Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Kagehashi Japan (Day 1)

Shinjuku (Hotel, Dining, Arcade)

This summer I am taking part in the JENESYS/ Kakehashi Project - a youth-exchange program between Japan and North America. As part of this trip, a group of 24 students including me will be touring Tokyo and Chiba, and visiting local universities. We were told to keep a blog about our experiences. Because I will be taking pictures of almost every experience, I'll look even more touristy in Japan. (There were times where I had to refrain from taking pics of Japanese vending machines and airline food)

After a grueling 11 hour airplane trip from LAX to Narita International Airport, we were friendly greeted by our host of this trip. It was the first time I had ever had someone holding a sign at the airport - It felt good. Along with Sato-sensei and Mr. Jose Narbona (2 Rice teachers), he will be accompanying us on our entire journey and providing hilarious & honest commentary.

 We took a private bus from Narita International Airport in the Chiba prefecture The scenery became more and more urban, starting from simple idyllic rice paddies to industrial parks to commercial/residential areas like the one shown below. "These farmers are rice people just like us." Ba-dump-chhhh

Our hotel was located in the Shinjuku part of Tokyo, a major shopping center that's popular among locals and foreigners. The streets next to our hotel were riddled with convenience stores, restaurants and small shops. I could always find my way back to the hotel by following this giant orange clock landmark.

Props to the Japanese Government for setting us poor college students up with such a nice hotel in busy Shinjuku. After checking in, we had 45 minutes to explore our surroundings before heading out to dinner!

Our restaurant was located at the 29th story, as part of the NS? building's sky restaurants. Getting vertigo just looking at this picture...

We at a traditional looking tonkatsu, or pork cutlet, restaurant! There were models of the food outside - I LOVE seeing models of the food. America should do it too.

To our surprise, the table was already set for 24+ people when we arrived and the restaurant was booked completely for us. Pictured here is tofu, salad, tonkatsu, fried shrimp, fried cheese/potato croquette and miso soup. It was absolutely delicious and I can see myself getting pretty used to the delicious (and free) food.

With our curfew being 11pm, there was time for all of us to explore the area around our hotel. A couple of the guys and I went to a pedestrian street aligned with shops. I love the lighting and advertisements - even though it was late, there were still so much life out on the streets. Also, I saw school girls...REAL school girls in cute school uniforms!

 On our excursion out, we passed by a SEGA arcade and just had to go in! Austin, the guy pictured above blew about $10 trying to get a fortune cat plushie. There were other UFO machines for Rillakuma plushies, Daikon keyrings, Anime figures etc.

Being super risk-averse, these were my favorite game machines! For just 200 yen, I got this adorable ugly mushroom thing! YAY!

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