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Today was a sad day, a happy day, a tolerable day, an overwhelmingly hot day, and a relaxing day.
On this day in 1945, U.S. forces dropped the first of two atomic bombs on Japan. The city of Hiroshima suffered massive casualties, as did Nagasaki when it was bombed two days later. Today, Hiroshima has long since rebuilt from the ashes of World War II, and now serves as a beacon of peace. There are still many Japanese people that harbor negative feelings towards Americans for their actions in World War II, but the message that was sent today in Hiroshima was that we must work together to combat this form of escalation.
Even though I was born some 35 years after World War II ended, it was difficult for me to watch the memorial today on the news. In addition to Hiroshima residents of all ages, many children from India and Pakistan were in attendance. Those two nations are allegedly developing nuclear weapons technology to use against each other, which would have devastating effects on both nations. The obligatory reference to the September 11 terrorist attacks was made as a cautionary note that the world is not at peace. Seeing the somber, silent faces of all ages was sobering to say the least.
Despite the sad, quiet nature of the Hiroshima memorial ceremony, today was business as usual throughout Japan. After dinner, I attended the Asagaya Tanabata Festival, one of many such festivals going on around the country. The festival is traditionally characterized by small sheets of paper on which people write their wishes and then hang from plants. This particular festival seems to have been absorbed into the general festival theme, with merchants loudly peddling food, drinks and merchandise to the general public. This traditional one-day festival has been stretched into a five-day capitalistic binge. There were a lot of people drinking themselves stupid on a Tuesday night, too.
Despite the fact that I've "finished" my shopping, I'm always finding more things to buy and more people to buy them for. Stop me before I buy again.
I return to New York on Saturday, August 17, on a flight that leaves Narita Airport at 12:00 PM local time. That means that I'll need to leave the house before 8:00 AM that day to get to the airport and check in. I took the train from the airport to get here on a Wednesday, so I figured that I could just go in the opposite direction on the 17th. Bad idea. Despite the fact that I'm heading towards Tokyo on a Saturday, there are still large crowds of people heading into work in the morning. This leaves me with a few options, as I discussed with my host mother today.
Doable, but a bad idea given all the luggage that I'll be carrying. Because of all the gifts that I've bought, I will likely have four bags versus the three that I brought with me. Given the dangerous congestion on trains already, I don't think I could get in and out of the cars alive.
This saves a transfer, although I will still need to bring my luggage through the busy and massive station to the Narita Express. The morning rush hour traffic is pretty hectic on Saturday as well as weekdays, so we will need to leave pretty early to catch an early train. My host mother said it was okay for her to drive me to Shinjuku, but didn't commit to that option yet.
The "Limousine Bus" costs the same as the train and takes about the same time, but I won't have to lug my bags through a busy train station to get on the bus. Again, because of the morning rush hour, I will likely need to allow even more time for the bus than for the train. Unlike in Pittsburgh, there is no dedicated highway just for buses to bypass traffic to the airport.
A couple of classmates and I were talking about going to a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome before heading for home. What I didn't realize was how fast the games sell out. Tickets for games go on sale the preceding month, so all August game tickets could be purchased starting on June 29. As a result, only general admission tickets are available for the coming series against Hiroshima and Yakult. I might go anyway, if only for the experience. One annoyance: these tickets can't be bought at convenience stores like reserved seats. I have to go all the way to the Tokyo Dome to buy the tickets in person.
As part of a newfound commitment to not suck, the class today started with a series of impromptu one-minute "presentations" on any topic that we wanted. I talked about how Japanese bakeries overuse wrapping paper for single items, despite a supposed commitment to the environment. Other topics in class today included a session with Japanese speakers and small skits on how to do various things. This topic was likely taken directly from class suggestions solicited last week, since one of the common complaints was that we're not learning enough material that we can use in everyday life. The skits were mostly centered around bad acting and the whole class laughing hysterically at said bad acting, but at least they were fun.
I didn't do as bad on the midterm as I thought I had. Solid B all the way.
The record temperature in Japan today was 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) and temperatures were only slightly lower in Tokyo. The heat keeps climbing, as does the risk for heat stroke. Vending machines are pulling in insane amounts of money.
Japan is located at about the same latitude as the southern U.S., although it is slightly cooler due to its proximity to the ocean all across the islands. The weather isn't too much hotter than a typical New York summer, but that doesn't keep me and everyone else in the program from complaining.
Stupid moment number 1: The word "kohibito" completely confused me this weekend. At the Todakoen festival, one of the more attractive ladies in our group asked me if I had a "kohibito," and I responded by asking what the word meant. She just laughed. None of the four dictionaries I checked had anything for the word at all, even after looking up potentially alternate pronunciations. Eventually, I asked one of the program assistants today. She replied that it means "lover." That cute girl on Saturday was asking if I have a girlfriend. I don't. D'oh.
Stupid moment number 2: Apparently I forgot to close the zippered pocket on my camera case which holds my extra batteries. Four batteries fell out of that pocket at the festival this evening, but I only managed to find three. Since rechargeable batteries only come in packs of two and four, and since my camera takes two batteries at a time, I now only have one extra set of batteries. D'oh.
Surprisingly little homework has meant more time for fun stuff like laundry and festivals. It's been a good Tuesday.