Thursday, December 16, 2010

Baths in December

Running through the cold December night air wearing nothing but a towel our heads.. then gingerly stepping down into the hot hot spring water... ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... Elysian Fields. ^_^

Three of my students/friends and I took an onsen trip last weekend. ^_^ Onsens are hot springs, very popular for bathing in in Japan. They are perfect. People have been onsen-ing since before time in Japan I think ^_^ Baths are quite a Japanese tradition.. and definitely they've been bathing everyday loong before they were in the West. ^_^ Everyday, what a concept? ^_^ Onsens are my favorite part of Japan I think.

Sunday afternoon, we headed down to Toba city 鳥羽 in Mie prefecture 三重県. Toba is a seaport town, famous for pearls (and especially the women pearl-divers of back in the day), right beside the famous city of Ise 伊勢 and one of the most important shrines in Shinto, Ise Jingu 伊勢神宮. Our Onsen was called Todaya 戸田家.

We just enjoyed a couple of days of serious relaxing... eating good food... hot baths and more hot baths.... and just girl talk and getting to know each other ^_^ Dinner, then indoor baths... then we decided to explore the outdoor baths ^_^ ahhh... so wonderful, and overlooking the ocean. ^_^ then sleep. then an early morning for a perfect morning outdoor bath... then breakfast in our pajamas ^_^ (because they give you yukata, basically thin robes, to wear while you're there ^_^) and then it was time to check out. ^_^

After we left the onsen, we enjoyed wandering around Okage yokocho おかげ横丁, the town right outside of Ise Jingu ^_^ Okage yokocho means lots of yummy food again! :D And I found a couple of Christmas presents while I was there ^_^ ah, lovely weekend. ^_^

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Time for the annual apple

Every year I go apple picking in Nagano prefecture 長野県 to the north of us with ladies from one of my community center English classes. It's a wonderful tradition. This year was my third time now. Three autumns sounds like a long time, doesn't it.

In Indiana, we pick apples every year, too. So actually, I have been picking apples every fall for the last 10 years or so. Ironically, I actually don't like apples very much. But, a fresh-picked fuji apple straight off a tree is like candy. In an orchard is usually the only time I ever eat apples. In Indiana, Fuji was a favorite variety. Now I get to pick them straight off Japanese trees.

Japan is so beautiful. Everyday is beautiful. We also stopped by a town famous for the fall foliage on this day trip. It's called Korankei 香嵐渓。 We arrived quite early in the morning: hard early morning sunlight from a brilliant blue sky lit up the leaves. Brilliant colors. It was the end of the season so my students said not as amazing as at peak season. There, we ate a snack: gohei mochi and mushroom tea..

A lovely fall day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another America, Another Japan

Lately, I've been watching American leaders' speeches. Actually, only speeches from the 60's and then, only speeches from Martin Luther King, Jr. and the two Kennedy brothers.

What a different world that was. Was that America? America, where black people were seriously lower citizens than the white majority on a very public and open and acceptable level. And there were marches and riots for equal treatment.

On another front, an America where people who may or may not like socialism or communism lose their jobs and are blacklisted from being hired.

And this America where murders of important leaders maybe came to be not so much of a shock and it would be to me... John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy all in the same decade?

It all seems like some legend.

Today's America perhaps is equally strange. I grew up with the news dominated by huge scandal, resulting in only the second presidential impeachment since the beginning. Also terrorism on public buildings... Oklahoma City, September 11. The threat of religious fanaticism violence looming everyday. Maybe America is still insane, just with different symptoms.

We did just elect a black president. That's quite a switch from the 60's.

At the top is a speech by Robert F. Kennedy given in Indianapolis on the night King was assassinated. If you have 5 minutes, please give it a go. Robert Kennedy is credited for helping to calm the people and dissuade them from breaking out in the violence seen in other cities that night. It's short and not complicated, but impressing.

I first read this speech from the plaque on the monument in downtown Indianapolis at the location he gave the speech. I was so impressed.

I don't live in the U.S.A right now. Japan is insane, too. I wonder what it will be like in 50 years. I think Japan can fight through some of the insanities, also. There are tensions with the ethnic minorities living in Japan, though they're not at the level of some of the civil rights injustices in the U.S.A of the past. The presence of the foreigners here are part of the education process. I hope life will be less strained for temporary workers, permanent residents and Japanese citizens of non-Japanese or mixed decent in 50 years. Maybe Japan also must have a Cultural Revolution?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Johnny Depp's socks

The most gorgeous Mad Hatter ever and his almost-as-mad director brought Wonderland's fantastic red castle to Tokyo last Monday: the Japan premiere of the highly anticipated Alice in Wonderland.

My lucky student won tickets to the premiere. So jealous.

In class the week before, she was so excited ^_^ The preparations begin!


1 - What to wear! They asked all the winners to dress up as a character. And who does cosplay better than Japan? :D She ended up putting together the most awesome female Mad Hatter outfit.

2 - What to say!! Well, at least get him to shake your hand right? "Do I say, 'Please shake!!'?" she asks her English teacher. So I (green and writhing with jealousy) teach her that, "Please shake my hand!" should do the trick.

3 - Should I give him something??? OK cool! So what do you give Johnny Depp? Something awesome.. this is once-in-a-lifetime after all... But maybe she won't actually have a chance to meet him anyway.. probably she won't.... so she'll get something practical so she can use it just in case she doesn't get to meet him...

But, she does get to meet him. Not only meet him, but get about a hundred autographs and talk to him and.. yes.. give him her present. Which is socks. triple pack. black.

You gave Johnny Depp socks?!?!?!?! =O :D

Well! She says, I thought, just in case I couldn't meet him, my husband could use them! And I put a note inside, so not just socks....

:D And they were the toe socks.. really normal in Japan.. they give you good circulation or something? I love the idea of Johnny Depp wearing these Japanese toe socks from her. LOL. ^_^ I wish.

Ah, Japan loves Johnny Depp. What can I say, Japan has good taste ^_^ In the premiere press conference, Johnny Depp says Japan gives the warmest welcome ^_^ lol. About a million girls met him at the airport, and gathered around the premiere spot. ^_^ And he was just here last December for the premiere of Public Enemies!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ganbatte Mao-chan!

Ganbatte Mao-chan!! Let's go Mao!!

Today is the final skate of the ladies figure skating competition. The final showdown between rival skaters Mao Asada of Japan (woot! to the right) and Kim Yuna of Korea (to the left). Who gets that shiny golden disc.

I caught the short program on Wednesday. So much fun! Mao blew away the competition by 10 points when she got up. And then, her rival Kim from Korea got up right after her, and beat her score by 5 points! Kim skated to 007... so much fun, I must admit. =O I missed the programs yesterday :( but I'm watching the finals now! In a bit, I'm going to go over to Eiden, the electronics store nearby, to watch Mao with all the other poor people on the big screens ^_^ Let's go Mao-chan! Let's give Korea a silver medal!

These games are right fun, aren't they?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pete and Repete were in a boat...

Japanese! Sometimes simple, sometimes almost incomprehensibly complicated.

Learning any foreign language can be slow and painful. But being able to communicate in a foreign country--even if it's just ordering coffee, is so rewarding. For one you get your coffee, right? And you now can understand and relate to the people around you a bit more.

Here is a tiny bit of Japanese that can enhance your trip to Japan (and/or your anime watching experiences!).

This channel has posted many videos of single short phrases. They're only about 5 seconds long, so you can just keep playing them over like a sound bite. Repeat and remember..

This girl teaches basic Japanese phrases, etc. by way of Youtube and her trusty sharpie. She's not the best speaker, but I think these videos are rather good.

Just listen and repeat and repeat!

This post is especially for my parents--who are coming to Japan this summer! :D I'm so excited to share everything in my life with them!

PHOTO: Don't you want to understand? ^_^ This is some wall art near the Sakura Hostel in Asakusa in Tokyo. It's a bunch of traditional Japanese ghosts and creatures ^_^ My favorite is the little kappa on the end.. the one that looks like a turtle? They are mischievous creatures that live in rivers ^_^

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ninja skills are better than experience

"Well, it's been my experience, that experience for the sake of experience, usually isn't a very good experience at all. Unless there's a reason for your experience, a purpose, or you learn something from it, then, well, there's not much point."

Bernard Walton. Adventures in Odyssey, Episode 274: First-hand Experience.

Ninjutsu is undoubtedly the most important something I have learned in Japan. Nay, it is the most important thing I have learned in life. I owe the success in my daily life to my deftness in Invisible.

Adventures in Odyssey
is one of those haunts from childhood that never quite leaves you. This quote was playing in my mind the other day. I've since worked this into my short answer to the ubiquitous question, "So why did you come to Japan?" Er, the part about learning things I mean.. I've come to learn new things. It's true.

THE PHOTO: We visited the Iga Ninja House in Mie prefecture late last summer. We underwent an intense day of ninjutsu training--instruction in the shuriken/ninja star arts and advanced sneakiness techniques--as well as received professional advice in ninja tourist hachigane/forehead protectors. My hachigane, of course, hangs by my door, ready in a moment if there be a requirement of my ninja skills.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fire cats (w/ video)

Winter is ending, and the cats come to play in the fires at Hazu.

We went to the Toba Hi Matsuri or Toba Fire Festival in Hazu again this year. We went by train and then met some friends down there.

Festivals are one of my favorite things. In America, festivals are great.. Irish Fest, Indianapolis Labor Day fireworks, Indiana State Fair, your hometown's random city festival ^_^). In Japan, they REALLY know how to make a festival, and they have had hundreds of years to perfect them.

Sum up of the basics of this festival: After walking around at the booths.. catching your fill of goldfish, eating your fill of chocolate-covered bananas, get your spot around the two giant bonfires-to-be. We have a secret spot in the trees behind the bonfires. Well, we thought it was secret but, this year there were about a hundred people there :(

At the starting time, you'll hear the chink, chink, chink of flint against stone: building a fire from the bottom up. A victory shout signals the successful spark, and then the bonfires are lit.

There is a sacred tree inside each of the fires--one for each team, the east and the west. Once the fires begin to roar, the two teams of local Hazu-ites--dressed in traditional festival wear--begin to race up ladders, into the bonfires! They are racing to pull out their team's sacred tree. If the east wins, then there will be a good harvest. If the west wins, there will be a bad harvest. But, our friend says, both teams try hard to win anyway. This is a video! Note the fire falling all over the guys and them jumping off as they catch on fire!

The festival wear is one of the best parts: they fashion the black and white banners of last year's festival into costumes that cover them from head to toe. The end result makes them look just like little calico cats! Meow! or since they're Japanese, nya~! ^_^

Monday, February 15, 2010

We made it around the bay!

Aroooound the bay and back again!

Minority and I and our little bicycles made it all the way to the tips of the Mikawa Bay peninsulas and back again to Nishio, safe and still friends, last weekend ^_^ (And also just in time to watch the recording of the Super Bowl with our friends... big disappointing end to the day >_<

It was about 130 kilometers, a challenge and the hills almost did me in... hills and a certain failure to turn, which led us over an extremely huge bridge with lots of wind that spanned the whole ocean I think... but we persevered... Minority let me use his bicycle sometimes ^_^ He looked so cool on my cute little schoolgirl bike :D ha ha. And we also encountered some lovely and/or amusing people along the way ^_^

Here's our start: outside Hananoki Elementary School, Nishio. With our trusty Super Mapple!--marked with huge assistance from our friend Al Capone (ありがとうね!arigato ne! thank you!)Our first day was about 50 kilometers. And we sort of took it easy.

We headed south, through Kira and then over the hills of Kota. Can you see how far UP we bicycled? That town at the bottom is Nishio / Kira. >_<

In just an hour we made it down to Gamagori. We stopped off at Takeshima, a tiny island shrine with a huge bridge stretching out to it. Minority hadn't been there. Beautiful as ever.

Oh! Well, I always look at the wishes at shrines now, ever since my friend (Roba) found one that was really funny ^_^ Today, someone hopes he can be a jockey some day ^_^ Awesome. And he/she mispelled jockey ^_^ ちょう かわいい。 cho kawaii. so cute.

And then we biked for about 10 minutes and stopped at the fish market at Laguna. Yummy! They give you tons of free samples and stuff... but Minority doesn't really like fish. Right. Why did he come to Japan?? But I really enjoyed myself ^_^ It was really 懐かしい。natsukashii. took me back to when I first came to Nishio. ^_^ My student/friend took me there maybe my first month in Japan ^_^ This picture is of a big pile of seaweed.

Turns out that although Minority hates fish, he really likes raw fish. Weird guy. So we ate lunch here. And I also noticed the dialect this time! The fish vendors were saying "Maido!" along with the general "Irashai mase!" or "Welcome! Please come in!" "Maido" is what they say in the west, Kansai dialect. Like in Osaka, the big city in the west of Japan. But they use some Kansai dialect here in Mikawa area, too. I figure it's sort of mixed with the peculiar dialect here... Mikawa dialect. Apparently, Mikawa dialect sounds pretty country to people in the city ^_^ My friend's son is going to University near Nagoya, and she says he tries not to speak in Mikawa dialect because it makes him sound so country ^_^

After lunch we continued on our way... getting a liiittle lost.. adding another hour or so to our trip >_< but we finally made it to Tahara.

It was just getting dark and getting so cold when we made it to Tahara. Sooo lucky that Al Capone had looked up a internet cafe for us to stay at. We asked for directions at a Sugi Pharmacy (love Sugi!) and the pharmacist printed us out a map and everything ^_^ Tahara people are nice ^_^ Turns out we were a block away from it

It was the best internet cafe ever! The name is Aprecio and they have cafes all over Japan... I think I'll look them up next time I go somewhere. So.. in Japan, net cafes, or manga kissatens (mangakissa) are really common. You can pay per hour to sit and use the internet, read manga, drink free drinks--because ours was so awesome they have karaoke, place to do your laundry, massage chairs, other awesomeness. And they also have night packs so you can stay all night.. pretty cheap lodging.

We got 10-hour night packs for 2200 yen, about $22.00 (And thank God they had showers here for only an extra 100 yen. I was so happy.) And they had this amazing free breakfast in the morning! It was a really, really nice mangakissa. Quite comfortable. I had never stayed at one before... only used the internet at them, but Minority had. Lol the gappers are just too poor ^_^ (Our pads were side-by-side.. we have the door open in this picture.)

We were so cold and frustrated trying to find a place to eat in the dark, but by an error in kanji reading (which Minority was humiliated for the rest of the trip ^_^) we happened upon a lovely little restaurant with people so overly-accommodating in helping the gaijin-san navigate the menu (which we could read quite well enough and which was also highly saturated with photos to guide us if we couldn't..). "Gaijin-san wa tenpura ga suki deshou?" "Foreigners love tempura, right?" Yeah.. so I ended up with the tempura. Even though I almost never get tempura anymore. She gave us this stamp rally map though (if we eat at enough of the restaurants we get some free food or something..) and a survey to fill out. LOL. That was fun to figure out. They enjoyed having us I guess, and we had fun. And we got free dessert out of it, too ^_^.

The next morning, after our luxorious breakfast....

...we headed out to the tip of the Atsumi Peninsula. Our second day, we did 80 kilometers. We were supposed to catch the 9:50 ferry across the bay... but we sort of misjudged the distance and got there just in time for the 11:15 ferry :o The area after Tahara was beautiful. Mountains and farms. It really reminded me of Indiana heartland, except for the mountains ^_^ Then we hit the ocean, and it was really beautiful. The ocean is still quite captivating ^_^ I'm still not over how big it is yet ^_^

Irago, at the tip of the Atsumi peninsula, is famous for strawberries and melons. We stopped and got these 花火苺 hanabi ichigo fireworks strawberries ^_^ so delicious!

The ferry ride over was lovely. Nice to sit down in a comfy seat for awhile (and here awhile equals 40 minutes). Here, we are taking our bikes out from below. We, of course, sat up on the deck.

On the other side, on Chita Peninsula, we ate some ramen for lunch ^_^ The city name is Morozaki. It was Morozaki specialty ramen... which Minority got not realizing it was loaded with all his most-hated sea creatures.

We enjoyed riding by the sea for quite a ways. After awhile, we were just driving through towns, and they got to looking quite a bit like we were driving though Nishio for hours. But still interesting. And our road became impossible for bicyclists, so we had to find a new way around... Minority says, "Oh well, if you weren't with me, I would try it." Yeah Minority, and you'd be dead soon. Or someone else would be. :o >_< (Note the "no rickshaws" ^_^)
Then we rode and rode, until Handa, where we found the No Sumoking Bar :D

...then crossed through the Kinuura Tunnel under the bay between Handa and Hekinan, and came back to Nishio ^_^

We made it back to central Nishio about 5:30. Obviously, we made a lot better time day 2. Still, we didn't even push it that much.

I highly recommend this route... it wasn't too hilly. You can see even by the terrain view on Google maps that this area is relatively flat. The view wasn't stunning until we got down to the tips of the peninsulas, and then it sort of turned into hours and hours of Nishio again after we left them ^_^ But still interesting, and totally doable in 2 days. I think next time... I'd like to try taking the ferry to another city... We can go across the harbor to Ise and Ise Shrine! Maybe it'd be worth it... ^_^

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Secret Language of Inches and our Mikawa-wan Bicycle Odyssey

My friend (Minority) and I are planning a bike trip and I'm trying to squeeze comprehension out of the massive amount of kilometers we have to ride. Japan speaks in kilometers, centimeters, Centegrade, kilos, and other confusing numbers.

In short, numbers are difficult for this American girl. Don't even get me started on how strange counting in Japanese is for English-speakers.... zero, ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, ten ten thousand, hundred ten thousand, thousand ten thousand, oku. And then there's all the counters and stuff. Ok i guess I started, but I'm finished now.

But, when we talk about height, and I'm trying to get an image of how much 176 centimeters actually is compared to the boys I have known my whole life... Hark! My British friend says he is 5 foot 11! I feel like we just have made a huge mental link! Someone speaks inches! I'm 5 foot 8! How cool is that! What else can we talk about?? But, alas, that's about as far as our conversation in inches can reach.... if I ask him how much he weighs, he say something about 9 1/2 stones. Stones. 9 1/2. I have absolutely no concept of what that is.... alas. But, every so often, I still ask a British guy (er, I don't know any British girls right now..) or my Filipino friend how tall he is, just to feel this special glow felt in the presence of a inch-measured human. ^_^

But our trip! We originally planned to take our bicycles up to the big city above us, Nagoya. About 41 kilometers, so 82 round trip. But, we decided that would be a pretty boring route, since there's just a lot of nothing between here and Nagoya. So, we are taking a friend's suggestion (enter friend Al Capone ^_^) and bicycling around Mikawa Bay instead! Mikawa-wa, or Bay the area right around our city Nishio.

View Larger Map

This is just a rough look at our trip. It will be around 134 kilometers, or about 83.2637 miles. We are taking two days to to it ^_^, crashing in a manga cafe for the night. We're excited... we'll be around the ocean for a good part of it, and hopefully get to stop off at a couple of tiny random places along the way. ^_^ Oh yeah, lol. No, we're not planning to test our supernatural powers by cycling over the top of the sea... there's a ferry from peninsula to peninsula we can take our bikes on ^_^.

We leave at dawn! (Or actually 8 a.m. ^_^)


- The pictures were taken on on the top of a mountain-shrine in Hazu, about half an hour south of us by car. I went there by bicycle on day.. by accident actually. But it was a good day. I look so hot and tired right? Can you see the little fly around my head?? So annoying...

- I can speak to garden gnomes. They speak inches, too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Link in Time

I'm posting a slew of links to the right. Here's a rundown summary of why they're awesome. Some have become part of my every day over these past 15 months, some are new finds.

Four categories:

1 - Japan Blogs Worth Your Time
2 - Useful While You Live Here

3 - Nihongo Tools

4 - Anime! Dorama!

1 - Japan Blogs Worth Your Time

Check out these people's blogs for new and wonderful looks at Japan. Some of these people have just incredible photos. If you like beautiful things, they could make you cry. For photos, especially check out

i, cjw ~.::.~ hiking and climbing in japan - hiking/climbing MANIAC.. he just climbed Fuji a couple of weeks ago! in the middle of winter! =O it's closed! And, his writing is so captivating.

2 Girls and the World - scroll down to the photo thumbnails on the left. Beautiful photos from all around Japan and the world. - Your portal to Japan - Great photos, interesting commentary. A Tokyo-ite's view. Er, warning... he loves school girl cartoons and stuff. Nothing explicit but... it might seem awful?

Also, Blue Lotus posts a lot of recipes and stuff. I just found her, so I'm excited to try out her recipes soon!

2 - Useful While You Live Here
Sites I frequent. Mainichi Daily News and Japan Times are English sites of two online newspapers. They're coverage is just ok.. Mainichi has some fantastic photos, though. I actually often use these articles in my classes, too ^_^

Gaijin Pot sometimes has interesting articles, and it's a start for people looking for an ESL job. But if you are seriously looking for an ESL job, I have other sites I'd suggest. Just send me a message!

Cookpad is a recipe site! Yahoo! It's in Japanese, so it might not be much use if you're not familiar with the language. If you want English recipes, please look to Blue Lotus!

Hostelworld and JR Railway are for travelers! Hostelworld will help you out in or out of Japan, but the JR site has station, time and fair information only in Japanese. You can probably figure it out though if you need to!

3 - Nihongo Tools

My favorite section!

First of all, Rikaichan is like a dream, waaay to good to be true! My friend Roba introduced me to it. It's an impossibility, but it's really real! Rikaichan is a Firefox plug-in (if you don't use Firefox, you definitely should). Once you download it (and don't forget the dictionaries!) from the site and install it, a whole new World Wide Web of Japanese will open before you. Just activate, then roll your cursor over any Japanese word.. and a beautiful blue box will pop into your view and both tell you the reading for the kanji and the English translation. (!!!!) It's a miracle. りかいちゃんが だ~~いすき!! :D I looove Rikaichan (but if you had rikaichan you could understand that too! ^_^). It's wonderful for studying. Also, rikai means understanding. And chan is a suffix.. basically for friends.

Denshi Jisho, Goo Japanese Dictionary, and Japanese Wiktionary
are good resources. I use Denshi Jisho ALL the time; aside from being a good japanese-english dictionary, it's got a really helpful Kanji section with a look-up-kanji-by-radical feature. (I'm so so sad when Denshi Jisho is down even for an evening!) Goo is Japanese to Japanese. Japanese Wiktionary has kanji stroke order (!). My Japanese friend introduced me to this one laughing how she found out she had been writing a kanji the wrong way her whole life ^_^

JapanesePod 101 is a site I recently have been getting into. They have free podcast lessons. Really good. And lots of really nice resources, if you subscribe... but subscription is a little expensive... well, it's just they lock you in for 2 years :\

Also.. not online, but don't forget about Microsoft Word... just typing (and the automatic kanji change) can help you check your grammar... and the IME pad... so o o helpful...

Anyway... a few golden resources I wish I had had back in the beginning ^_^

4 - Anime! Dorama!

Yes!! I wasn't into anime much before I came to Japan.. but all that's changed now. ^_^  
一番 好きな アニメは ナルト だってばよ! Ichiban suki na anime wa Naruto dattebayo! Naruto is the best! And is the best site to watch it at. It's sister site is all Bleach. I go to Anime Crazy for all my other anime needs ^_^ (well most of them ^_^). And it's sister site Drama Crazy has tons of dramas from Japan, Korea, China, and more! :D It's also a dream come true. ^_^

Watching anime and drama is also, of course, has benefits as study tools. Sazaesan is actually really good, but it's not on animecrazy or anything. The best place to find it is actually on youtube. But you have to insert the secret conglomeration of characters to get it. They've hidden it from being taken down for copyright infringement. If you message me.. I'll send it to you. But I think you can find it posted elsewhere if you search the right way. A friend gave me the secret. That's how I know. ^_^

That's a rundown... I'm sure I'll be adding more links later! ^_^


Monday, February 1, 2010

The Stars Shine, the Mona Lisa Smiles

*Photo notes at the bottom...*

Last Sunday, Dr. Hammatori took Shipshewana and I to a couple of spots in Nishio.

First was the mysterious building.

This is a huge building with what looks like an observatory on it, which has meddled with my curiosity ever since I came to Nishio. Finally a few months ago I thought to ask the doctor about it (Eureka!). Of course Dr. Hammatori knows everyone and about everything in Nishio.

The mysterious sand-colored-rock and green-copper-topped building belongs to his friend, another doctor in town and coincidentally the owner of the hospital that the gap guys from the UK (i.e. Shipshewana and Minority) volunteer at. And it is in fact... an observatory! But with no telescope. Zannen, ne. Too bad, huh. But still curious, we went Sunday to check it out.

So here's the story, though a little anticlimactic. The doctor's great-grandfather was an amateur astronomy enthusiast, and built the building and the observatory. But, he died before he could have the telescope installed. :\ really tragic.

He also was an avid reader, and he and his son accumulated QUITE a collection of books--medical, and everything else. They had a fancy system installed for the library... well, I guess I lot of university libraries have these, but UIndy isn't quite high tech enough... it's the system where, when you walk into room, it just looks like another wall, but then you select the row you need, and the wall automatically opens to that row of books... you get it, right? so automatic library system... kind of amazing for a home library. So TONS of books, right? Enough to make any decent English major quiver with excitement (even if all the books are indeed in Japanese). There were medical books from Edo Period (circa 1603 - 1868), and even an original copy from before Edo (!). We were enthralled.

It was the doctor's building caretaker who was showing us around, a retired engineer (who also happens to be Dr. Hammatori's friend ^_^ of course). He said we could take a book if we wanted to. =O The row he had opened up in the big library room was art. So Shipshe and I both took a couple of books of Japanese art. :D I also found one, half in English, about the temple Kiyomizu in Kyoto. (The most culturally important city in Japan, hugely old, and not too far west of us.) Excited. We enjoyed coffee with the caretaker after that, and then we had to go.

Second was the museum of red paintings.

Dr. Hammatori also wanted to take us to this small museum/showroom in Nishio. The artist’s name is Goroh Saitoh, and is, well, famous as far as I can tell. He uses red in all of his paintings. His trademark. The museum was wonderful, and even more so because so many of the pieces’ themes were of places I could recognize from Mikawa Bay (this area we live in). Wonderful. Nishio matcha... festivals… rivers.. trains...

But that’s not the half of it. There’s the Mona Lisa, too. The Mona Lisa is, of course, in the Louvre, and no one is allowed to paint it. Before, the only person that ever copied it was Monet. But Saitoh-san was allowed to copy. So now, only two people have ever copied it :D It's funny, it looks out of place sitting among the high-saturated reds of the Mikawa Bay scenes.

Saitoh-san was a really interesting guy and he showed us lots of things, like the professional sumo wrestler’s costume he created for the wrestler to wear during the opening ceremonies of the tournaments. And he had a costume that the participants in this incredible festival near us in Hazu city—the Fire Festival—wear, I think so he could look at it while he painted scenes of the festival. I tried it on :D And he and his father also collect antiques, so he showed us tons of those, and lots of pictures, and told us about this Asian artists event they had at the world trade center. He painted the poster art for the world trade center event, too, and let us have a copy of the poster. Really interesting guy. Such a good time visiting with him and his museum.

An art saturation day. I hope you can enjoy some of the photos. They show a little of our little hometown, and the sites and people of this area too ^_^.


1 - The Mona Lisa randomly displayed on a telephone pole somewhere in Japan. I think of Kira when I see this. I feel like I've been to the corner, but I must've missed the Mona Lisa hanging there. I didn't post a picture of his real copy of the Mona Lisa.. I like this one better ^_^

2 - A view of the mysterious building from Dr. Hammatori's condo in the new and very tall Zelk Tower in the middle of Nishio.

3 - Enthralled over one of the medical books. This is the reprint of the book from the Edo period.

4 - A fuzzy view of one of the main pieces in the showroom. We're standing in front of it in a later photo. This is rice. In the forefront is hands making a ball of motchi (rice cake.. a sweet thing). Follow the fields of rice to the top for a history of rice and Japan, and hidden awesome things like the Mona Lisa (in that first wooden shed building on the right), Super Mario! (behind the second barn on the right above the first), and historical figures and stuff ^_^.

Also, this one and the next one really show how his paintings/silkscreens are similar to the woodblock prints of old... scenes of common places and common people of Japan. So captivating, huh?

5 - Dr. Hammatori's favorite. A boy hitting a golf ball off of a boat in the Furigawa River, where it hits Kira and the ocean. Also note the red train at the top! Meitestu is the train line around here, and the regular local trains are red! Very much a part of our lives ^_^

6 - Shipshe, the artist Goroh Saitoh, and me in front of the rice painting.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Winter is a little fun, too

Winter in Central Japan! Who's excited! In Nishio, it's not very exciting. It's not very cold, it's not very warm. There's no snow.

But if you travel just a couple of hours north of us... there are mountains suitable for skiing ^_^. Some of us went last weekend! It was fun overall... but I have found that I am not my father's daughter. Not on snowy mountains. He loves skiing. I can't quite get the hang of it >_< (here meaning takes out tiny children with pink skis during stopping attempts >_<). But yeah, it was still a fun day (and the pink skis girl was ok..). It was fun watching my friends have fun ^_^ And the view from the top was beautiful. BTW.. we were at Mt. Gozaisho in Mie prefecture. Which has the longest gondola in Asia. If you're into gondola length measurements. And, shall I name everyone? Well, from left to right we have Minority, Shipshewana, that girl, Stitch, and Dr. Hammatori. ^_^ yes those are all pseudonyms.

Oh and we saw monkeys. Can you see the pink face just right of center?? Every fall was totally worth it. (!)

After, we left there, we went over to Nabana no Sato (also in Mie prefecture), which is usually a flower park. Ok actually, it's simply an all-the-time, sure-bet icha icha couples spot. Definitely made for dates. The first time I went, it was by myself.. not the best idea.. but the flowers were still beautiful.

Anyway, in the winter, they do illumination! It's incredible! This picture is me and Stitch in a huge tunnel of lights. Dazzling. Stitch is a teacher here in Nishio, too. ^_^

This is a pond! With the wedding chapel on the far side.

But I don't guess the pictures do it justice.

That's winter for now!

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