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Original author: 
Aaron Souppouris

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Opened in 1995, Yurikamome was one of the first fully-automated railways to open in Japan. Running from Shimbashi to Toyusu, the line travels past some of Tokyo's famous landmarks, including the giant Daikanransha Ferris Wheel. Vimeo / YouTube user darwinfish105 has created a hyperlapse — like a timelapse, but taken from a non-stationary viewpoint — video aboard a Yurikamone train, and the result is pretty spectacular. The filmmaker mirrored and flipped the video, creating a kaleidoscopic effect that adds to the sense of speed, but there's also a less-edited version available on YouTube, if you'd rather take in more of the sights.

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Tofugu has a short article on this unusual and beautiful Japanese island: Aogashima.

Aogashima (“blue island”) is a tropical, volcanic island in the Phillipine Sea. Despite being over 200 miles away from the country’s capital, Aogashima is governed by Tokyo. In fact, a whole stretch of tropical and sometimes uninhabited islands called the Izu Islands are technically part of Tokyo. Volcanic islands? Not typically what comes to mind when you think of Tokyo.

As you might imagine, Aogashima isn’t the most crowded place in the world. As of this year, only about 200 people live on Aogashima. The island only has one post office and one school.

There are two ways on and off the island: by helicopter or by boat. There’s only one, small harbor where the boats go in an out of, and it seems to be a little unreliable. Because Aogashima is so remote and isolated, it can sometimes be hard to get a boat to or from the island safely.

A fellow named Izuyan has been traveling to isolated islands of Japan and taking excellent photos. Here's his Flickr set for Aogashima.

Japan’s Hidden Tropical Island: Aogashima(Via imgur)

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A week or so ago I shared a couple of trailers for my friend Niko‘s upcoming TOKYO X CREATIVES video series, and here’s a third trailer, this time for the episode that will feature the gaming/clothing shop Meteor, located in Kichijoji. Niko did a presentation on the project at last week’s PechaKucha Night Vol. 89, and it should be up on the PK site within a week or two.

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The other day I was asked if I were going to study abroad in Japan again, (which I totally would love to do! Work sucks!) would I advise applying to a Tokyo university or one out in the country? It seems to be a pretty common question, so I thought if I wrote a reply here weighing up what I perceive to be the benefits and drawbacks of both, it might help a few people make their decision. As such, this post isn’t exactly super interesting if you’re not ever planning to study in Japan but, I think some of it can probably apply to people planning to make a trip or work out here, too.

Reasons Tokyo Is Awesome

Painfully obvious things first – everything you could ever need is in Tokyo. You want to go bowling? There’s at least three bowling alleys near you. You want to eat in a Syrian restaurant? If there even are any in Japan, you can wager they’re located somewhere inside the capital. You want to form a 70s Jazz-Death Metal-Techno fusion band and need to find some people with similarly odd musical tastes? Well there’s no better place than Tokyo!

Furthermore, Tokyo has the most English speakers in all of Japan, and probably the most able ones, too. That’s not to say everyone here is fluent, far from it, but when you wander into a mobile phone store and try to work your way through the confusing registration process in English, you’re more likely to succeed than if you did the same thing in the middle of nowhere, where the reaction is usually to throw holy water at you and hide in a circle of salt. For people less confident in their Japanese, I’d say a Tokyo university is probably better.

Finally, Tokyo universities in general offer more courses, particularly in English. This may not be entirely accurate but having spoken to people who exchanged both inside and outside Tokyo, it seems like Tokyo universities offer a wider selection of modules, especially when it comes to anything to do with international relations, politics, business and so on. If you’re coming over because you’ve been studying Japanese along with a major in international something or other, Tokyo might well be better for you.

Reasons Tokyo Isn’t So Good

I think, based on what my classmates told me when we all came back to England a year ago, that it’s easier to make Japanese friends and find a community outside of Tokyo. That’s not to say there aren’t Japanese people to meet in Tokyo (in fact, I hear there’s quite a few!) but generally speaking community life and the idea of knowing all your neighbors doesn’t really happen in the same way. It sounded like the rural universities (as they are called, even if they’re in Osaka or other colossal cities) offer more of a slice of Japanese life rather than a slice of Japanese university life, if that makes sense.

Next, Tokyo has the most English speakers, far more than the countryside. Now I know what you’re thinking – Mike, you just said this above, stop repeating yourself, it makes you sound insane. But the fact is if you’re interested in immersing yourself in Japanese and using it 24/7, Tokyo is not the place to go. I spent a good amount of time in Sophia urging people I knew to speak Japanese and trying to find friends who wouldn’t spend thirty seconds nodding at my Japanese and then just hit me with a load of English. In the end I had a few friends who were happy to speak Japanese and I eventually managed to find a sports circle which did not contain a single native English speaker, but other than them I really didn’t bother spending time with many Sophia students. If you are similarly minded, you might want to consider not going to Tokyo.

Finally, it’s so much cheaper to live in the countryside. Food is cheaper. Rent is *so* much cheaper. Again, I’m not super read up on how much universities in the countryside cost, and as I entered Sophia through my university and thus paid fees to England not Japan, I am not really that read up on prices of Tokyo, either. But it’s almost certainty noticably cheaper.

In Conclusion

Should you go to Tokyo? Or should you brave the wilderness? To be honest, the answer is ‘I don’t know’. It really depends on what you want to do. If you love nightlife, international networking, electronics and so on, or if you’re more interested in non-language studies, I’d say Tokyo is probably a better choice. If you want to really throw yourself at the language and have people stare at you with a mix of fear and puzzlement on their face, the countryside is calling out to you.

I hope in this blog post I’ve sort of explained a few reasons you might want to consider one or the other, or at least I hope it’s brought up a few more issues to think about before you take the plunge. If you have any other questions feel free to leave a comment or use the contact form above. Happy exchanging!

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