Solving Problems in Tokyo

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Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Saturday, August 27, 2011

This is a special blog entry, since I am not currently in China. On the 24th I caught a flight from Shanghai to Tokyo in order to solve some visa issues. These last few months in China I have been using a tourist visa, but now that I'm about to start classes I need to switch to a student visa. Unfortunately the university was not going to help me with this and informed me to figure it out myself. I was afraid that I would have to go back to America to change my visa, since the Chinese government sometimes requires this from foreigners. Either way I needed to leave the country before the 31st when my duration of stay would end.
I had a couple options. I could have gone to Hong Kong, which technically counts as international even though it is part of China, Seoul, where I don't speak the language or have any friends, and Tokyo, where I don't speak the language but have a lot of friends. While Hong Kong would have been a few hundred dollars cheaper, I don't have any friends there so I decided on going to Tokyo. Seoul wasn't really an option, since it would have been insanely difficult to accomplish my goal.
Throughout my time in Japan I have stayed with three different people and had a whole lot of fun. When I first arrived I was met at Narita airport by my friends Masa and Cerica, two students who had studied at my university. Later that night I met up with Emi, the friend I would be staying with for the first two nights. On my first full day in Tokyo Emi helped me find the Chinese Embassy, which is located in Roppongi district. Submitting my application was really painless and only took about 15 min. In the afternoon Emi and I went to Harajyuku, a major fashion shopping district. The area is famous for some of the fashion styles that are distinctive of the area. It's not uncommon to see people wearing crazy outfits that you would never see anywhere else, such as girls dressed up as dolls. If you've ever heard that Japan is crazy, Harajyuku will enforce that belief. It is also really crowded, but that doesn't really phase me now that I've lived in China for a while.
On my second day in Japan I had to return to the Embassy to pick up my visa. In the afternoon I went to a district called Ueno, where I would meet Emi's friend, with whom I would be living that night. Since I had a long time before I was supposed to meet them I wandered around the area. Seeing a famous shopping road and one of the biggest parks in Tokyo. After getting lost somewhere around the park I finally stumbled upon a temple I had been looking for called Raneiji Temple. This temple served as the Tokugawa family temple during the Edo period, so I was interested in the history. More importantly to me, I wanted to see how much it would differ from the many temples I had seen in China.
While the architecture is obviously different, the other aspect that I noticed is the peacefulness. Chinese temples are filled with people, who are not on their best behavior. From the Japanese temples I've seen, there are less people, but even when there are visitors they follow a much stricter set of expected behaviors.
Amazingly the next person I was staying with lived in Knoxville for a month last year, so we had a lot to talk about. He and his family were all very nice.
On the morning of the 27th I met another friend of mine named Yumi, who was going to show me around a nearby city called Kawagoe, where Tokyo International University is located. TIU is the school that sends about a hundred students to my university every year. In Kawagoe we went to a temple where the second successor of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Iemitsu was born.
I have really enjoyed my time here in Tokyo and want to thank everyone that has helped me out. I have certainly learned a little more about myself from these last couple days. I feel that Tokyo is a fantastic place. It is clean and efficient. The people are polite and nice. It is much more pleasant than China in almost every way. However, for some reason I feel even more out of place here than I do in China. This might just be because I am more used to life in China, or possibly because the endless flaws I see in China make it more endearing to me. Either way I will certainly be returning Japan in the future. I will need to improve my Japanese in the meantime though.
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Wen Laoshi on

You look very cute in that photo. I wish Nanjing keeps your glamorousness.

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