Actually, I am still doing fine on energy; I just have been away from home for a long time. Which reminds me, I realized something today. I am not really looking forward to eating huge American meals like many of the other people in my program were, I am just craving garlic. Garlic is a food that inevitably finds its way into my diet that is just unavailable in Japan. I had some “garlic bread” today, and was depressed to discover that it was just overcooked bread with butter on the top.
Anyway, on to the good stuff. So today I went to the World Expo in Aichi (near Nagoya). I took the subway to Ueno, JR to Tokyo, the Shinkansen down to Nagoya, then transferred to a local line to Aichi, then transferred again to a maglev train which took me to the gate, and 4 hours after leaving Asakusa I was there. And this is what I saw.
It immediately struck me as being ridiculously similar to Epcot Center, just in Japan and with kawaii (the Japanese version of cute) mascots. I paid 4600 yen for a one day ticket, which, combined with the fact that I had traveled 4 hours to get there, probably did not put me in the right mood. There was only one thing that I really, really wanted to see, and that was Toyota’s exhibit. According to all the reports I have read, Toyota is working on the technology to make walking transportation vehicles (mechs) a reality. I really wanted to see the prototype, but when I got to the Toyota Pavilion I saw that the line was gigantic, and that the next time tickets would go on sale was two hours away.
Since I couldn’t visit the one place I wanted to visit, I decided to visit the showrooms of all the places I don’t. By the way, the showroom for Saudi Arabia was scary. It made it seem like the only things that came out of Saudi Arabia were barrels of oil and fanatics with swords. While the others had handicraft sections and were trying to promote tourism, the Saudi Pavilion advertised the prosperity of Saudi Arabia, and had models of oil pumping technology. Not only that, there were no Saudis, just Japanese people wearing Saudi dress. The Yemeni Pavilion, by contrast, was awesome. It was a bunch of shops for Yemeni jewelry, being sold by people from Yemen.
And after visiting this pavilion I just want to visit more. *Sigh* Maybe in 50 years…
Lynn, if you are reading this you will be pleased to know that the Korea Pavilion was so popular with the Japanese that I could not even get in.
The Chinese had one of the best gimmicks for getting people into their Pavilion: beautiful women playing traditional music.
And India’s smelled the best thanks to the fact that the ceiling was covered in flowers.
Here is a shot of the main structures at the Expo. By the way, everybody else was positively dying of the heat. I can’t understand how the Japanese can tolerate such a scalding in the bath, but then whine like they are dying when the air is hot. It’s hot. Get over it. Try not wearing black shirts and high-heels when you know it is going to be 33 C. Try not using that spray that prevents you from sweating. And who cares if you mess your hair up, put on a damn hat. Sorry for that rant.
This is the American Pavilion, the only place that X-rayed your bags. Interestingly, no bottles of any kind were allowed into the Expo, probably because of fears of chemical weapons, but it seems the Japanese security was not worried about explosives.
Inside the American Pavilion was a presentation about Benjamin Franklin. The statue was the highlight of the presentation for me. Everything else was a speech promoting diversity and freedom delivered in Japanese.
But I did like how the thing that the American Pavilion chose to emphasize the most was the exploits of NASA and JPL.
The Mexican Pavilion was the best architecturally. It did not feel crowded and felt elegant. Made me want to visit Mexico.
These are the mascots for the Expo.
And this is the mascot for Japan. Actually, JR is working on a levitating train that will travel with electromagnetic propulsion. This was another thing I really wanted to see, so I waited to get in for half an hour. In the mean time, the tickets for the Toyota Pavilion went on sale again. The train show was alright. They had a tiny model of a working system.
By the time I got out all the tickets for the Toyota Pavilion for the entire day were sold out. Depressed, I decided to go home, relatively satisfied with my day.
Part of the reason I decided to go home then was the crowd was getting much thicker.
This is a pretty picture I think.
Before I left I decided just to take a look in the gift shop. It was bedlam. I am used to crowding in Japan. On the trains you are sometimes chest to back with other people, and it is not really a problem because if you push a little eventually you will get through. But this gift shop was just as crowded, just with children half my size. I didn’t want to push because I was afraid of crushing one of them. At the same time, old grandmothers were pushing me from behind. It was stressful, to say the least.
This is the working model of an electromagnetic propulsion train. I took this picture for you, Dad, because I knew if you were there you would have been interested in it.
So I went back to Nagoya and hung around for a while. This is Nagoya.
Saw my 20th underground shopping mall. Yes, I have been keeping count.
And I tried Okonomiyaki. A nice woman who spoke English helped me take this picture.
So then I went back to Ueno and checked into a different capsule hotel. I was very excited that this one had a bath, so I immediately went to the bath and had the attendant tell me the procedure. I was to strip down in the locker room, leave my stuff on top of the locker and head to the bath. Then he left. I was just in the middle of taking my boxers off when a woman wandered in to the locker room and started talking to me. Naturally I stopped taking off my pants. Then I just stood there. We both seemed to be waiting for something. I asked if the sauna was included in the hotel fee, and she told me to wait a moment while she got the guy I just talked to. He explained everything to me a second time, and actually remarked with a smile “you don’t speak Japanese do you”. “Not so, Pal,” I thought, “I just don’t like to drop my pants when middle aged women are staring at me”. *Sigh*
Today I plan to meet up with Yuichi.
Post Script: I have only 700 dollars left in my bank account, so I'm going to be a little poor for the rest of the summer, but I might actually make it home!