Archive for April, 2003

Beyond the contest – More impressions on Japan

Wednesday, April 30th, 2003

Hey there. Look, I know, we’re getting a little competitive, but there has been more going on here then just us taking pictures.

Yesterday, we went down to a river with a couple of Marc’s students – Aya and Taichi – and a bunch of their friends. We had so much fun. They had already eaten by the time we managed to drag our butts out there. We got up early enough, but we just had so many things to do around here. Like look at the website and drink coffee. And then, it was SO HOT that when we got outside we were sweating, so we had to buy shorts. We went to the store that has a downstair grocery store and then an upstair clothing/100 Yen/kitchen wear store … (100 Yen Store is a dollar store) We found some men’s shorts – Beverly Hills, Polo Club. I couldn’t find any chick shorts … except for some old lady shorts that I just did not like, nor could I probably fit on my big American ass. We changed in the store and we looked like a couple of American tourists who dress the same.

Back to the river, we had some Korean BBQ and met some fantastic people. I tried to speak English to people, but as Marc pointed out, I speak too quickly for most native English speakers … so for non-native English speakers, I’m a little too much. However, I believe that I got across one of my favorite words which is wacky and got many of the people @ the BBQ to use it appropriately. Mostly in relation to me being wacky, well, me and the Coke campaign with the Japanese English – GET! Shop! NO REASON! Oh, yeah.

The day before we were in Kyoto. It was really, reallly beautiful. The pictures from the competition are so insignificant to the amazing history and beauty that we were fortunate to get to see. The cemetary really really was awe inspiring. It was enormous and on the side of this large hill – it went up and up and up – until it came to the beginning of the walk up to the temple @ Kyomizu. If you are ever in Japan, please go there. What was also cool in the temple area there was this place that had these charmed stones and stuff. I am not explaining well, but one of the charms were these two stones that faced each other. What you were supposed to do, was walk from one to the other with your eyes closed and your love would be revealed. I did fine … Marc, not so much. Bless his heart.

I’ve attached a picture of the people at the picnic and a couple great toilet pictures. The one about “BIG SHIT” is from the hostel that Marc’s friend Shawn was staying at in Kyoto. Enjoy! Oh, and my camera takes movies too! So at the end, there’s a movie of Marc’s apartment! check it out! Alex says it’s cool.

   030423_2331~00.jpg movie.jpg

Hey, the last one is a MOVIE! Watch it and love my apartment!

Round 2 – FIGHT!

Tuesday, April 29th, 2003

Regarding the contest, thank you all for your votes! Keep it up! Today we went to a BBQ on the shore of the Yodo River, in north Osaka. It sadly wasn’t that picturesque, but it was a marvelous day. Contest Pix (again, #1 is top left, #6 is bottom right):

     

Let the contest BEGIN!

Monday, April 28th, 2003

Today Michele bought herself a brand spankin’ new Canon Powershot A60, as promised earlier on this website. So, to inaugurate her purchase, we’ve decided to have a good old-fashioned shootin’ contest. Yee-haw! We’ve decided to take 3 pictures every day and post them to see who takes the better pictures. Naturally, I am going to win (Marc). But I need YOU to help me. That’s right, you people who read this blog as your daily sustenance…we need you, the people, to COMMENT and tell us who the better photographer is.

The rules are as follows: Pick your favorite photo in your comments, and if you want to, say why it’s your favorite. We will tally the results before Michele leaves on Saturday. So the last day to vote is this Friday at high noon Japan time, which makes it Thursday at 11pm EST. Questions – like why does Marc want to have his ass kicked on the internet? Or comments like why does Michele put up with such tomfoolery? Then fricking comment, people!

Sorry about that. Where were we? Oh yes, the pictures from today in Kyoto! Here they are, and to choose, #1 is the top left, and #6 is the bottom right:

     

Another beautiful day in Osaka

Monday, April 28th, 2003

Yesterday we spent in Osaka, and it was one of the best days of the year so far, weatherwise. We went to Osaka Castle park and walked around. We had a really nice time just hanging out with each other. Afterwards we went to Den-Den Town, the cheap electronics district, and priced some digital cameras for Michele, who will be buying a Canon Powershot A60 this afternoon! Pix:

       

Kyoto!

Sunday, April 27th, 2003

We finally went to Kyoto! But naturally, the camera battery was on the verge of death. *Sigh* We saw the Temple of 1001 Buddhas, which was really cool. Of course, no pictures. We walked around some beatiful gardens, and then went back to Osaka to meet some of my students for dinner. We got Korean BBQ in this terrific restaurant in Tsuruhashi (the Korea-town of Osaka) and then called it a night. Here are the few pics we did manage to get before the camera died:

  

More from Michele

Friday, April 25th, 2003

O.K. O.K. – yes it has been a few days since we’ve updated the site – so, here are a few of my past adventures.

First of all, I want everyone to know that I haven’t just been sleeping. In fact yesterday and today have been the ONLY times that I’ve taken naps, except for when I first got here and was getting all caught up with sleep. AND for the past three days, it has been excessively rainy AND my other excuse is that Marc taught me how to use Acquisition on Mac which is this awesome service that lets you get really good music. It’s like Napster, but it still exists unlike Napster. However, it’s only for Mac users.

So, I left off from about Friday of last week, but instead of boring you with every detail of the last seven days, I’ll do a little synopsizing that won’t necessarily be in order. On one of my first days, I went onto this street that is called “Shopping Street,” discussed in my first log. I went back and discovered that “Shopping Street” is actually “shopping maze” and discovered many different stores around it. All tucked away and kind of spooky in the whole Asian stereotypical movies kind of way, you know like in Gremlins or Little Shop of Horrors? I found this kitchen store and went in to find something for Marc’s kitchen which is a story unto itself. The store is no bigger than my kitchen, but it’s crammed with utensils and accoutrement. The tiny lady who works there eyed me suspiciously, but allowed me to dig around looking for whatever it is I search. I don’t bother to try and say, “Do you have a kitchen sink drainer?”, because I remember how far I got when I was trying to purchase a coffee grinder. Yes, a coffee grinder, Kelly MacGregor, I need my American coffee and Marc’s friend, Shawn had left his coffee maker here and I had brought coffee beans from home, but not a grinder. So, I’m just snooping and finally I find what I need and the woman approaches me and starts poking this huge bruise that I have on my upper arm. I got it by falling into a wall. Yes, a wall. And she pokes pretty hard and says “Does this hurt?”, but she says it in Japanese and I understand her for some reason (because really, what else could she be saying? Well, I could think of other things, but those are just odd flights of my freaky fancy) so, I say HAI! HAI! but the spelling is the Japanese way that means YES! YES! And then we discussed really nothing further, but both of us spoke to the other in our individual languages and at the end we hugged and I bought my stuff and left. I brought Marc back with me on Sunday and she asked Marc where I was from and he told her, but when she had asked me on my initial trip to the shop, she thought I had said that I was from New Zealand. I’m going to get a picture of her and me hugging. It’s going to be special and you will all LOVE IT.

I’ve finally figured out the toilets here. Marc’s is really fun – it has a two way flusher, one for pee and one for poo (that’s one for me and one for you – edited by marc) – ask Shannon about it – but what makes it so cool is that on the back of the toilet, there is a sink that turns on when you flush and if it’s just pee you do then, it is a short splash of water, but if it’s poo, the water goes on for awhile and allows you to do a through scrubbing. Good times! I took a picture of his toilet, but screwed it up and instead did a video. So, you’ll have to wait for those pictures. (Marc: or if you want a video, I can work the magic… please post comments!) I’m planning on doing a whole photo essay of the toilets I’ve found here. I learned that you squat towards the bowl when you use the regular Japanese toilets. I had been doing it the other way, but in none of my adventures with the toilets did I get any pee on me.

You take so much advantage of being an American …

Re: Marc’s Kitchen Drain. There is some nasty smell that seeps up through the pipes and penetrates the whole apartment with its stench. When I went to my new favorite kitchen hole in wall shop, I had purchased a sink drainer because the one Marc had was kind of wacky and Marc didn’t like it. WELL, come to find out, that wacky drainer was all that was keeping the nasty stench in the pipes, so I’ve got to go back and get a new one of the one that he once had. It’s interesting and now we know why it was there. Live and learn.

So, as I’ve written about, I’ve been doing a LOT of riding and one of my last big treks I got really lost and kept circling this same area and I came across these kids three times. The first time they looked at me and giggled, the next time, one of them shrieked and the third time they all shrieked and ran in separate directions. Luckily, no one was hurt. It’s funny in three’s, but why do I scare children so?

On Tuesday, Marc and I went and met up with guy that Marc may be doing improv with – I learned how to read street signs and if anyone really wants to know how, just let me know and I’ll e ya. After meeting up with him, Marc went to work and I wandered around the shopping district where Marc works. It’s really crazy. There are many, many stores and all of them are incredibly expensive. I found my camera, but due to the fact that my temp money hasn’t come through, I can’t get it yet. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get if before I leave.

I also found a store called Katharine Ross:

http://us.imdb.com/Name?Ross,%20Katharine

Why would anyone name a store after her? Sure, she is a wonderful actress. I mean, who didn’t love her work in “The Stepford Wives”, but for a clothing store in Japan?

Tomorrow and until I leave, Marc is off from work. What that means to you, our dear readers, is that you’ll have more pictures and more to read. We’re going to go to Kyoto tomorrow … for real this time.

Carl, this post’s for you.

Friday, April 25th, 2003

In response to Carl’s popular demand for our wacky happenings, they mostly consist of Michele sleeping (really). But last night we went to my favorite noodle shop, Ontakesan, where my friend Takashi works. Aiko and Nozomi, two cool AEON teachers I work with, met us there. We had lots of fun, and sweet, delicious noodles. Pix:

     

Oh, notice Alex … the sweet, sweet lemon who gives refreshment to the masses.

While posting, I was listening to She Came Along To Me from the album “Mermaid Avenue” by Billy Bragg and Wilco.

Takin’ it easy

Sunday, April 20th, 2003

Today we were going to go to Kyoto but the weather here conspired against us and we had to cancel. It was rainy and a little cool today, so we decided to hang around Osaka. We figured, hey, “Work, Danger, Chance….can’t be all bad, right?” We ended up walking around my neighborhood and seeing some funny signs, and Michele showed me all her great supermarkets. Then we went into Kyobashi. We ran into this wierd dance contest thing, and watched it for a few mintues. Then we went to the best store on the planet, Muji. The name “Muji” is actually short for “Mujiroshi”, which means, “No Brand,” but the store is so popular now, that “No Brand” is in fact a brand unto itself. Makes me want to read “No Logo” again. Finally, we went home and I made the famous Thai red curry. Mmmm, delicious. Anyhoo, here’s the pix, with a bonus movie at the end!:

       

While posting, I was listening to Flamenco Sketches (Alternate Take) from the album “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis.

Michele’s Continuing Adventure

Friday, April 18th, 2003

Today is Thursday around noon. I’m staying in for awhile ’cause I’s got some stomach issues going on and want to be around the apartment. I hope to get out soon and go bike riding like I did yesterday. The weather is unbelievable. I know that sun happens everywhere, but I didn’t think Japan, pack the sunscreen and boy, was that a mistake.

While I was riding yesterday, my arms became the color of lobsters … did I think to myself, “go you into those stores you love so and buy sunscreen”? No – I just kept on riding. Luckily for me when I bought the ridiculously expensive face stuff, I also threw in some Bénéfique by Shiseido … Sun Block – SPF 50. Thank God it was 50 because my nose and cheeks are still a little red.

I walked the bike with Marc to the train. I decided to ride for a little bit until I fell into this chain and into a car. The streets are incredibly narrow and there was this gutter next to the street and this car was coming at me and there were two cars behind me and Marc says – “Michele, look out for the gutter!” Which I had totally seen and was already a bit afraid of and then I guess because of all the pressure of the cars and Marc watching, I bit it. I scraped my knee and was humiliated. If I were Japanese, I would probably feel worse about the incident, but I’m American and we’re like cats … we fall down, look around and then lick our paws like nothing ever happened.

Since there aren’t any English street signs, I became completely turned around for a couple of hours. It was fine at first because I had no where to be, but I grew a bit annoyed when I had to go to the bathroom. I went into this park where there was a man feeding the pigeons, two trendy chicks with there little bitty dogs and a homeless man sleeping it off on a bench and checked out the bathroom there. Alas, no only did it not have any tp – it was also one of those squat toilets. I had used one the other day at the coffee shop, but I wasn’t up to revisiting the challenge. So, off I went in search of Marc’s apartment. I came back to this park twice before I came home.

After that adventure, my behind hurt from all that riding so, I decided that I’d read for a couple of hours. I’m reading “The Company” … it is so good. It’s about the CIA – so, I’ve been fairly paranoid this whole trip about being an American. That and I’m a freak and think the world is out to get me because of my nationality. Oh, wait … that’s sort of true, ain’t it?

I went back out and rode some more. Went to the store and looked at all of the stuff there again. I don’t know what it is, but I’m diggin’ these grocery stores. I guess because I can’t read anything that is written. When I left, this little girl on a bike was looking at me so hard that she ran into a post. She was fine.

Now, it’s Friday morning. Yesterday, I finally left the apartment at 3. Went biking for about an hour and a half. At the end of the ride, however, I really couldn’t stand sitting on the bike, so I walked it. I never got lost, but I never really knew where I was either. Found a really great grocery store. I know, I know – I have an obsession with grocery stores. This one had spices that I could read and know what they were and pasta sauces and pasta. Since Marc is working – I’ve been cooking and since I only know Western cooking … well, that’s what I’ve been doing. Last night, we had taco’s and I made him guacamole. Never fear, people, we’re going to Kyoto this weekend and I’ll be only eating Japanese.

If anyone is still reading after this enormous missive, do you have any suggestions of things for me to do today and tomorrow?

GUEST ENTRY! Michele speaks…

Wednesday, April 16th, 2003

My Japanese Adventure:
Here it is – Tuesday, about 5:30 and I’ve just returned from my day in Marc’s village. It’s somewhere outside of Osaka. I have no idea where. There aren’t any street signs. I mean, maybe there are, but I can’t read anything – unless, of course, it’s random English words. For example, I’m drinking a coke and on the top it says Get!! Shop NO REASON.

Which leads me back to my day. I shopped for NO REASON. I went into this make-up store to figure out what was good and then I was going to go to one of the Pharmacy’s around – per instructions from my friend Yukie. Apparently, the good make-up/cleanser/etc companies in Japan, make these very high end products and then make basically the same stuff, but sell it for a lot less in the pharmacy’s or Duane Reades – or what have you. However, they were just so nice and they cleaned my face and I felt pretty and so, I left after having spent over $100 for facial cleanser, moisturizer, some other stuff that you put on after the moisturizer and then some more moisturizer that you put on after the other stuff, but it has sunscreen and lip balm. WHAT is wrong with me? I wanna buy a cool digital camera. Well, Barnum may as well have been talking about me when he spoke of the sucker born every minuet.

But before I went in there, I went to the bank and was there for another trying to change my American Express money into Yen. I really have no idea why it took that long, but it was a nice place to sit and everyone was so nice and I got to do a very nice bow at the end of it. Now, go back to the paragraph before and realize that the money I had just had exchanged was spent at the above said store.

Well, almost.

I then went into my second Japanese supermarket. I really enjoy them. I just wander and exasperate the people who are there to actually buy stuff. I did pick up bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and Ziploc bags.

There is this street across from the train station called “Shopping Street” – that’s where I went for the above stuff.

I went next into a coffee shop. I drank coffee. It was very quiet.

Actually, everything in Japan is quiet. Quiet and clean. Oh, and I’m about everyone’s height! Wacky.

I went to many electronic stores to find a coffee grinder. At one point, I asked for a kohii misu grinder (translated actually means – coffee bean paste grinder). And made the international grinding sign with my fist and open palm. At this store, they didn’t have it, but I did get a picture of a coffee grinder and so, I was able to eventually purchase said item.

It seems that everyone has a bicycle. And many ride with passengers. It’s groovy. All the school kids seem to wear uniforms.

I found a dollar store or 100 Yen store. I wandered there last night with Marc for awhile – until he was tired of it. I went back today and wandered more. I bought Marc a really cheap pan – like a wok – and it will probably be destroyed before I go.

It’s really lovely weather here right now. Rainy, but in the 60’s or so. It reminds me of Seattle.

So, now, I’m going to take a nap. I’m still a bit off on my sleep. I’m so excited to see stuff that I stay up thinking about it and then don’t sleep.