Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Saturday, May 07, 2005
The things that I notice about home:
1. Going to the bank is so much easier.
2. The checkers at the grocery store are not very friendly.
3. Everyone wants to hear about Japan.
4. All the clothes are so big (which makes it difficult to find a new pair of jeans).
5. I feel so much smaller.
6. I can eat real cheese again.
7. The air smells different.
8. No one looks at me like I am an extra terrestrial.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Osaka in the morning
Monday, May 02, 2005
the last few days
My last Sunday in Japan, I went festival hopping in Kagawa Prefecture getting a sense of the local culture before departing for good. A neighborhood in Takase town held their annual furusato (home-ground) tea festival to celebrate the cutting of the first new leaves. The air was dripping and humid which highlighted the green of the terraced tea fields. Festival goers could pick their own tea, learn how to cure it for use, and then take home their harvest. There was also a small bamboo forest in which people were digging takenoko (bamboo shoots) which look like small larval creatures covered in soft fur when dug from the ground but taste wonderful in a variety of dishes. After drinking a few paper cups full of green tea that the local elementary school students offered to us, we went to try on the kasuri, a special cotton kimono worn in old times while working in the tea fields. The fabric is traditionally navy blue with a white square pattern and worn over a bright red under-skirt with a matching red obi. When we had donned the costumes, we headed out to the tea ceremony where we drank matcha and a traditional Japanese sweet.
After leaving the tea festival, we headed over to a strawberry festival where we sampled berries from a private greenhouse and bought unusual flavors of ice cream in a souvenir shop. I sampled takenoko flavor, but regretted not having the stomach to sample honey, udon, and sesame flavored ice cream as well.
At the end of the day, I was tired, and not prepared to pack for my journey home. Packing is such a lonely activity. It is difficult to do when saying goodbye to friends and experiencing a last glimpse of Japan seems so much more important. Today, in the sprit of procrastination, I went zorbing in the verdant hills of Tokushima prefecture. Somehow, a company in rural Japan thought that importing this unusual tourist/extreme sport style activity from New Zealand was a good idea. Fortunately rolling down a hill inside a rubber ball lubricated with warm soapy water is considerably cheaper in Japan than in the extreme sport Mecca of Queenstown, New Zealand. The activity itself only lasted about 30 seconds but provided a brief glimpse into life in the womb. On the way home, we managed to capture photographs of a robotic highway worker cautioning traffic.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
I love jesus
The young pseudo-hipsters of Japan linger around Kochi station waiting for a ride to somewhere. This yought buddhist man loves Jesus. His girlfriend is trying to maintain her complexion and makes sure to wear a very warm fuzzy black hat on this very hot day.
Friday, April 29, 2005
my holiday has no soundtrack
This was quite an extensite post that I lost while trying to place pictures on it and was unable to recover it. It may re-appear, but it may not.
Monday, April 25, 2005
The Nature of Japan
Japan is a country with plentiful suggestion of a cultural past intimately connected to nature. Despite its industrial facade, and the mainly urban-centered lives that Japanese people live, the culture has a certain connection to nature that directly hints at this past. Many people are named after forests and rivers, trees and snow. Towns are named for prominent natural landmarks, or the ecosystems in which they are set, though it is now often difficult to point out the features for which the cities are named. Japanese people still have the tradition of viewing spring blossoms and the turning of autumn leaves. It is a national past-time. Though Americans are proud of their nature in the form of national parks, and important mountains, rivers, or pieces of nature with a more personal importance, American nature doesn't inspire the same sort of cultural nationalism that I witness in Japan. Despite these strong Japanese ties to the natural world, I feel as if I miss 'nature' on a daily basis. I walk along the beach that is ironically strewn with trash, and sometimes I experience that same feeling of beautiful solitude that I experience when walking along a beach at home. I listen for the insects in the road-site bushes and dodge wasps when I step out my door, but I often feel like I am in the midst of a more urban plague of insects than experiencing the wonders of nature. I still try to see this as nature, because my understanding of the natural world is marred by the idea that nature is anything that is not a part of human society, and that they should remain separate. Nature is not just a refuge or vacation-spot. It is outside my door in the form of the cliff that extends far above my apartment and the wasp-nests and the flies and the herons fishing in the river. It is on the beach that is strewn with seemingly unnatural trash.
Somehow, I feel as if I never get enough 'outdoors'. Yesterday evening I experienced my first beach-bonfire of the season. Fires always carry memories, and this one certainly brough past memories back to the surface and built new ones on top of the old. The beach was silent at night and we roasted marshmallows and ate popcorn around the fire's edges after stocking it with dried bamboo and odd pieces of driftwood that we scavenged from the weeds. I felt as if I was camping, but I did not have a sleeping bag to crawl into from which I could peer up at the stars on my way off to sleep. Camping in Japan would certainly provide a different experience of this country. It is unfortunate that it will not be among one of my experiences. Now I have the memory of a campfire that was almost like camping to add to my memories of Areake beach. Perhaps it also gave me one more experience of nature that I was craving.