Best of Japan - In Conclusion

Ok so Japan is over for me, at least for a while. It was my dream to live there and i did it for a year and a half. I can honestly say I am satisfied with my time there and feel that I "did Japan". I lived my life at a fast pace and was able to do less work for more money, which allowed me time to do a ton of stuff while in Japan. I also had to sacrifice a lot too because i had to go to school full time and work full time. This post was originally going to be the best of my time in japan post but there is too much to be said so it's going to be a combo of the best of my time, what i think are some of the best points of japanese culture/society/the country, and a few other closing thoughts and reflections to close out the end of my dream realized. The dream is over but I still have to blog to remember it by.

I'm just going to lead off with the best. Cherry blossom season in Japan was my favorite time. It's a magical time where if the weather is nice and the flowers are in full bloom it transforms Japan into a utopian sunshine world where everyone is acceptably liquored up, literally elbow to elbow in a crowded space eating, drinking, laughing, making new friends, and enjoying a super amazing fleeting afternoon in time. this could never happen in America.

Here it is again at night as if it could get any more magical.

one of my favorite places in kyoto, in some odd corner of the grounds of kiyomizu dera. i discovered this my first time to japan and kyoto and it blew my socks off. Your first time to Japan is going when the most magic happens so when you go, enjoy the shiet out of your first time.

the fall leaves in kyoto especially were awesome and unreal at times.

maybe my favorite shrine in kyoto, fushimi inari aka the temple with a thousand red gates but there's way more than thousands there.

Ryokans, traditional japanese inns are awesome. tatami straw flooring, kotatsu heated tables in the winter time, amazing service, bath houses, etc...

climbing Mt. Fuji is both the best and worst of Japan. it is a feat and a sight to behold at the top of japan but going down sucks so bad that I would never do it again.

buses in Japan are superior to everywhere. there is no triflin' greyhound first come first serve, buy a ticket but the bus is full so you gotta wait for 2 hrs for the next bus, dirty arse terminals, dirty arse buses, heck even dirty arse passengers. the stations in Japan are impeccably clean, staff unbelieveably helpful and kind (as with everywhere in Japan), the buses clean and new, and the the overall experience is in another universe compared to bus services in America. shown in this pic is a chart of your assigned seat so there is no verbally battling it out with an overweight cranky black woman eating a whole fried chicken across 2 seats.

The snow monkeys in Nagano. I have to admit now that the cigarette was photoshopped in. in fact he was just eating a grain of rice or something but it looked like he was smoking so i couldn't resist.

Kotatsu heated tables in the wintertime are amazing for your tootsies.

onsen baths are awesome anytime and one of my favorite things about japan. sure the first time you feel weird about everyone seeing your balls but then eventually you learn that it's not about your balls at all and they're not special and no one even cares about them, and then you can really enjoy the rejuvenating powers of a hot soak in mineral water.

tsukiji fish market is a sight to behold and the sushi is the freshest and best you will get (unless you pay $300 somewhere).

this pic should be dedicated to Japanese food, including ramen pictured here. Japanese food awesome Boom.

draft beer in Japan is amazing. perfect pour every-time, perfect head. look at that. amazing carbonation, crisp, and has weight to it, its not like drinking donkey p!ss water like chinese beer. but it also costs a lot more. It should be noted that i love China too so i'm not really china-bashing when i say disparaging things about China on this blog.

i guess this one could be decicated to Japaneese technology which we all have heard and know is awesome to some extent. but there is a whole nother world of Japanese tech that you never get to see in america that will blow your brains out. they have been on top of the camera world like forever and aren't going anywhere. I finally got my first DSLR and lenses while in Japan.

the earthquake on 3/11/11 was of course the opposite of the best of japan but it was also a good experience for me to have and a defining period of time in my Japan experience. there is too much to say about this so if you want to know more look for my earthquake post.

karaoke will be sorely missed. singing with Japanese people will be sorely missed. they invented it and they rock out way more than chinese or korean people. they have synchronized dances and a level of energy that is unparalleled. also they have the best quality and highest tech systems. The ones in korea sound like you are screaming into a can of rattlesnake echos.

this one goes out to Japanese design. it can be like this, less is more, or it can be crazy insane in your face. this does not go out to Japanese TV which i think sucks and is an insult to your intelligence. TV and my "nation full of giant man babies" spiel is not going to happen today.

trains in japan. when I think about it now that the price of a subway ride has risen in new york again, Japan is not that much more expensive. and there are a million other reasons why its superior to everywhere else in the world. its impossibly clean, everyone is impossibly polite, there are no homeless people, there are no crazies. The worst problem is girls getting gropped and upskirt photos (the hidden perv in every guy thinks these are not so bad). The trains always come on time and in a frequent and announced manor, and overall its just a clean reliable experience. pictured here is the chart that shows you which car to ride in if you want to get out at at certain exit at whatever station. how awesome is that.

getting hit by a taxi was another defining moment in Japan. I could have been wiped off the face of the earth so i try to remember this when i can to help me live life to the fullest.

i love the smell of tatami floors and how they feel. it also makes you keep your floor clean so you don't mess up the niceness of it

this goes out to Japanese people having a breaded and fried version of everything. you can't go wrong with fried food. here is menchi katsu, fried and breaded minced beef.

this goes out to festivals in Japan. they don't have cultural festivals that run this deep in america and due to Japan's policy on everything being aesthetically pleasing, its a beautiful affair. there are tons of festivals year round.

sumo was awesome. its such an old tradition and its amazing that it still exists. its amazing to watch too.

the the various hidden and not so hidden aspects of Japanese sex culture is a sight to behold (again, come on dudes, you know your hidden perv likes it).

a ton of bars and bartenders take great care in making your drinks. some will spin your ice chunk that they chunk out of a huge block of ice in front of you until it is the perfect size for the glass

of course sushi in Japan is the best and freshest and the best experience. what more can be said about the sushi that hasn't already been said on this blog many times?

health insurance and health care here is amazing

bikes. japan is a bike country despite there being no bike lanes/paths on their super skinny and crowded streets. everyone is super aware of bikes. Drivers always look before opening doors, so it has created a bike culture and biker awareness so its safe for bikers, and combined with other factors, has created amazing and tricked out bike designs. bikers often do a little bow for people that move aside so they can pass, both actions being rare in other countries.

Japanese art and animation and all that. japan is so different from the west, and that has allowed a whole different thinking method and of course different art, character design, stories, and aesthetic. here is a totoro coin bank created by hayao miyazaki, who is said to be the Walt Disney of japan. but Walt didn't create every character and story and overlook the whole creative process.

Halloween in Japan is the most fun night of the year. Japanese people get the novelty of it and its a night where they really get to break lose and that means you can make lost of friends on Halloween night. strangers actually talk to each other. girls will actually talk to you. People break out of their boxes. I wear old boxes. try Halloween in an major Japanese city!

architecture. so different than anywhere else. i'm not just talking about the modern cool buildings like the cocoon tower pictured here. i'm talking about your day to day houses, streets, and of course your old school temples and stuff.

fu balls family, my family in japan. and also running a half marathon with them. i have found Japanese families to be too nice and too kind.

the Iga ninja festival. what a stupid but fun day of being a 5 year old kid again with fumika and jumping around in rented ninja costumes. and it was totally ok because a whole town and thousands of other people where doing it too. stuff like this is why you gotta love japan.

i guess this one should be about home cooked meals by Japanese moms. awesome stuff. also its about the healthiness, simpleness, etc about some of the food. here is grilled eggplant with some kind of sauce, slow simmered soy sauce and sugar pumpkin, rice, miso soup, and salmon sperm sacks. an amazing breakfast and there is no sausage or bacon to be found.

again Japanese parents are too nice and are so cool. these are masako's parents in Osaka.

real Japanese houses with full sized baths filled with salted up water to soak in after a long day are one of the best things about japan. here is Masako's parents bath in Osaka.

this goes out to product variety and constant product updating. there is always something new to try. they are always re-inventing things. because of this japan will remain relevant and a leader in technology, style, and all that other stuff. the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster are just a going to put a dent in Japan for a while but they will be back. There are so many things about japan that should be on this best of list but there isn't room for it all. sure I go nuts for Japan because i am a westerner, but westerners have been going nuts for it for decades. Some notable things not pictured in this post:

1. Girls, japanese girls are hot, are makeup and wardrobe professionals and elevate themselves to a higher level. proof that putting a nicer wrapper on something really does help
2. fashion - they are on top of things and the west knows it and sweats japan so bad. on the other hand japan sweats the west so bad but they somehow take western style stuff and put their own twist on it and make it awesome.
3. Service - Japanese customer service is awesome and professional. i don't know anywhere else in the world yet that matches japan.
4. Society - almost everyone is super friendly. sure most of it is fake but its better than being stressed out in the streets of new york where everyone is coming at you trying to go for theirs and take yours. Respect holds the highest place in Japan as seen with tons of bowing, stutter stepping to allow the other to go first, tons of apologizing, and a million other niceties. this may be annoying at times but it is nice to live in a place where people aren't laying stress on you all the time and respect each other, their personal space, and their right to live.
5. Aesthetics place in the culture - aesthetically pleasing stuff is at the top of the list of importance in Japan and that makes everything awesome to look at. for me as an artist that makes having eyeballs awesome. its as if Japan is somehow masturbating my eyeballs all the time. Also creators (artists, musicians, writers, etc...) are placed high in society. its nice to be appreciated and cool.

遠慮 (えんりょ, enryo) - "diffidence; restraint; reserve; discretion; tact; thoughtfulness "
Enryo is a word that doesn't translate into english without a lot of words, and you can see some of them above. I feel that everything in Japanese society can be credited to or blamed on Enryo. Enryo is behind everything I love and hate about Japan. The reservedness and tact make Japan the most respectful, clean, and safe place that I have ever been to. On the other hand it also creates a box like society where people don't speak their mind to you, don't even hug, and for a large part can't think outside of the box/manual/protocall. On the other hand, always speaking your mind and doing whatever you want leads to a crazy and violent society.

I had a mini debate with Bob when he was visiting tokyo about this. I asked the question: "what is better, a society where the individual can flourish (USA) or a society where the collective matters (Japan)?" Bob being the pacifist vegitarian charity giving mathematician that wants to save the world went with the collective society side, whereas me being a globetrotting, freelancing, peter pan artist leaned towards the individual side. Bob argued that the American thinking is that everyone has the right to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". He says he would rather live in a world where the pursuit of happiness (which includes all the trappings of being an individual) could be sacrificed if everyone had Life and Liberty. And I ask, what kind of a life is that? Wouldn't that be robotic and kind of like what you have in Japan now? A lot of what leads bob to that side is that the poverty and infant mortality levels are so high in the poor communities because of people having/taking the right to the pursuit of happiness. I agree that there is a disgusting entitlement issue in the US which makes for a lot of ugly Americans. I do feel like there should be some sense of entitlement though. Maybe entitlement=backbone. Japan could use some more of that. I just feel that many people in Japan end up with the same core thinking, and they subconsciously discard many of their rights as an individual and even their goals and dreams because of how they were socialized in Japan. If i grew up in Korea or Japan i probably never would be where I am now. Anyway me and bob never come to an agreement on these things.

I have a hunch that there are many Japanese and Koreans that have something itching in the back of their brains and that they just can't put their finger on, and that something is their human desire to walk their own path but restrained by enryo. It's taken me 3 years to say that I am proud to be an American, or at least proud of the sense of freedom and "American Dream" thinking that I received by being raised there. So in the end I guess the question will always be there: is the way they do things in Japan better or the way they do them in America? For me it would be somewhere in the middle. But if i had to choose 1 or the other taken as is, it might be Japan..................but who knows, i might feel stifled, crazy, and less like an individual after a few years of living in that rigid box society. But i would also feel a lot healthier, cleaner, safer, respected, and cared for. and again Japan is a homogenous society and America is not which helps Japan's case a lot.

At first it was hard to make friends, the friends i did have that i went to school with in NY became part of the Japanese machine and were working insane hours and had no friend time for Jason. Japanese work culture is another topic all together but to make a long story short, I hate it and it robbed me of my friends and is robbing them of their lives. I hated my school and its strict policies and how crappy and disappointing all my classmates were. We lived in one of the most fun cities in the world yet every friday 18 to 35 yr olds alike would lame out and just go home. What is wrong with kids these days? Even all the young Korean and Chinese students whose parents were paying for everything wouldn't come out to play. Eventually I gave up on the school and things got better with non-school friends and i had fun for a time. After 10 months of living in Japan I started to hate it. what kind of arsehole doesn't like japan? it happens to everyone, and in a rollercoaster-like fashion, just like i hated china for a while. It was hard to make japanese friends, the language was hard, the rules were hard, and the societal rules were hard. But its super super safe, super clean, and people are super helpful and have a good attitude in general. All of which are hard to come by in other parts of the world. Seriously its like the most civilized place on earth. and its not like snobberish civilized, its just that everything across the board is done with enryo so its engrained in there and isn't an act per-say.

I got over that hump again and by the time I left i could have basic conversations in Japanese (i should hope so i went to school for a year), and felt like I had real friends and had gotten the hang of Tokyo life. Now I feel like tokyo and new york are both places that i could return to and live for a long time. That means Tokyo is top notch. I guess there can't be a better conclusion for a country/city than that. So 頑張ってJapan, good luck with your recovery, I will be back.

So Long Korea, for Now

One final Korea post summing up weeks of random stuff.

One of Yoon's mom's fantabulous meals.

Hae In and JP from that were from my japanese language school in tokyo.

club Harlem in hongdae. we're getting old. everyone in there was like 18-20 yrs old. they all knew the dances to all the new hip hop songs. what is going on here?

Pheasants abound on the army base.

looks awesome right? a huge pile of fried chicken on top of a generous bed of homemade potato chips. well it gave me decently bad food poisoning that took me out of commission for the rest of the night and the next day.

Misa came to visit from tokyo

this park in hongdae where there are always college bands playing at night. just to the right was a hip hop freestylin' circle while an all girl rock group similar in sound to the white stripes was mashing away in the center of this circle of people. how fun would it be to go to hongik university?

Across the street from Yeouido park is, something, another park flanked by the han river. this fountain/funland for kids would be awesome to play in.

Yeouido park is a famous place to see cherry blossoms. I tried to organize a picnic ala Japanese hanami style but lots of people copped out, it got windy and we were just picnicking on dead grass while the trees were far away and unpicknicable under

Jungeun from 10 years ago at Yonsei from the snowboard club came. Shes gonna come to barcelona in june. My plan was also to have everyone wear pink but only will did it, i even forgot. thanks anyway.

at Gimpo airport subway station.

the magic of thinking big. i'm guessing this is a bestseller translated into Korean. its interesting because there are a lot of things to be said about Koreans breaking out of their confucian bonds and "Thinking Big". If you want to talk about thinking big, what do you think that weird eyed woman with the blue glasses is thinking? Is she thinking big?

I never noticed before that there was a picture of the guy driving the bus on the back of his seat. It says he is "nice and safe".

I had a bad cough for 7 days yet wasn't sick so i finally went to the Yonsei Severence hospital, the international branch to see what was up. this is the same place i went back in 2001 when i had a severe cough for a month. this time i got antibiotics just like 10 years ago. i still have the cough. the doctor said it "sounds like it could be an infection". For some reason they had this cool display of classic cameras.

after the hospital i had to go get the prescript outside of the hospital they said. there are pharmacies everywhere in korea. in shinchon there are like 3 per block. this pharmacy and many others give you a free little yoghurt drink while you wait for your prescription to be immediately filled.

shinchon was the old stomping ground. i took a stroll around. most things have changed. only the big things like the hyundai department store and mcdonalds are still there. that buy the way convienence store used to be 7-11 and we used to drink beer outside it at that table on the side walk. that 아침나무 place on the right is still there after all these years so i ate there.

Seoul tower on the right, to the left are the houses going up the hill making it look like favelas in brazil.

oh look a giant smiley face, ms. sunshine. So Hyun works at the embassy and is always smiling and literally is the sunshine of Seoul. they should bring her around cancer wards to cure patients or something.

Korea is the most wired nation in the world. Look at the level they are on! this is an upperscale restaurant even and they have boxes up there that blow the US out of the water.

Bossam is slow cooked pork shoulder, sweet kimchi, some sauce, and then you wrap it in something, in this case, some kind of special soft and supple cabbage. it is the BOMB!

went a'screen golfin' with JP

I have been friends with Yoon for 10 years now. we have played ping pong in many countries. It's become a habit. when he went to europe he found this little ping pong trophy at a second hand store and had the idea that we would play for it everytime we met, in whatever country it was. We are an equal match and usually trade wins back and forth. top right: measuring table to wall distances. bottom right: ......he won. it was a close tournament, 4 games to 5. I had to let him win though so he didn't go into a state of depression

here he is calling his mom to tell her the news but she never answered. you know why Yoon? because she knows you're a faggy little baby and no one cares and everyone knows that that statue will just be mine next time.

Here he is ladies and gents, your Seoul 2011 TEMPORARY world champion, Yoon Sang Nam. So far the record is

Seoul '01 - ?
New York '07 - ?
Tianjin '08 - Yoon
Incheon '09 - ?
Tokyo '10 - ?
Seoul '11 - Yoon

? means we can't remember who won. looks like you gotta come to Europe to hand over the trophy next yoon.

i got carry out later. look what you get for $4.50. omurice (fried rice wrapped in an egg omelet), various side dishes, miso soup. the banana milk was bought seperately. this is awesome and would lead to me never cooking if i lived in Korea again (just like when i did live there).

Final night out before flying to barcelona. here is the split second before "somaek" is made (shot of soju + maek ju (beer) = somaek). the shot glasses and their contents are about to fall into the beers via chain reaction. thanks to everyone having work the next day and having to control themselves this is the first time i've moved to another country without being still drunk/hungover. yay.

Kohei from tokyo but now living in London visited. see you in London Kohei

one last pojangmacha drink with JP in kangnam before calling it a night. i don't like JP now that he cut off his permed and dyed waving Korean hair. now he looks like gary bussey or something. talk to me when you get your hair back JP.

something so simple as bean sprout broth works with drinking soju

there are no direct flights to Barcelona from Seoul so i had a 14 hour layover in Moscow, Russia. The first leg of the flight ended up being Korean Air, which i was super pleasantly surpised to learn because Korean Air is the best. Sure it may seem superficial but 8+ hrs is a long time to have to look at someone, so when those someones are the industries most attractive stewardesses then its really creates a winning combo, even females have to agree. What, do you want to look at delta's 55yr old sassy aunts for the whole flight? (scientifically everyone including babies like looking at pretty women more). I have flown on Air China, China Air, Dragon Air, China Easter, China Southern, American Airlines, Asiana, Delta, Jet Blue, Aeroflot and Korean Air and Korean Air has the hottest/most beautiful stewardesses who are the friendliest/kindest and most professional with uniforms that be fittin' right, especially the skirts damn! the service is awesome. the planes are new. each seat has a plethora of entertainment options from is individual unit. Korean Air is the airline to beat. Second best is, i don't know Asiana or Jet Blue. see below for the worst.

Moscow airport. would you trust a machine that had absolutely no english on it anywhere?

super expensive a super dry half of a chicken sandwhich packed in one of those triangle plastic things from a refrigerator shelf and a small small almost sample sized bag of chips ended up being 280 rubbles. i had no idea what this meant and found out later that it meant about $10. I thought russia was supposed to be poor.

on the internets the Sheremetyevo airport in moscow is rated the 3rd worst airport in the world. i will definitely think thrice before ever trying to sleep over night in an airport. my standards were the lowest possible after researching so it wasn't absolutely horrible but pretty bad. i actually got maybe 4 hrs of sleep though.

check out my security system bags looped through my leg and tied to the suitcase handle. there was nothing to steal in the totebag. a pretty awesomely uncomfortable way to sleep. So all in all russia seems like it would be a sh!tty place to live and visit although i can't make that call because i have only been in their airport for 14 hrs and not in the real russia. but the internets had it pretty spot on, most people were unhelpful bordering on rude. the stewardesses on Aeroflot airlines to barcelona were not smokin' hot russian models. what the hell? they had a couple smokin' hot russian models working the security scanners at immigration and there were a bunch in the airport, why can't they get any for the planes? Aeroflot ties with Delta for being the worst because of their weak stewardesses, super super old planes with duct tape covering the ashtrays on the plane seats and the not so friendly service. Delta is the worst because their stewardesses are like your 55 yr old fat sassy/nasty racist aunt who give you service that is not so professional and old planes. So since I'll be in europe from here on out i won't be back in Asia for a while, so, So long Korea, for now. Hey readers! see you in barcelona!