Monday, January 26, 2009

End of January

Last week I paid another visit to my dear island, Akusekijima.  Here I am, sleeping on the ferry with my one true love, the New Yorker.
I woke up and took pictures of other people suffering the 12+ hour ferry ride.  While Suki is off cruising in tropical waters on yachts, I was stuck in the middle of a grey, grey sea.
Class in the gym! We ran around throwing dodge balls at each other, yelling commands at each other in English: cry! sleep! jump! laugh! dance!
My students prepare for lunchtime.  I have no idea why they are required to wear these outfits whenever food is involved.  It's like there is some secret epidemic on the island that only they are susceptible to.
Grim school lunch.
I got off the boat and this 4 year old permanently attached herself to me for the next day.  I also got off the boat with a massive fever and took a large handful of mystery pills so that I could function in the classroom setting.  During one of my first lessons my cold medicine high hit hard, but luckily the schedule for the rest of the day was running around and yelling things in English.
So after school, riding my cold medicine high, I joined a gang of 3-6 year old kids and ran around the island.  I hung out with these cows, hunted the island's wild goats and ate sweet potatoes in the bushes with the kids.
The island started reminding me of a trip to Big Sur... remember the ice cream? The burritos on the beach with the setting sun? Calling in to the radio station on the ride home?
Dramatic cliffs at Big Sur!

We picked up some familiar hitchhikers!
Ok, back to the island and me wandering around with a gang of kids.

I have been telling everyone that if I could only have a psychedelic experience here it would really give me some answers as to what I should do with myself and the future, etc.  I am guessing this is the closest thing to a psychedelic experience that Japan will afford me... After cruising the island, I went back to the inn I was staying at and drank wine with the old lady who ran the place.  I found that mixing cold medicine and wine really improved my language skills and watched a two hour soap opera with a group of construction workers, in complete awe that I could understand as much as I could.  At the end of the show, when the main character's girlfriend was crying beside his paralyzed body, I surveyed the room and found that all of these men around me were crying and so I started crying with them, with the show, and with the old lady who was drunk on bad Japanese wine.  Then I decided it was time to go to bed.
A couple weekends ago I went to a place that specialized in somen nagashi, which is a thin noodle that they put in a whirlpool of water on your table and you sort of just scoop it out with your chopsticks, dip it in a sauce and slurp it up.
Adding noodles to the whirlpool.
Scooping noodles.  The best part about this place was that they had a lot of koi ponds and if you didn't finish your noodles you got to feed them to the fish!  
I also visited a lake nearby that is famous for giant eels! Ew, sick! 
I was told they don't eat the eels because they are too big, but that seems like a giant waste of eel.  What do I know about eel though?  The Lochness monster's cousin is supposed to live in this lake, and my friend told me that when he was little and lived by the lake, he saw its head poking along the shore.  I'm not sure if I believe in lake monsters, in fact I specifically don't want to believe in them because I love swimming in lakes and they are scary enough without them.
I went to an incredibly beautiful Buddhist temple in the mountains 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tokyo Pics, Last Round

It is traditional in Japan for a family to go to the husband's mother's house on the first of January and the wife's mother's house on the second day of January.  This mean that I had two days of feasting with two branches of family!   I didn't miss Christmas at all! (This is my mom's family, me in the back row, clutching my stuffed belly)
Mmmm, New Year's food.

Haha, there is a huge section in the medicine store dedicated to these face masks that everyone wears in public here when they get sick.   No way, not every going to wear one.  Not even if you paid me.
At my cousin's husband's mother's (haha, dog's uncle's sister in-law) New Year gathering.  We ate these raw shrimp that you peel and eat whole.  I was a little wary of this dish at first, but the meat is really creamy and delicious.

We drank sweet nihon-shu (sake) out of this ceramic cow, which delighted me, but truthfully I would have been more delighted were I not so hung over from the day before and could actually enjoy contemplating drinking alcohol.
Slicing sashimi.
This is a snack made of dry fish mixed with sugar and soy sauce and cashews.  I don't think its the worst thing you can eat, but its not my fav, so I stuck to the cashews.
My cousin chooses New Year's decorations to hang at her front door.
More karaoke-ing.  This is the device that tells the karaoke machine which song to chose. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Belated Tokyo Update

Unlike karaoke in the US&A, karaoke in Japan can be crazy fun.  You rent your own room with a group of friends and usually for somewhere around $25 you get two or three hours of all you can drink.  They seem to have nearly every song I can every think of, and my favorite way to spend the karaoke fest is by enforcing a "only songs from Jr. High" policy.  This rule works really well and it is something close to bliss to get blitzed and sing Sugar Ray.
On the 31st I went with my cousin and his friends from high school (who all went to the American School in Tokyo, and many are Japanese or half or from the US) to a karaoke bar in Shibuya, which is sort of Tokyo's Time Square, but with a lot of cool bars and tons and tons of people.  I forgot that I cannot drink as much as business major bros and got really drunk and the countdown crush of hundreds of people in the streets screaming is all sort of a warm fuzzy blur.  What is not a blur is my struggle to find the right train home, and once seated on my train the guy next to me turned to me and puked all over me!  By the time it hit me that yes, a stranger had puked on me, he was off at the next stop.  The humiliation of being puked on (and then handed tissues by passers-by, and then backed away from, oh and lets not forget arriving at my family's house covered in puke) in this super polite place is something that will make this New Year's Eve unforgettable.

I was in a tall building in Shinjuku.

One of my cousins asked me, "Kelly, what is your fashion style?" I told her, "Well, in the winter time I wear as many bulky, unflattering layers as I can squeeze under this thrift store find of a jacket, lots of bright off-colors that clash, and try to look as outdated and as possible."  As irony is non-translatable and my cousins only seem to wear things with large labels on them, I had to follow that comment with "Just kidding, I am really into Marc Jacobs."
At a lot of convenience stores you can buy  pre-made oden, which is a kind of soup made up of a clear broth and various fish cake and seaweed items.  It never really looks that appetizing in the convenience store... However, I would say that convenience store food in Japan is of amazing quality compared to the old US&A.  I actually like eating food from convenience stores here.
Zoom Zoom Zoom.
Train Train Train.
Setagaya, the neighborhood in Tokyo where one of my cousins lives.  I stayed here for the majority of they time.