Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The worst day in a long while.

This morning my delightful girlfriend of four months has dumped me mere weeks before I was to move to Tokyo to be with her. To say I am shocked and devastated would be to massively understate the matter.

I do not know what to do, I am in total shock. This was as out of left field as it could possibly be. Just Friday night she swore she loved me, and then a mere few days later she said she doesn't love me, that she loves somebody else more, and that she lied to me on Friday. Wow, Ouch.

Obviously, I am not going to move to Tokyo, thats out. I may try and stay in Ishikawa, I may try and move to Osaka, or I may go to Europe for a while and just travel. I am not really in a place to make decisions right now, but unfortunately I have only three weeks before i have to move out of my apartment, so I don't have a lot of time to decide what to do.

Life goes on, even if it doesn't feel like it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Obon Sachiko

Obon is a major religious holiday season in Japan that most people have off. Set in the middle of the summer holidays in August, it is a time for people to return home, visit their family and honor their ancestors. While I didn't have any extra time off, luckily for me Sachiko did have some time off. Rather than swing by to visit her family all week, she came to Kanazawa instead.

I took her down the local commuter line train to the outlying suburb of Tsurugi. Not only is the town almost in the beautiful mountains, but it is also home to an excellent wood fired pizza restaurant. The trip out was nice, but the stroll up to the restaurant was marred by the ungodly mid-August heat. We still had a great time, though unfortunately our troubles were just beginning...

The last stop on the Hokutetsu Nomachi station line sees service once an hour on Saturday. We ran, in the heat, from the restaurant to the station only to see the train pull away just as we got there. Oops. We just plopped down in the station with some water and dozed until the next train arrived. Having lost an hour, we went straight home, and grabbed swim trunks and towels for a trip to a big party at Uchinada Beach. We jumped on the bus, ready for a quick 10 minute ride to the train station, where we could catch the 5:00 train to Uchinada. Perfect.

Only, did I mention that in addition to family reunions and grave visiting, Obon also involves dancing festivals? Dancing festivals that block off main street for over a kilometer? Dancing festivals that take normal traffic patterns and send them spiraling into oblivion? Well I didn't know this when we got on the bus, but 50 mintues later when we got off I sure did! The entire main street, from near my house almost all the way to the station, was blocked off. The bus was rerouted way out of the way, which didn't help, and the stop, stop, and go really slowly traffic put the final bit of pain on us.

At least we caught the 6:12 train to Uchinada ok.

The beach was fantastic, but sadly we didn't have time to swim as the sun was setting as we arrived. Still, we got to see a gorgeous sunset, so all was not wasted, not by a long shot!

In other news, I'm sorry about the updated schedule of late. Things have been pretty crazy, with job hunting, and preparing for my move to Tokyo. Time has not been a something I have all that much of in recent weeks.

In other other news, I'm going to copy Zach, and post a little bit in Japanese too. This is not to be pretentious, but mostly for practice, and also because I DO have some students who read my blog, and sometimes my writing can be a bit difficult to understand. So this way, they can (hopefully) get the gist of what I'm talking about. Notice, it is NOT a direct translation, or even anywhere near a direct translation!

幸子は 八月に 金沢に 来ました。土曜日 に 鶴来 に 行きました。 鶴来 に すごい おいしい ピザ の レストランが あります。僕 は 幸子 と ひるごはん を ピザ を 食べました。ほくてつ 野町線 で 電車 は 一時間 に 一度 に 動かす。電車 に のり おくれた。

内灘の浜に ばんごはん を 食べました。たくさん きれいな 日没 見ました。

Phew, that was hard. A big thanks to Kanazawa Zach for some important help. I have a headache now!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sturm und Drang, signifying everything.

Monday morning saw the arrival of our first rain in weeks. The weather has been glorious, so mother nature decided the area needed a major storm to shake things up.

Rather than just drop some light rain on the city, the weather decided to summon a thunderstorm the likes of which few are privileged enough to encounter. Being the photographer I am, I dusted off my tripod and headed out to get some lighting shots. These are difficult to get, for the obvious reason that you just never know where those jagged little guys will strike.

Luckily, the storm was of such violence and intensity, that I got a few pretty good shots before I headed back inside. As the evening turned into the morning, the storm grew closer to Kanazawa proper, and started hitting us pretty hard, heavy rain and tons of very, very close lightning and thunder. The moron in me decided this was a good time to go out and get some more pictures from my open to the elements front porch...

This one was pretty close.

A much more comfortable distance!


This last one was so close, and so loud, that I picked up my tripod and made great haste for the 'safety' of my apartment. Once I got inside I remembered to breathe, and found myself shaking and on the verge of tears. I've had close encounters with lightning before, one would think I had learned my lesson. I think this one may have actually struck the building, or indeed very close by, as something knocked out my internet for the next two days, which explains why I'm late in posting these photots!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Shinjuku Station in HDR

Shinjuku Station (新宿駅)is the primary transportation hub for Western Tokyo and is the busiest train station in the world. Combining three different rail companies and two different subway companies, the station complex is the second largest in the world (after Nagoya Station) and sees an average of 3.1 million users a day. Standing on a foot bridge over the tracks, it seems like the rails cut a huge canyon through the surrounding cityscape. Some of the trains are so long that the front of the train is arriving at Shinjuku while the back of the train is still leaving Yoyogi, the next station down the line! To battle your way onto a commuter train here at rush hour is a task not to be undertaken lightly!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Mikasa

Located south of Tokyo, the city of Yokosuka doesn't have much to offer the normal tourist. Luckily, I am not a normal tourist, so I had a great time in this naval oriented town.

Yokosuka has a long history of ship building, indeed William Adams, the inspiration of the character in the Novel Shogun, lived and is buried in in the city. Yokosuka is still heavily involved in the defense of Japan. The city is has both a major American Navy Base and a Japanese Self-Defense Force Base.

I arrived to take a peek at the battleship Mikasa, a museum ship that has been preserved in a small park along the waterfront. The Mikasa is a rather important icon, as in addition to being the flagship of the Japanese fleet in the battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War, it is the last remaining pre-dreadnaught ship of the line.

There exists an interesting progression of design, from the broadside cannons of the ironclads of the late 1800s to the turreted main guns of a modern battleship. Ordered from Great Britain in 1898 and delivered to Japan in 1900 after three years of construction, Mikasa was a masterpiece of state of the art naval-design, but she exists as a transitional form. She has two large turrets, with 12-inch guns, but maintains a rather extensive broadside of smaller caliber artillery as well. This design was soon made obsolete by the launch of the HMS Dreadnought, the first "all big gun" battleship that disposed of the broadside armaments for larger numbers of larger guns mounted in turrets.

While the technology is interesting, the history is fascinating. The battle of Tsushima is one of the most lopsided naval victories in History, ranking with the Greek victory at Salamis and the English triumph at Trafalgar. The Russian Baltic Squadron dashed around half the world to relieve the besieged Pacific Fleet in Port Arthur. Port Arthur fell before they could arrive, yet they came on anyway, and right into the teeth of the Japanese Battleships.

Despite having more heavy ships, the Russian fleet was demolished, losing eight battleships and 5,000 men to Japanese losses of only three small torpedo boats and 116 lives. This marked the end of the war, and in many ways the beginning of the end of Czarist Russia. While the actual revolution would wait, unrest at home and a marked decrease in international prestige, as well as the loss of two major fleets, put the Czarist government on notice.

The actual museum ship was fantastic, many of the guns could be handled, and you could aim at sailboats in the harbor. Almost everywhere on the ship was accessible, and they had some good history lessons, in case you didn't know about the background of the Russo-Japanese War. For a naval buff like myself, it was a perfect day out.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Meiji Jingu, Harajuku, Free Hugs and Farewell

One of my reasons for barreling down to Tokyo all in rush was to see Michael, as it was the big Kiwi's last weekend in Japan. We tried to meet up at the big fireworks display on Saturday night, but crush of the massive crowd made a meeting unlike, and the crash of the local cellular network made a meeting impossible!

So we met up the next day for a slice of heaven at Wendys (chili cheese fries), and a traipse about Tokyo. The destination in mind was Harajuku, land of a thousand fashion disasters. Harajuku has become a destination of both those who want to see, and those who want to be seen. Unlike the usual expression of this dynamic, Harajuku is all about Gothic fashion, the more outlandish the better. And as we found, it was also all about free hugs.

Right next door to Harajuku is the massive Meiji Jingu, a paradise of trees in the heart of Tokyo. It had rained quite heavily that afternoon, so the early evening sun slanting through the trees made for an amazing sight.

We boys met up first with Mikes friend Waka, and then with Sachiko when she got off of work. After enjoying Meiji Shrine and the adjacent Yoyogi Park, we decamped to Outback Steakhouse, for the first steak to grace my plate since Zach and I went last October. It was delectable, to say the least.

Then it was time for some farewells, as Michael caught the night bus back to Kanazawa. By now, he is back in New Zealand, and itching to come back to Japan already!

Bye Mike!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Childhood: Revisited

On a bit of a whim, I flew to Tokyo last weekend. I flew out Saturday afternoon, on one of the typical All Nippon Air 747s. When selecting my seat, I was afforded an unprecedented privilege, a seat on the upper deck. Now, it wasn't a 1st class seating area, really it was pretty much the same as the main deck, only shorter. However, the chance to sit on the upper deck of a 747, that was really cool, certainly an event that thrilled my (rather vocal) inner 10 year old.

While reading the paper on the 45 minute flight, I noticed a small article about a model train show in Ginza. I knew I'd have some time to kill on Sunday morning, so I kept the article and made plans. The Japanese model trains were pretty interesting, but as with anything in Tokyo it was a madhouse. I can take the pushing and shoving for about 10 minutes, before I feel the need to start knocking heads together.

Walking along the road in Ginza afterwards, I saw this toy store. Anybody that knows me knows that I was in the store for some time after this photo was taken. They had every Lego set imaginable, and I'll admit the temptation to dust off my credit cards was present, and strongly so. Certainly if I was 15 years younger, this place would have been pure paradise on earth!

Next: Fireworks, Rain, and those crazy Harajuku girls.