Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guillaume Visits: Miyajima!

So, right next to Hiroshima is they very well known island of Miyajima, or rather Itsukushima.

You might never have heard of Miyajima or Itsukushima before, but I am sure you have at least seen pictures of the famous Tori gate for which it is known, which floats in the water right off its shores.

While the pictures are, of course, amazing, nothing lives up to this gate up close and personal.

When we visited, it was low tide, so we didn't actually get to see the gate floating in the water. I think what we got was better, though, in that we got to walk right up to it.

With the bright orangeish red color of the gate combined with the beautiful blue sky with the perfectly white and fluffy clouds, the image was breathtaking.
Even if the part that is often covered with water was, um, cute.

Little shellfish things lived all over it. :-)

At the temple by the Tori gate, there were also some really cool things. It was cool to get to watch the crabs crawling all over the place where normally there is water, and to check out the bridge that seemed to be over nothing because of the low tide.

And of course, no Japanese temple would be complete without the notorious sake barrels.

While the island is known for this Tori gate, there are also quite a few other amazing things to see.

We hiked through and ate lunch in a beautiful park, that would have been peaceful if it weren't for the deer that were even more annoying than the Nara deer. They tried to steal our food, and when we didn't want to give it to them, they tried to attack us with their antlers.

Then we hiked up to this really cool temple. My favorite part of the island, I think, was the hundreds of mini statues leading up to the temple.

Seriously, they were SO cool. And there were really hundreds of them - they seemed to go on forever and ever.

What made them particularly awesome was that each and every one of them, though they looked the same from afar, was extraordinarily different. There were fat ones and emaciated ones and serious ones and ones making funny faces and. . .

This was my favorite one, holding a dragon!

Sorry, just one more picture so that you can really get the feeling of how they were EVERYWHERE!

Okay, enough pictures of the little statues. There were also some other super cool statues at this temple.

Like this one of some weird Japanese Pinnochioesque man.

And of course, not to be forgotten, An Pan man. An Pan is basically this pancake like bread filled with red bean paste, and this little dude's head is supposed to be An Pan. He is the face of An Pan!

The gardens at the temple were also beautiful!

As was the amazing view out over the island!

On our way down, we stopped at the five story pagoda.

They must really love these things in Japan, as they seem to be everywhere I look!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Guillaume Visits: Hiroshima!

So, Saturday morning, after a lovely week in Okazaki, we headed off to Hiroshima.

Hiroshima was AWESOME! I had just seen a movie about the bombing right before going, so visiting genkaku dome was very sad for me. I really almost cried.

We were super tired, but it was absolutely worth seeing.

The memorial was absolutely lovely, and

and there were these paper cranes EVERYWHERE!

The dome itself was really something to see.

I have to say, I'm glad that they've decided to keep it in this condition for everyone to see.
I wished that I had brought a paper crane to add to the pile.
We also went into the Memorial Museum.

us looking tired

It was incredibly sad - they had a database so that you could look up pictures of all the people that died during the bomb or from affects of the bomb. And then they had digital books that you could look through to see pictures drawn by accounts written by people that had actually been there and witnessed it. There was one story, accompanied by picture, that actually did make me cry.

We also went for a night visit of the castle - we didn't really feel the need to go inside, and it was so beautiful lit up at night.

in front of the castle

the castle lit up all beautifully at night

One day while there, we decided that we were going to hike to the top of the mountain to see the dome up there. We had read wonderful things about the hike (despite there being NO mention of it in the Lonely Planet - how odd)

On our way towards attempting to find the trail,

we saw these ADORABLE bunny road things!

We started off at the wrong temple and ended up hiking high up into a mountain on the way to nowhere. We did finally find our way, though, and let's just say: the hike was steep.

Notice the ambulance - yes, they were having to escort someone down. It was hot and steep and rugged and rough!

When we got to the graveyard, there was a firetruck, and someone was being escorted down. I'm not surprised - getting from the bottom of the graveyard to the top was rough. The dome at the top of the hill was cool,

Me in front of the Peace Monument

and the view of Hiroshima was also pretty cool,

but it was the hike down that was the most amazing. We hiked a trail (a different one) that has a name, but I've forgotten what that name is. We found ourselves hiking down through tori gate after tori gate.

Guillaume in the tori gates

Me in the tori gates

There were literally HUNDREDS of them!

Seriously, they just went on FOREVER!

I seriously couldn't stop taking pictures.

Notice how scary Guillaume looks behind me

It was really an amazing sight.

While there, we ate in this Indian Restaurant called Roopali.

It was definitely NOT the best of Indian restaurants in which I have eaten, but it was alright.

We also discovered this restaurant called Vegan Cafe, which was absolutely DELICIOUS! I can't remember if we ate there twice or three times. I wish it was here in Okazaki

And one day, when leaving the restaurant, we came across a rockabilly/punk band playing in a square. Almost everywhere I go, I come across a random punk band playing in the street - Okazaki, Nagoya, Kyoto, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Takayama,. . .

It was SO hot! I don't know HOW they were wearing those black leather jackets.

They were really good, and I wish we had had more time to stay and watch for a while.

We also decided to hike up to the manga library.

I say hike up because, well, it really was a long hike up a very steep hill, and then the manga library wasn't even all that interesting.
Let me just say - if ever I were to live in Hiroshima, I would SO want a car!

So yes, we had a FABULOUS time in Hiroshima! And, in case you were wondering, we did indeed go spend a day in Miyajima (how can you go to Hiroshima without heading to Miyajima?), and the next post will be all about that!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Guillaume Visits: Okazaki! and Yosakoi!

Sooo, at the beginning of August, Guillaume came to visit!!!! And because I was still in class, we spent his entire first week here hanging around Okazaki.

I was SO excited to get to hang out with Guillaume again! Yay!

His first day here, we took it easy, and I just showed him around Yamasa and the area where I live. Then that night, we went to the Dance Festival at the Okazaki Civic Center.

Guillaume and I at the Okazaki Civic Center festival!

View of the festival

The week was extremely busy - every day, I would get up and go to class, meet up with Guillaume for lunch, then go back for more class. And then after class we would do some exploring!

The first day, we went to Gifu and explored the gardens there and went up to the castle - it was a lovely ride up and then walk around. We also made our way over to the temple with the largest paper mache Buddha. It was HUGE, and I would never have known that it was paper mache. I guess it's base wasn't, and it was covered with gold laquer. It was super cool.

I somehow have NO pictures of Gifu (I really remember taking some, though), and since Guillaume hasn't yet sent me his pictures, that will have to wait.

Another day, we hung around Okazaki and went up to the castle, which was lovely. It was actually only my second time up there - I really love the area.

I don't know why I like to regularly stick my tongue out in pictures! Us at the castle - it was hot, and we were tired!

Us at the castle!

Beautiful clock on the castle grounds!

And then, of course, one day it was my birthday.
When I got to school,

this little dude, whom I have named Bazarian, was sitting in my seat,

and in front him there was a card from Martin with Tetris for my FamCom Emulator.
Bazarian was from Alexis, and I absolutely ADORE him! And I have been having so much fun playing Tetris!

And then I got home, and Guillaume made me a delicious dinner with a delicious chocolate banana cake.

Guillaume cooking my dinner!

It was so nice to have someone cook for me again. And then, of course, I had lots of fabulous presents from him, as well - a ton of delicious food, an adorable bag, and some fabulous new earrings and bracelet.

I can't even believe how much I love birthdays! I also got a package in the mail on Saturday morning right before we left full of fun games and clothes from Mom and Kristen.

On Friday night, it was the beginning of the Okazaki Festival, and since I was dancing in it, Guillaume and I went.
After school, Guillaume and I met up with Jin Han, and we went to a short shamisen concert, which was lovely (and of which I unfortunately did not take pictures) before heading up to Northern Okazaki. Jin Han and I danced in two dances, and I think I only messed up once. It was super nerve-wracking because it was in front of a TON of people and we were being filmed (and apparently appeared on TV), but it was also extremely fun!

(PICTURES TO COME - the were unfortunately all taken on Guillaume's camera)

After our yosakoi dances, we participated in a Bon Odori parade. Basically, everyone was doing the same simple dance, called Bon Odori, and parading down the street. It was fun for a while, but it was so repetitive that it did eventually get boring.

Guillaume hadn't danced at all, so after far too long of watching that, he decided to go home. I stayed, though, because that night we were going to carry the mikoshi, and I SO wanted to see what that was all about.

If you're wondering what a mikoshi is, it's this thing!

I met up with Laura, and she let me chant with her group for the performance in front of the judges, so that was fun!

Me ready for mikoshi carrying!

Jin Han rockin' out mikoshi style in his happi!

Other than that, we watched lots of episodes of the season 3 of True Blood and tried to keep things a little calm (which was impossible for me, what with school everyday and still having to work) before heading off to Hiroshima and Kyoto!

And that's it! We had a fabulous time hanging out in Okazaki before heading on our way to Hiroshima!

I'll be adding pictures of Gifu to this as soon as I get them, and I'm heading off now to write a post about Hiroshima!

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Time Between

So, after Rachel and Josh left, I had a little bit of time to hang and relax and have tests before Guillaume arrived and I went traveling again.

First, we got assigned to our new classes (wow, that seems like it was AGES ago at the beginning of August - I can't believe I am just writing about it now), and I ended up in a class with Alexis but not with Martin. I absolutely ADORE my new class, so that is good. I still have Suzuki先生 sometimes, and since she is awesome, I am happy about that. Tsuruta先生 is my homeroom teacher, and she is fabulous as well. My two new teachers, though, I am still very iffy about.

Other than that, a bunch of us went to see a sumo match, which was super fun.

Martin, me, Lyn, Lauren, Alexis, and Tom

It's true that they were all super enormous, but for some reason they weren't nearly as enormous as I was expecting them to be.

The matches lasted about two seconds, and very little happened in them. But somehow, they stilled managed to be super intense.

So yeah, the sumo was SUPER fun, and I am so glad to have gotten the oportunity to see that in Japan!

Then one weekend, Jin Han and I met up with Sayumi, one of the people that was teaching us in our dance class, and we went to the matsuri (festival) in Nishyou (and least I think that's the name of the place).

Me and Jin Han

We were psyched to get to go, and we even got to dance (with Sayumi's team), which was super fun!

Sayumi's team dancing

Notice how incompetent I look compared to Jin Han!

It made me want to learn ALL of the Yosakoi dances, and I am sad that I haven't been able to continue. It was nice to be able to practice before the real dancing as the Yamasa team at the Okazaki festival.

Also, one day, Yamasa had a "try on your own yukata" get-together/session/I really don't know what to call it. We got to try on two different yukatas, and, well, I proved to be fairly incompetent.

This is the first one I tried on, that was super awesome 80's looking!

Me with Lauren and Alexis in the second one I tried on.

I had some trouble breathing in the second one.
When Guillaume came to visit, he was so kind as to buy me a yukata (YAY!!!!), and so now I've got one of my own!

Me in the Yukata that Guillaume bought for me.

Which one of the three do you like best?

Anyhow, so I'm sure there were other things going on, like we went to see the new Miyazaki film, Arietty, which is based on the books the Borrowers, by Mary Norton, which are some of my favorite books from when I was little. And since it was Miyazaki with the Borrowers, of COURSE it was AMAZING. More than amazing. And it was in Japanese without subtitles, and I actually pretty much understood it, which was super exciting for me!

And then it was time for Obon, and Guillaume was on his way! Details and pictures coming soon!