Monday, July 23, 2007

Where to next?

Well, a couple of candidates for our next couple of trips include:

Back to Japan in January. This time to the Northern Island of Hokkaido for the ice festival. COLD!


Greece for a couple of weeks next summer. I still need to finish my book, Go rammit.

Or... Back to Australia. This time to the West coast and Perth.

Or China, Thailand, Singapore, or back to Europe... Or..., Or..., Or..., You get the idea.

on going native

You know you've been gone a while, when:

You miss chopsticks at mealtime (we still use ours)

You feel uncomfortable around all the Gaijin (non-Japanese), but you're in the US.

You catch yourself still bowing to people (and apologizing profusely when you cut someone off in the grocery store.)

You make a special trip downtown to Sakura Square to shop for Japanese stuff you just had while you were there.

You find yourself looking for love hotels while riding the lightrail, knowing you won't actually find any.

You miss MOS Burger. Mmm... MOS Burger...

Back home

Starting to get back on track with the time change, but our sleep patterns are jacked right now.

A few more things about Japan before moving on to other stuff:

The big earthquake was on the west coast about 100 miles from us, but we did feel it. Several minutes of a 7 storey building swaying is kind of unnerving to say the least.

One of the things that made the earthquake so bad was that a major typhoon had just hit southern Japan, totally hammering the south islands of Kyushu and Shikoku, where we had just been.

Unfortunately for those up north such as ourselves, the Typhoon brought crappy weather in the form of a bunch of hard rain for several days. The main concern near the epicenter was landslides and sinkholes.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Comments please!

This will be our last post from Sendai, Japan.

Let us know if we are entertaining and or informative, and whether we should continue blogging on our travels.

Or let us know if we`re boring and stupid and should discontinue our rantings.

This is for posterity, so please, be honest. (name the movie!)

Sayonara Nihon,

J and B

Last day stuff

Saw Monkey Boi movie. Would have been great had we understood it. Possibly. Maybe it sucked. Dunno.

Manshon 2 Erkharts 0.

We`ve been here 3 weeks, and I just found out there was a light over our sink. Been washing our dishes in the dark all this time. Stupid Erkharts.

Shaky Shaky Earthy Quakey!

This morning we both felt the Earth move. At first we thought it was just the bouncy bed, then we realized it was the whold friggin` building! Looks at the wife, `You felt it too?`. Go ahead, think naughty thoughts. We were.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Umbi Karma redux

Since we never need umbrellas at home, we`ll be leaving ours here on tuesday, probably on the train or at our local grocery store. Perhaps some poor wet soul will make good use of them.

Have you seen my suitcase?

Monkey Boi!

We were going to go see a cool looking Japanese movie called Monkey Majik today, but there were too many kids since it`s saturday, so instead, we`re going to see Harry Potter and the crazy-assed Gaijin instead. Oh wait, that`s us.

We did`t think we`d be able to see it while we`re here, but evidently we were wrong. Wife is happy now.

We`ll let ya know how it is. Unless you`ve already seen it ya rat bastards ! ) Monkey Majik on Monday (hey, we`re alliterate!)

G`bye, for now.

Narita (not the airport)

We visited the HRC (Hard Rock Cafe) in Narita on Matsuri day! OMFG! Every town has a matsuri, and Narita is no exception.

Lots of people in traditional Kimono and making noise eating yaki-tori (literrally, bird on a stick), yaki-unagi (eel on a stick) and yaki-wienie (hotdog on a stick, duh!).

We got some cool pics of the festivities, including the townsfolk pulling a heavy wooden wagon filled with musicians singing a funky song. Fun, but crazy.

Remember, the best souvenirs are not the ones you buy, they`re the ones you can steal.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Saw Dralion and Shreck

Cirque on a bad day is still as good as ever. Even though almost every act had a small blunder (hard to remain unbiased when you know what you`re looking at from an insider`s technical perspective.) they were still worth the en. They`re gone now and on the way to Hiroshima... Dodgy hotels for the performers?

Shreck the third was actually pretty good, far better than expected. We had to miss the last 12 minutes, or we would have missed the last train home. All kinds of bad, considering how far out we were and how much it was raining!

Via con diabolos!

Stores with their own theme music

the 99en store has a ditty that won`t leave your head, even at 1 am. The place we`re blogging from is the media internet heaven called Popeye that also has a song that never gets old. By never, I mean you can`t stop singing it even when another song is playing. Arg.

Cowpiss and sweat

Yummy! Engrish rears its ugly head.

Two of our favorite drinks here are called Pocari Sweat (actually quite well-known) and Calpis (sounds like cow piss)

Bickle isn`t so good, but some of the other ION waters are OK.

Gotta love the Vendo (vending machines)

Manshon 1, Erkharts 0

After being here for almost 3 weeks, we discovered last night that our front door has a deadbolt.

Not that we don`t feel safe enough to leave the door unlocked, (as opposed to the dodgy place in Hiroshima) but it is nice to know that we can lock ourselves away from the world if we want to.


Yesterday we went back to Tokyo, and visited the home of Judo, The Kodokan (literally, the place to learn the way).

We kinda got lost at first, and were in the right building, but in the wrong part, just a bunch of offices that were unmarked or marked only with kanji. WTFAWI? (WTF are we?)

We finally found the main entrance and the gift shop (of course). I wanted to get a gi, a belt, a T-shirt, a key-chain and a... so I got a key-chain and a postcard for the BJJ Denver guys.

We saw the judo museum and the 500 mat dojo. Damn! Wanna come back to train Judo now.

jita kyoei - You and I shining together

Monday, July 9, 2007

The kids are alright!

Wife here.

Observation: Japanese kids are cuter than American kids (except for Kailey, Ali and Riley!) They're waaaay more well behaved than Australian kids (little monsters!), and most of them even make Ali look out of control!

We've noticed that kids under about 18 months, stare at everything, just like everyone elses' kids, though they do seem be able to fall asleep anywhere, in any position, at the drop of a hat. (Come to think of it, that talent stays with the Japanese into adulthood. It seems that anywhere there are adult Japanese sitting down, half of them are sleeping and the other half are text messing.)

Kids between about 2 and 4 seem pretty easy to spook. In the grocery store last night, a little guy came zooming around the end of the aisle where we were, took one look at the big, scary gaijin, braked, squeaked and went running back around the endcap yelling for his mother! Oops. We bowed a bunch to his mother when she came around the corner to investigate!

The lower elementary school kids stare and if you wave at them, they'll wave back. The upper e.s. kids will stare, then start egging each other on to come over and say "haro" to us. Then we become the most interesting thing in the museum (store, street, subway) - again.

Cross cultural defined.

When you are sitting in a restaurant eating Spanish Paella (is there any other kind?) in Japan, using chopsticks.

Although you know you've been here too long when you find it odd to get a fork to eat your Indian curry with, and you wonder where all the chopsticks are. Oh, note to Auckland, New Zealand - Sendai's now got the best Indian restaurant in the world. (Aurora, CO, USA has the second best ; )

Also, it is possible to eat pizza and ice-cream with chopsticks!


This means `Welcome!`, and you hear it A LOT. Whenever you go into any type of extablishment, you are greeted with this phrase. Kinda like when they say `hello` at Blockbuster, only louder and everyone says it.

In fact, they say it when you come in, when you leave and whenever anyone else comes in or leaves. They say it so much (and thank you as well) that it becomes a sing-song, call and response thing that all the staff do during your entire stay.

It may sound annoying, and at first it kinda is, but you get used to it, and you even find yourself kinda groovin` to the irasshaimase / gozaimas` beat. Strange.

Also, before you eat, you should say Itadakimas`. Which is sort of like a mini-blessing / grace only not religious just social niceity. Like saying `This I receive`. When you are done, you are supposed to say `Go-chisosamadesh`ta`. Or `What a feast that was!` Or words to that effect.

For a mini-example of the Irasshaimase thing, watch Monsters Inc. when they go into the sushi restaurant (Harry Hausen`s).

Yamas, gawas and shima

Language lesson from Husband-san.

Ever wonder why so many Japanese names end or beging with yama (Yamaha, Yamamoto, Yamaguchi, Takayama)?

Well, you may not realize it from pictures you`ve seen, but this place has a BOATLOAD of mountains! Guess what yama means. That`s right kids, it means flip-folps. Duh.

It is also a major character in the writing system. A `mountain sword` is an axe, a `mountain person` is a hermit and a `fire mountain` is a volcano (yes, they have those here too). A bird sitting on a mountain is the word for island, or shima / jima.

So, you get names like Hiroshima, Iwo-jima (now changed to Iwo-to) and Okinawa-jima. Cool ne (Japanese for innit)?

Next we have Kawa or Gawa. This means river. So, you have the Hirose-gawa (same hiro as Hiroshima by the way), which is the main river running through Sendai. Or for those of you in Colorado, 9 News has the Anchorlady Adele Arakawa. Her family name is from a river here in Japan. This kinda stuff is what makes me such a language geek.

Incidentally, many people call Mt. Fuji `Fuji-yama` technically this is sorta correct, since they use the same charachter as mountain, but in this case, it is more accurate to say `Fuji-san`.

So there.

How ya ben?

Another thing we (especially wife) like about Japan is the Ben. Short for O-bento, these are Japanese lunch boxes, with little rice pillows and various pickels (not like you`re thinking) and seafood and veggies and stuff.

There are many kinds, from the ones you can buy for train rides (eki ben) to the ones your mom makes, to ones you get at the local grocery store or 7-11.

Mmm... ben...

The triangles are Husband`s favorite; not quite ben, but still yummy.

Umbrella Karma!

Since our umbrella got keifed at the museum, we had to buy another one at the 99en store. Then, we found one on the train, so now we have two! (so husband doesn`t have to get wet anymore.)

The Maersk game

Before we went to Iceland, we read a blog by some people who had been there who played a game while they traveled. They called it the Maersk game.

To play, all you have to do is travel a lot and any time you visit a new country, you look for a Maersk container.

For those of you not in the know, Maersk is a Danish shipping company, and they move stuff all over the world. Sorta like large-scale UPS.

Anyway, since then, we indeed saw one in Reykjavik, and one in Malta, and just this week, we`ve seen three.

You can also play at home. Sophie, you don`t count, you`re too close to the source!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Hell isn`t other people, it`s riding the train in Shikoku.

Japanese trains. Fast? OMFG yes. Will they get you there? Eventually.

This isn`t a big country, and yes, the trains go 190 mph. But they also stop at every station and can wait several minutes before moving again. Also, they don`t always go fast, since they have to slow back down to stop.

We spent an entire day just on Shikoku trying to get to the taga-jinja shrine. (Kinda like the Japanese version of the Phallological museum in Iceland if you know what I`m saying.) Anyway, it seemed like an eternity and let`s just say that is might have been worth the trip. Or it might not have. Kris Burns, you might owe Buddah some en!

Hoteru: not the dodgiest place we`ve ever stayed... but close.


On the way back from Fukuoka (far south big island of Kyushu) we stopped in Hiroshima since it was getting too late to get to Okayama. We should have kept going. We got a room at a business hotel. These are usually small, neat and reasonably well priced ($75).

Well, it was small, and not too expensive, but this was the kind of dirty, run-down, smoky place you`d find in Clint Eastwood movie from the 70s. Yikes. Even the roaches wiped their feet before they went outside.

It was second only to the place we stayed in Anchorage where people tried to break in. I even blocked the door here with a chair to prevent similar events. All bad.

That`s what travel is all about, adventure.

On the other hand...

The next night, on the way back from Uwajima (on the island of Shikoku) we did stop in Okayama and decided to try our luck there. There was no room at the proverbial inn, and luckily enough, we found a love hotel.

Much has already been written and blogged about these wonderous and fantastic places, so check out for a great read. Be sure to check out part two as well.

Let`s just say, it was a really cool place, and it had every amenity you could possibly want (I almost felt guilty it was so nice) and we`ve never had it better, even in nicer (read: way more expensive) places. Cost: $63 bucks. Damn.


Where to begin...

Lots of stuff coming, as it`s been a busy couple of days.


Cool thing here, BLIND TRACKS. Everywhere you go, there`s a strip about a foot wide that is a different texture from the sidewalk. It changes texture again when you are at a corner, stairs or other abnormal obstacle. This can be felt with a cane and even your feet. Very blind friendly. Plus, lots of people seem to have eye patches over an eye. It`s a thing.

The seats in the trains spin around so you can always face in the direction of travel. Some even do it automatically.

If you don`t like spiders, don`t come to Japan. They`re big and they`re everywhere. Warm and wet = spider heaven.

Neat game to play: scare the Japanese children. Except in the bigger cities, little kids aren`t used to seeing roundeyes / gaijin, so when they see you, they kind of freak out a bit if you surprise them. Kinda funny in the grocery store. Bonus points if you smile and or wave or greet them in Japanese.

More to come...

Monday, July 2, 2007

Potpurri for a 1000, Alex.

More odds and ends from Husbandsan!

Engrish! This is an odd thing that comes in one of three forms. You get the funny but (probably) accidental ones like the hair salon called S perm. or you can get the japanization of words like hamu to chizu sandichi. Or you can get the ones that are very likely crafted by an English speaker like `life is happy, so live like funny fish. Is stylish`. Or some stupid crap that is syntactically and grammatically correct but makes no damn sense.

I`m not so much curious about what is says, so much as curious about what they think it says.

Now I don`t feel so bad for Americans who get Kanji or Chinese writing tatooed on themselves whithout knowing if it`s correct or not. Can`t be any worse than Engrish.

This place is like a hive. Tokyo has too many people and is CRAZY! Osaka is even worse. I take pride in my ability to navigate my way around but I have never had more of a hard time than in Osaka. Moscow, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, No Problem! Japan is a whole different kind of megalopolis.

Part of the problem is that in the western world, we always orient (so to speak) our maps so that North is up. Here, up is the direction you`re looking, so you have to watch out for what direction is what.

How important is the bow? Let`s put it this way, the workers bow to the incoming train, the ATM bowed to us when we got money, and the snack lady bows to the train car as she leaves it. I won`t be surprised if we still bow when we get home talking on the phone.

They stack park their cars here. Like in a grain elevator. I`m still not sure how they get them down.

Thought we saw a Yakuza interaction in Aomori. An older dude (boss) touched hands in greeting with a younger guy (underling?) when passing on the street. Strange, as most Japanese aren`t physical or touchy-feeley. Usually they bow etc. It was weird. We both caught how odd it seemed in comparison of the other stuff we`ve seen.

Blah blah blog.

Impulsive, party of us.

I know, duh.

Husband again (`Go me` was mine too.)

Break out your maps and atlases (or Google earth or whatever)... Yesterday we decided to go up to either Aomori or Hachinohe on the North coast of Honshu. We ended up doing both. AND, we decided to go even further and ended up in Hakkodate, on the island of Hokkaido.

9 1/2 hours of trains later, we were out in the sticks, and we decided to stay the night. Nice, little cheap hotel later, and this morning we are back in Sendai.

We`ve got a bunch of cool pics, but we can`t post them from here, so you will all have to wait until the party. We`ll let ya know when.

Next time: Engrish!

Go me?

One of the cooler but more annoying things about this country is Gomi. Trash.

There is almost no litter anywhere, and yet there are no trashcans to be found on the streets. WTF? Well, if ya gots garbage, you separate it out into PET (recyclable) bottles / plastic, cans, burnable and "other". The best place to find recptacles is at the local 99en store or a convenience store.

"Other" is stuff like microwaves and cars. Each type is collected on a different day of the week / month.

Drink your drink there, eat your snack, and "gomi" your trash on the spot. Eating "on the move", except ice cream (what would Jesus eat?) is frowned upon. I suppose eating an entire pizza would be problematic as well.

Even the roughest looking people will police their garbage and not just throw it anywhere. Even the reprobates don`t want to live in a pigsty.

So, don`t gomi up the friggin` place!