Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I know I've been in Japan too long...

It's been almost a year since Martin and I first set foot in Japan and I began to think about how our life has changed and how differently we do things in contrast to this time last year. Here's a few to begin with...

1. I never wear shoes in my apartment or my friends' apartments.
2. When I go to friends' apartments I select my shoes on how easily I can get them on and off.
3. I own a pair of toilet slippers.
4. I prefer to eat noodles with chopsticks.
5. We own chopsticks and actually use them...occasionally.
6. In everyday conversation to English speaking friends I occasionally drop in Japanese vocabulary.
7. When I encourage Martin on the treadmill at the gym, I raise my fist and say "Gambatte Kudasai" with great fervour.
8. I have eaten raw fish, rice and tofu porridge for BREAKFAST and it didn't kill me.
9. I have eaten the poisonous Puffer fish and it didn't kill me either.
10. I buy ridiculously overpriced, individually wrapped carrots, onions and potatoes.
11. I quibble over buying a three sliced loaf of bread or a five sliced loaf of bread.
12. More worrying is that recently I have been thinking that a loaf with eight slices is way too big.
13. I wait patiently for the taxi cab door to swing open and close automatically. Much to the taxi drivers distress in the early days I would always try to open and close them myself.
14. I never, ever cross on the red man and always wait for the green man.
15. I get annoyed with foreign tourists who cross on the red man and eat in public.
16. I smile at every foreigner I see on the street.
17. I assume that every other foreigner I meet can speak English.
18. I ride my little green bicycle everywhere.
19. I even wear short skirts, tight dresses and high heels when I ride my little green bicycle and I do not look out of place.
19b. Unfortunately, I have not yet managed the art of holding an umbrella, texting a mobile message, hanging large shopping bags from the handlebars, carrying a passenger on the back wheel and wearing high heels all at once while riding my bike!
20. When I am thirsty I like iced green tea.
21. I pay an extortionate amount of money to sleep on a straw floor and rest my head on a rice pillow at a Ryokan but I love it.
22. I love onsens even more and don't mind being naked with lots of other Japanese people.
23. At 5'4" I feel tall. (That's the best!)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Good Life

With only the vaguest of directions, Martin and I headed off into the mountains in search of a pottery we saw advertised in the Jazz cafe at Yuki. Making our way through the twisting, one track roads we eventually found the pottery and its potter in her garden tending the bonsai and wearing a wide brimmed straw hat with lots of glossy black hair flowing from underneath. This was definitley the Japanese equivalent of Felicity Kendal in The Good Life.
We said we had come to see the pottery and she led us inside the most beautiful, traditional Japanese country house. There was a lovely stone entrance hall where we took off our shoes and then stepped up into the shop area which had a traditional clay cooking pit in the middle of the polished wooden floor. From this room, we were led into the main living area with tatami flooring, shoji screens and a veranda opening out onto the garden. The lady gestered for us to take a seat on the veranda, so we duly pulled up a straw cushion and sat down not knowing what to do. She magically reappeared in front of us bestowing a tray of iced green tea and homemade biscotti - pure bliss.

We immediately began to cool down sipping our iced green tea and admiring the view of the garden, the only noises interupting us were the occassional quacking of the ducks (well there would have to ducks wouldn't there?!) and the cutest little dog who wanted to nibble on our biscotti.

After taking as long as possible to finish our tea we browsed the pottery and decided to purchase a pretty little plate and salad bowl.

Yes, that is a real duck in the picture above! We put our shoes back on and headed out to the garden to admire the bonsai and look at the ducks, who had just produced the biggest silver blue duck eggs I have ever seen. I reluctantly said goodbye to this lovely little version of "The Good Life", although I briefly contemplated moving nearby and being just like Margo with Martin as my Jerry.

We drove on to an onsen village where we cooled down and admired the views of the valley from the Japanese baths. On our way back from the onsen we walked along the river and saw some fabulous flora and fauna.

We spotted this really huge butterfly with a wonderfully, intricate pattern on its wings.

We dabbled our feet in the cool river waters and then headed back to the city. It's not a bad life.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Some Random Pictures

On Monday we went to Onomichi which is about an hours drive away. However, it was so hot that the three of us had to abandon ship at 2pm and go home. We were among the few people on the street at time, I think the Japanese had the sense to stay indoors.

This is a one person van. I dread to think how it handles corners.

We drove back along the Inland Sea from Onomichi. It was really scenic and the views were beautiful.

On Wednesday we stumbled upon this cool little cafe in the mountains. I saw a frog on the front step but I was only mildly hysterical as it was really small and almost cute. It was about the size of an M&M and hopping along like it hadn't a care in the world. There was a little river beside the cafe that Julie and Martin dabbled their feet in but I was too afraid of the frogs so I stayed well indoors.

Yes, your eyes are not mistaken, that is a Porshe inside the cafe.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Summer in the city.

I realise that its been a while since I have posted anything on the blog and thought I had better do something about it before you all think it has been abandoned! I blame it on the heat, it really is terribly hot here. Today was 36 degrees but it is the humidity that makes everything much worse. By the time I get anywhere I have evolved into a big sweaty puddle. Really, it is just like living in a sauna and it's not even like you can get a tan, the sun is way too strong for that and there are very few green spaces around. Anyway, enough ranting about the heat.

On Saturday Martin and I decided to escape the metropolis and head for the mountains. It was lovely and green and a little cooler up there too. We sampled a cool little jazz cafe and ate one of the best beef curries I've had in a long time. Generally, the Japanese don't like spicy food so it is a real novelty to taste something with a hint of heat. Here are some pictures, we had a fine carbonara too. This should also prove that Japanese food isn't all about sushi - just like the Irish dont eat stew every night of the week. In fact I am surprised by how few sushi restaurants there are around and the good stuff is really expensive.

Kind of looks like it should be in the Alps or something doesn't it?

...and a tasty morsel it was too.

Martin dishing up the carbonara. This is yet another peculiar custom in Japan. Whenever you order a meal in a restaurant the food will be shared with whoever you are with. So a word a warning, never expect to get a whole plate of food sat in front of you. This is very irksome, especially when you're really hungry or just really greedy and want to eat the whole thing by yourself.

Birthday greetings to Sheena and Stuart. Sheena, if you were here we would take you for a special sushi dinner and then shoe shopping. Stuart, we wish we could go to Ascot with you and drink lots of Pimm's and Champagne - hope it isn't as hot as it was the last time!

Love until next time, Therese,xxx