Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In which I continue to be mildly inept at food

So I haven't updated the past few days because I had TOO MUCH to talk about, and barely had any time to sit, let alone write.

First off


He's on ads EVERYWHERE right now.  I saw him while I was riding the subway with Geoff, and we stared at his face for a while and then determined that he looked too normal.


We went to Atsuta Shrine.

And this time we got to see some of the smaller side shrines, because we weren't with a class that really wanted to finish up and eat lunch.

Tiny shrines!

And thousand crane strings!

It's still shichigosan, so they were still doing the bell purification.

Also, there were at least three weddings occurring SIMULTANEOUSLY. It was a little bit insane.


So then we went into the sword museum and Geoff geeked out all over the place and we tried to read kanji about swords and were mostly successful.

Random bridge!

So then we hopped on the subway and went to...

Shiroyama Hachimangu, 'cause Geoff wanted to see the tree that had been struck my lightning.

Here's the view from halfway up the hill the shrine's located on.

Here's something I didn't notice the last time I visited--they have 忠魂碑, which are stone tablets to enshrine the glorious war dead.
By a stroke of serendipity, I am reading a book on precisely this subject.

Anyway, we wandered around there for a little while and then hopped on the subway to Sakae, where we grabbed dinner.

TAIWAN RAMEN IS AMAZING.  OM NOM NOM.  It was so nice to eat spicy food.

Then we went outside, where we found...

Mannequins with ridiculous head gear.

I'll wear four hats at once!

I have an exploding hat box full of candy on my head!

My hat is made of neckties.

I wanted to be Rainbow Dash, so I glued pompoms to my head!  I am now 20% cooler.

I don't even know.

So then we walked over to the Nagoya Television Tower and rode to the observation deck.

Where my camera failed a lot.

And there were these incredibly helpful illustrations of all the different kinds of hugs you can do.  With diagrams on the floor so you knew where to put your feet!

And then we climbed a bunch of stairs to the balcony above the observation deck...

(So I may have started singing at Geoff at this point, and he might have started singing back, and it was probably pretty good that nobody else was up there.)


And my camera continues to fail.

AHAHAHAHA.  Seriously, guys.  It's a secret tunnel.  Through the mountain.**

So that was Sunday.

So Monday morning I got up and walked to penmanship class, where I worked on this:

I'm getting marginally better?

So after that I met up with Professor Dorman to go on an interview.  He knows a member of Soka Gakkai, and she got us in touch with some Soka Gakkai members who are involved with local community activities, including festivals at shrines.  If you don't know about Soka Gakkai, they're a Japanese New Religion based off of Nichiren Buddhism (although they've now split with their parent group).  One of their...peculiarities, I guess you could say, is that they are an exclusive religion; when you enter into Soka Gakkai, you aren't allowed to engage in any activities related to other religions.  So how can they participate in festivals, you ask?   Because they see them as community activities, not religious activities.  One of the women was explaining to me that she sees the shrine as the center of the community, and, as such, when she helps out at festivals at the shrine, she's supporting the community, not Shinto as a religion.  She did say, though, that Soka Gakkai members have only really been allowed to help at festivals since Soka Gakkai's split with Nichiren Buddhism; before that point, Soka Gakkai members often found themselves ostracized by the community because they refused to participate in the community festivals.  (It probably didn't help that Soka Gakkai is very heavily into proselytizing; they tried to convert me...a lot...while I was there.)  But now the president of Soka Gakkai has been encouraging the members to be heavily involved in the community (because it's a good way of spreading their religion and breaking down stereotypes), including shrine festivals.

The only negative bit of the experience was that, because Professor Dorman and I are foreign, they decided to make us coffee instead of tea.  I figured that it would be horribly jerky of me to turn it down, since they went to the trouble of making it specially for me, so I decided to bite the bullet and drink it.  That was a mistake.  I had ONE cup of coffee over the course of an hour and a half, and for the next four hours my thought processes and motor control were completely out of whack. It was a struggle for me to walk in a straight line.  Yeah.  And then I didn't fall asleep until about 2 in the morning.  UGGH.  NEVER AGAIN.  NEVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR AGAINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.

Also, today I slashed my tongue open on chitose ame.  It was...I would say it was epic except that it wasn't (except I guess the fact that I injured myself on sugar candy is mildly epic?) and involved a lot of blood.  But I'm okay now!  Honest!

 (This is the offending candy.)

This evening I went with my Tuesday Japanese class and Tuesday sensei to a German restaurant which one of the girls works at.  Here, have a bunch of pictures:

Sensei, two of the Japanese students, and Anya-san (who works at the restaurant).




They were attempting to perform surgery on something that looked like a pizza but had the consistency of a frittata.  It was good, whatever it was.


Apparently this is the German version of goulash?  It tasted very strongly of tomatoes, for some reason...

It was Ryu-san's birthday, so a couple of the students got her a cake and asked the restaurant people to write "Happy Birthday Ryu" in chocolate on her plate.  The restaurant people went even farther by turning off all the lights in the restaurant and parading out with a candle in the cake.  Ryu-san started crying and then tried to feed everybody strawberries.


I have to be up early tomorrow and I slept really badly last night (because of the stupid coffee), so I'm gonna sleep now.  GOOD NIGHT.

*For the unenlightened, Fish Guy is the guy who plays, well, the fish guy in Waterboys.  The Japanese Culture Club at Foothill went through a time period when we were OBSESSED with him.  But, let's be honest with ourselves, who WOULDN'T be obsessed with him?

**For anyone who can't read Japanese, the sign says, "Go ahead and take the one step of bravery!"  Eheheheheh.  This was right in front of the lovers' sanctuary sign.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In which Geoff is convinced that I naturally gravitate toward super sketchy things and we visit an awesome castle

I have been in Japan for more than two months now, conducting fieldwork at shrines and talking with priests, and yet absolutely no one has tried to convert me to anything yet.

Until yesterday.

When I met my first Japanese Jehovah's Witness.

This random woman came up to me on the street as I was walking to Gosha Shrine, asked me if I could read Japanese, and then thrust two pamphlets into my hands.

They are entitled "Isn't believing in creation rational?" and "What stance does the Bible take concerning sex?"

So, uh, yeah.  That was exciting.

So then I had penmanship class, where Nakano-san decided that my writing my name in katakana next to my finished pieces just looked awkward, which meant that it was time for me to pick a PENNAME.  And since I didn't have an exceptionally good ideas for a penname, she picked one for me.


For those of you who can't read kanji, the first one means "blue" and the second one means "brilliant, gorgeous" or "flower."

Her explanation was, "You wear blue a lot, and you're young so you're bright like a flower!"  Better than anything I could come up with.

Also, her handwriting is SO GORGEOUS, I don't even know.  I am overwhelmingly jealous.

Anyway, this is what I spent the whole lesson working on:


Anyway, afterward we had an English conversation lunch, which turned out to be more like a Japanglish conversation lunch, because most of the women didn't know enough English to get by on English only.  But it was still fun!  And SO DELICIOUS.  OM NOM NOM NOM.

Also, I sat in seiza* for more than 3 1/2 hours. I think I should win an award.  Afterwards, I was OUTRAGEOUSLY aware of my knees, though. It was kind of creepy.

Anyway, that evening Geoff came in to Nagoya, so I met him at the station, got him to his hotel, and then we decided to go for a walk.  As these things normally go, we wound up walking really, really far, which is to say to Sakae, where I showed him the time-machine-spaceship-dinosaur-topiary-garden-shopping-mall-concert-hall that is Oasis 21, and then we somehow wound up in the sex district, with random sketchy people all around trying to sell us naked girls.  It was...exciting?  It has made Geoff believe that I am completely incapable of leaving the house without somehow stumbling into terrible mischief, which is probably not a good thing but maybe also somewhat accurate.
Note: I don't normally wind up in the sex district at night. In fact, I cannot say I had ever done it before last night.**  It's not something I'm planning on doing again either, since I like my sidewalk with a little less vomit on it.
Anyway, we escaped in one piece with no naked girls and only minimal mental scarring.

So today I met up with Geoff after lunch in Osu Kannon (which is near his hotel), where he had discovered...

...a kofun.

If you don't know what a kofun is, it's an ancient Japanese burial mound.  And there was one in a random park in Osu Kannon.
(Obviously, time has worn a lot of it away, and unless you know what you're looking at or read the sign, you'll probably just think it's a weirdly shaped hill.)

We also saw a Freshness Burger, which Geoff tells me is actually a pretty decent place to eat.

And also this kind of creepy drawing on a building which reminded both of us of Maromi.

The leaves have finally started changing colors!  FINALLY.

So then we hopped on the subway and rode to Meijo Park.

Where there is a spiral mound thing.

And a windmill.

And a sundial.

And Nagoya Castle.

Nagoya Castle has a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge moat.

We decided to go inside, because, hey, it's a CASTLE.

Here's one of the famous "golden dolphins" from the roof of the castle.  It's called a golden dolphin in English, but in Japanese it's called a "golden killer whale."  It doesn't look like either a dolphin or a killer whale, to be honest.


And just in case you felt like storming the castle and climbing the walls, there was a lovely line of 30 cm long spear blades to impale you...

Did I mention that it's a mortarless castle?  YEAH.

Anyway, we had fun figuring out what the best way to siege the castle would be (answer: there is no best way; you're screwed no matter how you attack) and then climbed to the top of the castle to check out of the view.




And then the castle was closing so we headed out.

Super tiny dolphin-killer-whale-dragon-lion-fishies!

By the time we left the grounds it had already gotten dark.

Which meant that my camera had gotten super pathetic.

So then we went and got dinner and then I headed back here and now I am TIRED.  GOOD NIGHT.

By the way, if any of you want know what Alex was in Nagoya for (aside from eating turkey and pwning me at taiko), he has a blog post up.  And I am definitely not subtly pressuring him to update more frequently.  Because that would be underhanded and also sneaky.

*Formal sitting position, where you sit on your heels.  Being able to sit in seiza for 30 minutes is considered impressive for a gaijin.  A lot of my classmates in the States could only manage it for about 10-15 minutes.

**I didn't even know that that's where the sex district was!  But now I know.  Oh dear.