Monday, October 20, 2008

Playing Catch-up Part I

Okay, I took a long hiatus, and I don't really have an excuse. I've been busy, but hey aren't we all. So, I thought I'd finally sit my butt down and post some pictures for you all.

I'll start with pics from my and Kristin's trip to Kyoto in June. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to be back there, it really felt like I never left at all. The people of Kyoto are so friendly (in stark contrast to people of Niigata, who are all very shy), and of course the temples, shrines, gardens and homes are like the photos found in fine Japan-themed coffee table books. I definitely have to go back at least once before I leave Japan for good.

We stayed in an excellent hostel right in Gion, which is exactly where we wanted to be. The study abroad program we both participated in three years ago took place in nearly the same location, so that's where all the natsukashii (nostalgic) places are. The hostel owner was a cool, young Japanese guy with a proper Austrailian accent who really liked to have a good time. One night he went out with us to an izakaya (like a restaurant) and a bar that we often frequented back in our college days. Another night, he invited three of his friends over and we all had a takoyaki (octopus balls) party. When I go back I will definitely plan to stay with him again.

And now for the best part:

Yasaka Jinja!!!! 超〜懐かしい

Omikuji (fortunes) at Yasaka Jinja

Beautiful Maruyama Koen. I have SO many good memories of this place.

The famous cherry tree in Maruyama.


The path to the Yoshimizu! Again, tons of memories (this is where we stayed on our study abroad trip).

Again, the Yoshimizu.

The entrance gate to Kiyomizu dera (temple).

I will always be in love with Japanese design.

The three-tiered pagoda at Kiyomizu.

Hand/mouth washing station #1. Interestingly, there were multiple places to wash throughout the temple. Perhaps the farther you go in, the more you have to wash?

A much cooler washing station. The proper way to wash is as follows: You take the ladle in your left hand and pour water on your right hand. Then switch hands, and with your right, pour water onto your left. Then you put a bit of water in your right hand and wash your mouth, being sure to spit OUTSIDE of the water trough. Finally, the remaining water in the ladle is poured down the handle to clean it, before it's returned to its place.

Definitely the coolest washing station of all. Here, each waterfall represents a different wish. One brings good luck in finances, one good luck in love relationships, and the other intelligence.

Another part of Kiyomizu.

A lovely garden in the temple.

The sun sets on Kiyomizu-dera.

Some adorable puppies that Kristin and I spied from the street. Just because they're cute.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Yo, Check it out yall.

I am alive! I apologize to those few people who still check this thing (is anybody out there?) for not writing in so long. Truth is, as my Grandfather used to say, I've been busier than a one-eyed cat watchin' two mouse holes. But busy in a good way. In June my favorite lady Kristin came to visit, and we went to all of our "natsukashii" places in Kyoto, then spent a dreary, mostly not fun day in rainy Osaka. I also had the pleasure of showing her around my current home, Murakami. You should ask her yourself, but I think she liked it.

Then, I stayed at the home of one of my English conversation students for 3 weeks. Her name is Hiroko Suzuki, and she is the most amazing cook ever (well, at least she is tied with my real mom and my Japanese mom, Masami). Her husband is also a really nice guy. He barely speaks when he's not drinking, but luckily every night he gets toasted on an ample amount of sake, so we ended up having some pretty interesting conversations. It was great Japanese practice for me.

Next I went home, which was the highlight of my Summer. I can't express how good it felt to see my family and friends again, to eat a burrito the size of my head while indulging in as many free refills as I like, and to be able to read EVERYTHING around me. Holy crap, I can read this entire menu, and moreover I know what every dish is! Talk about refreshing. The trip was entirely too short, and I apologize to those of you who I didnt get to see. I'll be back at Christmas to be in my other favorite lady's wedding, so hopefully I'll see you all then :)

A week after I returned to Japan, I went to Tokyo to attend Japanese school and basically just take a nice long holiday. Nice thing is, my Board of Education let me take "training leave" for it, so I didn't have to use a bit of my paid vacation. It was a lot of fun to be in the city, which couldn't be more opposite from where I live now. I got to experience all the "city" things I've never done before in one of the biggest cities in the world (is it the biggest? I don't even know...) Taking the packed train for 40 minutes every day to school, shopping in all the famous Tokyo stores and malls, staying out at a club until 5 am -- things that are not an option out here in the extreme inaka. I also did a homestay there with a really cool family in Asakusa. My host father, Yosuke, is the stage manager for Ayumi Hamasaki, and last year was the SM for EXILE. I know this means nothing to you gaijin readers, but it's basically the equivalent of being the SM for say, Britney Spears and N'sync. My host mom, Yumi, used to be a sound engineer, so she met Yosuke through work. They have an adorable 2 year old daughter named Mai who I completely fell in love with. She called me "oneichan" which means big sister. The whole family was great about making me feel at home, and again, it was great Japanese practice.

Now I'm back in Murakami. Classes have started and I'm back to the same old same old, though it's really nice to be back. I'm not a city girl, and I was ready to get back to the rice fields, sea and mountains. Also, after the whirlwind of this summer, it will be nice to settle back into a routine.

I think I'll do a seperate photos post, where I'll just string all my pictures in one big post and maybe (if you're lucky and I'm bored) I'll put captions with them. I wouldn't look for that until next week, though.

Back to celebrity gossip blogs, the and my other various distractions for boring work days. I love my job!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I went shopping for pants for work yesterday, because I hate all of my work clothes. I found some pretty nice ones that fit well and cost only 30 bucks. Said pants are a size LL. In Japan, I am a big girl. Definitely a first time experience.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Two weeks ago I had the awesome opportunity to go to Thailand at but a moment's notice with my buddy Keisuke. I went from not expecting to go anywhere for Golden Week, to deciding I'd jet over to Bangkok for a few days, literally about 2 weeks before I left -- which is coooool. Hopefully I'm rich one day and can do that sort of thing all the time.

Thailand is beautiful in practically every way. Its tropical, so outside of Bangkok everything is green and lush. Every aspect of the city itself was completely unplanned, so it spreads in every direction, including up, like the yeast on an overgrown agar plate (sorry for the nerdy science reference). I loved the unplanned verve of the city, it made every corner, even the dirtiest most secret ones, seem full of life.

As usual, I'm gonna let the pictures do most of the talking, cause I suck at that anyways.

95% of the population of Thailand is Buddhist. As such, there are a lot of temples, and for each temple theres a giant Buddha. Its sort of insane.

This is the first temple we visited, Wat Arun. Tons of stray cats apparently call the temple home, and the monks even feed them.

Thai architecture is extremely different from Japanese architecture. In Japan, clean lines and earth tones rule. In Thailand, its as if a crayola box vomited on everything. In a good way.

Me and Keisuke, actin' a fool.

Monks in training sitting next to us, whose tranquility balanced out our shenanigans.

Wat Pho is the oldest and largest Buddhist temple in Bangkok. It is home to more Buddha images than any other Bangkok temple and it shelters the largest Buddha in Thailand, the Reclining Buddha. Buddha in the reclining position is said to represent the Buddha's transition to Nirvana.

Buddha toes.

Next up, the Grand Palace.

The interior walls were covered in insanely detailed murals that according to our tour guide are repainted every year.

Repainting. I wonder how many times they have painted that exact wall?

Our tour guide, named Ramin. The tour was for Japanese, so the trip ended up being insanely good Japanese practice for me since no one immediately around me spoke English.

This is a Buddha in the prayer area at Wat Pho. Worshipers can purchase gold leaf sheets to attach to the Buddhas image while praying. I guess making the Buddha more gold increases the chances of your prayer being answered?

Crazy detail.

That day we went to the most amazing Thai buffet in a fancy restaurant in Bangkok. I haven't stuffed myself like that in a long time.

Yes, I have now ridden an elephant!

That trunk must be heavy...

This is Wat Mahathat, at Ayutthaya, about an hour outside of Bangkok. Ayutthaya was a kingdom that existed around 1350, and apparently it rivaled European cities such as Paris in size and wealth. It fell to the Burmese in the 18th century.

Of course, the famous Buddha head, overgrown by a fig tree. This image is revered because it is said the Buddha was sitting under a tree when he reached Nirvana.

After a meal of Thai-style shabu-shabu, we went back to Ayutthaya to see it lit up at night.

In a boat on our way to the floating market, also about an hour out of Bangkok.

Another giant Buddha we saw along the way. I'm telling you, they're everywhere.

The night market. Ahhhhhhh. This is a market that is open until 12pm every night. They have everything, but specifically they have hippie dresses as far as the eye can see. In my heaven, there will be a beach, and some mountains, and the Bangkok night market right in between.

On the last day I went to a spa and had a THREE HOUR SPA TREATMENT for about 100 dollars. I got the works, they bathed me, gave me a Thai massage, did a facial treatment, manicure, pedicure, and washed my hair. I would go back to Thailand just for the massages, any day.

I'm not a huge fan of nail art, but my nails were AWESOME after she was done:
Tropical flowers are definitely the best kind...

Thailand is beautiful. I'm definitely going back and next time I'm hitting the beach. The end.