31 May 2008

Self Image Update

Heya parents! Just thought I'd put up a new photo of myself so you can update your memory banks of my pretty face. :D

More posts coming up!

29 May 2008

At the Movies

Earlier today I got my first taste of what it's like to go see a movie in Japan. Takeshi and I both had an interest in seeing the next Chronicles of Narnia movie, "Prince Caspian".

So we made our way to the theaters which are located in the nearby mall in town. The theaters there are under the name, Warner Mycal Cinemas. The scene before the film where you are informed of the various rules and features of the cinemas, is carried out by many characters from the Warner Bros. cartoons i.e. Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner, and Tweety Bird. It was very funny to find out what the character's voices would turn out being like in Japanese instead of English. They pretty much were about the same with only a few minor differences. I am convinced that someone in the cinema distribution "system" in Japan is hellbent on making it terribly inconvenient for the people here to ever see movies. Especially since my ticket alone today cost about $17.00 U.S.

All those times of griping at home when a ticket would be as much as $9 seems a little silly, now. If you ever see a movie here, you better be sure it's good as much as you can before you see it. Any Adam Sandler, Will Ferrel, or Ben Stiller movie is not worth $17. The interior lobby of the cinema was pretty much what you'd expect to see in any U.S. cinema. We bought a medium iced tea and some nachos, which came to about $8.40 U.S.

With seeing any foreign movie here one has the option of seeing the dubbed version of the film, or the subbed version of the film, in separate theaters, at different times. We of course chose to see the subbed version of the film, because if it was dubbed with Japanese voice actors, I would be totally clueless for the entire film.

The majority of the theater was empty, with only a handful of other people there. Ads flashed upon the screen before the movie started. Rules of the theater also appeared on screen beforehand, and one in particular informed us that "Trash-cans are at the entrances to dispose of your rubbish." I thought this was very funny since they didn't say "trash", but "rubbish". Maybe it was just me...

The music the theater played while waiting for the movie to start was a bit different to, because they were playing this
opera-ish/classical/Armageddon-chorus music, which gave the theater a very dramatic and somewhat dark personality. A lot different from the country music I was used to hearing at way too many theaters in the States. They were probably playing such depressing sounding music because it was a reminder of how much money you just gave them to see the movie. And you were hoping like hell you wouldn't regret it.

Overall, the movie was very good, and a bit better than the first movie, even. After a while I didn't even register the Japanese subtitles on the bottom of the screen, since my eyes followed the movie instead. Hopefully I can find the DVD over here for a reasonable price, and the option to take off the subtitles.

Going to see an American movie today gave me a taste of the U.S. again, and for a moment, when we were walking out, I almost believed we were back in the States. Hmm.

23 May 2008


My father in law, sometime last week asked me if I wanted to take a trip that weekend to either a larger, built-up city, or somewhere with more nature and shrines, per se. Since we had been running around so far doing every which thing for my situation with living here, I decided that seeing some shrines and some nature would be a nicer right now than a busier environment. So last Saturday, Takeshi, me, and his parents piled into their small car and headed off for the city of Nara, which was about 1 hour and 45 minutes drive from Suzuka.

To get to Nara (and perhaps many other places in Japan), we had to go through a mountain range. The drive up to and through those mountains gave a really great view. Towns and streets nestled into small valleys and niches, and rows of tea bushes planted on almost vertical mountain slopes. The tea bushes looked yummy. I wanted some tea right then and there. The personality of the mountains in Japan are different from ones I’ve become accustom to in the U.S. They are shaped like someone took a sheet of velvet and draped it over a very thin wall, so that it creases and softly wrinkles as it lays there. And the mountains right now are the color of emerald. Very beautiful, mystical-looking mountains here in this country. Some of these tiny, tiny towns out in the middle of these mountains consisted of perhaps a dozen or so homes and maybe 3-4 business buildings, whether they may have been convenience stores, restaurants, or post offices. We saw many great, vast, old Japanese style homes that looked like they had been preserved since the Edo period (and probably had been). Many of these groups of homes were clustered upon high hills, and below them were flat rice fields. I wondered, as we drove, how life must be out here. Most of them are probably farmers. I saw glimpses of the day-to-day life of some of the people in those towns as we passed them: a young man walking a black Labrador, a farmer bent over in the sea of rice patties, a middle aged woman riding her bike to somewhere. In some ways I felt that some of these towns had been kept back in time, per se, since time seemed to pass so much slower out there.

We reached the city of Nara finally and passed through the very narrow streets to reach the main “area” of downtown Nara. We drove down one street and turned into a small, outdoor, unpaved parking lot with two older men who seemed to be in charge of it. We got out and after asking, I proceeded to use the small bathroom they had a few feet away. It is safe to say that I still have not been able to use the traditional style Japanese toilet, when I am forced to use them. The traditional style toilet consists of not a toilet “bowl” but a large oval-ish shaped hole in the tile floor, which one squats over to do one’s business. There is usually a bar right in front of you, so that you can hold onto it as you squat down. I have not had a lot of success using them without taking off my shoes, underwear, and pants first. The only times when it is better is when I am wearing a skirt, so that I can just hold it up and such. So awkward and annoying. After taking forever with the bathroom, I came out and we proceeded on our trip.

Nara is a city dense with ancient shrines, ancient sculptures, and Buddhist temples. Needless to say, we had an almost endless amount of things to see and do, and places to travel to. And we did! One of the truly exciting and charming aspects of this city is that it is known for the huge population of tame deer, which roam free throughout the city right next to their human neighbors. The majority of these deer roam around Nara Park, which is where we headed first. The history of these deer is summarized on Wikipedia: “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 Heijo-kyo. Since then the deer were regarded as heavenly animals to protect the city and the country.” It also stated that there were a little less than 1,200 deer in Nara in 2005. So there might be even more of them nowadays in 2008. The area around Nara Park is filled with small street vendors, selling deer crackers to people, so that they can feed them. The deer there are very smart, and they can smell when you have a cracker and immediately start walking towards you. My father-in-law was surrounded by 3-4 deer, only about a minute after buying the crackers. He had to keep them up in the air so that the deer wouldn’t get them. We all thought it was funny and started laughing at him, but a second after that the deer noticed I had some crackers too…oops. Soon, I too was surrounded by 4-5 deer, lifting up their necks to me, and even nibbling my shirt to get me to feed them. I was lucky my shirt didn’t unravel!

To put it short, we did many things and saw many things that day, but I’d take up another 5 pages to tell it all! Here are some of my favorite photographs I took that day out of the TONS that I actually took:

19 May 2008

New Beginnings...

And so I discontinue my last blog, and create this blog, for I am no longer living Lancaster, or the United States, for that matter. This blog was created just recently to further keep in touch with my family and friends in other far away places (or is it just me that's far away?) and to give them news about my drastically different surroundings and home life in Japan.

The 12.5 hour plane ride to Japan was made MUCH better by the fact that the airline gave both of us business class seating, after they screwed up the first time, by making us miss the original flight the day before, by only about 3 minutes.

We arrived to the Nagoya Airport on time at about 6pm. Takeshi's parents were there to pick us up. Takeshi's mom gave me the usual big smile and hug when I got to her and I joked with Takeshi's dad about the obvious long trip there.

I have experienced so much already since I arrived, and already I have taken a short day trip to Osaka, and a day-long trip to the city of Nara.

Living here is very different from the States, and I'm sure I could not have imagined HOW much different it would actually be here, before arriving. I'm still getting used to having cars drive on the other side of the road. I still think that every time we make a turn onto a street, we're going to crash into an oncoming car. I'm also still not used to being stared at by people wherever I go. Takeshi says that if we were in a bigger city, you'd see more foreigners and Japanese who are more used to seeing them. But this it not the case in Suzuka. Most of the men who stare, just stare at me kind of rudely almost, (take a photo buddy, it'll last longer) and most of the women who look at me pretty much just seem to "observe" me. Very annoying sometimes.

Since I've arrived I've had next to no bread at all. Breakfasts consist of salmon, sliced pickled cucumber, egg, miso soup, and white rice. White rice is present at every meal, and I can see how Takeshi says that it's very easy to become sick and tired of rice sooner or later. Takeshi's grandmother keeps insisting on giving everyone these tiny bottles of liquid vitamin supplement, which SHE says helps prevent cancer. We don't think so. It tastes like liquified orange sorbet. But it does have vitamins in it.

All of the clothes which are washed in the house are hung out to dry outside in the small backyard/garden behind the house. The only time I had clothes out to dry outside on a line was at my grandmother's old house in Scranton, PA. Bathing is also different here. First, the toilet is in a little room, right next to the room for the sink and bath. The toilet seat warms up when one sits down on it, and there is a little button panel attached to side the main piece. One button is for if you want a jet of water to come up and rinse your behind. A very strange sensation. Through the next door down the hall from the toilet, there are two small rooms connected by a door. First, when you walk in, there is the sink and the washer. Everyone puts their undergarments in a small shelf for easy access. Then there is another door to the right, which is of warbled semi-transparent glass. This leads to the bathing room. The floor of this room is tiled and has metal lining wrapping around the walls before it gets to the basic wall surface. Right at the doorway when you walk in, there is a large piece of soft but firm styrofoam placed on top of the tiled floor. On the wall is a place for soaps, wash clothes, and shampoos used to various people in the household. There is also a shower hose attached to the wall, which one can take off and hold manually. To the left of the styrofoam is the tub. This tub is metal and is very very deep. Perfect for soaking in hot water. The bathing process goes like this: First, you undress in the room where the sink is, and throw your dirty laundry right away into the open washer machine. Then, you turn on the hose and proceed to wash everything you need to wash (hair, and body). At no point during the washing do you enter the tub, which is already filled with hot water. You next wash off all the soap on your body. You climb into the tub and soak for as long as needed. The the water in the tub is used by the next person to take a shower that night. If you're not the last person to take a shower, then you do not drain the tub of the water.

I do enjoy that tub very much. You can have hot water up to your chin if you sink down into it enough. I've recently skipped the tub portion of my bath time because of the hotter weather we've been having.