Friday, December 30, 2005

Rampant Redux

Dateline: Osaka

I had intended to hold off on updating from vacation, primarily so I could continue showing all the pretty pictures I have taken. However, I have just come from a rather neat place that does not allow any photography, so I figured I would just go ahead and post about it.

Across the tracks from the hotel I am staying at, (on the right side of the tracks, opposed to the wrong side that the hotel is on) is a place called Spa World. It is a combo Hotel, Food Court, Massage Parlor, Water Park, and Spa. Its a little pricy to get in, 2700 yen, but worth it for sure. There are two spa levels, Europe and Asia. They are sex segragated by month, so in December Men get the Europe level, Women the Asia level. They are similar in content, but the decor changes drastically.

I have to say, it was amazing. Amazing! There were of course multiple baths of multiple temperatures. There were also steam rooms, a salt sauna, hot and hotter saunas, a peppermint tea bath, and outdoor hot springs. Yes you did in fact read the words Peppermint Tea Bath. I am sure it has some super health bonus, but I do not know what that would be. I do know it made me smell all nice and pepperminty. At least it did before I took a shower and washed it all off! There was also a nice Rocky Mountains area with two super hot saunas, and a fridged mountain spring right nearby.

Once you get tired of relaxing and bathing in the raw, you can rent a swimsuit and head to the eight floor, where there exists a mini waterpark. Two waterslides, a lazy river, a cave, everything you would want in a water park. I have not been on a waterslide in years, and it was an absolute blast!

And of course there is a couple massage areas, a food court, arcades, I can undertand why they sell an all day ticket. You could easily burn many many hours, and a huge chunk of your pocket change. If you have any left, you can walk a few blocks to the electronics mega-shopping area Den Den Town, and buy an X-Box 360, a High Definition TV, and a Computer or two.

So there we go, a glimpse at Osaka. I have taken 106 photos so far, and Its only been two days! We shall see how they turn out. I think you will enjoy the Whale Shark.;-)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Usual Suspects

Well today was the last day I will ever see Okazaki. Classes actually ended yesterday, but I had to pick up a few (tons of) things at school in preperation to shift home bases. It was strange, thinking that this is the last time I'll ever ride the Mietetsu line, the last trip to Higashi-Okazaki Eki. The last glimpse inside the school there. It all seemed unreal. Yet it is, so I'd better get used to it fast!

Eiko also had to go down there, so we met in her home town, Toyohashi, for lunch. We had a wonderous 3 course French meal. I had Duck Confit and it was gloriously tasty. A dash of Fois Gras among other tasty treats lead off the meal, and two glasses of Australian Red Wine to wash it all down with. Dessert was a wonderful concoction of layered crepes. Something I had never even heard of before. The meal was really good, but... yes there is a but. Alas I have become rather used to Japanese cuisine. And there is nothing quite like Fois Gras and Duck Confit here. My poor tummy just wasn't ready for such a blast of tasty grease. I was actually feeling kida ill for a while. Dang. And it was so good too.

On my way to Toyohashi I had a bit of an adventure. One stop before my stop the train grinds to a halt. Express trains don't stop at this station, yet here we are, stopped! Everybody left the train, so I figured it would behoove me to follow their lead. The other passangers understanding the announcements and all. Turns out there was a signal problem, so no trains could go that last kilometer or so into town. Argh! We all had to stroll a few blocks away to the JR Station, and wait there for another train. Which took 20 minutes to arrive. Well, better late than never as they say.

Anyway, here for you today I have a glimpse into my students. The mystical world of the English Teacher!

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Eiko at lunch. Hmm yummy French Food.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing Day

So we had another rumble of the earth on Christmas Eve, more information can be found
here at the august instituion the Japan Times.

In other news, I had quite the international Christmas dinner. 6 of us met at Outback Steakhouse for dinner and companionship. My steak, while probably horribly overpriced compared to quality, was pure heaven. I think any medium rare slab of beef would have been acceptable, I haven't had a steak since I've been here. And I must say that the heart attack baked potato was pretty damn nice too!

In our group we had 2 Canadians, 2 Americans, 1 Trinidadian (?) and a Kenyan. All meeting in an "Australian" restaurant in Japan. Now that is crazyness! After dinner we (of course) headed out to Karoke. Sang a few Christmas Carols, then launched into pop and rock. David (Canadian) did an excellent take on "Balls of Fire" and I of course did my usual "I've Just Seen a Face." A good time was had by all! It was certainly an eclectic celebration, but none the worse for its unconvetional qualities. Merry indeed.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

From the mystic Far East, to all my friends and family, Merry Christmas... And a Happy New Year!

I myself have finally tried the infamous vegamite for a special Christmas Eve dinner. Not as bad as its made out to be, really.

Well, feel jolly in the spirit of the season, and revel in the Holiday! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dreaming of a White Christmas

So I checked online this morning, and the quake yesterday was magnitude 4.7. Enough to rattle your teeth a bit, but no lasting damage. Let us hope they stay that way!

Its been a rough week so far, I'm saying goodbye to everybody I know, again. I also wrote varous Christmas letters and postcards, and actually thinking about all the people I was writing too, well it made me miss em. So there has been a lot of good byes, and ruminating on other good byes. But.. As I was walking home through the snow this evening listening to Christmas carols, it really hit me just how beautiful and magical it was to be alive, and here, at that moment in time. It was a nice feeling, and rather bolstered my spirits. Sadness at parting is not bad, but one must remember that there are new horizons and new opportunities coming. Oh and look for an entry detailing some of the 'usual suspects' sometime soon.

Speaking of the snow, it snowed all day today, and is forecast to keep it up through Saturday at least. So it looks like we may have a White Christmas around these parts. Like I mentioned earlier, Aichi is not the snow capital of Japan, and in fact they really aren't used to this much of the fluffy white stuff. This means that a few flakes hit the ground and blammo the train schedules are shot, traffic gets insane, the whole ball of wax. I saw a taxi with chains on this morning. There was like 1/16th of an inch of snow, and he's sporting heavy duty chains! Sheesh. Of course I can't fault him too much, its all they have, nobody around here has snow tires, they never need them. Well they need them this week.

This morning was chilly. I sorta hadn't paid my gas bill in... a while (read, since I've been here) so they kinda cut off the gas. Now my heating is all electric so that was fine, I've paid that bill. But my hot water on the other hand. Whoops. I sorta thought I was only getting the one bill a month, cause you know its all blue envelopes and Kanji, it pretty much all looks the same to me. Well I've learned my lesson. I obviously didn't take a shower, hypothermia first thing in the morning doesn't appeal, but I still chilled down even just cleaning my face and such. Well the bill is paid and its back on tonight, phew. Hot bath time!

What I woke up to this morning.

My train pulling into Okazaki Station, 15 minutes late! Luckily, I too was 15 minutes late, so it worked out ok.

One of the Meitetsu Super Limited Express trains.

Snowball fight!

Walkin home through the neighborhood

Shake it up baby now.

So this past evening I was sitting at my computer listening to Christmas Carols (thanks Liz) and doing what I do best, surf the boundless bounty of the internet! I just ate some heat 'n serve beef curry on microwavable rice, and was sipping some of Grants Heartstoppingly Decadent Hot Cocoa, and a suddenly a huge truck goes by. At least thats what I thought... until I realized that I couldn't actually hear any trucks. And that my that isn't how the apt. rumbles when a truck goes by, its more like things are moving kinda back and forthish. Oh yeah, huh, this is an earthquake! It was actually a very frightening realization. I waited for it to keep going, and or get worse, but luckily it died down after a few seconds and all was well. Quite mild, I'm sure the locals hardly noticed it, but I sure did. I've decided I like my earth staying quite still, thank you Very Much.

Recipe for:
Grants Heartstoppingly Decadent Hot Cocoa

Start with whole milk, and standard Mix, Swiss Miss is fine if you don't have anything better.

Make the hot cocoa as normal, but leave some room in the Mug.

Add a splash (or two, or three you lush) of Baily's Irish Cream

Tumble in a few mini-Marshmallows

Place a nice dollop of whipped cream on top, as much as you feel your cardiologist would allow.

Finish off with a dash of cinnamon over the top, and

Enjoy, be sure your will is filled out, cause the only thing worse for your body has got to be chewing glass shards covered in bacon grease, but dang if the Hot Cocoa isn't a lot better tasting than that!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


So today I learned that the snowstorm was the heaviest snow Nagoya has seen in 58 years! Wow, I knew they didn't get much in the way of snow, but 58 years? That is pretty epic. Of course its all gone now, melted away just like Colorado. Still bloody cold though.

So I braved the icy streets and long train ride to the nearest theater with a subbed version of Peter Jackson's King Kong. To put it in simple terms.

This movie Rocks!

Ok, enough fanboy geekery.

But it really is a very good film. Its got quite credible acting, a pleasing if well worn story, and some really, really amazing special effects. Like totally utterly jaw dropping special effects. Andy Serkis is my hero. The man created Gollums performance, and that had to be pretty hard. But to create the performance of a 25 Foot tall Gorilla? And to do it amazingly well? That takes some special acting chops right there. 1930s New York is perfect, so much so that Jared, who lived there for a time, was disbelieving when I told him they hadn't shot for a day in New York. It was all sets and tons of CGI. They build Manhatten Island in a computer using maps and building plans, and let things go from there.

If you like fun adventure films, see King Kong. It looks amazing, and is surprisingly emotional as well. You really do love the old ape, and feel sorry for him when he meets his preordained fate on the top of the Empire State Building.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Let it snow

There was a 30% chance of snow in Nagoya this weekend. Sunday morning dawned bright and blue, and I thought there was no chance of any precipitation. You'd think living in Colorado all my life would have prepared me for the fact that weather can change, and change quickly! Around 1 the thick storm clouds rolled in and snow started spittin. So I headed out to experience and capture Nagoya in snow.

The snow was really quite beautiful, big fat lazy flakes, and lots of them. It has been quite cold for a couple of weeks now, but it just doesn't feel like winter without a little snow. Of course I'm going to get a lot more of that when I make it to Kanazawa, but from what I hear it doesn't snow very often in Nagoya. When it does snow here, it usually isn't much, so yesterday was actually a bit of an anomaly. A white fluffy beautiful anomaly.

I moseyed around my neighborhood, Nagoya-ko (The Port), and Sakae. I picked yesterday of all days to finally head up to the top of the freshly repainted TV Tower. While the view distance was a bit on the short side, it was still quite impressive. I may have to go back next weekend at night and see how it all looks. I'll bet it looks pretty spectacular. It is so strange to realize that NEXT weekend is Christmas, and also the last weekend I will spend in Nagoya. Good thing I have a Christmas party on Friday, a party on Sunday for actual Christmas celebrations, possible Saturday night Christmas eve Karoke, and then something put together by the Sakae gang to say farewell to me! A busy weekend indeed.

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now thats something you don't see everyday!

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Oasis 21 from the first floor of the TV Tower.

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Sakae from the top of the TV Tower.

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Sakae in the snow.

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Ate some tastey thai food in this building. A curry stir fry.

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Home at last!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Zoo

So last Saturday I ventured to the Higashiyama Zoo with the Sakae school gang. While it was a little chilly, it was a much more pleasent than last weekend at the castle. It was colder, but it didn't rain. And the chill keeps away the crowds. Nagoya's zoo is certainly smaller than some I've seen, but had a nice range of interesting critters. The usual suspects were all present, Lions, Tigers, Elephants, and Monkeys. But there were also a few of a more unusual nature. The Japanese Sloth Bear, the dangerous and exotic donkey, and the super cute wallaby. Unfortunatly the Tanuki were smart and stayed indoors. I was bummed because I really wanted to see a Tanuki in the flesh, they are so present in Japanese myth and culture, it would have been cool to see a real one. Alas. Of course I suppose its possible that they were all just impersonating park staff and we didn't notice. Crazy Tanuki.

Next to the park is the Higashiyama Sky Tower. Its not an office tower, so I suppose its purpose is to be tall enough to attract tourists. Well that and be a good spot for cell phone and TV signal relays. We were attracted, and went up to the tippy top for a spot of coffe to warm us after the cold tour of the zoo. After all that, we went to the Sakae Christmas Party and Gift Exchange. Some wonderous curry was consumed, and many cheap gifts swapped. I gave a gaggle of German gummis, and received a rather strange chia pet thingy. I think I got jipped! Well it was great fun, unfortunatly no Karoke, and I actually got home rather early. Monday was too bloody cold to go outside, so I popped some popcorn and watched Fellowship of the Ring!

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Welcome to... the Zoo!

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The Penguin Mafia.

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Here kitty kitty kitty. Seriously the lion lay on her back and started batting an orange toy looking like nothing more than a big tabby. A big ferociously cute tabby.

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The Sakae Gang.

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The sloth bear. He really needs better grooming, his hair looks like mine!

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Nagoya in all its concrete beauty.

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The Higashiyama Sky Tower.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


I have a pretty large backlog of photos, including a lot of the more interesting statuary from various castles, shrines, and temples. Its been getting rather chilly lately, but luckily no rain since last weekend. Its strange thinking I'll be saying goodbye to all my students in the next couple of weeks. I just got here! The teacher I'm replacing in Kanazawa called me at work the other day to see if I had any questions. I got a look at my schedule and it looks pretty good. If things hold steady, and they should, I'll actually have every Sat/Sun off, which is nice. I think. I'll have just enough kids but not too many, only like 4 kids classes. Enough to keep me in practice. She said its been really cold up there lately, but if it can inspire her to stay in Japan for 6 years, then there must be some nice reasons to stick around. Its crazy, Kanazawa is like a flagship school. It will certainly be a really, really big change. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can see up there. With that said, on to the statues!

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Worlds Tallest Building: Earthquake Generator?

Interesting little article about manmade earthquakes. Appearently Taiwan is seeing more and larger earthquakes than recently recorded, all near the newly constructed Taipei 101. And they mention Denver in the article too! I remember reading about the Colorado case in one of my geology books. Guess I'll stay away from the Nagoya Station towers from now on, wouldn't want them to trigger the Aichi Big One. ;-),3605,1655977,00.html

Pardon my Ponderings

Ok, pardon this post, but I'm going to veer into Teenagy Livejournalesc navel gazing and introspection here for a second. I realized the other day that while I am to an extent a man of action, I am primarily a watcher rather than a doer. I don't mean that in a pathetic or bad way, but I was thinking about what to be when I grow up and I realized that much of what I 'do' is observation. On this blog I am a writer and photographer, by education I am an historian and journalist. All rely on conveying thoughts and images to a person who wasn't there. The more I thought about it, the more I realied that this is certainly an aspect of my character. When I travel I always can't wait to tell people about what I saw. When I got to a movie or concert often I write review as I watch. In fact often enough I write copy for this blog in my head. I really should dive on in and get a voice recorder.

ok, for your perserverence I offer some nice pictures that also fall under misc headings.

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An alternate take of Sakae at night.

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Chritmas Penguin at Nagoya Station.

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Meitetsu line near Okazaki station. (well Higashi Okazaki Eki really, and I love saying that, it just sounds cool) I cross that bridge twice a day 5 days a week!

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Now these just cracked me up. Nuff said.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Weekend with Zach

So my good buddy Zach came down to Nagoya for a visit this past weekend. He came down in September for the Expo, but this was his first chance to really see Nagoya. The first stop Saturday night was Yamachan for some of those tasty chicken wings. The seconds stop was my shoebox, a tight fit for me, let alone two people. Zach had two goals, see Nagoya Castle and eat Miso-katsu (a fried pork cutlet with thick miso sauce, Nagoya is known for it.) With that in mind we headed out Sunday morning for Nagoya Castle, with a quick stop at Atsuta Shrine. Being that I live a 10 min walk from Atsuta, it made sense to swing by. I don't know if I've talked too much about Atsuta before. It is cool because it is the 2nd most sacred shrine in all shinto, and has one of the three symbols of the emperor, the 'grass cutting' sword, tucked away inside. It is uncool because other than nice trees in the middle of the city, there is not a whole lot else to see. But it is right next to the subway, so we went on in anyway. Saw a wedding party, and Zach annoyed them a bit by taking pictures. He must learn the more subtle arts of Paparazzing that I have now mastered.

Next stop was the Castle, and the light rain of earlier in the day had unfortunatly intensified. Honestly, it hasn't rained in weeks and you schedule a fun weekend and all you get is rain and cold weather. All I can offer is a hearty ARGH. Despite the drizzle the castle garden was beautiful, all fall colors and misty paths. The castle hadn't changed much since I was there a few weeks ago, but we did get some photos 'riding the dolphin.' On top of the castle are two gilded mythological dolphin creature things. The city is quite proud of them, to the point where the mascot is a golden dolphin, with legs. So of course inside the castle they have one that you can mount, and take pictures of.

Sunday night we met up with Jared, ate a ton of MOS Burger, and hit up ID Bar. ID Bar is a local club, has 4 floors each with a different type of music. At least on Friday and Saturday it has that going for it, Sunday Night it was hip hop only. I hate hip hop. Oh well a drink or two and you don't even notice the music! We had fun shimmy shimmy shaking it a bit, ended up getting home pretty late, or was that early? Poor Zach had a pretty good (bad) hangover when we wokeup later that morning, but I have already learned the lesson and was fine with the exception of lack of sleep. Lucky for Zach Miso-katsu proved to be perfect hangover food. It was a ton of food, and served on a steaming hot iron griddle. Greasy, filling, what more do you want in a lunch? After a spot of shopping it was time to part ways. We had a pretty good weekend, and I'm glad I was able to show somebody around Nagoya before I head to Kanazawa.

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Sake Barrels at Atsuta. I'm blatently ripping off Lonely Planet here, they have a very similar shot.

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Castle grounds

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I like leaves. A lot. I really do need to stop taking pictures of them so much! Well most of them are gone by now, so that won't be a problem much longer.

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Yeah, this is when Zach was still sober. Feel the fear.

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Riding the dolphin! Thinking "eh take the picture already, I'm bloody bored!"

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Nagoya Station from the top of the Castle. I found out that Nagoya Station holds the world record for largest station building.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Haircuts and Misc.

I haven't had my hair cut since I've been in Japan. Three and a half months later, I was looking pretty shaggy. Trevor had reccomended the barbershop next door to the apartment building, a nice place run by a father and son team. Luckily I got off early tonight, and they were working latish, so I actually had time to mosey in and get my mane lopped off. Now I wasn't sure what to expect, but I needn't have worried. They were very professional, and very, very full service. It was all a bit old fashioned I suppose, at least I don't know of anywhere in Denver to get a haricut like this these days. All scissors, no electric clippers to be seen. Hot towels, straight razor, the whole nine yards! I got clipped, snipped, shaved, back rub, and they even cleaned my glasses! Now that is service. Now I'm not sure if I really needed my forhead shaved, but what can you do? All in all I have to say I'm completely happy with the work done, my hair looks pretty good and my face is the smoothest its been since I started shaving.

So the Kancho attempts have certainly increased, but Thursday I had a real shocker. My cute little 3 year old girl student took a stab at me. Unfortuantly the Wrong Side. Luckily she missed, and besides its not like a 3 year old girl can cause THAT much damage. But really here, do we need to institute a class entitled "don't touch other peoples 'bathing suit area'?" I mean I know to be extra careful around the older boys, but a 3 year old? Yikes.

Zach is coming to town this weekend. Staying at my place and causing general trouble. It should be a good time. Since there have been several textish posts lately, here are some bonus pictures. No real theme, just nice pics from the last month.

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Kanayama at night. Kanayama is a nearby transportation intersection, and a mini downtown area has sprung up.

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My neighborhood, as seen from the stairs up to my apartment.

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The entry of Fushimi Inari at night. I really like this picture. Color, light, it looks cool!

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An interesting failure from Fushimi Inari. I call it a failure, but I think perhaps it is more succesful as a photograph than I had initially thought. Its out of focus, poorly framed, and yet there is a vibrancy there that I like.

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I went back to Inuyama last Monday. Went to a cool temple. This is of course the railway bridge near the cool temple.

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Pretty leaves.

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Inuyama Castle in the distance. I wish that light pole wasnt there, the picture would feel older and more 'authentic' without it.