Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Well I am sure you are wondering what Washoi means. So, let me hit you up with the story but 1stI will fill you in as the day went from beginning to end so the answer will come but not until you read a little.

Here I was walking down the street in my neighborhood, Shinkawa, in downtown Tokyo. It was Saturday morning and I was on my way to see Noriko my good friend from Emporia State University. She had agreed to take me to Kamakura, a beautiful little city South of Tokyo on the Eastern coastline. I was running late and was not sure where I was going. But I had a good map. As I got close to tuning the corner I noticed four girls and a man walking and taking pictures. The girls were dressed in some kind of traditional dress and so was the man. So I took out my camera to take a picture. Before taking it I was interrupted by the gentleman saying, "Hey, are you a tourist?" My reply was, "No, I just moved here and live there" pointing to my new place. He was surprised and then asked me another question. "Do you want to participate in our celebration tomorrow?" HELL YEAH, I thought but replied with, "Sure, that sounds like a great time, what do I need?" He told me I would need to get some traditional dress for men and then all would be fine. But, he needed to ask the elders first. He approached them and they looked at me, smiled and said in Japanese, "He will need the proper clothing and shoes" AJ, the man I met asked, "Can you meet me back here at 5?" I knew i could so I got his number and off I was to meet Noriko.....late still as I mentioned.

So, I get to the Tokyo station and after wondering around in a huge place full of people I find Noriko. We catch a train and head off to Kamakura. Now let me set up how this place looks. It was a hot and humid day like always in August. This humidity is nothing I have felt before. Now, you know I am from Kansas and it gets humid and hot. I've been to Houston and it still is not even close. New Orleans.....closer but not the same. We take the air conditioned train to the town stop and walk a see the temple that hold one of the two giant Buddha in the area. We walk up several stairs looking at ponds, trees, caves and shrines. Some shrines dedicated to children lost during the pregnancy and other shrines dedicated to money and wealth or safe driving.

We arrive at the top of the hill and there is this beautiful temple holding and amazing Buddha. I couldn't talk any photos of it because it was not allowed but it was huge. 30 to 40 feet high and bright, shiny gold. Amazing! We looked toward the coastline to see the people on the beach and then headed down to get some food.

We continued on to our next spot and that was another shrine with a larger Buddha and outside for all to see. This time I was allowed to take photos. I was even allowed to climb inside, which was a bad idea. Remember I said it was hot and humid....well inside that place it was about 20 degrees hotter and 20% more humid. Making it about 125 degrees felt like that. So got the frick out of there. I stopped at the local gift shop and picked up a key chain for my new place and we headed down the road to the next stop.

This time we were off to meet some friends in Kawasaki. My friend Noriko wanted me to meet some local friends to spend time with after she went back to L.A. We had a nice time drinking and talking. I practiced some Japanese with the kids and then had to get back to meet AJ.

Train ride back alone and there is AJ waiting for me. This time I am on time. I didn't want to miss getting the clothes for the festival. So, to hurry things up......I got the clothes...found the size 13 shoes and was set. This is what I got to wear. But there is more!!! AJ decided to take me out to dinner with his 2 daughter and two of his work colleagues. Which I think they want me to try and date. But that is another story. They took me to a traditional Japanese place not far from my apartment. You get to sit and cook your own food on a large teflon grill. It was very good and so much fun. Part of the traditional meal is that the women pour the drinks for the men. So I held out my glass and it was full again with beer. ( Video coming)

The Omikoshi (portable shrine) needs to begin to move at 6:00am. I woke up at 5am and went down for some sticky rice and some soup to begin the day. I was told I needed lots of energy for carrying the 1,500 pound Omikoshi. It had four 20 ft poles attached to the bottom of the omikoshi. It would take about 40 men to carry this thing for 18 kilometers. That's about 12 miles. We began the march at 7:00 and walked in short, tiny steps saying with men blowing whistles to keep the rhythm. WASHOI! (beep,beep) WASHOI! (beep,beep) for 13 hours. Yeah 13 hours. Now, I didn't carry it the whole time but I bet I was under the poles supporting the massive weight of the omikoshi for have the time if now more. I can remember seeing 3 sets of people leave while i stayed marching. You can't put the shrine down to switch people. You look for the sad, tired face and make eye contact. He jumps out and you jump in. This goes on all day long.

This festival was known as the water Omikoshi Water Festival with 57 shrines. We had 400 people in our group. There were 56 other groups this size, smaller or even bigger. The festival is only the third largest in Tokyo. The Omikoshi is marched around town to cleanse and wash away the bad spirits. People are everywhere lined up and down the streets waiting to throw water on us. The festival only happens once every three years. So I was very lucky to participate and I was one of only 3 gaijin (foreigners) that I saw. But, I didn't just get to carry the shrine peacefully. We stopped, spun it around and shook it up and down, up and down and up and down again then held it high above our heads while people plashed us with water and firemen sprayed us with streams of water 50 feet high. Needless to say, I could not bring a camera so I don't have pictures, but AJ did make a video that is an hour long. He also has some pictures and I will get them on here as soon as I can get them from him. His camera was waterproof so they are some fun pics.

How did I feel, you may ask? Unbelievable is all I can say. I had be thrown into the Japanese culture feet first. I have not had not had that much fun in a long time. After it is all over we go back to our shrine put it down and take a break at Noon. Then go back for another 5 hours after a 30 min lunch break.

Finally when all over and the shrine is put away to dry.....WE DRINK BEER!!!! I met some great people. Maki, Hero, Baxter and others. We talk and sing and have a good time. The locals saw me and were happy I was there. They welcomed me into the community and I was proud and honored to have been apart of their traditional and sacred festival that has gone on for more than 300 years. Thank you, AJ for asking me to be apart of you family's celebration.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tokyo Update

I have been in Tokyo now for 10 days. I have spent a lot of time looking for items to fill my small apartment and make it livable before my things arrive from Warsaw around the 25th of August. So, that means at least 10 more days without my bed and my things. However in the meantime I have found ways to keep myself busy.

I went to a area pub called the Hoggobblin to enjoy the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The place was packed and filled with people of all nations. Several times in the evening people would scream out as their countries flag entered the Birds Nest. It was an amazing display and the Chinese put on a wonderful show.

I have learned to my great pleasure that Tokyo is very easy to get around in and is much smaller than I expected. With all the great subway system it is easy to go from one side of the city to the other in a very reasonable amount of time. The first few times I was on the trains there were not that many people and I did not see what the big deal was about. However, after a few more trips and a couple more days out in the city I soon saw why it is important to be rude and pushy when trying to exit. The cars are packed for a people. Not so much that I have seen the people with the white gloves push others in but I have seen doors close on people and need to be pulled out before leaving. It is definitely something that you don't want happening to you. Because if you get pulled out everyone yells at you for delaying the train and you lose face. Which in Japan losing face is the worst thing that can happen to you.

Walking the streets you see lot's of people and lots of skyscraping buildings. Everywhere you look there are people and rarely are you alone on the streets of Tokyo. The city is amazingly clean and very orderly. Very rarely do you see drivers behaving like idiots. Unlike other countries I have lived in. I don't have to worry about crossing the street because when it is the pedestrians turn to cross the cars don't try to rush through the lights to get ahead.
On the streets you see some amazing fashion styles and some quite boring styles as well. Most businessmen only wear white shirts with black pants.
Last Sunday I did have a chance to be a tourist for most of the day. I visited Asakusa-Jinja, one of Tokyo's most important matsuri which is known as a portable shrine. This place was packed for of people. There were several shops selling item, food and drinks. Besides the obvious attempt to exploit the shrine and make money people were there to pray and to purify their spirits. It Japan there are many places to clean you aura. So, I decided it was a good idea to do it as well.
While at the shrine I decide to get a Fortune for myself. I took this brass can and shook it as hard as I could until a stick came out of it. It was No.16 which was written in Japanese. So I had to look up the symbols to find the right box but, luckily an old japanese pointed out where my special Fortune Box was located. I opened the box an pulled out a paper. Initially I saw the words written in English, No. 16 GOOD FORTUNE. This is what I wanted. Because it is possible to get a BAD FORTUNE. If so you must fold it up and hang in on a wire, tree, branch or anyplace to get rid of the BAD FORTUNE. Here is a young woman hanging here BAD FORTUNE. Now since I did get a GOOD FORTUNE I think it is good to share it with you. My Fortune read as follows:
"Repent what you've done so far, and you should hope again. Then you will find happiness in future with a help of you seniors, everything will go well you'll be satisfied with better position and wealth.
*Your wishes will be realized.*A Sick person will recover.*The lost article will be found.*The person you are waiting for will come.*Building a new house and removal are good. *Making a trip is good.* Marriage and employment are both good."

So I got all that going for me!

Talk soon

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tokyo Dream

I have made it to the land of the rising sun. I am here and loving it. It is everything and more than I expected. People are everywhere and extremely friendly. Constantly wanting to please you and make you feel welcome. I have only spemt time with the two people helping me find my apartment and dealing with people when purchasing items. And they all are are amazingly polite.

I will get into the night life as soon as possible. Most likely tonight. So not much to say about that...yet. However, the area I am staying now is called Roppongi and is considered the most expensive part of Tokyo. Many Ex-pats (ex-patriots are people who live and work outside their home me) live and work in this area and the Japanese have marketed this area around us. Feeding off of our desire for fancy things, fine wines, beers, food, women and the knack for spending money.
My school is located in this area and I will be down here for some time. Women I work with seem to think the street with all bars for foreigners is a scary place to be. One said to me, "you won't catch me walking down here alone at night".
I went there and it is just a street with bars. She said people try pulling you into the places and I saw nothing of the sort while there. But I understand it is different for women as I have be told many times.

Now I am sure some of the readers are wondering about the women and men of Japan. Yes, they are shorter than me, mostly and i do stand out. Yes, the Japanese women are very beautiful and i do find them very attractive. Are they prettier than the Polish women? Is that what you were going to ask me next? Well, some are and some can't compare. How is that for being diplomatic? But over the next few days, weeks, months and years I will have updates.

Around the city you will see lot's of things to will remind you of English lifestyle. Photos of superstars, buildings, popular companies and name brands. This city is a major metropolitan area. With a local Tokyo population of 12.3 million and a surrounding population including all suburbs is rolls in at a shattering 35,600,000 people!!!! Can you imagine that? You can go the rest of your life without seeing the same person twice if you want, and this is just including the Tokyo area. NOT the rest of Japan.

My apartment I have selected is in an older part of Tokyo. It located on the river close to a famous fishermen's area. The view off the balcony and out my window is amazing. I can't wait to wake up with a cup of coffee and sit with some new friends at night overlooking the lights and water. What do you think? It is going to be a great place. Now, I need my things to arrive from Poland. My shipment was delayed leaving Gdansk and left 10 days after scheduled time. So instead of arriving will be here on the 21st instead. Yet, will not be delivered to my new flat until the end of August. So that means I need to buy a new bed for the guest room to use. I will get a nice relaxing chair and desk for that guest room. Hoping to make it very bright and colorful for you to relax in when you come to visit.

Well that is enough for now. Here I am living The Tokyo Dream. It has just begun!

The rain is coming so i have to get off the corner. Can you see it?

Check back soon for update...i will be waiting for your replies