Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Keyboards in Japan are a bit wider than in other countries. You have to stretch your right pinky more than usual to reach the "Enter" key. The top row of letters (Q-P) has also been shifted over to the left, which is causing me to press the @ (not Shift+2 in Japan) every time I want a "P". In addition, there are a bunch of confusing keys that I keep pressing accidentally, resulting in spontaneous cascades of hiragana on the screen. (This is far more annoying than the Y/Z position switch on German keyboards, which make me type "reallz" and "zes" and "howdz" when traveling in Germany and also for a week at home afterwards.)

Typing hurdles aside, my family and I are having an awesome time in Tokyo. We woke up at 6:00 a.m. this morning and walked to Tsukiji Shijo, the largest wholesale fish market in the world, where we had sushi for breakfast (definitely an "I must be in Japan" moment) at Daiwa, a restaurant just outside the marketplace. Even at breakfast time, we had to wait for a while in line outside the door before being seated. As soon as the first slice of toro touched my lips, however, I understood the reason.

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One big surprise for me has been the apparent lack of significant historical structures in Tokyo. I was expecting more of the centuries-old-traditional-juxtaposed-against-supermodern that pervades many large cities in Asia and Europe. I suppose this makes sense considering the fact that Tokyo has only been the national capital since 1868, much later than most other Asian capitals. I also learned that half of Tokyo was flattened during World War II air raids.
One historical area that we did visit today was Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine built in 1920 in honor of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shokun. This shrine was also destroyed by WWII bombing but rebuilt in 1958 through public fundraising.

prayer cards

We then headed to Harajuku, the center of Tokyo's anime, cartoon kitsch, cosplay and Lolita fashion subcultures. (Think Victorian England meets Pikachu.) I wasn't sure whether to be fascinated or terrified. Mostly just weirded out. But hey, to each his/her/its/I-don't-know-what's own.