Today, a mix of things.

First, I think I'm going to stay in Japan for another month at least. I have a return ticket for Nov. 14th, I think it is, but my visa is good until Dec. 12th. So I'm going to try to change my ticket. It'll probably cost some money to change the ticket, but it'd be a waste to go back without really giving this thing the best try I can.

At the same time, I've found a place in a part of Tokyo I really like for not much more than I'm paying now. Today or Monday I'm going to go take a look at it, and then I'll move in the middle of next month. I'm very excited, and I hope it is better than the place I'm in now. It's in the same part of town as the Basho museum and a beautiful park.

Next - I thought maybe you'd like to know where I am an what I'm doing. The other day I wrote up a thing on the subways and in the process decided to put up a map of the subways. Unfortunately I shut down my computer before I posted the article on subways, but I'll go ahead and put up a subway map with key locations, so you can at least get a feel for what I've been doing.

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If you click on the photo it'll bring up a large version (like all the pictures I post on here).

Quick note here - usually Japanese maps don't point north; instead, they show where you are facing. Little quirk I have been meaning to mention - it is both very confusing and, once you get used to it, more intuitive than having every map point north. This map, though, does point north, though of course it isn't an accurate representation of Tokyo.

First of all, notice the skinny, banded railway line that encircles the city - it is sort of hard to see because it is black and white, but it is there. This is the Yamanote ("In front of the mountain") line. This is sort of the unofficial boundary of "Tokyo proper," where all the cool stuff is.

To the north I've circled in dark green the place I am now. You'll notice that I'm outside of the banded line, and thus I'm outside of Tokyo proper. That's okay, because it is kind of nice to come home to a quiet area (it's still pretty urban, though, sort of like Brooklyn, say). On the other hand, it is a pain in the ass because it takes forever to get to where I want to go. For example, to get to the Meiji shrine, my favorite place in Tokyo, circled in black in the southwestern corner, it takes about 40 minutes and 210 yen (~$1.90) each way. Shibuya, also a neat place and the location of the huge intersection scene with thousands of people crossing in Lost in Translation, is a longer trip and is 290 yen each way. But that's nothing, of course: many people spend 2-3 hours commuting each way, and who knows how much that costs ! (companies often pay for transportation, though)

A more central location, but more expensive, was the first place I stayed in Tokyo, the "Guess T House," in Azabu Juban (Hemp Tenth??), the place circled in light green to the south. I once walked from Shibuya to that hostel and it only took about an hour and a half. It would probably take about 6 hours or more to walk from here to Shibuya.

There's a nice used books section, not quite as nice as Paris's but still good, in Jinbocho, marked on the map in blue, near the center. Cheap books, with tons of books on mythology and religion! Yay!

Finally, to the east is Morishita, the place I might move to next month. It's also sort of "in the boonies", and it is only served by two railway lines (the place I'm at now is served by four), but it is beautiful and historical. I fell in love with the area the first time I was in Tokyo.

Okay, that's today's lesson in Tokyo geography. I want to try to label a satellite image at some point, but not today.

Because today I need to find a costume! Yes, that's right, Halloween in Tokyo. I guess it is a pretty small affair here, nothing like San Francisco, but it ought to be fun in any case. I'm going with friends to a party at the Foreign Correspondents' Club, which may also be a chance to "network" with expatriots. Later, I've heard, the gaijin make a ruckus on the previously mentioned Yamanote line in their outfits. Sounds like fun. Also sounds a little dangerous and expensive (Yamanote is fast but expensive). But I'll have to give it a try for the experience.

Finally, I'll finish my Chanpon soup (chanpon means mixing everything up in a stew-like thing) with a visit yesterday to an important shrine in Akasaka. It has something to do with a mountain god, though I'm too lazy to research more than that at the moment. But it is closely connected to the Emperor and fairly well-maintained.

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First, the entryway torii. I thought this picture would work well in an elementary school World Geography textbook with the caption: "Japan is a country of contrasts." (That's humor, by the way)

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Umm, a monkey priest. Don't know the story.

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Thought the emblem that adorns the shrine in many places was very pretty. So I took a picture of it.