July 26, 2004
Live From 2 Dogs Cafe in Morro Bay
Just before eating we peaked in the shop that bakes fresh cinnamon rolls all day. They open at 8am with a fresh batch, and we'll be waiting there in the morning. I also talked with a guy who takes people out in a glass bottomed boat every hour on the hour from 10 to 6. He said when they feed the fish (during the boat ride) you can lean over the side and scoop one up with your bare hands. That was an unofficial stuff. It's probably not legal, strictly speaking, to scoop up fish without a liscense. But I'm going to try tomorrow, and hopefully the kids will get to see some sea lions and otters for the first time outside of a zoo. Then we'll head up the coast in the car. About 20 minutes from here you can usually spot hundreds of seals laying out on the beach. People park their cars and walk over to see them and take pictures. So we'll do that, and then stop by Taco Temple on the way back for, supposedly, the best fish tacos in the area.
Sorry if I'm boring you. We head back to Japan in 15 days. On the one hand, I'm just about ready to get back home (to Tokyo). On the other hand, I'm soaking up every detail of these last few days here. Tomorrow, I'm thinking, will be worth remembering if I can help it.
I'm in a coffee shop right now with free wireless. The coffee is good; and as I plugged in my laptop I had this thought. What's the dumbest mistake you ever made in Japan (for those who live/d there)? When we moved into our first place in Yokohama, I unpacked my desktop computer (which I'd actually packed and brought on the plane). The power cord had 3 prongs, but (as you learn) most Japanese outlets are NOT grounded (2 prongs only). Anyway, I looked around and saw this 3 pronged outlet up near the ceiling. "That'll do," I thought. With a sense of foreboding, though, I stood on a chair to plug in my computer. I turned it on, the screen came to life -- for a moment -- and then everything went black. Not just the screen; the lights went out in our apartment, and I figured something was very wrong. Later I learned what happened. Outlets near the ceiling like that one are intended for air conditioners, and they are set to 200 volts or more. Fortunately, my power supply had paid the ultimate price and fried itself to save my motherboard.
So what dumb thing did you do then? Thanks for sharing.
July 19, 2004
Japan on my Mind Today
The other picture is a mural sized advertisement for the gas company that I saw in a train station. Hunkabutta had posted a bunch of billboard shots that week, so I decided to keep my eyes open. I sincerely doubt you'll find many gas company workers that look like this, and it certainly makes you wonder what they're really selling. But then, you can advertise just about anything in Japan with a pretty female face. Add a group of scantily clad dancers and you can sell...a brake job? Tires? Motor oil? Yes. So what's the strangest commercial you've seen in Japan?
We'll be heading back to our home in Tokyo in 22 days. Seems like the time is dwindling down. That's because we're leaving my parents' house (my hometown) in just 3 days. Then we'll be on the road and staying with friends. Ahhh. We'll miss this place when we go, but Japan is home for us now. I'm starting to look forward to getting back there. To see our friends. To move our kids into their own room. To pick up my Japanese again. To fire up the old rice cooker. To haul out the 50 cans of green chile that I'm bringing with me and arrange them on a shelf. To start riding my bike again. To lose whatever weight I've gained here by eating comparitively massive amounts of red meat and cheese.
July 14, 2004
Colorado Wildflowers and Nagano Calling
I'm drinking it all in. We've been looking forward to this trip for about a year. It's a chance to do things that we "can't" do in Japan. "Can't" is an exaggeration, but it's certainly difficult for us to enjoy the outdoors from our home in Japan. It's not all Japan's fault. Three kids change your life quite a bit. Plus, we're living in Tokyo, not Hokkaido or Nagano. Like most really big cities, Tokyo is not the greatest place for someone who loves the outdoors. Then again, we're surpisingly close to the mountains. In fact, we're just a 2 hour drive from Nagano, the gateway to the "Japanese Alps." So today, as we were walking along, my wife said something like: "When we get back to Japan we need to keep doing things like this somehow." Maybe that was wishful thinking, or altitude sickness. She was barely hobbling along at that point and perhaps fantasizing. But seriously, I was thinking the same thing. Get on the train. Get in the car. Take the kids up and teach them how to sleep in a tent and rough it a little; with no Onsen; no big tray of food with 16 little items on it waiting at breakfast. Those trays are nice, by the way. I eat all that stuff right up.
I am a bit perplexed by the reputation that the Japanese have for loving nature. Personally, loving nature -- to me -- means getting out there in the middle of it. Not to mention getting dirty with fish slime on your hand (for 2 or 3 days) and blood on your knees from scraping through the brush. Rather, for a country of nature lovers, the Japanese have an odd way of damming rivers and an obsession with concrete, and commercial ventures (hotels, vending machines, tourist stands) right in the places where I'd prefer civilization to stop. I thought about reflecting on these things more, but honestly I wouldn't get far. I don't understand it, and I haven't been in Japan long enough or far enough AWAY from Tokyo to know if these things are the really deeply embedded or not.
I want to say a few positive things though. First, we're really fortunate to live so close to Nagano. We can also hop on a train that goes to nearby mountains with decent hiking and backpacking potential. It's expensive to travel (toll roads and train fares add up quickly), but it's not bad considering the cost of everything else. It's much cheaper than taking the family to an Onsen, for example. Second, my Japanese friend and conversation partner also likes hiking and camping, and we've talked about going into the mountains together. What an opportunity. Although he just told me he landed a full time job... Oh, well. (Congratulations!) Third, we have a fly fishing club ("circle") right in our city. I met some of those guys, and I imagine they'd let me join, at least until I hook somebody in the ear. Fourth, and finally, our kids are getting bigger (kids do that!). So I won't have this excuse of being tied down forever. Whew.
In my last couple of posts I've asked for feedback, and the comments people have left are great. Thanks. It's very easy to leave a comment, by the way. You don't have to "sign up" or give your email address. Please leave a few words if you know anything about getting out into nature in Japan, or to say whatever comes to mind. Hey, whadaya think about Lance's chance in the Tour?? You know.
July 05, 2004
More Reflections from Abroad
The other day I wrote about the feeling of "expansiveness" that my wife and I felt shortly after returning to the USA in June. This trip to Colorado is huge for me. I'm hoping to create vivid memories to take back with me (to Japan) in August. We'll bring back our backpacks and fly fishing gear to Tokyo, and hopefully I'll get motivated to go out and explore. The place where we live has relatively "easy" access to the mountains (of Okutama and, further, Nagano). I'm also reminded that there is a fly fishing circle (club) that I could probably join.
The pictures above show some girls that I met by the river one day. This is the river that runs near our house in Japan. They were out searching for fish with a net. I asked if they ever saw snakes around there, and they said, "No." So I pointed out the 6 foot snake sitting mid-stream about ten feet behind them. They thought that was neat and moved in for a closer look. So the snake swam to the opposite bank and disappeared into the grass. I left them like that and returned to where my family was having a picnic nearby. But 30 minutes later the girls showed up carrying the snake. Everyone thought that was pretty cool. We took some photos, and then they let the snake go.
As a follow up to my last post, I had planned to write about what I miss from life in Japan. But I'm not inspired. It's too late. My mind is on Colorado now. Anyway, I'll say just one thing. I miss our house, which has become a home. I'm very grateful about that. It took over two years of living in Japan to produce that kind of feeling.
Have you lived in Japan? What do you miss (when you leave)? Leave a comment if something comes to mind.