Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Latest oshie project

Close up

I took another oshie class last week, and this is the finished product. I thought it was a sweet image, and it will always remind of cherry blossoms in Japan.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Big fish at Tsukigi fish market

This looked like something from a horror movie.

Geoducks! Washingtonians recognize these. They are basically a giant clam.

Just one tiny area of one HUGE fish market

Fish heads, fish heads...

Here is a picture of the kind of crazy carts that whizzed around the market and tried to shorten my life.

Street cafe near fish market

The Rodeo Drive of Tokyo

Carlina and me in Ginza

Denim bikinis?!

There were three, yes three, Tiffany stores on this one street.

The Swatch store had its own private elevator, decorated with Swatch watches. So cool!

Zach outside of Zoorasia. The giraffes aren't real, just in case you were wondering, but Zach is.

March of the dorky penguin

Asian elephant

We just happened to be standing at the window when the zookeeper brought out huge chunks of meat to feed the Sumatran tiger. The tiger came right up the window for his lunch.

I'm glad there was glass between us.

I know it's hard to see them in this photo, but there are seagulls inside the cage. Seagulls!

Oh to be a kangaroo!

Raccoon dogs

Will my wish really come true?

Zach, save me from the Golden Monkey!

This was the best photo I could get of the okapi. He kept moving back and forth.

Hey there. Happy Monday. I'm winding down after a busy and fun-filled weekend that consisted of two big outings. On Saturday, we took a tour from the base to the Tsukigi fish market and Ginza shopping district with our friend Carlina. The fish market starts business very early in the morning, so we had to be on the bus at 6:00 am. I didn't know what to expect when we got there. I've been to the farmer's market in Seattle and the fish market in Norway, but nothing I've experienced so far could prepare me for Tsukigi. First off, they don't cater to tourists. They are there to sell fish and run businesses, and our tour guide told us to break off into small groups and to not touch anything. She led us to the main selling area, but it was at our own risk. Let's just say that this is not a place you'd want to bring little kids. The place is jumping with buyers, sellers, and delivery drivers. It was the delivery drivers who made me fear for my life. These guys are on a mission to deliver their goods, and they drive their carts like madmen. I took a fair amount of pictures, but Tsukigi is more of an experience than something you can photograph. And it's huge! After about a half hour, we decided that we'd seen enough and ticked off enough delivery drivers to satsify me for a lifetime. We made our way out into the quieter side streets with sushi bars and produce vendors and stayed there until the next part of our trip--shopping in Ginza!

I didn't know that Ginza is considered the Rodeo Drive of Tokyo until our tour guide told us so. It's a strange combination for a tour, in my opinion---fish market and designer fashion---but I guess they do this because the two attractions are located right next to each other. It's kind of hard to dress appropriately when you're participating in two completely opposite activities. I mean, what does one wear to the fish market AND Chanel? Anyone? Oh well. They had three Tiffany stores on this one street, as well as all the major designers and many I've never heard of.

On Sunday, our friends Ali and Kevin called and invited us to join them, their two girls, and other coworkers for a trip to Zoorasia in Yokohama. It's a nice zoo, and we had a good time. We got to see a few animals we hadn't seen before, including an okapi. They also had a seagull exhibit! Seagulls! For all my friends back home, can you believe that?! I took pictures of them just to prove it.

I hope everyone is well, and thanks for your comments. I always love reading them!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

View from train station of the Goddess of Mercy in Ofuna

Bottom of steps

Seiko in front of statue

Shopping street in Kamakura

Cute straw piggy

Kids in local parade

Parade performer

Notice the poles that are being used to hold the ladder upright while the performer does his stunts!

Shrine in Kamakura

People carrying traditional boxes to the shrine

Pick a crosswalk, any crosswalk!

Garden at Hase-dera temple

Statues are placed here to honor elderly people and the souls of unborn children

Here you can pray to the fox gods for help and good fortune with your business practices.

View of the beach in Kamakura from the Hase-dera temple

Hello! Things are good here. I posted a bunch of new photos I took on Sunday on a trip to Kamakura with my friend Seiko. We had a great time sightseeing, and Seiko was an awesome tour guide. This was my second trip to Kamakura. I went there with Zach on my first visit to Japan in April 2006 and really enjoyed it then too, but this time I was able to do a bit more exploring and see a local parade as well.

We took the train, and on our way to Kamakura we stopped in Ofuna to visit the statue of the Goddess of Mercy. She is so huge and amazing, and I think this was my favorite part of the day. We were the only ones there at the time because the weather was kind of drizzly and yucky. It eventually stopped raining though, and the rest of the day was fine.

Once we got to Kamakura, we walked to the shopping district and had lunch at a small cafe. Our lunch made me laugh, because it consisted of German sausages on small rolls. They tasted great, but it seemed a bit odd to be eating German sausages in Japan! This little cafe was also where I had my funny moment of the day, and I thought Seiko was going to fall over from laughing so hard. They were giving out free samples of salami, and I was distracted by something and grabbed a toothpick to pick up the salami. Unfortunately I did not realize that I was grabbing a toothpick from the discard pile. The poor guy giving out the samples didn't know how to tell me to stop, and he got all freaked out. Seiko managed to stop me at the last second, but that poor guy almost had a heart attack in the meantime. I laughed at myself, of course, and took a clean toothpick. Afterward, I saw him dump out the contents of his bowl of used toothpicks. He was probably worried that some other crazy American would come along and do the same thing!

Kamakura is a popular destination, and it is famous for being the capital of Japan's first military government. A flyer that I picked up explained that it has been the center of Zen Buddhism for hundreds of years and is known for its numerous temples and shrines. We were able to visit a few of them, but there are many, many more.

In the afternoon, the locals held a parade. I took a bunch of pictures of groups of people carrying decorated wooden boxes on their shoulders. Seiko explained that they carry a god inside the box, and they walk it up to the shrine.

After the parade, we took a local train to the Hase-dera temple. Here they have many statues of gods, including the god of wealth and the goddess of music. They also have a very touching building where people can place small stone statues to comfort the souls of unborn children and honor the elderly.

For the last leg of our trip home, Seiko had us take the bus. I told her that I could take the train, but she wanted me to learn how to take the bus. The was my first bus experience in Japan, and I was a bit nervous. Seiko got off a few stops before me, but I didn't have any problems getting home. Yay!

I had a great day, and it was so nice of Seiko to give me a personal tour of Kamakura. I learned a lot and came home with many things to share with Zach. He couldn't join us on this trip because he had to work, but I hope that we can go back again together and he can see these extraordinary sights too.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Here they are---my new favorite cookies!

Look---there's even a professor explaining how wonderful they are.

And the mushrooms talk to each other!

Like just about everything in Japan, the packaging of these little gems is incredible. Check out the cute plastic bag that they come in. I know this isn't good for the environment, but at least I can put it in my recycle bin.

Yay! The caps are made of solid chocolate, and the stems are a buttery cookie. They may not look like much, but they are so tasty!

My favorite chocolate bar

I just found this item a few weeks ago and sort of wish I hadn't. They taste like chocolate-covered espresso beans but better, because they're all chocolate.

When you take off the lid, there are these cute little monsters printed along the top edge.

I think I've mentioned before how great the chocolate and snacks are here in Japan. I've posted some pictures of my favorite addictions---chocolate cookies in the shape of mushrooms, Coffeebeat candies that taste like chocolate-covered espresso beans without the beans, and of course a bar of Meiji chocolate. I am not sure what I will do if I can't find an Asian store back in the States that sells these. You know I must be addicted if I've already started to worry about it, right? Right.