Tag Archive: Tokyo lifestyle
This just in (or maybe some of you knew about it?)–Genki Sudo is a famous martial artist in Japan who has now pursued a career in music.
His website says, “Here to wake the world that has fallen into a deep hypnosis. An electricfying performance group which will create a world of its own with a unique style of musical and physical expression.”
This is absolutely *not* an advertisement for the group, but they have a great video that’s worth watching. I thought at first that it was stop-motion, but people are moving in the background.
So, take a break from studying and enjoy!
by Cameron Hempstead
I had a great time studying at KCP. It was a fine program: I met people that I am still in contact with, and my Japanese skills improved a lot. I liked doing what I wanted on the weekends because it allowed me to study Japanese architecture on my own. (I’m an architecture student.) Here are some of my personal excursions.
I went to the Kabuki Theater in a small town with my friend Savi;d we wandered around afterward. We found this Shinto shrine with a lot of torii gates. It was very cool to walk up through all of them, but I got really bad bug bites up there.
This is 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT museum in Roppongi, building by by Tadao Ando. The gallery space is very open and light with Andoʼs use of concrete and glass. It is actually a two story space. (The other story is underground.) I saw an exhibit on how we respond to our physical identity.
My favorite part was a “pool” of finger prints (Individual Attributes: Our Indifference and the Society’s Fixation, by Masahiko Sato). Touching a fingerprint scanner and puts your fingerprint in the pool swimming with the rest of the fingerprints. If you touch it again, your fingerprint comes swimming back to you.
The Undercover Lab, a house for a fashion designer. It in in Harajuku, but it was very hard to find. (As a building-hunter, I spent a lot of time on the trail of these lesser-known sights.) I finally asked people at a little art gallery if they had heard of it. They very nicely looked it up and printed me out a map. I like the giant piece was cantilevered out. This area is the designers studio, and I wonder if it is unnerving to work in a room sticks out rather far. Maybe they got used to it. I would have liked to see it at night; photos Iʼve seen show the light spilling out of the cantilever and the main body of the house.
The Naked House by Shigeru Ban, also very hard to find–a 30 min. train ride to Kawagoe plus a taxi (the most expensive I’ve ever taken–5,000 yen!) We ended up on tiny roads and it just happened to be at the dead end of one. We had thought we were completely lost, and then it just appeared! The outer material is interesting–some kind of composite. You can’t see through it except for one piece of glass on the other side of the front door.
I took the train out to the Yokohama International Port Terminal by Foreign Office Architects (FOA). I had learned of this building in school. The contours are beautiful; grass is used as a seating and waiting area. As soon as I got to the terminal there was a breeze, a nice break from the heat. These ideas are continued throughout the entire building. Even the parking lot underneath continues the themes and details in the building.
I went with my friend Jenny to an ice bar. We went to the Apple store in Ginza to look up its location. It was very cool (literally)–so nice to step into this room completely made of ice and cool down from the heat outside.
My mom came after I finished KCP, and we travelled to other parts of Japan. We went to Miyajima to see the floating torri. We saw it at both high and low tide, which made for an interesting comparison of what everyone else seeks–how it sits in the ground. It was specatcular, hot, and crowded.
We also went to see the Azuma house by Tadao Ando, one of his first projects. His ideas on how we experience nature are well known. The house has a front and a back half with a courtyard in between. To go from one side to the other, you must go outside and experience the seasons. The courtyard is very private–people cannot see in from any of the surrounding houses or from the
street. It took my mom and me three hours to find this house. We asked an old lady for
directions, but we didn’t find it, so she took us to the police station. All of the policemen joined in to help. Luckily one of them had heard of it, so he made us a photocopy of a map, circled its location, and pointed us in the right direction.
The Too Tall Tea House by Terunobu Fujimori, in Chino, Fujimoriʼs home town. I was lucky–I got to meet him. I was able to listen to him speak (although I couldnʼt understand all of what he said). We couldnʼt go up into the tea house, but it was still amazing to see. I can’t believe that it is structurally stable, but Fujimori uses it every day and it hasnʼt fallen over yet. I hope it never does!
Me and Fujimori-san in Chino.
The tea house that Fujimori designed specifically for the exhibit.
Lots of hunting and some spectacular finds.
by Daniel Lambert, Spring 2009
When I first arrived at Narita International Airport I was not yet aware that the city was going to affect me so dramatically. As I and other American students were taking the long train-ride from Narita to Shinjuku, the sun began to set. We took turns trying to read every sign and poster we flew past. Everything was foreign, new, and exciting to us, from the people to the seat cushions.
Alejandro (the guy in red) and I quickly became good friends. We had many adventures in Tokyo before going home, and we still make an honest effort to keep in touch. When we finally arrived in Shinjuku, night was already upon us.
The city seemed to tower over us. It may not look all that special to someone from NYC, but it definitely stood out as impressive to people from the suburbs.
The hustle and bustle in and out of the station overwhelmed all of us, even poor Tanaka-sensei, who might have suffered minor bruising when a man-on-a-mission slammed right into him without so much as looking back, sending Tanaka’s papers flying this way and that. (Don’t worry, this is rare from my experience.) It was in front of this station that we met our homestay families and dorm-mates. I was a homestay candidate while Alejandro shacked up in the dorms. I’m convinced that I got placed with one of the nicest families in all of Tokyo.
The benefits of choosing a homestay are enormous! There’s no better way of learning about a culture than diving right in and completely immersing yourself in it. Living with a family you learn much that you just couldn’t from a book; and best of all, of course, is the connection you make with real people. I love my homestay family as if they were my own. They were very kind to me, took care of me when I was sick, took me on weekend excursions to parks and zoos, and fed me extremely well. (Every night was a feast!)
My first days in Tokyo were confusing, to say the least, but highly adventurous. I must have back-tracked between Nakagami and Tachikawa 5 times before figuring out which train would take me to Ogikubo! And that was just so that I could transfer onto yet another train to make it to Shinjuku. For your first day, if you’re on your own, I recommend you leave very early so that you have time to make mistakes like I did. The American KCP students stuck together in the early days after our arrival. Finding places can be tricky at first, so it’s always nice to have a companion in case you get lost.
You have to buy cell phones early on, so gather up some buddies and go down to Don Quixote to buy some prepaid phones! (Don Quixote is an odds and ends superstore of sorts, where you can find anything from pen and paper to video games and bedroom novelties.) You’ll learn a lot at KCP if you’re dedicated to your studies, so if you know what’s good for you, you’ll do all your homework and study hard for your tests. But that doesn’t mean you should shut yourself in and “isshoukenmei benkyou suru” (生懸命勉強する / study as hard as humanly possible) until your eyes fall out. You’re in TOKYO!
Experience the city while you’re in it. Don’t pass up good opportunities. If your friends want to catch a game of Sumo or picnic at a park, tag along! Some of the simplest day trips became my most memorable experiences. Also, make it a point to make some Japanese friends while you’re there. These friends are invaluable resources on the road to becoming a more fluent Japanese speaker. It’s one thing to learn new material in class; it’s a whole different game when it comes to applying what you’ve learned in real conversations.
There’s nothing like a good house party to break the ice! A lot of young Japanese people can speak English surprisingly well, so don’t be afraid to approach them if your Japanese is not that good. I found that most people were very encouraging of my pursuit to learn Japanese. A native friend will not only help you practice speaking but can also show you hidden parts of Tokyo that you might never have found, making your personal Tokyo experience all the more unique!
Take advantage of the field trips. Some of my friends opted out of a few of the school-sponsored weekend trips, and boy did they ever miss out! The most unique and spectacular photo opportunities presented themselves on fieldtrips like the one to Kamakura and Enoshima. I must have taken 200+ photos per trip. There was so much to see and do! Above, Alejandro is doing an improv-meditation in front of a small waterfall at a Kamakura temple. You’ll get much more than photo-ops though: the simple experience of visiting culturally significant landmarks by teachers who know a lot about them is a great way to deepen your knowledge and understanding of Japan. Trust me: you don’t want to be the one who misses out.
I can’t sufficiently sum up my viewpoints on Tokyo and KCP with a mere 10 pictures and a few paragraphs of text, but I will say that since I’ve come home I have spent more time talking about the things I saw and learned while at KCP than I spent actually living through it all. I find myself wanting to return frequently– to the classrooms, to my friends, to my family and the places we went. I learned more in those 3 months than I ever expected to. Open your ears, your eyes, and your mind: get ready for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. KCP was by far the best learning experience of my life. I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything in the world.
KCP is in majestic Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Although it straddles Tokyo’s western fringes, Shinjuku is in many ways considered the city’s center. The Shinjuku train station is the busiest in the world–more than 3 million entries/exits per day.
The KCP campus is a 5-minute walk from the Shinjuku Gyoenmae subway station on the Marunouchi Line, or a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku San-Chrome subway station on the Toei Shinjuku subway line. (From the Shinjuku Gyoenmae station, take the Ohkido-Mon exit.)
Shinjuku Avenue is lined with tall buildings, shopping complexes, and office structures. The KCP neighborhood, however, is filled with smaller buildings and shops.
Besides the impressive Shinjuku Gyoen (see below). there are a number of small parks close by where you can enjoy a peaceful break. We leave you to find these on your own–a most satisfying discovery.
Shinjuku Gyoen (garden), a 5-minute walk from KCP, is very large and arguably the most beautiful park in Tokyo.
Originally an imperial garden as part of an estate, the garden, now public, contains French formal, English landscape, and Japanese traditional gardens, the latter with a traditional Japanese tea house.
It is a favorite cherry-blossom-viewing site (late March-early April) and also has some spectacular Himalayan cedars.
Also stunning are the neighborhood’s men and women dressed for a night on the town. Nightlife is plentiful, in decidedly Japanese style, especially in the more traditional Kabukicho and Golden Gai areas.
Shinjuku is home to the highest percentage of foreign nationals in Tokyo–a virtual melting pot–and it shows in its patchwork of diverse areas. Shinjuku offers a bit of everything Tokyo has to offer, including places catering to specialized groups. Nishi-Shinjuku is the business district. Shinjuku ni-chome is Asia’s largest and possibly most lively gay district.
Nishi-Ogikubo, at Shinjuku’s north end, is Tokyo’s Korea town, known for authentic, cheap barbecue and greenspace.
What’s in the vicinity?
Shinjuku Station! See more people than you’ve ever seen in one place at rush hour (just after 17:00), standing at the Ginza Sukiyabashi crossing, or crossing the road next to the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station. Clusters of neon lights and jam-packed high-rises extending into the horizon–portent of the future?
Yotsuya Library is the closest to the KCP campus–a 5-minute walk.
And while we’re at it, the Shinjuku City website is a great source of info about the district.
Get to KCP from Narita International Airport via the Airport Limousine Bus–convenient and inexpensive if you aren’t familiar with the railway system in Japan.
The 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku has two free observation galleries with views of Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, and Yokohama.
You can get to Waseda Cosmic Sports Center by taking the number 4 bus toward Waseda from the bus station outside Shinjuku Station’s west exit.
The Shinjuku Sports Center is a also nearby.
From a KCP student–”Once you know Shinjuku, I recommend a place called Yoshinoya for lunch. You would not believe how much money I saved there by eating cheap.”
Kinokuniya Bookstore, main branch, is in Shinjuku. Take the east exit at Shinjuku Station. The Kinokuniya branch at Shinjuku Takashimaya Times Square (Shinjuku Station south exit) has one of the largest selections of English books in Tokyo, plus books in European languages.
With all this ambience, would you believe that KCP, in a great part of Tokyo and with one of the most highly rated academic programs available, is also one of the most reasonably-priced? Well, it is. More on this soon.
The winter quarter (spring semester?) has kicked off and the work is piling up. When you need a break, instead of playing Minesweeper 20 more times or losing yourself in Facebook Chat, try some of these links (from At Home in Japan. You may even learn something that moves you forward in your larger goals.
This web surfing installment is on sites about everyday life.
Know before you go, the mechanics of living in Japan, by a teacher at Fukuoka’s Seinan University.
The nitty-gritty of getting yourself set up in Japan (including Something Completely Different), by Andy and Hitomi Grey.
Ed Jacob’s Quirky Japan
Cool places that almost nobody visits, the honest photographer, SAQ/seldom asked questions, odd shops, vending machine heaven, quirky Japan index full of unsettling statistics–the number of schools that teach unicycle riding, etc.
What’s Normal in Japan?
Vote on “do you wash your hands in the stream of water that comes out of the toilet tank?” “At what age does a person become middle-aged?” “What flavor of ramen did you order most recently?”
Compilation of English glitches in Japan and everywhere else.
Beyond amateur travel diary, a well-designed site with intriguing essays on love hotels, a snow festival, and so on. Great images too.
The Way We Are
My favorite of this set of links: photo essays from many Japanese high school students, 5 photos apiece; read between the lines. Love how kids think. Bilingual.
The ultimate way to end a web surfing session–a list of links! A comprehensive list of online guides.
Now, mind reeling, you’re ready to go back to the safe tedium of work!
Coming soon–sites about study, daily living, and travel.
My curiosity was aroused by an NPR story.
For a long time, the Japanese have endured crowded transportation, cities, and living space. But in recent years, Japanese architects have turned necessity into virtue, employing parking-space-sized lots into livable homes.
And it’s catching on elsewhere, too. Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed Tiny Houses are from 65 to 837 square feet.
Here’s a tour of one of Jay’s tiny houses. Some are kits you can build yourself.
This Beetle’s House was designed by Terunobu Fujimori to house a Japanese Tea Ceremony.
A house in Paris, another city that doesn’t have much space:
This “tiny house in a plum grove” by architect Kazuyo Sejima is actually a high-end house in Tokyo.
And for the winner in the “how low can you go?” category, tiny hotel capsules, originally created 20 years ago as inexpensive lodging for those who missed the last train home–6 1/2 ft. deep, 5 ft. wide, no standing room. They are now the homes of last resort for Tokyo’s jobless. Pretty creepy, how comfortable they look.
photo Ko Sasaki for The New York Times
The KCP program offers two choices for lodging while studying. One is a dormitory and one is a family homestay. Here’s a rundown of the choices.
Here you have a daily opportunity to practice language, as well as connecting with Japanese family life and traditions. Meals take place in a family setting; you can take trips with your family, bond with the “siblings,” and establish a close, long-term relationship with your family. It’s a great option for younger students.
On the down side, you’ll find less free time in your schedule. Of course, helping out around the house is vital to being a member (however temporary) of the family. Because KCP chooses its hosts carefully and there is a great demand for homestay, if you are attending KCP for multiple semesters you can choose homestay for only one semester.
Students are placed in several dorms, depending on availability and demand, in the greater Tokyo area. The dorm is a great place to meet other young people, some from schools other than KCP. (Schools in Japan have different dorm arrangements than here in the U.S.–you will likely share the dorm with students from other schools as well as some KCP students.) You have a private room and more freedom. Some dorms have full kictchens so you can make your own meals; some don’t.
A student cafeteria is usually available, as well as vending machines, public phones, and a coin laundry. Meals are not included in the program cost, but utilities and bed linens are included.
Clearly, you won’t have exposure to family life in a dorm. Dorms in Japan are generally more restrictive than dorms in the U.S.
Both homestay and dormitory lodging are likely to have curfews. This is a significant difference from college life in the U.S., but it’s not all bad. It encourages you to get back to your digs in good time for a little studying, on a regular basis.
Whether you live in a dorm or stay with a family, you may find that you have a significant commute into school. (Remember the famous Tokyo commute?) This can be an unpleasant surprise at first, but the reality is that a commute can be an opportunity to drill yourself on Japanese hiragana/katakana.
A local transportation pass between your lodging and school is included in the program cost when class is in session for both dorm and homestay students.
Here are some photos from the students in Tokyo at KCP International. They cover 2 events–making chicken curry and the Tanabata festival.
We all love curry, so this is a good dish to learn. We’re cutting vegetables here–something most of us have done before.
Cooking rice is not as simple as you’d think. The Rice Master bestows his wisdom on us.
The best part is eating the curry. We all went back for more, and there was none left when we were done.
Tanabata (七夕, Evening of the seventh) is a Japanese star festival. It celebrates the meeting of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair). Legend says the Milky Way, a river of stars, separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
The celebration is held at night. People write their wishes on a piece of Tanabata paper (strips of colored paper) and hang them, usually on long bamboo branches.
This student’s wish is a secret! (Are all wishes secrets? Are all secrets wishes?)
Okay, it’s certainly a matter of opinion. But this is at least a place to start.
Here’s a short list of must-see museums in Tokyo. Note that most museums are closed Mondays.
Tokyo National Museum
The world’s largest collection of Japanese art. Comprehensive collection of the invaluable cultural properties of Japan and other Asian countries.
Trains are the big feature. Real life exhibits include Imperial carriages and Japan’s first steam locomotive. Nautical, automotive, and aerial exhibits as well.
Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
Collections by contemporary Japanese artists’ groups whose works include oil paintings, traditional-style Japanese paintings, sculptures, crafts, graphic designs, and calligraphy. Special exhibitions as well.
National Museum of Western Art
An impressive collection of Western art. The main building was designed by Le Corbusier. Focus on Rodin and the French Impressionists.
Kanto Earthquake Museum
Housed in a temple, this museum holds exhibits that survived the disastrous 1923 Tokyo earthquake and charts the occurrence of earthquakes in the Tokyo area. Free! (photo August Kengelbacher)
Fukagawa Edo Museum
A hauntingly authentic recreation of a whole block of Edo’s waterfront neighborhood, several hundred years ago. Leave your shoes at the door and step up into 17th-century Japanese life. It feels as if the people had just stepped outside for a minute.
Natural Science Museum
General scientific displays plus origin of Japanese people and technology.
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
Largely contemporary photography collections; includes computer generated graphics.
Meiji Jingu Treasure Museum
Near the Meiji Jingu Shrine and Gardens. Displays items that belonged to Emperor Meiji, who laid the foundations of modern day Japan.
For more on these top museums (hours, directions, contact info), check upcoming entries into the KCP weblog.
For more on museums in Japan, see our website.
Anyone who lives, works, or goes to school in Tokyo knows about the Tokyo commute. It’s world-famous–quirky, long, full of light. Of course, a lot of other big cities–New York, Boston, Chicago, London, Paris–have long commutes as well. A commute of an hour or two each way is common in Tokyo, though KCP strives to place students in dorms or homestays with commutes of 60 minutes or considerably less. Some dorms are quite close to the school.
KCP students have provided wise tips for making the best of it–using the time to memorize kanji, going into the women-only cars and studying more comfortably, “working” their hiragana/katakana flash cards, and so on. Though talking on cell phones is discouraged, texting is ubiquitous. In such a long commute, the crowds are amazingly kind (though pushy when trying to make that train).
And here are some interesting thoughts on the commute itself: the ultimate hive-mind.
Matthew Messmer on VEWD
Messmer‘s striking photo essay on vewd.org (a fascinating online documentary magazine) examines the commuting experience.
Tokyo Subway Dynamics
The writer of this piece on links.net, though unidentified, had creative, interesting things to say about benefits of the Tokyo subway plus fun photos.
Fun snooze shots in this photo-essay from someone who calls himself “Born to be Wild.”
A collection of great tips from VirtualTourist–how to navigate the subway, tips for switching stations, ease of use. Sorry about all the ads.
A fine tribute to the Tokyo Underground on the Harvard Crimson, by Kerry Goodenow.
From the “Are You Chindogu” movement (more about that later), here are a couple of inventions to help in the commute:
A hat for holding her head as she sleeps.
The chin rest, for sleeping standing up.
The official Tokyo Metro site comes in English if needed and is a great resource.
And we leave the final word to the montlhy “Metro Manners” posters. Countless folks have enjoyed making up their own captions to the posters and pitching them into the internet.