Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Most Confusing Time of the Year

Yep, I kinda got behind a little again. It was a crazy busy week last week. Just to let you know that I'm still here, I'll share my latest status update on Facebook. It went like this:
My complex feelings related to Christmas are here early this year. Magic, sadness, joy, longing, warmth, coldness, childlike giddiness, tired-adult-like-over-it-ness, happy memories, sad reflections. All with the desire for an eggnog latte that will not materialize, no matter if my Santa is bigger than yours. Still, this chai tea warms my hands and balances the swirl of contradictions in my soul. Let it snow?
Just a warning that we are soon heading into the confusion known as Christmas in Japan, complete with Christmas cake, advanced reservations for KFC chicken, 8 fewer reindeer, Valentine's Day-like romance on Christmas Eve, and presents on pillows from a Finland-based Santa who's never heard of the North Pole. Good times, hopefully with pictures and regular-ish blogging. Maybe.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Weekly Winners, Naoshima Island

Since before I even got to Japan this time, I knew that I wanted to visit nearby Naoshima Island. It's an artsy island with a whole lot to love. I knew that whenever it was that I finally went that there would be a gazillion pictures. I took 260. Of those, about 70 were my favorites. Of those 70 favorites, I narrowed them down to these, collaging them where I could in order to reasonably fit more into one blog post.

It was a mid-week national holiday (November 3rd, Culture Day, appropriately enough, though I hadn't thought about it at the time), the weather was not too hot and not too cold, and the sun was shining brightly. Ours was a group of people who were all kind of friends of one person in the group but who didn't all know each other, yet somehow all 5 of us were completely on the same page about where to go and what to do next, and we all had the same sense of humor. Everywhere we went on the island, it seems we were, thankfully, just leaving as a tour group was coming. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. Nor the weather. Or the company. Or pretty much every. single. thing. about the entire day.

You know those kinds of days that were just special somehow that you know you'll have cherished memories of forever? This was that kind of day. OK, on with the picture show!

Ferrying from Uno to Naoshima

Torii, Naoshima

The Pumpkin
(pictures of this were the main reason I wanted to visit)

Glass Cubes at Bennesse House

Planty Stuff

This Kind of View, Most of the Day

Bikes of Many Colors for Rent
(many are electric, which is smart, considering the hills)

I Love Yu
This is a new onsen with a play on words. Yu (湯 or ゆ) means hot water/onsen/hot springs. The place has a very arty and old porn theme. Don't ask me. Since there was nobody in the bath when we got there (one step ahead of a bunch of high school girls on a school trip - again, good timing), I managed to finally sneak a shot inside an onsen that you can see in the bottom right shot. You shower first, then soak in bliss.

The Other Pumpkin

Bikes, Noodles, Curry and Ivy

The Fish (a re-post)

Reuse, Recycle, Colorfully
(if you can't tell, this is the "junk" that makes up the above fish)

Friday, November 05, 2010

Haiku Friday, A Fish From Afar

Haiku Friday

A colorful fish
looks cool enough from afar.
Now look more closely.
One man's mix of trash
red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black.
is another's art.

(These were taken before boarding the ferry to artsy and awesome Naoshima Island. There will be a gazillion more pictures in posts coming soon.)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Goodbye Crazy Clown

The end of an era, brief though it may have been, unless you consider 14 months a long time, came and went without any cheesy fading sound effects. There were no goodbyes. There were no one more last times. One day, it simply ceased to exist while I went about my life thinking it would be there forever, or at least for the remaining 10 months that I plan to live in my tiny town. Even when common sense said it was likely gone, like when attempting to go there and seeing that all the lights were off, I was in denial, thinking that maybe the owners were away tending to Important Business of some sort and that it would be open in a few days. I dialed the number, but like any good country song, nobody answered. Like any obsessed lover, I tried again and again over the next few days. How could it just be gone, just like that? Maybe if I'd visited more...

The mountains and rice fields are gorgeous, but there's not a whole ton of fun on offer here in my tiny town out in the inaka, but the one thing we did have was what I always called the Crazy Clown Horror Movie Motel Karaoke Place. I even mentioned it once. You would've had to have seen it to fully get it, maybe. It just looked like this creepy old motel where someone would die violently if it were a movie, and there was a strong clown motif woven into the colorful fabric of oddity and weirdness. While being walked to our karaoke room here once, I asked if the place used to be a motel where a lot of people died in some freaky way and her response was dressed skimpily enough in very polite Japanese that I could see that she meant "huh?" and "um, yah, no." All of the unintentional weird, scary, odd, crazy, laughable and just general wtf-ness made this place so much fun. It was cheaper than many places, only a bike ride away instead of about 45 minutes by train to the next closest place, and it was something truly special and unlike anything else about my tiny town.

And then suddenly, it was gone.

The good news is that shortly after this sadness I found the joy of the log cabin with pasta and waffles (yah, I don't get it, either) in town. Now, if only they'd open a karaoke section.