Author Archives: Kate

Hello from Omaezaki!

Hi internet!

I’m in beautiful, (sometimes) sunny Omaezaki in Shizuoka Prefecture! For those wondering where that is, it’s this little cape jutting our in to the Pacific. On the side closest to the house I’m staying there’s beautiful, open ocean, and on the other side is a bay over which you have an amazing view of Mount Fuji on clear days.

Unfortunately, I left my camera cord somewhere in Tokyo, so I can’t post any pictures right now. However, I’ll hopefully be getting a new cord this weekend, so stay tuned. It’s really, really gorgeous here. It’s pretty much the middle of nowhere, I haven’t seen a single restaurant within walking or biking distance of my house, and that makes me love it even more. It’s the complete opposite of New York, which was kinda the idea when I was deciding where to go.

My hosts, John and Miyuki, are awesome people. They run a small English school with two locations, and I’ve been teaching classes for three weeks now. The students are every age imaginable — our youngest is three years old, and our oldest is almost 60. The classes are small, and very individualized for the students needs. The class activities range from art projects for the little ones (I taught them how to make Valentines this week), to pure conversation for the more advanced adults.

The thing we’re working on right now is Happyokai, a big show we’ll be putting on in the middle of March. All the students have either a speech or a skit (in English, of course) that they’re working on memorizing and perfecting. The acts are everything from traditional Japanese folk tales like Momotaro (peach boy) to one 13 year old boy who wrote a speech about his perfect woman. They’re all working very hard, and it’s so fun to be helping them.

I’m so excited that I came in time for Happyokai. As you may know, I’ve spent the past 5 or so summers working at Creative Theatrics day camp, so I’ve been using everything I’ve learned there to help the kids remember their lines, have fun on stage, and get over their stage fright. It turns out, teaching theater is pretty much the same whether the students speak English or not.

In my spare time I’ve been going for long bike rides along the beach and exploring the area. Yesterday morning I worked at the community center day care with Miyuki. We played with a group of 2-3 year old kids while their moms took a class on how to make miso. They were beyond adorable, and although I think they were wary of the white girl at first, by noon they were fighting over who got to hold my hand, and treating me to an imaginary feast of onigiri, curry rice, and all their favorite foods.

Tomorrow I’ll be moving to John and Miyuki’s other house. I’ve always wanted to live completely on my own, and since I’ll be moving to Montreal with George when I get back from Japan, I want to take the opportunity now. I haven’t seen the other house yet, but it’s big, old, and right next to the beach. I’m very excited.

So, that’s what’s been going on with me lately! I miss y’all but I’m having a fantastic time and learning a million things at once. I’ll post photos as soon as I get my new cord.

Love,

Kate

Advertisements

Shika Fever – OR – A Weekend with Ayumi, Part 3

On my last day with Ayumi, we headed to Nara. I slept the whole way on the train, but when we arrived it was a beautiful sunny day. Ayumi’s mom is the sweetest, and put us up in a ryokan for the night, so we headed over to drop off our stuff.

That’s when Ayumi told me we were going to be renting bikes for the day. I was instantly terrified — I’m not the most…. athletic person in the world, nor do I have very good balance, so the idea of biking around was quite daunting. Luckily though, Ayumi ignored my reservations and promised it would be fine. She was totally right, as usual.

P1010117

 

After getting our bikes we headed towards the park. Nara is famous for the wild deer that live everywhere in the city, and I was not disappointed. We bought shika crackers and fed the first pack of deer we came across.

P1010133

P1010132

P1010131

P1010130

P1010129

P1010128

 

The deer were impossibly cute, but I think my favorite part of the whole thing was the little kids who were terrified out of their minds. Everywhere we went there was a kid screaming and crying, running away from a group of deer after trying to feed them. But of course, they never dropped the deer snacks they were holding, so the whole pack would follow them down the street. If that’s not how phobias are born, I don’t know what would do the trick.

We biked to Todaiji Temple, passing families of deer the whole way. It really is something else to see wild animals next to big buildings and cars — in Brooklyn we just have squirrels and rats. It was awesome.

P1010166

 

Todaiji is home to a daibutsu, a giant statue of Buddha. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Suffice it to say, it was incredible.

P1010180

P1010178

P1010175

P1010174

P1010168

 

After Todaiji, we decided to bike up Wakakusaya Mountain. But, of course, we had rented the cheapest bikes, and they didn’t have gears. It became clear very quickly that biking up a mountain on a gravel road on a bike with no gears and sub-par lung capacity was not going to happen. So we parked the bikes and headed up.

P1010206

 

The path up was gorgeous. We were passed by a few groups of people who were probably 50 years older than us, which was discouraging, but not surprising. The view from the summit was totally worth it.

P1010227

 

P1010219

P1010216

 

And, of course, there were more shika at the top of the mountain…

P1010224

 

Animals love Ayumi. She’s like Nausicaa, or the dog whisperer or something. So the shika flocked to her even though we were out of treats.

P1010239

P1010229

 

But what’s better than a bunch of deer on top of a mountain? A bunch of deer playing with a bunch of kids on top of a mountain. So that happened.

P1010235

 

We were exhausted, so we headed back to our room in the ryokan for rest and dinner. We were having Nabe for dinner, which is something I hadn’t eaten yet. And let me tell you, internet, it’s fucking awesome.

One of the women working in the ryokan came into our room with a portable burner and a giant pot. We were each given an appetizer plate.

P1010263

 

And then she brought out the two largest plates of fresh vegetables and fish and meat that I’ve ever seen.

P1010265

This was after we put half of it in.

P1010264

 

There were about 5 different kinds of mushrooms, wakame, glass noodles, buri, salmon, pork, chicken, giant prawns, clams…. Our host filled the pot with broth and started placing the different ingredients in.

P1010267

 

One of the cool things about nabe is as the meal goes on, everything becomes more and more delicious because the broth takes on the flavors of everything you put into it. We were very happy campers. Did we eat the entire thing? Of course we did.

P1010273

 

BUT, nabe doesn’t end when you’re done with this part. No sir. Then it’s time to make ….. shit I can’t remember what it’s called. Ayumi! What’s it called!

Well, here’s what you do. You take a giant thing of rice and throw it into the broth.

P1010276

After it’s soaked up a fair amount, you add scallions, and then pour raw egg over. The result is this amazing porridge. It’s comfort food to the max.

P1010280

 

Dad, you know that scene in Princess Mononoke when Ashitaka and Jigo have that meal together outside? This is what Jigo makes.

4587661110_0a31661425

 

After dinner we both took nice long baths, put on our yukatas, and climbed into our futons and slept extremely well. And so ended my weekend with the wonderful Ayumi Yoshida. MOSHIDA WILL RISE AGAIN. I love you girl.

 


‘Merica! – OR – A Weekend with Ayumi, Part 2

The second day of our weekend started out with me waking up absurdly early and having breakfast at Sukiya, my new favorite Japanese fast food joint. I didn’t see the breakfast menu, so I got this:

Image

 

which was kimchee-mayo gyu-don. It was the fucking best. And for 400 yen for the set, it sure beats the hell out of a McGriddle (sorry, Laura) 

After “breakfast”, I met up with Ayumi and we went to Osaka Castle, which is surrounded by these beautiful gardens

Image

 

Image

Image

 

I couldn’t take photos in the museum, but we saw a lot of old scroll, armor, etc. All the plaques were translated into English as well, so I learned a lot. After a quick lunch (tempura udon for Ayumi, Ice cream with kinako and molasses for me), we headed to Kobe.Image

Image

 

Both of us instantly loved Kobe (Ayumi had never been there before either). It’s a port town, so the city has an almost beach-y feel. 

Image

Our first stop was Merican Park. Guess why it’s called that? Yup. Regardless, it was gorgeous, and my photos don’t do it justice.

ImageImage

Image

 

After Merican Park, we did a little window shopping in Mosaic (pronounced Mo-Sah-ii-ku, apparently), and then headed to Chinatown for dinner. 

Image

 

We shared a bunch of different things from the gazillion food stands lining the streets, including soup dumpling, Peking duck, tan-tan ramen, and gyoza. Shit was good, bro.

ImageImageImageImage

 

Image

 

After dinner we went our separate ways, so we could get a good night’s sleep before waking up early to get to Nara the next day. Wanna see us get accosted by a bunch of domesticated deer? Stay tuned…


Mezurashii Dumbo – OR – A Weekend with Ayumi, Part 1

This weekend I got to see my sister/best friend Ayumi in Osaka. We hadn’t seen each other for about 6 years, but picked up right where we left off.P1000868

We had an awesome weekend, starting with a trip to Namba and some fucking bomb ass ramen:

P1000894

P1000895

After lunch and shopping, Ayumi escorted me to D Salon…

P1000910

My stylist was the sweetest lady, and was extremely patient with my subpar Japanese and the fact that I had no idea how to describe the kind of haircut I wanted. She must have read my mind, and gave me the exact kind of bangs I’ve wanted for a while.

P1000911

I’ve been trying to get bangs in the states for a couple years, but everyone I go to has told me it’s a terrible idea, and it would make my face look fat. Fuck those guys, bangs are so much fun.

That night we met up with one of Ayumi’s coworkers and friends, who we called Asakawa-san. I tried my best to speak Japanese while we were out and about– but I’m so used to speaking English with Ayumi that I had a really hard time making it happen. Other than the weekend we spent together, I’ve only been speaking Japanese, but that night I had a lot of trouble. Add the fact that Ayumi and Asakawa were speaking Osaka-ben, which is basically a completely different dialect from what we learned in school, and I was mentally exhausted within a few hours. But first, we went to the Ebisu Matsuri celebration at a nearby shrine.

P1000933

P1000936

I’m kind of unclear about the details of Ebisu Matsuri, but it has something to do with local businesses. We got o-mikugi (fortunes) at the shrine – I had already got one at Fushimi in Kyoto, and gotten daikichi (the best possible fortune), so I didn’t want to tempt fate again, but Ayumi and Asakawa got theirs.

P1000927

P1000928

After the Matsuri we had an amazing meal of yakisoba, okonomiyaki, and monjayaki, prepared at our table. It was awesome.P1000962

P1000974

P1000972

We ate everything. Duh.

P1000977

After dinner we did puricura — for the uninitiated, it’s like western photo booths, but you get to draw all over the photos and add funny hats and stuff. Also, they zero in on your eyes and enlarge them, whether you want that or not, which is interesting to say the least.

18990_10151389765832437_1880396825_n

Stay tuned for the rest of the weekend…. for now, it’s bed time for Mezurashii-Dumbo


A Change of Scenery

Yesterday, I was here:

Image

 

Today, I’m here:

Image


A few photos of Nishiki Market

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the second 24 hours in Kyoto have been just as entertaining as the first. After I posted I went to Nishiki Market, which is several blocks of the most amazing food stands I’ve ever seen. The market has been running for hundreds of years, and there were lots of free samples to partake in. I was a very happy Kate.

P1000473

Sooooo many kinds of tamago yaki

Sooooo many kinds of tamago yaki

The Pickle Rainbow

The Pickle Rainbow

These fish were still kickin

These fish were still kickin

I'm not sure what this is called, but it was delicious

I’m not sure what this is called, but it was delicious

Takoyaki for 100 yen.

Takoyaki for 100 yen.

P1000479

 

After going back to the hostel for a much needed nap, I hightailed it over to Nijo Castle. It was pretty breathtaking — stay tuned for photos!


Hello Kyoto

Hey Internet!

It’s my first day in Kyoto. I’m already in love with the place. I got in last night around 6, and decided that instead of looking at a map of where my hostel was, like a normal person would, I would instead wing it with the little hand drawn map I had jotted down on the plane. Of course, I also decided I would go to an entirely different train station than the one I had made directions from. So after a long subway ride (the conductor finally told me I was on the local, when I really wanted to be on the express) I got out at Kawaramachi Station. It’s a 3 minute walk to my hostel, but I didn’t know that at the time.

Fast forward two hours and several inquiries for directions later, I arrive at Khaosan Kyoto Guest House.

P1000353

This is the first time I’ve stayed in a hostel, but something tells me this is a really good one. The people working here are awesome, the common room (where I’m currently watching a women’s basketball game and drinking tea) is lovely, and my bed is surprisingly comfortable and private. My first meal in Japan consisted of a cigarette I bummed from a drunk guy from Shikoku outside and an Onigiri I consumed in bed.Image

I’m seriously jet lagged, so I woke up at 6:30 this morning and decided to go out for breakfast. It was a beautiful morning, way warmer than NYC has been lately.

 P1000349

I had breakfast in a little kissaten called “Holly’s Cafe” that’s right around the corner. It was awesome. They were playing a fantastic mix of music, including Elvis and a Japanese version of Earth Angel. I had a latte and a pastry that was called “The Steambun of Corncream”. How can you say no to that?

P1000344

After breakfast I went across the bridge into Gion, on my way to Yasaka Jinja. It was around 8am, so the streets were empty. P1000360

P1000366

Yasaka Jinja was fucking awesome. They were still getting ready for the day, and I was pretty much the only non-staff person around.

P1000374

P1000380

P1000386

P1000392

P1000393

P1000403

P1000402

P1000421

P1000424To be honest, I’m not sure where the Yasaka grounds ended and the city began. All of a sudden I realized that the buildings I was passing weren’t associated with the shrine, but were actually residential.

P1000432

P1000430

P1000436

P1000443

On my way back, I went along Hanami kouji dori, one of the main streets in Gion.

P1000464

This street was full of older Japanese tourists. A group of them stopped me and asked to take my picture, so I spent about 10 minutes chatting with them while they put me in front of different buildings and praised my (pitiful) Japanese skills.

P1000466

It was the best.


ireneabides

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

i dye every day

A cloth challenge