Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back in Japan

Italy was beautiful! We'll definitely make a trip back there in the future. The 2 1/2 week vacation was a perfect amount of time too--relaxation, site seeing, and just doing whatever we felt like doing. And it was so wonderful hearing Italian spoken all around us! "Grazie..prego..arrivederci..ciao!" I was very surprised how much I understood (much more than I had thought I would with only one semester of Italian in college). All in all the trip surpassed both of our expectations and so did much of where we went in Italy :) I'll write some more details in the coming week, and include some additional pictures for commenting.

In the meantime, both of us are pretty tired from just getting back. It's almost 8 am Italy time and we've both gotten very little sleep. It's over 18 hours of traveling for us...45 minute taxi ride to airport, 2 hour from Rome to Munich, 2 hour layover, and 12 from Munich to Tokyo, and a 1.5 hour train ride home). We're trying to stay awake at least 4 to 5 hours longer so our sleep schedule isn't too messed up :)

So the pictures... :) We spent four nights in Venice, seven nights in a small town in the Tuscany region, and six nights in Rome. Instead of posting pictures straight on this blog, I uploaded video picture-slides to youtube.

Here are the links to the video-slides: **UPDATE (7/28/08)..these videos have recently been set to "private"


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ahhh, Italia :)

We have a few more days in Italy and then we'll be back to Japan.

I'll be posting video slides of our pictures very soon! =)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Lunch time

Just finished my Japanese lesson. We went over the "I am going" (itte imasu) verb form today.

...there are these tucks that pass through the streets with these VERY loud megaphones--people speaking something (I am told it is anti-foreigner sentiment) but since I don't understand most of it I don't really know. (Here they come around again in their truck...urggg) It happens often enough to where it's annoying now. And it just makes it feel like we're back in Nazi Germany! And I just want to throw things at the truck--like tomatoes or something... Sorry..I'm just annoyed. (And third time around again! geesh)

I am about to eat some lunch and head off to my pottery class. I "glazed" a vase I made and it should have been fired and should be ready to take home today. The last one I did didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. I'm hoping the vase turns out much better.

We're off to Italy next week! We've been planning this trip for over a year--we booked the trip before ever even knowing we would be coming to Japan. Italy is the one country I have always wanted to go to (if I visit any country in my life--it would be Italy), so it is a "dream" trip for me. We're both looking forward to a little site seeing, relaxing, and being surrounded by everything Italian. I should have Internet access so I may be able to upload photos while we are there (either to this blog or flickr), but not as often most likely. I'll include the flickr link on the blog if I post pictures on flickr.

So check back soon for Italy pics!

........................After pottery class..........................

Yay, the glaze turned out well! It looks much better than my previous glaze jobs.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Did you ever like a song so much you just kept playing it over and over and over? I'm sure most people have. I have one of those songs right now. Chris and I were in the store "Humpty Dumpty" (yes, it's the name of a store near here) and I heard a was just so catchy. After googling the lyrics I realized it was a... ::embarrassment:: Hannah Montana song. I didn't plan to like it, but it's just so catchy, and I would have never guessed it was sung by a 15 year old. It's called "See You Again" so if you ever hear it, I think you'll think it's catchy too. ...Or maybe just me.

The names of stores and restaurants around here are very interesting (the ones named in English). Besides the "Humpty Dumpty" store we have a "One's Terrace" store, "Ask a Giraffe" restaurant, and many others...which I can't think of right now. Some of the store names just make you want to go inside because the name is so earthy or interesting. Stores with names like "water the grass" or "flying kite" or well, you get the idea. They just sound like they have interesting things, and most often they do have unique gizmo's, fashionable clothes or crafty home accessories.

I think in many ways I am slowly falling in love with Japan (wow, I never thought I would say that). Or maybe I still have such a limited view of it the newness and uniqueness will wear off. I'm not sure yet. There are negative things we's not all "wonderful" as maybe I make it out to be. So far the negatives get blurred behind the good things though.

Some things...Not being able to communicate easily is not easy--we're slowly using more Japanese, but it's slow coming. At the same time, I think we care less now if we try to struggle through speaking Japanese to people. We care less about being embarrassed by our lack of Japanese. There is this idea in my mind that people expect gifts when you come back from trips you take (well, I guess it is the common gesture in Japan to bring back gifts). I understand the idea that 'it's a nice thought' but unless I see something I know someone will absolutely love or they have a birthday or some event where a gift is needed, I don't like the idea of feeling 'obligated' to give gifts after you come back from a trip and then people thinking you're rude for not giving gifts. That's a bit of a pet peeve for me here...but maybe I'm over-thinking it.

Other things... Japanese food has been just okay; I'm definitely not in love with it. I find it either too greasy, too salty, or not enough variety of flavors to it. But I admit I more often gravitate towards other foods here. Maybe I just haven't had the best-of-the-best Japanese food. Seeing the Japanese flag is strange. Initially it feel so unpatriotic and out of place, but then I realize we're in Japan, that is what we are supposed to see. It's hard to read Japanese people--normally it's easy to read people's faces, but here it is hard. Even though people act super kind when you walk into stores and are reminded that it is most likely just an act much of the time. At least people who are rude or just indifferent in the U.S. are being genuine to who they are right?

So there are things I am just really fascinated with about Japan and things that I would rather not be around. I'm sure I'll develop many new likes and dislikes as we're here longer.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Otera and Tabemono

We spent part of today day with my pottery teacher, his wife and their two kids visiting temples and gardens in North Kamakura. Everything was so green! It was beautiful. The pictures don't do it justice. It felt very tropical--some tropical sounding birds in the background, green everywhere, light rain coming down and a little humidity.

outdoor modern art

view from our snack break area
beautiful house we walked past

my pottery teacher and his family
We ate at this really unique restaurant. We were outdoors and behind us lots of greenery on the side of a hill. There were large bamboo-looking chutes with water running down them (right in front of us). A girl would then send a small bunch of soman noodles together to flow down the chute carried by the flowing water which we would then quickly pick up with our chopsticks as they were moving down the chute. Very good noodles and we also had tempura with our meal too.

Shinto style wedding ceremony

Friday, May 2, 2008

Night in Nikko

It's Golden Week here in Japan (a string of Japanese holidays). Chris and I took a one night getaway to Nikko (2 hours north west of Tokyo). The town is surrounded by forest trees and has a large river that runs through it. It was great being someplace nature-y and relaxing.

Shinkansen (high-speed train) from the Tokyo station
all packed and ready to go

our bed and breakfast for the night
The bed and breakfast was right on the main river that runs through town. We stayed in a traditional Japanese room with tatami mats and floor futons for our bed. From our room you could hear the river rushing outside.

I saw quite a few of these purple flowers--just really pretty

the river

pagoda on local temple grounds

gate to the forestChris giving me a wink ;) or a...I'm tired, no more pictures
people's wishes / prayers tied to the tree branches

dragon water fountain

famous sacred bridge
restaurant we ate at with all walls and ceiling covered
with tokens from people from around the world who have eaten there (19 years worth)

hiking to Jakko Falls