Nagoya and Inuyama

31 07 2009

Day 1 of our summer kansai holidays:

We took all local trains from Kisarazu (where we had to run for the bus to the station because we were running late) to Nagoya, making transfers at Tokyo, Shinagawa, Atai, Shizuoka and a couple other stops. Since we are not tourists (we have working visas, not tourist visas) we don’t qualify for the JR pass so the expensive shinkansen was not an option. We bought the seishun juhatchi kippu which is a seasonal pass for 5 non-consecutive days that allows unlimited travel on local trains for a day (i.e. you can go from Tokyo to Fukuoka for Y2300). We arrived in Nagoya around 6pm after 9 hours of travel. We picked up a map at the info centre before walking to Osu Kannon temple. We wandered down the Osu Kannon shopping streets to a restaurant called Chen Fu, but it had closed down in May. oh no! So we caught the subway to another restaurant (a little hard to find as it wasn’t on a main street) called Sorairo Magatama. It had a nice homey atmosphere and was vegan and organic. We had dinner of pasta and the fried vegetable set. It was rather late by the time we caught the train to Asahi and stayed with our awesome couch surfing hosts, Kyle and Lacey.

Day 2: After a big sleep in (needed especially since Benno hadn’t slept at all the night before we left) we caught the train into Nagoya central. We visited Atsuta shrine, but the temple itself was shut for renovations. The grounds were still lovely for walking in. Then we went for lunch at Kataron, where we had the lunch set and the fried soy set with an interesting roasted golden syrup flavoured jelly. Then we caught the subway up to Inuyama. We visited Inuyama Jo, the oldest standing original castle in Japan. The stairways were really steep. They had some interesting samurai armour on display, and the view from the top floor balcony was pretty good. We had to walk barefoot through the castle to preserve the wooden floors- just glad they didn’t break under our weight!
Walking back down the hill we passed through some shrines dedicated to dogs (inu). Then we caught the train a few stops to Tagatajinjamae station, walked the 5 minutes to Tagata shrine and saw the sacred object (a giant wooden penis). There were stones and carvings scattered throughout the grounds of balls and penises.
Then we went back to Nagoya for dinner at MosBurger where we had the vegan rice burger (the patty is a grilled rice patty), and adzuki bean icecreams from the supermarket.

Learning the language…making haste slowly

29 07 2009

Benno’s been demonstrating excellent Japanese language skills lately (even if he doesn’t think so).

1. He made a reservation for our return express bus trip from Nagoya to Takayama by phone in Japanese. He was even able to ask about payment methods and how to collect the tickets.

2. He booked cabin accommodation in Nikko over the phone. They were booked out for our first option so he was able to change dates and cabin type and confirm the costs.

3. He filled in Japanese forms (in Kanji) at the bank so now my health insurance is direct debited from my bank account. He could write all our address details in kanji. However, we needed some help with the bank terminology so the lady helped us fill in the bottom half. Even in English bank forms can be troublesome so yay for Benno!

All that listening and speaking and reading and writing!!! The study must be paying off. 🙂 Gambatte Benno-san.


27 07 2009

Stumbled upon some things while doing random reading on my holidays.

Turn your photos of Japan into Meiji era relics.

Ume Blossoms from Kisarazu, April 2009.

Ume Blossoms from Kisarazu, April 2009.

Old Photo from the Meiji Era.

Old Photo from the Meiji Era.

And for something funny, we watched this video, laughed our heads off, then while waiting at the bus stop the next morning I asked a japanese school kid if he had studied hard for his exams and he used fluent japanese in reply (head tilt “schhh”). Hilarious- it really works!

Japan Travel Itinerary

24 07 2009

Only one week until we head off to travel around Kansai for 20 days. Here’s where we plan to go:

From Kisarazu to Nagoya (with an overnight in Takayama)

Nagoya to Hiroshima (in time for the 6th August A-bomb festival)

Hiroshima to Kyoto

Kyoto to Nara

Nara to Osaka

Osaka to Kobe

Kyoto (with Himeji day trip)

Return home to Kisarazu (one day before Benno’s parents come visit)

Our travel route around Kansai.

Our travel route around Kansai.

We’ll be covering a far bit of ground, but only using local trains on our Seishun 18 Kippu (unlimited daily travel on local trains for Y2300).

We’ll keep you posted on our travel adventures!

Nokogiri-yama (Saw Mountain)

20 07 2009

Today, being a Sunday and the first day of my school summer holidays, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of pancakes. After that we went to K’s (electrical store) to spend a 10000 yen gift voucher we got for signing up for our internet during a campaign. We bought a printer for Benno’s work and while we were there we met this water droplet mascot for an airconditioner company that were handing out free stuff like notepads and hats. Bonus!

We heading off to the Kisarazu train station late morning. We caught the Uchibo line south to Hama-kanaya station. It took over an hour because of the strong winds were slowing the train down but finally we made it to the station. We followed the road to the ropeway that goes up to the top of the mountain but ‘zan nen desu ne’ the ropeway was closed due to the strong winds. So we saved our 900 yen each and we walked up. It took about 40 minutes to hike up the hill, through an animal-path (narrow hiking trail) that was slippery underfoot. The stairs were covered in moist moss and mud and it was tough going. We soon were drenched in sweat due the humidity and our exertions climbing all the steps. When we arrived at the top we sat down and ate our bento lunch in the fog.

Continuing on a little way we came to the entrance gate to the sacred Daibutsu grounds. 600 yen entry gave us access to more fog and mist. It was very misty so we could see nothing from the lookout “Ruriko Observatory”. Ruriko is on the edge of the cliff with a steep drop 400m down (a ‘saw edge’ but with all the white fog we couldn’t see the drop.)

We trekked to the hundred-shaku Kannon but it was very hard to see with a thick layer of fog covering most of it. So we moved on, past some statues to the Daibutsu of Nihon-ji (the Giant Buddha of the Temple of Japan). It was impressive- 31.05m tall carved into the rock (twice as tall as the Todaiji buddha in Nara and three times as tall as the Kamakura daibutsu). It took 28 men 3 years of work back in 1783 to complete it. Benno saw frogs and tadpoles in the little moat around the base of the Daibutsu. We couldn’t stand still for too long or our leg muscles started shaking from climbing all the stairs. That’s why a lot of our photos turned out blurry.

Before the Daibutsu was carved the appretice artisans first created 1500 stone images of Arhats. Unfortunately many of the statues were eroded or deliberated destroyed by an anti-Buddhist movement from the Meiji era. Lots were missing their heads. By this time we had been walking for over 2 hours (40 minutes hike to the lookout and then 90 minutes around the mountain) so it was time to return home. Unwilling to go back down the slippery, dark and foggy animal path, we came down the other side of the mountain.

Heading down the southern side of the mountain we passed the Nihon-ji temple and grounds with lovely gardens and lots more stairs. We exited the sacred mountain and walked about 5 km to the Hota train station. It was quite a small station and walking there we felt like the only people around for miles (as it was just sparse farmland). The station had no gates, only a small building and a couple of benches to sit on while waiting for the train. This was another side to Japan – the countryside is a completely different world to the Tokyo-Japan.

It took less time to travel back to Kisarazu so the winds must have died down. We caught the 6.45 local bus back to Apita and then home to rest our poor feet and legs.

We watched the least strange movie that we have seen so far tonight, simply called “Always”.

Nokogiri yama map

19 07 2009

Here’s a copy of the walking map around Nokogiri yama. There’s not that much information on the web or in guide books about this place and yet it’s the largest buddha in Japan. (Right click and ‘view image’ to see full size)


Summer Holidays and Rice Paddies

18 07 2009

I finished my last official duties at school today. I rode my bike at 8am and started ‘staff room supervision’ duties at 9am. I read the Japan Times newspaper for a while, then got bored and read some of the LOTR books from the Inter Library, then did some lesson planning and read textbooks until 12. Then I walked through the two 4-level high school buildings to ensure windows were closed and lights off in all the rooms and rode my bike home again. Now I’m on summer holidays!

Here’s some photos from my ride home from school today:

Exam time

15 07 2009

It’s end of term exam time. While that means I’ve been super busy writing exams, photocopying and designing the Inter newsletter it also means that now I only have half-days at school. The students have exams block 1-4, then the bus leaves at 12.50pm. So I’m sitting at home doing some marking in between reading on the internet and getting distracted by the elementary school children walking home.

I feel a bit spoilt as mum send a parcel with new clothes. I wore the white skirt to school this week and it was nice and summery. Today I wore my new linen pants from UniQlo. I forgot to say that when you go to the changerooms you take off your shoes. While you are trying on clothes the shop assistants rotate your shoes so they are facing you when you exit the changeroom.

Recently we also received a backpack in the post that we got from ebay. It’s to make our Kansai travels easier – no way I want to be dragging a suitcase around the train stations!

In theory, I should know 42 verbs after working through the ‘Instant Japanese’ book. Let’s hope I can remember them.

Better get back to my marking…but first, have you ever seen a yellow watermelon?

Yellow and Red Watermelon. Available now at Apita.

Yellow and Red Watermelon. Available now at Apita.

Yet another strange movie

11 07 2009

Metro ni notte "Riding the Metro subway"
Yet another strange movie from Tsutaya video store that we watched. All the the movies that have English subtitles seem to be quite odd. Japanese movies/dramas are very slow, there is almost no conversation as it’s mostly monologue and the time-travel plot in this one was a little hard to piece together. Maybe Japanese understand the motives behind people’s actions without it being said, but I don’t understand at all why an unprovoked woman would throw her mother down a flight of stairs in order to kill herself in the womb in a time-travel moment.

I had after school dorm student study supervision duties today (yes, Saturday) so I was at school until 2.40pm. I went to catch the public bus as all the school buses had finished. I got on, tried to explain what stop I wanted, and I think the bus was actually an express to Tokyo that doesn’t stop in Kisarazu (although it does pick up as we catch it when we go to Tokyo). So, I couldn’t catch the bus home and had to walk instead. Benno met me halfway on his bike and we walked down the hill home. It only took about 50 minutes but I was pretty tired after starting teaching at 7.30am and I was disappointed that the public bus is no good. Had a few tears but then had a red-bean onigiri and a nap at home and was okay.

Dinners have been good this week – tofu and lentil shepherd’s pie, roast potatoes and gravy, coconut milk peanut satay sauce with battered tofu, blackbean sesame and broccoli udon, chickpea and sweet potato curry with brown rice, nasu-don (eggplant on udon).

The weather is not really warming up – it’s still around the mid 20s in terms of temperature- but the humidity is something else with 90-100% humidity most days. At least there’s often a breeze so it doesn’t feel so bad outside or inside.

Now after my 6 day work week it’s definitely time for bed! Only 6 more working days and I’ll be on school holidays. I have finished writing all my revision sheets and exams. On Monday I’ll photocopy the exams and Tuesday I’ll start writing the tests on the summer achievement homework that the students will take in week 1 of term 2. The work never ends!

I want to ride my bicycle

9 07 2009

I rode my 3 speed mama chari bicycle to school today for the first time. It took 35-40 minutes to struggle up the hill into the rice-paddy mountains to school and only 20 minutes to cruise down the hill (trying to avoid the trucks and buses).

Although it was fairly cool in the morning, the weather was still about 100% humidity (according to the weather website) and so when I arrived at school I was drenched in sweat. Fortunately I had a towel and a change of clothes but I wandered around with a pink face for the next lesson.

Here’s the view of the dam behind the school.

The view of the dam and surrounding greenery behind the school.

The view of the dam and surrounding greenery behind the school.

I don’t know how many more times I really want to ride up that hill, but it is fantastic exercise.

I’ve handed in my summer holiday homework, am half-way through the newsletter and have written half of the tests for the end of term exams. Most of my classes are now doing revision as their exams start next Wednesday. I feel on-track, even if the students haven’t figured out that it’s time to start studying.