Friday, November 4, 2016

Postcard from Japan: Friday, October 28, 2016, Back to Tokyo

The banyan tree in the heart of downtown Nago, Okinawa, where
Caroline Latham lives.  This tree is old and is considered to be
the residence of the local god of Nago.  Older banyan trees 
are characterized by their aerial prop 
roots that grow into thick woody trunks, which can become 
indistinguishable from the main trunk with age. 
Old trees can spread out laterally, using these prop roots to
cover a wide area. In some species, the effect is for the props
to develop into a sort of forest covering a considerable area,
every trunk connected directly or indirectly to the central trunk.
(Look up "banyan trees" on Wikipedia for more fascinating info and images.
I returned today to Tokyo from Hara-san's in Shizuoka on the Shinkansen Hikari.  I know Mama-san was expecting me but she was asleep in her chair at 4pm "watching" television.  During the day, she always keeps her door unlocked so entering was no problem.  Of course, I had to drag my heavy suitcase in (I swear I'd only taken what I needed...), but you have to take your shoes off and put on slippers while holding everything. (I still hate those slippers which slip off all the time when I'm not paying attention---bare feet to me are so much better.  It proves I haven't been totally Japanized.)

My suitcase in front of the Hotel Yamada in Nago at
5:30am when Caroline picked me up so I could
take the bus to Naha (southern end of the island) to
take the plane to Kobe.
So, this is a catch-up of images and commentary.  I found that my old camera still worked but won't upload images the old way.  I never realized I could take out the memory card and stick it into the port on my laptop as I do for my new camera, and that worked.

Note the orange and white structures in the background for lifting
cargo from ships.  
When I arrived in Kobe on the Skymark flight, I was amazed by the port city and all the towering orange and white mechanical cargo lifting structures which looked to me like robots from sci-fi movies.

There were fascinating big buildings along the train line route from the airport that just had to be photographed.

Along the east coast of Japan, it is one long megalopolis of unbroken city, from Tokyo south to Osaka and Kobe.  I haven't seen the coast south of that point, but it may extend a lot farther.  When you ride on the train, that's what you see.

You may have to work at understanding the play on words in
the " 't Worry Be Happy" image, but the どん in the sign
and noren is pronounced "don" so the owner added
the apostrophe and "t" for the resulting
"Don't Worry Be Happy," originated by Bobby McFerrin.
In Ashiya when I was visiting Miura-san, we walked by this restaurant. You may have to work at understanding the play on words in the " 't Worry Be Happy" image, but the どん in the sign and noren is pronounced "don" which is short for donburi, a bowl of hot rice topped with a variety of ingredients like cooked chicken and egg (Oyaku donburi) or deep friend pork cutlet (Katsudonburi).  So the owner added the apostrophe and "t" for the resulting "Don't Worry Be Happy," originated by Bobby McFerrin.  Very original, I thought.

I'm amazed at how Japanese take English and make the words their own.  Miura-san and I were coming back from her horse-back riding session and driving into her city of Ashiya.  I noticed a business sign above a big lighted store front that read, "Reform and Gardening." Huh?!  I asked her what that meant and her explanation was that, of course, it meant to fix your house and garden.  So,  I told her that we don't use the word "reform" that way.  We use the word "renovate" or "fix" in that situation.  The word "reform" to us has to do with changing a person's behavior.  Oh, she said...mmm.
Halloween is everywhere in
the stores.

Now I have to talk about Halloween in Japan.  It's become the latest craze for selling food, candy, sweets, desserts, you name it.  They really don't do trick-or-treating and they don't really understand the origins of Halloween, but there was orange and "Happy Halloween" EVERYWHERE.  Even the mayor of Tokyo (a woman!) dressed up in a costume (couldn't figure out what she was supposed to be, possibly Alice in Wonderland).  Halloween lingered on until the first week of November.  Then came Christmas decorations.......  no Thanksgiving in between.

Traditional old-style toilet in Japan.
The next subject is toilets.  Odd and a bit indelicate, I know, but I have to explain.  The traditional old-style toilet in Japan, especially when I arrived as a student in June 1971, was the porcelain toilet set in the ground over which you squatted.  I had made a pair of white pants for my initial trip to Japan as a student and, upon landing at the airport and using the Otearai, I was presented with the toilet in the floor.  I was shocked to say the least.  In all our orientation sessions, they had failed to even once mention the toilet situation.  Well, the only thing I could think of was to take off my white pants and, etc., then pants back on.  Fortunately, my host family in Tokyo had a Western toilet.  But the old-style still exists.  Usually every public restroom features at least one but most are the Western style.  I took this photo in a department store where an elderly woman walked in before me, hesitated a moment looking at the old-style toilet and the Western one, and chose the Western one.
Post offices in Japan are always designated
with the red double lined "T" above them.
Now they also say Post Office underneath.

I had to mail a box of things back home and so walked up the street to the Post Office which is only two blocks away. I'd gone there on my last trip and had already visited once with Mariko-san this trip in order to send a birthday envelope of rabbit cards to friend, Bethany Styer, in Lansing.  As I started to walk inside this time, the automatic doors didn't open.... Shades were drawn.  No lights inside.  So when I got back to Mama-san's she said, "Oh yes.  It's a holiday for the Emperor Meiji's birthday.  So you had good exercise today!"  Lots of people use the post office here for more than mail and stamps, but for Post Office bank accounts.  Evidently you can also use it to withdraw money from an ATM there.

Have you noticed all the English below a lot of the signs?  Japan is preparing for the upcoming summer Olympics in 2020.  This is a country that prepares.  English could be considered its second language.  My friend, Caroline Latham in Okinawa, is teaching English to doctors and nurses at the Nago Hospital because there are so many Chinese tourists and they don't know Japanese and the hospital staff don't Chinese, and English becomes the common language.

"Keitai denwa" is the Japanese for telephone but "iPhone" (of course) for the cell phones almost  everyone carries walking everywhere.  On the train and subway, an entire line of people will be reading or texting on their cells because talking on the phone is not allowed on the trains or subways (hallelujah!) so there's lovely silence or quiet talking only and, therefore, you can hear the announcements of the next station coming.

Texting in Japanese:  you click on the phonetic sound
that matches the first sound in the kanji (Chinese
character) and possible word matches appear above.
You can continue clicking on phonetic hiragana
until the correct word appears above. (Sorry
for the fuzzy picture---we were on the train...)

Once you click on the word match, then the Google
search appears and, just like in the English version,
you scroll down and click on what entry to want,
if any.

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