An Unreasonable Temperature

January 15th, 2009 Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

Here in Gifu we have been experiencing a chillier winter than we did last year. We are seeing temperatures regularly dipping below zero (Celsius that is) at night. We even got what Gifu considers a “snowstorm” on Tuesday morning, nearly two inches of snow which were almost completely gone by mid-afternoon.

While I never felt that I was able to adapt to the summer, in fact, just thinking about this summer strikes fear in my soul. I hate the heat and humidity that Japan dishes up. I do feel as though I have adapted to the winter. It is chilly, without being ridiculously cold (a major shout-out to all of our friends and family in the Midwest dealing with unspeakable temperatures), except that it is chilly ALL THE TIME. Remember us telling you about the whole lack of central heating about this time last year??

However, I must say that when I woke up this morning and looked at the thermometer in my kitchen it told me that it was a balmy 5 degrees Celsius (40 degrees for you Fahrenheit folks). In my KITCHEN!! That, my friends, is a totally unreasonable temperature.

That is the type of temperature which makes it such that you can’t just sneak to the toilet quickly in the middle of the night without fully waking up. It is the type of indoor temperature which rudely robs you of your groggy state the minute you pull your covers back. It makes you question exactly how badly you have to use the toilet (and, as the pregnant lady, I must say that the answer is almost always, pretty badly). It is the type of temperature that means that even though you are only out of bed for only a minute or two, it is cold when you climb back in. As I said, completely unreasonable.

There are many things about Japan that I will miss. A total lack of central heating, and more importantly insulation, is definitely not one of them.

Ringing in the New Year

January 1st, 2009 Posted in Daily Living, Gifu-ken | 1 Comment »

Last year we abandoned Japan during the largest holiday of the year, New Years, in search of a more tropical place to spend our holidays. This year we decided to stay put to take part in the festivities of a traditional Japanese New Year. I say that we decided to stay put, but actually this was largely decided for us because of the little person happily growing inside of me making long travels to exotic places a non-option. Even though I would have loved to spend the holiday in a slightly warmer place, I am so glad that we ended up spending New Years the way we did and I think that this year will easily remain in my memory as one of my favorite New Years for many years to come.

The best part of the New Year was visiting a small temple with a very dear Japanese friend of ours, Tanaka. He is friends with the monk that cares for the temple, and thought it would be a good place for us to experience a traditional Japanese New Year.

After spending the night at Tanaka’s house eating traditional foods and watching the NHK New Years broadcast (very similar to the one in New York, although this one ends a bit before the turn of the clock to give families the chance to ring in the New Year together and make their way to a local temple), we got in the car to drive to a small temple about 15 minutes from his house.

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I Have Overcome

December 19th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | 1 Comment »

From my time in Japan, all 17 months of it, I can easily and clearly pick one day that was my ABSOLUTE worst day here. That day is still so vivid in my mind, as though it just happened yesterday. Picturing and thinking about that day is still enough to trigger an emotional reaction, practically bringing tears to my eyes.

Needless to say, it was hard this week, knowing that I had to return to the school where my worst day in Japan happened. I was scheduled to be at the school three days this week (Tuesday-Thursday) and as I watched those days creep closer and closer on my calendar my stress and tension increased. On Tuesday morning I woke up, knowing that I had to go, dreading the day, and I couldn’t make it through the morning without breaking down in tears.

I knew it was nearly impossible for the day to be any worse than last year, much less as bad, but I still didn’t want to face it. Aaron reminded me that I had to decide. I could decide to have a miserable day or I could decide to make the best of it. Sometimes he knows what he is talking about. I decided that I was going to practice some of the “letting go” and “relaxing” that my pregnancy books have been telling me about, knowing that letting go was as important to getting through the next three days as it will be when I give birth in a few months.

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The Gargle Hack

December 11th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living, Rant, School Life | 1 Comment »

Looking through the archives of this little blog, specifically the archives from our first few months here, I am surprised at how much culture-shocking we did. So many things were strange, we missed home so much, and it was difficult to cope, at times, with even simple nuisances in Japan.

This year, I feel that we are so much better adjusted to where we are and what we are doing. We have learned so much language and how to navigate our way through the many cultural differences that we experience. It is rare, now, that either of us have complete and total meltdown, I-hate-Japan days. Which is good, I think.

That is why it surprises me so much when I happen upon something that totally, completely bugs me about Japan. Something that I don’t think I could ever get used to or accept, no matter how long I lived or worked in this country.

And that thing is a little phenomenon that I call the Gargle Hack.

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The Last Island

December 6th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

Ever since our first vacation together as a couple, spending five nights camping on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, we have been island hoppers of a sort. We visited many islands around the U.S. (Channel Islands, Sanibel Island, Isle Royale) and then we set off to live in Japan where we have had the great pleasure of visiting so many more.

Well, tomorrow we are off to visit the very last main island of Japan. There are, of course, hundreds (if not thousands) of other smaller islands that we will not have a chance to see, but it was always our goal to at least visit the four main ones.

We will be heading down to Kyushu. The southernmost big island of Japan. We are looking forward to sampling some of the best ramen Japan has to offer (Fukuoka is famous for ramen) and seeing some of the sights in Nagasaki. Aside from that, we don’t really have any plans. We are taking this trip pretty easy, but I am sure that we will find a bunch to do once we are there. We will also, most likely, be spending some of our train time scanning the guide books finding out more about the area.

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I Don’t Understand

November 25th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | 1 Comment »

I have never really understood why some public toilets have cigarette ashtrays inside the stall. Do people really want to sit and relax in a place where the sole purpose is to shit and piss?

But this weekend, during our travels in Shikoku, I found a cigarette ashtray, used, inside the stall of a squatty potty. It is one thing to be able to sit and smoke on a western-style toilet, it is another thing entirely to squat and smoke. Had there not been ashes and butts in the ashtray I would have questioned whether or not people actually do this, perhaps the ashtray had just been installed in all the stalls regardless of toilet-type. But it actually had ashes and butts. So, I am really curious, who can squat, smoke, and pee all at the same time? Who would want to do this?

Going to Shikoku

November 21st, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

We are headed off for the weekend to visit one of the two remaining main islands of Japan that we have yet to set foot on. It is a goal of ours to be sure to visit each of the 5 main islands at least once before we leave. So, this weekend, a long 3-day holiday weekend, is the perfect opportunity to hit one of them.

This weekend we will be visiting Shikoku.

We are hoping to visit some famous Japanese gardens, eat some sanuki udon (famous in Kagawa-ken), visit a few of the temples on the famous 88 temple pilgrimage, and see the amazing Naruto whirlpools. It is a lot in one weekend, but it should be a really nice time.

I’m also looking forward to staying in a more upscale hotel for once. Since we did so much traveling last year, we had to do things a bit more on the cheap. This year we have been a little more connected to home and now that we have a chance to travel for a few days we decided to splurge a bit. It’s always nice to have a little treat, even if it is one you have to give yourself!

A Kick Ass Sunset

November 20th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

Not much to say today, I just want to share this picture with you. One day, last week, Aaron called me while I was comfortably curled up in bed trolling the internet to tell me to go outside and take a look at the sunset. While, initially, I was a little peeved to have to haul my ass out of bed to go look at the sky, I even thought that I might just say, yeah, yeah, it was beautiful without ever really getting up.

But I did, eventually, get up and the moment I opened the door and looked out over our balcony I was glad I did. Because that was what I saw.

The funny thing is, I am not the only one that appreciated that sunset. I have seen a small handful of these very same pictures floating around on other blogs and facebook pages of those that live around us. Actually it makes me kind of glad, that something so spectacular in the sky is enough to make loads of people stop, admire and photograph.

What November is Like

November 12th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

We get a lot of questions from folks back home about the weather. What is it like in Japan this time of year? Do you have the same seasons as us? And so on.

Well, we do have, roughly the same seasons. Although they seem quite delayed according to our Midwest standards. Right now, for example, our region of Japan is just starting to experience fall. This coming weekend is supposed to be peak for fall colors. From what I understand, back in our hometowns, fall is something of a thing of the past.

Today our high was about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. A perfectly lovely temperature. The low was about 48 degrees. We have yet to see a frost and we have just started to pull out the hats and gloves for those chilly commutes in the morning.

But what floors me most about this time of year, is how much is still growing. Back home, by mid-November, the gardens are finished, the foliage is dried up, and the blooms are gone. Here it is quite a contrast and I really appreciate the fact that flowers and other greens continue to speckle the landscape keeping the whole thing slightly more cheery despite the early darkness. Sunset, for those interested, is at 4:48pm today. Sunrise was at 6:25am. Tomorrow will, tragically, be 1 minute and 42 seconds shorter. I think it is only a matter of time before the blooms that I adore will be gone.

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Take Two

November 10th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

All the time I am looking for new things to blog. New sights that we’ve seen, new experiences that we’ve had, things that I want to both share and remember. Writing those things down always proves to be a great way to be sure that they don’t disappear into the ether. This year I am finding it a bit more difficult to find new things to share. After all, most things we experience now are things that we are experiencing for the second time, rather than the first. What seemed interesting and noteworthy the first time around, doesn’t seem quite so the second.

On one hand this lack of new and noteworthy makes me sort of sad, on the other hand it shows me that I’ve adapted, that I’ve settled in, and that I’ve somehow, despite the fact that I thought it was never really possible, come to see Japan as my version of normal.

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