Alas the moment of my departure is imminent, the road up to this point has certainly been long and arduous. I certainly wouldn’t be in this position if not for the support of my family and friends that helped me every step of the way.
My flight leaving Melbourne departs this evening at 6:30pm this evening, Sydney bound with a connection to Tokyo’s Kansai International Airport in which I will be arriving at 6:05am on Wednesday 30th May!
Honestly the last month has quite literally been the best of my entire life, never have I felt so loved and appreciated by those around me, which has made the decision to leave all that more difficult. I have been showered with gifts and good times by my friends, co-workers and especially my family, and have been thrown no less than four going away parties in the last week.
I would go so far to say I have lived more in these past few weeks than in the many months before, having being caught up in the daily grind these past few years. From the bottom of my heart I have been as truly happy and content with life, since I found out I was accepted into the 2012 JET Program and was heading to Kobe.
The packing up of everything I have ever owned and deciding what exactly makes the cut to be packed away to come along with me (made all the more-so difficult by the fact I have always been a compulsive hoarder) has been enduring process. Having been through the emotional roller-coaster that comes with leaving ones home that have ranged from joy to guilt to regret to contentment, one feeling that is prominent as ever, is that of being terminally Australian.
However reassuringly, unlike my grandparents that first came to these shores over half a century ago (a journey of which they have reminded me several times upon each of our meetings these past weeks) I leave knowing, that a home to be warmly welcomed back to will always be awaiting me in Melbourne, with my family and friends being little more than a Skype session away.
I would like to share a couple of the photos of the people and times that have made these last few weeks special.
So how long have I been waiting to do the cheesiest thing possible and play Big Jet Plane by Angus & Julia Stone upon my departure to Japan. About a year and a half or so, it pretty much clicked the first time I ever heard it that this was destined to be my JET song. If anything its an awesome replacement for the only other JET applicable departure song Leaving On A JET Plane.
Tokyo Skytree today opened to the public for the first time after 4 years in the making after it began construction in July 2008 ! Towering over Tokyo at 634-meters the tower is officially the worlds tallest almost doubling the Eiffel Tower in Paris (standing 324m) and just beating the Canton Tower in China, which is only 600 meters.
Taking almost 43 months to complete at a cost of 40 billion yen (503.7 million dollars) the primary purpose of Skytree is broadcasting radio waves which had previously been via Tokyo Tower but tall buildings constructed over the past few decades had begun to interrupt the signal as it simply wasnt tall enough for a meccha large city like Tokyo.
Since 1958, Tokyo Tower standing at 333m has been the iconic figure of Tokyo’s skyline and a symbol of Japan’s capital, however today marked the end of its dominance with Tokyo Skytree sanding 90 percent higher than Tokyo Tower.
Currently the world’s tallest structure is Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which stands 828 meters. However it is in a different class as it not a tower but a skyscraper so Tokyo Skytree currently takes the cake for worlds tallest broadcast tower as you can see above!
Of course the Japanese never let a chance pass them by to create a mascot for well…… pretty much everything! Tokyo Skytree’s anthropomorphic lil character is Sorakara-chan, which can be literally translated to means “From the sky-chan.”
Ans she even comes with her own little back story:
Sorakara-chan (ソラカラ) is a girl with a star-shaped head hailing from the “Pointy Star” from which she scanned the universe using her favorite telescope. She apparently saw the 634 meter Sky Tree brightly piercing through the clouds, which enable her to find and visit Tokyo. Her clothes are imprinted with a design based on the framework of the Sky Tree itself.
Now the 634 meter height of the building is no coincidence, it actually comes with a great deal of significance. Not only to take the building over the mark to name it worlds tallest tower, but in Japanese these three figures together 6-3-4 can be pronounced Mu-sa-shi which is the name of the former province of what is now Tokyo. It is also an homage to legendary swordsman and ronin Musashi Miyamoto who was the author of The Book of Five Rings (五輪の書).
Admission to the first observation deck, at 350 meters above ground is 2,000円 for adults. An additional 1,000円 is charged for visitors to head up to the second, observation deck, which is 450 meters above ground level, totalling 3,000円.
Despite the high ticket prices, more than a million people made reservations as of May 7. Along side this the place is fully booked for the next two months so unfortunately I wont be able to visit when I head down to Tokyo next week, on the bright side this can be the motivation for a trip to visit it in a couple months.
Tokyo Skytower grows pictured in October 2009, April 2010, August 2010, December 2010 and May 2012
Mameshiba (豆しば) are Japanese bean-dog characters that tell unsettling and often unwelcome trivia in a series of animated shorts. When I came across them
The premise being in each short a character is about to eat a bean when suddenly it introduces itself and delivers a random piece of trivia that ruins the appetite of the person, some notable ones being:
Did you know that a kangaroo’s pouch is sooooo stinky?
Did you know, in France the Japanese word for dandelion means ‘peeing your pants’?
The name mameshiba is an intentional pun in Japanese: mame means “bean”, and shiba refers to the dog breed shiba inu. The term mame shiba can also refer to either a toy shiba inu or a puppy of the breed, essentially meaning “little shiba inu,” Finally, mameshiba sounds like mamechishiki, which means “trivia.”
Like most uber-cute Japanese fads they come with a plethora of merchandise which I certainly cant wait to get my hands on ^_^
The Japanese Salaryman (サラリーマン) invokes the thoughts of a man so dedicated to his company that he compromises every other aspect of his life, enduring an arduous commute and a plethora of unpaid overtime on a daily basis.
What could be more hilarious than half a dozen Salarymen dancing in a crazy/robotic/synchronized/slow motion fashion in very public places, all whilst maintaining perfectly emotionless apathetic expression!!!
Well many things but that is exactly what Genki Sudo World Order bring to the table and I still feel that their videos are particularly unique and notable.
The group is led by Genki Sudo a retired Japanese martial arts champion turned robotic salaryman electronic dancing machine, check out some of their videos below.
So I thought i might go a little into the details of the city where I shall be living for the next couple years…….
Kobe is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture and Japan’s fifth largest city. And although Kobe-shi is right on the other end of the country from Tokyo, there are many other notable cities right around the corner (figuratively) that I cant wait to explore!!! Notably including Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Himeji and Okayama!
So if you have ever heard of Kobe before (the city, not the dude who annoyingly comes up every single time I try to google Kobe) it would probably be due to the acclaimed Kobe beef that is raised according to strict tradition in Hyogo. The meat is generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture. I suspect I shall be noming an awful lot of it in the coming months and It looks something like this .
The other thing Kobe is famous in the international community for is the Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck Kobe in January 1995, killing more than 6,400 people and destroying much of the city. In the years since, Kobe has risen from the ashes with few signs of the destruction in its past.
Kobe has served Japan as one of Japan’s most important port town for centuries due to the calm waters of the Seto Inland Sea and was one of the first ports to begin accepting foreign traders in 1868 following Japan’s 200 years of isolation during the Edo period. Here is the official Kobe-shi Flag.
JET placed in Kobe generally live in 3 suburban locations: Gakuen Toshi, Hanayama, and Port Island. Luckily it seems that I will be placed in Gakuen Toshi (学園都市), which is located in the western ward Nishi-ku (西区) of Kobe. It’s a university district which lies on the Seishin-Yamate Subway line, and is only 25 minutes on the train away from Sannomiya (三宮) (the centre of Kobe).
Apparently JET’s placed in this area live in the same building complexes in either 1DK or 2DK rooms, and one of the best parts of being placed in Kobe is that the BOE pays for half your rent and I am told to expect between ¥30,000~38,000/month (Subsidized from between \50,000~70,000) with no key or deposit money required, sweet huh!
I will be based at a JHC (as most Kobe JET’s are) which is only about 5km from my apartment, another added bonus being that the BOE also pays for my transportation expenses to and from work!!!
Equally famous is Kobe’s wonderful nightlife, crammed into a small, navigable, and rather intimate quarter of neon lights, cozy bars, lively pubs, and sophisticated nightclubs. I have been told that there is a place near Sannomiya Station called The Hub which is the general JET favourite meeting place on a Friday night to plan the evenings misadventures. As you can see its a city that’s certainly on the pretty side of things ^_____^