordinator. After each speaker approached the front to give their words of wisdom to the group of curious (and let’s not forget jetlagged) new arrivals, one question was asked: “How many of you are from the main campus?” (It was asked seven times to be exact and yes, I counted!) Apart from this little icebreaker, the information that was provided was extremely helpful. They covered topics such as the procedure to add, drop, or withdraw from a course and the different timeframes allotted for each, emergency and crisis procedures (have to be prepared from those earthquakes and typhoons after all), different student government and semester activities, and getting settled in Japan.

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Chief Information Officer, Wataru Nishida, encourages the study abroad students to not just “live in” Japan, but to “experience” Japan.

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Chief Operating Officer, Paul Raudkepp, reviews emergency and crisis procedures. We must keep the children safe!

The two-day orientation was filled with humor, useful information, the Japanese Language Placement Test (for those registered for a Japanese course level higher than Japanese Elements I) and good pizza (thank you Japanese Dominos), but at the end of it all we were left with memorable comments such as:

“Your experience is largely dependent on what you make of it.” -Dr. Kyle Cleveland

and

“Take a risk and experience anew. If you want to go to an onsen, take off all of your clothes and go to an onsen. There are so many things waiting for you, but you have to experience them.” -Wataru Nishida

Reflecting back on it now, they made perfect sense. Think about it for a minute. We all made the decision to take the initiative and fill out the application to study abroad. We all applied for the Japanese Certificate of Eligibility and student visas. We all bought our plane tickets, boarded our planes and are now in Japan! Now there are two options for what can happen and they are both dependent on the individual. It can be the most wonderful experience in a person’s life if they can have an open mind, allow themselves to relinquish the control they are so used to having, and delve into a world they are unfamiliar with or it can be an utterly miserable one, where each day becomes torture to get through until the day they board the flight back home. I don’t know about you but personally, I’ll take door number one, please and thank you. So I say make an effort to learn the language, explore the country that you are in, and let yourself really experience it because let’s be honest; no one else is going to live your life for you so why not take that leap and make the most out of it?

Final Reflections on a Summer Well Spent

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So I’m now officially home. In fact, this will be my last blog entry and my final (written) words on an adventure of a summer that I’ll remember forever. I learned a lot, both about myself and the world around me, so I compiled a list of some of the things that I discovered while abroad.

Things I learned from Japan:

  1. There is no set of stairs too short to have a paralleling escalator.
  2. Always bring a mini towel everywhere you go. You never know when the humidity is going to hit 90 percent when you’re wearing a business suit. Or really any clothes at all. They will be soaked immediately along with your face and your soul. Goodbye, meticulously applied makeup. The same goes for fans. Always carry a fan.
  3. Life is too short not to eat as many Mister Donut donuts as humanly possible. There’s an old Japanese proverb that goes: “A cronut a day keeps the doctor away.” At least, I think that’s how it goes….
  4. Sometimes the tourist crowds are worth it. Sometimes they’re not. Don’t let a guidebook decide for you what’s worth seeing, because if you hate crowds, the Sumidagawa fireworks festival is going to be awful no matter how much you love fireworks.
  5. It’s okay to wear heels wherever you want, whenever you want. This applies to both men and women as far as I can tell.
  6. A little politeness and courtesy go a long way. Say “please” and “thank you” to food service workers, don’t walk and eat a meal, and being the only loud person on a crowded subway or bus means you’re probably doing something wrong. Is a little consideration too much to ask?
  7. Don’t be afraid to use a foreign language, even if “please,” “thank you,” and “hello” are the only words you know. It does a make a difference.
  8. It’s okay to not like a food, especially if it’s squid or sea urchin, but major points for at last trying it. Especially if you didn’t pay for it yourself, it’s just the polite thing to do to try what’s put in front of you. Life isn’t always burgers and fries, and that’s really for the best.
  9. Be responsible, but don’t miss out on opportunities because you’re worried about money. I know this is easier said than done, but as someone who is largely frugal, I’ve regretted not doing things because of money before. I don’t really know how I’m going to buy books this fall, but Tokyo is what I’ll remember forever. There were no holds barred on this trip and I had an amazing experience. No regrets.
  10. Always take opportunities, even if they’re scary. Doing something is always better than wondering what could have been. My prime example of that is this trip to Japan. Before I left, I panicked about whether I was making the right decision to go. I freaked out. I tried to talk myself out of it. I looked for reasons not to go. But I’m so glad I did. Coming to Japan has been an incredible experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Of course, I learned many things that aren’t included on this list, but these seemed to be the things, both lighthearted and serious, that stood out the most. A year ago, I would not have believed you if you’d told me I would spend Summer 2014 studying in Japan. It’s one of the most impulsive, random choices I’ve ever made, and I don’t regret it for an instant.

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The End of an Era

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As predicted, the last two and a half months in Japan have flown by in a whirlwind of classes, internships, and activities. In fact, my time in Japan has already drawn to a close, and I am writing this entry from a hostel in Seoul, South Korea, where I am spending a few days visiting friends before heading back to the US of A. I’m faced with the prospect of returning home to my first three weeks of summer since, well, summer began, and I am beside myself. A small part of me is excited to go home, but the rest of me, the overwhelming part that never gets homesick and constantly seeks adventure, is heartbroken over the prospect of settling back into the “same old, same old” and the doldrums of the fall semester.

This experience has been so different from what I anticipated in so many ways. Japan crept up on me. I didn’t have many expectations, either good or bad, about my experience, which consequently made it hard to form opinions once I arrived. The more time I spent in Tokyo, the more things I discovered to love and hate in very unequal measure. There are definitely things about Tokyo that bothered me, or that I, as a foreigner, found unnerving and frustrating. But there were many more aspects of the culture and daily life that I found pleasantly different from daily goings-on in the States. I am frequently asked the question “What will you miss most about Japan?” And though the obvious answer is “the food,” or “the culture,” or “matcha lattes, of course!” I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. More than anything, I am going to miss the people. I’ve made amazing friends both at school and at my internship and it tears me apart that I have no idea when I may see any of them again. I’m going to miss being surrounded by the Japanese language and feeling a sense of accomplishment in communicating even the most basic ideas. I’m going to miss the utterly ridiculous over-prevalence of combinis, because how will I survive without a Lawson’s, Family Mart, and 7-11 every 300 feet? Where will I buy my mildly overpriced, oddly tiny hot matcha lattes and accompanying baked goods?

IMG_1880The Great Buddha at Kamakura, a place I would love to spend more time.

I reflect on all the tourist attractions I didn’t get a chance to see—all the places I didn’t visit due to either time or monetary constraints: the shrines unvisited, cities unexplored, museums unsought—and I know I have to come back. Already, my brain is working furiously to find a way to return as soon as possible, somehow tying a trip across Siberia and down to Tokyo into my potential study abroad plans for next spring. I think about all the friends I made here, plenty of whom are coming back to Philly, but just as many of whom are not. Will I be able to come visit? I can’t help but hope that I’ll be back as soon as possible to see old friends and make new ones, experience new sights and places and return to those that I fell in love with this time around. Tokyo is unlike any city I’ve ever been to in so many ways, both good and bad, and I know it will call me back again.

Yokohama by the Bay

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Classes are over. Finals are over. In fact, my time in Japan is effectively over. I had my first real, commitment-free day of summer this past Tuesday and I spent the majority of it at Kanagawa Sohgoh High School, the site of my internship, eating lunch with my boss, seeing some of my students  friends, and helping teach English to the most endearing elementary school children on the planet. Though summer break is in effect for Kanasoh, I suppose some students, much like me, just couldn’t stay away. After I bid them adieu and saw the elementary schoolers off, I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the beautiful Yokohama bay area. My plans to pay homage to everyone’s favorite instant ramen at the Cup Noodle Museum were foiled by a “closed” sign, so I meandered around the waterfront and enjoyed the salt breeze instead. I then took a trip up Japan’s fastest elevator to the top of the Yokohama Landmark Tower and Skygarden to take in the stunning views of the bay and cityscape. Passing cargo ships carved patterns into the sparkling blue water. The glassy buildings of downtown Yokohama glimmered in a hushed blanket of photochemical smog, intensified by the humidity. Yokohama seems to sprawl out forever—flat bay land giving way to hills and valleys. It’s impossible to tell where this city ends and the next city in the Tokyo Metro Area begins in the continuous expanse of concrete and glass. The city of Yokohama itself has about 3,700,000 people, making it just a little smaller than Los Angeles.

IMG_1929Yokohama Landmark Tower

Its Chinatown is a grand expression of all things both stereotypically and more traditionally Chinese. Hundreds of restaurants, all seemingly selling the same dishes, line the streets, inviting in the hungry tourist with colorful picture menus. Souvenir shops punctuate lantern-lit alleys and if I wanted a fan, a charm, or a lucky cat, I’d have fifteen different options to buy them from. The Bay Area boasts “Cosmo World,” an amusement park with a brilliantly lit ferris wheel that towers over the rest of the substantially less-exciting rides. Shopping co-mingles with office complexes and museums in this shimmering, modern area, and for some reason I can’t quite explain, Yokohama’s downtown reminds me a bit of Philadelphia, though there aren’t too many wild similarities.

IMG_1316The impressive Chinatown Gate

I was told several times, “There’s not much to do in Yokohama,” but I’m not sure I agree. No, it’s not as big as Tokyo nor as crowded and busy, but maybe that’s why I liked it. Its downtown was more singular, in place of Tokyo’s various “downtowns” such as Shibuya, Ikebukuro, and Otemachi, and the glass skyscrapers that dotted the skyline were more reminiscent of Center City than Times Square. It is by no means as exciting as Tokyo, though they share a metro area, but I suppose having ten million more people is bound to provide excitement. The strange thing is, as much as I like huge cities (which is good because Tokyo’s the largest in the world), I for some inexplicable reason found myself wishing I’d spent more time exploring Yokohama. I could almost see myself living there in a way that I sometimes struggled to in Tokyo, though I’d live there in a heartbeat as well. Besides, in Japanese commuting time, the 35-40 minute long express train to Shibuya is really a hop, skip, and a jump from Yokohama to Tokyo. The idea of the two largest cities in Japan essentially being connected is bizarrely mind-blowing to me, perhaps because the U.S.’s two largest cities are on opposite coasts. In some ways they blend together, but in others they are totally separate entities. More like siblings than twins, Yokohama is often overshadowed by its high-achieving older brother and precocious younger cousin, Kyoto. But this city has a thirst to be recognized and plenty to offer, if only you’re willing to take a few days and seek it.