Tuesday, December 12, 2006

them's a lot of shoes

A few weeks back, I opened my apartment to 15 ravenous ALTs, a nihonjin with a cold, a CIR, a Simpson, and a dead bird. Hilarity, and a very manky carpet ensued.

the beginning of the feast

my apartment looks deceivingly large without the doors up

My first solo apple pie... Please enjoy gazing at my supremely unorganized spice rack to the right! Oh, and my ralph shirt ironically says, "drop it like it's hot!"

Yuta's got my back with the ice cream, inari llama agrees.

One down... the tryptophan begins its lethal assault.

Second victim, he's only awake to thank us for his sharpee bindi.

Thanks for coming, everyone! We are on again next year, but the turkey isn't invited! Special shout-out to Timmy the party animal for helping procure genocidal ice cream, and Bunni for assisting in the mass hysteria that was the pre-eating hour or so. Oh, and for Adam, for being a good sport and canvas about/for my marker antics. Cheers!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Nara Yoshitomo

Saturday, some brave adventurers and myself went to Kanazawa for some quality arting. We arrived at the museum right after they opened and had a good wander. I was surprised to see that the artist in residence, Yoshitomo Nara, was anything but. They had two rooms in the main museum devoted to him, and a side building used as his personal studio with a tiny attached cafe, you could enjoy coffee or tea in. We wandered around the rooms, and I was impressed with the typical Nara-fare. It was good. Heavy on the puppies, but good.

The sad realization came when we found the studio lacking in the actual artist. He was nowhere to be found. I kept my eyes peeled in the museum, thinking, perhaps he was enjoying his fame and relative visual anonymity, but to no avail. Little children were scheduled to be wandering around the museum on "Pup Patrol" starting at 2pm, so we went away to see Kenrokuen and have lunch.

Upon returning, we spotted two kiddies dressed as pups. They were both looking rather worse for wear, and the little boy was about ready to faint in the thick fabric puppy-suit. I circled the museum a few times, which is something in and of itself, because the place is set up like a labyrinth, but no more puppies.

I went back to the studio later, to find a note penned by Nara-san. It said that he would not be in the studio from the 8th-23rd of November. Hmmm!? Where was this note this morning? Did the museum staff forget to put it up? Why would they have bothered taking it down in the first place. Damn, I am bitter.

I had to amuse myself by watching a hopelessly unaware man thwapping one of the stuffed dog sculptures viciously in the nose, and seeing the docent freaking out but in typical "meek young woman" fashion, not say anything. I continued to observe as he approached the wall where the costumes were hanging. I knew what was coming, but the docent bit her lip and tried to will away the inevitable. The man proceeded to man-handle the costumes quite roughly, and another docent, hiding slyly in the corner, started bellowing at him.

In another room, there was an intriguing piece displayed on floor. It ran the length of the gallery, and was made of wax, frosted glass, and a graphite spiral drawing at one end. Pretty cool, very fragile. Did I mention the place was crawling with kids? There was a presentation given to primary school kids, letting out when we first arrived. They were proudly adorned with nametags, school uniforms, and their moms (some of whom looked as if they had no concept of museum etiquette). So, back to the fragile sculpture. The room it was in had 3 large sculptures, and 2 docents. The first docent was chillin on the left side of the room guarding two tall pillar-like oceanic/marble formations. The other was in charge of the glassy/wax thingy. She was in a perpetual state of nervous anger. Her hands were stuck somewhere between going back down to her side's and shooing children away. The look on her face was priceless. I would not have traded her places in a million years!

Here are a few of the rugrats playing on the sculptures outside of the museum.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

after the storm

Its been a hellacious past few days here in Takaoka. The weather has been insane and spiteful. The moment you walk outside, the downpour begins. You are teased out again by the sunlight piercing your curtains, just to see the dark clouds looming in the north, ready to descend. But this sunset makes it all worthwhile.

In other news, I had to buy a new electronic dictionary last month. Should have gotten the Canon wordtank in the first place. The thing is a frigin dream. So, I had to unload my other jisho I bought last year for discount prices. I still spent a decent chunk of change on it, but didn't feel right charging anyone for it, cause it was just sitting around my apt. gathering dust. So, one of my eikaiwa students has a son who is studying English, and needed a dictionary. I brought it in, and gave it to her. She was in shock, and didn't want to accept it, but I made her. This evening, she picked me up for class, and surprised me with a gift from Kyoto (where she went last weekend). Its a beautiful green silk embroidered shawl, and a picture frame. Completely unexpected, and really sweet! Thanx Shoko!

Monday, November 06, 2006

kawaisou, tori

My 1-3 class had an interesting experience today. I was in the middle of a game of 20 questions, trying to help my JTE/friend, Yuta, discover that he was supposed to be Doraemon (he had a picture taped on his back). Somewhere around question 6, my eyes were drawn to the window, as per usual. I was looking at the sky, when I see a brown dart, and hear a "THWACK!"

I ran over, unlatched the window, and had to lean out dangerously to see if I could find the bird. It turns out that the poor thing died instantly. I wanted to go down to check if it was alive, but hitting a window at full speed, then falling 3 stories into a gutter full of leaves did him in. I was really sad, and the kids were all shocked. I had one of my girl's leaning out the window next to me, and Yuta on my right. I went home a little bit ago to pick up my laptop for English club, and it started raining. When I returned, I went to go find the bird (looked like a chickadee). He definitely broke his neck, because his eyes were still open. At least he didn't suffer.

Man... that was the saddest game of 20 questions I have ever played.

Friday, October 06, 2006


A little street art for you.

I got to sweep that up in the morning, fun!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Land-based animal!

This weekend we saw this fellow on the side of the road. He is a kamoshika, or Japanese antelope. I have seen a few of these beasties before, when we were snowboarding in Nagano... but that was a bad day. We were SO close to this little dude. It was pretty exciting. Yes, I am a loser who is really excited about a deer-looking goat creature.

Monday, September 25, 2006

drowning in neutral

Dreams freak me out.

I was on a beach, in a very desolate area, almost everything is of a neutral tone. The sand looks grey, the water a pale foamy nondescript color. I enter the water wearing scuba gear, and am pulled out from the shore. We are off the shore of an island, and I have trouble submerging. The water is a bit choppy, and I try to go under with my snorkel, but end up coughing and choking a bit on the sea water. It tastes thicker in my mouth, almost a bloodlike viscosity. I spit it out, and remember to clear it with my regulator, as I switch to breath through it. I have about 3 breaths of air before I am sucking at nothing. I remember how cold the water was, and the feel of the rubber against my lips. I keep trying to clear my mask, and I can't see anything. I open the bottom to let the cold water in, hoping that will de-fog it, but to no avail. I realize that my tank had been prepped, and then the air valve had been closed again. I noticed that all the people around me (maybe 4) had their heads in the water, and seemed to be heading in the same direction. I blindly followed, but was concerned, because I didn't think we were heading the right way and I couldn't breathe. I finally caught up to a girl, her hair was short and blonde, and her ear was half-covered with water. I began calling to her, to help open my valve. I thought about doing it myself, but would have had to take the vest off. Plus, I was already having difficulty keeping bouyant, with no air in my vest and fighting the current that was pulling us further out. I watched her ear the entire time I called to her, mesmerized and terrified by the water, which was keeping me from breathing, as it covered her ear with each wave. She didn't hear me until the third call for help, and when the valve opened, I immediately lifted a bit out of the water as my vest filled. I had this calm over me throughout the whole experience. I was really scared, but its like my body refused to convey it. I was moving mechanically, felt out of myself.

The dive was over, I had spent all my time trying to breathe/etc. Everyone still seemed to be heading the wrong way, though. I began to panic, and finally got oriented. I walked out of the water with some difficulty, and dropped my gear on the shore. There was still no color anywhere. I felt drained. I felt like the landscape around me had lost all its life, and felt like the air I so desperately needed in the water was taken away from me again. On dry land, I couldn't breathe. No sun, no color, no life, no air. I felt the sand, I could still feel, but it just felt empty running through my fingers.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Deviancy Tour 2006

The Bunny and I graced the town of Osaka with our presence last weekend. I was in need of a retrospective weekend, and she was in need of a distraction. We descended upon the Amerikamura area after a 6 hour local train adventure. I finally used up those damned tickets.

My first tattoo, which the piercer did a fabulous impression of. The original.

Me and Magoshi.

Bunny also got a lovely haiku upon her left arm. It is quite striking, and was the talk of the train on the way back to Toyama. Alas, I have not a picture.

Delicious Thai food was consumed, then the capsule hotel! HERRO!


How many dog kennels come with their own TV!?!

So, after all that madness... we went to get pierced! I wasn't planning on it, but I couldn't resist the temptation. As a bonus, I got to practice my Nihongo with the really cool appointment dude at the studio, Masami. He was telling me how he implanted a ring underneath the epidermus on the top of his hand, all by himself. Dude. That is pretty badass. COMPLETELY disturbing, but the idea that he did it all himself is impressive as hell. Oh yeah, so I got another piercing of my conch (that's my ear, perverts), above the previous one. All went smoothly, and we actually got the man to accept our tips, which is a huge accomplishment in Japan!

I am tired, so will stop there. It was a great weekend. Hope to get back to Osaka soon, its great to get out of inaka for a while sometimes.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

the taco hats cometh

Having lived in Toyama-ken for a year now, I figured it was time to see the famous Owara matsuri. It takes place for 3 days in Yatsuo-shi, about 20 minutes outside of the prefectural capital by train (in case you wanted to know). The Owara festival is based around the Owara dance, or dance of the harvest.

Bunni and I braved the throngs of Nihonjin tourists and vicious obaachans to witness the taco-hatted splendor. There were lines upon lines to get a ticket to get in a line to take the train to Yatsuo, then follow a massive crowd down a tunnel-like street to several spots where you would witness the dancing. Along the way, we were entertained by adorable children in yukata, and a man with a teddy bear riding on his head.

There was also a plethora of festival food. The takoyaki vendors were out in droves. They also had kakigori (with optional condensed milk on top), which I partook of. It was not as good as the one J and I had in Osaka, though. I guess I will just have to go back to Osaka for true icy goodness.

We sat outside of a temple for 40mins or so, waiting for a dance performance, and surrounded by a crowd with the average age of 60. It was worth the wait.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Today is apparently the caterpillar *fuzzy-type exodus. I went to the bank to send an overdue furikomi (nice to know I am on top of things) for my upcoming winter vacation, and the madness began. I was about 2 blocks south of my humble abode when I noticed the little fuzzy bastard on my thumb. I flicked it off, and continued on my way. No harm done. After noticing the main bank was closed, I turned tail and headed back home. I put my hand on my bike, and felt a squish. I looked at my hand, it was green and moist. I looked at the handlebar, and half a kemushi remained in fuzzy death spasms. I felt simultaneously saddened and disgusted. Then my attention was drawn to the front of my bicycle where another little beast was wiggling its tufted bum at me in mockery. I waited for him to get into position... FLICK! Oh... bad shot, straight into the bicycle wheel of no return.

One kemushi, ok, I can understand. Hell, I have been attacked by two slugs before after a battle of wills between me and the evil bicycle ojisan of Takaoka eki. But, never have 3 creatures of the same species come at me at once. To make matters worse, last night, whilst making my green pepper hummus, I sliced into one to find a horrible horrible surprise. A kemushi had boored its way into the pepper and set-up shop. There were more eggs than seeds in there! And the cherry on the cake was the carcass of the mommy just chillin in there, awaiting consumption by its own young. EEEW.

Back to the onslaught. Upon returning to my apartment, I noticed what was happening. It is easy to miss at first glance, but if you look carefully, you will see hundreds of fuzzy creatures inching their way up the wall, across the ground, and over anything in their path. This included about 4 of the bikes parked there, 2 of mine. I am sure some of you are thinking, "awww! how cute!" But you would be wrong. It was just creepy.

Last night was a party in the fountain park. It was good times until the neighborhood party-pooper and the police came to shut us down. Boo hiss! Here are some of the revelers. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A new rating scale

We decided today that the awesomeness of a house/apt will from henceforth be judged by the number of didgeridoos present. Today's total was 5, 4 of which were handmade. where you can get your very own!!

My Tokyo eikaiwa folks invited me to a flowing somen party. A what? A flowing somen party is basically built around the idea of creating the most nonsensical way to serve food to your guests.

It involves constructing a 10-12 food long slide out of halved bamboo stalks, and putting a hose at the top. You have a catch-all at the end of the slide (the one today was a bucket with two river fish swimming around in it, topped with oven cooling racks), and a somen master at the top. People line up with chopsticks in hand to catch the somen as it flows down the chute in the cold water. You then dip the captured somen into your sauce bowl and slurp away. There is a lot of missed noodles, laughter, photos, and of course LOUD slurpy noises.

On top of the somen, there was smoked river fish, smoked eggs, smoked cheese, sesame balls, edamame, potatoes, mountain vegetables, cactus sashimi, chocolate cake, pumpkin cake, and mass quantities of beer and tea. It was a feast, and the company was better than I could have ever hoped for.

The host family, the Okadas, live in Tonami, in an old-fashioned Japanese farmhouse. The father is a craftsman/artist who has two Harley Davidsons, and makes things out of wood above his garage in his spare time. The wife is a sweet beer drinking woman, who is incredibly humble about her cooking. Their son made his appearance after lunch... Dreadlocks, Rasta t-shirt, and didgeridoo in hand. We sat in the living room playing his massive purple and green didge, and two of his father's handmade wooden ones for about an hour or so. He busted out the bongo and a mouth-harp as well, while I jammed on guitar for a bit. Their daughter has recently passed away, but they display her psychadelic paintings all over the house, and proudly show the pictures of her traveling in India.

Put all this together with wacky obaachans who continuously hug and giggle and you have a nearly perfect day. I was sent home with a tissue holder (fabric pocket to hold tissues) that one of the obaachans made for me out of gorgeous brown kimono silk, and a bungload of smoked eggs and pumpkin cake! Omiyage! They have these parties once a month or so, and I was invited to next month's, where one of my new grandmas is going to perform tea ceremony, and we will probably help harvest some rice.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Now I know how Yuki feels

For those of you caught unaware, Yuki is the name of my cat. I say "my" loosely, as I have not seen this particular kitten in over a year now. He is residing in the great city of Chicago, and for that I am excessively jealous this week. You see, Yuki is a special needs cat. At least that is what the nurse at the kitty shelter told me. Turns out my furry black friend is an amputee. I won't tell the sad saga that is his early life, be happy to know that he is probably the luckiest cat in the western hemisphere at this moment.

I allude to the cat because Yuk used to have attacks of phantom limb. He would often sit on the floor, hike up his stump and shake it vigorously, in an attempt to scratch his ear. It nearly made me cry the first time I saw, and I would dive across the room to take the place of his foot and scritch it for him. Many people found it amusing, but to me it was devastating. The only way I could think to stop it would be to give him a peg leg, or perhaps a whisk leg. I didn't want a traumatized AND embarassed cat, so I decided against prosthetics.

The past few days I have had a similar feeling. My best friend left Japan several days ago and I feel rather like I lost a limb myself. I keep reaching for my keitai to tell him about something hilarious that happened, knowing he would appreciate it. Last night was the worst, though. I stood up in bed, searched around the room for him, even looked on the balcony for him, and as I opened my sliding doors to search the kitchen and bathroom, it hit me. He is not here. I know I was half asleep, but I was really confused and sad.

It doesn't help that I have very vivid dreams. Sometimes I wake up and don't know where I am, or crying about something I can't remember. The phantom will fade with time, I suppose. But there is something almost comforting and justifying in feeling it.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Kyoto and Nara

J had a Kyoto enkai on Friday night, so I headed into Kyoto on the early train Saturday morning. I wandered around most of the morning, just temple/shrine hopping. I got a bus to Kiyomizu-dera (clear water temple), and spent a few hours tasting the holy water, getting my shuin (calligraphy and stamps from individual temples and shrines), and being amused by all the school kids who were on class trips.

Next up was Sanjusangen-do (33 bays temple). It houses 1001 images of Kannon. 500 on each side, with a gorgeous and massive Kannon in the centre. Sorry, would have liked to use my own photo there, but it was prohibited. This temple was also famous for holding an archery event every year, where and archer would shoot for 24 hours to attempt to break the "most arrow to hit the target" record. Its currently held by a 19 year old (at the time he shot) who hit the target 8000 times. Damn!

In the afternoon, we went to the Fushima-Inari Taisha, with the famed vermillion torii. It was huge, and the torii path led over 4km up the mountain. I think I favor the inari shrines over just about anything else. I'm not sure if its the idea of the fox, or the really bright unabashed colors they use, maybe both.

That night we went out with an old student of Josh's and her father (Kocho-sensei at Kamiichi). We had dinner, and then sang karaoke for bout 2 hours. It was great, we were tipsy... there was dancing, singing in English and Japanese (yeah, I sang 2 songs ALONE in Nihongo, which was fun as hell, but absolutely terrifying!).

I haven't even started on Nara yet.

Josh and the antlered school boys in Nara.

I swear I didn't wear this shirt on purpose! The deer were chasing everyone around for food, one tried to smell me, but ended up blowing in my face. Two school kids were trying to show off by harassing a few deer and accidentally stepped in a pile of shika-unko (deer shit), so we laughed as they made a big scene about wiping it off their shoes.

Nara - Todai-ji!

As a true art nerd, I have been yearning to go to Nara all year. Todai-ji was at the top of my "things to do" list. Not only the Buddha, but the architecture, the size, the history... oh man, I totally dorked out. I even got to crawl through the nostril hole of enlightenment! There is a pillar located on the right side, kinda behind the Daibutsu, and at the base of it is a hole that is the same size as the nostril on the actual statue. After waiting for a few adorable children and one very determined man to shimmy through, I took a few moments to ponder my hip width and dove in. J was on the other end taking pictures but he said I shot through so fast that he couldn't get a good shot, and that I really didn't look like I was enjoying myself. In actuality, it was awesome, I was just really focused. Watching him get through was almost better, though!

After the nostril episode, I purchased another nokyocho (blank book that you collect stamps and calligraphy (shuin) from Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples throughout Japan), because I had finished mine at Kagusa Shrine earlier that day. I think of the first nokyocho as my 1st year in Japan, and felt it was appropriate to start my 2nd with the temple I had been most looking forward to all year. J then surprised me and bought us a roof tile. It turns out, for a donation, you can write in calligraphy, your name and whatever you want to personalize a roof tile that will be put on Todai-ji! So, we have our own little part of my favorite temple now.

We went hunting for yukata to no avail and headed back into Kyoto to catch the late train home. I am still exhausted, but it was an amazing weekend. Please enjoy the new hats we will be sporting this upcoming snowboarding season! Thank you deer-obsessed Nara!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Saipan, here we come!

For the past few weeks, I have been attempting to plan a trip to visit the infamous Emma and Angelo in Saipan. I say trying because the Japanese airlines are fighting me every step of the way.

All that aside, I am really excited to see my bestie and my replacement boyfriend. Its only been a few months, but I miss your attendance at my yoga classes, our random coffee and beer guzzling, and scrabble is never the same without you! J and Keddie will be joining me, and Adam at a later date. Keddles and I will will be diving everywhere we can, while J gets his certification and then joins the madness.

Here is a new little segment I would like to call

Mindless Drivel (currently...)

reading: the wind-up bird chronicle

on repeat: amelie soundtrack

playing: Some kanji learning game that Bunny gave me slime forest

craving: Santoshi curry (droooool)

happening in the office: office dude is cleaning the ceiling vents again!

weather: surprisingly nice for Toyama, kinda sunny (through the clouds)

downloading: samurai champloo

watching: mahou sensei negima

Monday, June 26, 2006


We went to Himi on Saturday for a sushi and beach adventure. I was blessed with a fudgesicle (thank you Dave!) and delicious sushi. Some of the best I have had in Japan yet. There were also fish with hats that talked, a kissing tako, and a bridge show reminiscent of "its a small world" (shiver).

I nearly forgot, Dave and I had a fountain photo shoot as well!


The beach was an something else. I have only been to the Shimao beach once last year, and it seemed a lot cleaner. This beach looked as if red tide had struck, but instead of rotting fishy carcasses, there was GOMI. Enough to make a tree-hugger wretch. It made me very sad, and I think that I will have to organize a beach cleanup. The most confusing part, though, was that there appears to have already been a beach cleanup! There were piles of trash formed upshore every 200 yards or so. It looked as if they were waiting to be burnt. Gomi still covered the beach, it didn't make any logical sense. We wondered if disgruntled pirates were throwing their gomi overboard, or perhaps a landfill accidentally leaked into the river system and shot out into the Sea of Japan. There has to be some reasonable explanation. And NO it wasn't Korean trash, as another great myth of Toyama leads us to believe.

The waves were fun, as always. I miss waves. Yeah, you heard me... I miss Florida. Not enough to come home for at least another 6 months, but I miss it. Warm weather, tropical plants, the beach within 3 blocks of my apartment, papayas, sigh... Enough of that though.

The saddest part of the day wasn't the trash. It was the monkeys. If you are not too quick on the draw, or perhaps have only read this blog once or twice, you may not be aware of the fact that I am obsessed with monkeys. Monkeys are downright adorable. They are most adorable when living in their happy, open, free, entirely liberated, natural monkey habitat. So, when you see monkeys trapped in a cage, behind fencing, standing on urine-stained concrete, and looking forlornly at you from within their dreary empty hell... you cry. I love Japan, but this shit is too much. I have seen some horrible things in my time, but there was NOTHING for these poor animals. The cage was empty. No toys, no fake foliage, no ropes, no nothing. They had each other, and their miserable little faces. The Takaoka zoo is along the same lines, and I am currently boycotting it. They at least have something to entertain their trapped animals, though.

Monday, June 19, 2006

It's finally over!

I say that with a tear in my eye. The past 4 months have been great, and stressful, and fun, and a pain in the keester, all rolled up into one.

A big thank you to darling Chamise for lending me her wings, and Casey for the excessively loud "SUGOI!" after my cartwheeling in the second performance. It nearly made me fall offstage.

One of my favorite aspects of the day was Rachel (and Jacqui helped too!) doing my hair up ala Big Time Sensuality Bjork.

witness the striking resemblance!

I took them out with the assistance of Timmy's teeth and Jacqui in Saturday night, and still have some gnarly dreads because of them. I am a little scared to wash them out, and am kinda happy with them as they are. I don't want to be a false Rastafarian, though. So... I am torn as to what I should do.

This was them after the show... they are a bit mankier now.