Japan Time

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"working 1 to 10, what a way to make a living..."

Well, January has been flying by with not much to post about. I've been working like crazy as usual and relaxing on the weekends with friends or solo.
A student gave me an old film camera he wasn't using anymore (how awesome of him was that?), so tomorrow I'm hoping to get a battery for it and see if I can remember how to use non-digital equipment.
And, of course, there's purikura to brighten up the day. I'm on a mission to fill up a little photo album with purikura to eventually take back to the States, so I've been dragging along anyone willing (mostly Aya, she's such a trooper) to participate in some purikura goodness:

Seriously. I'm going to buy a purikura machine and somehow take it back to America with me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A great gift!

One of the great things about my co-workers is that they all know about my love of Mameshiba, so throughout the day I often get little Mameshibas drawn on notes from co-workers or the occasional Mameshiba gift that they saw at the store.
Today I came to work and found five Mameshibas on my desk from my manager:

She saw them at 7-11 and picked them up for me. Not only are they cute, but snacks, too. Peanuts, chocolate, some kind of dried bean, spicy dried beans, and candy coated peanuts. Whoo hoo!

Monday, January 18, 2010

What I'm watching these days...

Being an American in Japan, of course I miss my favorite TV shows back home. Fortunately, there is Surf the Channel, which is the best friend of every person living outside of their home country and away from their weekly dose of TV drama.
But recently I remembered one of my favorite series of all time, VH1's "I Love the ______", which I used to watch with Dave back in the day. Famous comedians, actors, singers, etc., look at old fads from the '70s, '80s and '90s and make fun of them. Hilarious.
I found the episodes of "I Love the 90s" and "I Love the 80s" online and have been watching them non-stop.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Capsule hotels in Japan - now more than just a temporary stay.

An interesting article about the impact of the bad economy in Japan:

Japan's capsule hotels now coffin-sized homes

I've never stayed in a capsule hotel in Tokyo (frankly, I think it would be scary to be sleeping in such a small space), but many Americans have heard about them and are intrigued by them. It's sad that the hotels once built because of Japan's booming economy are now housing people who can't afford to stay anywhere else.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Kyoto Adventure: Day 4

I checked out of my hotel at 10 am and went to Kyoto station to put my luggage in a locker before heading out to Arashiyama. Arashiyama was last on my list of places to visit in Kyoto - I especially wanted to see the bamboo groves there.
I took the bus to Arashiyama - it's about 40 minutes from Kyoto station. It's hard to believe that Arashiyama is part of Kyoto. Downtown Kyoto and all the tourist traps are so crowded and busy, but Arashiyama is open and scenic. It was so nice to be away from gajillions of people. It was a beautiful day, too.
I read about Arashiyama's bamboo groves in my guidebook and and knew I had to check them out. They're basically a main path through thousands of tall beautiful bamboo trees. It was really gorgeous - the sound of the wind rustling the leaves was really soothing.

After walking through the groves, I had lunch at a cute little restaurant and then went for a walk down along the river.

I had a lot of time to kill and I really enjoyed the bamboo groves, so I headed back there to get a few more photos.

After Arashiyama, I went back to Kyoto station, had dinner and coffee, then took the bus back to Shizuoka.
And that's that. My four day trip to Kyoto is over and I'm back in Fujieda. I had a busy four days and I'm exhausted, but really happy I went. I visited so many places that I've been wanting to see and took a lot of photos. I was a little nervous to go by myself, but everything was fine, and I even used a little Japanese here and there!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Kyoto Adventure: Day 3

This morning I woke up around 8 am, had breakfast, lounged around my hotel room for a while, then headed out to see what I could see.
I took the bus to Heian Shrine and spent some time taking photos and observing Hatsumode.

People lining up to pray.

Tying bad fortunes and trying to forget them.

After Heian Shrine, I took the bus to Ginkaku-ji and literally had to run up the hill because they were closing in 20 minutes. When I came to Japan in college, we visited Kinkaku-ji, which is kind of like Ginkaku-ji's older brother. Kinkaku-ji is plated in gold and apparently, Ginkaku-ji was supposed to be plated in silver, but the plans were never finished. So now it's just brown. Really brown. It's a quaint, quiet little temple, but personally, I prefer the pizazz of Kinkaku-ji.

Not Ginkaku-ji. Just a garden and building before it.

Ginkaku-ji. Brown and also under construction.
As I was leaving, I found a little shrine with a bunch of lamps.

More bad fortunes.
I came back to the hotel for a while to warm up and eat dinner, then headed off to Gion and Pontocho in hopes of spotting a geiko (Kyoto dialect for "geisha") or maiko (apprentice geiko). I read in my borrowed guidebook that the most likely place to see them is Pontocho, so I went there first.

Pontocho lantern with New Year decoration in the background.

Not geiko or maiko - just girls in kimono for Hatsumode.

I saw a lot of foreigners and a few drunk people in Pontocho, but no geiko or meiko. So I walked back to Hanami-koji and walked around for a bit. After a while, I happened to look down a crossing street and lo and behold - I spotted a geiko (or maiko, I'm not quite sure which). I was a little nervous to use my Japanese and ask for a picture, but I asked anyway, and she graciously posed for one shot.

So, I read that geiko have white collars and maiko have red, so I think she might be a geiko, but I'm not sure. Geiko are rarer to see than maiko. Either way, I was really excited to finally have the opportunity to photograph one of these mysterious women.