Saturday, May 27, 2006

eBaum's World

eBaum's World

Latest news and updates here. - Funny movies, flash cartoons, funny pictures, jokes, prank phone calls and more.

recommended by Kai & Anthony - some of the funniest news bloopers around

the arms race



finally, a good use for Campbell's



the true college dilemma


what an offer!


Thursday, May 25, 2006

back tracking

...a wee bit of backtracking, but it's been a busy week...

Saturday, May 20th
After the day of studying and lounging around my room, I headed up to Stephanie's for some HW help. We ended up chatting for a bit - something we don't get a chance to do much anymore. She showed me the anniversary present she made for Rob (a giant hand sewn pillow in the shape of some cartoon character's head that he loves) and she told me a bit about her plans to finish the next month's worth of homework before he arrived on Monday. (she did, in fact, do most of the homework. Crazy girl.) As 9 o'clock neared, I headed back down, and stopped by Claudia's room for a visit. I would have stayed, but Lukas showed up and so I took off, mainly to drop my stuff off in my room, and then down to the 会館 to meet up with the group for Bingo's birthday party.

Bingo is a former Chiba-Dai student, from Thailand. He was one of the few remaining students here back in October when I arrived, although I only met him on his final day at the going away party held for him (which was also my first Karaoke experience 懐かしい). About a month and a half ago, his University went on Summer holidays, and Bingo decided to spend them here, re-visiting many of the friends he left behind in Japan. Because he is so close with Patcharin, we've spent some time together, and I was happy to stop in and say hi for his birthday. Anyways, I managed to get there around the same time as Bingo and some friends of his on a return beer-run, so we cracked open some cans and had a few laughs. When Katya made it home from her dance practice, the 2 of us went out for dinner, dragging Hatim and Eugenie along. As we passed by Claudia's room, Katya shouted out SHIZA at the top of her lungs, and Claudia came with us. We ended up taking so long, that when we got back to the dorm, the party was in full swing. In fact, there were so many people and most of them were drunk, that I decided I didn't want to join in and left with Katya to her building.

There, we camped out in the sofa meeting room and chatted while we got some work done. I finished my homework for the week, and Katya was working on some translation job that Amed found for her. We were there until nearly 2, just laughing and having fun, but finally I decided to head home to drop off my stuff. As I left her building, I ran into the party crowd who were being kicked out of the 会館 and were moving the party outside. Finally, I felt guilty enough for skipping so much of the party, that I let Bingo, Patcharin, David and Hatim talk me into dropping my stuff off and coming back down to visit. I ended up sitting with Andrew and catching up a bit - we see so little of each other now that he moved out of the dorms - and just laughing at the new students. [there were about 15 or 20 new students that arrived in April to begin with the new semester. Somehow, they are nearly all from South America and therefore have a lot of fun chatting in Spanish. Generally, they are a lot of fun, and between the Spanish, English, and of course Japanese, we were making fools of ourselves in the park between the dorimtory buildings.]

The party lasted until well into the morning. I said goodnight at around 4 and headed up to bed, but heard from Patcharin the next morning that she hadn't even been to sleep yet, as the party had gone on so late. (early?).

Sunday, May 21st

I was woken up at 10:30 this morning by Patcharin, calling to see if I was still going to the festival, and hoping it would be okay if she came with me. I can't remember what I managed to answer, but I'm sure it was grumbly and incoherent after such a small amount of sleep. In fact, even with my alarm going off after 11, I barely made it downstairs on time to grab Hatim at noon and head towards the station. When I got to his room, he was just getting ready and said that Patcharin wanted to come with us, so the 3 of us got on the train after a quick stop at 99.

On the train, we enjoyed watching the strange people that were heading towards Asakusa with us. I emailed Richie to let him know I was on my way, as the original plan was for me to meet him and Aki, a friend of his, for a day in Tokyo. Between complaining about his massive hangover, and trying to give me directions to Aki's place in Kiyosumi, he made it clear that he was dissapointed that he would have to share me with Hatim & Patcharin for the day. (what a devoted husband, ne?) so I explained to Hatim that it was supposed to be a date, and he totally understood. At Kinshicho, we split up, Hatim and Patcharin kept going to Asakusa, and I went in the other direction to meet up with Richie.

Our date day started with plans for coffee, of course! After meeting me at the station exit, Richie walked me to Doutor via a beautiful river with cascading Sakura trees along the bank. He told me stories about his night before in Shinjuku and about all of the people he's been meeting, and I told him about Bingo's party the night before. We weaved in and out of cute little streets, in a neighborhood that I'd never heard of but grew to love within minutes of being there. It was a residential neighborhood, but not suburban at all. Instead, it reminded me of the inner city streets seen in European movies, with homes and stores all piled on top of each other, and tiny flower gardens and cafes mixed in. I loved just walking, and made Richie wait for his coffee as I headed in the direction of a street I saw cordoned off ahead. There was a mini-festival going on, and a group of young Japanese kids (maybe 8-10 year olds) were putting on a dance performance and engaging the community in learning how to twirl batons. We sat for a bit watching them, and I was happy to just take in the experience, but eventually our mutual drowsiness kicked in and we finally found our way to Doutor.

After coffee, we met up with Aki and jumped on the train towards Asakusa. As you can see from the pictures below, Asakusa was the center of craziness and bedlam for the day, and it felt like every single person in Tokyo was gathered into the few square blocks to celebrate together. I learned a lot about the festival just by joining into the chaos, and occassionally stepping back to observe. Besides the streets packed with Mikoshi (portable shrines) and the people carrying them around, there were also thousands of people making their way through the shrine to pray and observe the festival in their own way. Surrounding the area were makeshift food & souvenir stands, various stages with even more varied performances, and of course, Japanese people from every possible stage of life just grouped together. It was such an amazing experience to be a part of it - for once, my skin colour, my language abilities, my own personal problems were a non-issue and I was just accepted into the crowd as one of them. I didn't want to leave, but at the same time, didn't have the energy to stay long, and so Richie, Aki and I made our way into one of the back streets to find an Okonomiyaki restaurant.

After lunch, and another 2 hours of Asakusa, we decided to find someplace a bit calmer to spend the rest of our day. Our goal was Yoyogi Koen, a park where we could lie on the grass, share a few drinks, some laughs, and just chill out. But, when we arrived in Harajuku, I was anxious to visit Meiji Jingu Mae to see what kind of crazy outfits we could spot. Instead of Yoyogi, mainly because it was starting to cool down (after an amazingly warm and gorgeous day), we walked down the main street in Harajuku and found our way to Starbucks for another coffee, and then to Omote Sando Hills, the new super high class shopping mall that opened recently.

The mall was actually nothing special in terms of the shops and restaurants inside. Everything was as crowded and 狭い as you'd expect of a mall or shopping area in downtown Tokyo, but the architecture was really interesting. Instead of organizing the mall into seperate floors like every other mall, the hallways were all built on an angle, creating a never-ending walkway that circled the open area in the middle 4 times between the basement and top floor. There were also escalators available for anyone who didn't feel up to walking, but I thought it was a really unique design. No stairs!

Anyways, we walked through the mall, and then made our way back through Harajuku to the station, and we each headed in our own direction. All in all, the day was great. It was such a relief to get out of Inage and the dorms and all the depression I've been feeling here, and to spend the day with Richie who keeps my energy level up, and Aki, a real true sweet heart who spent the day treating me - he wouldn't let me pay for ANYTHING, and while I know that may make me sound shallow, it was still really special.

Tuesday, May 22nd
After reading comprehension class, I made my way to the Cafeteria where people were grouping together in front of the 'stage' area. Today was finally my chance to see Katya dancing! Her サクル (dance club) was putting on a performance for about 20 minutes during the lunch break, and she was performing in 2 of the dances. It was really impressive, mainly because I have never seen her dance before. It was like watching a cheesy movie with dance offs, only this time it wasn't cheesy because I knew someone doing the dance, and I know how much work went into choreographing it, practicing it, putting together the costumes, the music track, and then coming up with the courage to perform in front of strangers. Way to go Katya! You were awesome!!

Wednesday, May 23rd
I wasn't expecting a great day when I woke up with a headache and couldn't make it out of bed on time for my first class. Instead, I lay here for about 2 hours before summoning the strength to drag myself to the shower and eventually to school. I missed lunch time with everyone, but still had an hour or so before my culture class, so I sat in the computer room and studied for a bit with Eugenie and some of the Indonesians. Just before class started, we made our way downstairs, and found seats before the class filled up.

日本事情① is one of my classes that is taught in Japanese. The class is still geared towards international students, and the teacher uses fairly basic grammer structures, and when he writes things on the board (which is pretty much the same as the stuff he says in terms of a lecture), he usually writes the reading of the difficult Chinese characters. (thank god for 読み方!!). Anyways, the class usually focusses on elements of the Japanese sociological makeup, but today we switched over to cultural art in the form of Rakugo a solo comic performance sort of like Japanese stand-up. And to teach us about it, Wada-sensei brought in a video of a Rakugo performance, and to my surprise, it was in English! Lucky me, I was able to understand the entire show, while the Japanese students in the class sort of stared in awe trying to grasp the meaning from the actor's gestures and such. It wasn't really as funny as I expected it to be, but it was definately interesting, and surprisingly, something I hadn't learned about before coming here, which made it even easier to pay attention in class.

Anyways, after class, I really didn't feel like hanging out at school, so I headed back and took a nap in my room. After waking up, I wanted to watch a movie, and I put in 'In Her Shoes'. Then, about 2 minutes into it, I decided that it was a movie that Natasya would probably enjoy, so I stopped the movie and emailed her to see if she wanted to watch with me. Instead of coming to watch the movie with me, the crazy girl stayed at school and worked on her research until SUPER LATE. ok, actually, I'm impressed that she decided to be a good girl and stay at uni until her work was done, but it's fun to pick on her just a little bit every now and then ;0)

So, instead of watching the movie, I jumped at the chance to eat with Katya who emailed me at almost the same time I was inviting Natasya over. We went to ココの一 , which is a really yummy curry house, and we sat chatting for over an hour. On the walk home, we ran into Amed, who was excited to show us the new speaker system he had installed in his car. Katya concluded that there was only one way to truly experience them, which was by blasting her house music through them. Grabbing Eugenie and Hatin, the 5 of us left on a mini-road trip, blaring her music the whole way.

Amed ended up taking us to Inage Kaikan, the closest beach to Inage. There, we wanted to get as close to the water as possible, but because the beach area was closed for the night, he drove us down a bridge which leads to Makuhari, a nearby city. On the bridge, there were cars 'parked' along the side, and quite a few of them had steamy windows. We got out of the car, and stood on the bridge facing the water, enjoying the wind and spray on our faces. But, we weren't close enough. Wanting to go down, we found a gate at the end of the bridge and squeezed our way through it. It led to giant dirt hill, which under normal circumstances would have been easy to climb up or down, but in the rain and spray from the ocean, was practically a death trap. Some of us chose to slide down the mud hill on our asses (cough-katya-cough), and others stepped down gingerly holding on to the wire fence for dear life (cough cough). Anyways, once down the hill, there was another one, although this time with a ladder to climb down, and from there, we found a stone wall heading out towards the middle of Chiba Bay. Again, it was blocked by a gate with a huge Do Not Enter type of sign, but feigning ignorance, we squeezed past this one too (this time, I led the way!) and ran out as far as we could over the Pacific. At the far end, a small light house type structure kept blinking a blue light, and we made Hatim climb up and pose for pictures, that really couldn't turn out in the darkness.

The way back was pretty much the same, only climbing up the dirt hill proved easier than down had been. Once back in the car, we switched the music to Eminem, and enjoyed acting like thugs for the ride back to the dorms. In fact, between singing along and acting like a gangster, Katya took turns sticking various body parts out the front passenger window (namely, her arm, leg, and even torso!). It was a gas.

When we got home, I really wasn't ready for the night to end, so instead we drove to Daniel's new apartment and dropped in unexpectedly. Between harassing his neighbors with the extremely loud music, and entertaining ourselves by pretending to be on a stealth mission between the car and his front door, I'm sure we made a spectacle of ourselves, but at least we had fun, and now I've seen Daniel's bachelor pad!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

gah

so many ppl check my blog on a daily basis.. but only like 3 people ever comment? wtf?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sanja Matsuri: A Photo Blog

My Matsuri Dates

Mikoshi

Tattoo Man


Sanja Festival

In front of Asakusa Shrine

Mmmm, Fish on a Stick

What a contrast; waiting for the train ride home.

Friday, May 19, 2006

a strange weekend so far

Originally, the plans were set that I'd meet Claudia and Natasya downstairs at 6 am this morning. Obviously, I didn't make it. Strangely enough, (and fortunately, I suppose) I woke up precisely at 6 and managed to call Claudia to let them know I wasn't going to make it. I sleepily rolled over and went back to sleep.. albeit not for long. Between 6:21 and 10:30, we ended up trading about 10 emails trying to make arrangements to meet in Tokyo for our first Takarazuka experience. Unfortunately, by the time we all decided that we wanted to go, it was too late to buy the pre-sale tickets. Instead, we had to queue in front of the ticket window which would open at 10 am this morning. Natasya's experiences have taught her that the only chance of getting tickets would be to get there super early, thus the 6 am meeting plan. Long story short, the girls made it to the line up behind nearly 50 women who were not only lined up patiently and orderly, but were also dressed as though out of some crazy mind control movie. (or so I imagine based on the pictures Natasya sent me!)

Because of the long line up ahead of them, we weren't able to get tickets, so instead of spending the day in Tokyo as originally planned, I've been lounging around the dorm, and Claudia and Natasya are sleepily making their way home via a jaunt through 日北谷公園 and 秋葉原.


Tomorrow I have a date planned with Richie, my crazy husband. We are supposed to meet up with a friend of his and engage in some sort of Karaoke competition. Now, as you all know, I am a bit of Karaoke addict, and while I'm dying for the chance to go and experience Richie singing JPop, instead, I have proposed that we postpone the Karaoke trip and instead drop in to Asakusa for an experience of a lifetime.

Sanja Festival (三社祭)

Sanja Matsuri is counted among the three grandest festivals dating back to the Edo period, even known as the wildest of all in Tokyo area, that attracts almost 1,500,000 spectators in three days every year. The main feature is the famous grand procession called “Daigyoretsu” on Friday, an exciting event to heat up whole the community with traditional musicians, performers and dancers parading around the downtown Asakusa. While on Saturday, about 100 portable shrines of various sizes from parishioner organizations of Asakusa Shrine gather in the precincts of the shrine, undergo the purification ceremony and return to each neighborhood. On Sunday, Asakusa Shrine’s portable shrines are carried out of the precincts in the morning, off in different directions, taken around the communities and carried back to the shrine in the evening. Go and see all the happenings in three days and feel the vibrant Edo culture.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

a shout out to Lukas

and a very grateful thank you for the 4 hours he spent helping me with my 発表. I know he's pretty busy with his own thing, as pretty much everyone here is, and to take the time out to come through for me like that is pretty awesome. So thanks. Again.

And while I'm blogging, a congrats again to Kristine! I don't know much about your 市 but I'll keep my ears open when chatting with 日本人. And of course keep me up to date with JET info & other excitements. It's still so hard to beleive that when I get home you won't be there for Starbucks dates and 文学 chats, but at least we'll have August, ね?

And Crystal, thank you for your emails, your cards, your thoughts and your friendship. I keep checking your blog, but no news about your JET placement yet? I hope you end up nearby as well, and us Canadians will take Japan by storm (for a month at least).

Anyways, since I have my 発表 to present in the morning, I have to go re-write it and 暗記 it. (Sorry to those of you not in Japanese studies.. I am just reaching a point where some of the Japanese words come easier than English these days, and I figure, why fight it?) For a taste of the latest Cori-Lukas collaboration, enjoy. Pretty pamphlet with exciting pictures to come, as soon as I can upload it properly.


私はカナダ担当のコリーと申します。どうぞよろしくお願いいたします。

これから、ご紹介するツアーは「カナダの大冒険」と言うカナダの有名な観光地を訪ねる七日間のツアーでございます。大自然との出会いはもちろん、カナダの多文化主義の体験や、大都会のにぎやかなナイトライフも、多様な国を様々なように楽しんでいただけると思います。

カナダは一つの広い陸地と北極海諸島と言う島々から形成します。カナダは三方を海に囲まれ、南側でアメリカに接しています。カナダは、大草原や森林や山脈など、様々な土地柄のあるところです。また、十州と三つのテリトリーに分けられ、六時間帯にも分かれている極めて広い国です。

まず、世界でも他に例を見ないほど、大都市でありながら、豊かな自然に恵まれたバンクーバーです。移動や観光の手段が豊富なため、自由自在に動き回れるのも魅力だと思います。バンクーバーの数多くの観光地は、ハンドアウトをご参考下さい。

次に、私の出身地のカルガリとその周辺についてお話させていただきます。カルガリは、カナダのショッピングとグルメのメッカです。高層ビル群の間にそびえるカルガリ・タワーも、欠かせないスポットです。展望台から、高層ビルの風景やロッキー山脈が望め、回転レストランのパノラマルームではお食事を楽しみながら360度の景観をぜひ満喫していただきたいと思います。

カルガリの近くに有名な自然リゾートのバンフがあります。バンフ市は風変わりでおもしろい山村で、自然の景色もすばらしいと思います。山にロープウェイまたはリフトでお登り、ロッキーのパノラマと言うスキー場が定番であり、大きな湖の周遊ドライブもお勧めです。

オンタリオ湖の北岸に位置するトロントでは、いろいろな国の文化が共存する420万人の人口で、カナダ最大の都市です。トロントは、北米で四番目に大きな都市です。しかし、大都市のトロントから、豊かな大自然のナイアガラ滝に日帰り旅行でも行けます。ナイアガラ滝はアメリカとカナダの国境にある3つの滝からなる瀑布です。観覧船ツアーで自然のすばらしい風景を眺めるのは、ずっと忘れられない思い出になるはずであると思います。

最後に、美しい街のモントリオールです。パリについでフランス語系の世界第二の国際都市で知られています。バーやディスコはどこで朝早くまでにぎわっています。ファッションではパリやニューヨークとも肩を並べるほどで、おしゃれなお買い物を楽しめます。

Sunday, May 14, 2006

p.s.

in an attempt to keep things in the right order, a lot of my current posts have been back-dated to fit into the right time frame. don't forget to scroll back in you want to see what's been happening :)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mexico to Allow Use of Drugs - Los Angeles Times

Mexico to Allow Use of Drugs - Los Angeles Times

A highlight: ...and the per-person amounts approved for possession by anyone 18 or older could easily turn any college party into an all-nighter: half a gram of coke, a couple of Ecstasy pills, several doses of LSD, a few marijuana joints, a spoonful of heroin, 5 grams of opium and more than 2 pounds of peyote, the hallucinogenic cactus...

Friday, May 12, 2006

self-pity

I spend a lot of time alone these days, and usually, I spend it numbing my synapses in front of the TV (both American and Japanese). I hate TV.. and nearly always have, although I occassionally get sucked in and addicted to various shows.. or perhaps just the chance to escape through the half decent plotlines, at regulary scheduled intervals. But, left to wallow in my own thoughts I can't help but search for deeper meaning into the long hours of solitude that have become my life in Japan.

Perhaps this is my own doing? I've been known to enjoy my alone time.. sometimes, okay, often, to the chagrin of my friends and family back home. And I admit that there were times before the social uprisings in the Chiba Dorm, when I openly admitted to needing a break from my 'Lukas time'. Looking back, I'm not sure how seriously I meant it, but it's something I have forced myself to get used to. Lukas is not one to be tied down, and besides, I kind of see promise in the new turn in our relationship. For example? No more long nights of watching Japanese variety TV while scrunched up between Lukas and the wall in my own bed. No more email conversations throughout the day to keep me distracted from classes and other friends. And as an added bonus, the time we do spend together now, is usually full of laughs and fun times, as opposed to serious chats or growing levels of substance abuse (ie coffee, beer).

Lukas situation abated, I'll admit that I've been feeling estranged from nearly all of my 'friends' lately. Everyone back home is busy with post-final partying, summer jobs, and various other activities. People here are all going through an "oh-no-we-only-have-#-months-to-go" panic and trying to pack every spare moment with new Japanese friends, doing new Japanese activities, and more often than not, these tend to not include me. Okay, okay, I know I should be out finding my own new friends and new activities, but the truth is that I happen to like my old friends, and I was happy with our usual activities. I have nothing against trying new things, meeting new people, and spending time with and apart from my usual group. But when the time apart becomes nothing but, I can get a little torn up. Things change, people change, and life goes on. I get it, I'm not denying it, and I've heard it all before. But I will never ever truly understand why 'life goes on' has to mean 'life goes on without you, Cori'. How can people drop me out of their lives so easily? Why do they let it happen? I think I'm a good friend, loyal, entertaining, fun to be around, caring, a good listener, and willing to try new things. I'm honest about things that I don't like, and I try to be tolerant of other people and their own personal decisions (unless it affects me directly, ie 2nd hand smoke). But somehow, these things don't seem to matter to other people. Or maybe I'm just dull.

Interestingly enough, feeling left out and abandoned, as I am, results in feelings of anger and resentment with nearly everything, and my grumpiness is escalating at lightning speed. I see my so-called friends together, and feel ridiculously angry at them for being together. It's stupid, I know, but I sit there and remember times in the past and all of the negative things they've said about each other, and I think to myself that some of them really don't deserve each other. Pointless, ne? What's worse is I then wonder what they've said about me.. and that maybe that's the root of all that's been happening lately.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

confession

Ok, I told an itty bitty teensy li'l white lie.. and while it wasn't going to hurt anyone, I thought I better set the record straight now that I can explain.

Kristine! When I told you that your package was in the mail.. what I meant was that your package was packed and sitting on my desk collecting dust. I had every intention of sending this long before you finished (or even started) finals, but I can now say that the package is in the mail. I dropped it off at the 郵 today after school and sent it off through the magical innovation that is airmail. I'm sorry for saying it was there sooner, but somehow I don't think it will phase you too much knowing that it's now en route, albeit a few weeks late.

本当に、ごめんなさい 。 それで、包みを楽しみねぇ~

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Happy Birthday Kai

What can I say? The day went better than I ever expected. I think he loved my present, Lukas & I finally talked, and I haven't seen Kai have this much fun in months. I still say 25 is not old, but maybe it's impossible to deny that a certain connection between those of us in this age bracket and a certain Vanilla Ice song is just too revealing.. what do you think?

this just in..

do not you make it the next opportunity?
i'm sorry without being concerned with what i provoked.
it was bad for an electric wave to watch an email.
so i have returned to a direction of a house.
it becomes later when i go to chiba now



thanks Anthony. this just might be the best email I've ever seen. ever.

attack of the pooping pigeons

Imagine my surprise when I recieved the following email the other day:

Sub: HELP
Anyone near our dorm and aren't afraid of pidgeons?!?!

There are pigeons in my floor's laundry room. They pooped everywhere. I told the dormitory office people and they told me to get rid of them! I tried to open the window but I can't get there. They seem to fly everywhere whenever I get close them or the window.

HEEEEELLP!

LOL, I had to read it twice while I laughed myself silly. Before heading next door to save Stephanie from the pigeons, I began the following email conversation.


Me: LOL! I hope you take pictures, lots of pictures (~O~)

Stephanie: I tried to get rid of them like 3x. And, I went "Kyaa!!" all 3 attempts (when I hear them or see them flapping)

Me: damn, lol. I'm working this into my 宿題(homework). 「ステファ二ーの洗濯機でピジョンを片付けることほど勇気の要ることはない.

Stephanie: LOL!! COME HELP ME AND STOP MAKING FUN OF ME! AT LEAST YOU CAN GO "KYAA" TOO~


Finally, after regaining my composure, I grabbed my camera and headed over to Stephanie's building to assess the pigeon danger for myself. What I saw and what I'd been expecting were radically different: instead of a room full of giant attacking pigeons, this is what I found.


2 harmless pigeons, that I simply shooed out the window (after opening it) with the help of Stephanie's umbrella. In fact, I was in the middle of opening the window when I decided to re-close it and find Steph to witness the removal of her pigeons. When I turned towards her room (just down the hall from the laundry room) we surprised each other. She wasn't expecting to see me, and I wasn't quite prepared for her anti-pigeon gear.

All in all, a moment worth remembering for the laughs and ridiculousness. Unfortunately, in the wake of the pigeons, the laundry room was left somewhat of a mess.. thus the title of this exciting blog entry: the attack of the pooping pigeons.

Monday, May 08, 2006

5.3.06 Jozankei

After our late night on Tuesday, Wednesday morning didn't fare as well as we'd hoped. Both mine and Lora's alarms went off on time, but as we Canadians do so well, we turned them off and went back to sleep. Until 10. As it turned out, neither of us really minded getting off to a late start, seeing as it was our holiday, we decided to relax and just enjoy ourselves.

At the train station, we purchased our tickets for the following day, and then made our way to the bus stop for our day trip. Since the bus wasn't due for nearly an hour, we had time to find a bakery in the eki basement, and we packed up a few provisions for the road. According to the guide books and bus schedules, the bus ride to Jozankei should have taken about 50 minutes, and so we looked forward to a leisurely breakfast on the bus. We should have taken the national holiday into account and better prepared, because with the amount of traffic on the roads leading out of Sapporo, the bus trip ended up taking 2.5 hrs, and our breakfasts had to tide us over for an extra 90 minutes of boredom and hunger. As a result, when we finally reached our destination, we were a bit restless and eager to start sighteeing.

To begin with, we found the Jozankei Tourist Information Center slash Tourism Museum. In reality, this was a building full of random pamphlets, maps and stuffed animals, in the creepy sense of the words. For seemingly no reason at all, the museum showcased the following:
anyways, after grabbing some handy walking maps, Lora and I eagerly headed back outside to see what awaited us in Jozankei.

Unexpectedly, Jozankei turned out to be the home of the mysterious nymph like creatures, the Kappa. There were Kappa statues, Kappa art, and Kappa steam baths featured around every nook and cranny, and even a sort of Kappa treasure hunt which had us following the maps back and forth across the little mountain village. Perhaps I should clarify;
Wikipedia's Description of Japanese mythical creatures: the Kappa

Kappa are mischievous troublemakers. Their pranks range from the relatively innocent, such as loudly passing gas or looking up women's kimonos, to the more troublesome, such as stealing crops, kidnapping children, or raping women. In fact, small children comprise one of the gluttonous kappa's favorite meals, though they will eat adults as well. They feed on these hapless victims by sucking out the entrails (or blood, liver, or "life force", depending on the legend) through the anus. Even today, signs warning about kappa appear by bodies of water in some Japanese towns and villages. Kappa are also said to be afraid of fire, and some villages hold fireworks festivals each year to scare the sprites away.

Kappa are not entirely antagonistic to mankind, however. They are curious of human civilization, and they can understand and speak Japanese. They thus sometimes challenge those they encounter to various tests of skill, such as shogi (a chess-like game popular in Japan) or sumo wrestling. They may even befriend human beings in exchange for gifts and offerings, especially cucumbers, the only food kappa are known to enjoy more than human children. Japanese parents sometimes write the names of their children (or themselves) on cucumbers and toss them into kappa-infested waters in order to mollify the creatures and allow the family to bathe. There is even a kind of cucumber-filled sushi roll named for the kappa, the kappamaki.

Once befriended, kappa have been known to perform any number of tasks for human beings, such as helping farmers irrigate their land. They are also highly knowledgeable of medicine, and legend states that they taught the art of bone setting to mankind. Due to these benevolent aspects, some shrines are dedicated to the worship of particularly helpful kappa. Kappa may also be tricked into helping people. Their deep sense of decorum will not allow them to break an oath, for example, so if a human being can dupe a kappa into promising to help him, the kappa has no choice but to follow through.

Alright then, as I was saying, Jozankei was filled with various Kappa monuments and paraphenelia. Between the statues and artwork, we were inspired by the beauty of the quiet little mountain town, and its natural serenity in things such as the stairs to Iwato Park, and dangling suspension bridges. As an added bonus, because we were there during Golden Week, giant flying fish were suspended over the village, added colour and vibrancy to the sights.




5.3.06 photos

5.2.06 Leaving for Hokkaido

After an emotional Monday night, I spent Tuesday morning sitting through class in zombie-mode. The POURING rain outside seemed to match my pounding heart rate as I thought about all of the things I was fleeing here in Chiba, and what I was hoping to find during my time in Hokkaido. Needless to say, I couldn't focus on the ridiculous dolphin essay, and instead took advantage of my time by writing a letter to Natasya and a quick note for Claudia. Looking back, I probably could have saved them both from my emotional ramblings, but as we say here in Japan, shouganai. Anyways, as class reached the end, (and to the curious amusement of Kai) both Claudia and Stephanie hugged me before we left the classroom, and Stephanie actually helped rush me out of the International Center with barely a goodbye to everyone we passed along the way. (I did manage to stop for a second to say hi and bye to Hatim, who had baked me more cookies! - I think I might start travelling more often, just for the donations from Hatim's bakery. yummmmmmy). And it was a good thing she did, because by the the time I rode home, grabbed my suitcase and walked back to the station, I had exactly one minute before the train came to express me away towards the airport.

The train ride was a blur, lost as I was in my pit of self-pity, and my mood seemed to drop lower and lower as I neared Haneda. I finally hit rock bottom when I was sitting at the airport eating a Bento. I had already checked in, and was just trying to get some of the food down, despite the cardboard taste of pre-packaged food, when I got an email from Natasya in response to the letter I had written. Reading it, with tears streaming down my face, I can only imagine what the Japanese people thought of me sitting in the middle of the airport making a spectacle of myself, but it was a relief to reach that point then and there. Natasya's letter was warm and thoughtful, honest and a bit vulnerable. And most importantly, it felt like a giant proverbial kick to the ass. I re-read the letter twice, wrote her a reply, and then turned off my keitai. I put it away, and with it, all the emotional crap I'd been holding onto. I wiped away my tears, tossed out the remains of my Bento, and headed towards the boarding gate, eager to leave my problems behind and have a good time in Hokkaido.




Arriving in Sapporo, Lora and I exchanged messages planning to meet at the travel center I remembered at the Eki. There, I found pamphlets on all of the places I wanted to visit, and got to use the free internet for a few minutes before Lora found me. We chatted on the walk back to her dorm, when she informed me that since the last time I'd seen her, she'd met Mark, her boyfriend, broke her arm, and been to Honshu for 10 days to see Kyoto, and surrounding areas. I was blown away, to hear that she'd had to experience going to a Japanese hospital (by herself!) and enjoyed first hand the Japanese medical system. (from what I hear, nowhere near what we're used to from back home.. in fact, her cast wasn't even a cast, and as a result, her elbow doesn't seem to have set properly, and she'll probably have to go to physio when she gets home to deal with that... the poor thing). But, despite the traumatic possibilities, Lora told the story with her usual happy spin, making light of the worst points, and stressing on the laughs she managed to find in the situation.

When we got to Sosei, her dormitory, we dropped off my bags and headed out to a group dinner at a nearby Chinese Food Restaurant. I enjoyed just sitting back and spending the time with a new group of people, a new group with new stories, new laughs, and new points of view. Unfortunately, the majority of the group (including Mark, the new boyfriend) were Americans, so everything was in English, but it was still nice just to be around new conversations. After dinner, we hit the combenie and picked up some drinks and food for the week, after which we returned to the dorm and snuck me in past the front desk where the bachans stood guard. From there, we set up my futon (Lora's room was big enough to fit my futon, my suitcase and me.) and stayed up late visiting with Anne (Lora's French neighbor who I'd met the last time in Hokkaido) and reminiscing about Canada/Edmonton/UofA/etc.


5.2.06 Photos

back online

Hallelujah - after a week of being cut off, I am back online, and pre-payed up to the end of the summer so that I hopefully won't be cut off again. Lots of blogging to come - I have so much to catch up on, but I wanted to say I'm back, and thank you everyone for your emails while I was away.

Also, Happy 75th birthday to my very special Bubi. I'm really sorry that I couldn't be there to celebrate with you, but I was thinking about you here, and I'm glad I was able to get back online early enough to call you on the big day! I love you!!