Posted by: pdot78 | April 13, 2009

Week 40: Marinepia Nihonkai

Hey everyone,
So this weekend I went to the Aquarium in Niigata with a bunch of my co-teachers and our manager, who also brought her one and a half year old son. He is cute and chubby and one of the most well behaved babies I have ever met and given the number of babies I know that is saying a lot. He walked around pointing at stuff and when you said something to him he would put up his hand and say hi. He even tried to bow to us when we met, it was funny.

The aquarium itself was pretty cool and definitely reminded me of Marineland, particularly during the dolphin show. The show was pretty good and Miki got chosen to go on stage and shake the dolphin’s hand.

The baby was also a monster at sucking back juice. I was blown away. Every time he got a hold of a juicebox he just drank the entire thing in one go. No breaks to get air, nothing.

Another highlight were these tanks you could put your hand in. They contained a special kind of fish that eats at your hand. That being said, the fish went absolutely crazy when I stuck my hand in. I think I had half the tank just on my one hand!

Aside from that we saw a bunch of fish and aquatic things before getting gelato across the street. We also went out for dinner at an Indian restaurant and spent the rest of the day/evening at Hakusan park viewing the cherry blossoms. So where are the pictures of said cherry blossoms? They are coming. Since cherry blossoms apparently only last about a week I spent the greater part of this weekend taking pictures of them. The problem is now that I have so many pictures it will take a short while to filter out the bad ones and I still need to pack for my big move this coming weekend.

Here are the aquarium pictures. This should hold you over until I finish picking through the Sakura shots.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29590018@N06/sets/72157616708518662/show/with/3437598839/

Posted by: pdot78 | April 1, 2009

Week 38.5: Ume (Plum) Blossoms

Hey guys,

I just found out that my company is relocating Randy and myself into different apartments! The upside is that I will be closer to work, the beach and the park by the river.  The downside is that we have to spend our next few weekends packing and moving.

I did however manage to get myself over to Hakusan park this past weekend to take pictures of the ume (plum) blossoms before they fall off. They are quite pretty. The park also has some monkeys so i put a picture of one in the middle. I am however morally opposed to the fact that they keep them in cages like that. I just dont have any pictures of monkeys.

In Japan, the ume blossoms are commonly used in poetry as a symbol of spring. This makes sense as they are quite pretty. Apparently they were actually preferred to the  sakura (cherry) blossoms in the Nara period(710-794), which didn’t gain it’s popularity until the Heian period(794-1185). I will give you the run down on sakuras when they bloom.

The cultural tradition is that the ume acts as a protective charm against evil. Apparently you should plant them in the north eastern part of your garden because that is the direction in which evil is believed to come. Obviously!

Here are my favourites.

Alright, I think you get the point. Here is a link to the rest of my ume pictures from that day.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29590018@N06/sets/72157615981020257/show/with/3395023158/

Posted by: pdot78 | March 25, 2009

Week 37.5: Dewa Sanzan

Hey all,

In lieu of the nice weather (and the fact that its almost spring), Randy and I went hiking.We decided to go to Dewa Sanzan. It consists of three sacred mountains and since the larger two are not even open until late july, we climbed the smallest of the three: Mt. Haguro. It was pretty easy to find and get to so I was happy. There was also some snow but that was to be expected. The climb was cool because it took us up some 2500 stone steps that were placed on the trail a long time ago.

We also passed a small waterfall that was accompanied by another one of those red bridges the Japanese love to build.

After this we ran into my main reason for picking this place. Gojū-no-tō. Hidden amongst enormous trees, this five story pagoda is over 600 years old and was built without using a single nail. Unlike the ridiculous red pagodas in Nikko I feel that this belongs here, in the middle of nowhere, halfway up a mountain.

Once we reached the summit, we had plans to check out Sanzan Gosaiden, a temple with the worlds thickest thatched roof.  It was closed for winter but the roof which is clearly the most important part was still visible. Here is what she looked like.

Once the rain decided it was time for us to go back we had to wait 3 hours for the bus to take us back to the train station where we were to wait another 2 hours for the train to take us home. Note to self: travel in travelling season! I still had a great time being outside doing things again. Mt. Azuma  and Mt. Shirane are coming up but I will probably climb something else before then.

Aside from that I get to move into a new apartment in 2 weeks. This new place is older and smells funny but has the advantage of being directly above my school and is marginally closer to the beach so I am happy.

Sakura season is almost upon us. I will take lots of pictures. Heres the rest from the hike, nothing is blooming yet so it’s not as colourful as I would have liked.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29590018@N06/sets/72157615761339170/show/with/3376122690/

Posted by: pdot78 | March 17, 2009

Week 36: Japanese Parks

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Hey Folks,

This weekend I went to a sake festival. It was pretty fun. 2000 yen got you into the grounds (this was the same place I went to for the food festival a few months ago) where various booths had been set up for every sake company in the prefecture. I haven’t really tried good sake before so I figured this would be as good a place as any. After about 4 or 5 different samples of sake I came to the conclusion that I actually don’t like sake and predominantly focused on the food stands. Overall it was still pretty neat to see the way each company tried to market their product.

The next day I was going to bike around town and take pictures of Japanese playgrounds but when I woke up it was pouring. Now normally this would be enough to deter most people but me being the stubborn fool that I am had decided I would go anyways and try to take my pictures with one hand while holding an umbrella with the other. This was luckily not necessary as there was a lull in the storm clouds and I managed to sneak out and take most of my pictures before it rained again. Although for the record when it started raining again I was halfway across town and got stuck in the middle of some sort of torrential downpour so I was completely soaked by the time I got home. Yes I am aware that I had an umbrella but it was far too windy and about half the people I passed had broken umbrellas on the way home.

Anyways back to the point; Japanese parks. They are typically mundane, depressing places with dirt, rusted swings and some sort of concrete block or cylinder unless of course they are awesome! You will see.

After this came what I am going to call a bridging park because it wasn’t awesome but it also wasn’t completely terrible. This was apparently designed to emulate waves.

Next up are the awesome playgrounds. First one is cactus themed. Its near a beach on the Sea of Japan so I am sure it gets lots of play in the summer.

Up next is a castle that is  pretty big and makes for an awesome playground.

The next is my second favourite if not tied for first place. The giant octopus slide! Who comes up with this stuff?!  I was curious as to whether there were more octopus playgrounds in Japan so I googled it and came up with this explanation…..


“In the 1960’s in Japan, when the Maeda Outdoor Art Company unveiled a serpentine mound of polished concrete called “Play Sculpture: Stone Mountain,” someone trying to be helpful told the artist, “If you’d just put a head on it, it’d be an octopus.” It turned out octopus was what the park officials were buying, so octopus it was.Though exact numbers are hard to come by, a Japanese fansite has documented over 100 remaining Tako-no-Yama [Octopus Mountain], which became beloved icons of Japanese childhood. They were each built by hand, sketched out onsite, first on paper, then in re-bar. Maeda claims that no two were alike”

My favourite in Niigata was this last one simply because of the existance of a Pirate Ship! It even had a crows nest. Whoever came up with this is a genius. I would have gotten closer but this one was closed and surrounded by some pretty serious fencing. The picture was taken by holding my camera over the top of the fence and hoping I got something so this will have to do until it opens back up.

Alright so that about covers my weekend. Sake festival and me getting soaked head to toe to get you guys these park pictures. Hope you like them.

ps. A pirate ship! I still can’t believe it!

Posted by: pdot78 | March 9, 2009

Week 35: The Red Lighthouse

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Hey all,

It was nice out this weekend so I planned a little biking route with Randy to check out this lagoon a little ways south of my apartment. We got there fairly quickly and there wasn’t much to see but it had potential for spring so I will check back in April.

We then headed north to the shore to check out a gelato shop and head on the most direct route to that lighthouse I mentioned last weekend. On the way there we noticed some pretty big waves smashing off of the rocks so I stopped and got a picture. The waves weren’t as large while I was stopping but were making pretty big splashes regardless.

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Anyways, after having not successfully found a path out to the lighthouse last weekend I looked it up on Google Earth and seemed to find a way around the area that originally blocked me off. When we got there, there turned out to be a series of additional smaller fences blocking off the alternate route we found. We then saw a few people fishing on the other side so we decided to hop the fence and just go anyways. The light house turned out to be easily over a mile out but the breeze coming from the Japan Sea made it a nice walk.

Here she is. Very Red.

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One of the things that I either found strange or just didn’t expext was for the red to actually be tiles. The entire tower is tiled red.

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After having successfully covered the lighthouse, we decided to take the tunnel on a whim. The tunnel turned out to take us a lot further away then we needed to go but it also brought us to a really cool playground that I will talk about next week. On the way home we were biking along the side of the road and our street wound around a corner and became this bridge. Now Randy and I slowed down before going on because there were no bike lanes but we needed to get over the river and there weren’t any signs saying no bikes. Once we had been on this bridge for a while (as it seemed to continuously wind around) I started getting a thought…..

“Hey Randy”
“Yeah”
“I’m pretty sure this might be a highway”
****A plethora of cars come whipping past us at this moment in time*******
“Yup, definitely a highway”
“So we take the next exit then?”
“Yup”

The cars seemed to travel in packs so we were lucky enough to have a shoulder to drive in while the main traffic darted through. We were alone on the off ramp so I came down in the middle as if I were a car. This old Japanese man was riding his bike on the other side of the street when he saw me come smiling down the off ramp and I swear his eyes bulged from his head. He stopped biking and just stared at me. I half thought he was going to turn around and give us a safety lecture!

Anyways, so when I got home it seemed like I had travelled a fairly good distance so I mapped it out. Randy and I biked around 17 miles in the afternoon. I am extremely surprised I am not tired today. Maybe playing with children has given me super human stamina?

Talk to you next week!

Posted by: pdot78 | March 2, 2009

Week 34: Construction Buddies

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Hello Canada,

Who are my green friends you might be asking? Well I shall tell you. They are what I am going to term construction buddies. Instead of using pylons to link together the poles construction compamies use to block off areas, they use animals. Winter is fading and it was a nice day for a walk yesterday so I wandered around looking for them. I have found three different models that are in use, each possibly by a different company. I shall introduce them.  The first ‘team’ consists of a racoon and cat combination. The racoon is on one side and on the other is the cat. They are always facing the same direction, regardless of how many there are. I didn’t even notice they were different until I was coming back and all of the cats had turned into racoons!

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The second two models are a monkey and a frog. I like the frog the best but the monkey is a close second. They are both so incredibly happy and random that I thought I should share it with you guys.  Let me know which one you like the best.

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Aside from those guys, I went on a six mile walk trying to find this red lighthouse that is apparently in my city. I didn’t think it was as far away as it actually was and when I got there the area  I was in was completely blocked off. This of course means that I am now determined to figure out how to get there properly. I also  took my bike to a small japanese shop today to get fixed. The old man who worked and owned it looked at me when I came in so I pointed to my bike outside. He gestured for me to bring it in then pointed to a stool so I sat down. He went right to work and fixed it pretty quickly before I paid him and was on my way. Other then that I am taking my bike back to find that lighthouse next weekend and will be doing a run down the shoreline when it gets warmer out.

Take Care Everyone

Posted by: pdot78 | February 23, 2009

Week 33: Setsubun

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Good morning Canada,

A few weeks ago Japan celebrated Setsubun. It is a special day celebrated throughout the country each year as a part of the Spring Festival. Setsubun (correctly called Risshun) means “seasonal division” and is closely tied to the Lunar New Year. As a result this usually takes place on the day before the season begins. This is because the key element of Setsubun is Mamemaki.

Here is a picture of Mamemaki. Try to guess what it is before reading.

Mamemaki is a special ritual to cleanse away all of the evil from the previous year and drive away any potential disease-bringing evil spirits in the year to come. This is done by throwing peanuts at people dressed up as demons.

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Traditionally, roasted soybeans are thrown either out the door or at the toshiotoko (male head of the household) who is wearing an Oni (demon) mask. The people throwing peanuts also chant “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!”. According to Wikipedia this translates to “Demons out! Luck In!” which is roughly what my Japanese teachers said it meant as well. By driving out the demons, the Japanese are sending away the bad luck and misfortune with them. After this, the finishing step consists of eating your age in soybeans (peanuts in our case). If you want extra luck in the year to come you should eat your age plus one.

The teachers thoroughly enjoyed throwing peanuts at us. Also, the mask I chose ended up being substantially smaller then my face with eyeholes that were extremely close together. Here is some of the peanut chucking fun.

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Well, thats all I have for you this week. It is starting to get warmer again  and the snow is gone so I will be back to my adventures soon enough. Take care.

Posted by: pdot78 | February 16, 2009

Week 32: Valentines Day

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Hello Everyone,

Those are some of the Valentines I got from girls at my school. I teach most of them, some of them I don’t but they apparently love me anyways. The most common thing I got was a clear baggie with chocolates that the girls must have assembled at home.  In Japan Valentines Day is completely backwards when compared to the Western version. Valentines Day is actually for boys here. It is generally understood that girls should be the ones giving presents (usually chocolate) to the boys. Now before anyone with an extra X chromosome gets upset, there is still a day for men to give presents to women. On March 14th they celebrate “White Day” in which it is generally expected that the male who received a gift must reciprocate with at least twice as much.

Aside from that my babies are the only eventful thing in my work week because they are hilarious. Here are my baby stories.

The first one involved a baby who cannot walk yet and one who can. The baby who can’t walk usually just crawls around and sits upright for a break, then resumes crawling. One of the other babies who can walk was doing laps around me and then tripped over the baby who was sitting. He then gets up, walks over to the sitting baby who just looks at him and open palm smacks him on the head! The sitting baby just sat there looking at him but I thought it was amusing.

My second thing was this past Saturday when one of the babies for some reason decided that the number four was the most hilarious thing he has ever heard. Every time we counted, he stayed completely calm and quiet until we got to the number four from which he bursts out laughing and giggling and then stops once we move on to the later numbers. He did it the whole class, I just don’t get babies but they sure are funny.

I suppose my third thing is watching a baby learn rage. He’s around a year old and used to either do nothing or cry when things didn’t go his way. He now crunches his face and starts growling and shakes his hands around. It really is quite funny, I think he is trying to make himself cry but I couldn’t really tell. He also gets really jealous if his mom pays attention to any of the other babies. One sat in his moms lap and he ran over, sat down beside him and started trying to push him out and make his angry face.

Lastly, was my older baby who is mixed in with the one that loves four and the raging one. He is a year and a half and the other two are about one. We were playing with the shape thing (it’s one of those cylinders with holes fitting only one specific shape) and the older baby quickly put all the shapes in while the younger one was banging his against a table across the room. After deciding the younger baby wasn’t going to figure it out, I started to sing the “put away” song. Well the older one understands the put away song but decided we couldn’t put them away with the blue circle missing. He picks up the cylinder, walks over to the younger baby and starts holding the cylinder in his direction assuming he knows what to do. He doesn’t. The older one then begins pushing the cylinder against the blue circle in the babies hand (maybe hoping it will fall in?) with little or no results. He then gives up, knocks the circle out of the babies hand, walks over to where it rolled, picks it up, stuffs it into the cylinder and puts the toy away on the shelf! It might not sound that amusing from this end but I thought it was worth sharing.

Alright, thats about it for this week.

Take Care!

Posted by: pdot78 | February 8, 2009

Week 31: Vacation Part 3 – Tokyo

Hey Canada,

This is the last vacation post, I promise. Here is what Amie had to say, it’s more or less exactly what happened. Tokyo is a loud, busy city through and through.

We arrived in Tokyo, and had another adventure trying to figure out how to get to our hotel. The subway line we wanted was supposed to be out of Tokyo station, but we couldn’t find it anywhere. After walking a couple blocks in the underground, and chasing after signs that led to a parallel line, we finally found our subway station. We get to the hotel and fell in love with the decor and modern feel. After a quick unpack, and half-nap, we went on another adventure. This time we wanted to check out the Imperial Gardens and maybe head to the Ginza district.

We couldn’t get into the gardens from the side of the grounds we were on, and started to walk towards the Ginza district. After realizing the scale on our maps, we decided to take the subway. We got out in Ginza, and wow! What a busy district! Crazy designer shopping, the Sony headquarters and trial centre, massive karaoke buildings! It is rumored that if you take the highest denomination of a bank note in Japan, fold it up as small as it can go, and through it randomly on the ground in Ginza, that note will not be able to buy the cm2 it lands on.

We wandered around Ginza for a bit, stopped at Tokyo tower and then headed to Shibuya, the other shopping district for supper. If we thought Ginza was busy, Shibuya had 10 times the amount of people! This was teenage to mid twenties shopping heaven. So many department stores, restaurants, and crazy odd stores everywhere! We wandered around like the tourists we are and eventually found a great little restaurant in the basement of a shopping building. This place definitely did not have any English. And once again, Paul came to the rescue! This time, without his little book of phrases! I had an assortment of sushi and Paul had yakatori. It was really good. We amused ourselves during supper by naming and joking around with the fish in the tank in front of us.

Busy 4 way crossing at Shibuya

We found a little stand that sold the Japanese version of a dessert crepe and ate our fill on our way to the subway station back to the hotel.

The next day we had another Tokyo adventure. This time it was in Harajuku. Wikitravel told us that Harajuku on Sunday mornings was the place to go because of the Freak Show. People from all the different subcultures in Japan line the paths in the park for other people’s amusement. We got to Harajuku, and there were little to no freaks, just a huge throng of people heading somewhere in the park. So we followed the crowd. We were taken to the biggest temple in Tokyo with the group of people who were making their first temple visit of the year. There had to be well over 10,000 people waiting to say their prayers at the temple. We didn’t wait. Instead we walked back out to Harajuku proper and wandered around the shopping area. These stores are the famed Harajuku independent stores. We found a place for lunch, really cheap tempura bowls for about 600 yen, and we were stuffed!

Ridiculous amount of people at the Meji Shrine, Wishes being hung up for good luck and some lanterns on the way.

We went back to the hotel and had a quiet night in with a convenience store supper. We didn’t want to talk about how I had to leave the next day.

Side note from Paul: Alright so maybe I wanted to add one thing. We watched an awesome Japanese T.V. show the last night. It was essentially manhunt. About 12 people are let loose in a city and they have an hour to run around and not get caught by these guys running around in suits and sunglasses (like men in black if you remember that movie). They are all connected by ear buds and if one spots a person they all go after them. The more time passes, the more money goes to whoever is left. Eventually there are tasks the people have to accomplish and the suit guys get a helicopter for some reason. It was wicked!

Heres the pictures, I was kind of pictured out by now so I didn’t take very many:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29590018@N06/sets/72157610841314141/show/with/3092203369/

Also, heres all the pictures that had me and Amie in them for those of you who complain that nobody’s ever in mine.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29590018@N06/sets/72157612591665497/show/with/3200913383/

Posted by: pdot78 | January 26, 2009

Week 28: Vacation Part 2 – Kyoto

Hello Canada,

Grab a Hot Chocolate and get comfy, because this post is super long. Yes I mean its that ridiculously long. This is where we spent the bulk of our vacation so its a biggie. I added a bunch of pictures to the post to make it less painful and the green is whenever I wanted to add something in without it getting confusing.

We left early from Nikko, and caught the hostel shuttle to the train station which was some guys red minivan. After a short ride through the countryside of Japan we eventually arrived in Tokyo for our transfer onto the Shinkansen to Kyoto.

We got our tickets, did lunch at a Chinese restaurant (which for the record are completely different from the North American conception of “Chinese food”) and were a few minutes early for our train. We get into the shortest line, all excited that we might be able to sit together, and not have to stand for the 3 hour train ride. We get into the traincar, find seats, sit down, get settled in, and are all content. After we started moving, a cute little Japanese voice came on the intercom and said, “If you wish to smoke, please do so in Car Number 3.” We then clued into why everyone around us smelled like cigarettes, and had their packs out waiting for that announcement.

Side note from Paul: As I came on, noticed that everyone smelled like smoke but figured that its Japan so that will happen. I then look around to see someone lifting a cigarette to their mouth just as we are hearing the message saying to smoke in car 3. Well I quickly stare at the car number and ya, we are in car 3! Crap! I then leave Amie with our things because between the two of us I am the more pushy and therefore more likely to get through to a pair of seats. I quickly made my way down and up the three carts finding nothing and was dreading going back to the smoke capsule. After lowering my standards for seats I found us two seats that were a row apart, which led me to hoping we could just hope that one person from one of the rows would empty out before we got to Kyoto, which they did so we were happy. Okay, resume story…..

The train took longer to get into Kyoto than we expected, and after hauling our stuff around we were tired so we had an early night, and the first of what Paul likes to call our “7-Eleven Dinners.”

We got up early and went on the Kyoto bus to Northern Kyoto to see Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. It was a gorgeous temple! The grounds paled in comparison to how beautiful it was. It was funny to watch from my (Amie’s) perspective all the photographers vying for a spot whenever the sun would peak out from behind a cloud, and make the temple shine.

Side note: Yes I was one of those people waiting and muttering under my breath at the clouds. I did end up with the picture I wanted so I am happy.

Kinkakuji Temple (The Golden Pavilion).

It was here that we also got to participate in an abbreviated tea ceremony. Paul actually liked this green tea!

Paul had read about a temple in Eastern Kyoto (Tenryuji Temple) with a cool bamboo forest near it. We went there next and found it, but couldn’t find the bamboo. The temple itself was neat and has one of the best preserved and oldest gardens in Japan so that was reason enough to check it out. After we bought our tickets for the temple and wandered around we found a patch of bamboo and went out the back exit, hoping that it would lead to the forest, which it did.

The Sgen Pond in Tenryuji Temple’s Garden.

Evidently the forest was free, and behind the temple grounds. The path was really cool.We walked it and got semi-lost trying to find our way to the Togetsu Bridge. Aside from the Temple, there was no direct way of getting to the forest that didn’t involve walking through the side streets of rural Kyoto.

Side Note: After the temple we made our way across to Eastern Kyoyo to check out a traditional craft making thing Amie wanted to do. When we got there it was a complete bust. The craft making was as we had feared completely for children which was a bummer but we did end up buying something in the complex which entitled us to a free bus shuttle to our hotel, and since we were the only ones on the shuttle, was a direct bus trip home! This is the part where Amie feels sick and takes a rest. I had grabbed a local advertising magazine and before Amie passed out I had gotten her preference on cultural things in the magazine that we could do assuming they were all available. This was of course a huge gamble as most things like that are (and were closed) during the New Years holidays.

I (Amie) got sick from accidentally eating a Gyoza with meat in it for lunch, so we were out of commission for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Things happening while Amie was asleep: I make my way downstairs to harass the front desk into calling our places to see if their open at all in the next few days. The #1 choice was a private cooking lesson with an older Japanese woman who can teach you how to make traditional sweets, full meals, basically something traditionally Japanese that you want to make. They said she wasn’t open so we called the other 5 places, all of which were closed. Now I was satisfied with the last 4 because I actually saw him call them. The first one said in the article that she could only be contacted by email and her entire advertisement was in English so I figured that might have confused him and he didn’t know what to do. I decided to email her myself from their computer in the lobby and hope for the best, It was worth a shot at the very least.

I might as well talk about my side quest for a drug store now too. Which Amie was sleeping I made my way through the entire Japanese assortment of convenience stores down our street: 2 or 3
Lawsons, a 7/11, a Family Mart, and a Circle K before concluding that I wouldn’t find medication in any of them. At the last Lawsons I used my little bits of Japanese combined with what English the guys in the store knew to find a small family run drug store about 5 or 6 blocks over from where I was (which by now was a good half hour walk from our hotel). I eventually make it out past 6 blocks and while crossing the street on a pedestrian walkway to check out a grocery store I saw, I noticed that under the crosswalk was a small drug store on my side that I had missed because the stairs to the crosswalk covered it! I make it back, go in, show the guy where it hurts, demonstrate that I feel sick and could vomit, use my book to ask what he recommends, buy it and go home, stoked that I finally found something. I woke Amie up, drugged her up, put her back to sleep and was on guard to wake her up again at 12 to celebrate the New Year but fell asleep. We both did manage to wake up and say happy new year sometime before 1 but we definitely both fell immediately asleep till the next day.

The next day we went to Nara for the Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden structure in the world.

On our adventure towards the temple, we found out that Nara’s totem animal was a deer, because they were everywhere. I was going to guess but I thought I should look it up. There were at least 1200 deer in 2005 so there is probably a little more now. They were somewhat entertaining at first but the smell and annoyance of being constantly nudged in the butt sours you to these guys.

So why deer? Here is what Wikipedia says:

“According to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer were regarded as heavenly animal to protect the city and the country.”

These “messengers of God” would follow and nudge you if they thought you had food. We did a little bit of Japanese sweet shopping, more like stabbing in the dark and grabbing random sweets, not knowing what they were. It was fun!

Later on, went back to Kyoto, and decided to check out the shopping district to find a good place for supper. It was here that we had some good yakatori, and a crazy tofu mushy soup, all with help from my (Paul’s) Japanese ability. It was really handy having some phrases worked out before hand, otherwise, we would have been eating some pretty interesting things! Mmm tenticles, carrion and cartilage, wait, we did have cartilage! We went to Southern Kyoto the next morning, bright and early to check out a Torii tunnel Paul wanted to see in the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

The temple was actually completely packed with people. It was still in full New Years celebratory mode. I got a hot dog on a stick, It ruled!

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The late morning and early afternoon was spent doing the Philosopher’s Walk in Eastern Kyoto. It was a route walked by a professor at Kyoto University every morning on his way to work, and now commonly used by couples going on a romantic stroll. There were some really fantastic old temples and buildings along the way that tourist’s didn’t know about. We also found a couple really cute shops, including one that made me really happy. Everything in it hung from the ceiling, and was floating. It was all mobiles, origami, and dainty little artisan crafts. She also found a Cat that made her equally as happy.


Paul worked hard at finding a place or something to do that was traditional Japanese culture. He found a little old lady named Emi who runs Japanese cooking classes out of her home. Needless to say she was adorable and taught us how to make some really good traditional Japanese sweets. Whenever we would be doing something, she would always get me to help out first, rather than Paul. She was funny.

Yes, the lady emailed me back and we got our #1 choice, which worked out as none of the other options were even available. Once she found out that I can’t cook she basically focused completely on Amie and I became the taster, which worked out excellently for me. I also agree that she was funny.

Cooking with Emi.

Later that evening we went to the Gion district to see if we could spot us a Geisha. Instead, we got swept up into a huge crowd of people doing their first temple visit of the year, and eventually ended up where we had wanted to go the previous night for supper. One of the ladies at the hotel front desk told us about a street right by the river that is all restaurants in the traditional Japanese building style. This street, or alley had about 100 restaurants, all so different and so appetizing. We ended going to one place because they had tempura, seafood and an English menu. It turned out that for the New Year supper, they had a limited menu of many courses. We selected the tofu meal. So many different kinds of tofu, prepared in so many ways! It was all so fantastic, and all so filling! I’m pretty sure we had to be rolled out of the restaurant to go home!

Thats basically everything we did in Kyoto. If you are still reading good for you! Tokyo will be a fifth of the length, I promise!

Heres the pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29590018@N06/sets/72157612208835187/show/with/3174631215/

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