Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I decided to take a few pictures at the supermarket to let everyone know the trouble I go to in order to simply get some food!!! Let's start with the shopping cart. It consists of placing 2 hand baskets on the cart. I think it's a good idea and considering you can't get 24 packs of anything here it works just fine.
I found the world's biggest shrimp (or at least close to it) in the frozen food section. Look they are almost twice te size of the cel phone! They can all be your for the modest price of $8.00 what a bargain!
What's even more shocking is the price of any type of fruit.
Here are some examples:
<- You can get some juicy apples for $1.98 each. If you don't like apples then you can get some super oranges for only $3.98 YES!!!! One would think that they would taste differently according to the price but no they taste the same. In conclusion you pay more for the exact same thing, great....
Last but not least is my favorite the
aisle of soy sauces. How many different sauces can there be? Apparently a lot!! What could possibly be the difference? I guess I have to ask someone who can actually read the label!!! I always get the same one my Japanese teacher pointed out to me one day, it's safe....
On Monday Orlando and I went to salsa lessons with our friends Erin and Lance. Our teacher was the funniest. He is Japanese but learned how to dance in Santo Domingo. He actually speakes good spanish with a Dominican accent!!!! The Japanese where very good dancers. I took some video with my phone (it does not look great but you get the point). Here is the website:
Saturday, August 26, 2006
On Saturday we went to Takehara city about 1 hour away by car from Hiroshima with our Irish friends Therese and Martin ( check out their blog at http://martinandtherese.blogspot.com/). The city had a very well preserved historical area where all the houses where built in the Edo period from 1603 to 1867. Here is Orlando posing in front of the historical houses.
The whole time I was there I felt like I was in an old Japanese movie and there where going to be samurai warrior jumping from the roof tops or ambushing us out of a street corner. I kept waiting for arrows to start flying everywhere.
We walked around and found a cool little noodle shop where there where ate the biggest bunch of noodles in the world. To the right you will see Orlando ready to dig into this noodle mountain, don't worry I ate half of it. When I first saw I thought "What did I get myself into...Again" but after I actually tested it they where really good!!!! Looks are definitely deceiving. Another interesting aspect of our noodle adventure was that they where on top of this hot tile that looked like they had taken it straight from someone's roof, as you can see in the picture below.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
There are many interesting things here in Japan and I wanted to share a few with everyone. You can see a variety of people on the street but rarely do you see this:
It's Strawberry Shortcake apparently she lives in Japan now. Here is another funny picture that was taken by my friend Erin (her blog is http://erinsjourneys.blogspot.com/ it has a lot of funny stuff about Japan) is:
Apparently the KFC Colonel likes to follow Japanese tradition and wear a yucata in the summer!!!! I have a theory that the Japanese are obsessed by Hello Kitty and here is the proof:It's a Hello Kitty bowling ball and notice that she is actually bowling in the bowling ball!!! Thank God for my cel phone's camera so that I can capture all this madness.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
- Kennin-ji Zen Temple
o More pictures in http://geishagirl.exblog.jp/i25
o The third day of the trip Orlando and I walked around Kyoto and accidentally found this Zen temple. The temple was full of beautiful garden designed with a few tress and sand. In one of the corners I found one of their typical rakes that are used to give shape to the sand. All the people there where just peacefully staring at the gardens and enjoying the breeze. You could also walk around the building to various gardens(they even provided free slippers, remember that you have to take your shoes off everywhere before entering, so bring good socks!!!). Here is a picture of one of their gardens.
- Gion (Geisha district)
o We walked around the streets of Gion but did not see any Geishas, maybe because it was 11 am and they where all sleeping. We did find a lot of tea houses with interesting architecture and style.
After all this walking and exploring we finally found the shopping district where we hanged around until it was time to go home.
- Nijo Castle
o http://www.city.kyoto.jp/bunshi/nijojo -> English pamphlet is in the bottom of the page.
o Nijo Castle was completed in 1626 and was home to the Shogun (military an political leader of Japan). It is one of the few buildings that where in their original state. A few of the other temples have been rebuild through out time due to fires or the effects of war. One very interesting aspect of the castle was that when you walked through the hallway the floor would squeak in order to alarm the Shogun of any intruders. Here we are in the Nijo Castle garden.
- Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
o The golden pavilion was the retirement home of one of Japan's Shoguns. It was truly radiant since their where no clouds in sight and the gold leaves that cover the building where shining brightly. Here we are in front of the temple. - Kyoto Imperial Palace
o Here is a picture of the coronation hall used for the official ceremony. We learned during the tour that the current Emperor is a direct descendent of the first Emperor, so there has only been one imperial family throughout the history of Japan.
- Heian Shrine
o Here we are in front of the shrine. There was a huge garden in the back of the building which was also very beautiful.
o This temple is famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Each statue has different objects in their hands in order to protect the people from different evils. Once again you can't take any pictures inside but I found this one on the internet. You could seriously spend hours in there just trying to figure out the small details that make the statues different.
- Kiyomizu Temple
o This was the most crowded temple of the whole trip. Later we found out that since we are in Obon week if you visit the temple once it's equivalent to visiting it 1000 times!!! The temple was on top of a very steep hill full of little souvenir shops. Here is Orlando in front of the temple.
This is me and my color coordinated Buddha friends.
One of the interesting things about this tour is that there where people from all over the world visiting Japan. It was the first time in a month where I finally heard a lot of Spanish being spoken. We meet some people from Argentina and a lot of people from Spain who where all very nice to us and helped us take some pictures. I guess Japan is a mystery to us all.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
This week Japan celebrates Obon and as a result Orlando has the whole week off. We decided to go to Kyoto in the Kinki region (seriously thatÂ’s what itÂ’s called) of the country. Kyoto was JapanÂ’s capital from 794 to 1868 (http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/historical/1200.html) and as a result itÂ’s filled with temples (Buddhist religion) and shrines (Shinto religion) of great historical importance. Orlando and I covered a lot of ground in 3 days but Kyoto is so big that it would truly take more than a week to see all the attractions in detail. I decided to separate our trip according to what we did that day. I will include some details of the places we visited and some links to more information if you want to go into detail, which may be of interest if you are planning to visit us. ;-) Most of the temples and shrines did not allow photographs to be taken inside the building. As a result most of the pictures we have are of us in the main gate or on the gardens in the back (there is always a garden) of the structures, yet another reason why to come and visit.
1. Higashi Honganji Temple
o This is the first temple we visited manly because it was the closest to the train station. You could literary walk around Kyoto and suddenly bump into some type of historical attraction. This is Orlando in the red hat in the "very small" front gate.
Here I am in the fountain in front of the temple. All Buddhistdist temples had a water fountain at the entrance in order for people to drink and purify their souls before entering.
2. Nara - This was the first capital of Japan. It's about 1 hour bus ride from Kyoto.
A. Todaji Temple
o Here we got to see the Virocana Buddha. It is one of the biggest Buddha statues in the world (the biggest one is in China - I asked the tour guide). The statues is almost 50 feet high and it's head is almost 20 feetlengthnght!!!
Here I am in the front of the huge temple. Tosincerecire I never thought I would be in a picture like this, but that's life you never know where your going to end up!!!
B. Nara Park
o This park was just in front of the Tadai-Ji Temple.
It had lots of free roaming deer all over (not like I have already seen enough deer in Michigan). There was this little kid playing with a plastic samurai sword. Cute right??
Not really once he started hitting the poor dear with his sword. Now the bad part this that it was happening right in the middle of me trying to take these pictures. Suddenly the dear started running toward me without any warning and almost ran me over. My quick reflexes saved me from the run away deer. After the drama of taking these pictures I thought it was only right for me to share them with all of you.
C. Kasuga Shrine
o Here is a picture of the shrine's entrance (remember that there are now pictures allowed inside).
One interesting that happened to us there was that one of the Shinto priests c(on the left side of the picture with the big puffy thing in his hand) ame out of his house and blessed a new car in order to protect it from evil.
At the end of the day we where dying of exhaustion specially since it's about 97 F and 100% humidity every day here in Japan.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
On August 6, 2006 in the morning Orlando and I attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. On August 5th the park looked like this:
On August 6th it looked like this:
There where so many people from all over the world that this is the closest I could get to the ceremony. We watched the proceedings in a little screen that was set up by the some trees. The ceremony lasted about an hour. It was filled with speeches form kids, the mayor and the prime minister of Japan. The outstanding moment of the ceremony was at 8:15 am where everyone had a moment of silence (that's the time the A-bomb exploded 61 years ago) and prayed for the souls of the people who died.
At night families and friends gathered along the banks of the river to launch a series of candlelit lanterns. Everyone let the lanterns go into the river with a message of peace in order to remember those who died because of the A-bomb.
Here we are with our lantern which read "Paz en el Mundo" - Peace in the world.
I found this lantern specially cute since it was made my the kids in the school that we went to the Bon Odori festival. The origami doves represent peace. This is due to a little girl that died at the age of 12 from leukemia caused by the radiation. She tried to fold a thousand paper cranes so that her wish for a return to health might be granted. Her school friends completed the folding after her death and the folding of paper cranes has become a symbol of a wish for Peace and a world free of nuclear weapons (http://rosella.apana.org.au/~mlb/cranes/peaceprk.htm).
Here I am next to the river after placing our lantern in the water (after waiting 1 hour under 90 F heat and 100% humidity, just like back home). Everyone placed their lantern on the river and prayed for the people that died during the A-bomb. It was a certainly a beautiful sight to see all the lantern go down the river.
Monday, August 07, 2006
First of all here is a little information on this subject from www.wikipidia.org:
O-bon (お盆) or only Bon (盆) is a Japanese Buddhist holiday to honor the departed spirits of one's ancestors. This Buddhist festival has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people from the big cities return to their home towns and visit and clean their ancestors' graves. Traditionally including a dance festival, it has existed in Japan for more than 500 years. In recent years, however, most parts of Tokyo, and by extension, the media, hold Obon in August to coincide with the summer holiday period. Obon shares some similarities with the predominantly Mexican observance of el Dia de los Muertos.
Bon Odori (盆踊り, meaning simply Bon dance) is an event held during Obon. It is celebrated as a reminder of the gratefulness one should feel toward one's ancestors.
The O-Bon festival is observed all over Japan as well as parts of China, Malaysia, and American cities with a large enough Japanese population. Originally a Nenbutsu folk dance to express the effusive welcome toward the spirits of the dead, the style of celebration varies in some aspects from region to region. People line up around a high wooden building made especially for the festival called a 'yagura'. There are many kinds of music that go with the dance.
Ok now that you feel all educated I will let you know about our experience last Saturday at a Bon Odori dance held in an elementary school in Hiroshima.
Here are some of the kids dressed up in their yukatas (casual form of kimono). The adults had them on too. I tried to find one that fit but apparently I'm too tall for the one size fits all in Japan.
This is me trying to follow the dance and telling Orlando "I don't know what I'm doing!!".
This is one of the dance teachers who where there to lead everyone in the dance. At least someone knew what they where doing!!!
Here are some of the traditional musicians in the festival. My Mexican friend Lorena called them the" Japaneses Menudo". Also there was a wooden structure in the middle of the school yard where there was a big drum kept everyone on the beat. Overall the festival was very interesting and our first encounter with traditional Japanese culture.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
I was fortunate enough to get to see the ocean again from the other side of the world!!!! Last Sunday a group of friends and I went to Hamada Beach (a real beach, no lake stuff) about a 1.5 hour drive each way from Hiroshima, as you can see from the map below.
The drive there was very interesting because you had to drive thru the mountains to get to the coast. It actually reminded my a lot of driving thru Cayey to get to San Juan. Once again I was hit with the pain of using the highways here, it cost about $25 US dollars one way!!!!!!!! Trains everywhere, except to the beach what a tragedy.
Here are some pictures of the beach it reminded my a lot of Crash boat beach in Aguadilla.
Finally I just want to share that I got a terrible sun burn and look like a big tomato and everything hurts. That's ok because it was worth it!!!
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Instead of watching a baseball game on TV we actually went to one!!!! And look actual pictures!!!Finally!!! I could have been making this up all along but now there is actual proof that we really are in Japan.!!!!!
Another interesting part about the game was the food. No hot dogs and hamburgers here!!!!
You get a beautiful box full of any rice and fish combination you can think of!!! I don't ask what's in the food anymore, because if you don't like it then what are you going to do? Starve? No way it's always fish, rice and something so I just eat it and keep going.