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Friday, September 24, 2010

東京 (とうきょう) - Tokyo

Big brother to 大阪 (おおさか - Osaka) and perhaps one of the most recognisable elements of Japan, 東京 sits unapologetically on its throne as Japan's capital and largest city. The metropolitan part of 東京 is a self-named prefecture in itself, but the greater 東京 area straddles three other prefectures and is home to more than 35 million people; on average, about 2500 of them are packed in per square kilometre.

If you're anything like me, the first two things that will come into your mind when you arrive in 東京 will be "people" and "buildings". Let me show you why.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

学校の生活その4:授業 (がっこうのせいかつその4:じゅぎょう - gakkou no seikatsu sono yon: jyugyou) - School Lifestyle 4: Classes

Unfortunately, school is more than just food, school events and club activities; the students do occasionally have to attend 授業. That's not to say it isn't interesting - if you do find yourself in a Japanese 教室 (きょうしつ - kyoushitsu - classroom), you'll probably find it's quite a novel experience. From the structure and the day to day rituals all the way to the final destination, 授業 is quite a different beast to what we're used to at home. Given that a standard classroom has 40 students squeezed into it, this is probably born of necessity!

Let's find ourselves a desk and see firsthand.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

ごみ (gomi) - Rubbish

One of the first things I always hear from people who come to visit Japan is "where are all the bins?". It's true enough - at home there's a bin on every corner, whereas you can walk for kilometres here without ever seeing one. The second thing I hear is "why isn't there rubbish everywhere?"; you would think that if there were no bins to be found, people would just give up and throw things on the ground. Not so - people diligently carry their bottles, wrappers and cartons around until they find a コンビニ (konbini - convenience store), which will usually have ごみ箱 (ごみばこ - gomibako - rubbish bins) out the front.

So why are there no bins and where is all the rubbish? The answers might be more interesting than you think.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

お盆 (おぼん) - Obon

お盆 (or just 盆 - ぼん - Bon) is a Buddhist festival that happens during the middle of Summer across the whole of Japan. Similar to Mexico's Day of the Dead, it's a time where people's ancestors are said to return to the world of the living. It's also one of the busiest times of year to travel, with thousands of travellers returning to their families for the occasion; if you wanted to experience being pushed on to a crowded train firsthand, お盆 would be a very good time for it.

So what is お盆 and what does it involve, exactly? Let's find out.