9 May 2012 § Leave a comment
Golden Week was delightful (if you don’t know, there are a bunch of national holidays all close to each other, and so it’s given that name). I had 8 consecutive days off, and to make the most of them I found myself in Kanazawa for two days, followed by a five day trip to Okinawa.
I went to Kanazawa on my own to wander around, mostly to see Kenroku-en, which is listed as being one of the top three most famous (?) gardens in Japan (I think). It was alright. I had expected more from it. It’s certainly a beautiful garden and with lots of space to walk around, but I found it perhaps a touch too organized and the wide gravel paths rather unattractive. I also enjoy a garden in which you can sit down in some shade, but there were few places to sit down, considering the volume of people. All the same, I’m glad I went.
I went from Kenroku-en to Kanazawa Castle, where I wandered around the grounds, laid in the grass for awhile, and found some lovely paths that I much preferred to the garden, being surrounded by a bunch of trees and overgrown things that weren’t particularly well kept. There wasn’t much to see of the castle itself. I didn’t do any reading about it, but it looked like it wasn’t all there. It was nice to check out anyway.
I proceeded on to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, which I recommend to anyone to check out. It was a really cool museum with a really cool permanent and special exhibit. The museum consists mostly of large, spacious rooms with not much in them, but that not much is pretty interesting (if that makes any sense). Some things were what you might expect from an art museum – sculptures, paintings, etc. Other things, not so much – for example, a room made to look like someone’s house, everything covered in neon circle stickers, illuminated only by black lights. I felt far more involved and included at the art museum than I did at Kenroku-en.
Finally, I found myself at my accommodations for the night, a hostel, and went to sleep at 9 PM after a dinner of green curry close to Kanazawa Station. The next day included a trip early in the morning to the Japan Sea, which took about an hour to get to by train and then by foot, wandering around a city I wasn’t familiar with, and returning to Kanazawa to check out the Higashi Chaya District (where geisha used to entertain), a wander around where samurai used to live, and a brief look at a popular market. Higashi Chaya was interesting, but they didn’t seem to offer a lot of information about things in English – not that I tried hard to find any. I took a tour of a geisha house, not understanding a word that was said about it. Anyway, a day and a half seemed like the perfect amount of time there for me. Had I some company, I might have taken some more time, seen a few more things, but it was nice just to be somewhere else other than Osaka.
I returned to Osaka around dinner time Monday, and went on my way to Okinawa the next morning, which is about a two hour flight south. There are a lot of islands down there to choose from for a holiday, some of the highly recommended ones being the most southern ones, which cost a bit more to get to. I wanted to be somewhere away from the city, somewhere pretty, so I went with my friend Summer’s recommendation to go to Zamami Island, which was 50 minutes by ferry from Naha Port (a short trip on the monorail from the airport). It’s a small island with a few nice beaches, lots of trees, and the most number of butterflies I’ve seen in one place, apart from the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls.
I went snorkeling and scuba diving for the first time. I’ve had a fear of swimming with fish since I can remember, but it was a lot different being able to see them clearly and in clear, blue water at that. It was rather different from being at the cottage in Ontario in murky water. I saw… clown fish, squid, sea snakes, an octopus, angel fish, butterfly fish, rainbow fish, lots of other fish, and a sea turtle. It was amazing. I didn’t deal too well with being on a small boat, before and after the dives, but I managed to not actually be sick, so, huzzah. Breathing freaked me out at first, but I adjusted well enough. I’m glad I went snorkeling first, especially seeing as my initial reaction to putting my face in the water with the goggles was to bring it out of the water and exclaim, “Oh no, there’s fish!”
Our flight was early Saturday morning, so we headed back to Naha on the main island late Friday morning so we could poke around their and be close to the airport. Most of our time was spent at Shuri Castle, which was the central.. building of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which is what was in Okinawa before it was taken over by Japan. It’s a gorgeous castle, distinct from many Japanese castles because of other East Asian architectural influences. It’s bright red and is decorated with a lot of dragons. The grounds around the castle are also lovely. It was really interesting learning about the culture that existed there prior to it becoming part of Japan. We had a little break from walking around in the tea room of the castle, and had some hot jasmine tea and a plate of sweets for 300 yen.
We eventually met up with some friends who were also in Okinawa and leaving on the same flight as us, after checking out some matsuri (festival) fireworks near the port. I went with two people and by the end of Friday night, we had formed a group of seven (ha ha ha). We slept less than two hours that night before our flight, so Saturday was spent sleeping, back at my apartment.
And now it’s back to the grind. I’ve started counting down til summer break, which will be a nice two week trip to France and England. There are other things to look forward to, of course, in the next few months. Things never seem to get boring here.
22 April 2012 § Leave a comment
I’ve always tended to have an overactive imagination when it comes to things that scare me. As a child, I was afraid of little red lights in the dark. I had nightmares about gremlins until I was half way through high school, before the zombie nightmares started. For years, I’ve avoided looking at my bedroom ceiling in the dark for fear of some creature waiting to fall on me and eat my face.
Upon coming to Japan, however, all those fears dissipated. I was in an unfamiliar place, unmarked by all those fears that used to be all over the place back home. I could stay up at night in my one room apartment with no worries about gremlins or creatures on the ceiling or zombies. The dark didn’t trouble me so much (not that I’m afraid of the dark at all…).
I started getting scared in February, while in Yakushima. We were the only people staying in our hostel on the first night, and our room was at one end of a long, dark corridor, lined with empty rooms all along one side of it. The washroom facilities were at the opposite end of the corridor. The owner was in a different building. The hallways lights were motion activated.
Since then, and especially now that I live in an apartment that consists of more than one room, my imagination’s been getting the better of me once again. I think it’s an indicator of my being more comfortable here than when I first arrived.
I’m thinking of adopting a goldfish, but I can’t decide if I can handle the responsibility. I hate the idea of killing it. I’m talking it over with my roommate for now. I saw a lot of goldfish vendors close to the Osaka Mint, where massive crowds of people visit every April to see the sakura. The paths parallel to the path by the Mint were lined with vendors selling tons of festival foods – much more variety than what you’d likely see at a festival or fair in North America. It’s one of the most popular places for sakura viewing in Osaka. And I wanted a fish.
Golden Week starts in a week. I’m excited. If I can figure out some affordable accommodations, I’ll be in Kanazawa checking out a lovely garden for a couple days (Kenroku-en), and then it’s off to Okinawa where I’ll hopefully go scuba diving for the first time, and may even have the chance to go scuba diving with whale sharks! (Don’t worry, Mom. It’s totally cool and fine.) I’ve also started organizing more travel plans for my summer break, when I’ll be heading to France and England.
For now, I’m resting up, trying to get rid of a cold that’s got me in its grips. I’ve slept most of the day away, drunk lots of juice, and watched Fern Gully. If that doesn’t get rid of this cold, I don’t know what will.
26 April 2011 § 2 Comments
My laptop charger is busted! I’m not impressed! There is one on its way from China for me, and I am trying to wait patiently for its arrival. In the meanwhile, a few friends in my apartment building have been kind enough to allow me some time on their laptops, and right now, I’m borrowing a charger from a girl downstairs. Here are a few updates from the past little while:
1. One of my students gave me an article (in English) about dating in Japan. She thought I might find it interesting. Dating isn’t on my list of things to do in Japan, but it was nice of her to think of me during her week.
2. I found another awesome park a short bike ride away from my apartment. I am excited to spend some time there.
3. Found a bottle of Niagara wine for the first time the other night. Every time I am at a store with a large wine selection, I look to see if there’s anything from Niagara. Finally, I was at some place last night that had an empty Peller Estates ice wine bottle on a shelf. It made me happy to see.
4. I’m setting up a poetry reading event in downtown Osaka in mid-June. I’m really excited about this. Going to put an ad in a monthly publication about it. Hopefully I can get a few people to come out and read some original poetry! I’ve been asking around a bit about a poetry scene, but no one knows anything. I saw an ad for a poetry reading back in March, open mic for original pieces, advertised as free, but was taking place at a restaurant and anyone attending was required to buy a dinner set (4000 yen later… approx. 48 dollars). Might as well go ahead and set something up myself!!
5. I figured out some kanji for my name tonight. There are a lot of different ways to write Emi in kanji, but I think the one I’ve figured out is what it’s supposed to be. The kanji I’ve got for “mi” means beautiful, and the kanji that I chose for “e” means smile. One of the other popular kanji for “e” means painting or picture, but I seem to recall my parents telling me that my name means smile…
6. Two more shifts and then a week off!! (Well, with the exception of the two days of overtime I’ve picked up).
7. If anyone in the Niagara area doesn’t have any plans for this FRIDAY, April 29th, check out the St. Catharines Downtown Market sometime between 11AM and 8PM. Rachael Forgeron is selling some of her jewelery which is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Check out some of her stuff HERE ON ETSY. She’s been doing this for years and her experience and passion for her craft is evident. A nice trip to the market downtown on a Saturday afternoon – sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it?
15 April 2011 § 2 Comments
Plans for Golden Week are SET!
Kicking it off with a night at an onsen (hot spring) in Shirahama. I need to do some researching online before going, though. I’m not sure about their rules regarding tattoos (I hear that some places are pretty strict about them..), and I don’t know what the deal is with bathing suits. Anyway, it’s gonna be fun.
A couple days later, I head to Hiroshima on my own via the bullet train (Shinkansen). It’s a pretty cool train, reaching speeds of 240 to 300 km/h. I could save a few thousand yen by taking the bus there, but it would take nearly three times as long to get there (i.e. 7 hours instead of 2). I’ve got my Shinkansen tickets (to and from), with reserved seats. I’ve got a hostel booked. I figure I’ll spend one day visiting the Peace Memorial Museum, and another day visiting Miyajima and the surrounding area before catching the train back at night. If I can get them done in the next couple weeks, I will bring my 1000 cranes with me (approx. 300 left to fold!). It’ll be super busy because it’s over Golden Week, but it’s such a convenient time for me to go..
I’m amazed that I can write about bringing 1000 cranes to Hiroshima now. This is something that I decided seven years ago that I wanted to do. I was still in high school when I set this as a goal for myself. And now I’m here!
I started free weekly Japanese lessons through my ward office today. I think they will suffice for now, until I get into more of a regular schedule and maybe find some time to study a bit more (..we’ll see). At least this way, I can learn something new each week and have the opportunity to practice it with some people in a structured environment.
I’ve been doing a lot of training over the past few weeks. Additional training for my job, as well as new training for my new, second job. Looks like I’ll be doing some Kindergarten! I never thought I’d be saying that, but it’ll be fun. I hope. I hope it’s fun. I am slowly easing into my regular schedule, though. Finally. My kids classes started on Thursday. I teach kids classes every Tuesday and Thursday. Eleven year olds are difficult. The youngest class I’m teaching has just two girls in it, both very young. Maybe 2, not quite 3. They are adorable. Those classes will be a lot of fun. I start my adult group classes tomorrow. I’m excited about those because they actually require me to put together lessons (using text books that we’re given).
Speaking of lessons, I should probably go do that instead of being on here.