Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Burrito's Japanland: Tuesday

Tuesday was a truly remarkable day. We drove about 3 hours to Yamanashi, an area Jeff and I have been to before. On the way, we stopped for a bit due to Maria's carsickness, and ended up finding an AMAZING hiking spot on the side of the road in the mountains, with waterfalls, and with scary little rickety wooden bridges (oh, and brilliant fall colors to make Jeff the photographer happy).

Shortly after this stop, we found our little noodle shop. We went to the same noodle shop the weekend of my birthday. It is absolutely tiny, with a big, beautiful round cut of tree for a table, and one counter. It was full of many Japanese people eating lunch, but they quickly made space for us to join them at the table. The owner remembered us and thanked us for coming again. She even remembered what part of Japan we are living in! I got to practice my Japanese, and everyone marveled at getting to eat lunch with three interesting foreigners. Maria even got pictures of the group of us! And they were all astonished when Maria stood up. Everyone exclaimed, "ashi wa nagai!" (her legs are long!) All in all, it was a very quirky, and very Japanese experience.

After entering Yamanashi, Maria wasn't ready to get naked yet, so we walked around the town a bit, down some curious side alleys. We ended up seeing a small temple with some beautiful trees and an interesting graveyard on the side of a mountain. Finally, we made it up the mountain to the outdoor onsen... and Maria and I became "bathing buddies." The onsen we went to is the same one Jeff and I went to for my birthday. It's amazing because it's all outdoor on the mountainside, with a view of Mount Fuji. At first, Fuji couldn't be seen due to clouds. But as we sat, we willed the clouds away, and finally, I heard one woman gasp, "Ah! Fuji-san!" By the time we got out of the onsen, we were able to enjoy a clear view of Fuji-san in the sunset. Amazing. (And the ice cream we ate was good too! Yuzu- a variety of citrus- oishii!)
Maria and I enjoying our hiking stop.
Maria and I inspecting the gorgeous red leaves at our temple stop in Yamanashi.
The outdoor onsen... men's section. They say if you wet your "privacy towel" and put it on your head, it keeps you from passing out.
Maria and I enjoying the Fuji sunset while eating ice cream.
... and we've gotta put in a shot of the leaves. Oh, how I love Japanese maples...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Burrito's Japanland Travels

First off, we want you to know that our photosite has been updated. All of Maria's exciting adventures have been captured and posted. If you have dial-up, it's a pain, but if you don't, check it out here.

So we thought we'd give you a day-by-day summary of the Burrito's travels. We tried to cram in a whole lot of Japan into just a week. We'll start with...

Monday Jeff and I had to work. Maria spent the morning discovering our neighbourhood on foot. In the afternoon, I took her to our local temple and up our friendly mountain, Kanayama, to see some cool views and castle ruins. In the evening, she came with me to my adult class, where I think the men were blown away by her blond hair and fast-talking, natural English... (I have long since succumbed to a slow, stilted, simple-words-only version of the language.) After that, we joined up with Jeff and Mikiko and went to Ikkyu, our favorite Ota hangout. Maria tried hot sake and an itty-bitty piece of sashimi (raw tuna) for the first time. She did good. The chopsticks proved to be a greater challenge, and she eventually admitted defeat and asked for a fork. It was a good first day! Maria, Mikiko and me at Ikkyu.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why We Want A Japanese Baby...

This is little Hinako, Ayako's niece. She is one year old. She lifts up one index finger when you ask her, "Hinako, nan sai?" And she says, "Hai!" with a very large round mouth when you call her name, and she bows to you when you say "Konnichiwa." And she is absolutely scrumptious. Hinako and her mother and grandmother accompanied the group of us to the Ashikaga wine festival. Don't worry... they left before most of the debauchery began.


And, VERY IMPORTANTLY, we just found out tonight that Jeff is an uncle for the first time! We got a phone call from Jeff's mom while we were driving Maria to our place from the airport. The connection was a bit fuzzy, but we heard that it's a BOY! Andrew James Epp. Mother Karen and baby are fine, and Paul's okay too! ;-)


And finally, yes, Maria is here with us for the week! We just got her today. She is whipped but happy. Expect some fun pics soon...!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Let Your Feet Do the Talking

So I noticed today that I've started walking stupider. I thought this as I shuffled my way to my car after work, with my hiking shoes only half on, and yes, Dagmar and Dave I am sad to say, partially pigeon-toed. Suddenly, it occurred to me: I'm walking like a moron! I'd never be caught dead walking to my car like this in Canada! But alas, living in Japan for too long can affect much more than your language (I like dog!) and your gestures (who, outside of Japan points to their nose when saying I, me, or mine??)

There are a few reasons for this, I think... This being walking stupid, I mean.
1. Is It Genetic, Or (No, It Can't Be!) Ridiculous Fashion??
This was the question that consumed us while the three Ds visited us in April. We would walk through malls, staring at all the pencil-thin women shuffling around -pigeon-toed- in their high, pointed heels, and we would stop to ponder... could it possibly be genetic? Dave actually voiced this question one day after countless hours of observation. I think he even had it down to a tendency for one leg to be more pigeon-toed/knock-kneed than the other. I don't know. I just keep waiting for them to trip over themselves while walking. Sometimes I'm transfixed on feet, especially when the feet are running. It's like I'm waiting for something horrible to happen... for that right toe to suddenly get jammed behind the left heel, and then *!?BAM!**! A crumpled mess of anorexic glory. Witness the following photo as proof: not sure which side of the argument this proves, though...
Yes, those are actual mannequins at the mall, slightly knock-kneed!

2. The Japanese Phenomenon of Indoor Shoes vs. Outdoor Shoes
In Japan, you are constantly putting shoes on just to take them off again. When I go to school, I put on my shoes. Then, as soon as I enter the genkan, or entrance, I take my shoes off, step up a little step, place them into my labeled shoe locker, and replace them with my indoor shoes. The funny thing is, indoor doesn't necessarily mean indoor. For example, if there is a school assembly, we all walk outside to the gym wearing our indoor shoes. That's ok. Wearing my indoor shoes out while playing dodgeball would NOT be ok.

In addition, there are many areas where you are to wear NO shoes. For example, some restaurants have raised tatami flooring. Here, once again, you take off your shoes, step up a little step, and place them in lockers. Also, in carpeted rooms in my school, we are required to take off our indoor shoes and leave them in a neat line in the hall. And I won't even get started on the toilet slippers...

Needless to say, all the putting on and taking off of shoes can get tiresome. So sometimes on my way to the car I elect to shuffle. You would too. I know you would.

3. The Fuzzy Slipper Syndrome
OK, this doesn't really relate to my stupid walking, but I just have to put it in. You would think that a person would put much thought into the fashion of their indoor shoes in Japan, seeing as they spend so much time in them at work. On the contrary, in this one lowly case, fashion means absolutely nothing. In this case, comfort wins the day. It is perfectly acceptable for teachers in Japan to wear a short skirt with nylons and... white running shoes. Well, female teachers. This isn't Thailand. Yes, everyday I am surrounded by teachers in skirts, slacks, and white runners. I have not succumbed to this aspect of Japanese culture. I just can't. I've always taken issue with my short, stubby, muscular legs, and the thought of me in a short skirt and runners is, well, HIDEOUS. However, I've gotten used to seeing all my colleagues in their comfortable footwear. But nothing prepared me for what I saw last March at graduation...

Graduation is THE ceremony of the year. Japan is all about tradition and ceremonies, and this is IT. Last year, we spent countless hours (yes, I exaggerate, but you never mention it when Jeff does it) practicing BOWING. Yes, bowing. Ich (go down), ni (hold position), san (come up for air). Ya, that's 1-2-3 in Japanese. So you can imagine the type of dress that went along with the occasion. Black. Lots of black. Very formal wear with a smattering of gorgeous kimonos. We were all dressed in our finest. And the mothers were too. (Graduation is held during the day in the middle of the week, so the working dads don't come). Of course, as the mothers entered the gymnasium, they had to remove their outdoor shoes and replace them with their indoor shoes. I was horrified at what I witnessed next. Out came the fuzzy slippers. Big, cushy, fuzzy slippers. In various shades of pink, purple, orange... any colour was fine, really. And not just that! Character slippers. Winnie the Pooh (referred to affectionately as Pooh-san in Japan), Mickey Mouse, Kitty-chan. I sat there imagining the mothers' inner dialogues of that morning: "Oh, should I wear the fuzzy pink ones or the Miffy ones?"


So there you have it. The shoe situation of Japan. I will try to remain strong. I promise you. I will try to refrain from shuffling and pigeon-toeing, and I do solemnly swear NOT to wear my fuzzy slippers in any area outside of our apartment. We're done in March. I think I can make it.


By the way, if you've wondered why my wit has been so long in coming, it's because I have a Japanese Language Proficiency Test, of a level slightly out of my grasp, on December 4th. It's hard to get witty inspiration when you're spending every waking moment memorizing the following: 動物、旅館、食料品。 I think you understand.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

where to begin...

Today Kathy, Mikiko, Ayako and I spent the afternoon at Kodomo no Kuni (Kid's Park). I took pictures while the ladies lay around on mats reading, talking, and studying Japanese. As usual, the place was full of kids, but it's beautiful enough that none of us minded too much. The leaves are changing or starting to change colours, and the sun was out. Overall a pretty relaxing afternoon.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


just a note. we've had a rash of "spam" comments on our blog lately - as have many people i know. we've changed our settings to make it much more difficult to get "spammed", and it shouldn't be anymore difficult for you to comment. so come on folks! leave us your comments!

Jeff's got a new camera!

So that "how much is your blog worth" thing on the previous post was pretty dumb. I know. And I'm sorry it stayed there for so long.

So what's happening now you ask? I've got a new camera. I am as excited as ... I don't know - I'm really excited. It's a new Konica Minolta digital 5D. It works with all my old lenses and it is pretty similar to our other camera except it's digital. The pictures are - well, they are freeeeee! That's the biggest thing. I've already been out taking some of course - so here are a few for your enjoyment:

the half moon (in case you thought it was a pizza we didn't finish)

a red flower

and a blue car with water on it

nothing all that exciting. but fun none the less. anyways - i gotta go - gotta go take some pictures!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tokyo Motor Show

This past weekend was full of crazy fun stuff. Friday we got our visas renewed. (That wasn't fun). Saturday we got in a car with Christian and Hiroe and drove around the countryside. The most beautiful areas were just along the roadside near Minakami. (you may never see those pictures - it was raining most of the time so picture taking was a little tough). But on Sunday we decided to go to the Tokyo Motor Show. We met up with Mikiko (who was on a luxurious weekend in Tokyo) and headed over to Chiba. It was a typical autoshow (I think), but the big difference was that it was here in Japan, where cars are already weird and small. So the concept cars were pretty cool. Enough babbling. The pictures are here at our photosite.