I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Winter Visitors: Part 1

Shigaraki Ceramic Park, a picnic lunch of rice + pickle medly and hard-boiled eggs
During the recent winter vacation I had a full cast of family come to visit me in Nippon. For Katie it was sort of a homecoming after having gone back to Georgia to begin her graduate work in group & family counseling this past August; for my mom (Mom) and sister (Becca), it was their first time, so I wanted to give them a complete look at Japan's many facets. I tried my best to introduce them to everything from traditional arts & crafts like pottery and lacquerware to the modern clusterbomb of Tokyo and kitty-chan paraphernalia.

Some photos I included, usually based on aesthetic or moral appeal, or because they had an interesting story behind them. Like these tanuki, for example: Can you guess which of these little cute cuddly looking creatures tried to start humping Becca's leg when we walked past? The correct answer is of course none of these. You are very observant.

Bridges to Nowhere: Les pontifes sans raison: This is a photo I wouldn't necessarily want to look at long, because I believe that surrounding oneself in beauty is a means of inspiring beauty. However the truth and inconsistency of our current reality must be seen if we are going to recognize and create our own.

During Mom and Becca's first four days, they didn't have too much time to rest (like I said, I was trying to cram as much of Japan into Japan as possible––to them it probably looked more like a steriod-puffed Barry Bonds version of Japan).

Day 1: Temples of the Higashiyama, Kyoto area––Sanjuusangen-dou, Rokuhara-mitsuji, Kiyomizudera.

Main hall at Kiyomizudera

A look at Biwako from atop Mt. Hiei.

Torii gate at the entrance to Sakamoto/Hiei Hiyoshi Taisha at the base of Mt. Hiei
Day 2: Mt. Hiei (as I mentioned before the birthplace of Japan's Tendai Buddhism sect) and Ogoto Onsen. I really wish we had more onsen back home in Georgia, it's definitely going to be something I miss when I go home. Of course I forgot to mention that tattoos are frowned upon in onsen due to the stigma that tattoos are a sign of the yakuza (Japanese mafia). I don't have a painted inch on my body, so it's never been a problem, but Becca was naturally asked not to come back to the Ogoto Onsen we visited. Not a problem, she said, cause she probably won't get a chance to come to Japan again anyway.

The sweetest, slowest Obaachan: She was a truly kind 'little-old-lady', but boy if she wasn't a lesson in patience as well. It took about 30 minutes for her to wrap-up and total-up our four purchases, and when we tried to jump in and help she got confused and started over. I'm really impressed that she manages a pottery shop with so many people's artwork at her age––certainly she's a model for endurance.

Day 3: Shigaraki, Big Poppa Santa tanuki, Obaachans. We checked out the Shigaraki Ceramic Park Museum and also picked up a few pieces of famous Shigaraki-yaki. Mom even got hit on by one of the owners of a ceramic ware shop--he gave her a free bowl! Lucky! I wonder what I'd have to do to get that Santa tanuki over there.

Day 4: Toji's Koubou-Ichi in Kyoto. The Koubou-Ichi is on the 21st of every month, and it's probably the city's largest open-air flea market, with everything from food to knives, traditional Japanese garments to paintings. This was my second time going, same for my friend Efrem who also accompanied us, so we were able to somewhat skillfully manouver through the somewhat hostile crowd. Unlike the obaachans in Shigaraki, the flea market obaachans will eat you alive with their elbows and handbags if you get in their way! But we survived and made it out with quite a few Christmas presents for folks back home.


Blogger Winston said...

I'd better be in part 2 son!

10:16 PM


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