29 April 2008
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Tsunoshima is an island near Oyama in Yamaguchi Prefecture in Japan. It's where all the markers are on the map. It used to be accessible only by ferry, but about 10 years ago a bridge was built to connect the island with the main island. People go there to take in the flying squid in the parking lot. And to freeze their ears off in 30 mph winds (sustained). It is also a place where there is a lighthouse.
We learned that the lily below is sort of a symbol of either the lighthouse or the Yamaguchi Prefecture. Weren't sure about which. But it was a cool tile in the sidewalk anyway.
A lighthouse is an ingenious device invented by health nuts to lure the knees of old, out of shape women to their deaths. They torture their victims with silly little signs about how many stairs are left. To add insult to injury, a ladder is added to the last 10 feet, just to make it interesting. This provides wayward daughters with photo ops that mothers would just as soon it didn't provide.
This is Makata-san who so graciously braved the elements (and us) to cart us out to the haven that is Tsunoshima. That's Japan behind her. Well, behind the railing that is behind her.
Makata-san also treated us to onsen in Takibe. (You wondered where the nude bathing would come in, didn't you?) Takibe is supposed to have the best natural spring water around. Onsen is relaxing in a hot water springs pool. I don't know if the word onsen refers to the pool itself, or the act of bathing in same. This is done either with your family, or people of the same sex. The pools are segregated, in other words. It is simply hot tubbing in a natural hot spring (we were outside) with everyone in the buff. With no bubbles. It was great. Calm down, it was set up so people from the outside couldn't see anything! And it was really neat to be in the hot spring and have the rain coming down on your head.
Then, when you are done steaming yourself, you take a shower/bath. They provide pumice stones for your feet, and neat shampoo and conditioner for your hair, and soap for your body, and you give yourself a mini-spa.
I didn't take pictures.
My desolate husband went into some kind of mental fugue state upon receiving his bad news. I wasn't there, so I can't actually say that he wept, although that would make for a great story. Instead, he went into action, which is what all hero hubbies do, don'tcha know. I am sure that he quizzed the hapless owner to make sure he had done everything in his power to keep the biz afloat. Next was to make sure the other N&W's in our fair city wasn't closing. It isn't. Big hairy deal, it's really too far away to consider. Unless we went on an N&W run and bought like 15 pizzas and froze them, which defeats the purpose of FRESH pizza. Which thought was running through my hero's head at lightning speed.
Then, he did what comes naturally to him: cushion the blow. He bought:
- 1 - 20lb container of [what he thought was] N&W Italian Sausage (which turned out to be hamburger);
- 1 - 20lb container of mozzarella cheese (quite possibly their propriety blend of cheeses, but it was already in the freezer downstairs when I got the news, so I have not a clue!);
- 1 - 5lb container of cooked bacon (do you see where we are going here?);
- a 2 year supply of the cool cardboard pizza baking sheets (these were actually free - the hapless owner took pity, I think);
- 2 take and bake cookies.
- The only reason he DIDN'T purchase the 2 year supply of pizza dough is because he DIDN'T want to purchase the nifty dough press they use to make it so thin.
When I got home Saturday, I went to try and find a place in the fridge for the stew pot that had mostly finished beef, chorizo and black bean chili in it so I could finish it off the next day. I opened up the produce drawer in order to stuff something in it (all other possible room in the fridge was taken up with the above list of items, minus the cheese) and found - a take and bake cookie!
That really got me to giggling. I love my hero hubby.
25 April 2008
The sakura were just starting to show their color when we
Inside, ninja were scaling the wall to attack the speaker set up in the diorama of Kokura in the early 1600's. It was quite an impressive diorama, with more than 1500 dolls, all in period costume, and a featured fight at Ganryugima (see http://homsar06.blogspot.com/2008/04/ganryujima.html for more info on that subject). There were cool samurai headgear displayed, and portraits of the daimyo, and other cool stuff from the culture of the era.
I really like the demon mask with his tongue sticking out. I'd be scared to have someone wearing that come after ME.
It was pretty cool to be there, all in all.
24 April 2008
20 April 2008
18 April 2008
Then to the bus again.
17 April 2008
This is what I could glean from Motoko-san's spoken kanji: she was 64 yrs old, raised in Hiroshima. I gather from that, she must have been an infant when the bombs dropped and WWII ended. She somehow ended living up on an island village close to there, but I couldn't remember it. She met her American husband, who is in his mid-80's, in London 15 years ago. She said something about a sanitorium or asylum in London, but don't know if she was a patient or working there. She lives in Maryland now on the Bay in her husband's old family vacation home, which is their only home now. He has children, I didn't gather from her conversation that she does. I don't think his children have anything to do with her, but I could be wrong. I was trying to translate from kanji to English. Gets garbled sometimes.
I felt that she is a really lonely person and misses her heart language and her home. I wonder what's keeping her here?
13 April 2008
It just doesn't make sense that Ginkakuji (which starts with a G) would be silver and Kinkakuji (which DOESN'T start with a G) would be gold. Duh. Needless to say, I kept getting them mixed up. I still do, as everyone knows that gold things start with a G.
Kinkakuji is indeed golden, and the park was very beautiful. I have only added a few pics to whet your appetite. This is in the city of Kyoto. By the way, Japan has lots of open space. It's all in parks and gardens and terraced fields. And they tend to build up, not out.
Which leads me to the next thing: sales technique. A Compare and Contrast. (I think I'm one of the few people that actually LIKED that little excerise in English classes.)
American souvenir shop (or any other American shop, for that matter!): one kid, sitting in a corner behind the register either listening to an ipod or texting on his/her phone or reading a book. You could stand there for literally 3 hours and not be noticed until you did something rude, like DYING. Loudly. When you do finally decide to be rude and bother the poor sales person, information has to be dragged from them kicking and screaming. You know that this is true. You almost feel guilty for taking their time and buying the product their boss is trying to [sell] put out there for people to decide whether they want it or not.
Japanese souvenir shop (or any other shop in Japan, for that matter, at least the ones I saw. 100% of them): People are speaking, sing-songing out to you as you pass by their display. If you stop to look, you are given explanations GRATUITOUSLY. This is mochi, this is matcha mochi, this is dongo, this is yatsuhashi, etc. Then, if you stand there a little longer, trying to decide what to do, they start dragging other things out for you to see. How could you live without THIS or THIS? THIS is very nice if you don't like what you see already displayed. Then, if (and when) you purchase something, they give you a freebie. Not in the large department stores or retail stores, but in the smaller places, one owner, mom and pop places. Not anything huge. Just a way to say "Thank you, I really appreciate you buying something from me today. Come back again and buy something from me tomorrow too."
Who would YOU rather patronize?
12 April 2008
Ruthie [acting] as if she were a monster, about to devour the dessert.
. . . a long, long time ago on an island far, far away our heroine, after being held hostage on an Empirical flying ship for nearly 24 hours, finds herself in . . .
a Ponto Cho restaurant, secretly surveiled by Empirical spies cleverly disguised as gravid tanuki while she is introduced to the pleasures of okonomiyaki. Lest the reader think that is a dirty word, okonomiyaki means, basically "whatever you like, fried". It's a lot of shredded cabbage, some veggies, whatever meat you want, some batter and an egg (fresh). It's brought to your table which is ingeniously set up as a griddle as well, you mix it up in the bowl and fry it slowly to make sure the meat is cooked, and then you eat it! With sauce, and fish flakes and mayonnaise. Yum.
Her tour guide and host showed up just in time to save CLU from totally disappearing under all that water, (see Meltdown at Kansai) and whisked her away to Kyoto, land of great food, great desserts and a ginormous train station hub. It was totally fun carting Buck around on the train, (or did they take the bus? it was all a blur for CLU) and on the buses and up AND down the stairs to get to same. Our heroine loved how heavy Buck was, and cumbersome, and Ruth did too, CLU could tell. (Can I take my tongue OUT of my cheek now?)
Then, Ruth picked out a tempura restaurant in PORTA, the ubiquitous underground shopping mall replete with food vendors. Thus, CLU was rescued AND fed, and the only thing she needed was a BED. For six weeks.
Alas, she had only 2 nights in which to enjoy the bed at the Kyoto Century Hotel. It was very pleasurable. If messy. Price you pay for having your tour guide stay with you, I guess.
Kyoto Century Hotel Room
They left Buck there. He was desolate. CLU was not.
Empirical spies were everywhere, though. Disguised as wily foxes
Really EVIL looking wily foxes
and interesting street lamps in Gion and other quite clever disguises. Hardly ever knew they were there. But CLU and Ruthie knew what to look out for. Those street lamps can be quite dangerous if you don't get pictures of them.
Our heroines were too smart by far for the Empirical spies, and they confused the spies by pretending to be in Memoirs of a Geisha and while Ruthie ran through the Sembon Torii, CLU stayed behind and took photographs. Photography threw the spies off quicker than anything. They just don't get the stupidity of it.
Pretending to be totally disinterested by picking their ears and wearing their own ingenious spy costumes, our heroines were able to stun the spies into a torpor (or throw them into laughing fits) thereby throwing them off the scent.
11 April 2008
March 23, 2008:
Please (offering) Dozo. [Ed.'s note: that 1st O is supposed to have a
straight line over the top of the it, horizontally, but Ed. hasn't
out to do anything but the most basic stuff on this blogspot.)
Kudasai - asking for
- Reshito (RAY SHEET O) - receipt
- Fukuro (FOO KOO DO) - bill
Thank you Arigato Gozaimas
i t a s h i m a s h t e
Silk - ki-nu
Fabric - nu-no
Cotton - men
Sorry - Gomennasai, sumimasen
Isn't it? Des ne?
* Ruth - find word or
phrase for "cry of the loon"
Beautiful - utsukushi - person -
*Nihongo wa kirei des
kirei - nature, country,
Chot-to matte - wait
Grace before meal -
It was a long and boring flight.Cutter-machine man was to my left, and young sarari-man was to my right.
I took an Ambien CR, 12.5 mg. Slept (if you can call it that, and you can't) for 2 hours. Two. Out of the 13 possible hours.
Did I mention it was a long flight?
Then I had to live the day ALL OVER AGAIN because I went back in time. I left Sunday, 4/23/08 at 11:00 a.m., flew for 13 hours and got off the plane on Sunday, 4/23/08 at 1:15 p.m. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
And when my daughter was NOT at the airport to meet me (!) I had a meltdown. Crying is not something the Japanese are comfortable with, I gather.
When I couldn't get her on her phone, I went ballistic. And melted some more (tears make me melt all over, what a world, what a world).
There is a legend told now of the 7ft tall gai-koku-jin-jo with the watery face, dragging a huge suitcase called "Buck" up and down the halls of the Osaka Kansai Airport, crying out the name of her long-lost daughter, scaring little children and bugging the information desk ladies with questions they can't answer (EEEEEKKKKKKK).
10 April 2008
I think I will start at ... the beginning. What a surprise.
March 22, 2008: The thing I don't like about traveling alone on planes is that there is no one to talk to relieve the stress of situations like this one.
On March 22, 2008 a snowstorm ripped through the upper Midwestern U.S., dumping considerable snow on such cities as Minneapolis and Milwaukee and Detroit. I don't care about any other cities that may have been impacted by this snow, because all I really care about is the fact that Minneapolis and Milwaukee getting hammered caused MY flight to Japan to be delayed so they could wait for the transferees to get to Detroit, because jets just don't take off for Japan every 3 or 4 hours. Well, by the time the Minneapolis people got to Detroit, it was snowing in Detroit. But we sat on the plane for 6 hours. Six. During which time they: played the same Grover Washington music between announcements from the Captain and crew;
played the same Grover Washington music between announcements from the Captain and crew;
knocked out the electrical with the de-icer;
fixed the electrical problem;
n the runway; sat on the runway and waited for another de-icer to come along; de-iced
again; knocked out the electrical
sat for awhile
decided we couldn't take off, the plows couldn't keep up with the snow on the long runway;
c r a w l e d back to the jetway;
sat in the plane for 2 more hours while the people inside the terminal got their ducks in a row (which, when translated, means getting the cheapest possible rates out of the shabbiest possible hotels in the area)
See, I at least made it interesting. It wasn't. At all. And the woman behind me was just frantic that her child would freak because he thought the Easter Bunny wouldn't know where he was on Sunday. Don't ever call me combative or blunt, because I was just as tactful as it is possible to be in that situation. I absolutely did NOT tell that boy that there is no Easter Bunny. But I wanted to. Put that mother out of my misery RIGHT NOW. At least he was WITH his mother.
What made it worse (could that be?) is that my cell phone was losing power fast and the charger was IN THE SUITCASE IN THE PLANE'S CARGO HOLD. So, any communication had to be terse, and only to my hero hubby, who then relayed info on to my daughter in Japan. Playing telephone, with a, um, telephone.
I did learn a few really cool Japanese words, but I won't share them here. It would be embarrassing and in very poor taste.
I spent the night, not on a plane bound for Osaka, but in a crappy hotel room that I upgraded to a jacuzzi room (shoulda never done that) so I could have a relax from 6 HOURS ON A PLANE GOING NOWHERE.
But the Cyber cafe in Concourse A, right next to gate 28 has the best mango smoothies (made fresh) you could ever hope to find.
09 April 2008
"For your birthday, your aunt gave you a maple syrup dispenser shaped like a rooster. Please write her a thank-you note:
Dear Aunt Flora, Thank you so much for the colorful birthday present. Although roosters have not been a part of my home decor, it is nevertheless a unique gift. Who would've thought that there was such a thing as a countertop pancake syrup dispenser? I know that each and every time I serve pancakes to my diabetic husband, I will remember you. Thanks again, CLU"
I never knew this bird existed. Now I'm wondering what other treasures of the animal kingdom there are out there that I don't know about and it's driving me crazy. Although, as they say, it really is just a short putt.
The uguisu is a bird that lives on the Japanese Islands. It's associated with the blooming of the ume (plum trees) and with hanami. I have also learned since (from Wikipedia, so if this is wrong please let me know) that an uguisu-jō is a female announcer hired for her warbling voice. Green and therefore difficult to see in the trees except in the early spring, it is so small and quick that it is said to be difficult to photograph. By everyone except ME. They live in the trees behind my daughter's apartment, and by standing on her clothes drying balcony, I could get clear shots with my husband's last year Christmas present from me: a 12 megapixel digital camera. 12. Twelve. One dozen. Megapixels. Those big pixels caught the uguisu as clear, no, clearer than you could see it.
So, when I found a kit for making a paper banner that has uguisu on it, well, I just had to buy it. And put it together within my first week back!
Photo follows for my daughter's viewing pleasure.
I thought that after almost half a century I had seen pretty much all I wanted to. I'm fairly satisfied that I've seen most of the U.S. I will more than likely see the parts I haven't yet. I have been a voyeur into other parts of the world. A dilettante, if you will. I know a lot about a lot of places, but haven't experienced much of it, except vicariously. I've been to France and Switzerland once - for 2 weeks in high school and have lived on that one ever since!
Then, my daughter moved to Japan. Temporarily.
Let me digress for a moment. The thing about mothers is this: they have a great need to know how their children are living. Even when it means traveling halfway around the world to see it. I suppose it's the shared experience thing. "I gave birth to you, we experienced that together, it goes both ways when you grow up!" maybe. Maybe it's just sheer nosiness. Whatever it is, this mother couldn't stand not sharing in the way her daughter has been living for the past 18 months!
Soooo, my hubby who, as I have stated, is my hero, gave me a 2 week trip to Japan to go bug, er, visit her. As we are in biz for ourselves, he had to stay and slave away so we could afford the trip. What a man!
My daughter never knew that Shogun by James Clavell was one of my all-time favorite novels when I was - uh - quite a bit younger than I am now. In fact, that was my sole teacher of Japanese until my daughter taught me while I was in Japan. I knew wakarimaska? wakarimas and wakarimasen along with hai, iye and the -san, -sama thing for the longest time, never divulging that little gem to my kiddos. Imagine that. Me, with a secret! So, when planning this little junket, of course, Tokyo wasn't even factored in. I wanted to see Osaka and Kyoto and points south. And generally, I get what I want. Unless it's not that important, and then I don't care.
Really, I thought that I would not at all like it. After all, as far as I knew, it was terribly overcrowded, they eat raw horse flesh for Pete's sake AND blow fish (and absolutely everyone knows that blow fish can kill you) not to mention the octopi and squid and seaweed! Oh, and those chicken livers wrapped in bacon. Ugh. I also just really don't do well sleeping on the floor. Of course, I also knew that in their favor, they don't eat dogs and love dachshunds as pets. I guess I really didn't know what to expect, but expected that I did know what to expect, which is the way my brain usually rolls.
I absolutely LOVED it. I adore Japan. More than that, I adore the people. And I apologize to more than one person from those islands for making reference to or joking about something that went totally over their heads!
I loved the food, too. Of course, my daughter, who is very wise (often) steered to me the "safest" food. I have lived long enough to know that raw fish is just not me. Not after getting worms from poorly cooked (translated: almost raw) fish when I was three, which I don't remember, but do remember being told about so many times that I don't eat raw fish. I did try the tuna sashimi just so I could convince her that I did try it. Nah. Not my, uh, cup of tea. Speaking of which, I adore mugi-cha. Buckwheat tea. And melon-pan. A (evidently) Portuguese style of sweet bread that is shaped somewhat like a melon, although that may not be why it's called melon-pan and is called that for some other reason.
This has gone on long enough. More later, dear readers. Sayonara.