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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

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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

Pics and snip-its

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Slowly but surely, I’m collecting my thoughts. It’s taken no small amount of effort to focus myself on these kinds of tasks. Being bombarded by so much ‘new’ can be quite disorienting. Now I can take a tiny step back and start to view my picture as a whole and to be frank, I like what I see.

The new photos page has some content on it now and I will add to it as frequently as I can. I hope the setup I’ve devised will work for now. It’s just much easier and faster to upload to Picasa web albums right now. If I delete any albums off of the photos page, don’t worry they will still exist in my picasa web albums page. I still need to get some shots of my cute little kei car and  my new little garden I’m growing. I’m afraid I’m not really allowed to take pictures of my schools… supposedly, nor can I even tell you where they are and so on. So I apologize in advance for taking any information off or not giving some that might be helpful. I think it’s a little silly but that’s what works for the company so I’ll do as they ask.

Dehli to Dublin has me in a groove write now so maybe I’ll give a small time line to start out. So many things to talk about it’s hard to know where to begin. There was the flight, Osaka, training, getting to apartment, first impressions on Nanao, shopping experiences, getting comfortable in the apartment, driving, the intricacies of the teacher’s room, school lunch, and finally the kids themselves and teaching English.

Real quick, about the flight. My Grandma and Nana came to see off, traveled from Virginia, and that was really nice and unexpected. I had planned out a small sleep adjustment regiment for the couple nights before leaving to help me get on Japan time. Surprisingly, it worked for the most part. I stayed up late on Thursday, a couple hours later on Friday and hardly slept at all Saturday night before my early flight Sunday morning. I actually was gonna get a couple more hours sleep that night… but had serious tummy issues. Likely just nerves. I flew from Philly to Chicago and then got on the ANA flight to Tokyo. My seat partners were two late teen Japanese dudes that were pleasant but weren’t comfortable enough with their English to really chat about stuff. However, it was still a good flight and the service was awesome. I never got hungry or thirsty cuz I was always being handed something to quench my needs from the attendants.  Everyone gets their own little TV’s with all sorts of shows and movies and games. But still, a 12 hour flight is 12 hours. I slept a little but mostly zoned out with movies and reading. Note to the wise: after getting off in Tokyo and through customs, it was very easy to get to the domestic ANA transfer flight area (I assume cuz my international flight was also ANA) and to cash my traveler’s checks. I didn’t have to think too much.

Enough for now, yah? Time for some food stuffs and more hanami-ing. Also gonna check out a crazy looking internet cafe on 159 called Freaks…