Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ise part 3- Revenge of the Ise

After replenishing our liquids we hopped on a bus across town to the other main location of Ise Jingu- known as Naiku. From getting off the bus we could tell that this was the more popular of the two locations as it is a much bigger area and there were a lot more people.
To enter we must first cross this bridge which tempts us with a glimpse of green scenery.
Here the gods are smiling on Ritsy and baby as they stand under the large tree.
These trees really impressed me with their positive outlook (get it? They are looking up!).
Unexpectedly, Ritsy launched into a picture taking war with me. Naturally I won with this great shot.
Much like Geku we had to scrape for glimpses of the interesting ancient buildings, here a couple of buildings tease us through the cover of the trees.
Finally the walk out was lined with bonsai trees completing the entire Japanese feeling of the setting. Actually we walked the course backwards though, this should have been the beginning walk. Oh well, we make our own rules!

An Ise tale continued

It's been nine days since posting! What has happened? Well I have just been busy! It's been an amazing last week or so, my company classes really filled out for August and partially for September (thanks Satomi and Time Life gang!) and it really felt great to have a productive week. The unfortunate thing is that I had little time to sit in front of the PC. I will try to get back on track now.

Our first day in Ise continues... Our Japanese style inn was very close to one of the 2 areas for Ise Jingu- known as Geku. We headed out pretty quickly and we were quickly impressed with the overall neatness and the always present serenity of the area(as you will know if you read the Nara posts).
All the buildings looked incredibly old (in a cool way). Indeed the area is very old- looks like it was originating in the late 5th century if I read this signpost and cross reference to the emperor mentioned correctly. {Wikipedia has a bit of a deeper analyses on the shrines} The thing that interested me is how neatly the rocks are arranged, you can see in the above picture the contrast between the white and the grey rocks.
Unfortunately the coolest looking places were blocked out. No photographs, and even through the archway, we couldn't see the area to it's fullest extent. The buildings and areas were quite beautiful and thusly even more frustrating that we couldn't see them a little closer.
This day turned out to be the hottest day on record in some cities in Japan (thankfully not in Ise where we were)- it hit 40.9 degrees in Gifu Prefecture. All the same, it was incredibly hot and by time we finished at Geku- we needed to cool off, so we hit this restaurant's tea room for a drink and a dose of air conditioning before moving on to Naiku, the other area.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

An Ise tale: Part 1

I have no idea why, but I didn't blog once during my six days off! I thought that a lot would be written in that time, but I guess I decided to just lay low and enjoy the free time. One issue is probably the heat, the other day we recorded a record heat in Japan - 40.9 degrees. Luckily not in Hamamatsu, but it sure feels like it to me!
The other day, Ritsy treated me to a trip to Ise in Mie prefecture for a late birthday present. We can actually drive over there, but there is, in fact, a ferry that we can take that covers less distance for the trip (but takes more time because of waiting time - we had to wait 2 sailings). Anyway, the ferry sounded nice as I enjoy travelling by boat, so it was quite a nice way to travel.
At last, we were off! You can see how the dock looks on this clear day as we set sail. Very beautiful day.
This post has lots of Ritsy pics- here she is Hangin' Tough by the railing of the boat.
And finally she got to rest, this picture really shows how much she is showing now! Junior is well on the way now...
Finally we arrived at our accomodation, a really old looking ryokan, that in some ways was incredibly cool because of it's old look. The room was comfortable enough and they really redeemed themselves with that evenings' food offerings. We enjoyed a 12 piece meal (far too much, honestly) that included Matsuzaka beef, Ise Ebi (also known as lobster) fresh scallop and more- it was in incredible meal!

More next time...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Oh, Canada! (Volume 2)

Since I can't go home for the Obon holidays as I had hoped, I am stuck remembering Canada and preying for my next visit to come soon. In honor of this I wanted to help my Japan-living friends understand a little more of Canadian culture so here is the long awaited part 2 of Oh, Canada!
Ritsy+ me + toque = Synergy
1. Toque; It's not a beany... this is a beanie....
It's not a knit cap.. I tend to imagine a knit-styled baseball cap
It's pretty clear...
It's called a toque!
Yes, she is wearing Red Pants!
2. Totem Poles; What is more Canadian than the artistic works of the Native Americans. Though many won't recognize the style of a lot of the paintings- they are very much unique and beautiful and we can see a lot of that style in the Totem Poles. Always a tourist favourite, the Totem poles have been referenced for over 200 years in historical writings, but it is believed that the history goes back even further. It is difficult to say there is one meaning for totem poles, the reason behind each one being erected is probably routed in the history of whichever tribe built it. Either way they are a big part of the true Canadian history.

3. French; Yes- Canada is a bilingual country! Our great history is riddled with tales of the battle between France and England for control of the great big county. Even as recently as 1995 there was a referendum- or decisive public vote about whether or not the French speaking Province should separate from Canada. The vote was won by the slimmest of margins- wikipedia says by about 1% (HERE). But I digress, while the East coast has a larger presence, the majority of Canada does not use French in any way shape or form. I just remember French class as a course I had to take to fill out my graduation requirements! That said- it is a large part of our history as a country and I do wish that I studied harder- just please don't expect me to be able to understand very much French!
4.Hockey; We love hockey. There is no sense in denying it. It is a fast paced, under-appreciated game. Nothing tops going to the stadium for the first time and watching a game live, once you understand the rules and you get behind a team, you understand why the games get more physical sometimes and you end up enjoying a solidly played, potentially beautiful game. Recently there has been a big crack down to make the game more accessible to the average sports fan (aka- the Americans :-)) and the game is looking more exciting and clean than ever- please give it a try!

5. The final bit we will give some quick facts about Canada;
- Tallest Mountain - Mount Logan 5,959 meters
- Longest River - MacKenzie River - 4,451 kms long
- Tallest Building - CN Tower - 553.33 meters
- Largest Lake (fully in Canada) - Great Bear Lake -31, 328 kilometers square
- Largest City - Toronto - population 2, 500, 000
- Some famous Canadians - John Candy, Mike Myers, Dan Akroyd, Jim Carey, Mike Myers, Avril Lavigne, Alanis Morisette, Neil Young, Pamela Anderson, Shania Twain, Keanu Reaves, Bryan Adams. I could just keep on going...
- Most handsome Canadian.. This guy...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

After all was said and done...

After all was said and done, I actually had a pretty nice last few days.
Going back a few days I finally managed to get in touch with my old buddy Alex. I was glad I finally got about to doing that and I am reminded that I should definitely take some more time and call some more of my old friends!
Last year in November I went to visit Alex and take part in his wedding celebration in Chihuahua Mexico. I managed to sandwich the Mexico trip with a couple of brief stints in Vancouver, so I was able to visit everyone but it was quite a tight schedule. The day I took off to Mexico, I got up at 6 am and took a bus to Seattle where I caught a plane to Dallas Fort Worth Airport then I waited a bit and flew to "Dog town" as I like to call it. It was a total of 12 hours travel time. But the times there were really fun and well worth all the traveling.
A few other guys came out to celebrate with us, so it was cool to have some familiar faces to chat with. Pictured here are Me, Alex, Mike Ko and Jesse. Our pal Raf and his wife Yvonne also came. Jesse and I capped the night by walking to Denny's about 20 minutes away. Good idea walking in the middle of night in Mexico on your own! Naturally, we survived to talk about it so there is no harm done! It was all a fun time considering this was the location of the wedding...
Actually, not really- I just wanted to throw that picture in there. Alex's new wife is living with him in Vancouver (Richmond) now and they are struggling through the waiting game of getting her Permanent Residence. Gosh, that reminds me of 3.5 years ago (can you believe it's been 3.5 years already?) when we had to do the same for Ritsy's permanent residence- it's a tough time to wait it out, but it sounds like there has been no complications, so that is a good sign! Anyway it was great to chat with Al and I felt bad I had to cut the conversation short because the Skype connection was crappy. Next time I won't be so cheap and I will use a real phone!
My birthday actually was pretty good. I was surprised to find the Mailman at my door when I came home from my class. I had received a birthday gift from my sister- good timing! I got all sorts of little goodies for me and Ritsy- so I was very pleasantly surprised. When I came home from another class, there was another delivery person leaving, we had received a response to my application for Permanent Residence in Japan. They had rejected my application- with the reason that I my reason wasn't good enough. Later Ritsy researched and we basically have to be married for 3 years before it becomes easy to get the PR. Yes, we have been married for 3 years- but I remembered I made a mistake when filling out the application ( I said it was 2 years) - what a dunderhead I am! I have a 3 year Visa right now anyway, so might as well let that ride out before applying again. When we have the baby it should be easier, too, I think. The day before, Chris and Hisano and Akemi had chipped in to buy us some Hokkaido fresh crab. So that night when my classes were done, we had a nice Crab hotpot. It was delicious! In the end it was a productive and fun day! (except for the immigration thing....)
In the end it was all Lifetime Happy Everyday Thank you!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Happy Birthday to me... Happy birthd.... ah to hell with it!

Yep it's my birthday- well, precisely, by the time I publish this it will be my birthday. 35 years old now! Yowza! It's actually going to be such a busy day I won't really have time to sit back and enjoy the day, but I guess at 35 years old I should be sort of over the birthday thing... (sadly I am not!)

This week is actually a special week as August the 7th is the date of my wedding anniversary. It's been 3 years now since we tied the knot back on Saturna Island. Hmm, I might not have put that in the blog yet- I will get to it.
Ritsy and I had to fit celebration into our busy schedules so we actually went out for dinner on Saturday night to celebrate. We chose a restaurant that is owned by her sister's boss' wife- a newer restaurant called Lenri - it is located very near to Miyakoda techno road. (sorry for the blurry photos- the one above and the following one...)
The place looks quite nice from the outside and inside as well. There is actually a lot of outdoor tables, so it would be nice to come back here one afternoon. Unfortunately due to a case of it's someone's fault but noone wants to take the blame ( I choose the restaurant) we could not have a course meal because we had to pre-book it when we made a reservation. We weren't going to allow that to spoil our time- the fact that they had left out little crowns for us to wear helped a lot!
Once the food started coming, it was quite delicious, though apparently we had ordered mouse portions! I was so into eating the food that I forgot to take a picture of it until we were almost finished.
It was quite a pleasant meal all in all and the 10% discount coupon helped! We will go back in the future and try out the course menu one day as we still have a couple of coupons left.
I got an interesting gift from my friends at the Time Life office in Nagoya today, they dressed up a couple of oranges -one as a man and one as a woman (Ritsy and I- I would guess) with a nice message on each one for our wedding and birthday celebrations! It was truly unexpected and quite a sweet gesture, thanks guys!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Han shot first

This is the 100th post for my blog. I had serious doubts about whether I would find enough to talk about to keep on writing, but I have had a fun time writing about my life and silly things that come to my head. Once again, thanks a lot to the people that sometimes stop by here and check it out- I find it quite therapeutic to write, so your coming to read in some way helps with my mental stability!

Well, some of you may know that I have been a fan of Star Wars for pretty much all of my life since the movies came out. Recently less so, but I do still remember fondly the impact that Star Wars had on me and my creativity when I was younger. I was also among the people that felt ripped off when they made the Special Edition versions of the movies - and one of the points of contention was when they added the gunfire from Greedo in the bar. Everyone knows that Han shot first. Well, a recent picture that I found through "Ain't it Cool News" (a good site for finding the dope on movies currently in production) has a picture of George Lucas on the set of the new Indiana Jones movie wearing a shirt that concedes that Han shot first -HERE .

I fell like the universal balance has been restored!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Sun has begun to shine

Do you remember this? Back in January I posted about a new shopping centre that was being built. This new place was going to enrich the lives of us Hamakitans.
Finally, all of our dreams have come true- Sun Street is open! The actual shopping establishment opened in 3 stages- first the Seiyu department store opened early last month and then the shopping mall opened at the end of the month (last week actually), finally the movie theater is going to open next week on Friday.
The designer apparently hasn't worked since the '70's and doesn't know that this colored glass design is way backdated. You can see even Ritsy's air freshener had to do a double take to check out this wacky design choice.
In the background we can see the world famous Green Arena where people can go and do some exercise after spending their hard earned money at the shops (those that aren't already doing Billy's Boot Camp).
The shopping center has also attracted hangers-on. Now that there will be more shoppers and movie goers coming into the area, more restaurants will start popping up like the place pictured across from Sawayaka- Sato (さと)a Japanese family restaurant. Early scouting report from Hisano is that the food is no good.
The convenient location of this shopping center should have a positive effect for those of us living out here for general convenience sake- but it will also have a positive effect on general business in this area. As long as it is the hot new thing, the businesses and the movie theater with free parking will attract people from the out lying areas. The big problem is that in Japan there is a tendency to follow only what is hot, fresh and new. So the big challenge for this place is to keep it fun and cool for people to come to. We'll see how that pans out...

Friday, August 3, 2007

Over 860 Served

I call this "Phallic Sky"
I noticed on my hit counter that there has been over 1000 visit to this website. While I should point out that I have probably created about 140 of those hits, I still think that is far more amazing than I would have expected! Thanks so much to everyone that has visited this website and to Chris and Hisano for linking to me in their blogs!

I have been enjoying practicing writing for the last little while and when I came to another site that was pointed out to me, I saw a post about the Tooth Fairy and I had a streak of inspiration. So I wrote it and put it up at that site. But since it's a lot like some of my wacky blog posts I thought I might link to it here if you want to read it. It's about saying bless you (western tradition) and throwing beans at demons (Japanese tradition) -HERE.

Some are wondering how Ritsy now is lookingwith being pregnant and all, well, surprisingly skinny still. Though she seems to be hitting a point where she looks a little more pregnant every few days. This picture was taken on the night of Josh's concert...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

In Wine there is Truthm

On the weekend Chris and I didn't feel up to hitting the basketball courts, but we decided to hit the mall in search for a couple of items that we needed to buy. We went to faithful Ichino Jusco and enjoyed some garlic laden food at the niniku restaurant. Afterwards we wondered into the Jusco store and found a treasure trove of t-shirt with bad English on them. I am sure that by now you have encountered the odd signs and the shirts that we often see here in Japan. Well this was a bargain bin full of bad English. The shirt that produced the words of wisdom I used in the title is just mind boggling. Did the graphic artist just make a typo- and was too lazy to spell check it? To ensure that I wasn't making an ass out of myself I checked around the net at the ingredients of wine and sure enough there is no truthm in wine!
This one is almost poetic in it's nonsensical babble. Makes me want to Health life start!

The other day we left a Styrofoam packing from some sort of meat sitting on the counter, and a boiled egg. Enter those evil cats-
I love the cats to death- but sometimes they drive me nuts! Now that they had a taste of eggs, they love it, Ritsy was peeling an egg last night and both cats came running. Luckily Sheriff Todd was in town!
1 week from today will be my birthday- 35 this year! One thing I am noticing now is how many other Leos there are around! I guess November is a popular time for reproducing... Well any Leos out there reading this- Happy birthday!