dorchadas: (Genbaku Park)
At 8:15 a.m., August 6th, 1945, the first atomic weapon exploded in the skies over Hiroshima.

This year is the 72nd anniversary, but the effects still remain. Our Japanese tutor had a black-and-white photo on her kamidana of a young man, maybe in his early teens, and when we asked who he was she said that he was her brother. I met a man in Heiwa Kōen who had seen the bombing with his own eyes, though from the comfortable distance of his parents' house miles outside the city. The mayor of Hiroshima is the president of Mayors for Peace, who work for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

There's a ceremony in the morning with speeches, but what I remember is the evening. People write messages on thousands of paper lanterns and set them adrift in the Otagawa, bearing their hopes and fears down to the sea.

Genbaku Dome ceremony

There are more pictures of this year's ceremony here.

戦争が恐ろしすぎるから、世界に平和が広がるように。佐々木禎子さんとか鉄谷伸一さんとかのような子供が誰もいないように。世界は核兵器が二度と使われない場所になるように。俺は希望だ。
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)

This weekend is the date of two of my favorite festivals in Hiroshima--Tōkasan in Hiroshima City and Mibu no Hanadaue in Chiyoda (とうかさん and 壬生の花田植, respectively). There's video of Mibu no Hanadaue here

It's really making me miss Japan. We went to both festivals all three years we lived in Hiroshima, because while we sometimes had a hard time knowing that any particular event was occurring, Tōkasan was the talk of the town for months, and our students invited us to Mibu no Hanadaue the first year we lived there. And now that social media is so big in disseminating information, I follow a bunch of Facebook pages like 北広島ほっと情報 (Kitahiroshima Town Hot News Updates) or the Tōkasan page. That means I have a constant stream of updates on festivals I went to, festivals I knew about but never got the chance to attend, and festivals I've never heard of but really wish I had. Plus pictures, of course. Get Hiroshima, the gaijin-run local events news source, posted this picture of Mibu no Hanadaue.


Source.

Re: my subject line, today's weather in Chiyoda was sunny and clear, with a 0% chance of precipitation.

Also, last night I installed Heroes of the Storm after my attempts to play an AI-enabled DotA Allstars in Warcraft III did not go well. It's the only map I've ever found that crashed WCIII, and some searching found that the map has problems with certain heroes' abilities. There's no way I'm playing DotA on Battle.net. Those days are done. I played DotA games for thousands of hours when I was a university student and have no desire to go back to the world of racist insults and people dropping the instance the other team scores first blood against them.

HotS seems to solve a lot of my problems with MOBA games. There's no items, so there's no need to memorize item combinations. There's no gold, so last-hitting isn't a thing. XP is team-wide, so jungling and people demanding solo mid don't exist. Also, it's free just like the original DotA Allstars was (WCIII was a sunk cost at that point), so there's no harm in trying it out. And you can play against AI so [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd might try it out with me and see if she likes it.

I don't know how long I'll stick with it, but I'm glad I tried it out. It's much more fun than I thought it would be.
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
Here's a backdated index for all the posts I wrote about [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my trip to Japan with friends!
  • Friday, July 15 to Saturday, July 16 - Chicago to Tokyo - Mostly on airplanes.
  • Sunday, July 17 - Tokyo - Meiji Jingu, shopping, and Shinjuku park.
  • Monday, July 18 - Tokyo - National Museum, Clothes shopping, meeting a friend of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd for dinner in Shinjuku, and the Final Fantasy cafe.
  • Tuesday, July 19 - Himeji and Hiroshima - Himeji Castle and a drinks truck in Hiroshima.
  • Wednesday, July 20 - Hiroshima - The Peace Memorial Museum, shopping, and a kagura performance.
  • Thursday, July 21 - Miyajima - Itukushima Shrine, climbing Mount Misen, and staying in a ryokan.
  • Friday, July 22 - Chiyoda! - Visiting and having dinner with our old students in the town we lived in!
  • Saturday, July 23 - Kyoto - Racist hotel, Pokemon center, and surprise festival performance.
  • Sunday, July 24 - Kyoto - Gion Matsuri parade, Fushimi-Inari, and parade at Yasaka-Jinja.
  • Monday, July 25 - Kyoto and Ōsaka - Sanjūsangendō, Shitennōji in Ōsaka, and the Tenjin Matsuri in Ōsaka.
  • Tuesday, July 26 - Kyoto - Hōnen-in in the rain, lunch in Gion, the Kanji Museum, and Torin yakitori restaurant.
  • Wednesday, July 27 - Tokyo - Otome Road, Akihabara, and gaming in an arcade.
  • Thursday, July 28 - Tokyo - Sailor Moon Cafe, the Ghibli exhibition in Roppongi, Super Potato, and dinner in Ginza.
  • Friday, July 29 - Tokyo and Toronto - Sakura manjū, one last ramen, and a flight home that worked out in the end.
What a wonderful trip!

Chiyoda!: Friday

2016-Jul-22, Friday 23:29
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
One benefit of staying in a ryokan is that you get both dinner and breakfast, so after sleeping in almost until the last minute, I was awakened by [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd with exactly enough time to make it to breakfast after a quick shower. And such a breakfast:


Get in my mouth.

We had to eat a bit quickly in order to make the ferry, and originally I thought we were going to miss the shuttle from the ryokan to the port and would have to walk. What was I thinking? This is Glorious Nippon, after all. They held the bus for us, loaded our luggage into it while we paid for the room, and then drove us down in time to catch the 8:25 ferry and the street car that was just leaving after that.

We didn't try to make the 9:40 bus after arriving at 9:35, so we popped into a 7-11 to withdraw cash and get snacks--I got a melon pan, om nom nom--and then up to the bus center, where we bought tickets and asked for the proper platform to board the bus. I thought it was eight, but I was misremembering. It was nine, like it's always been.

Also, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd accidentally bought us children's tickets instead of adult tickets and we were worried for a moment, but we were being silly. This is Japan, and the ticket counter exchanged them for free. They were actually the same price, so I'm not sure why the 北部 line even offers separate tickets.

On the bus, we learned that Pokemon Go had finally gone live in Japan, causing a frantic burst of activity as [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega captured every unclaimed gym in sight.

And then, we arrived in Chiyoda.


From the highway. That building with wings is the community center.

Kaminaka-san, Hattori-san, and Sunada-san were all waiting to meet us at the bus center, and after a round of hugs (hugs! In Japan!) we started on our short tour. First we went to the Geihoku Cultural Center, new since we lived here, that had exhibits about local folk crafts like weaving and rice growing, about kagura performance, and about the festival of Mibu no Hanadaue. Then we went to Mibu itself, walking down the shōtengai where the festival takes place and ending at Mibu Jinja, where we went for hatsumōde our last year in Japan.


Not as impressive now, without the snow and lanterns and crowds of people. I wish I had a picture of that night...

After that, we drove up to a viewpoint on top of a hill, and after a short walking path, we found our way to 壬生城跡 (Mibu shiroato, "the ruins of Mibu Castle"). I didn't see anything that looked remotely like a castle had ever been there, but there was a spectacular view:


Facing toward Ōsaka.

After that, we went to look at our old house, still pretty nice looking and still sitting next to the abandoned twin house next to it, and and then off to Chiyoda High School! Unfortunately, due to the Japanese policy of transferring teachers after only a few years, very few of the people that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd taught with were still there. There were a couple, though. Umeki-sensei, who teaches math, and Nishihara-sensei, who teaches science, and the school nurse were all there. We also ran into Koyama-san, mother of Kazu, who I wrote about in this post and who is now a high school student. We didn't talk for very long because Kaminaka-san had set us a schedule, but we looked around for a bit in the school and then continued on to the Yae-sogo Communtiy Center for lunch, where we were met by Nakamura-san, the other Hattori-san, and Bōno-san.

Lunch was amazing. They had remembered I liked sake a lot and brought two small bottles for me, one of local sake from Chiyoda and one from Saijō, where the sake festival is held every year in late August. We had conbini bentō and okonomiyaki, as well as dessert jello from somewhere. I got a grape and aloe jelly that tasted exactly like the drinks I used to get from vending machines. We chatted, and I did a lot of translating to and from Japanese, and there were only a couple times where I just brought the conversation to a halt because I couldn't think of how to express an idea. It was amazing. Why did we leave?

Oh yes. So [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd could go to school and fulfill her dreams. It's a good reason! And yet, when I'm here, walking around Chiyoda, speaking in Japanese in a way that I was very uncomfortable doing when I lived here the first time...

If I had moved here before knowing as much Japanese as I know now, I'd be conversationally fluent. But, well, there's nothing to do about that now. I just have to keep trying and keep studying.


また今度, I said as we left. "Until next time..."

And we will be back, someday. Sooner than five years.

After a three-hour meal, we had to catch the bus back to Hiroshima, so we took the taxi Kaminaka-San had chartered and packed away the hand-made pottery pieces he had made for each member of our group, including [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek, who wasn't there due to having not been in Hiroshima with us, and we got on the highway bus and started the trip back. After the trip, we walked to our hotel--not Hotel Active, sadly, because there was a weekend price spike that made it not worth staying in--but in Toyoko Inn on Heiwa-Ōdōri, which was further but not significantly so. We were scheduled to meet some old friends from our Japan days, who happened to all be here at the same time in a weird serendipity, and after we checked in that's what we set out to do, though [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega and [livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat stayed behind because they were still incredibly full from lunch.

The tabe・nomihōdai was at Sōgo, not Mitsukoshi like we originally expected it would be, so it took a bit longer to get there than we thought it would. Not too long, though, and once we made our way through Sōgo to the special beer garden elevator and went up, we had a couple hours of drinks and food with friends. The food wasn't that great, but I got some nice use out of the bottle of sake that it didn't seem like anyone else was drinking from, and a lovely time talking to people I hadn't seen in years. And some Japanese practice with an acquaintance, though I think because of the beer, she forgot that I'm not that great and just launched into full native speed and I followed along as best as I could.

At ten they threw everyone out. Some people were going on to a bar called Koba and originally I was planning on joining them, but on the walk there I started getting more and more twitchy in a way that told me that it was time to go back to the hotel. So I said my goodbyes, walked back to the hotel with a friend, and read until [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd came back and then went to bed.

Steps taken: 14050.

Note: If you're interested in more about Chiyoda, I did a whole blog series about it here.

Miyajima: Thursday

2016-Jul-21, Thursday 22:53
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
After a delicious breakfast of broccoli, rice, pickles, hamburger, sweetened omelet, salted mackerel, burdock root, breaded fish paste (がんす, a local dish), tea, and pudding with caramel sauce (Hotel Active, for all your Hiroshima visits!), I went back to the room, got my suitcase, and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I headed down to check out right on the dot of our requested 9 a.m. departure time. Then we walked out onto Aioi-dōri and set to wait for the streetcar.

Hiroshima's street cars are a local institution. They've been running since before the war--there's actually at least one car that's been in service since before the war and survived the bombing--and Hiroshima actually turned down proposals for a subway network in favor of an underground mall because, well, they already had the streets cars. I've spent uncounted hours of my life on them, what with my incredibly long commute to and from Suzugamine every day, and sitting on them was kind of like stepping back into the past.

I had forgotten the little chime they play when the car starts moving after a stop, though...

We rode the streetcar to the end, past the stop where I used to get off for work, though now renamed to 修大附属鈴峯前駅 (Shudaifuzoku-Suzugaminemae Eki) since the school combined with a boys' school due to low enrollment. Even the old ramen shop, おじいちゃんの作ったラーメン (Ojiichan no Tsukutta Ramen, "Grandpa-Made Ramen"), was still there, though we didn't have time to go.

Then at Miyajima-guchi, we took the ferry across to the island.


At high tide, too.

After dropping our luggage off in the coin lockers and showing our friends the asshole deer of Miyajima--[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd has a video of me leading a deer around using a wrapper from an ice cream cone, but it just looks like I'm using elf magic--we headed straight over to Itsukushima Shrine to take advantage of the high tide for some nice views. It was all set up like the aftermath of a festival, maybe Tanabata, with a floating stage. There was even a priest in the actual shrine conducting a ceremony, which I've never seen before. And that also means that I had no idea what the ceremony was for, either.

After we went through the shrine, everyone was pretty hungry and [twitter.com profile] xoDrVenture wanted oysters, so we stopped into the first restaurant we saw that was serving them. I got anago-don, fried conger eel over rice, because while I've made some effort to stick to kashrut during this trip, I'm willing to make an exception for Miyajima eel. And one of the waitresses wanted to touch my hair when we left and said it was soft.

After lunch we headed into the shōtengai to do some shopping and snacks in preparation for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I climbing the mountain. We bought a set of tea cups and a wooden case for putting matcha in, and I drank a "banana milk" (basically a smoothie). After heading down to the other end of the shōtengai, we walked back and went to the rope way stop. Originally it was going to be four climbers, but by the time we got there the group had been whittled down to just [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and me, so we dropped off our excess gear with the people going up the ropeway and took our first steps on the trail up Misen.


Mossy rocks, my favorite.

The climb up Misen isn't the hardest climb in the world. Most of it is worn stone steps like those shown in the picture, and even though the heat and humidity were brutal at sea level they weren't as bad under the tree canopy. Of course, we were climbing a mountain, so we were sweating buckets in any case.

We saw quite a few people coming down the mountain, and there was a work crew fixing one of streams that run underneath the steps in some places. There was also an old Japanese man who gave [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd his fan when he met her, saying that he no longer needed it since he was coming down the mountain. That occurred near the bottom, which I'm glad of because that fan came in pretty handy on the climb up. I'm not sure I've ever been as disgusting as when I reached the top, except for the last time I climbed Misen.

[livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega and [twitter.com profile] xoDrVenture were waiting for us at the railway station near the summit, another friend and [livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat having gone to make the climb to the top. I went over to buy some ice cream, only to have the woman working the food desk ask me in pretty good English if I had been at the kagura performance the previous night. I recognized her, since she had been there with an American guy and she said that she knew us because he talked to us. That was the basis of our interactions though, so I ordered my ice cream, ate it, then waited for everyone to assemble.

We took the rope way back down and then the shuttle to the Miyajima Seaside Hotel, where I've stayed with my parents before and where [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek, who went ahead to Matsumoto, had arrived first and asked them to send the shuttle to us. We went to the hotel, checked in, and the showered to get slightly less utterly disgusting and changed into our yukata for dinner:


I'm a little surprised it actually fits.

Dinner was, of course, amazing:


This was about 60% of it.

We ate pretty much until near exploding, though slowly, which helped prevent any actual explosions. It was a little under two hours total for dinner, between the different courses, the talking, and the slow eating of many tiny portions, and was the best meal I've had yet in a trip full of great meals. When we were done, we all got dressed up in our yukata except for one of us who wanted a bit more opportunity to,rest and went down to the front desk to ask the shuttle to take us back near the shrine.

Itsukushima is lit up at night, but it wasn't as pretty as I remember it being this time. Or maybe it was just that even though the sun had gone down it was still incredibly sticky. We walked from the pier to the shrine, past it a little until the houses started and the streets started to remind us of Fatal Frame, and then back to the pier, where I successfully called the hotel to ask them to come pick us up. Back at the hotel a bunch of people went to the onsen, but I took advantage of the facilities in a different fashion--I took a bath in the huge bathtub, which was actually large enough for the water to cover my knees. When I started to feel a little cramped, I drained out the water, dried off, and went to bed.

Steps taken: 17538

Hiroshima: Wednesday

2016-Jul-20, Wednesday 23:50
dorchadas: (Genbaku Park)
We woke up at 7:10 today, and so hopefully this is the last time I have to make note of our wake up time. Maybe it's because we're in Hiroshima, and like I said, it feels like home. Maybe it's the drinks we had before we went to bed calming us down enough that we were able to sleep through. Maybe it's just that all that walking and travel tired us out--I know that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd basically fell asleep the instant her head hit the pillow, before I had gotten more than a few words into the last writing session on yesterday's blog post.

Or maybe it's because Hotel Active has the most effective blackout curtains I've ever seen. Seriously, it's like being in an oubliette.

Sakura Hotel was a good price, especially for Tokyo lodgings, and double especially after we got that discount. ¥9300 a night. And ¥350 for all-you-can-eat coffee, tea, toast, and soup is nice too. But, Hotel Active cost us ¥8900 a night, breakfast is also all you can eat, it's included in the price, and it's a buffet that looks like this:


Rice and miso soup in the background.

This is actually my second plate of food. They have a full buffet with Western and Japanese breakfast, so I absolutely loaded myself to take advantage of it. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I still hadn't showered, so we went back to do that and everyone lounged around for an hour or so until we were all ready to face the day.

We headed out toward the Peace Park, walking down the covered Hondōri for all of its length and watching the shops start to prepare to open. When we got to the Peace Park, the sun was shining brightly and it was incredibly hot and humid, with absolutely no sign of the storms that were supposed to show up later. Just another Japanese summer.

I don't really like visiting the Peace Memorial Museum. It's not the sort of thing that one likes. I keep going because it's important, and because the museum does a great job of focusing on the horrors of the bombing while not falling to the Japanese tendency to cast themselves as the victims who always suffer at others' hands. The displays admit that Japan invaded Manchuria, for example, which is more than some of their history books do. But of course, there were innocent victims:


Shinichi Tetsutani. Born 1942, died August 6th, 1945.

We went through the museum in silence, and when we were done and people had bought souvenirs, mostly made of recycled paper from the cranes sent in from around the world, we headed out to lunch. Our original choice had a line waiting in the sun, so we walked back down Hondōri to Okonomimura, a multi-story bundling stuffed full of okonomiyaki restaurants. It's not somewhere we often went when we lived here, but that's because our neighborhood had an okonomiyaki restaurant run out of someone's house, so we wanted different food when we came into the city. Here, though, I figured that there'd be at least one restaurant in there that didn't have a line, and I was right. We went to Chichan and stuffed ourselves with okonomiyaki (I got negiyaki, which leaves out the noodles), and then split apart.

One friend went off to Hiroshima-jō to look at the grounds and castle, and [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega went back to the hotel. [twitter.com profile] xoDrVenture, [livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat, and I wanted dessert, so we walked over to the Polar Bear Cafe for gelato. ¥380 for a double, murasaki imo and rum raisin. [livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat ordered a double after we did but before the workers put any ice cream on ours, so she got a giant stack of matcha and mango. We all ate our gelato together, I surprised a pair of obāchans with how huge I am, and then we went our separate ways.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I headed back out to Hondōri, now looking more like I remember:


That covering is really nice right about now.

...and did some shopping. Now that I overhauled my personal style and would actually wear some of the clothes here, I figured that I should look and see if I found anything I liked. And I did. A black button-down shirt with wine-red cuffs but a black collar, so I don't look like a total asshole, and an incredibly pretentious shirt with white birds and vines and swirls of mist that says: "We are born, so to speak, twice. Once into existence, and once into life." It's perfect for me.

We went up and down Hondōri, into Parco and Sunmall, up to the new Andersen's location and down to Bookoff, where I got another Neko Atsume souvenir and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd got a Sailor Moon brooch charm. This was a three hours of shopping, and by this point it was 5:30 and we needed to use the laundry machines at Hotel Active, so as it started to rain, we walked back to the hotel.

Unfortunately, all the laundry machines were full, so we took showers to wash the Japanese humidity off while we waited. Eventually [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd went down to physically wait at the machines while I headed over to the cultural center to check and see if the kagura performance we had gotten a flier for was still on, since it said that it might be canceled due to storms and there was a thunderstorm outside. When I got there, though, the rain had basically died, there were red banners placed all outside the building, and:


The archers confront the demon.

Kagura is one of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's and my favorite memories of Hiroshima. It's an old art form that's not super common in the rest of the country anymore, though it used to be a thousand years ago when kagura was a ritual form used at shrines--it literally means "god music." Nowadays it's mostly for entertainment (though it still occurs in its original capacity in the Imperial household), and in Hiroshima especially there are kagura performances at most major festivals.

In another bit of serendipity, the specific show they performed tonight was Akkoden, which along with its sequel Sesshoseki was performed almost every time there was an event with kagura in Chiyoda. To happen to be here on a Wednesday, the night of the kagura performances, and then to have the specific performance be this one...

Also, at the end, they invited people up to the stage to take picture with the actors and, well:


Roar.

One other person came with us, and after the performance let out and we had gone out to dinner at an Indian restaurant, we took stock of the situation. It turned out most people wanted to stay in for the night, so our friend went back to the hotel and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went to check out a bar we knew. Unfortunately, it had closed in the meantime and been replaced by one with a ¥500 table charge, so we headed back up Nakimi-dōri toward the hotel and stopped in at a sake bar called いいお酒 一彩 (ii osake issai).

That turned out to be a great idea. It was small, seating maybe a dozen people, with smooth jazz playing on a low volume, and other than us there was no one in there but a single salaryman in the corner. The bartender asked us if we knew Japanese, and then handed us a menu and asked if we wanted oolong tea or beer as our free drink. We both picked tea and looked at the menu before asking the bartender for his recommendation--I couldn't read most of it, and even what I could read didn't mean anything to me because while I like sake a lot, I don't know that much about it.

He gave us a very dry sake that wasn't super strong, at least in taste. It got a bit much toward the end of the glass, but it was delightful before then, and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I drank our sake, ate our complementary fried tofu, listened to the music, and chatted. When our glass was done, we went back to the hotel, waited for our laundry to finish--it took close to five hours for a single load; good thing it was free--and then went to bed.

Steps taken: 21042
dorchadas: (Genbaku Park)
Woke up early again, though not as early as [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, who woke up in a panic at 1 a.m. worrying that she had somehow screwed up the hotel reservations and then couldn't get back to sleep. I woke up at 5:30 when she came back in from her morning run and then likewise couldn't get back to sleep, so after trying a failing for a while, I got up and met the others at breakfast. After toast and a bit of [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega's leftover chicken curry, everyone went back to their rooms to pack up and get ready for the trip to Himeji to see the castle.

We got a later start than I liked and went the slightly longer way around the Yamanote Line to stick [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek, who was getting off at Shibuya in preparation for going on to Matsumoto and walking through the mountains there. When we did get to Tokyo Station and the Shinkansen stop, we took the second train out west because it went straight through to Himeji rather than requiring us to change trains in Shin-Ōsaka, so we waited for a bit, bought train station bentō, and boarded the 11:03 for Okayama.


Shinkanselfie.

Riding the Shinkansen again reminds me how much of an embarrassing pile of trash every single American attempt at mass transit is. It's true that Amtrak was designed to kill passenger rail, but even with all its failures it's still running because mass transit is part of a civilized society and it's something that Japan has absolutely got down. The average Shinkansen arrives within six seconds of the posted time and is roomier, and far more pleasant to ride than an airplane, so it's all we took for intra-country travel when we lived in Japan.

Also, Japan is clearly gearing up for the olympics, or perhaps they realized that Malaysia is very close, majority Muslim, and has 500 million people. I doubt I could find kosher food anywhere in Japan, but I found a halal bentō for the train ride:


"Kebab Bentō." Super good.

The ride from Tokyo to Himeji is almost three hours long, and while there are a few interesting views along the way, large portions of it take place in tunnels because Japan is full of mountains. I spent the time listening to podcasts and catching up on my RSS feeds while [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd tried to sleep, and around 2:45, we arrived at Himeji.

The weather in Himeji was typical Japanese summer--33°C, why, how do people live like this--but we were able to walk on the shady side of the street on the road to the castle and once inside the walls, it was actually pretty cool. The baileys were shaded with enough windows that there was almost always a cool breeze blowing through, and the main problem became that we hadn't actually officially stopped for lunch coupled with climbing a bunch of stairs and walking through wooden halls, as well as the occasional foray out into the sun and the heat.

Autocorrect almost wrote "the sauna and the heat" there, which is pretty accurate.

The last time I was here, Himeji-jō was under renovation, but this time the main keep was finished and the renovations had moved on to one of the walls not that far from the front gate, well out of the way of the view from the castle keep or most of the outbuildings. And what a view:


Also called 白鷺城, "white heron castle."

Matsue-jō, the other intact castle I've been to, has more interesting inside, with the armor displays and full storerooms and so on, while Himeji is mostly empty rooms with the occasional small display. Despite that, I like Himeji-jō better because it's more awe-inspiring. From seeing it when you exit the train station at the end of the road ahead, to climbing up all the wooden stairs and through the walls, to the way the darkened interior halls look and smell, it has a grandeur that Matsue-jō lacks.

Hiroshima-jō looks impressive from the outside, but it's a replica built of concrete, for obvious reasons.

It took a little over an hour to see the castle, and afterwards we stopped in the gift shop where I bought a sake cup to supplement our collection, some of ours having broken over the years. It was there that we learned the real name for the round mascot of Himeji that we've been calling Himeji-tan: しろまるひめ (shiromaruhime, "white round princess"). Then we went back outside the castle and down the street, stopping briefly, at a shop for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, another friend, and I to get ほうじ茶 (hōjicha, "barley tea") soft serve ice cream. It was amazingly tasty, though of course, the heat may have had something to do with that.

Then we bought Shinkansen tickets with our JR Rail Passes and got on a bullet train ten minutes later. I love Japan's transit system.

I forgot how many tunnels there are close to Hiroshima, so I mostly just read during the trip since the Internet was constantly cutting out. And then we arrived.


ただいま。

It was really like...coming home, when I stepped out of the station and saw the train cars, and walked down Aioi-dōri and saw all the stores I remembered and the skyline. Hondōri with Parco at the end, looking down Chūōdōri and remembering Tōkasans past... I'm not from here, and at this point I've spent longer in Chicago than I did in Chiyoda, but even so, this almost feels more like home to me.

We walked from the train station to Hotel Active, our old haunt, and checked in. Yumi-san isn't working here anymore, or at least wasn't working today, though I did recognize one of the staff who checked our friends in. He didn't seem to recognize us, though, and we had never really talked with him before so I didn't bother to do so now. All the reservations checked out okay, and after we paid and dropped our stuff off in our rooms, we reassembled in the lobby for dinner. I had suggested kaitenzushi, specifically Nonta-sushi, over in the Pacela building next to the bus terminal. One person wasn't too interested in fish and headed off to find different food, but the rest of us made the trek only to find that it was near closing time and there wasn't actually any sushi on the conveyor. We ordered by hand, though, and people seemed to enjoy the food. I talked up fatty tuna a bunch and that came through for me, at least!

After that, we went down into Shareo and over to Stick Sweets for dessert, where I think I surprised the shop attendant. She was cleaning and I came in and asked if they were still open, and she kind of nervously nodded, and asked if we wanted to eat in. I asked if it was okay and she said yes, but I'm not sure if it was just Japanese customer service or not...

Regardless, we ate our sweets (gateau chocolate and strawberry mousse for me!), and headed back. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I split off about halfway through to go check out if one of the bars we liked was still there while the others went back to the hotel, and on the way we found a fooddrink truck:


Sponsored by Bacardi. All mojitos, all the time.

The bar we remembered did exist and was open, but we were pretty tired, sore, and sweaty, so we bought mojitos and drank them while reminiscing about days gone by as we watched the crowds on Hondōri. Then, tired, sore, and sweaty, we went back to the hotel.

Steps taken: 18856
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
Yay! Regression to the mean!

Okay, that's being flippant, but after two weeks of blah posts it's nice to have some good news to report for once. And it's especially nice since I had to get over my instinctual revulsion at the news of anything that has lentils in it. I don't know why I do that, since I like lentils a lot and I've never had anything containing them that I didn't like, but it seems like every single time the same thing happens. In fact, I wrote about this exact same problem in the dalcha post, which also had lentils and which I was also initially leery about.. I didn't like dalcha as much as I liked dhansak, and I'll try to unpack that as we continue.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
As the subject says. My parents and sister came over to visit, and we ended up traveling all over the place. Tokyo, Kamakura, Nara, Kyoto, Himeji, Matsue, Izumo, Hiroshima, Miyajima...it was a ton of traveling. I probably walked over 100 kilometers, even with the times that we took public transit, and that doesn't count the extra effort expended from carrying my bags all over the place. On the other hand, we got to go to a ton of places I've wanted to visit since we came to Japan but didn't really have the time. Most of them were the same places I've already written about multiple times--Kinkakuji, Meiji Jingu, Himeji Castle, etc., so I won't repeat them here. But, I'll talk about the one that I think my favorite--出雲大社 (Izumo Taisha) in the eponymous Izumo. It's a shrine to the god of marriage, and fittingly, we saw no fewer than five couples in various stages of their wedding while we were there.

Funny story--apparently it's bad luck for a couple to go through the main gate to Izumo. Of course, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I didn't know about this until after we had already gone through it. :p Then again, there was a rope that people were trying to toss coins into (as in, getting them to stick between the fibers of the rope. It was about a meter wide) and I managed to make my coin stick on the first toss, so hopefully that will counterbalance it.

The shrine also had a museum on the grounds that had swords forged by Muramasa and Masamune, which were in amazing condition for being 500+ years old, and a lacquer box made in 1150 that looked like it had been made yesterday. Not bad for a small museum curated by one guy.

Zoo visit

2011-Mar-23, Wednesday 04:34
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Well, I mentioned the zoo in my last entry, so I might as well explain what I was doing there.

Like I said, we went there with the 大川s (that's "Ōkawa" for people who don't speak moon language). Mrs. 大川 is a P.E. teacher at Chiyoda High School with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. Her husband is also a teacher, as it turned out, though of Japanese. Anyway, we went to the Asa Zoo, which is Hiroshima's somewhat-small zoo. It was raining the whole day, but I bought new umbrellas for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I, so it wasn't too bad. The main interesting part was talking to the 大川s' children. They had three: Ryoutarou, Hinata, and Kanata. Respectively, 8 years old, 5 years old, and 3 years old. Kanata obviously didn't say much, But both Ryou-chan and Hina-chan were able to talk to me, and I to them, with varying degrees of success. They're pretty good at English for their age--Ryou-chan could ask us our names, how old we are, our favorite colors and fruits, count to a hundred and tell us all those answers himself, and while Hina-chan lagged a bit behind, she was still better than some of the students I taught.

We did feel a bit bad, because they sprung a dinner on us without warning ([personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was under the impression that it was just going to be a visit to the zoo), which meant we went to their house without a house gift, and what's worse, they gave us one after making us dinner and buying a bottle of booze for me. That's massive 義理 we owe towards them, then, and I'm not sure we have a chance to repay it, since 大川さん is being transferred this year. Though we have her e-mail, so hopefully we are actually able to invite them over for dinner. We told them we'd make Mexican food for them. It's a popular choice, since it's not nearly as common in Japan as it is in America.

They made 手巻 for dinner, which, now that we've seen how it's made, we can buy supplies for to make ourselves pretty easily. The only difficult might be finding sashimi-grade fish in the States, since there's no standard for what exactly constitutes "sashimi-grade," but I'm sure we can figure it out. The meal also made me realize why the amount of water we're supposed to add to rice is so high. When it's just rice in a bowl I prefer it to be less glutinous, so to speak, but when it's part of 手巻 the stickiness really helps things out.

Someday I'm going to write a whole entry in Japanese, just to see if I can. I'm not sure if I'll make it private or not, or whether it matters in the end.

Maybe listening to 島唄 wasn't the best idea.

Yakigaki!

2011-Feb-16, Wednesday 00:43
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
Not much to say about Valentine's Day itself. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went out to Michizure, the local slightly upscale restaurant. I suspect that it's also a hotel, since the building is huge and only the lower part is ever used for eating (it also seems to be empty all the time, so I have no idea how they make their money). I have to give them props for having some food that, when I ordered it 激辛 actually was "very spicy." They asked me if I would be okay when I ordered it, and then they brought out a huge glass of water with it. I actually probably should have just gotten it at regular level, because the extreme spicy drowned out any other flavor that it had--just sesame and burning. I'll have to try tantanmen at another time.

Last weekend, we spent most of it in Hiroshima City, except for the part we spent on Miyajima for the Oyster Festival. The festival was pretty small--mostly just selling food, which I suppose is in character for a festival about oysters. There was kagura as well, but we didn't stay to watch. What we did do, though, was eat. I had probably the best soup I have ever had there from one of the stalls. It was kind of like egg-drop soup, but apparently made using oyster-flavored soy sauce and with green onions (heh. The initial urge there is to type ネギ (negi). Just like I'll probably call bok choy 白菜(hakusai) for the rest of my life). We even got a packet of the soy sauce to try ourselves, so maybe I'll see if I can replicate it.

Other than that, we had oyster okonomiyaki, oysters in a garlic sauce, and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had some oyster croquets. We did not, contrary to the post title, have any fried oysters. I just included it because it's an awesome word.

I also went to two gaijin bars in two nights, which is more than I usually go to in a year. The drinks were tasty, though, and not watered down like the karaoke places do during 飲み放題 (nomihoudai, "All you can drink") specials.

I just watched an article about Supper Clubs in Paris that was actually pretty inspiring. It makes me want to open a supper club when we move back to America. It wouldn't work here, obviously, because of spread-out nature of things and the rural area (it might work if we lived in the city), but since every university [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd is looking at is in a major city, there will be plenty of people around. It'd be a nice way to meet people and keep me from descending into total moody hermit-dom.

*Sigh* There aren't enough hours in the day to study Japanese, work on my writing, keep up on the articles I read through RSS, eat, spend time with my wife, sleep, etc., and this is me without a job. I can only imagine how I'll fit things in when I go back.

Plague and Tea

2011-Jan-23, Sunday 21:32
dorchadas: (Slime)
Note: This is not about that coffeehouse we found in Hiroshima City.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I are currently plagued. Well, it's mostly better now, but we still have residual coughs and tiredness. It's good that Chiharu wasn't able to come for dinner, because we probably would have given her the plague too. On the other hand, we missed the enkai that Takamiya had. And both of us were invited, since they wanted to meet me. (T_T) Oh well, maybe next time.

Last weekend, we went to a tea ceremony at Shukkeien garden. They have them every month, and one of our students from our adult eikaiwa does tea ceremony as a hobby. She wasn't at this ceremony, but because of it, she gave us her tickets to attend, so we went.

It was a lot like the ceremonies I've been to before that the tea ceremony club at Chiyoda High School put on, though obviously more elaborate. The main difference was that there was one person whose entire job was explaining how the tea was prepared, what the implements being used were, and so on. All in Japanese, though I did understand a few bits. They put a black bean and an umeboshi in the tea, which meant that the taste at the bottom of the cup was excellent. The sweet beforehand was quite nice too, though we were apparently supposed to bring our own paper to put it on (at Chiyoda and the various tea we've had at temples, they provided it), though fortunately the woman next to us noticed that we didn't have any and gave us some extras from the bag she had.

The most memorable parts for me were, sadly, not really related to the actual ceremony. We were seated in rows around in the room, on strips of red cloth laid over tatami mats. The servers went from left to right, giving each person tea and moving on to the next person. For the second cup of tea, the server skipped the woman next to me and served me first, and didn't noticed until one of the other servers pointed it out. This led to a problem--he had broken the order, but he couldn't take my tea back, so after some profuse apologies he withdrew and the other server gave her a cup. It did also mean that I got to say the traditional line of お先にいただきます (osaki ni itadakimasu, literally, "I receive before [you]") to someone who wasn't [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd.

The other memorable part was sitting seiza. One thing I did learn, based on looking at the feet of the people in front of us, is that we're doing it wrong. When Japanese people sit seiza, they have their ankles turned out so their legs make a short triangle. When I do it, I tend to just kneel down and flatten the front of my legs and feet out against the floor. This leads to the neeed to suffle around and makes my legs fall asleep after not too long, which obviously isn't advisable. This time, I ended up shuffling after 10 minutes, with numb legs after 30 and with pins and needles after 50. Though on the other hand, I did manage to sit seiza for nearly an hour, which is an accomplishment all its own, I guess.

Sickness is back now, and I'm getting a bit too tired to write. I may have more about the three days in the city in my next entry.
dorchadas: (Genbaku Park)
So yesterday, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went into Hiroshima for the Flower Festival. She wandered off at one point, and I'm sitting in the Peace Park waiting for her when an old man comes up to me and says hello and asks me how I am. I say fine, ask him how he is, and he laughs and says he doesn't speak English well. So I switch to Japanese and ask him how he is.

We chat a bit, he asks where I live and where I'm from, and when I say America he gets down on the ground, picks up a stick, and draws a small circle.

"Genbaku Doumu," he says (Atomic Bomb Dome).

Now at this point, I'm preparing for the worst, especially when he draws an even bigger circle for the blast radius. Then he draws the streetcar line, and asks me if I know what the area north of that used to be. I admit that I do not, and he says it was a military area.

He then tells me that he was a 10-year-old in the military (a conscript, I assume) at the time that the bomb dropped.

Oh fuck, I think. Not really sure what to say, I nod and get ready to get chewed out, but then he says that everywhere Hiroshima is called the Peace City, with the Peace Park, Peace Memorial, etc., but back then it was a military city. He says that when the Americans came and bombed Japan, they brought minshu shugi (民主主義, something like "democratic principles") with them. And then he bowed and thanked me.

I was a bit stunned, and I muttered some of the standard Japanese responses to compliments (i.e., denying them), while he told me that the bombing was very sad, and many people died, but because of it, now Japan is peaceful and democratic. He bowed again and thanked me, wished me good day, and walked away.

I got his name (Takau Tarou) and Googled it, but nothing showed up. Maybe if I knew the kanji...but then again, maybe not. I was going to see if there was some sort of database on hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors), but then I remembered that they've had problems with discrimination against them in Japan, so there's probably no public record kept. Well...maybe I'll run into him again at the remembrance ceremony on the 6th.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
So last weekend was Suzugamine's bounenkai (忘年会, "year-forgetting gathering"), and they really went all-out. It was held at a ritzy hotel in Hiroshima down by the beach (with its own attached minimall, restaurant, reflecting pool inside with koi it in, the works) and a troupe of kagura performers came out from Shimane-ken (the next prefecture over) to perform dinner theater for us. After the beginning part, where we received candy from a guy dressed as an oni (and where I got my own personal handful of candy), the performers came out and started to do a performance of Yamata no Orochi (if you've played Okami, you don't need to click that link). This is the most popular kagura play of all, but I had never seen it performed before because it's quite complex to stage. Each of the heads is played by a separate actor, and there's a 15-20 minute sequence that involves them all twining in and around each other to make interesting shapes. It was really neat, and probably the best part of dinner as all the people at my table couldn't speak English and the range of topics we could talk about in Japanese was a bit limited. I did get asked if I ate sashimi, which was a bit odd considering that they had just seen me eat a big plate of it. I assume they were just trying to make conversation and picking a topic they figured I would actually understand.

Also, the main course was kobe beef, so that was cool.

One thing I've noticed that's different from Western European/North American countries here is that people's names have immediately obvious meanings. For example, there are people named things like Honor and Beauty (Masami), A Thousand Pictures of Beauty (Chiemi), A Thousand Springs (Chiharu), Second Son (Jiro), Summer's Child (Natsuko), Courage (Yuuki), Great Protector (Daisuke) and so on. Last names include Mountaintop (Yamasaki), Base of the Mountain (Yamamoto), Pond and Rice Field (Ikeda), Bamboo Field (Takeda), Main Rice Field (Honda), Eastern Mountain (Higashiyama), Western Village (Nishimura), and so on. These mostly came about the same way English family name for commoners did. As you can see, they picked some nearby notable geological feature or landmark. I just find it interesting because if you tried to do something similar in America, most people would think the name was ridiculous (with a few notable exceptions, like "Autumn"), even most of our names do have meaning, just not in English.

Random thoughts.
dorchadas: (Slime)
As promised, here are some of the rules that Suzugamine students sign up for when they attend:

  • Obviously, they have to wear uniforms. It's all mandated--skirts, shirts, shoes (two kinds) and even official socks with the school seal of them. Winter and summer versions of the uniform. And yes, some of them do hike their skirt up to Revolutionary Girl Utena levels even though it's an all-girls school. There's also an official schoolbag, and an official sportsbag if you're on a team. The main place for individuality is in the choice of pencilcase, folders, and the charms/stuffed animals they hang off their bags.

  • Wearing the uniform outside of school is encouraged (this is actually a rule). This is because in Japan, a school uniform is considered formal clothing, and you can wear one where you'd wear a suit/nice dress in America (assuming you're high-school age, anyway).

  • Hair cannot be colored, dyed, permed, styled, curled, braided, be-ribboned, or above the top of the head. Any student who naturally has brown or curly hair is required to file a "curly hair report" with the school office, otherwise "there may be difficulties." I am not making this up. The only permitted hairstyles are loose, ponytail, or pigtails. Pigtails are pretty common among high-school students, though when they hit college or their twenties they all switch to dying their hair blond. Kind of like America, actually, though Japanese hair means it turns out more a honey-brown color.

鶴姫伝説 was your standard Japanese love story. Boy, girl, boy meets girl, girl receives a vision from a goddess tellling her to take up the sword to defend her village, boy and girl fall in love, boy is killed delivering a message to a rival daimyo, girl hears from best friend who is now daimyo's servant that he gets blind drunk all the time, girl dresses in boy's armor and leads an army to defeat rival daimyo, girl ascends bodily into heaven leaving her armor behind. You know, typical. More seriously, I thought it was pretty neat, though I'm sure there were subtleties of the story that I didn't really understand. It was also a musical, which caught me by surprise.

The band in my current music is pretty neat. It's Finnish folk metal--you can get a good example of one of their songs is Ryyppäjäiset. It's instrumental, but you can get a nice summary of their musical style. Makes me want to play Unreal World again.

Tomorrow is the Suzugamine Sports Festival. That should be fun.
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
Yesterday, I went to dinner at Lal’s (an Indian restaurant) in the city like I usually do on Wednesdays. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd teaches the children’s class in Chiyoda on Wednesdays and can’t be around to pick me up from the station, so rather than walk home, I stay a little later and eat in the city. Anyway, this time, I went in right as they were opening and sat down. The server came over, gave me the special speed menu, then put a hand on it again and asked, "’いつもでいいですか?" Itsumo de ii desu ka?, or roughly, "Is the usual okay?" I said it was, and had dinner a few minutes later. It's nice to be recognized.

One of my students tried to kiss me yesterday. Fortunately, it was a joke.

Here's the story. I gave them a speaking test yesterday, and when it was done, there was only 10 minutes of class left, so I gave them free time. So they said, "Thank you!" and then they said "I love you!" and then one girl said "kiss me!" to which I rolled my eyes and responded with "No." I thought that was the end, until a group of them tried to get me to take my hair out of the ponytail. I managed to hold them off by trying to get them to ask me in English, but Hamasaki-san (the girl who introduced herself as Hamasaki Ayumi) ran up to try to show me what they wanted and reached for my hair. While fending her off, I turned a bit and ended up with my face a few inches away from her, after which she said, "Kiss me." They're clearly reading too much shoujo manga.

I finally took my hair down for a bit after they asked in English. They asked me to do it again, and I told them that I might do it next time if they were quiet and listened. We'll see if that actually works. I suspect it won't, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Tomorrow the school is going to a performance of 鶴姫伝説 Tsuru-hime Densetsu, or "Legend of the Crane Princess." I think I get to go as well, but my only confirmation is an offhand comment from one of the teachers I tutor and a note that there's no morning meeting tomorrow, so I'd better check. Hopefully I'll be able to follow the story.

Next entry: I tell you some of Suzugamine's rules.
dorchadas: (desu)
Hmmm...it's been longer than I meant to before posting this, but here we go.

--The Peace Festival was neat. I did not get there in time for the opening ceremonies, but I did get there for the survivor testimony. I was a bit wrong about it--it wasn't trasnlated, the people speaking knew English (to a greater or lesser degree). I got there 30 minutes after it started, and five people were supposed to speak, but three of them had already gone when I got there. The most memorable speech was the last one. The woman who spoke was 8 in 1945, and she mentioned how after the bombing, she ran back into the city looking for her older brother. She saw people who had been horribly burned lying on the ground, and as she came near, they said, "Water...please...I want to live." She ran and gave them some water, and they thanked her and then died. And for years, she had terrible nightmares because she was worried that she had killed them. :(

There was another display of newspaper articles and accounts from people. Pretty balanced perspectives over all except on Okinawa--something like 87% of Okinawas think the latest official textbooks which don't mention the Japanese military's roll in the deaths of Okinawan civilians (telling them that the Americans were going to rape them and eat their corpses, basically) were total bullshit, but the only perspective I saw in the display was that the Americans were horrible people because of what happened at Okinawa. Some bits had no translation of the account, either, which made me a bit suspicious. But other than that, it was quite good. One account even mentioned Nanking--a member of the Imperial Army who was downriver saw a huge black heap in the water, taking up almost the entire river. He thought it was trash, or building debris, but when it got closer he realized the entire river was choked full of bodies.

I left a message to be put in one of the candleboats on the river, but I couldn't stay long enough to see them.

-Our friends the Santas (三田, three fields) invited us to dinner at their house. They told us that they often have people over for dinner on weekends, which makes them incredibly strange by Japanese standards (many Japanese people are uncomfortable inviting other people to their house--if they want to have fun with friends, they'll meet in a neutral place like a restaurant instead). After some grilling about what kind of foods we like, they made tempura and sushi, which was pretty tasty. They also had natto for us, but this time I didn't think it--I suspect it was the sauce that they added to it, which seemed to remove the strong cheesy taste it had in the nattomaki we ate. We're having them over for dinner in a couple weeks and they'll get to try American food. I hope they like it.

-We went to the New York Bar in Hiroshima yesterday for lunch. Burgers, fries and pizza. It was interesting being in a restaurant that specifically billed itself as having "American food." It was really good, though.

-We went to a neighborhood festival last weekend--皆で手作り遊び大会, aka the "Let's Everyone Hand-Make Toys Together Gathering!" festival. They brought a bunch of bamboo and made stilts, airplanes, waterguns, etc. It was pretty fun--[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I tried to make origami frogs, but we failed hard once we got to the legs.

The other attendees asked us if there was anything similar in America (Chiyoda seems to have lots of small festivals). We said there was, though mostly either in larger cities (where you get neighborhood festivals and so on) or small towns.

-Work is going pretty well so far, though the commute is sad, as it always is. I got a present from one of my students from her trip to Fukuoka--that made me feel really happy. It wasn't anything major (just some tarako Pretz), but it was the thought that counts.

Parents' visit

2009-Aug-05, Wednesday 21:18
dorchadas: (Warcraft Burning Moonkin)
So, last week I missed basically everything that happened on the internets because my parents were in town. If you don't remember my Kyōto entry, then I suggest you reference it again because we went all the same places. :-p The only difference was that this time, it was hot and humid instead of cold, and we walked everywhere.

After Kyōto, we made a brief stop in Himeji to see Himeji-jō, which was tragically cut short when my mother twisted her ankle and fainted (probably from a combination of shock, the heat and dehydration. One roll for breakfast and ice cream for lunch does not constitute a balanced diet no matter how healthy your dinner is, Mom!). I ended up running up 6 or 7 flights of stairs to get a guard and explain the situation, and as a minor benefit I will never forget the word for "to faint, collapse" now. She was okay--it was only twisted, not sprained or broken--but we cut our visit short and headed home to get some rest [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I are probably going to take a day trip and go back in September when we have a 5-day weekend. It's only 1.5 hours or so by shinkansen from Hiroshima, so that's easily doable in a day (if expensive).

The day after that we rested to give my mother's ankle time to heal, and on Friday we went to Hirata-san's (our Japanese-tutor) house for lunch. Before lunch, her husband, who is a Buddhist priest, showed us around the temple and demonstrated a sutra for us, which was really neat. He has a good chanting voice--it sounded a bit like throat-singing, if you've ever heard that. The meal was quite good, there was much exchanging of omiyage, and then we went off to Miyajima, where we spent the night in a ryokan. Not a small one--those are all super expensive, and would have been booked anyway--but it was still neat. The food was delicious, and it was modernized enough to have air conditioning, which made sleeping on a futon not so bad.

The next day we looked around Miyajima (note that despite the wikipedia article title, all the signs to get there say "Miyajima," even in Japanese). We didn't actually go to the shrine, partially because people had shrine fatigue after Kyōto , but we did climb Mt. Misen. My father and I did it the hard way, and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my mother took the ropeway up. I didn't feel especially holy afterwards, though. 95% humidity meant I felt more just hot and sticky. After riding down the mountain the easy way, we looked around town for a bit (and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I had a delicious lunch of anago, the local specialty), we went back to Chiyoda.

Then on Sunday, they looked around Hiroshima, and on Monday they headed home. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I were going to stay in the city afterwards, but we were incredibly tired so we just went home.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the bombing, and I think I'm going to the ceremony. There's going to be statements by hibakusha with accompanying English translation, which will be really neat to hear. The actual remembrance is too early for me (and the candles on the river are probably too late), but I can go for the statements at least.

OMG festivals

2009-Jun-07, Sunday 19:55
dorchadas: (Genbaku Park)
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went to a festival yesterday in Hiroshima City called Tokasan. It's pretty big, but we didn't stay for very long. The main reason its famous is that it starts the yukata-wearing season for festivals in Japan. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd got a yukata a few months ago, and she's been waiting a long time to wear it (and has been dreaming to wear for since she was a child), so she was super excited. The shop where we bought it put it on for her for free, even though there was a waiting list, which was very kind of them to do so. We wandered around, ate some festival food, and went to the shrine the festival is named after that you're traditionally supposed to go to and pray (though I don't know what you're supposed to pray for). Most of the stuff was happening in the evening, which we weren't staying for, so we missed the dancing and so on. It was still a lot of fun, though. Maybe next year.

Today, Kaminaka-san invited us to Mibu no Hanadaue, a festival that has taken place in Chiyoda (formerly called Mibu, hence the name) for over 500 years. There was the usual assortment of festival food available, but we ate udon in a hundred-year-old restaurant on the other side of Chiyoda and then saw the procession of the bulls (used to smooth down the mud in the rice field) and the dancers and drummers (who perform the actual planting). Apparently, the ceremony's purpose is to alert Sanbai-san, the local mountain god who is also the god of rice planting, that its time to come down off the mountain and help ensure a good crop for the year. The main festival involves a rice field which is ceremonially planted to the beat of drums by local women. It was pretty neat, and we took a bunch of pictures.

We also kept getting our picture taken by people, presumably because we're foreigners coming to Chiyoda's famous UNESCO-recognized cultural treasure (500 years old, remember?), which was kind of neat, but a little weird too. And we found a part of Chiyoda with shops and restaurants we didn't know existed. We'll have to check it out some time.

The best part of the speeches during the ceremony was when the announcer said: "Sanbai-san, ganbatte kudasai." Roughly, "Sanbai, please do your best (to make the rice a good crop)."
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I didn't actually do any work yesterday, but I went in to the city to get my schedule.

My "joushikousei" tag will probably be getting more use from here on out, because the Lang Education Center is assigning me to be the full-time ALT at Suzugamine Girls' High School in Nishi-ku, Hiroshima. It's team teaching (i.e., assisting a Japanese English teacher with their class), so that takes away the lesson planning worries--I can still help with lessons, but I don't have to plan everything all by myself anymore. I also get paid a better salary, including all the holidays that Suzugamine gets, like a month off in the summer.

Bad news: I have to get up at 6 a.m. every morning or earlier, take an hour busride into the city and then a half-hour streetcar ride to the school. Also, I sometimes have to teach on Saturdays and late on Thursday nights (well, to 8 p.m., but then I have to take the bus home).

Good news: I can sleep on the bus and Lang is giving me a transportation stipend. The schedule says "every other Saturday," but a lot of them seem to be days off.

It seems like it'll go well! The person before me finished out their contract; the reason I'm getting the job is because they moved back to their home country. And being in a Japanese teachers' office will give me more chances to practice Japanese. All in all, it seems like it'll go well. I hope it does.
dorchadas: (Teh sex)
I got the job!

More events

2009-Feb-11, Wednesday 00:46
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
Hmm. There's been a few things happening to be and I haven't gotten around to posting them yet. Here we go.

The interview in Hiroshima went well, and now they want me to come in and teach a demo lesson involving the class reading and discussing an article from The Economist. That'll be either this Saturday or next Saturday, presumably next since they haven't gotten back to me yet.

While I was in Hiroshima, I went to an Indian restaurant called Spicy Bar Lal's for lunch. After I order my food, I pull out my iPhone to look around on the internet while I'm eating and the Japanese businessman next to me, who's probably in his 50's or so, sees this as his opportunity to practice his English and starts a conversation about it. I make a few offhand remarks about the iPhone, and noncommitally ask where he lived when he was in America. Then he says Chicago, which piques my interest a bit more. It turns out that, 20 years ago, he lived in Chicago for two years when he was attached to the consulate there. So we talk about the importance of English, how Japan's population is declining so domestic companies need to look at foreign markets, the benefits of living abroad, teaching, and so on. He gave me some advice on looking for a job, since he currently works for the Hiroshima-ken Bureau of Labor. If I do get the job and end up teaching at any companies, maybe I'll see him again?

Tonight, we went to visit our future Japanese tutor--Hirata-san, the wife of a priest (Buddhist, I believe, judging by his clothing, though Hattori-san mumbled jinja under her breath when she was trying to tell us where they lived, so I could be wrong). She served us a very good meal and we talked a bit. She told us about how speaking English was one of her hobbies, so she made friends with a lot of the foreigners in the area, and told us some stories. Apparently a college in New York (I don't remember which one) had a branch in Chiyoda in the early 90s, but it closed after only a couple years. She agreed to tutor us in Japanese conversation if, in exchange, we would help her practice her English. Not exactly a hard bargain there, and people who know English well enough to teach it and who don't already teach English in high school are pretty rare up here in the mountains.

As a random side note, one of her stories mentioned her grandmother, and how she was a "daughter of the shrine." Apparently her family has been priests at the shrine for at least a century, and possibly longer. Kind of neat. ^_^
dorchadas: (Slime)
Apparently, there's a disaster contact phone tree set up for Chiyoda. I know this because the guy in charge of collecting names just stopped by to get our information. At first, we had no idea what he was talking about, but when he said "pandemic" in English, and then when we got our dictionary and picked up a few words---roku juu roku nin no kazoku ("66 families") and saigai ("disaster"), we figured out what he wanted. So, we're now part of the official phone tree and will be notified if there's a disaster. Since the notification will be in Japanese, I don't know how much good it'll be...but it'll happen.

We went into Hiroshima-shi yesterday. Everyone else cancelled at the last minute, so we didn't stay very long, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did get a new hat and some bath stuff. We also ate at an Irish pub called Molly Malone's (run by actual Irishmen) and stuffed ourselves on fish 'n' chips. Also, a lot of the shop clerks asked us if we spoke Japanese as their first question...I'm getting better, but I still can't hold a conversation.

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