Hello again. I've hopped over to the East Coast to visit with family and do some fun sightseeing with my son -- I love to take these random vacations with him, and am painfully aware that as he gets older, he'll be too busy with school and/or work to go with me. We visited some wonderful places in Washington D.C. including Arlington National Cemetery and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum -- pretty much my favorite place in the world until I went to the Ghibli Museum, see below -- and are now in New York City, taking in the sites and checking out a few universities my son might be looking at in the future. It's great being here in New York, enjoying the crush of people and the sights in Times Square, and I can't believe we'll be back in Japan next week.
I've written before about how Japan can be surprisingly uniform from one end to the other, with things like schools and roads and stoplights looking pretty much the same from Hokkaido to Tokyo to Kyushu. In Japan there's a tradition of ideas being "top-down" and coming from a central source (usually the government in Tokyo), without a lot of variation from region to region. This isn't the case in the U.S., and the cultural difference between California and the East Coast is worlds apart, something that my son is discovering for the first time. We were surprised to see Japan-style rest stops with gas stations and restaurants enclosed within the freeway system, something you never see on the West Coast.
We've been having fun in the D.C. and New York areas this week.