September 29, 2008

Bouldering in Honjo, Party in Kamo

My good friend Shoko decided to throw me a good bye party! Also, the day of, Ochi took me bouldering for one last time. Kenta-san came along with Shoko, and the four of us spent the day at the ocean, playing around with musical instruments, trying to sing, trying to climb and just goofing around. 

That night we went to a restaurant where Ochi works and ate and drank well. We later took taxis to a Karaoke box and sang. (this was my first time in a karaoke box!) We then crashed at Ko-chan's room in Kamo. Overall it was a great party and a great night!

Soba, an Old House, and the sighting of a street musician

This past week, Miyako-san took me to Bundekkashokkan- a rich farmer's house from Edo-period Japan. It's right down the street from the house. After looking at the house and having a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, we ate Soba at a Soba house in the garden of the home. It was Izumo style, where three plates of soba are stacked upon each other. YUM!

That night after I came back from gym climbing (a very good night in which i conquered two 4Qs woot!) There was a young man singing Bob Dylan style in front of Izumoshi Station. There was no one there because it was soo late at night (11:30PM) and plus, it's the countryside. His song was okay, but his voice was even better. 

September 23, 2008

My Day Off

Well hello there, it's me Lily. Today I went to Matsue in the morning and met up with Tanaka-san. We went to her secret rock climbing practice wall outside in Matsue and I struggled with the face. (I don't have any pictures because that's right, it's a SECRET!) Anyways, we later bought some onigiri (Rice balls woot woot) and headed over for M-Wall, the rock climbing gym I usually frequent on Tuesdays and Fridays. 

We ate lunch outside; Tanaka-san eats lunch like a kid from a third world country. 

It was nice outside and so was standing in front of the great heavy metal gates of M-Wall. We opened up the place and started climbing. 

Ochi showed up and sent a route I have been struggling with for weeks wearing nice jeans, a nice shirt, and dress socks. He is a spider! Later, Tanaka-san's friend Masuo and her older sister showed up fer some climbing. I started to get sweaty and tired so I stepped out of the gym. 

Outside I talked to Shoko on the phone and looked over at my arm. A massive mosquito landed above my elbow and started to pump me for my money. I watched it swell then lazily swatted at it as my conversation ended. My finger held almost a full drop of red blood and from the other finger the mosquito limply fell to the ground. Ochi was leaving and I waved goodbye, he turned and drove towards my direction. I waved again and called out it was good seeing you, etc. But he stopped and asked what I was doing on Saturday. This man is lazy! I asked him if Shoko had talked to him about the party on Saturday night, and he said no. So I said you will find out. He started to say something else, but a car behind him honked at him so he waved his box of orange juice at me and drove off. 

It got more and more crowded and a quite Saturday morning had churned into a bustling air-fanned noisy afternoon. It was a different crowd then that of the usual Tuesday or Friday nights but it was fresh and new. But I wasn't. I was beat. Swimming the other day near Hiroshima made me tired. 

Shoko called me to ask me where the heck I was. I forgot! I was supposed to meet her at Adachi Art Museum in Matsue! I apologized but let her know I would be a little bit. She decided to wait but her friends had to leave so she introduced me on the phone. I talked to them for a little while, getting acquainted in mixed japanese, then english. Then I left the gym. 

Where was Tanaka-san taking me? To the Adachi Bijitsukan- Matsue Museum of Art. It's a beautiful gray-cut building right alongside Shinji Lake. During the day you can look out the window and see wake boarders make mistakes and capsize into the water or you can step outside and walk along a trail of copper life-size rabbit statues to the water's end. If you stop to pet the one right before the last- the second to the last, they say you'll meet your lover soon. I poked the rabbit the other time I was there. Mie-san, the girl who took me to the museum the other week stroked the rabbit like she was desperate. I think she spent over 30 seconds petting this copper rabbit, selectively garnished with a flower necklace and coins galore at its feet. I chuckled inside. The Japanese make me laugh. What I like about the museum is three things. 

First, it's right by the wondrously misty Shinji lake, where I enjoy biking to from Izumo. (Being out of breath after biking 30 km and staring at ducks in a fog-filled lake while panting and gulps of water makes one dreamy). 

Second, and most importantly, the museum has one painting that I liked especially, that being "The Wild Sea" by Claude Monet. (I can stare at it for probably 10 minutes or more and still want to look again- black gray rocks much like Izumo's clashing with the waves. And as much as the waves beat up against the dark earth they are for the most part settling back out to home- the milky blue sea) 

Thirdly, the museum is showcasing a special exhibit on Eric Carle, the famous children's illustrator that I grew up reading. That is where I was headed. To meet up with Shoko and see this man's handicraft. 

back to today: 

When we got to the museum it was around 4:45 and I felt like such a dope because I promised to come earlier. And I hadn't seen Shoko in like a whole week or longer. So I missed her and this was no way to treat a friend! The Eric Carle exhibit was too short. But also very natsukashii! I bought some more postcards. Japan is profiting from my massive purchase postcards, daily weekly regularly. I love these artsy postcards. I am an addict. 

it was a weird but good night and here's why:

We waited for Shoko's sister to pick me up and take me to the train station. blah blah blah. poof I am at the train station. I had 40 minutes to kill and no book to read and overplayed songs on my 15-dollar mp3 player so I bought some dried squid and light light beer. I am ojiji! (likes the habits of old men, for example i have braces so i use a toothpick). The station was empty, as the next local train would come in 40 minutes. I sat down on a bench, and start gnawing on the squid and sipping the light beer. BAD LILY! An older man dressed neatly sat down a couple benches down. I casually glanced at him, but that sent him over. 

"Where are you from?" a pause. "Where are you from? Venezuela?" 

Usually Japan is very safe. It really is. It was tonight. Aside from two drunk men consecutively trying to make conversation with a tired foreigner wearing a red american eagle sweatshirt and carrying a massive bright orange top-loading 35L pack filled with climbing gear and clothes...

I decided to play dumb because I didn't know whether he was drunk or simply wanted to brush up on his English skills. 

"WHAT? Where am I from?" I finally responded. I pointed to myself and said, "America. I am from America." 

In Japanese he muttered, oh she doesn't understand. [he paused] where are you from? where? are you from matsue? are you from nage? 

I responded, "I'm sorry I don't understand you." I help up my hands and sheepishly grinned. 

I should have walked away but I wanted to see what he would try to say next. Besides there were people around, he was far from me, and the worst I could do was make a fool of myself in another country. 

It went on for a little bit, he would say something like, (in japanese) I am going to nage. where are you from (in japan)? i am sorry i don't know any english. i am sorry. i am forgetting it all. i am drunk. i am sorry. the train will come soon. i am going to nage. you're a cute one. how old are you? are you twenty? i am sorry. i don't know english. i am drunk. i am sorry....

(THE first person in Japan to guess my age right, the third to blame their lame english skills on being drunk)

oh you are drinking beer, he said, motioning to my asahi clear. I hid the squid and picked up the beer and said, "This? Do you want it?" I held it out to him, and he said, "No, no, no" it's okay. i don't need a the beer in the trashcan beside me. bad move to have the beer! 

I knew it was best for me to stand up and leave. And as much fun as I was having hearing him try to communicate with me while being drunk (even calling a friend to ask him what "from" meant), it wasn't right proper to carry on a conversation with a drunk old man in another country, as harmless as it might appear. (yea right) Which was perfect timing because Miyako-san called me. I stood up and said, "bye bye", pointed to my phone, picked up my backpack annymore. (BAD MOVE i will never casually drink even the most girlish lightest water-like beer in public places again.) I promptly dumpedd left. I walked to the opposite end of the station. 

(NOTE: Here is why I didn't stand up to leave right away. In HIROSHIMA, where I spent this past weekend, Japanese people are constantly coming up to you to either speak english, or make sure you aren't lost or something or to say "welcome to hiroshima, where are you from?" So coming from this fresh experience I was at ease with conversing with strangers in a safe public setting. Besides other than a desire to practice english, japanese people won't strike up a conversation with you unless they have good reason.)

I sat next to a group of old ladies bickering about when the next train was coming. I started gnawing on the squid, missing the superlight beer, for beer goes with squid. I glanced over the platform. Young women reading manga or surfing on their cell phones. An older woman drinking tea from a bottle wrapped in a handkerchief. And, a man i saw earlier in the first area where the drunk man tried to talk to me. At the benches there were two other people who minded their own business. A woman, who went away, and later, a man who sat down to eat dinner and chuckled at the old man struggling to make conversation with me. He walked over to me and spoke in english, "I want to apologize for that drunk man over there. Please don't think the Japanese are like that. Japan is a very safe country." I said, "Nihongo wakarimasu yo." (I understand japanese) His face turned to surprise and then he laughed. He repeated in Japanese, apologizing for the drunk man's behavior, bothering me for conversation. "I know you might not want to be bothered but I am going to San Francisco next week and I want to brush my english skills. My first time to America. Can I practice little english with you? If not, it's okay." He got up to leave. 

"No, It's okay. I don't mind. Please sit," I responded, motioning him to sit down on the bench. "I will practice a little english with you." 

But the train came and I got on the train and so did he. "Do you still want to practice," I asked. He did so we sat down in one of those four seater spots- to benches facing each other. The other passenger was a woman trying to sleep. oops. 

The story gets long and it's getting late and I am always one to end far from perfection. 

All I'll say is that it ended well I got home safe, and I got to peer yet again into who the Japanese are from a series of interactions with random strangers during a time of transit. 

When Kinetsu-san picked me up, I made a puzzled face and said, shouldn't you be drinking sake- it's late. he responded that he would when we got home, and i then knew i was back in peaceful normal izumo, guesting at the home of miyako-san and kinestu-san. 

Hiroshima Trip!

My Hiroshima Trip was September 20-22: 

20: Day 1: 
Peace Park

Day 2:
Hiroshima MOCA, where I spent over 4 hours looking at art by Masuo Ikeda
Hiroshima Shikkeien Japanese Garden
Tokyu Hands Shopping
Swallowtail Backpacker's Bar with Kiyo

Day 3: 
Road trip to Namikicafe and the beach there

September 19, 2008

Beach biking

Here is what is part of the general scenery: Rice patties everywhere! This is the land of Pachinkos, the gods, rice fields, bad wine, good water, and good sake. 

After english class, I went biking to the beach. Last night I gym climbed for 3 hours. It was amazing. Friday was ladies night, so the gym was crowded. It cost me 250Yen to get in! That's under 2.50US! Here are some beach pics below:

Reading the Four Loves by Lewis, halfway through eros

Bird watching / spying on North Korea?

The sky!
My quickly gathered shell collection: 
This is at about 4pm

September 07, 2008

Grudges, cleanliness, a boring concert, the lake, kimono and castle pictures

Some pictures from kimono and castle day: 

Rie-san is trying on different wedding dresses: 

I tried a WAAYYYY to expensive one on for kicks: 

The Japanese pride themselves in not getting angry. But they are excellent at holding grudges. In fact by holding back anger so much, grudges are unconsciously customary. I made that observation to Miyako-san today, because she kept going on about how the Japanese are so well at holding back anger. But the reason why is tied into the inevitable all-controlling, all-limiting culture of tradition and manners. The reason why we rotate our cup of matcha twice and the reason why we say certain polite phrases for a myriad of occasions also ties into the way we present- and control ourselves. It really frustrated me when I came to Japan. You are unable to confront another. I think this is wrong. For Japanese, it's just something you don't do. 

Another observation: 

The Japanese have a fetish for bathing and cleanliness. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then the Japanese are super gods! They bathe daily, if not twice. They carry a towel with them to wipe sweat and a handkerchief to wipe their hands. The bathrooms are immaculate, the houses are spotless and cleaned regularly with fury. Even my hygiene has bumped up a scale due to the customs surrounding me. I did not know people could be so clean until I came to Japan! 

The Japanese are the cleanest people on earth that I have observed. They are so clean! Daily they wash their clothes, and never wear something that has been worn without washing. they take their shoes off before they enter the house. They wipe their plates clean with napkins after eating. 

On my new jobs: 

I have one :(. I am not in Japan long enough to obtain an ordinary job so I am teaching English to two people daily, excluding the weekend. Ordinarily you are supposed to charge 10,000 yen per lesson ($100), but I charge much cheaper since this is my first time and I don't have any prior experience or training. My dad tells me that I am charging pennies. It's okay. The only thing I need money for is this, that, and bus tickets to Hiroshima and later Yokohama. 

I will post on Japanese food later. But here are some pictures taken at a cake/coffee shop: 


Japanese percolators in action: 
in resting state: 
preparing the food: 
the display
some cakes: 

Here are some more of Emiko-san, her daughter, and I sightseeing at a castle: 

Last night I went to a temple that was halfway between Matsue and Izumo. The concert was long so I left after an hour and a half. The band playing was a group from Jawa (Java?). It was Thai stylish music. But it seemed like the same song was going on for an hour and a half! Besides I was tired from biking 65+ km to the lake and back again. (See pictures below.) Ochi returned my jacket and gave me shot glasses for a birthday present. I'll have to use them sometime soon. Unfortunately I didn't stay long enough to meet up with Tanaka-san. There is some new music I want to give her. 

Here are some bands I've been listening to: 

MF Doom

Stephen Marley

Michael Franti & Spearhead

The Chemical Brothers

MGMT (I can't get enough of this hot stuff!)


Groove Armada

The Guillemots

The Strokes

Over the Rhine




Pete Bjorn and John

Bob Marley


Ministry of Sound Dance mixes

Buddha Lounge Mix music

and finally, the classic Chris Tomlin

here are some pictures: (see post below)

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