Monday, August 29, 2011

Nagoya Grampus, Shink and Jackpot Bell ROCK 豊橋(Toyohashi)!

I've still got to write about my Mie hike with Alexis, but I'll skip that for now and come to more recent things. Because I'm all fired up about last night and this night, so it's time to WRITE!

Yesterday, I met up with a friend in 豊田市(Toyota) so that we could head over to Toyota Stadium to see the Nagoya Grampus play Ventforet Kofu (I don't know if that Ventforet is supposed to be French for windy forest or what, but it's weird). We would of course be routing (have I ever mentioned that I HATE this word?) for 名古屋!!!!

Toyota Stadium was absolutely LOVELY, surrounded by trees and with two very cool bridges leading up to it on both sides.

When we got there, I felt very out of place. First of all, I was wearing blue, which ended up being the color of the opposing team. Second of all, I wasn't wearing red. And when we got into the section where we could sit, it seemed like EVERYONE was wearing a jersey - and those that weren't were at least wearing red t-shirts. In any case, certainly not blue.

See all those people with the flags up - yeah, every single one of them had on a Grampus jersey.

Miho and I were also both SHOCKED by the amount of people that there were there. The last soccer game I went to was in Colorado, and it seemed like there was practically no one there (granted, it WAS snowing, but still), whereas this wasn't even a special match, and the stadium seemed practically full. We actually had trouble finding seats.

It was AMAZING, though, because everyone was SO into it! There were people with loudspeakers leading chants and cheers and dances, and everyone was just SO into it! Miho and I have decided that we must go again, and next time we will wear jerseys and get there early enough to sit in the real "supporters" section with all of the crazies. SO MUCH FUN!

I'm happy to say as well that Nagoya totally rocked - 4 to 1. Two of the goals literally happened in a period of about 3 minutes. It was amazing!

With that super exciting experience under my belt, tonight Alexis and I headed out to Ell.Knot in 豊橋 (Toyohashi) for some awesome concert action. Five bands played, and I kind of loved all of them!

The first one was ポタリ(Potari), and, aside from one song, the music was upbeat and fabulous and exciting. The drummer (who looked like he couldn't have been more than 15) was the most adorable thing I had ever seen. He reminded me of L from Death Note, in a weird way.  I gather from their website, though, that he's not their usual drummer. Sadness. The bassist actually started CRYING, and for someone like me, who cries a LOT, it was absolutely FABULOUS. I loved her!

Up next was 洗脳集団キミとロック (Sennnoushuudann kimi to rock, which basically means Brainwashing group, you and rock). They were SUPER fun, and I will totally be seeing them again. For serious. If I can, that is. Like perhaps Sunday when they play at Cam Hall in Okazaki.

Then was Eve. I think that I could have liked them if I hadn't seen them. The music was very screamo rock with the occasional punkish or skaish twinge, and I was into it. Unfortunately, the guys in the band seemed. . .well, ridiculous.

Then Jackpot Bell!!!! I have been dying to see them for ages, as they seem to play in Okazaki a lot, and I always just keep missing them.

They were just as amazing live as I expected them to be, and they'll also be playing Cam Hall Sunday, so really I've just got to go.

Then Shink. They were AMAZING, but I think they could have been MORE amazing. The crowd didn't seem to be all that into them, which I really just don't understand. They put on a better show this time than when we saw them last time, and still, most of the crowd just wasn't having it. :-(

i am a concert addict, and all I ever want to do anymore is go to concerts.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

郡上祭り (Gujo Festival)

I don't know why I've decided to always write my titles in Japanese and English lately. But I have, and so there it is.

Anyhow, so after our lovely day at Ise Shrine, we slept in and had a lovely lazy day. Abby made okonomiyaki, so I got to try to first real vegan okonomiyaki, and it was delicious beyond belief. It makes me want to move to Gifu just to have them around more often to make me delicious food. (I'm a user, what can I say?)

For those of you that don't know, okonomiyaki is basically a Japanese vegetable stuffed pancake. Usually, it's stuffed with cabbage, but Abby's version had none. It did have this delicious green leafy Chinese vegetable thing, though. Yum!

Then we had the perfect ending to a lazy day (during which I did my best to attempt to study)! Abby's friend Shio came to pick us up to bring us to her house, where her mother put us in yukata. It was SO cool - her mother had TONS of old yukata and a huge box of obis. She seemed quite experienced at obi tying, and she tied a different style bow for all of us - me, Abby, Shio, and Riho.

The boys decided not to wear yukata. :-(

Around 8:00 PMish, we headed over to Gujo for the all-night dancing festival. Gujo's a pretty small but extremely gorgeous town which is famous for it's all night Obon Dancing festivals, during which, instead of dancing Bon Odori, you dance the Gujo Odori, which is really quite similar, but somehow much more difficult. We danced until about midnight (which was long enough to leave me exhausted beyond belief, and I literally fell asleep the second I hit the futon when we returned to Matt and Abby's).

Despite being there for approximately 4 to 5 hours, I think I only managed to pick up on one of the many dances (which I promptly forgot). I did, however, manage to step on the feet of about 10 different people and almost elbow some poor woman in the face. Apparently dancing is not for me. Which I knew beforehand, but what can I say, quite like singing, I love it anyway!

Abby and Shio dancing it up!

Matt and Abby's friends were super great, and we had an absolutely fabulous time just hanging out in Gujo and dancing! Even if I was slightly intimidated by Abby and Shio's mad dancing skills, since Riho and Shio's husbands were in the same lacking the coordination necessary to dance boat as I was.

Both of these are things you're probably NOT supposed to do in a yukata. And my shoes - definitely shoes you're NOT supposed to wear with yukata!

A definite success of a night, and I am looking forward to my next all night dancing festival! :-)

We were all basically dead when we woke up the next morning (and I'm sure Matt and Abby won't appreciate me taking a picture of our deadness, but I'm doing it anyway).
I was feeling kind of sick and headachy, so I headed home fairly earlyish (which was around 4PM, but we woke up late, so it felt early), and when I got home, I had some delicious vegan Doughnut Plant doughnuts waiting for me that Alexis had brought back from Tokyo. There were three, and I ate two and immediately felt better. Then I made peanut butter cookies and ate about 12 of them. I think I might have been in overly hot Gifu sugar (and maybe protein) withdrawal.

As is becoming usual when I do things with Abby and Matt, Abby's blogging of the event is way more interesting and comprehensible with better pictures. SO check it out!

And with that, お盆休み、以上です。

Friday, August 26, 2011

お盆休み (Obon Break): 伊勢神宮 (Ise Shrine)

Obon is on of the biggest holidays in Japan. It's basically a big festival in order to honor the deceased, and it's pretty much the ONLY time of the year that most Japanese workers can be guaranteed a full week off.

I, of course, only had off Friday and Monday, so I decided to head over to Gifu to hang out with Abby(fine, I'll spell your name right) and Matt for my four day weekend. I was originally planning to just spend one night with them, but somehow that turned into the whole weekend.

Normally, it takes 40 minutes on the train to get to Gifu, but there were some train problems (a suicide, it seems :-( ), and it ended up taking me two hours. My first Japanese experience with train delays (and I was even in Tokyo the day after the earthquake)! There was something kind of exciting about it! After heading up to the top of a super tall building and getting a lovely view out over the city, they brought me to this DELICIOUS Italian restaurant where their friends work - they have tons of gluten free options for Abby, and they were very obliging in whipping me up some vegan pasta and a vegan pizza. Now I need to go back to Gifu again just for the deliciousness of this restaurant!

Then we woke up super early on Saturday morning, met up with Martin in Nagoya, and headed all together to Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture. If you want a well put-together blog entry with lots of info, check out Abby's post, as you're probably not going to get that from me.
It's this amazing shrine complex that is dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu. I guess she's apparently enshrined there, but according to Matt, she's also enshrined somewhere in Nagoya, so that's weird.
There's an outer shrine and an inner shrine, and while the outer shrine itself was nothing overly impressive, I can't even remember the last time I felt so peacefully surrounded by nature. There was this HUGE hollow tree, and despite Abby's lack of desire to meet a spider or get bitten by a mosquito, I managed to convince her to go in with me! She left quickly, but it was my first time actually INSIDE a tree, and I practically had to be dragged out. I could literally stand up inside and look up all the way through it. It was amazing!
Us in the tree!!!! As amazing as everything about this day was, this might have been the highlight for me!

When we got to the inner shrine, which was infinitely more impressive, there was this big box thing, which supposedly contained something that the goddess once touched. Except that it's never been opened. And when they move it they don't open it. And so it's just been told over and over again over the generations that it contains something that the goddess has touched, and you've just got to believe. I like believing in things like that, so I've decided to believe.

Apparently the buildings are changed fairly often, so what we were seeing wasn't old. You can read all about it in Abby's blog, but I guess they just dismantle them and then rebuild them every few years or so. I guess the Shinto's don't believe in permanence, and really, why should they? The world is an ever-changing place, after all.
After exploring the shrines, we walked a little bit around the small shopping district nearby. It was very old style Japanese, and we bought some akafuku, which is basically like reverse daifuku - the red bean paste is on the outside, and the mochi is on the inside. It was utterly and absolutely delicious! The picture to the right is the akafuku shop - I have no idea for real, but I'm just going to say that maybe they make some of it in those vat looking things! :-)

And that was our day in Ise! We stopped in Nagoya on our way back for some delicious Indian food (it's wonderful that Indian food can almost always satisfy both the gluten free diet and the vegan diet) and were basically exhausted beyond belief upon our return home (well, Abby, Matt, and I were - I can't really say for Martin)!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

岡崎花火大会 (Okazaki Fireworks Fest)

And because apparently I do things in excess (like how I have pretty much listened to nothing but the Radwimps for the past 2 or 3 weeks; and how yesterday I listened to the same song on repeat approximately 40 times in a row), one fireworks festival just wasn't enough for me.

So Saturday afternoon, after working in Obu (where I apparently have a twin - I was told by at least three people "looking forward to seeing you next week!" and by a good 5 people "it's so good to see you again." - seriously, what was that about?), I headed over to Alexis's for help putting on my yukata to head over to the Okazaki Fireworks Festival!

Alexis had to put on our yukatas and tie our obis, as we were totally incapable.

I wore my new yukata that I got from Miyoko - it was my first time in yukata, and I was super excited about it!

me in my new pretty butterfly yukata - thanks for tying it, Alexis!

When Alexis finally got our yukatas on, we walked painfully slowly in our geta (which, despite all of my best intentions, I had not worn in) to catch the bus up to the castle fireworks area.

Alexis, Vickie, Me

Alexis and Martin had headed over earlier in the day to put out mats, and it was a good thing, too, as there were SO MANY people there's no way we would have found a place to sit if they hadn't headed out earlier. Apparently, 70% of the fireworks in Japan are designed and made in Okazaki, which basically means that the festival, which has at least 20,000 fireworks, ends up being HUGE! It was.

When we got there, we met up with Martin and Paul.

And then Mai and Voi.

me and Mai

I was waiting for Mai and Voi by the bridge when everyone else was taking pictures, so I don't really have great pictures of everyone. Though I did manage to get a nice picture of most of us.

Me, Vickie, Joanna, Sandra, Zack, Alexis, Mai, Voi

And the fireworks were AMAZING! Seriously. . .I thought the ones in Gamagori were pretty spectacular, but really, they had absolutely nothing on Okazaki.

They lasted for about an hour and a half, and the start was like the mega intense end in Gamagori. And then it just kept getting bigger and bigger. Apparently they kept making stars in the sky with the fireworks, but I kept missing them. :-( I did see a heart, though! (I would have much rathered a star)

My camera's definitely not the best at fireworks pictures - I bet Zack got some nice ones, though

After an hour and a halfish of amazingly impressive fireworks, there were SO many people leaving that we decided to hang around by the river talking for a bit, and we got to witness someone jump in and swim. Interesting. . .

It was an AMAZING evening, and I'm so glad I got to go this year - I missed it last year as the day after the festival, in which I danced yosakoi and did the obon odori, I headed down to Hiroshima and Miyajima.

And that's it! Totally awesome day. . .(and the next day I went to see the new Transformers with Nathaniel, which was AWESOME, despite what everyone else says!).

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

蒲郡花火大会 (Gamagori Fireworks Fest)

Still got that paper due and still have no desire to read the newspaper article - so I figure I might as well just write two blog entries in a row, right? Especially since I've been doing so many awesome things lately!

After my amazing Saturday in 春日井市(Kasugai), I headed over to 蒲郡市(Gamagori) to spend the day there with some friends and then hit up the fireworks festival that night. It takes place every year on the last Sunday in July (or maybe the last day of July? can't remember), and I didn't go last year, so I was psyched to get to go this year. You might recall that I also took a day trip to Gamagori with Alexis and Martin when I first got here last year. It's amazing how different the experience was this time (though both times were defo fabulous!).

I met up on the train with some friends heading over from Gifu and some of their friends, and we got there early enough to do some exploring before the sun decided to come out and kill us.

The tide was down, so instead of using the bridge, we headed over to the turtle island under the bridge, and there were TONS of adorable little crabs (or crabby things) crawling around everywhere - SO CUTE! :-) The turtle island is this adorable little island that is uninhabited and covered with shrine type things. Very natural and very Japanese, and I love! (Note that it is not ACTUALLY called the turtle island - I just keep calling it that because it reminds me of the huge sleeping sneezing turtle from the best movie of all time, the Neverending Story).

Exploring the island was super fun. There were lots of flags and cute statues and shrine things everywhere!

Why do Rachael and Abi look so perfect and well-kept while Matt and I look as if we are attemping and maybe failing to survive a windstorm?

There were also fun rocks everywhere, and everywhere we looked there were the BEAUTIFUL iridescent blue and green lizards. I totally wish it were appropriate to keep a lizard as a pet. I wonder what they eat. I can just imagine it hanging out in my room and then sleeping curled up in my elbow. Yes, I want a pet lizard. There were also some extra large scary lizards, though. Like the little dude to the right. Click on him to make him bigger. If you want a picture of a pretty lizard, , check out Abi's blogging of the day!

Me being rather monkey-like and Abi being a dancer, we couldn't help ourselves and just had to climb out on the rocks. There was one that looked like a duck-billed platypus (which I apparently also noticed the last time I was there)!

Abi's got a nice version of the pictures from all three of our cameras put together. Check it out - mine's super boring compared to the other two.

After exploring the island, we found some shade and ate lunch. The sun was so strong, though, that we might have all gotten sunburnt despite the shade and the spf 45/50 sunblock. I was wearing a unicorn necklace, and I was hoping for a unicorn burn on the chest, but no go. :-( In order to escape the sun, we then headed over to karaoke. Being with two Japanese guys and three Americans all capable of singing, I had NO PLANS of actually singing anything myself. Somehow, though, when I get into the dark room with music, I can't help myself, and I destroy everyone's ears with my inability to sing.

In front of the karaoke place, there was a hair salon, and there were all these really creepy practice heads just sitting outside in a line.

I made a new friend!

Karaoke done and the sun setting, we headed back over to the beach for the fireworks! We sat right on the water with an amazing view!

The fireworks lasted an hour and a half and were すごく迫力 (i.e. super intense - somehow it sounds more powerful in Japanese)! They counted down with fireworks in the sky - it was amazing!

Getting home after was a bit difficult because of the CRAZY amount of people at the station, but we managed, and all in all, it was a FABULOUS day! :-)

春日井市と犬山城 (Kasugai and Inuyama Castle)!

So, today I have a paper due in which I'm supposed to summarize a newspaper article. I still haven't even read the article, and I've got to work and go to the gym later, so I thought - why not update the blog?!? Seems like an appropriate response to a looming deadline, right?

Anyhow, I've been eating the most fresh, wonderful delicious veggies for the past week now, and I'm feeling spoiled. Why, you might wonder, have I been able to enjoy such wonderfully deliciously perfect veggies? Last week, I finally got out to my friend's house in Kasugai. We've been planning for me to go out there for ages, and yet somehow it just never kept working out. I'm SO glad it finally did!

He lives on a huge farm in the country, so it was my first time to get to see how a real Japanese farmer lives. As we arrived, his grandmother was sitting on the porch doing something that looked suspiciously similar to de-shelling soy beans. There were vegetables EVERYWHERE! They even had a shrine room in their house to pay homage to dead relatives. It's entirely possible that the shrine room in itself was larger than my entire apartment.

I of course didn't bring my camera (WHAT was I thinking? I always forget it at the worst of moments!), so unfortunately I've got no pictures for you.

After exploring the house and the farm for a bit, my friend and I headed over to Inuyama, where I got to eat my very first Dango, which was incredibly delicious! Every time I've asked before, I've been told they're not vegan, but this woman ASSURED me that hers were, and it was DELICIOUS! I will definitely be asking again in the future about their veganness.

Then we went up to Inuyama Castle, which was AMAZING! It felt super old and creaky with these ridiculously STEEP stairs! We had to take our shoes off and put them in bags before we went in, and my socks were so slippery and the stairs were so steep that I was afraid I was going to fall off the stairs to a very gruesome and uninteresting death. Luckily, I survived and was treated to a breathtakingly spectacular view from the top.

Inuyama is actually the oldest castle still standing in Japan today, and you could totally tell. I told my friend how it felt SO much older than all of the other castles I went to, but he assured me that Okazaki-jo is DEFINITELY older. So I read the guidebook, and Okazaki-jo was originally constructed earlier, but it was abolished during the Meiji Restoration, and, if we count when construction started, Inuyama-jo, building starting in 1440, is the oldest left in Japan. Super cool!

When we got back to his house, his mother had prepared a HUGE bag of fresh veggies for me, and she'd made me some vegan somen. It took me about an hour to eat with chopsticks, but it was totally delicious and worth it! I even managed to make the loud slurping sounds like you're supposed to! :-) When I FINALLY finished eating, his mom took me to the peach trees to pick some peaches! So much fun, and I've been gorging myself on delicious peaches all week!

Some peaches and a delicious kabocha right from their garden!

I had a lovely time, and I am SO looking forward to visiting again! My friend lives in Osaka, so maybe I'll just have to go visit his mom and sister sometimes. :-)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Freedom Nagoya 2011

So, when I was talking to the singer dude, ちゃっせ (Chasse) of Scusi, he mentioned this free concert in this huge park right outside of Nagoya. Freedom Nagoya.

Last Sunday, Alexis, Joanna, and I decided to head over and check it out.

We headed over around 11, even though Scusi had played at 9. And of course the first person we see upon arriving, directing traffic, was ちゃっせ, who informed us that we had missed his band. We were aware. Oops. At least he smiled and waved, though, which implied that he remembered us.

And with that began an awesome day of MUSIC!!!!

The first band we saw was Banbi, and while I don't really remember them at all, I put a star by them, which means I must have liked them. Then we saw Misty and 太陽族 (taiyouzoku), both of whom were quite good without being overwhelmingly awesome. I didn't get to see more than a song or two of 太陽族, though, and I think I really could have loved them. 

Next up was Yum! Yum! Orange, a ska band from Osaka, I think. I'd heard them a couple times before, and I was psyched to get to see them.

Unfortunately, pretty much before the first song even began, the singer tripped over the speaker and fell in an extraordinary show of klutziness that impressed even me. Later, I read in her blog that she doesn't know how she'll ever be able to get excited about a show again without first falling. :-P In any case, they were wonderful. The perfect blend of pop and punk and ska with great female vocals.

Up next, ソライアオ (Soraiao), who according to my memory and their lack of star on the schedule, pretty much did nothing for me.

The the Gelugugu, who, well. . . I don't know how to describe them. They're ska, but also a little hip-hoppy, and while it's weird to say that music is Clockwork Orange-influenced, they totally were, not only in their style, but also in their sound (which isn't to say they sounded anything like Beethoven - they didn't).

I liked them, but I'm still not sure if I loved them. I think I would need to see them again doing a one man live (which is what they call it here when a band plays a show with no other bands). I gather they're fairly popular.

And then after the Gelugugu, SKULL CANDY!!!!

I have now officially seen them three times, and each time was pure awesomeness. Seriously. I said that Yum!Yum! Orange is the perfect blend of pop, punk, and ska, but their perfection pales in comparison to that of Skull Candy. And the female vocalist is just the cutest thing since. . . I wanted to compare her to sliced bread, for some reason, but that's not really all that cute. . .so, insert something super cute.

They're playing a one man this Saturday in Nagoya, and if it wasn't the Okazaki Fireworks festival, which I unfortunately had to miss last year, I would SO be there!

After Skull Candy, we saw Sim, who was mostly boring despite drawing the largest crowd I saw the whole day, and then Feelflip, who I apparently liked but not enough to have remembered them if I didn't have the schedule in front of me right now.

Then Misspray, who was awesome.

And awesomely adorable - they're playing in Nagoya at the end of August, and I'm thinking I might have to go.

Then Fatprop, who were relatively boring, which was okay, because they were followed by the Skippers, who ended up being on of my two favorite bands of the day (that I had never previously heard of). They were seriously AMAZING!

Downright straight up punk, and absolutely perfect! And I can't find their albums anywhere, so I might have to get a Tsutaya card so that I can rent one.

Then Eddy, who were okay, Crossfaith, who were terrible, and Each of the Days, who were also terrible. Then Last Gasp, a band from Okazaki (I think). I like them on CD, and I liked them live, but I feel like there's something missing about their sound. They're rock, and there's nothing to make them special to make them anything more than just another rock band. Still, they were fun.

And then Egg Brain! Along with the Skippers, my other favorite previously unknown band of the day. They were like doofy, nerdy pop punk, which is totally my favorite kind of pop punk.

I liked them so much that I have to include a video, even though I promised myself no videos today. I've pretty much been listening to them nonstop since.

Then Astral Mess, okay. Then Backlift and at Anytime, who were AWESOME!!!!

But not awesome enough, apparently, because I forgot about them when Hey Smith came on.

The whole day, we'd pretty much been sitting back and enjoying the bands over people's heads, but for Hey Smith, Joanna and I decided to join the crowd, and we danced and skanked and pogoed, and seriously - Hey Smith knows how to rock!

Then music was over, and it was time to go home, and I was sad, because I was SO not ready for music to be over. It felt SO good to hit up an outdoor summer music festival again. I went to one in France, but there was only one band I liked, so mostly, that doesn't count. It's been FAR too long since my last Warped Tour, and this TOTALLlllllllllllllY made up for it!

So that was Freedom Nagoya, and it was fabulous, and it was two whole weeks ago now, and I already feel like I'm going through concert withdrawal. I'll have to find another one soon! :-)

The end.