Saturday, August 02, 2008

One free day in Tokyo

Alright, this time it's about one free day in Tokyo.

During our Tokyo trip, on the next day we were given the choice between an optional trip to some landmarks or 'one free day in Tokyo'. I went with the latter. I spent one free day in Tokyo with Saqf. It was Ramadan and I wanted to experience fasting in Tokyo (besides Saqf was fasting, so it would have been unkind to eat and drink infront of him, especially with the insane heat and humidity). So, at night I had suhur on the Tunamayonigiri that I bought with T-sensei.

I woke up early, bid T-sensei 'bye-bye' and 'see you next week in Amman' and left to the station.
I was supposed to meet Saqf in Ueno station at 9, but miscommunication happened and I ended up alone for a couple of hours. So, I figured I'd spend some time inside Ueno Park. Here are some pictures.

Ueno station: Pretty and huge from the inside..

...small and normal from the outside.

Here are a few landmarks in Uenopark:

This is a statue of some famous Samurai guy who did seppaku to himself.


This landmark looks peculiar, so I had to take a picture. I don't know the story behind it or what 'toki wasureji no tou' means. If someone other than google can tell me, please do.

And more stone lanterns! AARRGH!!

And the most famous landmark:

The bench.

This might or might not be the Museum of Western Art, I forgot.

Ueno park is huge and I actually did not plan out my visit to it. I only knew about the National Science Museum and that's what I went for. I did not know about the Zoo and other stuff that I still don't know about. I wanted to go there because my dad's friend told me that in the seventies he went to the national museum while in Japan and saw flat panel TVs. I was like "flat panel TVs in the seventies!" Maybe if I go there I can tell my children later about how I did time travel back in the 2000s!

When I arrived at the museum, I didn't look carefully around and thought there was one entrance, and I saw people (mostly Japanese) lined up and paying to enter and there was all those banners about Aztec and Mayan exhibits. When I went in, sure enough it was an exhibit about Mayan and Aztec civilizations. So I stopped and thought "Why I am I inside a Mayan museum in JAPAN?!!" I was the only white guy there, this alone is testimony that I'm in the wrong place. So, I left the exhibit and although it was not allowed, I took one picture because it described my feelings perfectly at that moment:

So I left the voodoo mumbo jumbo exhibit and went into the permanent exhibits in the upper floors. I saw lots of amazing stuff, but nothing about the future. Maybe the miraikan wasn't open in the seventies I thought to myself sighing. I should have gone to Odaiba instead and danced with Sony's Aibo or Honda's Asimo. :'( Instead I was stuck with these guys:



How so last century and boring!! Annnyways...

So then I met Saqf and we went around Tokyo. We went to many places actually and it was pretty fun. It's fun not to be alone, especially in Tokyo. We went to... let's see: Shibuya, Shinjuku, Shimokitazawa, Komaba and Setagaya, and so on.

IF the internet is to be believed, this is the busiest
crossing in the world, busier than manhattan,
NY and Leister or Picadilli in London.

I also went to Akihabara, which I forgot to mention above. I forgot to mention it due to lack of interest. I just wanted to see what's the fuss about. I'm not crazy about manga, anime, games or electronics (Saqf forced me to buy Zelda for the DS from Yodobashi though!). I also wanted to buy a denshi jisho, but failed.

We then went to Komaba to rest somewhere. Komaba is on one of the sides of Tokyo university, so if you live there, chances are you are smart.

Can you guess what this place is?

If you are a Japanese language student and still can't
figure out this place, you fail miserably!

Right. So we rested for an hour from the crazy heat and humidity outside in Saqf-dono's quarters. This is a place far, far away from visual noise and crimes.

Then it was almost sunset, so we hurriedly went to Shinjuku, where Tokyo masjid is, and we prayed maghreb jama'a there. It was really a refreshing moment for me. First time to go into a masjid since coming to Japan (10 days plus).

I couldn't take a good picture. The trees were in the way.

After the [much needed] spiritual power-up, we headed to Setagaya-ku, to have iftar in Islamic Center Japan. During Ramadan, there was a free iftar every Sunday. How nice and community-like! Actually, I didn't go there only for Iftar. I was planning to go there from the start and insisted on going there. During the trip, i wanted to learn about life in Japan. In addition to that, I had a special interest where our cultures intersect. I was interested in Islam in Japan and how Muslims (Japanese or non-Japanese) live there.

This is the entrance to the Islamic Center Japan.

The Center itself is a shadow of what it used to be. It looks old and rugged inside and out. The reason is the so-called 'war on terror'; I was told there that the Islamic Center was once 40 full-timers strong, now those who stayed are there on a part-time best-effort basis, because they stopped receiving grants and donations after September 11th, because everybody was afraid of becoming suspicious and black-listed. The ICJ guys told me that ICJ didn't receive cash donations since 9/11 and they're spending from their personal pockets. This is all in spite of the good relations the Islamic Center enjoys with the Japanese government and press. While I was there, there was actually a reporter from Yomiuri shimbun interviewing the cook.

Anyways, when we went in, we were lead to the prayer room where the food was placed on sheets on the floor.

Saqf putting the yummy in the tummy after a good day's fasting!

Not only did you have me born in you
but now you're feeding me halal meat in Tokyo.
Thank you Kuwait, I love you.

The food had red meat. I'm really picky when it comes to red meat. If you see me eating red meat, you will really hate me. But at the time I was so hungry that red and white looked all the same to me. I was eating like the cookie monster himself and the f.. ..ooood was delicious!!

So, after the food, I talked a little with ICJ people before taraweeh prayers and they gave me some books and materials (such as the books I talked about here).

After Iftar, we went to Shimokitazawa, which was by far my favourite place in Tokyo. It is packed full of all kinds of shops and full of young people everywhere. We walked around a lot and shopped at the local Muji there and we played taiko no tatsujin in a small game center on the street (awesome, awesome music game). But the best part was a shop called 'Village Vanguard' which is full of mostly Japanese (and some western) popular culture items such as books, manga, clothes and accessories. You'll find all kinds of popular stuff and obscure and geeky stuff there. I got me a kinoko lamp and a mario bros. bonus towel. I also found stuff I was looking for all over Osaka and Tokyo: 8-bit video game motif'd T-shirts
(Pacman, Space Invaders, Mario bros. etc)! But they were all small sizes :( I advice everybody to go there if they find the chance. It's a pleasure just walking around and looking at the things on sale.

Hora! Argeelah in Shimokitazawa.

Why do they always take these things from our culture? Argeelah, belly dancing, etc..
Why don't they take the nice, healthy, meaningful stuff?

Closer look at the argeela flavors available.
Cola? Banana? HONEY? No thanks!

That's all about my 'one free day in Tokyo'. The Tokyo trip was actually three days and we went to Tokyo tower, Asakusa and the Edo Tokyo museum. But I wanted to focus on this one fun day.

Thank you a lot Saqf-dono for taking me around Tokyo. I had a great time.

Next and last time: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (or "Where all the poor jordanian souls stuck in Tokyo didn't go!")