Saturday, August 22, 2009

First Shabbat, and other observations

Shavuah Tov to everyone (though it is bizarre to write that when it is still Shabbat for the 99.9% of the people reading this blog. I'll say more about that and the secular and halakhic datelines in a later post).

A few notes from Shabbat:
  1. I spent most of Shabbat with the Jewish Communty (, which is a thoroughly wonderful organization. What more could I ask for than egalitarian davening, home cooked Shabbat meals, and a JTS educated rabbi (who is Italian!). Davening was surprisingly small (and, interestingly, mostly men), but otherwise consistent with any Conservative shul in the US. One final note, which is that they are moving into a brand new building in a few weeks, and will be having an event with many dignitaries, including the Canadian ambassador, who is Jewish. (I will of course likely still be in the office, as it will be a Thursday night)
  2. One of the most interesting quotes I heard at Shabbat was "Japan is the most successful communist country," or a corollary "China is the most capitalist communist country, and Japan is the most communist capitalist country." Interesting...
  3. I have now eaten at two different Trattorios, both within a 10 minute walk of my apartment, and both excellent. Wonderful (since I am much bigger fan of Italian food than Japanese food, and I am much better at discerning what is vegetarian), though I find it interesting considering I have yet to see or meet anyone from Italy in either restaurant.
  4. In my Shabbat walks this afternoon, I noticed that Tokyo has overpasses instead of crosswalks in several places. This allows them to have longer stretches without traffic lights, especially in places where there are not cross streets. This would be a worth addition to many cities in the US.
  5. No first week in Japan would be complete without a mention of a peculiarities: face masks. I've been told that the Japanese have a custom that if one is sick, one should wear a face mask. This seems less because the sick individual might catch something else and get sicker (since these are often young, otherwise healthy looking people), but more a common courtesy to spare everyone else. I'd be interested to see data as to whether this works or not.

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