January in a nutshell.

1 February 2012 § Leave a comment

I keep waiting to feel inspired to update my blog, and it’s not happening. January has been too much fun and I haven’t been able to sit down long enough to give you an adequate update. I find this particularly thrilling as I have a history of not particularly liking January.

Coming back to Japan was hard. I got in late at night, had to lug all my stuff up to the fourth floor of my apartment. Two of my favorite people in Japan hadn’t returned yet from their holiday adventures, so I couldn’t go to them for cheering up. All I had with me were the very fresh memories of all my dear family and friends back home, and they were all suddenly an ocean apart once again. I guess people who are here for awhile get used to that. Or maybe they don’t, but it’s still worth going back to see everyone on occasion. I’m back into the swing of things now, though. I dove into my work, having picked up some overtime, and working a lot at my second job too. Improv practices have started up again for the new year. My friends and I have kept busy in each other’s company.

I recently celebrated my 25th birthday. It was a delightful weekend. Friday, we ventured out to Asuka in Nara. It’s a small village about a 40 minute train ride away, and the location of a lot of ruins, tombs, and temples (including the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, apparently?? I think we at least walked past it, unknowingly…). Right outside the train station there, you can rent bicycles for the day. So we biked around all afternoon. There wasn’t actually anything that impressive, but it was still neat and just a nice way to spend a day off. Saturday night after work began at a yakiniku restaurant with some lovely people, before moving on to an Australian sports bar where my Swedish friend Mats was playing an acoustic set. When I got there, there was a sign up for me, and balloons throughout the place. I was thrilled! He happily met my requests for some ABBA and for John Denver’s “Annie’s Song”. Sunday saw a Skype date with my family, a photo exhibit in the north part of the city, a lovely dinner, karaoke, pineapple champagne, and such thoughtful gifts. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.

I finally baked for my first time in Japan. It wasn’t a matter of laziness; it’s not an easy task when oven’s aren’t a common appliance and baking powder is so difficult to find (or is baking soda… I always confused them). It felt like baking for the first time. Not only did I have to wait until I had a friend with an oven (actually, I’ve had access to an oven since October..), but I also had to acquire measuring cups, measuring spoons, a mixing bowl, and a spatula. I picked up both baking soda and baking powder while in Canada. I always forget the existence of differences in how things are quantified around the world. I was worried at first because looking at my friend’s oven, I thought it only went up to 300 degrees fahrenheit. He then suggested that maybe the temperature’s in celsius. And so it was. The banana chocolate chip muffins turned out amazingly.

Lots of strange little, delightful observations over the past while here. Carbonated tomato beverage (gross, right?). Mis-shelved books in the children’s section at the book store (“Balloons over Broadway”, “Emergency!”, “I want my hat back”, and “Flesh & Blood so Cheap“). A brilliant Engrish T-shirt that, I realized tonight as I was staring at it, is stolen from some Jack Johnson lyrics, but not very well – beginning to think that maybe Engrish isn’t so simply just a result of poor translation, but so much more. Even after I display my incompetency at speaking Japanese, people in public prefer to address me instead of my less-Japanese looking friend.

There is more to be written, but I haven’t the time just now. But everything above this has been waiting to be posted for days and days, so this much for now. If I ever go so long again without posting, do comment or e-mail and get on my case. I respond well, albeit begrudgingly, to nagging! (My mom might suggest otherwise… 😉



17 April 2011 § Leave a comment

Look these up on Google or do an image search: “Kongobu-ji” and “Okunoin”.

Easily one of my favourite places I’ve gone to so far. Kongobu-ji, a major temple, is home to Japan’s largest rock garden. The sliding doors inside the temple are decorated with beautiful paintings. Okunoin, maybe a fifteen minute walk away, is Japan’s largest graveyard. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful. I nearly cried walking through just part of it.

Its beauty reminded me of being fourteen. I mean, I dreamed of places so beautiful when I was younger, hoping they existed. And they do! Just a train ride away! When I was fourteen, I had recently read the Lord of the Rings trilogy twice through and couldn’t get Tolkein’s images out of my head. I was listening to Enya’s “Only Time” album all the time, imagining beautiful places. Pachelbel’s Canon in D was still new to me, and, thinking it was the most beautiful classical song ever, I’d listen to it on repeat, continuing getting lost in day dreams of places like where I was today.

Living in Osaka can be frustrating. I’ve mentioned before how grey it is and how there are no trees and it’s so much CITY ALL THE TIME (as if it would suddenly change?). It can be sort of depressing, you know? Days like today are necessary. Going out and spending an entire afternoon surrounded by trees and temples and fresh air and mountains. After a long week of work in the city, it’s easy to forget that there’s something beyond the grey and concrete.

fifty days?!

25 March 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve been here fifty days now. Seven weeks and one day. I find that hard to believe.

I still haven’t really gone out of my way to say very much yet, but every week I try to see something, even if it’s just something down the road. Last week, a couple friends and I went to a flea market at Shitennoji temple that happens once a month. That was really cool. It’s a very pretty temple, and it was a rainy day, adding to the atmosphere and keeping it from getting too busy. A couple days later, I went out for a bike ride to find Sumiyoshi Taishi shrine. Apparently it’s a fairly well known shrine. That was also lovely. It has this really cool bridge (pictures on Facebook… I’ll try to post some on here eventually too). So far, the temples and shrines are my favorite things to see. I’m excited also to check out a couple of nearby mountains and trails and parks.

The same day as Shitennoji temple ended up being a very Lost in Translation day. Wandered around the temple, then went to check the prices at a movie theater, which were astronomical (I thought prices in Canada were high!). Found a super cool photo booth, so we took pictures in there (some of you might know that I love photo booths. this was awesome!). Wandered down a floor and found Sega World. Wandered around there watching people play games and eventually played some ourselves (that taiko drum game from Lost in Translation? I played that. I was awful. But I’ll be better next time!). Went down another floor and found a book store where they had some English books. Picked up a book to help me start learning some kanji (it’s already made a difference!). So, of course, when I got home I watched some of Lost in Translation. It’s a different experience watching it now.

Tomorrow I’m going out downtown in the evening to see an improv group, “Pirates of the Dotonbori”, perform. I heard about them months ago from a friend in Toronto who owns an improv company. I’m excited. When I’m unable to find the time to go do the touristy things, I like to find other things being offered within the city, whether an art exhibit, an exhibit at the museum of history, or an improv show.

I have a one week holiday coming up at the end of April that I’m trying to plan for. I’m thinking a trip to a hot spring (“onsen”) somewhere within a few hours by train for a couple days, and maybe a trip to Hiroshima. I also hear that there’s a really nice waterfall several hours south of here that I was thinking of checking out.


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