A Look at Edo Castle, Japanese Politics and Imperial Power

The north entrance of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace (originally called ‘Edo Castle’) is accessible via a bridge, spanning a large moat.

Tokyo is Japan’s capital city, the world’s largest metropolitan area, and also the center of political and imperial power in Japan. Japan is a constitutional monarchy, which means that they have an emperor and a constitution. This is different from England, where there is a monarchy (The Queen), but no written constitution, or America, where we have a constitution but no King, Queen or Emperor. The Emperor and imperial family of Japan, however, have very little real power. Instead, most important decisions are made by Japan’s prime minister and members of the Diet, which is like the U.S. Congress – elected officials who represent regular citizens.

While the emperor may have lost much of the power that the title once held, he has not lost the traditional home of the imperial family: Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, a piece of history located in the heart of modern Tokyo.

The Imperial Palace  moat, as seen from the bridge at the  north entrance.

In November 1868, the imperial family relocated from Kyoto (which literally means “Old Capital” in Japanese) to what was then called Edo – now modern-day Tokyo. Edo Castle – now known as 皇居 (Koukyo – “imperial residence”) – has largely been destroyed and rebuilt throughout the centuries, due to fires and earthquakes, but within the outer walls one can still see some of the original castle walls. Walking on walls built hundreds of years ago, by people who shaped Japan’s history, was an experience that I’ll never forget.

Visitors take a close look at the original Edo Castle walls, now located inside of the Imperial Palace, along with a public park.

This process of destruction and re-building is a common theme throughout Japanese history, especially in Tokyo, which has seen wars, bombings, earthquakes and fires. Because Edo (old Tokyo) was built entirely from wood and paper, fires were serious business – In 1657, one fire burned for three days and killed more than 100,000 citizens of Edo.

The area that now survives as the Imperial Palace East Gardens is where Tokugawa Ieyasu originally began construction of Edo Castle, around 1600. Altogether, 3,000 ships were required to haul all of the stone used to build up the castle walls and fill the moat.

A view of modern Tokyo, as seen from the top of Edo Castle’s surviving original inner walls. Earlier, we saw a group of visitors looking up at the side of these walls, from the outside.

The castle was built of wood and stone, facing Edo Bay on one side, so that it would be more difficult to attack. The castle’s design also tells us a lot about how Japanese government worked at this time – inside the castle’s inner walls lived Ieyasu and other top government officials. In the outer walls lived the samurai, who defended and served them, and in the outer reaches of the city (then called the “low city”) lived merchants, craftsman and common people. Do you guys have any ideas about why Portland might have been built and organized the way that it was? Often the way a place is built tells us about why people built it and what they planned to do.

This guard house, located inside of the outer castle walls, is where samurai who served political leaders once lived.

Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had the castle built, is a very important figure in Japanese history. He ruled from only 1600-1616, but in this short time he created what was called a shogunate system of rule, and his Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan for more than 200 years. This shogunate was a system of feudal rule, which also existed in a different form in Medieval Europe. In Japan, Daimyo ruled each region, taxing merchants, samurai, and various other classes. The Daimyo then paid taxes to the Shogun, who held all of the actual power, even while the Emperor was “officially” in charge. Because this system has strict divisions between different classes of people, life was hard for the lower class. However, this system brought Japan its longest period of peace in centuries. For more than 200 years Japan had peace under Tokugawa rule, after centuries of bloody civil wars.

The system of rule that Tokugawa created was, in fact, highly influenced by Chinese Confucianism, which also emphasized the dividing of classes based on “natural laws of heaven.” The classes were samurai, farmers, artisans and merchants. The samurai class was on top, and weren’t only the protectors and guards, but also the rulers and emperors.

A statue of Tokugawa Ieyasu, located near the Imperial Palace and close to Tokyo Station.

One way that peace was maintained during this period was through something called “Sankin Kotai” which means “alternate attendance.” Every other year, each Daimyo, had to make a trip to Edo and live there for one year. How did this help to keep peace? Travel was hard and expensive back then, and it kept them too broke to ever have enough money to overthrow the government. During this time, Daimyo were also required to have some of their family members live in Edo, at the Imperial Palace – while these people would have lived a nice palace lifestyle, enjoying arts and leisure, they were essentially hostages, meant to keep the Daimyo doing what the Shogun wanted them to do.

Recently, I attended a traditional Japanese kyogen performance, at the National Noh Theater house. This is the same kind of entertainment that people living in the palace would have appreciated at the time. Kyogen (which literally means “wild words”) is a hilarious kind of drama based on physical comedy, and often features poor servants outsmarting their masters – usually to steal some sake. It was shown between performances of the much more serious noh plays. Take it from me, noh plays are depressing and pretty boring, and kyogen really helps keep you awake between shows!

Tokyo’s national Noh theater. This traditional form of Japanese drama would have been appreciated by aristocrats living at the Imperial Palace. Any of you who have seen Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” would recognize a mask used in noh drama, because that’s exactly what the character “Noh Face” represents.

You won’t be able to understand these “wild words,” but I’ll bet you can get the idea from the performances!

Japanese politics is no longer quite as brutal as it used to be, but the old system has influenced both Japanese political power and Japanese life. Japanese society still has very strict divisions between classes and different professions. While people can associate with anyone that they want, people who are ‘higher’ in Japanese society (politicians, doctors, lawyers, teachers) are spoken to with special honorific language, which is called “keigo.” Keigo is also used with people who are older, or classmates who are ahead of us in our studies. In old Japan, merchants would have used “keigo” when speaking to samurai, who were the upper class, and among the only people to get an education in feudal Japan. You guys have learned about the knights of the round table – how were they similar to the samurai? How were they different? Did they receive an education?

This is the kanji for Bushi, which means “warrior.” Samurai lived what was called Bushido – “the way of the warrior.” Samurai, however, were also expected to be very educated. Most samurai composed poetry, practiced traditional archery, and read classics of Japanese and Chinese literature.

In politics, the Japanese emperor still lacks real power, but is an important symbol for many Japanese. Since the year 660, Japan has had 125 emperors, who are supposedly part of the same continuous family line. Real political power in Japan is found in the prime minister, as well as the members of the diet, who function like America’s congress or Britain’s Parlament.

One of the inner gates at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Japan is a liberal democracy, which means that the support of the people is important for politicians. You might have noticed in the news that Japan currently has political tensions with both China and Korea. Both of these tensions arise from the fact there has been a lot of war between these nations throughout history, and both involve small, worthless islands that each country wants to claim for themselves. Why make such a big deal over islands that aren’t worth anything?

Well, according to Shigemura-sensei, a professor at Waseda University, where I am studying, part of the reason is that the politicians in each of these countries wants to become more popular with their citizens. One way to become popular with citizens is to stir up feelings of national pride, and because China and Korea have been been Japan’s enemy in the past, each side occasionally resorts to bringing up the past in order to bring their own citizens together against a common enemy – even if they aren’t really an enemy at all.

This guard house sits just inside the castle moat, and outside of the castle’s inner walls. As a small island nation, once closed for hundreds of years to all foreign visitors, Japan has always been wary of invaders.

My class with Shigemura-sensei is interesting, mostly because we talk about political issues concerning Japan, China and Korea – in a class with Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and American students. It is very interesting to hear the different perspectives that everyone has on these issues. When we discussed the issue of these disputed islands, Japan recently purchased the Senkaku Islands from a private seller, but they once belonged to China, and the Chinese students in my class explained why they felt this Island couldn’t be part of Japan. One of the reasons they were so offended is because China is a communist society, where everything that belongs to China technically belongs to the people. Japanese politicians chose to make this an issue, but they underestimated how strongly that common people in China feel about it. My classmate said he felt that some part of his own home was sold to Japan, and he can’t accept it.

Korean students, meanwhile, felt very strongly that the Takeshima Islands remain part of Korea. Meanwhile, most of the Japanese students said that they aren’t concerned about history or about these islands – they just want to get along, and stop paying for rivalries that happened before they were born. They aren’t that interested in politics or politicians, based on what they said.

This was a good reminder about how important it is to get multiple perspectives on important issues. Have you guys ever heard someone’s opinion that made you think differently about something? Have you ever changed your mind after someone else told you their point of view?

Tokyo’s Imperial Palace – A piece of history, right in the heart of the city.

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Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Okonomiyaki, a delicious savory pancake, is cooked at the table by customers at this Tokyo restaurant.

As we’ve discussed, the elements of culture say important things about who we are, just as we tend to express things about ourselves through these elements of culture. Seemingly meaningless activities, such as eating, playing, and getting from point A to point B, often say a great deal about the culture that we live in.

Eating is not just about nourishment, but is also a social activity. This is true everywhere, but like everywhere, Japan has its own unique customs and rituals surrounding eating and drinking, either with friends or family.

Each morning and evening, I eat with my host family. My host family is somewhat old-fashioned, so the mother brings food to father and I, and then eats after we are finished. However, even if she doesn’t eat with us, it’s important that we show her how much we appreciate her cooking. How do we do this? Well, in Japan no one eats a meal of any kind with out first saying “itadakimasu” – this literally means “I humbly receive.” And once a meal is concluded, we say “gochisousamadeshita” – literally, “it was a feast.”

Can you guys think of any rituals that you have at the dinner or breakfast table?

Tonight, I went out for dinner with friends. The same rituals are still observed, even though the cook isn’t around to hear us say “itadakimasu.” So why say these things if no one is there to appreciate them? Well, the answer is a little bit complicated.

Researchers have identified two different kinds of cultures – low context cultures and high context cultures. America is a low context culture, and Japan is a high context culture. Allow me to use an example to explain:

Imagine that you are standing alone in a completely empty room, and as your mother enters, you say “I didn’t do it.” Because the room is empty except for you, there is no context other than your words. Therefore, discussion must occur before everyone can understand the situation. Your mother must then ask “what didn’t you do?”

Now imagine that you are standing in the same empty room, except that now there is a broken lamp. When your mother enters the room this time, and you say “I didn’t do it,” your mother understands immediately what you claim not to have done. The lamp provides a context for your words, and instead of asking “what didn’t you do,” she can simply tell you that you’re grounded.

In a low context culture, like America, we have to talk more to understand things. In Japan, however, the high context culture means that there are more things that everyone understands without talking about them at all. For instance, when you are about to eat, you say “itadakimasu” – everyone knows this, everyone does it, and everyone understands just what it means. It’s just being polite, and if you don’t remember to do it, people will think you’re very rude.

Can you guys think of a few things that help make America a low context culture? Can you think of any benefits of having to talk to each other more? What about any downsides of having to talk to each other more?

Tamaki-san pours the okonomiyaki ingredients onto the grill, where they will cook before being flipped, cut-up, and served to everyone at the table.

But back to my lovely night out with friends – we went out to an okonomiyaki restaurant. Okonomiyaki is a delicious savory pancake-like food, which you cook at your table on a hot grill. You first order the ingredients – we had a few different pancakes, some with octopus, others with shrimp, one with salmon roe, and one with kimchi – and then cook them into a pancake at your table. After they are finished grilling, you add bonito (fish flakes), sauce, and mayonaise, and then serve. I’ve had plenty of delicious okonomiyaki in my life (Shigezo, in downtown Portland, has good okonomiyaki) but I’ve never had anything quite as delicious as this.

This kind of restaurant is fairly traditional; we sit on small pillows on the floor, cross-legged, cook our own food, and eat with chopsticks. However, these old-fashioned restaurants are just as popular with young people as they are with the older generation. And while I’ve gone out for many meals with friends in America, and had great bonding experiences, I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. The conversation is friendly and fun, and we all make jokes throughout the night, but something about making this food ourselves, together, makes it an even more special and unique than similar meals I’ve eaten in America.

Okonomiyaki cooking on the grill at our table.

Eating isn’t the only cultural ritual that I’ve witnessed lately. In Japan, as we’ve discussed, trains are a very important part of daily life.

It is not unusual to see some people wearing traditional kimono to work in Japan, like this woman, seen on a morning train headed for downtown Tokyo.

Particularly in Tokyo, where literally tens of millions of people take trains to get where they are going each and every day. So, I was not so surprised when I went to the train station the other day and witnessed a special event that the train company was putting on for children.

Children and their parents waited in line to ride small train, while other kids played with toys and watched videos – all about trains.

Kokubunjis train station, in Tokyo, Japan, hosted an event for children this past weekend.

These children, even now, probably spend a good portion of their day on trains, and in the future they’ll spend as much as an hour or more each day commuting to and from school, work, and other activities. So, it makes sense that both their parents and the train companies would want to get them used to the idea of trains as an enjoyable part of daily life.

Real train conductors wave to children riding a special train through kokubunji station, Tokyo, Japan.

Can you think of anything that you have learned or been taught to deal with from an early age? A lot of culture involves learning to appreciate, tolerate, or celebrate the things that are important to us now, or that have been important to us in the past. In Japan, trains are an important part of the past, present, and future.

In a way, parents taking their children for a ride on this small train is just a fun way to spend a Sunday as a family. On the other hand, we can also say that these kinds of activities are contributing to Japan’s role as a high context culture. These children are learning the context of a train commute early in life. They are learning the rules of being a commuter, and even something as simple as a conductor waving at them conveys to them an important message: On the train, I’m the person in charge; I’m here to help you, and to make sure the train runs on time, and since I’m your friend, help me out by doing your part to keep the trains running on time. This contributes, in some small way, to the context of what it means to be a commuter in Tokyo.

It’s important to note that a high context culture is not better or worse than a low context culture; they are just different. In Japan, certain things are understood by everyone, without anyone having to say a word. In America, there is more talk, discussion, and planning about what is happening at any given moment. Can you think of some examples?

Now, spend the next couple of days paying close attention to the things that you do on a daily basis; eating, commuting, going to school, etc. Ask yourself questions about what these things mean, why you do them, and how doing them helps make you a part of your community.

Gochisousamadeshita – “It was a feast.”

 

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Japan’s Great American Pastime

An announcer and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows mascot, Tsubakaro, address the fans at Meiji Jingu Stadium during their game with the Hanshin Tigers.

Whether you are a sports fan or not, there is no denying that how we enjoy sporting events says something about us as a people: When we cheer for our favorite player or tell our friend that his favorite team stinks, we are also telling others about ourselves. Our favorite players tell people what qualities we admire, and our favorite teams can say something about our loyalty or some special connection to the place where we are from. After all, how many OSU Beavers fans do you know from Eugene? Probably not as many as you know from Corvallis.

Japan has two national sports, and I was lucky enough to see them both in my first two weeks here in Tokyo. Sumo wrestling is the official national sport of Japan, but the most popular sport in Japan is by far baseball. How could the same nation be so in love with two completely different sports? What does this tell us about Japan?

Little League Baseball is a big time hobby for many Japanese children. American style baseball is by far Japan’s most popular sport, and games like this one are how baseball superstars like Ichiro Suzuki got their start.

Three sumo wrestlers leave the stadium, after their matches are over with.

We’ll begin with sumo wrestling. Professional sumo tournaments began in 1684, during Japan’s Edo period, which lasted from 1603 to 1868, and was important for Japan’s cultural development. During that time a few very important things happened in Japan. Under the rule of a man named Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan closed its borders to other nations, developed very strict social rules, and grew its economy. After years of bloody war under previous rulers, Japan finally had a long period of peace – and because of isolation from other countries and a newly wealthy merchant class, many Japanese spent their time enjoying the arts. This period is when many of Japan’s traditional arts and sports became reinvented or revitalized, and it was then that the rules and traditions of sumo began to take shape.

I’m very lucky to have had many great teachers in my life, and one of my very favorite teachers is Portland State University Professor of Japanese Language, Drama and Literature, Dr. Larry Kominz. It’s thanks to him that I know everything that I do about Japan’s Edo period, because that’s his area of speciality – especially when it comes to Japan’s kabuki theater. Dr. Kominz is in Tokyo right now doing research, and I was lucky enough to have him take me along to both the sumo wrestling match and the baseball game that I attended. Study hard and be nice to your teachers, kids – you never know what kind of crazy things can happen!

Dr. Larry Kominz has been one of my favorite professors at Portland State University, and for the past few weeks he’s been my guide to Japanese sporting culture.

In sumo, each wrestler tries to force his opponent outside of a circular ring, either by throwing him, pushing him, or lifting him up off of his feet. Here’s a short video clip of sumo wrestlers in action:

When I went to see sumo myself, I was amazed at how much history was in front of me – for instance, before beginning a match, wrestlers still throw handfuls of salt into the ring to purify it, just as they have for hundreds of years. This practice is part of the shinto religion, which is important in sumo’s history. In fact, all of the things that you saw in that video that made you wonder “why are they doing this crazy stuff?” are very important rituals that have been preserved and passed down throughout the centuries. So why are these rituals important?

The many changes that Japan went through during and after the Edo period have influenced what you might call two different ideas about what Japan is: One idea of Japan is that it is very traditional, and another is that it is very modern. But the reality is that Japan is both very traditional and very modern at the same time. It would be much easier to think about one version of Japan: Samurai and geisha, or businessmen and anime. This more complex idea of Japan, as a place that is both modern and open to the rest of the world, while also being traditional and closed off, is harder to think about, isn’t it? But it’s the only explanation for why the people who love the traditions of Japan’s own  national pastime (sumo) would go this wild for America’s national pastime (baseball).

The song that these fans are singing is just one of the dozens of songs that I heard them sing that night. In fact, each player has his own song that fans sing, with a little help from the man you see in the red shirt, who gives them cues on what to sing. I’ve been to many professional baseball games in America, and I can tell you that I’ve never seen fans like this before – these people are absolutely crazy for baseball.

A Tokyo Yakult Swallows fan waves the team flag, even while his team is losing very badly. This game wasn’t very well attended, because the season is almost over for the Swallows, but the fans still went wild.

Just like in America, many fans wear baseball caps and the jersey of their favorite player.

Even though the game was not a close one (the Swallows lost 12-0. Ouch!), the feeling in the stadium was electric. The fans never lost hope, and never lost their excitement for supporting their favorite players, even if that player was having a terrible night. Japanese baseball games are also very exciting because the action moves much faster than in American baseball. The pace is high, and when they do take short breaks, cheerleaders and mascots come out to dance and shoot t-shirts into the crowd out of a cannon.

Play ball!

During the Edo period, Japan began its long fascination with preserving and restoring its national arts and traditions, whether they be literature and poetry, tea ceremony, or sumo and martial arts. During this closed period, without any contact with the outside world, Japan became like someone who stops looking out their window and instead looks into a mirror. This focus on Japan as a “traditional” place is part of why the strange rituals of sumo are so important today – they remind the Japanese of an important part of their history and their cultural identity.

But the reality is that both before and after Japan’s “closed period,” which ended in 1868, the nation admired and borrowed from many other cultures. The Japanese admiration for American style baseball is only one small example of Japan’s status as a nation that is fully involved in multicultural exchanges of art and sport. When going to the stadium to enjoy their own take on America’s national sport of baseball, Japanese people are reinforcing the other idea of Japan that we talked about – the idea of a “modern” nation that is open to the world, and open to the changes that come from being a part of it.

Both sumo and Japanese baseball are incredible experiences that I hope all of you will have one day. I intend to experience them both again before my time in Tokyo is up.

* A note about comments: I just wanted to thank you for all of your comments last week! From now on, I’m going to try something a little different. You guys leave all of your comments just like before, but instead of responding to them all online, I’m going to make a short video and post it every Friday morning, Portland time. That way, you guys can all watch a short video where I answer your questions and respond to comments.

Enjoy, and keep the great questions coming! Don’t be afraid to ask any questions that you guys have. Was my blog confusing? Did I use some words that you didn’t understand, or skip over things that you thought needed more attention? This is your opportunity to tell me what you want! I can’t fit everything into the blog, but if you tell me what you want to know and what you’re interested in, I can sure fit it into my video response to your comments. Thanks guys, you’re doing great.

**Correction: I’ve corrected two things in this post since it was originally made. I corrected the date of the “opening of Japan,” which is 1868, but was originally listed as 1858. I also corrected the final score of the baseball game, which was 12-0. Originally, I reported that it was 10-0, which was the score when we left the game.

I’m writing this note because in journalism, it’s important to admit when we make mistakes, and to correct any inaccurate information that we give to readers. Thanks for reading!

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Breaking News! Typhoon Hits Tokyo!

This week you guys are getting a special treat – not only do you get your weekly blog post, but also this bonus mini-post. Why? Well, sometimes little things come up that allow me to give you even more insights into life in Tokyo. Then, other times BIG things come up that allow me to tell you about life in Tokyo.

Today, a big typhoon has brushed the eastern shore of Japan and hit Tokyo hard. As I write this, it’s still raining and blowing very hard, and my house is shaking. I’m safe, but it’s definitely a good reminder of the fact that Japan is a small island nation, and therefore especially vulnerable to tsunamis and typhoons. In fact, I believe this is the 17th typhoon that Japan has experienced so far this year – and it’s definitely one of the most serious.

Here’s a few short videos that I shot, and hopefully they’ll give you a little hint of the unpredictable weather than Japan can experience at times.

Here’s a short video that I shot from my bedroom window just now; it might not look that serious, but as you’ll see in the news report below, this is one serious storm!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19776925

 

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初めまして!

Shinjuku is one of Tokyo’s 23 “special wards” and is home to the busiest train station in the entire world. Most of Tokyo’s citizens rely on trains and subways to get to work, school, and social engagements.

In Japan, when meeting others for the first time, it’s customary to say “初めまして” (pronounced ha-ji-mei-maash-te) – which means something like “nice to meet you” – and to then tell the other person a little bit about yourself. So, class, 初めまして – my name is Josh Hunt, and I’m very glad to meet you.

I’m a college student at Portland State University, where I study both communication studies and Japanese language and literature. I spent last year working as the editor-in-chief for Portland State’s student-run newspaper, but just over a week ago I left my old job and my life in Portland behind. For the next year, I’ll be living on the other side of the world in Tokyo, Japan.

I’m studying abroad at Waseda University on a foreign exchange program. I have been studying the Japanese language for three years, but for the next year things are going to be very different: Each day I’ll be practicing in real life what I learn in the classroom, every time I speak to someone. I’ll also be trying to learn more about how the Japanese newspaper industry works, because I eventually want to work as a foreign correspondent reporter in Japan. But for now, I’m working as a foreign correspondent for all of you.

This is my first time visiting Japan, and I’ve only been here for a week and a half, but I’ve already gone to a sumo wrestling match, eaten many traditional Japanese meals, gone to a Japanese video game arcade, and had many other great adventures with my new Japanese friends.

This sumo wrestler finished his match early in the day, and left out the front door of the stadium, walking to the train station in his traditional kimono. It is not uncommon to see people dressed in their nice kimono on occasion, even in modern Tokyo.

Japan is very fun, but part of the reason that I’m able to have so much fun is because I’ve worked very hard studying the language and culture of this country for the past couple of years. We all know that learning other languages is important if we want to explore the world, but it’s also important to explore other cultures. In Japan, communication doesn’t happen without an understanding of both language and culture, and without communication we’re all alone – which isn’t very fun.

So what do I mean when I talk about culture? Well, culture can refer to anything from the language, clothing and customs of a society, to the art, literature and media that they produce.

For example, the fact that Americans eat most meals with a fork and a spoon has an element of cultural value. We don’t think very much about it, until, of course, we go out to eat at a restaurant where we eat with chopsticks. When we eat at a Japanese or Chinese restaurant and use chopsticks, we’re also experiencing an aspect of culture. In Japan, I am living with a very nice Japanese host family for the next year, and we eat every single meal with chopsticks and nothing else.

My friends Sasha and Leo are using their chopsticks to eat at this “yaki-niku” restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo. At yaki-niku restaurants, raw meet and vegetables are ordered, and customers cook their own food over hot coals that are brought to their table, in a special container.

Chopsticks, forks and spoons are tools for eating, but also signifiers of culture. For the next ten weeks, I’m going to be introducing you to Japan and its culture by sharing my adventures with you, and sharing with you the tools to understand a little more about this interesting and beautiful nation.

But this blog isn’t just about me: I’m here to share my experiences in Japan with you, and also to answer any questions that you have about this fascinating country. If a picture that I post on the blog makes you curious, please ask me about it. If you want to know more about something that I write about, ask about that also. I’m going to read your comments each week, and respond to them. Just think of me as your own personal 新聞医者 (pronounced shinboon keyshya) or newspaper reporter.

Each week I’ll write about what I’ve learned, introduce you to people, customs, and important places in Japan, and whenever possible, I’ll include photographs and video as well. Among other things, we’ll explore transportation, entertainment, food, education, and many other important aspects of society and culture here in Tokyo.

Most of Tokyo’s residents rely on trains (電車 “denshya”) and subways (地下鉄 “chikatetsu”) to get to work, school, and everywhere else. Tokyo has the largest and most reliable train system on Earth.

Welcome to Reporting Live! I look forward to working with all of you for the next ten weeks – and remember, this blog is just as much yours as it is mine. We’re in this together, so don’t forget to think hard about your comments, suggestions, and questions.

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