Monday, May 17, 2010

Ibuki-san and Matsuri

First things first, Guillaume finally bought his plane tickets to come visit in August! YAY! I am so excited!!!! And Rachel and Josh bought tickets to visit at the end of June. Mega mega yay!!!!

Moving on, last Saturday, some friends (Alexis, Martin, and Jenny-Lyn) and I hopped on the train and made our way over to Ibuki-san, an absolutely gorgeous mountain, for a nice day of hiking. It had been raining all week, but I guess we got lucky as the weather was absolutely fabulous (though it would have been even better if I'd had some sun block).

When we got off the train, there was no machine in which to put our tickets, and the guy seemed un-interested in dealing with foreigners, so he just looked vaguely at our tickets then let us all through. This worked out well for Martin, who hadn't actually payed for the whole way. Oups! Then we hopped on the ONLY bus in town and headed on over to the base of the mountain.

I attempted to take a picture of us at the base with my timer, but it didn't turn out too great. :-(

Now, I've hiked up many mountains in my time, but NONE of them were as steep as this one. It just went straight up the mountain side as opposed to winding around comfortably.
It was therefore hard for me to set a pace. Martin practically JOGGED up the mountain, but Alexis and Jenny-Lyn were going a little more slowly than I would have liked.

View from the first rest stop!

Because our paces were so different, we waited for each other at each of the rest stops (according to Martin, there was a 1,2,3,5,6,7,8 - no 4 because that's unlucky. I somehow didn't see a couple of them, though). On the way up, I ended up sticking mostly with Martin.

Martin and I at a rest stop!

Jenny-Lyn and Alexis hiking away!

As we got higher, the view got even more and more amazing!

After about three hours we made it to the top

and somehow we still had energy to act like idiots.

The view was absolutely breathtaking, and it was oh so totally worth it!

On the way down, Martin and Alexis both practically jogged, while Jenny-Lyn and I picked our way down doing our best (and failing) not to fall. It was so steep and rocky, I don't know how I survived. Several times, I really thought I was just going to go tumbling all the way down the mountain.

On Sunday, don't ask me how, but I managed to find the energy to get up and enjoy a bike ride with some other friends (Matan and Carla and some of their friends).

Sandra, Miji(?), Carla, and Matan

We went temple and matsuri (festival) exploring. It was actually the day of the Festival of Nomi, so we managed to find three festivals going on, and I think we saw about 5 temples.

I love the dragon fountains at all of the temples!


We got to see some Japanese cheerleaders!

And some really weird fish!

At the last festival we went to, there were these really cool float type things that were being pulled down the road.

They had little boys and girls reenacting old Japanese stories. It was very cool!

Some friends of mine actually got to pull - Lauren and Jenny-Lyn!

There was also a temple by this last festival where I got to pour oil over this little Buddha.

It was weird and really quite disgusting, and I'm sure it was to bring some sort of luck or good thing on me, but I unfortunately don't know what that would be.

So, all in all, it was an absolutely FABULOUS weekend. Also a very active weekend. It's so nice to be able to get out and move about so much.
It also made for a VERY long post, so sorry about that!
Martin and I have started doing kanji together - we're trying to learn at least 5 kanji a day, and today I realized that I am not remembering them nearly as well as I would like to be, so now I must go study!

:-) (sorry the pictures aren't bigger or clickonable - once again, blogger is being an idiot.)

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Week That Was Golden

So first off, you guys will be happy to know that, that test I had last Wednesday - yeah, I totally rocked it! It was super easy, and the only mistakes I made were totally dumb, like forgetting tenten (or however you call those things that change the sounds of hiragana and katakana), etc. . .

The Friday we had a speaking test, which I might not have rocked so much. I for some reason get EXTRAORDINARILY nervous when having to speak Japanese out loud in front of teachers (and so I'm sure all of my teachers think I'm stupid), and I stutter and spit words out weirdly and never say exactly what I want to say.

But now it's over! Yay! On Friday afternoon, Martin and I went to get cell phones, so now I'm all cell phoned up. It's SUPER expensive for me to call you, but if you want to call me, just send an e-mail asking for my phone number, and I will be oh so very extraordinarily happy. :-)

Friday night, a bunch of us went over to the school bar.

Tom, Martin, Matan, Alexis, and Lauren. Where is Jenny-Lyn?!?

I had the most expensive apple juice of my life, but I guess it was okay, because I had a great time, and I met some really cool people.

At a little after midnight, Lauren walked over to the train station with me, where we picked up Bastien, who had flown in from Shanghai to hang out with me! Yay! :-) Saturday morning, we woke up super early and headed to Osaka!

Audrey and Bastien in Osaka

Osaka was fabulous, even if I had to have a headache the whole time. We went to the castle, which was super cool on the outside and surrounded by an awesome park, even if the museum inside was slightly boring.

The castle was really amazing!

Small shrine on the castle grounds.

We walked around the gardens, and then we went shopping and found Bastien some of the figurines he was looking for in this really cool store that looked like a cave!

Entryway to cave store.

Bastien with one of his new toys!

Come night, we found a place to eat that had VEGAN miso soup (YAY!), and then we walked around an area called Kita and then Amerika town, which are supposedly supposed to be the hip area to hang out. It seemed like it was just a bunch of kids roaming aimlessly around in the streets.

I still had a headache, so we turned in eary, and the next morning we went shopping in Den Den Town, which is sort of the electronicsy district of Osaka. It was super cool but also extremely overwhelming.

My favorite thing about Osaka was how there were all of these little covered roads everywhere that were really just like pseudo-outdoor shopping centers. They were super cool. I kind of wish we had some in Okazaki.

The entry way to one of those streets.

For lunch, we met up with my friend Delilah, who is an old friend from high school at LSMSA (Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts - where I went to boarding school, for those of you that don't know). I hadn't seen her since high school, and it was SO cool to get to catch up with her. She's been living here for three years now, and she seems to be doing well. I'm sad I didn't think to get a picture of us together.

We ate in a delicious vegetarian Indian restaurant, and I had some absolutely SCRUMPTIONS aloo ghobi. YUM!

When we left her, Bastien and I headed to Nara, home of one of Japan's most famous relics, the daibutsu aka the HUGE Buddha in the biggest wooden building in the world.

Us in front of the wood building!

The Big Buddha - unfortunately, this is the best picture I got of him

It was extraordinarily impressive, and I wish that we had been the only ones there so that I could have really gotten the chance to appreciate it. Nara is also known for the TONS of deer there are there. Everyone had said they were annoying and that they would want to attack us, but I guess there were SO MANY PEOPLE there that they were actually tired of eating the deer crackers that you can buy.

Docile Deer

So they were just lazing around docilely actually REFUSING the crackers that people were trying to give them. They were so cute!

Another cool building in Nara!

Sunday night, we headed back by bus to Okazaki, and on Monday, we decided to go into Nagoya for the day.

Nagoya is, like, the awesomest city ever. Guillaume should be glad that it's not possible to have a yard there, otherwise he might never get me to leave Japan.

There are cool things like a ferris wheel on the side of a building!

First, we went to Toganji Temple, which was amazingly beautiful. I haven't been to many temples, but so far it's my favorite.

Right at the entry into the temple!

Check out those cool elephants!

It was so beautiful on the temple grounds!

Very cool hand by the green Buddha!

It was just so calm and beautiful and lovely.
Then we walked around looking for a robot museum. We never found it, but we did find an incredibly AWESOME pop punk band playing in the street.

I wish I knew what they were called, because it was SO my favorite kind of punk, and I absolutely ADORED it! I wanted to stay and listen to them forever! :-)

Then we walked around parks and found our way to Osu Kannon temple, which was less cool than Toganji temple, but still cool. And then we walked around the shopping district, which was like the small streets in Osaka.

Osu Kannon Temple!

On Tuesday morning, Bastien left. ::sadness:: On Tuesday night, I went over to Matan's and had Sushi with him and Tom. They made me vegan sushi, and it is officially decided that I just DON'T LIKE SUSHI. Most people think it's weird, but the feel it has in my mouth just makes me want to gag.

On Wednesday, Martin and I went on a bikeride along the river to the outskirts of Okazaki. I got my first closeup view of a rice field and of small town Japan. It was sort of fabulous.

Up close and personal with a rice field!

At one point in time, we found ourselves in this random bamboo field. It was so super rad, but when we were leaving, people were looking at us like "WHAT were you doing in our bamboo field?!?" Oops!

Martin and I in the bamboo field!

We left quickly and then found ourselves in some man's garden. He laughed at us, and I think he told us that the road we were on went nowhere.
Maybe dirt roads here mean driveway?
We also discovered a mini golf course in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, and we are thinking of returning someday to play.

After a very long ride, we soaked our feet in the river for a while, and it was absolutely WONDERFUL!

And that was my Golden Week. Simply fabulous! And now, after two very quick days of classes, it's already the weekend again! Yay! :-) Which means - be looking for another update soon!