Monday, August 25, 2008

chokai from haraikawa

This weekend I passed on the biggest fireworks festival in japan (and possibly the world?) that I went to last year to hike Chokai once again. It has suddenly turned to fall here so the weather was nice and cool for the hike, though rainy on the descent. I went with Doug, Megumi, a girl Edel met at the local gym who's been a "special advisor" on our rowing team, and Kato, Doug's friend from karate. I had wanted to do more hiking this summer, but weekends filled up fast and have so far managed just this one. It was from a different approach than I've taken the last 2 times I did chokai, on a shorter and much steeper trail. Megumi and I took a leisurely pace, as is my style, the view from this side of the top was pretty cool, as you could see the other 2 peaks clearly, the one I ascended before very clearly looking like a giant pile of boulders, with hikers hanging on for dear life to the summit boulders. The peak I arrived at this time seemed much less perilous, and we also had a cool view over the cloud cover.

Monday, August 18, 2008


this is some sort of entertainment spot in Honjo.

this is an evening at nishime beach with the jellyfish.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

nobody said it was easy...

Well after a whirlwind trip to Osaka I came back to the departure of Jeff. He left first thing this morning on the train, so it's been quite a hard day. I don't think Edel's leaving hit me at all till now either (she's only in China! she could come back at any time! is what I think I keep telling myself), and I'm now really feeling the effects of having lost probably my 2 closest friends here in Honjo. It is amazing how much this shared experience brings people together, people you never would have met otherwise and you become so close so fast with. I now know how Amelie must have felt last year, dealing with split emotions of saying goodbye to friends while trying to be friendly-genki to us new folk, changing the relationships you're investing in so abruptly, and she was doing it ten-fold! Anyway, I'll miss Edel and Jeff, but I wish them the best of luck in their new lives; I know I'll see them again someday soon enough.

And thanks to Coldplay for the song that made the title of this post, which has really set the mood of the day, and probably at least a few more days to come. As a carrot-treat which has been keeping me somewhat upbeat, I got a new car yesterday!

And oh yeah, summersonic. My first music festival. In truth, I don't think I'll ever go to one ever again. Well, maybe. It was excellent for hearing and getting hooked on new music, possibly a refreshing change from the same 10 or so bands that I've been listening to for years. It was a scorching hot day, and I was pretty terrified of getting heatstroke and passing out unnoticed somewhere, so I concentrated on staying hydrated and in the shade. But the festival did give me a newfound respect for Japanese pop artists, and Alicia Keys, who was probably the best performance I saw all day, although she spoke continuously throughout her set in English, which did not impress the crowd too much. In general Japanese concerts seem to be a little less fun than what I'm used to, no singing along and basically no dancing. A favorite band from New York was there and they tried to do a little repeat after me action on a song, which failed miserably. I also stopped by Fatboy Slim - had no idea what a weird guy he was. Of what I saw, he spent most of his time sitting on the edge of the stage dangling his legs and leering at the audience, or alternatively lying flat on his back motionless on the stage. Coldplay was a real crowd pleaser, Chris Martin making practiced comments in Japanese at almost every break. At one point they broke away from the main stage to a smaller side stage closer to where I was, very exciting indeed. Here are some low-quality pics I illegally snapped with my phone (they didn't allow cameras).

coldplay, really close to me

The following day I explored Osaka and met up with a seriously old friend I hadn't seen since junior high school, Ryo. We were in school together in Germany, pretty random. Although we easily recognized eachother from afar, and both said we didn't think the other had changed too much (except of course Ryo is now a fluent English speaker). He brought us to an excellent restaurant to sample the famed local culinary attractions, and we had all the yaki - takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and yakisoba. Delicious, and indeed better than in Akita. Afterwards we visited the Osaka Castle Park which was lovely but unfortunately our energy was already zapped for the day and we had a long trip back to Honjo ahead of us. I'll be seeing Osaka again in September; I'm now eagerly planning out Gina, Marge and Noura's visit. :))))

ryo and me

yaki, yaki, yaki!


a famous giant crab

an Osaka Castle Park band with lots of fans

Ryo and my elusive traveling partner, Jon. Check out Ryo's Manhattan Portage bag - he knows what's up.

This guy is some famous character on a billboard. Of course his head is in omiyage lollipop form!

Friday, August 8, 2008

kanto take two

Aren't most things better the second time around? Well, this year kanto was no exception. Perfect weather, and this time including a pre-show of traditional dance (Amelie was one of the dancers but unfortunately her group did not make it past where Doug and I were sitting). New pics and now, video! I LOVE the song played during the festival, on taiko drums and wooden flutes.

Heading to Osaka tonight for summersonic!

Monday, August 4, 2008

weekend of jerseyites and yukatas

Well, the Honjo High School baseball team just lost their final game - they had made it to national-level competition and we watched the entire game in the teachers' room as the highlight of today's day of "work", sad frowns forming on everyone's face watching the evil Naruto High School's players with smug grins on the screen. It was also especially sad for me knowing that Edel was there at the game (which took place down near Osaka at Koshien stadium, where the Hanshin Tigers play) and will be leaving the country on Wednesday! I've enjoyed the baseball season here, with all the fanfare and cheering, watching my own school's team and later Doug's school's (who fared better than mine in the regional competitions), and now following Honjo HS's. Anyway, I've had a fairly productive day, mostly working on a new english bulletin board for the school - the subject of which being Tintin, after a highly productive weekend.

On Friday was a local Honjo dance festival, the Shoubu (iris) Carnival. This was my first event I was experiencing for the 2nd time around - it was fun to show our new kohai in town, Jez, a night of the usual festival debauchery, inevitably followed by karaoke at Castaway's. It was also my first night to wear my new yukata!

Amelie, her visiting friend Julie, and me!

A weirdly lit shot of me and Amelie with some of my supercute higashi chu girls

Amelie, me and Satomi, from our rowing team! Satomi was an official dancer at the festival - check out her iris yukata!

Jez's first night at Castaway's!

On Saturday I welcomed some visitors from New Jersey (one was a former JET I had met at the NYC orientations who had lived near Hiroshima). I took them, along with Jez, to the "best of" Yurihonjo, inc. the big buddha, akata waterfall, the tiny statues up the mountainside, and of course, the beach, with some special blueberry ice cream thrown in for good measure. That night Honjo held fireworks at the river, for which I yukata-ed up again. It was cute to see some of my students yukata-ed as well!

Jez fording the stream

The gorgeous akata-no-taki

Dan, Chris, and Jez

Chris gonging at the mountain

The tiny statues up the mountain, used to pray for good luck for children and families

view from the top!

at the beach...

honjo hanabi!

Sunday was once again Kanto time! Despite the drizzle I thoroughly enjoyed watching the men perilously balance the giant lattices of lanterns on their hips, foreheads, etc, while twirling umbrellas, fans, etc. for our entertainment. We were lucky to have some young kanto-balancer apprentices by us at the end of the night's festivities. They were so cute I could totally forgive them for dropping their mini-lantern lattice on my shoulder (thank god our umbrellas were protecting our heads!). Chris filled me on the symbolic meaning of kanto - the lattices represent the rice, with the lanterns as seed pods. They are hoping for hefty harvests with the top heavy stalks. An epic weekend indeed.

Jez making friends with the apprentices