This is Life

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I wanted to let you know that I am going through a very difficult time in life. I mean, sure, I have lots of things to be grateful for, but the truth is that when you are in last place in your hockey pool everything else seems pretty insignificant. This has never happened to me before so hopefully my team will recover, but it will be a long road back.

Other than that, things are going great here in Snow Country, Japan. It hasn`t actually started snowing yet and probably won`t for another month or so - in fact, it is about 19 degrees today - but they are definitely preparing this area for a lot of snow. My first sign was the teepees they build over all of their manicured trees. I guess the snow gets so heavy here that is breaks the branches. Another thing they do is put 2"x6" board up at the front of some buildings. I`m told that when the snow comes off the roof it piles up so high that the boards help the snow form a wall of sorts. I suppose we`ll see how it all goes down, but I`ll try and get some pictures up in the meantime.

Speaking of pictures, I have finally posted a bunch on my spiffy new photo site so please go and view them soon because they will be gone in a couple of weeks and replaced by new pictures from Kyoto!!! Anyway, the slideshow feature is pretty cool, but I have captioned all of the photos so you might just want to flip through them manually so you can read the captions. The pictures are from when I first arrived here at the end of July up until last week, when I travelled to Nikko ...

... which, funny enough, brings me to Nikko. Nikko is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and this usually means it is old, important, and cool, but sometimes means it is old and boring. In this case, it was pretty cool. Nikko is a sprawling complex of temples and it is set in a cedar forest, which also happens to have trees that aren`t only cedars. Japan is really pretty right now because the leaves are changing colours and it is very impressive. To tell you the truth, the reason you didn`t hear from me in October is because I tried not to do anything so I could save money for November when everything looks like a postcard. Oh, and I am also getting a new car in two weeks that I am really excited about. My new car is basically a Toyota Ecco and it is scary to think that I am excited about that, but trust me, it is a big improvement. I have also come to the realization that "cool" is most definitely a relative term.

Anyway, Nikko was a pretty cool place and it was definitely old, but it helps if you know some of the history and since most of you don`t care I am not even going to try to explain it. You`re welcome. I would like to go back and take a more thorough tour of the place, but it really is a pain to get to. If you are lucky, it is a 3-hour drive from where I live (each way). If you are the average person it is a 4.5-hour drive each way. If you are a really unfortunate chap then you are looking at 5-hours and up each way and you might as well get a hotel room because that, my friends, is not a fun day-trip. Fortunately, we were mostly lucky and had 3 hours there and 5 hours back. There is a hill you have to climb which took us 1.5 hours. That sucked. It is two lanes each way, but it is literally just switchbacks the entire way up and it is about a 500 meter rise in elevation, which takes some time in a car. Indeed, you are much better to walk. How do I know? I know because there was a guy who walked past our car at the bottom and then again on his way back from the top. That was a bit hard to take.

So, after that we decided that the best way to sooth our sore muscles was to take a dip in an onsen (hot spring), which are pretty much everywhere in Japan. Seriously, if you see a mountain then you can assume there will be at least one onsen nearby. My first experience with nude bathing was not as awkward as I expected, but thank goodness it was not mixed. A minority of the onsens here are mixed. Can you imagine how awkward that would be? Anyway, about the onsen we went to, well, it smelled a little. This town on the way back from Nikko has the oldest onsen in Japan (dating from somewhere around the 8th century) so we were keen to try it. The problem was that is was a bit sulphuric for our tastes, if you know what I mean. I sure some worse things exist, but having three people in a car smelling of rotten eggs has got to be up there. Next time I will be a little more selective with my onsens.

After that we went to a curry restaurant. It was quite unique in that it had a scale that rated how hot your curry could be. I accidentally ordered level 2 (out of ten) because I thought it was normal. In fact, normal was level zero. Level 2 offered a little extra stimulation, if I remember the description correctly. I guess you could say stimulation, but I prefer to say that it was really bleeding hot. The best part of the rating system was that you weren`t actually allowed to order anything above level 5 unless you had already been there and proven that you can handle level 5. I guess it is their way of certifying you or maybe it is a fire prevention strategy.

Ok, so that was a fun day and a nice way to start my November. As for October, well, one thing I can update you on is how things are going with me and my fiancee. I still haven`t quite sorted out her name and she hasn`t actually talked to me since then, but other than that things are great. Actually, I am beginning to think that she has completely forgotten that we ever even got engaged. I joke, but this is a point of Japanese culture worth discussing. At these things called "enkais" the Japanese go drinking with their colleagues and get really drunk. They completely lower the Japanese facade of etiquette and are basically given a free pass to say and do anything they like. It is a bit scary to think about and it is really odd. One night you are best friends with someone and then the next time you see them it was like nothing ever happened. I find it extremely amusing (and annoying).

Alright, with that I don`t have too much more to say. I should have another update up by the end of November and unless something goes disastrously wrong I should have some great photos. Remember, you`re comments are not only appreciated, but are also expected because I need someone to keep me company. Thanks.


Ok, this part was added after the fact, but I thought I should address the title of this entry. It was previously called something lame like, "News, News, News," but the truth was that I didn't have any earth-shattering news ... or did I? Well, apparently I did, but you can probably forgive me for forgetting it. You see, last week I experienced my first earthquake. Don't worry about me, I'm alright. The truth is that I slept trough it. I remember that sleep well, but no earthquake. I remember that my brother tried to instant message me on skype because I heard the barely audible beep, but noooo, not the earthquake. I am the lightest sleeper in the world - how could this happen. In case you can't tell, I am more than a little annoyed that I slept through my first earthquake because you only get so many practice runs. Everyone else here was asking me the next day, "Are you OK?" and "Did you feel the earthquake" and my only reply was, "What are you talking about?" Anyway, I am told it was not huge, but most definitely big enough to check for damage in buildings and at the very least, big enough to wake people up. Such is life, I suppose.


At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i like to eat cheerios and fruit loops. sometimes when im bored i'll eat icecream and cerealy together. GO FLAMES GO!!!!!!

At 1:16 AM, Anonymous Crustytuna said...

I don't think getting in to a rotten egg bath naked with strangers is very hygienic, if only because you'd probably never be able to tell in a hot spring if someone peed in the water. But then again, pee is sterile, so..


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