First Week in Japan

On Wednesday Professor Bates took our group on a day-long walking tour of Tokyo. We visited the metropolitan building in Shinjuku and then went to the Shinjuku Goyen before walking through Harajuku and the Meiji Jingu. All over the city there are signs of the city’s preparedness for natural disasters, particularly earthquakes. For example, many bridges have been either constructed or retrofitted such that they will shake with the ground in the event of an earthquake and will not collapse nearly as easily as standard structures. Skyscrapers such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building we visited in Shinjuku are also built to withstand earthquakes. The Metropolitan Government building, in particular, is designed so that every chunk of ten floors will shake independently so that the building will not collapse.

Another striking thing about Tokyo is how clean it is. There was hardly any trash scattered around the city, thanks to the legion of workers constantly cleaning up litter and performing other janitorial duties. Even regular employees of businesses are made to clean up the premises in the morning, making every block of the city free of any loose trash or debris.

Yesterday we went to the fish market around very early in the morning and saw all kinds of seafood. We went to an authentic sushi restaurants and I tried so many foods I had never had before like Eel, Octopus, Sea Urchin, and Squid, and to my surprise I enjoyed everything that was put in front of me (with the exception of the Sea Urchin). After that, we explored the city a bit more, visiting a disaster preparation center, where we took part in a simulated earthquake and its aftermath and learned about the best survival techniques in the event of a massive earthquake, and the Tokyo Edo Museum, a museum specializing in the history of the city of Tokyo. In the evening we went to a university in the outskirts of Tokyo and talked to some students about their experiences with the earthquake in 2011. Their firsthand accounts of what happened were very insightful and we learned so much from them. After that we went out to dinner with those of them who could come with us as well as their professor which was an amazing experience. We learned more about Japanese culture and society just from talking with them over dinner than any lecture could . Hopefully we can get back together with them when we’re heading back through Tokyo on our way home next week.

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