If I scanned every picture that I took on this trip, I would more than fill the disk quota of my account. Even with the JPEG compression I'm using that's compressing them down to 30K each. I have that many. Granted, many of them are pointless pictures of the places our host city took us, like the Water Reclamation Plant, or the Garbage Incineration and Landfill. I just had to take pictures of everything.

My hometown of Brea, California has a sister city in Japan, Hanno-shi in the Saitama Prefecture. That is where I stayed for two weeks in the summer after my Freshman year of High School. By far the most enjoyable two weeks of my life, the time I spent there has more than anything has made me want to study and learn about Japan.

My first experience in Japan was a dinner with the mayor of Hanno. Of course, it felt like four in the morning for all of us, and we were all a bit out of it. We then went to a hotel and our host families picked us up the next morning. After that, I didn't hear a word of English for two whole days.

The member of my host family (who I have pictures of, but not scanned) who I saw the most was the mother. Because she does not have a job like the majority of traditional Japanese mothers, she looked after me, and even took me shopping with her. The level of everydayness that I experienced was very pleasing. I was not overwhelmed by touristy places. My family did not take me to Tokyo Disneyland as some of the other students' families did.

I spent two days with my host family before we got together as a group of students again. In this time, with only rudimentary Japanese, I tried communicating in Japanese, watched Batman subtitled in Japanese, and played Famicom (Nintendo). Some of the little this in Japan interested me the most. For instance, whenever a television commercial has a song in the background, the composer is credited. Weird.

I had been briefed beforehand on the ideosyncracies of Japanese life, but not much of it helped. For instance, I expected the shower/bath with the cardinal rule: Don't get soap in the bathtub. The bathtub is for soaking only. I showered beforehand with a small hand-held shower head.

I have other pictures of the house, but I have not scanned them. Because land is so expensive there, a house for a family of four was barely a fourth the size of the house I was living in at the time. The master bedroom contained two desks, two dressers, and two tatami (bed/mats) on the floor, and nothing else. The stairway was so steep to save space, that I almost had to climb up it.

One thing about Japan. Cars are less common there, for a few reasons, from what I saw. Roads and parking lots take up valuable space, and the mass transit system is very effective. Everyone's heard of the bullet trains, but not many people know about the web of interconnected commuter trains that cover the large area around Tokyo. We were able to travel from Hanno to Tokyo in a 45 minute train ride straight there, but by bus, it took 2 hours.

And white seems to be the car color of choice.

Also, notice how overcast the sky is. This is the way it was the entire trip, it was raining most of the time. Which was great for me, because I like the rain. I guess it's because I grew up in Southern California, and I was deprived.

Go back to my Vacation Page.

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