Category Archives: sightseeing

Walking with Ghosts: A glimpse of Hiroshima and Miyajima

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November 2011

Growing up in the States, I learned all about World War II and the A-bomb from a particular perspective. History exists based on how it’s written. American’s write it one way just as every other nation has their on take on the events. Going to Hiroshima was my chance to finally get a hold on the other perspective of the A-bomb first hand. Though I was as interested in what the city had become as much as what it had been.

Another time travel post, sorry. My classes are thinning out so I finally have time during my free periods to hash out the details of these experiences with a clear head. Or clearer. I’ve been having some troubles with my body acting up but that can wait till another post.

I love the way foreigners pronounce Hiroshima, when it’s done incorrectly. It always makes me giggle. I called my mom to tell her I was going on this trip and said Hiroshima the proper way (hee row shee ma – phonetic!) and she had no clue what I was talking about until I said it with an American accent. I certainly don’t expect people to know all about Japanese pronunciation. I’ve been listening to stuff in Japanese since I was 12. I think I have a little bit of a head start besides the whole living in Japan thing. It’s just interesting how these things stick after all this time.

Where was I… Ah so we headed out super early before the sun and made our way down the highways towards Hiroshima. I am proud to say I drove both ways AND only got lost once. Couldn’t have done it without my trusty navi unit – NicoNico aka my friend Nicole. There we were, driving down the big highways in a tiny little K-car with yellow plates (more powerful cars get white plates). I can’t wait to drive at 65 mph on a regular basis again. In a car that doesn’t feel like a tuna can. The driving here can be painfully slow and dangerous because of all the mountains.

When we got to the outskirts of Hiroshima, we made a turn off into the inaka in search of Nicole’s great aunt. After a little hunting in the wilds, we found the temple her family ‘owns’ up on a hill. Nicole’s grandmother had recently passed away and we brought Nicole to the temple to pay her respects to her grandmother’s sister and family. A bonus was to see the temple, of course. Her great aunt was really sweet and friendly even with us being absolute foreigners in both nationality and understanding. Anna was with us and she speaks Japanese and looks Chinese but is from Singapore. Nicole is half Okinawan and half Japanese and can understand conversational Japanese but deep down she’s full blooded American-Hawaiian to me^^. And then there’s me. An obvious foreigner and not the greatest with the language. But she welcomed us like long lost grand babies.

After sitting around talking and giving the letter and gifts to the great aunt (I think she was nearly 100 years old but didn’t look near that old), we were shown the grave site where Nicole’s ancestors were buried. It was inspiring. Then we headed back down the hill and thought we were done but there was one more thing to do… ring the evening bell. Here’s the video Nicole took. I might be a goof but I was really honored to have had that experience. The original bell had been taken during the war to melt down for weapons or whatever but after the war they got a new one. I don’t remember the whole complex story behind it, there was a lot going on to take in at one time.

We said our goodbyes as the sun set on us and made our way into Hiroshima… a slow way. Tons of traffic. The city is set in a half circle of mountains. This barrier is all that kept the fallout of the bomb from spreading to the surrounding towns. Because of that, there aren’t a ton of ways to get into the city. Hence the heavy traffic I assume. After we made it to the island part of the city with the museum, we found our huge hotel and got settled in. The service was friendly as ever in Japan and they even spoke English! Yay for big cities. Our room had 2 beds and pull out sofa. It was very clean and the front desk was helpful with our questions about where to eat and such.

We arrived in time to catch dinner somewhere so we headed out. Several of the places were closed but we found a popular Italian place across from the museum. It was surprisingly good and I laughed out loud when they handed the Japanese menu to Nicole and the English menu to me. Nicole looks Japanese so I can understand that but what was so funny was when I asked her if she wanted my English menu. The menus were all written in Italian plus one other language and I know enough Italian to order food. The funny part is when Nicole glances at the menu and goes “What ya mean? There’s English on here.” I started cracking up and made her actually read it and she starts laughing and face palms while passing me the menu. I think the waiters got a little weird-ed out by how hard we were laughing but whatever. I was a little drunk from a glass of wine and the leftovers of motion sickness pills so I went right to sleep when we got back to the hotel.

 

He had birds all over him!! Nicole just had to have a picture so to be polite, we took a sneaky tourist shot.

Since Saturday was shaping up to be a nice day, we decided to find our way to Miyajima. This island is still rather sacred and it used to be that no one was allowed to die or give birth on the island. Now it’s a tourist spot with hotels, restaurants, food vendors, a rope way to the near top of Mt. Misen and of course lots of deer. The photos might describe it better than I can. On our way there we wandered the grounds of the Peace Park.

Nicole and Anna actually made it to the top of the mountain but I was dizzy and weary from the 10 plus hour drive the day before as well as all the walking that day so I waited for them at the love temple. I already did Fuji, I didn’t need to prove anything haha.

 

Just hanging out. Totally unafraid of people.

To the rope-way!

Typical beautiful natural surroundings found in Japan. I guess it was typical for us, being from the countryside. That’s Anna on the left and Nicole on the right.

 

The rope-way! I would ride that all day around that mountain. Beautiful.

They always make it look so easy on the map…

 

The girls went on ahead without me. I was pooped. And watching people at the love temple was very entertaining.

The paddle thing was huge. Near this was the fried oyster place. They were delicious. I’ve never been one to enjoy that genre of seafood but I decided it was stupid of me not to try something that was so popular and famous there. I’m glad I did.

Then we caught the sunset on our way out. Beautiful. The deer were even being cute.

We waddled our way back to the ferry to take us to the mainland. Anna and I fell asleep on each other. The mainland train then took us all the way back around to the shopping district and we went in search of a good okonomiyaki bar. We found one. It was fantastic, highly recommended. I really don’t know if I like Osaka style better than Hiroshima, though. They were both amazing. I felt bad but I couldn’t finish mine… it was starting to burn on the grill, I had taken so long to eat it. One thing I have not acquired is the Japanese way of shoveling down food. I like to take my time.

Somewhere in this madness we found a spectacular okonomiyaki place. I’m lucky to always have such resourceful friends.

A pseudo indoor mall street thing.

The only building left standing after the bomb dropped. It’s so haunting. A constant reminder.

Nicole posing in front of the museum. Everyone cries in there. Everyone.

Saturday was quite gloomy so we decided to go to the museum. I didn’t bring my camera due to the rain. The museum… is an experience every human being should have. I can’t begin to express how impacting  it was on me and everyone around me. Certainly there are some things left out or slightly altered to betray Japan in a more favorable light (just as we do in the US). But there was also some surprising admissions of guilt. I highly recommend reading up on your WWII knowledge before walking through it (from many sides if possible) as it helps give perspective. The over sentiment was most definitely anti-war all around.

We then wandered to a nearby mall center to wander around the omiyage (souviner) places. Some very delicious stuff. I found a place that sold the hard candy balls that are nostalgic of the pre-WWII era in Hiroshima. So many flavors. I bought bags and bags of them and took them back for my teachers… and me. We ate at a kinda whatever place in the mall and then did snack night with drinks at the hotel room.

The last day out was gloomy again. The beautiful Saturday we had at Miyajima was turning out to be extremely lucky. Anna really wanted to see the castle in the center of the city… but we were tired and it was rainy and… it was time to go. So we drove by it on our way out and made our long trek back home. I drove most of the way back (I get motion sick so it’s better if I drive) but Nicole took over at some point. I was so tired.

The moral of this trip for me was to be in the moment. Don’t blink! And if it’s raining out, bring the plastic cover for the camera!

With love- M

 

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EPIC Tokyo Trip part 2

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Talk about a long time gone. I’m coming up on my one year anniversary of my year of fabulousness in Japan. Thankfully, I’ve had some more free time lately and am catching up on logging my many adventures during that year. This is the first of many catch up blogs.

Actual time of post: July 2011

Saturday

WOOOOOooooo….oooo nonono no no. The morning started out well enough as we made our way to my first day in Harajuku. I was pumped, ready for action. I even did great on the subway. The 10 min switch at Shinjuku to get to Harajuku, however, did me in. I was an idiot and squeezed in with people… facing backwards. Yay. I spare you the gruesome details but let’s just say that I almost didn’t make it to the rest room. After this, I was queasy the rest of the day. Nicole’s friends met us for burgers at this pretty sweet joint. I had the most awesome avocado, cheese, and bacon burger sitting infront of me but… I just couldn’t do it. So I wrapped it up and took it with me. Notice I said that I wrapped it up. Japan isn’t so great with the doggy bag idea.

We split off after that for a little while her friends did some stuff. I can never live anywhere near anything like Harajuku. I would never have money. I ended up finding a lolita shop, Bodyline, and it’s now my favorite. They even ship to the states so I can continue this unfortunate addiction later. Why are they so good? Because the prices are reasonable. If I buy a regular lolita outfit, it’s so expensive that I’m scared to do any alterations to it; add lace here, buttons there, whatever. These Bodyline pieces are fantastic. I’ve only been able to wear the outfit I bought a couple times thus far but being out in the country, there’s not a whole lot of opportunity… and my wardrobe is not extensive enough to be lolita 24/7.

For real this time, Nicole and I went home on time. We were checking the time like the white rabbit. We got all dolled up and headed out for a night on the town in Shibuya, evidently the gay district. They have a whole district! So we got a cheap dinner at Sukiya, bowl of rice with meat on top and other things, and started taking in ‘the sights’. I wish I could’ve just walked around taking pictures. Lot’s of drag. Mostly all men. I was all done up with a corset and a tutu type skirt and I looked normal. I think the boobies gave me away, though. We stopped in at the first bar and it was pretty good. My main issue with it was the music. Sometimes the DJ just can’t feel the vibe. We made our way to the next club and it was a little better and people were starting to have a good time but it was starting to be that time so we split.

I love the looks I get from the hotel receptionists late at night. I’m sure they’ve seen it all.

Sun:

I have to admit how impressive the trains in Tokyo can be. Always on time… sometimes early. Because in Japan, to be early is to be on time. The above photo was morning on a Sunday so not too busy yet. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of rush hour when they’re cramming folks in on top of each other. Go here for that.

We headed to a local okonomiyaki place for some yumyums and to meet up with Nicole’s long time fan-dom friend, Liv. This was Tokyo style so it was a little different. I got the seafood version with shrimp and octopus and so on. Very delicious. Couldn’t finish it and felt bad about it. That’s not really a compliment in Japan… ever.

We then made our way to particular district known for it’s crazy fan-dom shops. However we had a nice surprise along the way. Lots of wall art! Some were old, some new, some in progress. All were lovely and really added to the beauty of the underground crossways (there’s a whole city of platforms and trains and stores under Tokyo).

Then came some heavy shopping – for Nicole and Liv, anyway. I’m not much for fan-dom stuff. I’d rather spend my money on food, clothes, karaoke, and adventures. But I can respect their love of these idols. It’s almost an art form.

Then we met up with another friend and had some fun in a fancy karaoke room. We ate, we drank, we sang and when the time was up, we took our time getting back to the hotel (got some snacks at a conbini on the way).

Mon:

Time to pack up and leave! But not before…

Odaiba! We wandered and talked and ate yummy burgers at a Hawaiian place Nicole was familiar with and it was such a good choice.

Then we headed to the castle. We were too late for a tour for the day but it was lovely just to see it from the outside. Besides, you see the inside of one Japanese castle, you see them all, right? Still, it is fascinating how such a peaceful, old world kind of place can be sitting in Tokyo.

We got hungry so we stopped at an izukaya. I’ve been to better. But it did the job. We still had some time to kill and debated about going to a karaoke place but on our way, came across what we think was an early Obon festival. Some fabulous yosakoi going on, too. What was so amazing was how it was just tucked away between a bunch of huge buildings. We heard the music and just followed it until we saw the big read gates all lit up and found the cutest little temple. Such a shame we had already eaten, too… I have a weakness for Japanese festival food.

We did end up singing some karaoke for a while but not too long since we had a free bath waiting for us before the bus ride. Lucky for us, it was in the host district. It was certainly an experience. I’ve seen women on street corners but never men. Supposedly there’s no sex involved but I think we all know how that works. They didn’t seem too interested in us foreign ladies though. So we found our bathhouse and got to it. I highly recommend it, too. I slept like a baby on the bus ride home.

Check out the whole Album.

With love- M

Fujisan: Mount o’ Oxymorons

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August 25 2011

Few things in my life would I consider both awesome and awful at the same time. It seems as though most of these special moments have taken place during my adventures in Japan. Climbing the famous Mount Fuji is no exception.

First is the kids version with easy photo presentation and then I give the lowdown on how it went down. For info on climbing Fuji, google it. Or go here or here. For a full photo collection, go here.

Winding along the coast of Himi.

It’s not a town unless it has pachinko.

Biggest Godzilla statue I’ve seen yet.

Then into the mountains.

A cute rest stop for couples. You’re supposed to put a lock on the fence to signify your hearts being locked together forever I suppose.

This couple meant serious business.

We stayed the night at a friend of Craig’s place. He was rather awesome and ironically his name was Joel (the same as my boyfriend) so of course I assumed he would be awesome from the start haha. The three of us curled up on Joel’s floor and sort of slept. Yay Leo Palace. We received breakfast in bed the next morning with apples, pears, and nuts. Joel offered more and more but we thought it best if we were off.

We drove through the town on the northern side of Fujisan but I didn’t take any pictures due to the gloomy nature of the day. It was raining and we were set to climb a mountain. We took our time wandering around and eventually sat down for luch at a Cafe Gasteau. Not recommended. Coco’s Restaurant is much better thought some folks seem to really like Gasteau.

Almost there…

Welcome to Cloud-parking.

And there she is.

A beautiful artist’s rendition complete with English subtitles.

A couple prayers before I head to my impending doom.

As the sun sets on our climb, maybe 2 or so hours in.

One of the rest points.

Those crazy kids. And yes, it is that cold up there in August.

Don’t give up!!

There she blows!

So close I can taste it… The tori gate is the entrance to the top of the mountain.

Butt shot.

The colors Duke! The colorsss. Everyone was wearing lots of layers and in a multitude of rainbow assortments. Not typical fair in Japan. They tend to like their neutrals. Oh and here you can see people with the walking sticks. I bought one, of course, and am so happy I did. It was totally worth it and I even got it stamped with the base camp symbols and the summit symbols.

They’re still coming!

Here’s the story: We started off together, kind of bungee-chord-ing between eachother. Craig would bound off, Anna would pull steadily ahead of me, and I would drag along until Craig stopped to rest and we’d all come together again for a few moments before starting the next leg.

I was (am) not in shape. I don’t know that I’ve ever been very athletic in any capacity. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy physical activity in that way, I just find it a bit more trying than some people. That in mind, I did not take offense when those two didn’t wait for me. In fact, I think we all enjoyed the alone time as we climbed. It meant you didn’t have to keep pace with anyone, worry about whether you’re pushing them too hard or vice verse. Oh, and yes there was some actual rock climbing, not trail trail walking. I almost fell to my death a few times…I don’t recommend a heavy non-hiking backpack for something like that. Very top heavy.

At some point during the evening, after about 4 hours of climbing, we decided it was time to rest. The next rest station we came to, we inquired about staying and it was a bit more expensive than we had thought and was for the entire night, not a few hours like we wanted.

The next station felt like hours away and was really a struggle for me. This place also was all night but was a little cheaper for some reason. They told us that the next station was the one we wanted, the one that let you sleep for a few hours and didn’t charge for the whole night. Craig and Anna were exhausted also but were considering continuing the climb but I reasoned that by the time we got there, we’d only have 3 or less hours to sleep because our pace was so slow right now from being so tired.

We stayed and it was worth it. I pulled my beanie over my eyes, put earplugs in and knocked out for almost 4 hours. We began climbing again around 1am (I don’t remember the exact times of anything). Craig took off before Anna and I even had our boots on. We couldn’t blame him though with all the folks now pouring up the trail. It was packed. Anna and I just fell into line in the middle of some tour group and tried not to get in the way.

Following those tour guides was the best. They have awesome pacing and even though they look like they’re going really slow, they never stop moving. At this point, everyone was in the zone. Just one foot in front of the other. The best way seemed to be walking like a duck so you didn’t slip on the rocks.

After some time of my silly waddling, I came across Craig hunched over on a rock to the side of the trail. Evidently he’d felt sick when he woke up but thought he could push through it since we were almost to the top. But we weren’t actually almost to the top… the last bit is the steepest and is packed with tired folks so it’s the slowest. I passed him my pepto bottle and advised that he ate something but he refused. I headed on and stopped to wait for him at the next station. He walked over, sat down on the bench next to me and promptly stood back up to go throw up over the side of the mountain. Yuck. Don’t test altitude sickness, it will win. I think he ate a little something and took some more pepto before starting on again, very slowly this time.

I pulled on ahead of him and struggled on up to the top where I hoped to find Anna. I learned later that she had walked around the whole crater, she just couldn’t stop walking lol. I had myself some hot chocolate in a hut and tried to warm up. Got my stamp on my walking stick and then decided to go ahead and start walking down. My phone was on the verge of death and I tried calling her once but reception up there is unreliable. Craig actually found me then and we headed down until we hear from Anna and stopped for a food break to wait for her to catch up.

The way down was crazy difficult. I wore my Five-finger gloves (Vibrams). Great idea for the climb, bad for the descent. Poor Anna’s toes were hurting bad from her new hiking shoes but Craig took off with his long legs. I stayed with Anna for as long as I could but towards the end I had to take off also because it hurt less to just leap down the trail. Rocks, so many rocks. OH! And I was harrassed by an older man that I think was slightly handicapped and wouldn’t take “Leave me alone” as an answer. He kept trying to have a conversation with me, completely ignoring Anna, and kept walking backwards or sideways, constantly getting in my way and slowing me down. It was weird. We lost him eventually…

I made it, waited for Anna to catch up and we called Craig who was asleep in his car. We took off our gear, agreed that this had been both the best and worst experiences of our lives and left in a hurry.

And it was the most awesome and awful experience of my life. Never again. A wise man climbs Fujisan once. A fool, twice. I’m stickin’ to it. I hope everyone gets to have something like that in their lives.

Thank you to Craig and Anna for joining me in that crusade.

With love – M

Candles across rice fields

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Senmaida Light Up – October 8 and other random thoughts

I realize my last couple posts have likely been, well… boring. Sorry. I’m lucky to be posting at all. These winter months are eating away at my soul more than usual. We’re finally getting some snow again, however, so things should be on the rise. What I mean is: if it’s gotta be dark when I wake up and dark when I come home, at least I have snow to play in. But the winter solstice is long past and the days are only getting longer from here on! Always look on the bright side of life, do dodo dodo dodo dodo.

Anyway, thanks to Joel helping to set up my ‘new’ computer during his visit for the holidays, I have been taking time to organize and configure everything to my liking. Now that all is where it should be, I can get down to business. Lots to do in the last weeks in Japan. Gotta finish some projects, update my portfolio(s), update online sites like LinkedIn, line up job interviews for April, decide what I’m leaving and taking when I head back to the States, and somewhere in there I need to ENJOY my remaining time in Japan.

Moving on. I shall recap an excursion that took place over 2 weekends. First weekend was a relaxing drive up to Wajima, the long way round on the westerly seaside. Below are a series of photos from the drive up with Nicole and Anna.

This is Ganmon.

Then we found our way to an old temple that doubles as a cafe out in the wilds of the Noto. Adorable little place with yummy hot cocoa and tasty cakes.

The next weekend we joined forces with some more friends and headed up the faster way, stopping for lunch at a local place that serves something special. It’s called Notodon with Noto being this whole peninsula area and don meaning a bowl (of rice). So these local joints take only local ingredients for the Notodons and we had beef something or other at this particular place on the bay side. It was excellent. Definitely not Sukiya style. Sorry I forgot to snap a shot, everyone was taking pictures so I got lazy.

So here are some shots of Wajima and one of their temples.

And this is Senmaida, our reason for the outing. It means 10,000 rice fields. Since it’s on a mountain side, the rice fields have to be set up like this. I assume it helps with irrigation and so on. It was gorgeous.

And then there was, of course, real fire. No Japanese festival is complete without a little fire. People lined the larger path and were given sticks with stuff on the ends and then they lit eachother up. Woohoo. Thankfully, I don’t believe anyone was injured. I wasn’t sure how I felt about some of the little old ladies holding up those big torches. I had to keep reminding myself that these were not the little old ladies from Delaware. These were inaka women. I wouldn’t wanna get in a tangle with them, not even the centennial ones.

What can I say about the Senmaida Light Up? It was gorgeous. We got lucky with good weather and a lovely sunset. There were a few vendors, same old same old. Not as good as the Fire and Violence Festival in Suzu but that was a much bigger venue anyway. We walked all around and through the paths of the rice fields. It was surreal going from top to bottom… and a bit tiring heh. The music performances and taiko were all fabulous. I loved the children’s taiko! Such skill. And of course the adults came on after and blew them out of the water.

I wouldn’t give up Nanao for Wajima (it’s super rural) but it’s definitely a must see if you’re in the area. There’s something to be said for the serenity and grace of the country side in Japan (and most other countries, of course).

With love – M

 

To Anan and back

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A short trip to see Nathalie’s town and get stuck in a typhoon.

Again, long over due. This little adventure happened back in mid July. Better late than never! With all these typhoons we’re getting right now, I can’t help but be remind of this trip. The trip was planned to be me traveling to Osaka and then to Tokushima and finally Anan on Saturday and return on Tuesday since I was able to get an extra day off after the holiday.

I started out on an early Thunderbird (that’s the super train in these parts) and made a quick changeover in Osaka to a bus. While I was waiting in line to buy a ticket, a nice fatherly man started making random chitchat with me using surprisingly good English. After I got my ticket I took a minute to gather my stuff together and he caught up with me to make the conversation more official. As it turns out, he was a JTE (that’s Japanese Teacher of English) for many years at a highschool way up in the mountains a few hours from Osaka. He was traveling alone and made it very clear that he prefers it that way.

Being curious I asked why and he said that he had never found a companion that didn’t make traveling irritating. His wife especially drove him mad and even his best friend was too much trouble. He said he prefers the alone time because it makes it much easier to interact with foreigners he runs into along the way. I absolutely understood this because being such a person, I prefer not to be suddenly surrounded by tourists interested in practicing their English for extended periods of time. It’s much nicer one on one and not so confusing.

He was super nice. Asked if I wanted to get a cup of coffee but unfortunately I don’t drink coffee and said I just needed to eat a fast lunch instead. He then offered to show me to the nearest food area so I could grab something before getting on my bus. I already new the area really well from my last Osaka trip but it was kind nonetheless. We parted but as I was sitting in the little cafe eating my sandwich, who should round the corner but my little friend eager as a beaver to squeeze in some more English before I left. He had some interesting philosophies on the differences between western foreigners thought processes and those native to Japan. I wanted to agree that my folks, Americans, were not living sustainable or at all in tune with our natural environment on a daily basis… but certain things kept coming into my head about whaling, personal freedoms, and the unfortunate downside to constantly following the “wa” system (see my older post) that I decided it best if I kept my mouth shut. Smile and nod. It’s the “wa” system in action. Maybe he would’ve benefited by my counter-idea, who knows.

Finally I made my way to the bus and was given the only seat with an empty seat next to eat. Praise Jesus or whoever. It was perfect because my bum is a little more than typical Japanese standard… just a little heh. I probably saw the most scenery of Shikoku on that bus ride out of my whole trip. The mountain formations were really interesting. I should have snapped some photos but I only had my phone cam and it’s not the best with motion. I’ll try to paint you a mental image: you know those huge paintings in Chinese restaurants and buffets? The ones with the little fishing boat gliding on the water with huge odd looking mountains all around that look impossible they’re so slender? Those are what I saw. Take a mountain, shave away the outside until it’s almost a cylinder from top to bottom.

After meeting up with Nathalie and getting my rental bike, we dropped my stuff at her place and headed for dinner. Dinner was a 5k bike ride away at the nearest super kaitenzushi. We were so bushed by the time we got there. Red faced and frothing at the mouth. This was summer in Japan mind you with the humidity that comes just before a big typhoon. We stuffed ourselves and before it got too dark and buggy we headed back for conbini ice cream and lots of sleep.

The next day, Nat’s friend took us around for a little sightseeing in Tokushima City, the closest big city to Anan. She had a car. It was lovely. First was food. Real udon, my first time.

The strange statue outside the noodle shop.

Some mountain top viewing of the city.

The next day was by train and foot, back to the city for some wandering before the storm hit too hard. There was Awa Odori stuff everywhere.

 

Delicious foodstuffs.

Nat being herself at the train station. We got off too early. Boo.

But the waiting presented a photo-op of some Totoro graffiti.

And the morning after was my giant bowl of oatmeal and banana courtesy of Nat.

Then the ridiculousness began. The typhoon hit on Tuesday, the day I was to head home. I had work on Wednesday morning and an important party for a JTE I didn’t want to miss in the evening. We tried to find out what was what with the trains and it seemed things were fine so we bundled up, wrapped my stuff in plastic, and headed out on the bikes… through a typhoon. Eventually we were just walking the bikes because the wind was so hard it would’ve toppled us and the rain stung our faces too badly. We then returned the bike in town and walked to the station. The bike man looked super surprised to see us.

I went in, got my ticket and hopped on the next train to Tokushima.

Once there, I ran to the bus terminal and asked about a ticket to Osaka. No tickets, no buses. What about later? I asked. Nope. And tomorrow? Don’t know yet, maybe yes maybe no. Depends on the storm. Crap.

I made some frantic texts and calls to Nat and my supervisors. There was more talking involved than I think was necessary with my company but eventually they got the concept that there was no way I was going to be able to leave Shikoku until the following day if I was lucky. And Nat’s wonderful friend with a car was so wonderful and picked me up from the station after only a few hours waiting. I was concerned about getting a hotel room because of all the other travelers stranded there. One girl sitting next to me with her mom was calling all the local hotels to find a room that wasn’t ridiculously expensive for the night. I think she found a place at the Toyoko Inn just as I was leaving. I looked back at her as I got up to leave and she gave me a slow nod to say she would be okay. Yay for not needing words sometimes.

The next day there was some seriously anxious waiting involved at the train station while they got things up and running again. It was a nice little trip, excitement and anxiety. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Shikoku another time. After all was said and done, I made it home to Nanao by 10pm and Nicole picked my exhausted self up. I was done with traveling for a while after that… oh wait… one week later was the Tokyo trip. What was I thinking?!

With love – M

Matsuri of FIRE

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Experiencing the Fire and Violence Festival in Suzu

So many pictures to go through >.<! Right now I’m really loathing writing this… but maybe talking about it will help me push through it. I’ve been getting so much better about not putting things off as long as I can remember those things. My little notebook has become more and more of a diary written in shorthand and to-do lists. Since I don’t have internet at any of my schools, it comes down to organizing my life in that little book and writing up blog posts during free periods.

Okay, time warp. Back to July something or other day, 2011. The Fire and Violence Festival oooooo exciting. I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest. I assumed the obvious. What I got was, well… the obvious.

Friday was FIRE and lots of it. From the photos you can see what I mean. We thought the starter bonfire was cool. Then they started to light the big boys. There were at least 6 of those huge pine polls with tinder wrapped around them, ready to bust into flames.

A dude would take another long pole, bamboo most likely, wrap a rag around it and then dumped it in a can of something before setting it alight. He’d then very precariously reach out with up to touch the fire to the pine poll.

Off in the distance, across the little harbor at the center of town, we saw a long row of twinkling lanterns.

Oh and here’s us minus me before we got to the ‘stage’ area. There were some fireworks already going off. Sorry about the blur.

Then they came to us. These huge portable shrine things with kids playing music on top and town folks carrying them underneath. It was pretty crazy. The music was all the same song, I assume, but none of the shrines where playing together so it became this strange cacophony of sound as more and more shrines poured into the area. We didn’t even stay to see the last shrine. It was getting really late and we were tired and still had to drive the 2 hours back to Nanao.

Saturday was the Violence night. Nicole and I decided we crash in the car (not crash the car!) following the events of the evening. Liquor was the name of the game that night. Not just for spectators either. Everyone was drunk in some fashion. There were a lot less kids that night though, don’t worry.

Oh and the vendors! Of course there were vendors. It wouldn’t be a festival without them. A couple were particularly awesome. I got a sweet Gundam pin for my boyfriend and some delicious stuff on a stick. I kept going back to this one chicken on a stick place that was fantastic. I heart salt. And there was a beef man. His stuff was amazing.

Anyway, there we were – watching these men carry this wooden shrine down the streets of this compact little town in the middle of nowhere. All of sudden they would stop and throw that sommamabitch down and jump all over it yelling and screaming. They’d rock it over, back and forth, a preistly looking character would say some prayers and then the men would turn it back over, pick it up, and continue on their way to the next spot. Sorry for the lack of pictures but there was no way I was taking my nice camera. I took my phone (actually has a pretty nice camera function) but it was dark so I took video instead. Unfortunately… it’s in .3g2 format and I can’t figure out how to get it out.

Then they made it to the river er, large creek. On the bridge, they threw it off into the water and then quickly followed. Pounding and picking up and throwing against the high walls ensued. These guys must have been in some crazy rage to do all of this. I imagine there were lots of swore parts in the days to follow. I was lucky, however, and remained unharmed, mostly dry, and even found a piece of wood that had broken off of the shrine.

To the fire! They picked it up and continued the throwing and praying ritual until they reached a little waterfall/creek area. There was already a huge pine poll, like the night before, blazing next to the water. The shrine gets thrown in first, then the men and then the violence continues but this time with fire. By the time they hauled it out, we were bushed. So we said our thanks and made our long trek back to the car to sleep off our ridiculous night. We awoke to 5 eagles screaming at each other on a wire over top of the car and a cute little Japanese woman picking up leftover trash from the festival yelling back at the eagles. Nicole and I just looked at each other and laughed.

Oh! and then a random Cruella d’Ville car in Shika-machi. Weird.

 

With love – M

Kanazawa wanderings

Standard

Exploring my nearest big city.

So much catching up to do! Sorry for being out of commission for a while but there was just too much going on. Between trips around Japan, flying home for vacation, and then settling back into the routine again once I got back to Japan… I needed some time. Now that I’m back at school, I have some time during my free periods to bring this blog up to speed.

At the top of my list is an old topic from over a month ago, back in July. A couple friends, Anna and Nicole, traveled with me to Kanazawa to walk the tourist path and then go to a party later in the evening. I won’t be able to go too in depth, my memory is that of a gnat. I think it’ll be best to just pick some key pictures and you can check the rest out in the full gallery if you like.

After making the hour and half trek from Nanao to Kanazawa, we begin our meanderings at the temple, the typical starting point I’m told. I thought it was pretty cool as far as temples go in Japan. Definitely very old. As clarification, temple=Buddhist and shrine=Shinto.

The stone symbol is from a ruler I don’t remember who felt compelled to place his mark every where during his reign. Just like an cat that’s not neutered. Imagine that.

The wooden hanging doo-dads with writing on them are prayers. Some were really funny like “I want to be 48 kg”. Anna even found one from one of her students.

Then of course there were lots of gardens around the temple. We followed a trail of them up to the castle, the next big point. There was construction so I’m sure it’ll be even more awesome next year.

We ended up not going inside but instead made our way to the big garden area to have some tea and treats by a waterfall/lake.

Ah a rare picture of me.

A nice stroll through the local contemporary art museum was next on the list. We went through everything that was free and peaked at the things that were not. Mucha’s stuff was there actually… :sigh: but I didn’t feel like coughing up the dough to walk through the exhibit by myself. Another time maybe.

The outdoor art was sweet. I love interactive, large contemporary art.

The pool was cool.

And a nice twilight shot as we left the museum.

And yellow Anna with her yellow cake after some pretty good pasta. Yum.

Next was resting and prepping for the party. It was good times but I has no pictures of myself or anyone. I’m terrible about remembering that sort of thing even when I put so much effort into my hair and makeup.

With love – M