13 August 2010

I miss seeing hydrangeas everywhere.

I've been back in the U.S. for a while now...and I've yet to wrap up this site, mostly because I've been catapulted back into the "my job requires actual work" club. But I'm also dawdling behind because how does one possibly wrap up such an experience? And once I figure it out, I suppose it's really over.

I should really use my breaks from lesson planning to sort through the last of my photos, but it's not often I stay in a house with a pool in the backyard...

12 July 2010

Vicki saves the day!

It's been said you haven't seen beautiful until you've seen Nikko, and signs beckoning tourists with the slogan "Nikko is Nippon" are plastered throughout Tokyo's train stations. A visit was another check off my list of final destinations to hit during my last few weeks in Japan, so we set off on a Friday afternoon. Perhaps too late in the afternoon...Never have I been so happy to be holding a train ticket, as I was to have this one in hand: a seat on the last train to Nikko of the day. After rushing to make multiple transfers, we were told by a station attendant at some random station on the north edge of Tokyo that the last train to Nikko was sold out. After a moment of utter panic and visions of sleeping on benches in the station, our swell travel companion Vicki went upstairs and sweet-talked a younger, less disgruntled attendant into taking us all the way around to the ticket booth and through the ticket-acquiring process step by step to get us seats. The train was not even close to being sold out. Psh!After spending the night in a roomy hostel on a river, we walked past the sacred Shin-kyo bridge and up into Nikko National Park, a forest of UNESCO world heritage temples and shrines. The elephants were carved into the peak of this Toshogu Shrine structure by an artist who'd never seen an elephant before, but had heard of them in stories:And next we came to another famed carving in Nikko: the three monkeys that formed the "Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" saying; this carving was displayed as a message to children, and monkeys on other panels were positioned to convey messages to the elderly, the married, and more.The whole crew: Vicki, Davin, Lauran, and Jaime:
Breaking the shrine frenzy for lunch, we slurped noodles then took a bus to Kegon Falls, a nearly 100-meter waterfall west of town.
Then we all walked through a few souvenir shops along Lake Chuzenji-ko, where I saw this pup with a "Please don't touch dog" sign on its back:Then we took a little rest on the docks by the hazy lake, looking out at, of course, paddleboats (have I mentioned paddleboats?)!
It was only afternoon, but we began the trek home in order to be absolutely sure to make it back to Shizuoka without incident. Which we did, even with a stop in Tokyo for big-city dinner after a day wandering the woods.

06 July 2010

Itadaki Boom-Boom Fest

On June 6, a few of us attended the Itadaki Boom-Boom Fest, a music festival on the grassy field atop the Nihondaira in Shizuoka. It was a bit overcast, or we may have been able to view Fuji as the backdrop over the side of the hill.There was music all day alternating between the main Green Stage, the smaller Blue Stage, and the Tribal Stage (which was a tipi powered by a nearby wall of solar panels). The event was appealing to me not only because of the live music (at a time of very little live music in my life), but also because of its focus on sustainability. Participants were asked to bring their own cups, dishes, and chopsticks (if they didn’t, they were charged a deposit and given reusable items to return at the end of the day), and electricity for the lighting and sound on the Green and Blue Stages was produced by bio-diesel generators (cooking oil was being collected at the event as well). Thus, our plastic Wisconsin Badgers cups made an appearance...and there was tons of good food: curries, fried potatoes, pita pockets, and more.A make-your-own reusable chopsticks station!The candle tree, which stood next to the tipi and lit the area during the early evening performances:The festival was two days long, but we attended only on the second day. There were plenty of folks who had worm themselves out on Saturday and spent Sunday taking naps (anywhere and everywhere):Matt made a friend! A fun little group played in the tipi, and their set featured the Star Wars theme played on recorders.The disco ball and food stands lit up the damp dark...it started to rain when the sun went down, but the show went on.The Shibusashirazu Orchestra took the main stage for the final performance of the evening, and it was quite the finale. Another disco ball was carried out on a giant cot, and a crane came down and slowly swooped the ball up into the air above the crowd...all whilst the orchestra rocked and dancers in sparkly dresses waved giant bananas and spatulas to the beat.At the end, the lively orchestra came out to the stage's edge, and guys with flaming batons climbed scaffolding to twirl and spit fire above the crowd. Our clothes were still wet from the rain, but we did a little dance and when the show finished we collected our bags and our neglected tarp, which had collected a nice pool of water. How awesome to have an adventure of a day, finally getting to watch some live music, and so close to our house!