Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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This was after we put half of it in.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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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

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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

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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. 

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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.

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

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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.

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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…


A Change of Scenery

Yesterday, I was here:

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Today, I’m here:

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Time for Plan B?

Last week I went to the Japanese Consulate in midtown to sort out my Visa. I was very excited, made sure to dress nicely (not a small feat), and headed to Park Ave and 48th St. Upon entering the building, you need to sign in, go through a security check, and then I was personally escorted up to the 18th floor by an armed guard who did not seem amused by my small talk. He didn’t say a word back to me, or even look in my direction, and the elevator ride was very slow.

Upon exiting the elevator, and thanking my escort (still no sign of recognition), I went through yet another security check, got a ticket number like at the deli counter in a Key Food, and sat down at one of the benches. The Consulate General of Japan was not at all what I was expecting. I figured that it would go one of two ways: either it would be sleek and futuristic, like the lobby of some fancy hotel mixed with the first class section of an airplane, or it would be like the DMV, with horrible florescent lighting, bad linoleum, and office clerks who look like they want to die.

Instead, I walked into a room that reminded me of a study room in a new-ish library. Everything was made out of that light wood that IKEA adores, with warm low lighting, a cushy carpet, and lots of adorable handmade signs in Japanese with little cartoon dogs and smiling Obaachan faces. I would have loved to sit there for a little while, but almost immediately after sitting down my number was called by a friendly looking Japanese man who appeared to be about 60.

“Hi, I’m going to be travelling to Japan in January, and I’d like to get a sightseeing visa for about 6 months.” After doing a bunch of research online, I had found a bunch of places saying that this type of visa did, in fact, exist. The slightly bemused, slightly pitying, “Oh honey, you have no idea what you’re doing” smile the gentleman gave me was my first clue that, in fact, it did not.

“What are you going to be doing?” he asked me, clearly already knowing the answer.

“Just sightseeing and visiting my friends,” I answered confidently. My host told me that when applying for a sightseeing visa it was best not to mention the whole volunteering thing.

“You…. No,” the poor guy was clearly trying to find a polite way of saying ‘You’re extremely stupid and have no idea how immigration works’. “You need more purpose than that if you are going to stay that long.” And with that, he handed me a sheet of paper about the 90 days I can stay in Japan without a visa, and my much anticipated trip to the Consulate General was over in under 3 minutes.

I left the building defeated, giving sheepish looks to the security guards who didn’t seem surprised to see me leaving after such a short trip. At a loss of what to do with the rest of my day (I was expecting to be doing visa related activities for at least a few hours), I decided to buy myself a $24 pair of socks to make myself feel better. Now that I don’t smoke anymore, I find myself buying a lot of things that I don’t need. Retail therapy, I guess.


planning

I’ve never really planned a trip before. Actually, scratch that, I’ve only planned trips before. I’ve never been on a trip that I’ve planned before. I usually just sit around thinking about trips I want to go on: where would I go, what would I do there, etc. But then the plans get even more specific: how much would a flight there cost? Will I regret not bringing a swimsuit, or will it just take up space? Then all of a sudden it’s 3am and without realizing it I’ve planned out the budget and itinerary for a 2 week trip to Ireland complete with flights, several options for hotels, a timetable for a daytrip to Belfast, and a map of Dublin with “must-sees” underlined.

Of course, now that I’m actually going to Japan in January, this is the list I’ve put together:

       TO DO

  • Buy netbook
  • Buy camera
  • Quit smoking
  • Visa?

Maybe this was all just an excuse to buy the netbook.


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