Take me out to the ballgame…

I can check another thing off my Japanese bucket list: Go to a Baseball Game.
Done.
Yesterday, my friends and I went to see the Hiroshima Carp play  the Chunichi Dragons, in the Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. (yes, Zoom Zoom is really part of the name- I think its delightful)

For the most part the game was the same as an American baseball game, all but a few exceptions. There were food stands all over the stadium, however hot dogs were hard to come by . Most food stands served Japanese classics such as ramen, udon, karage (fried chicken), and kakigori (snow-cones).

In Japanese fashion the cheering was organized and in unison. Almost all fans in attendance had plastic Carp sticks that they beat to various rythems throughout the game. The fans of the opposing team were concentrated in a single section. Each team took turns cheering while they were up to bat. Other than the organized cheers there was very little individual cheering/ heckling.During the 7th inning stretch a special Hiroshima Carp song was sung instead of the American tradition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Everyone in the crowd had balloons which they released at the end of the song. We missed the balloon memo.

Sadly, the Carp ended up loosing 6-3, however I didn’t hear good things about the team before the game, so I had low expectations. Even with the loss it was a great time, and it probably won’t be be my last. I may have found my team, even if they aren’t that great. GO CARP!

I even caught a homerun ball..... Ok, not really.

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夏休み = 6 weeks of freedom!!!!

School is out for the summer and that means no more teaching till September. How could you possibly fill that much time you ask? I’ve already climbed Mt Daison,went on a beach camping trip and am in the process of getting my Japanese driver’s license. Next up I will be going back Colorado in August and I have every intention of seeing as many friends as possible. I appreciate assistance in this quest.

Mt Daison with Heather

my kind of summer camp

 

Enjoy these summer treats:

want some extra class in your life? slide your pack of mints into this lovely case…

Placenta…mmm….I lost my appetite after finding this

yes, that is the Lady Gaga Jazz remix, next to the Lady Gaga rege remix. Too far Japan, too far.

nothing is worse than a pit bull. except a pit bull with AIDS…

this is definitely drawn to scale

with the additions of bitter strawberry, cookies and cream, tiramisu, and strawberry hazelnut my kit kat flavor count is up to 19.

and then the rain came

Last week my friends and I went to search for ourselves, and apparently Umpenji Temple is a great place to do so. On the temple grounds there are over 500 statues carved out of stone, depicting various personalities, and somewhere in the several hundred faces, you can find yourself.

In order to get to this place of self discovery we had to take a ropeway, cable car, or gondola to the top of a mountain. The  statues stand in various clusters and scattered along the path.

our journey to the top

I was too busy taking it all in to actually find my statue twin. The temple is the 66th temple in the sacred Shikoku pilgrimage, as well as a winter ski resort.

Unfortunately our trip was cut short by a massive rain storm. The thunder was rather exciting, until it started pouring rain, and a lightening strike became a real possibility.

before

and then the rain came

This wouldn’t have been so bad if we had been prepared but we were forced to take refuge in a bathroom and wait out the storm.

bathroom refuge

I’m a big fan of the place, totally worth another trip on a sunny day. I’d be happy to take vistors WHEN (not if) you come to visit.

family photo

worth a look…

During my post-Fuji coma I watched this movie, and I feel that I need to spread the word. I had heard about it from many of my friends so I thought it was worth a glance or two. I’m not usually a fan of Japanese movies, and it wasn’t just good for a Japanese movie, its a good film in general. Be warned tho its a pretty messed up movie, and leaves you with a rather bleak look at humanity, but it took me on a interesting ride. I don’t think it was released in the states but you should be able to find it on netflix as either “Confessions” or “Kokuhaku.” enjoy.

Top 10 日本 pt 3. The final 4.

Here they are, the top 4 reasons why I love living in Japan. It was a tough decision but these are the boys that made the cut. enjoy:

4. Heated Toilette Seats– The country of squat toilets also has the most advanced places to rest your bum. An option for these space age loo’s is heat. At first I didn’t really take to the idea. 1- It was summer when I came, the last thing I wanted was more heat in my life. 2-It felt more like a fat sweaty man just rocked the toilet before I came in. Then in the winter when central heat was a commodity I found relief on the toilet in more ways that one.

3. Bakeries / Pastries:   Japan may not have invented baked goods, and bread may not be the base of the Japanese diet, but they do baking and sweets so so well. I’m not talking about unfamiliar Japanese pastries, the same eclairs, croissants, and cakes I already know, just better. The best part is these treats aren’t hard to find. my tiny town has 4 fantastic patisseries (yes I’ve tried them all), they are everywhere.   I may or may not have developed a cream puff addiction within the last 8 months.

extra bonus, they're organic

2. Daiso / 100 yen Store:  Its safe to say that 78.6% of the items in my apartment were purchased for about a dollar. I have Daiso, Japan’s 100yen / Dollar store, to thank for all the money that I have saved. The 100yen shops here are clean places of wonderment. Unlike the dollar stores of America that I visited where I was semi positive that I would be involved in some sort of drug bust or contract hepatitis from the items purchased there. Not Daiso, every time I walk in I get an overwhelming sense of joy and possibility. You never know what you are gonna find for 100 yen. All the dishes and utensils in my kitchen, sunglasses, cleaning supplies, santa costumes, a cooler, fishing pole, piggy bank, small tools, towels, and thousands of stickers were purchased for about a buck.

where all the magic

1. かわいい (cute) Signage:  Japan is the land of かわいい. What else would you expect from the birthland of Hello Kitty? They even maged to make the “monsters” of Pokemon adorable. The cute doesn’t stop with plush toys and school supplies, its everywhere. From advertisements, packaging, warning signs, public service announcements, to entire trains- there’s always a little cute something smiling back at you.

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pure magic

Its gems like this that remind me I’m in the right country. A whole song dedicated to sushi complete w/ Japanese “tap” dancers. These boys have some serious high kicks, although one of them totally blows it around 2:15, sorry to ruin the surprise.

look mom! I’m on TV!!!

I made my Japanese Television debut. Not nearly as ridiculous as I hoped it would be, but then again I don’t know what the commentators are saying.

Apparently my trip to Oki island in June was exciting enough to film. There’s nothing more interesting than watching foreigners eat, especially with….(gasp)….chopsticks!!

がんばて climbing Japan’s highest mountain 富士山  

There must be something wrong with me. I traveled 6 hours by train/taxi, walked for 8 hours in sticky humid heat and pouring rain, slept 4 hours, climbed another 3 hours in the dark, just to watch a sunrise. And it was worth every miserable moment.

Last weekend I climbed Mt Fuji. That’s right THE Mount Fuji. It was the strangest mountain climbing experience I have every had. I like climbing mountains, I climb at least one every summer with my dad. Its safe to say that I have experience walking up mountains. Its safe to say that Fuji was unlike any other mountain. First of all the mountain. Fuji-san as the Japanese call her (yes the mountain is a lady), is her size. Although her summit is only 12,389 ft above sea level, her base starts at 2,800 ft. That’s a 10,000 ft elevation gain. Not many mountains do that. Then there’s the entire climbing experience. It is customary to start climbing Fuji at night or late afternoon, spend the night on the mountain, wake up around 1 am and finish the climb in time to see the sunrise. About 300,000 people climb Fuji each year during the 2 month climbing season, you’re not exactly on the trail alone. Between the jam-packed trail, mountain side accommodations, oxygen canisters for sale, and snack venders along the trail, Fuji isn’t the place to reconnect with nature. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great experience, it was just….different.

The typical route up Fuji starts at the fifth station, about 2/3 up the mountain. Most people take a bus to this point and begin the climb. Heather and I decided that we wanted something more out of the climbing experience, we were going to start from the bottom and do the traditional pilgrim’s route. Only about 2% of the people that climb Fuji start from the bottom. I now know why. Its a 10,000 ft elevation gain and 11 hr hike to the summit. Clearly we didn’t think through this well.

We started the hike on Friday morning at 10:30 am, we walked from the hostel to the Fuji Sengen Shrine where the pilgrimage starts. Heather and I bought our special wooden Fuji walking sticks. Scott and Miguel made fun of our tourist purchase, but it ended up being exteremly useful later on.

We walked another hour from the shrine to get to the trailhead. It was another hour to the first station. While it was beautiful walking in the woods, I could have used that energy later on.

ready to tackle the mountain

At the 1st station we watched an opening ceremony at a shrine since July 1st is the first day of the official climbing season. We made our way up to the 5th station, by then it was pouring rain but too hot to put our rain gear on. From the 5th station the trail gets much steeper and we still had another 3 hours until we got to our hut. It was rough, and started raining really really hard. I found out that if a rain coat gets wet enough water comes through anyway. Regardless of my rain wear I was still completley soaked through along with 1/2 of the contents of my backpack.

5th station halfway there

The hut was a happy happy sight. I put on the clothes that were dry in my back and let the rest dry by the heater. I had the best curry rice I had ever had. But then again I would have happily eaten dog food. It could have been dog food for all I know. There are about 16 huts on Fuji where people stay. The huts seem to cling desperately to the side of the mountain, each has their own generator  and have to get water trucked up 1x week. However the most amazing aspect of the huts is how old they are. The hut we stayed in was recently remodeled but the original building is about 150 years old.

the 7th station collection of huts, ours was the the top one

We slept for about 4 hours and woke up at the delightful hour of 1 am to start hiking again. Lucky for us (insert sarcasm)  the most technical part of the hike was done in the pitch black, with nothing but headlamps to light the way. We were alone for this part of the hike though, there were hundreds of other people who had the same crazy idea as us. Although I was cold and tiered, the view of the stars and floating headlamps moving up the mountain was beautiful. I also found comfort in the fact that we weren’t the only ones choosing to see the sunrise.

starting day 2

As we got closer to the top the sky started to light up with a presunrise glow. The valley below Fuji-san was overcast but we were floating above the sea of clouds.

almost there, the gate was the goal!

The top came much quicker than I expected, it was only a 3 hour uphill hike, instead the 7 1/2 hours the day before. Luckily the summit of Fuji is a giant crater so we could find a empty spot even though we were sharing the summit with a couple hundred other people. Then the sun came up and the 10+ hours of hiking and 10,000 ft of elevation gain was all worth it.

I ate my rice ball for breakfast and it was the single most delicious (おいしい oishi in japanese) meal I have ever consumed. We had the obligatory photoshoot at the top, and made our way back down.

the whole team made it to the top, no man was left behind

It was another 3 hours to the 5th station. We decided that it was ok to end our decent at the 5th station, summiting from the bottom was enough work. The 5th station was  a little tourist town, of restaraunts, souvenier or おみやげ shops, and horses to get photos of. By the time we got down there were busloads of tourists beginning their Fuji journey or just there to visit the mountain and get their picture taken with the Hello Kitty Fuji mural. We found a random room of beds and managed to sleep undisturbed for a couple hours before taking the bus to Tokyo.

I had no trouble sleeping on the overnight bus we took from Tokyo, my body was only beginning to recover from the borderline tourture I put myself through. I arrived home by 9am, 24 hours after finishing the climb. All members of the climb are still recovering from the trip, some wounds may take longer to heal than others.

top TEN part TWO

Last time I only got to 3 of 10 here’s some more of the best that Japan has to offer:

7. Sushi Train:  Its such a stereotype to go to Japan and eat lots of sushi. But its true. Sushi is almost everywhere, its fresh, and cheep! The best/ cheapest places to go are sushi trains. Maybe they are in bigger cities, but I never experienced the train before moving to Japan. If you’re not familiar with the idea of sushi train here’s the deal: the sushi chef  makes sushi in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by a conveyor belt, when he’s done he puts the sushi on the belt, when you see something you like you pull it off the “train.” When you’ve eat your fill of sush the  waitress counts your plates, and writes your ticket. Each plate is usually 100 yen/ about a dollar. I can fill my self on sushi for about $5 yeah I know its awesome.

6. Bicycles, Everywhere!!!! I love riding bicycles, and I love places where other people like to ride. Cars are still the primary form of transportation, especially in rural Japan, but even out in the inaka where I live lots of people use the two wheeled travel option. Jr high school students often live too far to walk, and there aren’t many school buses so they ride in bike packs to school each day. Mothers also tote their young children around in specially made child baskets for bikes. I’ve seen a mother riding with a kid in the front and back baskets of a bike, that’s tallent right there.

5. Rice Fields: Rice fields are a staple of any Asian landscape or at least in my little idea of Asia. As densly populated as Japan is, Rice feilds still dominate the landscape. Even in Okayama they were everywhere, and now that I live in the country well, there’s even more. Rice feilds aren’t only found out in the country, they are even in the suburban areas in vacant lots, there is no wasted space in Japan. The fields go through a visual transformation with each stage of the rice plants growth and I thoroughly enjoy each one. Once the seedlings are planted the fields are still mostly water so they resemble huge reflection pools.

As the rice grows and starts to fill out the fields are a vibrant green. (vastly different from the desert landscape that I grew up in)

In the fall the rice matures and turns a golden yellow. The tops bow and sway with the breeze from the weight of the rice.

I’m such a big fan of the fields that it makes up for the fact that they are breeding grounds for mosquitos, and smell a little funky fresh at times. They are my favorite part of the Japanese landscape.