Day One — From Philly to Japan


I love Philadelphia.  Yes, I honestly do.  But, there are some things that I have seen in many other cities that I have been fortunate to visit that I don’t see here in Philadelphia.  For one, the lack of stores owned and run by Japanese people.  I’m not saying there’s none,  I’m just saying there aren't many.  Need proof? Try going to New York City where you can find a large amount of Japanese people and The Village has quite a few stores and super markets. But, nothing even remotely close in Philadelphia, as far as size, that I’ve seen.  Why?  I don't have a clue.  But thanks to the JASGP, I have been able to meet quite a few Japanese people right in Philadelphia.  Add the language meet-up I go to in Ambler with Jenny Hammond at the helm, and you have the start of something really wonderful.

There are events and more on the JASGP calendar (I’ll post the link so you can join in on the fun), and this year, for the first time ever, a trip to Tokyo, Japan.  I found out about this because of an event they have in Japan called haname (flower viewing in Japanese).  In Japan they have a festival around this time, which is when the cherry blossoms (sakura in Japanese) bloom. As you may have guessed that Japan is by far not a cheap ticket.  And to fly there just for a Sakura festival, would be nuts to Americans, but admirable as well as respectful to the Japanese.  I have heard many stories about how beautiful this festival is, and one day, I’ll see it.   In Japan.

Because of this event being held in Japan, and JASGP wanting to do their part in getting Philadelphia on the map, and having a Sakura Festival earlier this year, I ran in to Sam and the chance to experience Japan first hand. As I’m writing this, outside there are Japanese businessmen and women scurrying around like it’s a power lunch, there’s school kids who are still in their class uniforms on their cellphones (keitai in Japanese) texting friends, as well as the business and governmental elite stumbling around from too many rounds of sake and whiskey... at 10:30PM.

Tokyo sleeps... but only for about 4 hours.  Well, that I’ve seen so far.   And I haven’t event spent an entire day here yet.  The buffet dinner the hotel had set up was quite the classy ‘pinky-extended’ feel to it.  We were greeted by the current Miss Sakura 2008 before dinner, and she proceeded to tell us about herself, and how she’s never left the country, even though she’s only 26 years old.  I didn’t get any photos of her, because there quite a few men in dark sunglasses who asked me not to take any photos as we walked pass to get to our group.

So yeah, I love Philadelphia.  But when you want to immerse yourself in something different, then Japan is my recommendation.