Monthly Archives: November 2008

Blog Stats and Blog Fodder

Nagoya Station from Nanzan University

Thanks muchly for the suggestions for upcoming posts in the last entry. From what I’ve received so far, I’ll probably being doing a least three posts based on what I got there – one on Nanzan and the student experience here and one on various topics that have more to do with Japan as a whole, such as shopping, Nagoya in comparison to other places, and Japanese feelings about the US.

I also seemed to have neglected to mention an important fact in this space – I currently have a part time job at the elementary school attached to Nanzan University. Once a week, for two hours I am an English Teaching Assistant as part of the after school program. The teacher-in-charge’s goal is to mix fun with learning and get the kids interested in foreign languages. The kids’ goals are, in this order, to make fun of my Japanese, use their colored pencils wherever possible, and pull things out of our pockets to play with. The other TAs and I have the goal of trying to survive the experience.

I do have one additional goal, however. To survive the experience without getting neck strain. I’ve been wanting to do a post about the munchkins (since I have crazy nicknames for each and every one of them) but it’s taking longer than I expected to get permission to take photos. They seem to be afraid that I’m going to sell them or something.



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Dad in Japan – Part Three, Kyoto

On November 16, we got up excruciatingly early to meet at Nagoya station at 8AM. Except that I missed my first train, so it turned out to be more like 8:20. We bought our tickets and hopped onto the Kodama Shinkansen, the ‘slowest’ one. It still took less than 90 minutes to get to Kyoto from Nagoya.

Our first stop in Kyoto, minus the time I spent wandering around in a daze as the computer that is my brain struggled desperately to switch from ‘subway transportation system’ to ‘bus transportation system,’ was Kiyomizudera, probably one of the most famous temples in Japan. I didn’t get any really coherent pictures since the area is a maze of shrines and temples and it seemed like everyone in Japan was there to see the fall color.

Busy busy busy, despite the rain and the chill. There are shops lining the streets all the way up to the main gate selling traditional Japanese products, though you might have to watch the comparison shopping – some places were selling completely unique items that were for sale in the shop next door for 500 yen less.

By request, the “photoshopped” one. My younger brother was the first to point out, on Facebook, that my dad didn’t look quite right. I happened to agree – it looked like I had digitally added him in later.

Besides various knick knacks (sp?), plenty of places were selling food, much of it grilled/baked/killed on site. This one took the cake though – it’s an automated device for churning out little cakes with a dollop of chestnut-flavored filling. Check out the video on YouTube.

As I said before, Kiyomizu is a more a complex of various shrines and temples than just one set building. I did get a picture of myself in front of the bell near the entrance though.

Please ignore my shirt as it tries to escape from my shoulder.

A up close shot of a reddening Japanese Maple.

These are pretty neat – you buy a blank (or decorated, with a blank space) bit of wood with a string and write down a wish for the future. You can then hang it up on a board like this.

From Kiyomizu-dera, we grabbed lunch on the run and caught the next bus at Gion, heading for Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion Shrine.

The weather had thankfully started to clear by the time we got there…just in time for the sun to set at what felt like 4:00PM.*


…the most photogenic building in Japan.** You can’t not take good pictures of this thing. I mean, it’s covered in real gold.

Not bad, eh?

Afterwards, we hung around Kyoto Station for a little while, before heading back on a Nozomi Shinkansen train, also known as the fastest thing in Japan.

Dad: You’re aiming in the wrong direction.

Me: There’s no way I’m going to get a good picture of ours.

I was right, a minute after I took the above picture, our train blew by us so fast all I got was a white blur.

Anywho, that ends the Dad in Japan sequence. I have another post lined up about my new neighborhood, but first, I have a request. A couple of months ago, I requested subjects for me to photograph and wrung a few posts out of the results of that. Now what I’m looking for are things to write about. I’ve been here long enough that I think I’ve got a fairly good basis on which to set most of my experiences.

So ask away. What do want to know about my particular slice of Japan?

*You think I’m joking. It’s not that bad in Nagoya, but the sun set in Sapporo at 4:04PM on today, November 25. Yikes.

**This is the picture in my new header.


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Dad in Japan, Part Two – Betwixt and Between

Between the Nagoya Castle post, 12 on the 12th, and the upcoming post featuring Kyoto, there are actually quite a few pictures remaining that unfortunately don’t have enough inherent ‘theme’ to get their own individual blog posts. So this one’s a bit long and ranges a bit in it’s material.

Alright, who remembers the glass roof bit from the last 12 on the 12th? The Oasis 21 building?

Anyways, we were eating lunch under it the same day we went to the castle when I looked up and was slightly alarmed to see what appeared all of the day’s rainfall collected on the roof and moving…somewhere. Further investigation proved that the water was being purposefully circulated and that there was in fact an elevator going up to the roof. We headed up there after we finished eating and Dad snapped this shot of the restaurant section of Nagoya Tower.

On Sunday, the day after we went to the castle, we headed out to Okazaki, a city to the southeast of Nagoya to meet up with the host family that I had stayed with for a few weeks in high school. I was rather excited to be travelling on a train that stayed aboveground, after having taken the subway for 40 minutes a day, 5 days a week for the past two months.

Alright, from right to left, Me (obviously), Keiko (my previous host mother), Rino (my older host sister, a 6th grader), and the boy who couldn’t seem to stop making what I think of as Sailor Moon’s trademark move whenever a camera came out. If I remember correctly, he was Rino’s “boyfriend” Ren’s younger brother. There’s also Maho, Rino’s younger sister and a 4th grader.

We met up with them at the station and they took us to where we could get lunch and talk. They were shocked by how much 2 years of college courses had improved my Japanese, which was encouraging. They seem to be going up in the world – when I was last there, Host dad was a company worker, but one of his cows won some big Shizuoka (a prefecture to the east of Aichi, where Nagoya is) cow contest and now he’s on the farm-animal-raising fast track. Go figure.

It was heartening to be reminded that I could get along with Japanese people that I had lived with.

The next weekend, on Saturday, we headed out to Inuyama, where I had spent my orientation with IES. It was cold and rainy, but the ramen from that same shop was as excellent as ever. The owners even recognized me, which was especially nice.

I have a peculiar fondness for face-on photos of myself that are a bit odd – photos where I didn’t smile or didn’t realize that my picture was being taken.

Anyways! That was taken in the courtyard of Inuyama Castle, which is definitely more ‘open’ in terms of what you can see and do, compared to the one in Nagoya. You can risk getting yourself killed on the same narrow, slippery wooden steps as the daimyo and his samurai did 400 years ago.*

Better – you can look out the same windows they did onto all the little people. We happened to be at the castle on Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3), a holiday for children at those ages. Kind of a ‘yay! you didn’t die!’ kind of celebration and one of the things that I can trace back to elementary school as peaking my interest in Japan. I didn’t see any overt festival thing going on, though there was an unusual preponderance of small-ish children wearing very good clothes wandering around.

Finally, two shots from Birthday/Dorm-Move-In-Day…

First, my birthday picture. Every year since I was born, my dad and I have taken a picture together and this marks the 22nd photo oppurtunity.

Hmm…the next picture I was planning on posting was of me in front of the sign for the dorm I’m staying in now, but I just realized that it has the address printed on it. Never mind then.

Next up – Kyoto!

*Though I didn’t manage to fall down those particular steps, it was a falling down sort of day – we were walking up to the castle when I noticed a particularly slick looking, sloped bit of sidewalk. I thought ‘that looks slippery, I should be careful,’ took a careful step…and fell flat on my bum, almost taking my dad with me.

Later that same day, I was rushing to catch a train in exactly the manner that about fifty different signs in the station were telling me not to use (in Japanese and English), tripped, and awkwardly slid down a few steps. Cripes.


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Dad in Japan, Part One – Nagoya Castle

Congratulations! If you come to Japan and hang out with me, you are most likely blog fodder. Especially if we went somewhere pretty.

Sorry Dad, but you seem to have spawned your own three part series. I’m also using some of your pictures (hint – if I’m in the picture, I didn’t take it).

Like, say, Nagoya Castle.

There are a lot of castles in Japan and Nagoya Castle is perched pretty much near the center of town. All of the castle’s outbuildings were destroyed at some point or another (in fact, I doubt that this structure is the original in any way) and replaced with a park. And city hall. Unlike the castle at Inuyama, which has been left pretty much intact, this castle has been turned into a historical museum. You cannot look out the windows and an elevator has been installed.

This is a close-up of a replica of the golden statues that you can see on the roof in the first picture. It’s called a ‘shachi’ and they’re placed on the roofs of castles to help keep them from catching on fire. There was some confusion, as the museum’s English materials were translating ‘shachi’ as ‘dolphin’ and the last time we checked, dolphins didn’t have scales. Or a fearsome reputation.

It became more clear a few days later when the woman-formerly-known-as-host-mother pointed out a ‘shachi’ in some old pictures from an aquarium trip – it turned out to be a killer whale, or orca. Still no scales, but better than dolphin, I think.

Outside of the castle, a special flower exhibit was being shown.

Cool, eh? This was a large diorama set-up, with mannequins that had specially designed ‘clothing’ that had been arranged in such a way that their outfits literally bloomed into existence.

To get an idea of the scale – this is me. You can see the woman from the previous picture in the extreme left of this photo. The top of her head came up to my shoulder.

They had another, separate exhibit, consisting of what looked like your average bonsai trees that had been grown together with flowering plants in such a way that the combination looked like some flowering tree, rather than two separate plants.

Here’s one example. They’re had obviously been some sort of competition – some of the displays were wearing ribbons for various categories.

That’s it for Nagoya Castle. As I said before, there will be two more sections covering my dad’s visit here last week. I’m typing them all up tonight and then I’ll release them slowly over the next fews days.


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Socks and Sweaters

I finished up the Narragansett Bay Socks almost two weeks ago, but the pictures have been languishing.

Unfortunately, since Nagoya currently lacks such necessities for good knitting pictures as ample sunlight and willing photographers, they didn’t come out great.

As I mentioned before, these are the Narragansett Bay Socks, a pattern from Lisa Lloyd and only available in the book, A Fine Fleece. A Fine Fleece is specifically intended to be full of projects for people who spin their own yarn, though they provide commercially available substitutions for every pattern. I myself used Knit Picks Gloss, in the colorway ‘Dolphin,’ which, admittedly, looked more grey than blue online.

I first heard about A Fine Fleece on brainylady’s blog (here) back in April and my interest was peaked both by her review and the mention of these socks, wince my family has spent almost every summer since I was born at Narragansett beach in Rhode Island.. I checked it out the next time I was at the bookstore and snatched it up once I realized how many patterns I needed right now. I’ve finished three, including these socks and the matching Narragansett Bay scarf (which I gave to a professor), and another 5 or 6 are waiting in my queue on Ravelry.

In the meantime, however, I’ve started up something new.

Care to make a guess?

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12 on the 12th, 9 Days Old

So I’ve done some reasearch (hah!) on 12 on the 12th and apparently, I’m doing it wrong. Luckily, I’m far enough removed, internet-wise, that I think I’ll stick with the way I’ve been doing it.

Anyways, that makes this November’s 12 on the 12th, 12 pictures that I took during that Wednesday.

First up was a return to the cat cafe, this time with my dad in tow.

This was one of the first going-ons that we saw coming in the door. They have these stairs blocked off, but this chick was determined to make her way up there, even if it meant climbing around the outside of the banister. She had a few other escape artist tendencies – the next customers to come in the door found themselves being charged by about seven pounds of cat flesh, only to be saved by a quick-acting cafe employee.

The adult cats were being rather snobbish that afternoon, deigning only to snuggle with people who had forked over yen for the cafe-approved cat treats. The black and white cat in this picture, if you look close enough, has something interesting going on – he seemed to have extremely shortened leg joints. I tried to look up the condition on line, but was hampered by the fact that I hadn’t even heard of cats with dwarf-like characteristics. Also, Wikipedia couldn’t help me when I typed in ‘Corgi cat.’

The kittens, on the other hand, stuck in their cage, were almost needy. The black and white one here would almost throw itself at the bars when someone came close enough. The tabby, I believe, is a hold over from the litter that was there the last time I visited.

Darn cute and probably a good deal cheaper than their fellows at the pet store.

Our next stop was Sakae, to get myself a new electronic dictionary and to see Nagoya Tower, pictured here.

The story of my electronic dictionary is a long and somewhat expensive one. I purchased a red and black Nintendo DS at the beginning of the summer, along with the “game” Kanji Sono Mama, which allowed you to search for kanji (Chinese Characters) by writing them on the screen with a stylus. I happened to be trying out a different game one day and the dictionary cartridge was batted off of my desk by one of the cats. I searched for it all summer, but gave up late in August and bought a replacement. That cartridge was, of course, found under the couch by by my mom last week. Go figure.

Then, more than a month ago, I got home one Monday evening to discover that my DS was no longer in my backpack. After backtracking and leaving notice with what felt like every lost-and-found agency in the city for weeks, but finally gave up because translation homework was starting to loom. I went out to get a new one…only to discover that due to the impending holiday season and the release of the Nintendo DSi, every electronics store in Nagoya was out of that game system.

Unless I wanted I pink one, of course. *sigh*

I’ll admit, the color is starting to grow on me.

After that purchase and lunch at McDonalds, we bought tickets to head up to the Sky Balcony, about 100 meters off the ground. This is the shadow of Nagoya Tower projected onto one of the nearby buildings.

This is the Oasis 21 building. I’m actually not sure which part of it is the actual “building,” mostly because when friends say to “meet at Oasis 21” they mean where the subway system empties onto that open area you can see under the raised piece of glass.

This is pretty neat – a Shinto shrine on top of one of the skyscrapers. Also neat – this picture was taken at maximum zoom on my camera and I then went into settings and magnified again by 3.2. Another reason for why they’ll be prying this camera out of my cold dead fingers.

Proof that my dad was in Japan. Unfortunately, most of my other pictures of him came out looking photoshopped.

I almost fell over taking this, an “up-the-kilt” shot, to quote David Weber, of the tower from the balcony. Even the picture makes me a little queasy. Luckily, the balcony was sufficiently fenced in that we felt comfortable getting close to the edge.

Finally, to close things up – the remains of dinner at the same conveyor-belt sushi place as before. I didn’t manage to get Daddy to eat anything raw, but he put away a fair amount of cooked shrimp and salmon.

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Bug-outs, Birthdays, and Burnt Popcorn

I know I’ve been a little scarce over the past week, but don’t feel bad, since all of my journals have suffered due to lack of attention recently. My LiveJournal hadn’t had any attention in almost two weeks and my paper journal is only caught up to this past Saturday, with the last three entries contained within being pretty sorry ones.

The main reason for all of this neglect was due to the fact that my Dad arrived in Nagoya on the 7th and I couldn’t very well tell him to sit still for the hour and a half it takes me on the days that I post/write in all three journals. In fact, internet activity in general was suspended as I was forced to participate in such mundane activites as ‘traveling around the region’ and ‘eating delicious food.’ Oh well. I’ll try hard to get caught up this week, which may be difficult, as all that traveling produced quite a few blog worthy photos.

Unfortunately, all of that was compounded by a much less pleasant subject – I moved out of my host family’s apartment and into the school dorms. About two weeks ago, the weather turned cooler and I started having problems with my left knee (which was injured in high school) on my commute to school, which, since the theft of the bicycle they were loaning me, had mutated into a half an hour of walking plus a twenty-minute subway ride.

On Monday, I told the program here that I would like to move into the dorm if possible. On Wednesday, I told my host family. On Thursday, my host mother called the program with the hope that I would be moving ASAP. This is where things got weird.

She asked to be compensated for the bike that had been stolen from me. The program worked out a deal to get a new bike and called her back with their idea. Probably encouraged by how easily that had gone, they said that they would forget about the bike issue…if I returned the camera that they had bought to replace the one that their kid had destroyed.

I’m fairly sure I marked that as the point that I decided that I never wanted to speak them again. The program ran interference while I packed my stuff and warp speed and shifted base to an extremely posh hotel (my dorm room wasn’t ready yet) Thursday night.


Friday, on my 21st birthday, I finally got set up in what appears to be an extremely adequate single dorm room. My fellow residents seem nice, if not entirely sane, and I think I’ll be fine for the remaining 32 days in Japan.

Speaking of my birthday, it was quite nice, considering the circumstances and the setting. I had a brief moment of ‘butbutbut, no CATS, no Charlie, no Tasha, this birthday thing REEKS,’ but I’m over it. I chickened out on my first taste of alcohol because I didn’t want to spend money on something that I already knew smelled awful and probably tastes worst. Oh well. Lisa says she’s going to take me out for something that my taste buds might be able to stand.

Burned popcorn, you ask? I needed a third ‘b’ phrase and I’m eating it right now.


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