Friday, July 29, 2005

WOOHOO!!! Tokyo Fireworks!!!!!

Kathy here.

I am SO pumped. Jeff and I have just spent all night preparing for the big trip tomorrow. From my last time in Japan, I remember the AMAZING summer fireworks displays. I remember sitting on a riverbank in Matsudo, watching fireworks pop up along the river at three different stations for over two hours. So naturally, I wanted to make sure Jeff got to see the wonder of Japanese fireworks. Unfortunately, most fireworks displays happen in August, during the time that we'll be in Canada. But we were lucky enough to find out about one set of fireworks happening tomorrow.

The Sumidagawa Fireworks.

In the guide book, I read, "One of the best fireworks displays in Tokyo." Perfect. Just what I want.

We had no idea.

Originally, we thought we'd take our time heading over to Tokyo tomorrow, pick up Joanne and head over to the river around 5pm to get a seat. We were wrong. This week, Jeff told Yuka, someone from our company, our plans. She thought we were crazy. She used to live in Tokyo, close to this location. She told Jeff about how she went there at 10 in the morning, and already the entire riverside was FULL!!! WHAT?!!! Then, today, I talked to one of the English teachers about our plans. She said that yes, this is one of the most popular fireworks displays in all of Japan. It's even broadcast on TV. O-o-o-o-o-o-k-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-y....

So we are now doing our traditional leave-at-4-in-the-morning gig. And we are DRIVING to TOKYO.... oh dear.... DRIVING the streets of TOKYO!!! Are we CRAZY?
Well, yaaaaaaa....
We'll be trying to find parking that costs less than oh, 50 bucks for the day. And we will hopefully stake our claim on a fine piece of riverside territory by about 7am.

What will we do then?? Good question! We ARE prepared.... books, Japanese studies, Chinese checkers, digital camera, beer, water, sports drinks, grapefruit juice, rice, kimchi, salted soybeans (they go great with beer... the Japanese version of peanuts)... salad (and dressing), rice crackers, cheese bits (?), apples, bananas, cut up oranges, a thermos of tea, Pringles for Jeff, bread, jam, peanut butter (thanks mom), sunscreen, hats, cooler, mats, beach umbrella, ice packs, chopsticks and various other utensils... YUP, I'm an Urbancok!

Is it worth it? You tell me... read the following description, taken from the JAL website:

Sumidagawa Hanabi

- The first venue: From Sakurabashi to Kototoibashi, Tokyo
- The second venue: From Komagatabashi to Umayabashi, Tokyo
- Saturday July 30th

The Sumidagawa Hanabi Fireworks display originated as the Ryogoku Hanabi (festival) in 1733 making this display over 270 years old. Today's version of the display features some 20,000 fireworks and over 900,000 people visit the venues in search of the mid-summer and seemingly impossible to find 'Edo cool.'


Monday, July 25, 2005

self portrait

self portrait
Originally uploaded by Bob Jones.

i know everyone back home will enjoy this.

two beauties

two beauties
Originally uploaded by Bob Jones.

this is a couple weeks old now but it must be seen. kathy and ayako at their best in ikkyu (our favourite local pub) for Casey's birthday party. figured a light-hearted entry was needed.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Our Time in Canada

Thank you... it's wonderful to 'hear voices' from home. Jason and Beth asked a good question. Thought I'd put up the info for you all to see...

We will be home the night of Friday, August 5th. We will leave for Japan again at 8am (ouch!) Monday, August 22nd. So far, we have Saturday, August 13th booked with the Klassen fam. And we will be spending a night somewhere in there with Nath & Rose in Waterloo. I figure we will be at Dagmar & Dave's Sunday the 14th for Dustin's birthday, cause that's how my family works. ;)

Family, of course, is a priority. As well as the extended family of Dagmar & Dave's pool... But you all know that anyhow. We will be a bit protective of our time just cause we want to make sure we can RELAX and ENJOY for a bit. Something we need. But feel free to "book us" for a night, especially if you're not around the full two weeks we are. My goodness, I don't mean to make us sound like celebrities or anything... that last sentence was a bit much, wasn't it?!

To Add to Jeff's Thoughts...

I must say that the most difficult aspect about the type of blog Jeff and I have created is that it's not 100% honest. Jeff and I have talked about this. It's like everyone back at home thinks we have this amazingly exciting life in Japan because we post some nice pics every week. As you may (or may not) have guessed, this is not always the case. Jeff relayed a small bit of our struggle this week. I would have to say it's been our worst experience here, and by far our worst clash in cultures. There are certain aspects of the Japanese culture that I simply CANNOT reconcile in my albeit rather flexible, Canadian brain. So there is a bit of honesty for you, sparing the gritty details. Our morales are low right now. Very, very low. Emails of encouragement and love would be greatly appreciated (might as well be blunt; it's a skill I've been practicing this week), as this is far from over. The weekend should give a bit of a reprieve, but next week will involve some heavy discussions and decision making.

what a week!

the big panorama - white ribbon falls
Originally uploaded by Bob Jones.

i need some of this right now. this picture is from "the white ribbon falls" in Karuizawa. we went there this past weekend. Kathy was pretty sick, and we didn't really get along all that well. this place really left its mark on me though. the water from the falls was so cold, that there was a cold mist coming off it. in fact, i was wearing shorts (it was a hot day) but my legs and feet got pretty cold.

anyways. i need some of that cold refreshing air right now. i won't go into any details, but Kathy and i got into a pretty big fight with the school board coordinator on thursday. the fight is not over yet, and i've had a rock in my gut thinking about it for the last two days. in all of it, we have come to realize that the quality of our teaching does not matter. what is most important is that we follow the rules. it is more important to keep the status quo, to keep the peace, and to keep quiet than to be honest, to stand for what you believe in, or to stand up to someone who treats you rudely. i'm still angry right now, so i may decide to remove this post in a few days. but what a week!

we need to come home to Canada and family and friends. the sooner the better.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A Good Friend Provides a Nice Surprise at the End of a Horribly Long and Mostly Miserable Weekend (phew!)

A long weekend. Monday off. Big plans for camping and hiking. And this is how Kathy spent her weekend. Sick. It started on Friday with the nearly famous Urbancok coldsore, progressed to a sore throat and headache, and ended with a whole lot of sneezy stuffiness and general lethargic miserableness. I am SO ready for a break in Canada!
So I received a pleasant surprise tonight. Ayako came by, bringing this strange can with her. In Japan, it is thought to be good for sick people to drink some warm sake before going to bed. Gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling and helps you sleep well. I personally agree with this custom. I had never seen warm sake in a can before, but of course, I shouldn't have been surprised. This is Japan, after all, land of the "everything comes in a can." But this is exceptionally cool. You take off the plastic cover at the bottom of the can, flip the can over, and press in the "button" at the bottom of the can. This starts a chemical reaction that slowly warms the sake within. By the time a few minutes had passed, the can was so hot, it was difficult to open it without burning our fingers! And it had a lovely, if a tad sweet, plum flavor. It's working its magic. I'm just about ready to konk out.
And this is the heating mechanism. A tube within the can. So (thankfully) there was not as much sake in this can as first appeared. The point is to feel BETTER, not worse!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Case of the Racist Chihuahua(?)

The Japanese love their dogs. Especially popular are small dogs, breeds which Jeff and I have never been fond of (sorry Nadine :-)). Shortly after coming to Japan, we met the neighbourhood watchdog, a vicious little Chihuahua. We are still not sure who the owner of this pesky dog is, as he seems to roam freely both night and day. But one thing is clear: he doesn't like other dogs, and he doesn't like gaijin. That's right. He doesn't like gaijin. That would be foreigners. That would be us. He fiercely defends his neighbourhood, barking at all manner of dog who dares to be walked along our streets. I have seen him take on two or more dogs at a time, even a Golden Retriever! And he also fiercely defends his neighbourhood from US. One day, soon after moving into the apartment, I opened the front door and was greeted by vicious (if laughable) barking. Now I LIKE dogs, and I was not to be deterred by this hostile behavior. After much coaxing, I finally got him to come over to me, at which point I learned of his fondness for behind-the-ear scratches... and of his skooching (hence rectal glandular) issues.

The Chihuahua still doesn't like us. He doesn't generally come over to us when called, although I was pretty excited when I told him once to sit in Japanese (suwatte) and he did! I would say he simply tolerates us. So what do you think folks? Do we have a racist dog among us? Does this dog know somehow that we are not Japanese? Is he discriminating against us in his behavior? Cause you know, I've seen him run happily up to Japanese folks dozens of times, tongue a-hanging, bum a-waggling...Tell me, Mr. Chihuahua, what gives??
Here's the perpetrator, pretending he doesn't see me. I had to super zoom to get this pic.
And here he is, running away from me... a common sight.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More Hydrangeas

I was just looking back through our blog and saw that Kathy had figured i would take some good pictures of our little excursion to Fujioka looking at hydrangeas. I got the film back, got myself a scanner, and here you are!!
Fact is, I still think Kathy's picture with her cell phone was the best from the whole trip - but it's a tad small. these are my two contributions. there will be a few more added to my flickr site over the next week or so.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A Day at the Races

Saturday we went to watch one of Kathy's students (from her Hitachi class) race. Every week or two he races. I got to go in the car with him on two of his qualifying laps. It was actually pretty scary. Those things are fast. Its a really short course which means its all about the turns - half of which were handbreaked - and not about power or top speed. The Hondas did pretty well. Here's Kathy and Hiroyuki in front of his Honda.

A couple of cars at the races. Lots of Hondas, and a couple of Nissan Silvias (Nissan Zs back home)
Hoods up, cooling the engines.
The one on the right was Kathy's favourite. There were three drivers registered to drive this car - all university students. Their time was more than double the average times. It was painful to watch, but if you looked closely you'd notice that they were always laughing and enjoying themselves. They actually took it pretty seriously.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The funniest picture of me I've seen in a while.

I was told they wanted some pictures from class today. I saw the camera and I gave them what they wanted. It's amazing how much fun you can have teaching Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday!

Of course, on a (little bit) more serious note, both Kathy and I were really fascinated by the looks on the kids faces. It doesn't take speaking the same language to really connect with kids. I'm finding the longer I'm here, the more they trust me. And the more they trust me, the more I can tell them the craziest stories. (I haven't told them my cow tipping stories yet, but you'd be surprised what they understand when they trust you). That's the interesting thing about communication - it's not often about the words...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Well, these cell phone pictures won't compare to the ones Jeff will post soon from the "real camera", but I had to share... these hydrangeas were an amazing sight. We thought of you LOTS, Sue!
I sat at that bench for quite awhile, just taking in the sight of the flowers while Jeff took lots of pictures. The Japanese know how to do it: beautiful pathways, benches in all the right places...
And here he is... the photog himself, in action. I have to admit, I like how I caught the sun and shadow... ;-)

Monday, July 04, 2005

This is where we went this saturday. And this is how we found it.

I saw this picture in the newspaper that had been absentmindedly tossed on my desk at my friday school. I asked a teacher to dicipher the map. Next thing you know, we were heading to Fujioka town to look at a beautiful hydrangea garden. Funny thing is, we actually found it! And it was beautiful. Unfortunately I won't have the pictures developed until later in the week, but it was a very pleasant hour and a bit drive, and a beautiful walk through the garden.

And Beth and Jason and Jacob, we know we've gotten pretty bad at emailing, but you should know that we finally found some mozza cheese and ate your pizza last night. WOW. I had no idea how good that could be! Back home, Kraft is often relegated to second rate (especially if you don't have kids). But that was the best pizza I've had in this country yet! Thank you.