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10 September, 2005

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Oftentimes this is the only sign for a train line you may see. No color coding or even an indication of which network it's a part of. Not to mention any explanation of what a "semi special express" could possibly be. Good luck.


Strange Sight Number One. This woman just stands in the train station not moving. And people just pass by like she's not there.


Strange Sight Number Two. A spookily lifelike Colonel at the local KFC.


A capsule hotel which is about the smallest space you can possibly rent.


Note the two dimensional barcodes on this sign. Supposedly you can snap a picture of this with your phone and it gets translated.


Warring pedestrians face off against each other at a major Shibuya intersection while an army of cops prepares to intervene. Seriously, it's just a busy intersection and these cops are on their way to work. No blood was spilled.


Always good to know the rules.


A reminder to vote tomorrow.


Look at the orderly way people line up to get on the train. And if they don't make it onto this one they will simply wait for the next one in three minutes.


The earthquake warning sign in our hotel elevator. So far I haven't even felt a tremor.


On the JR lines, this is one of the two LCD screens positioned above every door. Here it's telling us the amount of time to each upcoming station.


It switches between languages too.


Information on connecting lines is also given. However this doesn't necessarily mean that it's a free transfer. Note that the car number is always prominently displayed.


This is a "part time" no smoking area.


Strange Sight Number Three. A microphone setup behind some bushes on a busy street. Apparently this was being used to study noise pollution. But it was pretty surprising to see this equipment just left out.


This is the Sony district of town. Everything here has something to do with them.


A bank of payphones in the passageway from Shinjuku station.


This is a national holiday that everyone takes very seriously.


Passageways like this are quite common. You can really cover a lot of mileage without ever seeing the street.


A reminder not to walk and smoke.

10 September, 2005

Day 56. Tomorrow is September 11 and I only realized that when I glanced at a calendar. Even though I've been seeing signs everywhere for 9-11, I've been programmed into thinking that this could only mean it's Election Day tomorrow here in Japan. Since I really have no access to American media (or maybe it's more the other way around), it's quite easy to simply not be affected. Not that it's a good thing to forget about what happened four years ago. But it's the way it gets hammered into your head over and over again back home that seems unhealthy to me. So I can almost understand those friends of mine who completely ignore what the mass media is saying. Almost. It's not very smart to not pay any attention. You do need to know how people are being manipulated if you hope to have any chance of combating it.

It took a long time to actually get outside today since I've been putting the finishing touches on the Autumn issue as well as getting next week's "Off The Wall" ready for air and uploaded. This kind of thing would have been so unthinkable for me only a few years ago. I mean, uploading and downloading stuff for the magazine is nothing new. But in places like Mongolia, China, and Siberia? I really didn't expect it to be this easy. Wireless hotspots are the coolest thing since sliced bread. And as for actually recording a radio show on the road each week, being able to add in music, fix sound, and get a broadcast quality version uploaded from wherever I happened to be each week - that's nothing short of a miracle. Of course that miracle likely won't be happening next week on the high seas of the Pacific where I'll be spending ten days so I really have to start thinking about doing another show from Tokyo before I leave here on Tuesday. It can be a little annoying having all of this work to do which means all the less time being a tourist. But it also makes me feel like I'm actually living here which I find to be extremely relaxing. Plus I am seeing and doing plenty. I'm just not racing to do it.

Our hotel has a free shuttle to Shinjuku station which is a really nice thing. It leaves like clockwork several times an hour and you can grab it over at the station if you can figure out where the stop is in the busiest train station in the world. I think I may actually have finally reached that stage in my life. Yes, I'm starting to understand Shinjuku.

So I took the shuttle over to Shinjuku and then took one of the JR lines to meet up with Dave in the Shibuya region. We wound up going to a Mos Burger for lunch which was crowded but pretty decent for fast food which we've both been trying to avoid. But since I still had a bit of work to do back at the hotel I didn't have a whole lot of time for much else. It'll probably be the last time I experience that place in quite a while.

After I went back I looked into getting tickets for the sumo wrestling match tomorrow. It doesn't seem completely impossible so maybe we'll actually pull this off. There are still a couple of listeners who sent us email that I've been in contact with. Hopefully we can meet up with them and maybe somehow I can tie sumo wrestling into this. The time has really slipped away. Ten days or so in Tokyo sounds like a lot but it really isn't. And every day I feel like I understand the place a little bit more. I'm able to move around and do things that seemed incomprehensible only a couple of days ago. Don't get me wrong - I still think the city is utterly insane. But it also seems to be following a certain logic that I'm able to grasp more with each passing day. But of all the places I've visited so far, this feels like the one that goes on for the biggest amount of space and possibly is the most advanced, both technologically and organizationally. Every day I seem to find a new neighborhood and there are so many that I know I won't ever see. Most of the other cities seemed to have some kind of a boundary that was much easier to define.

But probably my biggest complaint about this place other than the unnecessary difficulty attached to some rather simple tasks is the city's homogeneity. It's the same complaint I've had ever since I left Berlin. There just isn't enough diversity among the people. Poland, Belarus, Russia, Mongolia, China, and Japan all are afflicted by this problem or at least what I perceive to be a problem. Japan does appear to have a bit more hope though. For instance, this was the only country of the ones listed above where I even saw a black person. But even with that it feels like there's often only one perspective and I just don't think that's healthy. The resulting nationalism is never a good thing. It does make a population so much easier to control though and I suppose that's one of the reasons why things probably won't be changing in a hurry around here.

Later in the evening Dave and I went to an Italian place that we happened to discover in another neighborhood with more of a youthful feel. It was surprisingly good and authentic even though everyone in the place was Japanese. I only say that because I can't imagine going to a Japanese restaurant where everyone in the place was Italian. But regardless of who's cooking what type of food, the one thing I *really* love is the no tipping policy. It's not like in Europe where tipping isn't mandatory but it's all right to round up the bill a euro or so. Here they don't want you to leave a single plastic yen. If you leave money behind they will run after you because you must have forgotten it. That to me is amazing. It means when they're nice to you they're really being nice and not simply trying to get you to leave a bigger tip. It also means they're getting paid a decent wage. I only hope when I get back to the States I don't stay in Japanese mode or I'm going to be having a lot of angry waiters chasing after me.