Friday, October 9, 2009

I need to learn Japanese

Yeah, so I went shopping today, finally got a phone, and found a beading store. At least I thought that's what it was until I found a board saying: Pick the stones and pendent, then tell us the design and come back in thirty minutes. The store was a smart way to get the accessory the buyer wants, the colors the buyer wants. However, it took me twenty minutes to get accross that I only wanted a pretty clasp, not a full necklace. I really need to learn Japanese. :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How exciting

7 October, 2009
I was thinking earlier today that it feels like the world is shutting down around me and it kind of is. A typhoon is set to hit land around here tomorrow and everything will be closed. There will be no work tomorrow, no stores, no restaurants, no offices. Everything will be closed and if anyone is caught outside in my neighborhood, they will be given a ticket. (Which means I guess the cops will be out. Hmm…) Anyways, they told us to stock up on food as even the cafeteria will be closed, at least for Friday. Everyone’s acting like this is serious but of no real concern, it happens all the time and never does any damage, they’re just happy to have a day off from work. No one is even thinking there will be a power outage, although they warned us to get food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or microwaved. Easy enough. I’m fully stocked and ready with my laptop, Kindle, Nintendo DS, lots of paper, and plenty of beads. I’ll be just fine if the power goes out. If all else fails, I can curl up in my sweats and sleep, or daydream. (I tend to do that a lot, daydream. J )
Well, that was all I really wanted to say. More later, I have a date with destiny. Okay, so it’s really just another window on my laptop with my story on it, but that sounded more interesting. JOne last thought before I go: typhoon party, potluck style. Hey if we’re stuck inside for an unknown amount of time, might as well have fun. Everyone bring some food and snack, a pillow and blanket, a movie, and a fully charged laptop and all fit into the largest room (soon I’ll be in four people rooms so it’ll work nicely) and it’s a slumber party til the lights come on and they put us to work. Just think of it. About ten girls over twenty years old in a room with a variety of snacks and movies with nowhere to go and no boys allowed. Partay. :D

8 October 2009
Well, that was anticlamactic. I woke up to bright sky and wind. yay. wind is the only thing that has happened all day. Turns out my "typhoon" was really a tropical storm. not even any rain all day and the wind didn't even look dangerous. yet the town shut down till 4 pm. oh well, no work today and no real clean up tomarrow. not too bad. boring but, hey, it was a day off from work for no reason and I'm stucked up on food. Not gonna complain. Well, talk to you later.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Well, I finally got to try the famous Japanese train system. Part of my Introduction to Japan class that everyone here is supposed to take upon arrival was a partly guided tour to Kamakura. Kamakura was the capital of Japan during the first Shogun era, which ended about a thousand years ago. I found it interesting how history is divided in Japanese history. According to my class, Japanese history starts with the first Emperor. The Emperor was the supreme ruler for a thousand years, during which there are three eras. After those thousand years a powerful samurai took control of the kingdom, calling himself a shogun and moving the capital to Kamakura where it stayed for a few generations until the next samurai family became shogun and the capital moved again. A few generations later the shogun position was won by another family and yet again the capital was moved. This time the capital was moved to Edo. It was during this shogun era that Perry forced Japan to open again and the shogun at that time handed Edo Castle over to the figures of the Emperor and his family. For the last thousand years the royal family had been completely powerless, symbols but without any influence. When the Edo Castle was given to the Emperor, so was ruling authority. For a while the Emperor and Diet(like a Congress of sorts) ruled together with shared power until WW2. After WW2 the American general set up a government that had a Prime Minister and the Royal Family again became mere figureheads. Now they are trotted out for special events and other than that they stay in the Imperial Palace, hidden from the world and in complete privacy. Now for the disclaimer: I’m no expert on Japanese history and am not writing this with any real reference. This is my understanding of what I learned this week and I apologize if I misunderstood something or completely forgot something.
Now, the point of that was how history is recorded. Tradition states that the Emperor was at one time the direct descendent of the god that created Japan so I assume the same Royal Family has been protected since the first Emperor. Somehow the first thousand years of royal was divided into three eras and the three families that held the power as shoguns each have an era named after their family name. However, once the shogun eras ended, the eras were named for who was Emperor at the time, ending at the death and beginning the new era. There have been three Emperors since Edo Castle was given up and three eras. Just a comment. Oh, and Edo was renamed Tokyo and is still the capital, the Castle became the Imperial Palace. Just an FYI.
Now, my trip: we met at the gate and walked to Mikasa park. The park is gorgeous but I must say, there is something to be said about the beauty of the old sailing ships back when they were made of wood. These days ships are made for efficiency and power. There is no beauty in the metal structures with tubes of all size hanging out in most directions, although the sizes are impressive.
After the park, we went on a walk through downtown that ended at the train station. After we got on the train it was about a twenty minute ride to Kamakura and we were released for lunch. I should at this time apologize to friends and possibly family who’ve been with me in unfamiliar places. On this trip I picked up a clingon and learned how annoying I’ve been to others. Whenever I wasn’t with the group a guy from my class was two steps behind me, not directly behind me but off to the side in what would be my blindspot if I could drive and he was refusing to make decisions. Grr. I never realized how annoying I was. We wound up finding a hole-in-the-wall traditional Japanese restaurant that was good until all I had left was the sticky rice. That’s when I found out that I can only eat so much when I lose my appetite. Sticky rice is fine as part of the meal, but not as all that’s left of the meal.
Anyways, after the meal we went on a guided tour of Kamakura ending at the oldest temple in the area. It was gorgeous and rather interesting learning about the customs. The purifying ritual is very precise: ladle water with your right hand, then rinse your left hand, rinse your right hand, pour some water in your left hand to purify your mouth, then pour the water out the back of the ladle to purify the handle before returning it for the next person to use. I was struck by how precise everything was, all the old traditions. I’m a Lutheran so church isn’t as rooted in tradition as much as the Catholic church, for instance, so it was interesting to watch all the traditions in the temple. The purification ritual, the way they pray for anything from a good test grade to a happy marriage, even the fortune telling tradition where they tie the fortune to string at the temple to leave the bad luck there if they don’t like the fortune. Their prayer was clap twice to get their god’s attention, bow in petition, then throw in a coin to bribe the gods, in my opinion. I believe they said the coin was in gratitude traditionally.
After the temple we headed back to Yokosuka and I got to rest from a long day of walking. The next day I was planning to go to Tokyo by train as it’s less than two hours away, but it’s been raining on and off since Thursday so I didn’t want to go that far. However, I did get some other sneak peaks at Japanese culture for all of you. One picture is in front of the mall just outside the gate. What was once a large plaza has been turned into a parking lot for every version of bicycle: from motorcycles to mopeds to regular bicycles. The next picture is trash bags covered in green mesh. That’s how they put out the blocks’ trash each day so the cats and birds don’t make a mess of it. Each day is a different thing, that day it was plastics for recycling, another day would be burnable stuff like food waste, another day the non-burnable things, another day papers, and so on. Japan is huge on recycling and cutting down on waste. The last picture is a Japanese fire hydrant. They have a pole by the street pointing to the man-hole cover and when they lift the cover, they just connect the hose and go. Very space efficient.
Well, as a wise bunny once said: “that’s all, folks.” This is Li’l B signing out.