asia,  japan,  travel

Soggy start to Interspeech – Day 2


It was another early morning, as my body seems convinced that 6 am is a perfectly acceptable wake-up time. The early hour did work out well for chatting with family on the other continent, so I was able to catch up during my morning surfage. Due to my lack of dinner last evening, I was fabulously hungry, so I popped down to the front desk and invested in a quality breakfast snack–Pocky! The steady drumming of rain against the window was an ominous sound; however, my plan for the majority of the day was to check-out the conference, so I suppose a dreary weather day would be more likely to keep me at the conference. After getting dressed in something relatively respectable, I headed off to Ueno Station to see about getting my JR rail pass validated.

They have this handy option for foreign tourists. The JR pass gives you almost unlimited access to JR rail lines for the time allotted (1 week increments), so you can take as many trips as you wish. I didn’t jump on the bandwagon the last time I came to Japan, believing that it wouldn’t necessarily pay off for the couple trips I was taking. However, apparently the cost of a round trip Tokyo > Kyoto ticket on the shinkansen (bullet train) will pretty much pay for the pass. It’s a rather complicated process, as one needs to obtain an “exchange order” for the pass in your home country and then take it into a JR office to get the actual pass. The lines were mercifully brief, and I soon got my pass. The only foible, which was really a result of my own stupidity, was that I’d worked out getting the pass for 7-days (October 3rd-10th)…which sounded right in my head, but 7 days including the 3rd is actually October 9th. sigh. Evidence yet again that math is not my strong suit. This means that for my last train ride back to Tokyo from Takayama I’d have to pay for separately. Nevertheless, I commandeered a nice JR ticket agent to book all of my train trips, so I was ready to go.

There is something eminently satisfying about successfully navigating a foreign transportation system–such an absurd sense of achievement at having made it to your intended destination without incident. I am grateful that translations of the Japanese characters are so pervasive, otherwise it would make things really complicated. I hopped on a JR local train to to Tokyo station, and after a long maze of escalators and crowd-filled corridors, got onto a JR local train bound for Kaihimmakuhari, where the conference is being held. If yesterday was about colour and music and sunshine, today was definitely the antithesis of that. The train passed through the outer reaches of Tokyo, across the bay, through grey industrial sites and factories, punctuated by the occasional bit of touristyness, such as the Disneyland resort. A bit odd, admittedly, to see the spires of the Disneyland castle rising up between the various car factories and industrial plants.

Eventually, I rolled into Makuhari and made the short walk over to Makuhari Messe (International Convention Center). I got myself checked-in and sat down to go through my conference swag, which included a snazzy bag and a massive spiral-bound program. I wandered upstairs to the main conference area and site of the corporate sponsor booths, settling down to get in a little GRE study time. Conference organizers were nice enough to provide nearly $50 worth of meal tickets for us to use at participating restaurants in the area. So I ventured out to the neighbouring mall complex in search of lunch. My lack of Japanese food eating was likely disappointing my husband, so I was determined to find something Japanese to eat. Ironically, a lot of food offered was catering to the foreign-convention-goer crowd (including a Subway), but I finally settled on tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets), which was quite tasty. I made my way back to the conference and prepared for my first session.

The most interesting/relevant talk of the day for me was one on the influence of musical training and L2 perception of consonants. The talk was clear and well-laid out, and I left feeling re-affirmed in my interests. You know your registration fees were high when for the coffee break, they also hand out little individual cartons of Haagen-Dasz ice cream. I sampled the truffle chocolate flavour, which I believe had honest to goodness truffles mixed in. I perused the poster sessions–an interesting one on alcohol and speech caught my eye–before calling it a day. I hopped back on the train and was soon back in Ueno, heading back for the hotel.

One Comment

  • David

    How do you think you would have fared on the trains without the translations? Many Seoul subway stops don’t have transliterated signs, which is fine because hangul uses a relatively simple syllabary. So, what percent of stop names and directions are given in kanji, and what percent in katakana and hiragana?

    P.S. I Love tonkatsu.

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