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Jul. 26th, 2009

Chopstick Taboos

I found this sign outside a store in Kyoto. Ever wonder if you are using your chopsticks in the polite way? You need not wonder any longer!

My favorite is the "Pillaging Chopsticks".

Kyoto Trips

I went to Kyoto with other foreign English teachers who are part of the JET program. It was consciously planned as a fun, temple-free weekend. The most strenuous activity we were to partake in was bar hopping.

Shopping – which cannot be considered a strenuous activity by any means – was to occupy our day light hours while the bars were our night time refuge. In between that we would be eating, walking, mass transit-ing (yes, that is a verb) and sleeping if we had the time.

I had never experienced Kyoto outside the touristy temples and shrines. I knew of the famous shopping area called Ginza but I had only seen it as a blur outside a bus window. I loved it so much that I went back again 4 weeks later!

A cute restaurant

Jason, KJ, Mitzi (and Anjeli who was next to me) had to wait out the rain in a coffee shop

Kyoto Tower in the background

The subway lines aren't very busy at 6am

That old guy must be a total party animal because every weekend I went to Kyoto he was in the bars until 6am with us. You really know he's hardcore because look at that young guy in purple. He's the face of intimidated!

There are lots of small rivers running through Gion

A beautiful morning in Kyoto!

We all sat down to enjoy a lovely lunch on the banks of the river...

...until a nearby eagle took an interest in our lunch and swooped down to try to steal Anjeli's hamburger out of her hands. Anjeli was lucky only to get a face full of wing.

Shopping in Sanjyu Keihan

This temple was in the middle of the shopping district that was pictured above

Need some kicks? I love all the colors!

A little restaurant that sells grilled meat on sticks and other delicious things that go well with beer

The second time I went to Kyoto, it was the 4th of July weekend. The Americans had to show their pride by singing the national anthem in a karaoke booth!

Can you tell what that says!?

We kept up our patriotic pride that night in the bars too!

We went to the cutest kaleidoscope museum! My favorite part was the kaleidoscopes that they projected onto the walls. The light was projected through the kaleidoscopes while they slowly turned to make the images dance and change before your eyes. It would me a magical night light for a child's bedroom. Heck, I wanted it for my bedroom!

Goodbye Kyoto!

Road trip back to Suzuka

Highways all look the same

Jul. 7th, 2009

Birthday Cake?

As a complementary service, the restaurant offered a birthday surprise for Terry. Boy, it was a surprise! A sweet loaf of bread with fruit and ice cream on top. Not the usual dessert.

Welcome to Mie

Sometimes there is nothing more than countryside in Mie Prefecture.

Random Pictures

I love the plants in Japan. They are so different from anything I have seen in Ohio!

The bike path I take to work every day.

Now you know he doesn't live in the North Pole. They've been lying!

Anjeli takes a picture of the local train.

My name either right side up or upside down.

Jun. 25th, 2009

Eco Hearse

A limousine company has revealed its plan to create hybrid hearses using the Toyota Prius as a base:

They will cost about 7.8 million yen ($80,000) each – Let the “eco” funeral boom begin!

Japanese Car Tree

Apparently a bird dropped a seed into a junkyard 25 years ago and a Japanese hackberry tree began to grow there, eventually lifting an old car into the air. Branches of the tree grew through holes in old car doors, lifting those as well. Workers at the junkyard have built a small fence around the tree, and are protecting it as it continues to grow.

--Japan Probe

Jun. 23rd, 2009

Cell Phone Internet

Many Japanese people access the internet through their cell phones. I work with quite a few people that have forgone ever buying a computer and simply use their cell phones for everything. And these are no blackberry phones they are using. Many people are simply using a normal flip phone. It boggles my mind! The cell phone is often the number one was to access the internet in Japan. Popular websites are ones for cell phone games and are widely used as a form of entertainment during train rides. It is rare not to see about a dozen people or more clicking furiously on their cell phones during a train ride.

These 2D bar codes called QR codes can be found everywhere from the backs of shampoo bottles, to advertisement posters, and even business cards. More interesting is that your cell phone can scan this bar code, which is associated with a website. Your cell phone scans it and then takes you to that website. The one pictured here will take you to Wikipedia. Convenient, right!?

May. 31st, 2009

The Contact with Contacts

When I went for contacts, I expected the experience to be different from America. For example, I am not the -1.00 prescription that I am in America, but a 0.3 prescription in Japan. The eye chart is not a series of random letters, but different C shapes with the hole facing in different directions. I expected different brand names. What I didn't expect was this:

When the guy came over to ask me about what brand of contact I wanted, I thought the differences were over at this point. I waited for him to get my brand and prescription out. I watched as he washed his hands and then ripped open the contact case. Just as I was about to ask him, "Hey, can I wash my hands too before I try to put these contacts in? I work with middle schoolers and you can never be certain where those kids have been," the man disappeared behind me. There was a slight pressure on my left temple as he tilted my head back slightly. With the contact resting on his middle finger, he pulled up my top eyelid with his index finger and pulled my bottom eyelid down with his ring finger. Then he said, "Open your eyes all the way," and boom, the contact was in. I blinked. And blinked again. Yeah, the contact was in but... did that guy really just stick his finger in my eye?! Did he really just put that contact in my head for me? You may be a license practitioner, but get outta my eyeballs dude!

Apparently this is how all appointments go.

May. 19th, 2009

Easter in Japan

Easter snuck up on us quickly! Just like I didn't let Mardi Gras pass with out a baby in a cake (okay, so it was more like a teddy graham in a pastry but I have to work with what I got in Japan) I wasn't going to let Easter pass without some serious egg decorating. Deysi was totally up for it. The rest of my American co-workers... not so much. That's okay because Deysi and I produced some pretty amazing eggs. Ignore the fact that they are totally toxic because of the paint markers we used on top of the dye.

Decorating eggs in my kitchen

Our favorites were the Predator (by me) and Master Chief (by Deysi)

Eh? Eh? Pretty good, huh? We do it for the boys.

But what are easter eggs without a day to hide them?! Therefore the first annual Barba-hanami-easter was created, which means it was a barbeque, a flower viewing (the sixth one for me) and an Easter celebration all rolled into one. Not only did we chow on great food, but we continued to decorate eggs and eventually had an egg hunt.

Deysi helps cook

Justin and Junko use the playground equipment

Junko made a rooster egg

Justin made a Spartan warrior egg

Dojima made a Doraemon egg (famous kids' cartoon)

Anjeli climbed a tree

It was a great Easter celebration!

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