Tuesday, March 27, 2007


During holiday seasons, a train deal goes on sale. The 十八きっぷ. 18 ticket. This deal lets you have 5 days of local train travel (with insies and outties) for the cost of 8 sen. Not bad. Although riding local trains can be quite slow. Thus why I left Shimada at noon only to arrive in Kyoto by seven. So I met up with Aine, her boo, Grace and her friends at some place I had been to already last time in Kyoto.

So, it is always interesting meeting new people, and I must say that this dinner was interesting indeed. I sat over with the British crew, and it was probably the first time I realized how out of the loop you can feel when you are unfamiliar with such simple common things, like TV shows, public figures, figures of speech...etc. I loved listening and learning, but I felt a weird feeling that I just wouldn't even know how to get into the conversation even if I wanted to. It really was weird. I hadn't felt that outside of Japanese conversations.

That's not to say, that there weren't any Americans at the dinner. In fact, the two girls on my left, yet at a different table, both went to school at Berkeley, and we bonded over our mutual love for Anzu, an adorable sushi restaurant on Shattuck and Haste.

The next day we had 食べ穂代 and 飲み穂代 at a Shabu-Shabu restaurant. And boy was it delicious. This yin-yang shaped bowl has two kinds of boiling sauces. You throw veggies and meat inside and then pull them out and dip then in more sauces. My favorite part of dinner was at the end when they came for our last order, and we each ordered 2 more drinks when we all had full beers/cocktails in front of us. The waiter looked at us skeptically, and we assured and convinced him that we'd finish within the next half hour. And we did, much to my head's dismay the next morning.

While in a reggae bar called Rub-a-Dub, Tom and Den ordered 2 shots of a strange looking liquor that had strange looking things wading in the bottom of the bottle. These things were mouse embyros. They took the shot, and swallowed the embryo.
Aine was disgusted by the drinking of embyros which made me even more enthusiastic in asking about it. Did they have claws or were they slippery like a clam? Did they bite in or just swallow? Did their tummies hurt? Etc.

After leaving the bar, we walked back past the 2 Many DJs venue where they claimed that tickets were sold out. I watched Grace and Den approach the ticket counter and pretend to speak in French with a French accent. "Can you please speak English?" the ticket guys asked. (Asking in English) "Oh, we cannot speak English.", Grace replied in (seriously) the most ridiculous accent (British-french). They stood there for awhile arguing with the guys, and some other guys by the exit came over to them to see what the problem was. Since the exit was left unmanned, I darted inside and began pushing my way through the crowds, trying to lose myself in them. Unfortunately, i was not as slick as I thought because some guys from inside saw me, and escorted me back out. Of course, they were very Japanese and polite. Anyway, once I got back out, I went to see how they were doing, but still no progress. At this point this guy taps me on the shoulder and gives me 3 wristbands. I try to communicate to G and D that all our problems are solved, but I decide to not ruin their game. So I go in the corner, attach my band with gum (like how i used to do before I was 21), and walk back to the entrance all nonchalant. Of course, they don't let me in. Because while I am drunk, and thinking that I am so slick, they probably saw me in the corner attaching my wristband, as well as remember me running inside only 15 minutes before. After being denied the second time, i decided to just walk back to my hotel. Fuck DJs. Anyway, I was told that eventually, Grace and Den argued their way with 3000 yen each.

Kyoto / Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari is a shrine dedicated to the Inari fox goddess, the deity of rice, harvest, farmers and fishermen. It is said the favorite food of the fox is sparrow.

The shrine.

The coolest thing about this place are the hundreds of toriis that make a path through the forest. Within the forest are more miniture shrines.

In many traditional restaurants, the menu looks like this. The food is written on the top and below is the price, all written in Kanji. Look at the 4th tablet from your left. This says すずめ 八八0. This means Sparrow. 880 yen. (this includes 2 of them. 880 is about $7.

So I ordered some Inari and すずめ。 I only asked for 1 stick of sparrow though. It was pretty gross. It tasted like liver, and was boney as fuck. But the Inari was probably the best Inari I've ever had. Yum.

I have watched people take some water in these ladles and pour it over both of their hands. I saw one guy gargle with it. Sick. Anyway, of all the times I was forced to go to church in my youth, I never once saw anyone gargling with holy water.

Here is where one tunnel turned into two. If you must know I chose the right side. I always choose right.


I took a short trip out of Kyoto to check out Kobe. I was delighted by it's beautiful port scenery. I remember telling Grace that it reminded me of San Francisco, and she responded "That's funny, it reminded ME of Liverpool".

I only spent a couple hours there, mostly at the children's area with the ferris wheel, merry-go-round and arcade. I had an oreo cookie shake, and watched the sun set on the sea.

Picture taken from the ferris wheel.

Kobe is part of the Kansai region that are known for having a distinctly different way of doing things from the rest of Japan. There's the crazy Kansai-ben, uproarious riyori, and of course, standing on the right of escalators. (Explanation of the last sentence---Kansai-ben is a dialect different from other regions in Japan, riyori is the style of cuisine, and usually people treat the escalators as they treat the roads of japan, walking/driving on the left....only in Kansai, they stand on the right. I felt right at home. Yes, I am going to call Kobe SF junior.

Can you see the red bridge spanning over the water in the distance? Does this not remind you of SF?

I had originally called my vacation itinerary "the trail of tears" as I planned on seeing Hiroshima and Kobe, both known for disaster. Here are a couple of scenes from their big earthquake on my brother's birthday, 1995. This is a collapsed shrine.

Their double decker freeway fell just like the bay bridge. Cars can't swim.


"Do you remember when I said bombing would begin in five minutes? Remember when I fell asleep during my audience with the pope? … Those were the good old days."--Ronald Reagan

"We must laugh at man, to avoid crying for him."--Napoleon Bonaparte

This preface is not really about Hiroshima at all. In fact, I could have used any of man's horrific tragedies to illustrate the point that I am about to make. There are plenty of unfortunate memories scattered throughout all of his time and travels through the world. Only, I happen to be living in Japan, and I happened to have a strong interest in what's wrong with the world, and there happens to be a city who chose to use the power of the horror experienced in order to now propagate peace. For this, I respect the city of Hiroshima.

I plan on sharing some pictures and some information that I picked up while visiting the museum, peace park, and the Atomic dome. But before all that, I want to address something almost unrelated, yet necessary. I want to talk about people.

As much as I'd like to be a hippie* and say that it is wrong to judge people, I would be a hypocrite to even suggest that I believe in the possibility of NOT judging people. Maybe it would be more realistic to try not judging people...too quickly. Behavior is the only thing that you can see coming out of another person. You cannot see their thoughts or experiences leading up to their behavior. Good behavior, bad behavior=good person, bad person? Hmm.

In leiu of this question, I'd like to mention the kind of people that I personally enjoy. I like people who make me laugh. Who doesn't right?
Sometimes humor in bad taste is my favorite taste. Why?
Don't know....just how I was programmed.
And I don't think there is anything wrong with it. But then again, bad people never really think that they are bad people. Much like how racists never think that they are racist. And what's that thing about feathers flocking together?

Immediately after meeting up with Steph in Hiroshima station, and jumping on a trolley to our Minshuku, my phone rings. "Someone's blowing you up, dude." she informs me. "Shhhh...you don't want to be saying that in this town." I reminded her. And we laughed a good laugh. And that's where it began, or perhaps the real beginning was the last travel experience we had in Kyoto where the trip was comprised of consistent joking.

Later in the trip, as we sat in a small restaurant with the window facing the beautiful peninsula of the Hiroshima harbor, we reminisciced about the picture that I wish we would have taken. The day before, as we made our way through the A-bomb museum, I obeyed the signs written in English not to use flash photography. I disabled my flash, but continued to take photos of the many charred keepsakes and large displays showing the destruction of the bomb. We turned the corner and came upon what looked to be two, freestanding, wax schoolgirls who stood in a lifesized diorama of a fiery war scene. Their exposed forearms and fingers appeared to have their skin melting from their arms. It was a pitiful sight. One that I felt needed to be captured on my camera. So, I took the photo and asked Stephanie in a whisper, "Do you think it was insensitive of me to take a picture of that?" and she whispers back, "No, but do you think it would be insensitive if I jumped in there like this?" While asking this, she tilts her head and smiles while bringing both her hands to her face in the oh-so-common peace sign pose. As we are standing in a room full of both Japanese and western tourists, I burst out laughing. Let me remind you that this room WAS silent. I duck my head, and she tells me to Shhhh. I try to stifle my laughter, only to have it erupt again at the burnt tricycle as I unintentionally remember her response.

So yes, we are sitting at our table sharing a large bottle of beer, staring at the sun on the water, and the deer napping. We discuss whether or not we should have taken that picture. What if she HAD jumped into the display quickly, with nonchalance, and snapped the photo? Would that have been going too far? We decided no. Who are we to mark the boundaries of what is and is not out-a-bounds in the realm of humor? Oh, and I think there was another conclusion....but it was lost in beer.

You can't be bad if you know the words to Mr. Belvedere.

It's the BOMB.

The infamous wax.


This picture is taken across the river of a quite scenic T-shaped bridge. This placard shows the A-bomb dome before it acquired that name, back when it used to be a prefectural building.

My newest project is going to be reading more about the events of World War II. However, based on what I already know, and the version of history presented in the museum, I will just raise a few concerns of mine. Firstly, I believe that the sole reason the bomb was dropped was out of sheer curiousity. Sure, it satisfied many other American wartime goals, ending the war in the Pacific, justifying the massive amounts of military weapon spending, and proving to the world that might is right...but honestly. Things like this are not made without the purpose of use. Don't believe anyone who tells you this is not true.

This photo shows what was left after the explosion.

A closer photo of the A-bomb dome.

WMD. Three words that have been causing strife for many years. Currently, the US/UN is imposing sanctions upon Iran unless it stops Uranium enrichment processes that may be used for two very different purposes--energy or weaponry. The UN fears weaponry, Iran insists energy. Who can we trust with not only the ability to create, but these weapons of mass destruction themselves? Well guess who has the most? Well, I photographed it. Why does the US have over 5,000 atomic bombs? Sure, any hippy will say "Why have 1 or 10?" But 5000? Over 5,000? What?

Read this, then look at the picture below. This kind of power should not be in man's hands.

This was drawn by survivors of the bomb many years afterwards. The horror marked in crayon proves that some memories don't fade.


Me ゃ Miyajima

About a half hour on JR and 10 min. ferry ride, is Miyajima. This place is pretty famous as it is considered one of the top 3 scenic places in all Japan, symbols of Japan, one might say.

The Itsukushima Shrine stands in the water, and has been around for many years.

I think this building is called Senjokaku. Notice the beginning of the sakura, or cherry blossoms.

Here's me and the water Torii, or gate. I'm trying to go for the Huck Finn look.

Here's me and a deer.

Here is an Omiyage shop. In Miyajima, I saw lots of paddleball looking objects that Stephanie said were rice spoons. Duh. I wanted to buy a samurai sword, but I was informed that they were not Hattori Hanzos. Not only that, i imagined myself like Homer Simpson when he had his gun. You know, with him shooting off the lights and the TV out of laziness. Plus, they were about ni-man(200) and I was running out of money by that point.

Here is the view from Miyajima back onto the main land.

These tasty little treats are a kind of machi. The green ones are made of mugwort, whatever the hell that is.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

April's pretty dumb too.......

I've spent the last hour or so looking for interesting spots to visit while in Osaka and Hiroshima next week. I brought my little mini Clair calendar with me to help plan my days.

With the page turned to March, I cannot help but feel that uncomfortably empathic embarrassment that sometimes comes when you see someone do something really, really stupid. Everytime I look at the March page of my calendar, I feel that.

A 3rd year named Jolene states "My most memorable moment: I was standing off to the side in class one day when Kazuki called me over and said 'Jolene, please share my chair'. It was his first attempt at speaking to me and we became instant friends."

What? Are you kidding me? Three years in Japan and THAT'S your most memorable moment? And who chooses this shit? Was it an inside joke between the editors....perhaps they were like.... "wouldn't it be funny if we actually printed this?" Is that how it went down? Two words, Hemet, California.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Birth, Day, Park, Play

"What the hell is going on over there?" says the woman to her husband one fine Saturday afternoon.
"Why so many gaijin?" he replies.

"Well we better make a move on. Wouldn't want to rile em up." they figured after a moment's consideration.

"They look crazier than the normal Gaijins we see on TV." her husband silently notices.

"Obaasan, is that alcohol in their hands?" he wonders in a whisper.

"My god it's feeding time. Let's hurry!" they simultaneously surmise.

"No, no, no. But wait. They've got our children! My god, they've got our children!!!"

"There's nothing we can do to save them now. Those Gaijin, they love em."

In the works for about 3 or so weeks, was Kate's plan to celebrate Glen's birthday a week early with some good ole fashion sports day in the park with a group of fun-lovin' peeps. Mission accomplished, complete with a pool bar afterparty.

Arriving in spurts, we grew amazed at the picnic pre-thoughts of the group. Aine bringing her cricket set, Brandon with an ice chest, Rachel with her audio equipment, and plenty more with beer and Konbini cuisine.
Kate supplied the banana bread and candles, but forgot to bring a cuttin' knife. So Grace suggested cutting them with her umbrella.

After eating lunch, our little group of 20 somethings were summoned by a some members of a girls' middle school soccer club.

At first it was us against them. But then, after they began to slaughter us, they mixed it up and played on.

See what i mean, two goalies!

They played on.

And on.

It was fun.

So intense, with barely any time to rehydrate....with biru:)

After the game ended, the girls wished Glen a happy birthday. Then we packed up for the afterparty.

Post Script

afterparty pics coming soon..........