We're back from Japan! I uploaded all my cell phone pictures on Facebook, so you can go look at them there (it's easier to write captions and stuff on FB). It was really exciting and exhausting! The weather was wonderful. We did so much walking and every night our feet hurt, but it was totally worth it.
I experienced jet lag for the first time. I could sleep fine at night, but I would get super tired around 10 or 11 in the morning (my bedtime in the US?). I was also hungry at the wrong times for the first 3 or 4 days. We're still getting back into the swing of US time. We went sightseeing most of the time, and I think Adam blogged pretty well about that (I link his blog on the sidepanel somewhere).
I also think I have a small understanding of "culture shock." I think it's kind of a weird phrase; it's not shocking that another culture is different, but it is sometimes unanticipated. I tried to read up on culture and etiquette in Japan. This is the big shocker: sometimes books will tell you to avoid doing something, and some Japanese people will do it! I saw a guy wiping his face with the warmed hand towel at a restaurant. Sometimes they don't say "Itadakimasu." Most public bathrooms we saw didn't have special toilet shoes. It was hard to get used to some things and using a squatting toilet was scary for the first time (but I watched how-to videos on youtube so I was prepared). Everyone seemed very stylish and well-dressed; I felt stupid in my jeans and t-shirt. Even mentally ill and disabled people seemed well-dressed. The nice thing about Japan is that they really do try to not embarrass you (unless they're talking about how your chopstick skills are improving). I loved the different uniforms at the hotels and the fact that they still called staff members "concierge" and "bell hop."
Speaking of fashion, crocs are completely different there. I know they are a symbol of anti-fashion here (not quite like these high-heeled Tevas, but almost), but there they actually looked good. They come in non-annoying colors and have a white stripe on the bottom that has a smaller navy stripe in the middle (check it out). They don't have the stupid side holes that just get dust and stuff in your feet. Anyway, I guess you can tell I'm leading up to this, but I bought a knockoff pair in an import store there (~500 yen). ...none of the other shoes in Japan fit me ;; Also, they wear sandals with socks (nice color-coordinated socks, mind you), and it looks good. And I realized that they have a tradition of wearing socks and sandals (duh, kimono shoes. I'm still not a fan of the white sock + black sandal look). They also had wonderful, wonderful socks with lace cuffs that looked formal and were not stockings/tights (I am into any excuse not to wear stockings).
One thing that surprised me was that... I felt like I didn't speak all that much Japanese, and I was surprised by simple things I didn't know (like when the waitress asked us if we had already ordered). The main obstacle to my not using Japanese was probably Adam. He would read things and translate for me. I admit it, I'm lazy! If I can get away with not reading something I won't. This is a bad thing... it led me to buy a fashion training game instead of kanji training game. A lot of games start with 大人 and end with トライニング. So if you're looking for one of those training games, pay attention or you might end up with common sense or geography training instead of what you wanted. Also, most of the people I talked to while I was there understood some English. It probably would have forced me to learn Japanese better if I had been actually speaking it... but I was mostly trying to read a little here and there and kind of surviving.
I bought a ton of video games. DS games: a kanji study aid for the DS (which seems a little hard, even though it says "start from zero"), a Taiko game (drum rhythm game), a Rilakkuma game with mini-games that use rhythmatic patterns, and that Tomodachi game where you make wii-like minis and have your character make friends with them. The Taiko game is by far the most fun without any reading, but the others are also interesting. We also got a Japanese PS2 and some PS2 games, including Princess Maker 4, which is excellent reading practice (usually there is a voice that reads the text which you click through), and is fun as I enjoyed Princess Maker 2. I played it for a few hours this morning. It's a time management kind of stat-cruncher where you direct your adopted half-deamon daughter to go to school or work or take a break (apparently she has to make all the money). Maybe it's not for everyone, but it is just my cup of tea. Boku no Natsuyasumi (My summer vacation) is a little more difficult, because the text goes away after the anticipated reading time, but is still fun. You're a young boy on vacation in some countryside and you can do things like swim around and milk cows.
Along with games we bought some manga (mostly Naruto; I got the first two Yotsuba books and the first three Azumanga Daio, which doesn't have furigana;;). We also bought books. I found a Mameshiba book that is hilarious. We got some storybooks and an excellent Anpanman vocabulary book. Adam found a book that consists entirely of different foods that start with the previous food's ending syllable (I forgot the name for that game). Next time you are over we would love to show you. You know how we love our books. I also bought three stuffed animals (I limited myself!!): Totoro, Scraggy, and a little Cheburashka. Also tons of stationary and some stamps. Basically we decided to take stimulating the Japanese economy into our own nerdy hands. :-) I'm pretty sure I had more to write about, but that's probably enough for now. Later!