My trip to Japan thus far has really just been a trip to Tokyo. Which is not insignificant, since the population of Greater Tokyo (35 million) is greater than the population of most of the world's countries (average country population: 30 million by my rough estimate). We've spent every day since I got hear exploring a different part of the city, and we haven't come close to looking at everything there is to see. That being said (and being brief, sadly, since SonicLlama and The Tomorrow Lady should be waking up soon), here's a little bit of what I've done.
Firstly and most importantly, karaoke. Karaoke is the most awesome thing ever invented on the face of the planet. Two nights ago, we took a brief sojourn to a karaoke bar, where we got our own room (karaoke's a private affair, unlike in the US where you have to belt out ABBA to the entire rest of the bar). SonicLlama gamely went first, singing a deliciously pitch-imperfect version of Give it Away by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (a graciously executed performance, which made me feel much better about my own contributions). I performed many no doubt cliched songs, culminating in the high points: belting out Smells Like Teen Spirit and performing a duet of Sweet Child of Mine with SonicLlama (Prisoner's Dilemma fans: think of it as a mini reunion tour, with one fan/groupie).
Next up. Many shrines. There appear to be a fair number of these liberally scattered throughout the Tokyo region (either that, or my hosts have made a point to take me to each one). I don't have too much of interest to say about them, since I honestly didn't do too much reading on them: mostly I just looked at the buildings, said "Hey, that's pretty!" and took a picture. It is kind of neat to see Shintoism still being actively practiced. It's not a religion I hear much about outside the context of history lessons, so it was cool to see a few active adherents and not just tourists wandering around the temple complex. At left: a building (I make no claims to its religious significance) at Hase-Dera temple. Below: a prayer left by some smart-ass tourist.
High-tech life. You may not have known this, but Tokyo is well-known for being a bit of a tech-heavy kind of place. Which I've been fortunate enough to experience tastes of here and there. Between, you know, exposures to the rustic foreignness. Why, just yesterday, I encountered one of those snazzy high-tech toilets that I'd read all about. Was that ever exciting! (Mind you, this was a fairly pedestrian model, but it was nonetheless exciting). Other bits of interest: playing Soul Calibur in a four-story-tall arcade (Club Sega) (also, getting my ass-handed to me in a Guitar-Hero-esque Taiko drumming game), walking down an open-air market loaded with electronics (I'm kind of used to carpets at those kinds of things), and buying beer from a vending machine. Maybe that's not so high-tech, but I still thought it was awesome. So there.
My companions have awoken. I shall provide you with more anecdotes and pictures as time allows. Godspeed to you all.