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Nabeel Farah


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Tokyo, Japan

After hitting my head on the door frame for the 3rd time I came to the
sudden epiphanous realization of just how immutable the laws of physics
can be. It escapes me how I could have thought that the axioms
governing mass and inertia could possibly allow a door frame to budge after being
bumped by a fleshy object like a head. So was my introduction to the
land of the rising sun and the perilously descending doorframes.

Tokyo was once known as Edo. When the capital was moved from Kyoto
during the so-called Meiji Restoration of 1868, the name was changed to
East capital or
Tokyo. Tokyo is host to fanciful skyscrapers and myriad
Shinto shines where the faithful pay homage to there ancestors. The
lights of Shinjuku and Shibuya seem an order of magnitude brighter than
Times Square. The affluent flaunt their yen at exclusive boutiques in
Ginza. At Tsukiji, the worlds biggest fish market, $23 million
worth of fish are sold each day. The streets of
Tokyo for the most part are
bereft of street signs. Taxi drivers clad in neatly pressed suits and
white gloves navigate their late model lexuses (lexi?) though the vast
labyrinth of avenues and side streets that is
Tokyo's utterly
confusing road system. The cabs are immaculately clean, pure white doilies cover
all the seats, and of course the doors open and close automatically.

The apartments in Tokyo are minimalistic and cramped. Staying at a
traditional ryokan is somewhat confusing at first. Upon entering the
modest edifice shoes are off and slippers adorned. When entering your
particular 8ftX5ft room the slippers are removed. This keeps the tatami
straw mat clean. Indeed the aroma of the tatami straw mat is quite
refreshing. There's more though, when leaving the room to go to the
restroom, slippers are put back on and at the bathroom special bathroom
slippers are worm. Many of the toilets are squat types but some of the
western style toilets here even have heated seats. Oh, and to flush you
pull up on the handle as opposed to down.

Japan is a very clean place with a very progressive attitude toward the
environment. The Japanese have the world's most efficient, if a little
confusing, metro and rail systems. Most trash cans have separate bins
for glass, metal, and paper. And as a final coup de grace I submit to
the reader this ultimate example of just how far the Japanese are
willing to go for the sake of the environment. Working class Japanese
men ( aka salary men) do their part to be ecoconscious by buying
unwashed "RECYCLED WORN CO-ED PANTIES" at vending machines no less
(incidentally Japanese vending machines sell all manner of
goods: beer, cigarettes, porn magazines, soup, hot dogs, and camera film to name a
few). These salary men are likely the same ones who frequent the
numerous, elaborately themed, pay by the hour "love hotels". They
also love to gamble. Smokey pachinko parlors (a game best described as a
cross between pinball, a slot machine, and a video game) lure their
prey  with flashing lights and luminous neon signs. Missing the last train
home after an inebriating night of pachinko madness is no worry for the
salaryman, he need just head to the nearest capsule hotel. These
coffin-like rectangles even offer the guest a mini TV inside

Japan is certainly a land of unabated hilarity. Baseball has become an
institution in
Japan. A visit to a Japanese baseball game is a world
away from going to the ol' ballpark back home in the states.
Throughout the entire game, men in suits and red armbands ritualistically lead
each section in cheer. They bark loudly into megaphones at the fans,
drummers, horns, and cheerleaders in their section. Like frenzied
televangelist zealots they scream fervently at the crowd orchestrating
an intricate series of complex yet incessant cheers, songs, and dances.
Absolutely hysterical. Another rather humorous nugget of Japanese
culture is manifest in the English t-shirts that are all the rage. The
phrases of these t-shirts run the gamut from at best cryptic and
enigmatic, to at worst word salads that make zero sense. A few
examples culled meticulously from many: view good point, demand of you, rock n
bowl, delicacy survivor, and my personal favorite.....we can't see the
world for the trees.


The cities beyond
Tokyo seem to offer much. The city of Nikko in the
Japanese countryside is nestled amongst towering mountains and clear
rivers. The shrines there were pleasantly tranquil. A few more days
here in
Japan......Yokohoma's next and then its on to the chaos of Bangkok,



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