Archive for July, 2003

Fuji-san!

Monday, July 28th, 2003

I DID IT!! It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and altitude sickness almost got me, but I persevered and made it to the top. Mt. Fuji is a difficult hike, and it gets cold at night. The worst part for me was the lack of oxygen near the top. I had to go really slowly, which was easy to do, since there were about a zillion other people on the mountain. We started about 9:30pm or so on Sunday night, and hiked all night. We reached the summit about 4:30, just as the sun was starting to rise. The pictures here don’t really do it justice, but it was breathtaking. The other people on the trip were friends and/or ex-AEON coworkers of Ben’s, or Ben’s former students. Good people all around, and a fun, but exhausting day. Pix:

               

No updates for a few days…

Sunday, July 27th, 2003

Heading to Mt. Fuji today to meet my friend Ben. Pix to come in a couple days. Talk to y’all soon.

Darren, Matt, Joy, and Tanya visit

Thursday, July 24th, 2003

Holy moly! 4 people visiting at once! Pix:

          

Gion Festival

Thursday, July 24th, 2003

Last week I went to Gion Festival in Kyoto. This is a festival that started in 869 with a plague. To apease the gods that sent the plague, the Seiwa emperor, resident in Kyoto, sent his officials to Gion Shrine. Also, the Emperor ordered a procession of floats to be paraded about the town to appease various gods. Each float had its own rhythm section, so that each neighborhood represented could be heard by the gods. So now, nearly two thousand years later, it sounds like a cacophonous, beautiful mess.

I met up with my friend Kumi, who is from Kyoto. Her grandfather (!!) made the vase in the first two pictures. It was being displayed in a museum, randomly. She was surprised, so I took a picture. Afterwards, we went to her grandmother’s house, which was a traditional Japanese house. In the back was her grandfather’s, and now her uncle’s kiln for making pottery.

The floats are being pulled by a lot of guys, and the guys in front standing on the float did a little fan dance as the float went by. Video to come later… Enjoy the pictures:

                 

Eveything you never wanted to know about Japan…

Monday, July 14th, 2003

…and didn’t ask.

Corn is literally everywhere, from salads to sushi to pizza. Why? We’ll never know. Rebecca found a single kernel of corn in the women’s restroom. It was next to the sink.

Packaging is excessive. Everything you order is wrapped in at least 2 bags, and at least one of those bags is taped shut, thus making removing the contents of said bag extremely difficult.

Napkins and paper towels are non-existent. Most restaurants just don’t have them, or they’re hidden behind the counter and you have to ask for them, and when you do, you are invariably given 1 or 2, at most. Most Japanese people carry around a handkerchief with them for this purpose. But, to my enthnocentric mind, that’s even MORE disgusting. So I use this handkerchief as a tissue, napkin, and towel??? Ewww! Although I’m sure it’s environmentally better, it grosses me out.

You know Japanese people love seafood. Well, they also love hot dogs with the same fervor. Yes, hot dogs. They turn up everywhere, much like the above-mentioned corn. I’ve seen hot dogs in the middle of buns (like pigs in a blanket), little hot dogs on their own in the grocery store (like cocktail weenies), and hot dogs on a stick, like corn dogs. However, for some reason there are no street vendors selling hot dogs in buns. I have a feeling that a NYC hot dog vendor would make a killing here!

Okay, here are some random pix from my cell phone that I’ve been accumulating for a few weeks. Enjoy the “zi cock” and check out the “nice day card.” In Japanese it says “DICK” in huge letters. Also, “there’s ‘cold’ in them thar hills” made me laugh and it was clever. And the Mets drink…

          

Hankyu Store Windows and Salsa!

Monday, July 7th, 2003

On Saturday, there was a GIANT sale at the Hankyu Department Store, which is right next to the school where I work. This is one of the premiere department stores in Japan, and it is not exaggerating to say that I have NEVER seen that many people in one store in my entire life. There were policemen directing people, and there was yellow rope everywhere. Consumerism ain’t dead in this country, regarldess of the economic state. It wasn’t pretty. One of my students said, “It looked like beasts.” I coulnd’t help but laugh and agree.

Anyway, Hankyu invites artists to decorate their windows every change of season, much like Macy’s around Christmastime in NYC. I managed to catch the graffiti artists while they were working, chat them up, and snap a few photos. For more info on the artists: Hankyu Graffiti meets Windows (in Japanese!). Head to Babelfish for translation. They were incredible. Pictures:

           

After I checked out the windows, I met some the other teachers who I work with at a nearby Italian restaurant and we said a smaller goodbye to Izumi, who’s leaving for France on Monday. Aiko and Nozomi talked with some of the band members, who were really cool. Pix and video!!: