ikinasai
19 July 2006 @ 12:14 am
Sunday: We had hoped to go to out some that morning, but ended up sleeping into the afternoon and just taking it easy until finally getting ready and leaving. We headed into Yokohama to catch a firework display for Japan's national holiday, Marine Day. One of Saakshi's friends knew someone who had an apartment near the harbor in Yokohama and there was going to be a party on the roof. We headed down to meet them with Saakshi's brother on a very very crowed train. It wasn't quite literally packed, but it was close. many of the girls had on their yukata and I regretted not bringing mine and wearing it....it will never wear it..!! We got to Yokohama and waited for he friends for a while, and once we met up with them went in search of alcoholic beverages.


We stopped at a "Don Quxiote" market and picked up some juice and Chu-hi's. I got some macadamia chocolate as well. No one else was getting food, but I saw it and had to get it. I ended up sharing most of it throughout the evening after a comment made by Saakshi's friend Julia, "This would be perfect if we had some chocolate..." and I did. It was great.

The apartment building had a great location and we all watched the fireworks from the roof.




I'm not sure if we even indirectly knew the people with the food on the roof, but I took some anyway, and probably finished off a whole loaf of bread. I love bread. Even with the loaf of bread, I found myself quite surprisingly tipsy after only one Chu-hi. I think these things have the alcohol content of beer, but the are very quick with their effects. Saakshi wants to import them. I'd invest! It was a fun party though.

After the fireworks ended we eventually went downstairs to some apartment.

I'm not sure if we knew the people or not, but we sat around on the couches and sang loudly to songs Saakshi's brother put on the stereo. Like "Wonderwall" which I appreciated. I'd been listening to this song A LOT in the previous days and hearing it played at this party was one of those strange moments where things just seem too coincidental to be truly a coincidence. I have come to accept the fact that Wonderwall may just possibly be the best single in the history of man. I don't know why. It just is.


What a great time.

Afterward, we planned on taking the last train home, but soon decided a Karaoke night was in order. We convinced Julia, her brother and cousin to come so we headed back to Roppongi. The train ride was hilarious. Saakshi's brother is one of those rare people who is both clever enough and bold enough to get away with anything, so we all listened to his crazy stories and made a scene on the train. This is him... drink in hand. On the train.


And who the hell is this guy? And what is he doing wearing an F&M t-shirt? We truly live in a crazy small world. Crazy.


Karaoke was great, as usual. It was supposedly the place where the Karaoke scene in Lost in Translation was filmed, but I looked it up later and I don't think it was. We paid for unlimited drinks within an hour... and Saakshi's brother was a little impatient with the service and ended up scaring them quite a bit I think. But it was wonderful and a lot of fun. The whole weekend really has made me wish there were more like that to do in Lancaster. It was so much fun.

Saakshi and I took a cab home. He apparently took the long way, and Saakshi told him this... she ended up haggling him into not only turning off the meter at 3,700 yen, but also giving us only a 3,000 yen fee when it probably should have been upwards of 5,000 at 3 in the morning.
 
 
Current Location: Yokohama, Roppongi
Current Mood: goodgood
Current Music: Oasis - Wonderwall
 
 
ikinasai
18 July 2006 @ 02:23 am
I ended up sleeping in later that I had planned-- got up around 12 or so. Saakshi took me to the Olympic park, home of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. I can see how it was probably great in the 60's, but like so many other buildings from that era, now it's an eyesore. However, I'd never been to an Olympic park before, so it was interesting in that regard.


We walked around it but it started to rain so we came back home just before a horrible downpour (reminded me of PA weather, but I hadn't seen lightening so bad since I've been here). When the rain subsided we headed to Shibuya, Omotesando and Harajuku. There were so many people, and the advertisements were crazy. This was one of the streets in Lost in Translation-- the scramble crossing with the dinosaurs walking across the building, which is the one behind me. 1500 people cross at each light change (just a little under my whole school....)-- 250,000 per day.


Insane is really just the best word for the whole city. Incredible, but insane. People pretty much do whatever the hell they want; but that's not so surprising. I'm from Santa Cruz afterall. But what surprises me is how many people are crazy-- I don't know how they have the money for this lifestyle. I don't know what they can possibly do when they are not down here shopping. I don't know how this culture is sustainable.


(That's not a girl by the way). I, of course, did some shopping too. I eventually let myself try on crazy things that were way more expensive than I could ever afford, but it was fun.


I ended up getting 3 skirts... and spending less than $30 for all 3. I am just good like that. I really like them as well.

We went to the Meiji Shrine. Very very strange contrast. At the entrance to the large wooded area the shrine is located in there were "goth" kids sitting around and doing nothing but posing for pictures with the tourists. At the shrine, there was a traditional Japanese bride and groom. This mind boggling contrast is Japan.

After shopping and people watching, we came home and got ready to go out. We had some food and then headed to Roppongi, a notorious nightlife district. What happens in Roppongi is too insane to stay in Roppongi, so I've heard all sorts of stories and I will share mine.

We met up with some of Saakshi's friends... we all knew at least one person in the group, but we didn't really know each other that well. We were all "gainjin" but most of the girls had lived in Japan for a number of years. It wouldn't have mattered either way. Tokyo, and especially Roppongi, is incredibly international. We wandered around for a while looking for a good place to start. There were all sorts of guys-- Nigerians, I learned, trying to usher us into various bars or clubs with promises of free shots or cheap drinks. Of course, given my company were well traversed Roppongi girls, they listened seriously to the offer, questioning its validity and demanding to see the "promises" carried through. It was funny. We ended up going to a small one on a 5th floor-- there were the 6 of us girls and a large bouncer in an elevator the size of a closet.

As an aside, the Japanese may be very private people, but their lives are dominated by instances in which personal bubbles are straight-out popped. I found it very uncomfortable at first, but eventually you just deal with it.

The place was loud and dark, and with a Kampai, we started the evening night off with Kamikaze shots (I certainly wasn't going to order these in a bar in Japan!! But they were free). I felt a little left out at first, and couldn't hear anything over the music. I watched Ocean's Twelve with Japanese subtitles... trying to read. After a while we met up with 2 other girls and went looking for a better place. We wandered around quite a while, going to four or five places before deciding to go to one of the newer clubs in the area. There was a cover charge which I wasn't thrilled to pay (only included 2 drinks), but the music was good and so I obliged. The place was cool and I was glad to have went.


Although, this was my first experience with "model culture." I didn't think about it at first, but I kept on seeing several very very skinny odd-looking girls running around the place and I had thought to myself that they were probably models. But after a while I realized the upper level was a VIP level, and it was filled with only models. It was crazy. I did let it bother me for a while and kept watching all these beautiful people to whom I couldn't compare. I wasn't looking to get hit on, but all the guys were enjoying looking at the models anyway.


But eventually I stopped caring and let myself enjoy the evening. It was fun. I don't do that type of thing a lot. First of all, it's not really my type of thing, but secondly, Lancaster has no places like this. It's actually kind of sad. There doesn't seem to be any happy medium between nasty college parties (...I just think of crappy beer spilling on me :-P ) and subdued bars (cheap or expensive ones).


In an effort to curb expenses we headed over to a convenience store and got Chu-hai's (chew-hi). As foreigners, there aren't really any regulations prohibiting drinking in public so we stood outside the convenience store with our drinks. Occasionally we'd get asked about good clubs in the area and the girls would harass the guys. And then there was the customary random picture.


We also had to take a picture with one of the locals. "Sumimasen..." says Saakshi with determination... "Shashin onegaishimasu!" I have no idea what this was about, but there were crazy girls like this running all over!

We went back to Feria and danced some more. After a while, we decided to run all over the building. One of the upper floors was ok to go, but we were in search of the roof. We made it to the top floor and convinced one of the security guys were just wanted to look for a friend, and he let us. We went to a Ruby Lounge or something which was mostly empty and quiet and sat down and asked some Japanese men the table over to take our picture.


We started to socialize in an attempt to not get kicked out. The guys invited us to an exclusive party on the 53rd floor of one of the nicest buildings in the area. One of the men was a restaurant or club owner and Saakshi asked him if he was Yakuza (apparently, many, if not all of the owners of the places in Roppongi are Yakuza). He wasn't, but that's the type of crazy question you just don't ask men you don't know in a lounge you don't belong in. Eventually we did get kicked out, so we went back to the top floor. Instead of going to the elevator we simply kept walking through a door that led out to the roof. It was getting light out. I think it was probably 3 or 4 in the morning at that time. I took some picture quickly before the security guard came out. Again, we tried to socialize. We learned he was from Hiroshima, which was where the girls were planning to go next weekend, so they asked him where they should go and as a fellow Hiroshima-jin, could he take our picture, please pretty please? The poor guy just wanted us out of his hair so he wouldn't get fired, but he did take out picture.

Back downstairs eventually, and at 5 am, the party was over and we all went outside. Good morning, Roppongi. It was disgusting. There is something deeply wrong with leaving a nightclub or bar or any nighttime establishment when it's light out. We all decided to go get some Ramen and then take some of the first trains home. We got back around 7:30 and fell into bed.

(Now go look at Emily behaving like an average 21 year old, shared on the public medium and social disease of my generation, FACEBOOK)

I love how when you scroll down there are chimpanzees. Average, I say?
 
 
Current Location: Shibuya, Harajuku, Roppongi
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: TV on the Radio - Staring at the Sun
 
 
ikinasai
17 July 2006 @ 11:45 pm
So many wonderful things to tell. I will start with Friday and try to keep updating this weekend into next week. (more pictures from this day here ...page 2!!)

Having sleepy crappily, I got up at 4:40 in the morning, subconsciously paranoid about being late I suppose. I got up, got a shower and then headed over to the lab to meet Hattori-san at 6. As much as I hate mornings, I loved being up that early. It was a beautiful day. We caught a bus to Kyoto station. Sitting at the bus stop, Hattori told me that Matsuzawa's a bit of an official person so I was to call him Professor Matsuzawa. I'm not sure why she told me this-- I've been careful to always call everyone "sensei" when I should, even when everyone else uses "san." I don't know, but I told her I would and that his "officialness" had been part of my initial impression. From Kyoto-eki, we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagoya. It was fun-- sort of like being in a plane that never left the ground, or at least that's what I can best compare it to. "Ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to the Shinkansen" says a recorded message. Female voice. British accent.


It was a short 40 minute ride and then we took another train and then a taxi (first time in Japan) to the Primate Research Institute. It was about 8:30 am when we got there, and it was very very quiet. We changed out of our shoes and into boots and then were ushered into one of the testing rooms where I first came encountered Ai and Ayumu, a mother and son chimpanzee. Hattori and I sat behind a thick plastic wall, but as soon as the two came into the enclosure they pounded strongly against the wall-- not so much because of "new people" but just as their testing habit. Either way, it was a bit intimidating. They are strong animals, even Ayumu, the young one. The test was interesting to watch, though I didn't get to take any picture or video of it... I got the impression that I wasn't supposed to. After the touch screen tests, one of the grad students entered Ayumu's side the the enclosure and "rough-housed" with him for a while before having him play with blocks and imitate her. I was surprised about her level of interaction with the chimp. She treated him like a little brother, and pushed him around and they both playfully beat each other up. I think she may have even gently gnawed on him, or at least buried her face in his hair. It was very cool to watch.

I spent some of the time in the basement on the computer while Hattori prepared her own experiment, but then watched some of the other experiments with the "mother-child" pairs. At one point, Prof. Matsuzawa gave an injection to one of the mothers. I was told this was nothing but physiological saline, and just training for the animals-- they are given effectiveless shots of saline several times a week to get them comfortable with the process so it is as least stressful as possible when they need a real shot. They also like to drink the physiological saline. I loved watching Matsuzawa's interaction with the chimps. He acted very much the father towards them-- stern but also caring deeply about their well-being and also very much amused by their antics. Wonderful. He talked to me about several of the types of experiments taking place at the research institute involving the chimps, showed me around a little and of course got me a paper towel when one of the chimps in the process of being returned to the enclosure (through passage ways that run across the ceiling of the basement) spit water all over my face. I had lunch with Hattori at the cafe at the research institute and I told her about my Neuroscience lab experiences and we talked about cultural differences and personal preferences regarding animals in labs. It was very interesting. I met up with another familiar name, Prof. Tomonaga (found him a bit surprising!) and he showed me his visual perception experiments.

I met up with a grad student from France who showed me around the facilities towards the end of the afternoon. She was very friendly and talked to me about all the animals and some of the history of the facilities. I finally got to take some pictures of the animals. Here are some of the chimps.




And these are the amazing facilities. PRI sits on top of a mountain in Inuyama. I was impressed by the view and thought sitting at the top of the structures and watching the sun go down would be where I would be if I were an animal here.



I went to find Hattori after the tour. She was in Matsuzawa's office, talking about concerns about getting a job and research. The conversation wasn't directed at me at all-- but they both began speaking in English soon after I came and sat down with them. I was a little anxious to leave because it was already just about 6 pm, but I liked listening to Prof. Matsuzawa and thought he had good advice. He talked about the difference 30 years can make in even the small field of comparative psychology. Someday soon I will move onto a much much larger community, but for now it's fun to play like I belong. And one thing I've learned on this trip so far is what a strange community it is. Not bad. Just.... very interesting.

Hattori and I finally made it out and back to Nagoya where I ran quickly to a Tokyo-bound Shinkansen and she wished me off. It was busy, and I didn't manage to get a seat. I stood/sat next to the door and some lady with a kitten in a cat-carrier. I love trains, but it was a miserable hour and a half for 90$. I met up with my friend Saakshi, from my Japanese class at F&M. She lives in Tokyo, well specifically Jiyuugaoka.


We went back to her home station where her parents picked us up and took us back to her house. They live in a relatively quiet area, though it seems to be conveniently located. I had some good Indian food and talked with her parents some, then went to sleep. What a day...
 
 
Current Location: Inuyama & Jiyuugaoka
Current Mood: blahblah
Current Music: Travis - Re-Offender
 
 
ikinasai
15 July 2006 @ 01:03 am
Weds: Another day at work. I don't like how these days become hard to remember as they become more normal-- and even though there was not much that went on today, I still feel like I can't remember many of the details from yesterday. I rode up to a larger grocery store and got some things for lunch, which I took and ate in either a park or a courtyard of an apartment complex. I'm not sure which. On my way back to work, I encountered some construction workers in the middle of a house demolition.


I don't know why, but I watched for a while. It was the first "inside of a Japanese house" I'd seen, and it was strange that I was only able to see inside because there was no front wall. They pulled apart the walls and the floors, as well as the remains of a piano. I had no attachment to this building-- I had never seen it before. Yet those types of projects can be very sad sometimes. This house was once someone's childhood home. Maybe. Or maybe some old lady lived there for years and she finally died and no one wanted to take responsibility for the house so they sold the property. Either way... any way...

I also remember that I left work early with the intent on going on a bike ride because it was a nice warm evening, but ended up falling asleep for 3 hours instead. I've been staying up too late. That nap probably accounts for my inability to remember much -- both because it ate up a significant part of my evening, and also because of the "clean slate" effect sleeping usually has. I stuck around my room for a while, but then left around 10:30 for a bike ride. It was a good evening for one and I was out until 12. I didn't get lost, but I ended up in a residential neighborhood looking and the houses... and trying to see inside. The Japanese take privacy to whole new levels. I have yet to even look in a window. The glass is all frosted and the windows are kept to a minimum. The doors do not have glass-- or if they do, it too is frosted. There are shutters on the windows, and many people have bamboo mats keeping the sun out as well. Most of the houses have large fortress-like walls around them. I find it disappointing. I like looking into houses at night from the street as I pass. They reveal little moments of people's lives that one would ordinarily never see.

The neighborhood was also very very quiet. There was whirring sound of my bike light, crickets, and the occasional sound of water rushing (open trenches for water drainage are everywhere. It's unusual to see but I like the omnipresence of water in this country). But other than that, it was just me and an iPod-less silence. Most of the lights were off as well. I didn't even see the white-blue flickering light from televisions. I thought for a while how perfect the neighborhood would be around Halloween time. But of course they don't have that holiday here (but I know they'd do it well!). The thought however reminded me of Lancaster fall, which I've come to love thoroughly.

I headed home but passed the semi-demolished house again. It was a closed construction site in the dark of night. I wanted to trespass so badly, but there were occasional pedestrians that kept me out.

Thursday: Work again as usual. Had Mos Burger for lunch. I wanted to get a sandwich from the student store, but nothing looked appetizing. While I was in there, did the full on watch-me-as-I-passed stare. It was blatant and I tried not to make eye contact. I think he was a little strange. I worked some on my bookkeeping and then went to the seminar in the evening. One of the students had brought edamame (fresh, edible soybeans-- the Japanese equivalent of Bar nuts), which I liked. One of the girls made a comment about my pile of shells and said that I'm really Japanese. I thought it was funny. I just was hungry.

Afterward, I made some plans for the weekend. These plans include a trip to Inuyama, Japan and the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute, and then from there I'm going to Tokyo to visit with a friend from my Japanese class. In making these plans though, I think I had to run out on some plans I had made with the undergraduates I'm friends with to go see Gion-Matsuri, a big festival in Kyoto. I wasn't aware it was an on-going thing-- thought it was only a big parade which will be on the 17th, but I think I was wrong. Oh well. I feel bad about that... Anyway, I went to go see what I could see of the festival since it was a nice night. I biked down to Shijo and walked around for a while. There were a lot of people, and lots of girls all dressed up in Yukata (not these girls though!) but I wasn't too impressed by any of the "floats" or anything.




Still good to see though. I ended up wandering into this shop that was selling Japanese wall-hangings for only 1500 yen so I decided to get one. The store was also selling Yukata, and because almost every other girl was wearing one, I finally gave into "Pretty" and decided to get one. I'll just get a cheap one, cause I'll never wear it again. I looked at the ones that were 2000 yen (a little under $20) but didn't see any I liked. I decided to open up my price range a little, including some upwards of $30. I looked around for a long time and finally found one I really liked. Then of course I had to go get an Obi -- a sash worn around the waist, and then another decorative band/rope thing. Those were about 1500 and 1000 yen respectively. I went to check out, decently satisfied with my purchase (although I felt totally lost when I was picking out an Obi color... they usually "clash" a little with the kimono or yukata, but look really good in spite of that. However,all the ones that I picked seemed to clash in the worst way possible... I went for something neutral instead). When the cashier pulled up my total, it was 11,300 yen! She had charged me 8,800 for the yukata. It was probably an error on her part, but I hadn't paid attention to the rack I had pulled it from, so-- being the overly-flustered-when-something-goes-wrong person that I am, just left and kicked myself for dropping nearly over $100 on something I will never wear. Yes it's pretty. Yes I did take it out of package and try it on roughly before going to bed and I liked it, but I will never wear it again after I leave. Oh well. But I will get some pictures up of it eventually.... it's not good for much else. Ah well. Damn "Pretty" that I just had to give into.

I went down towards Kyoto station to get myself some more cash for the upcoming trip. Riding back took longer than expected because many of the streets were closed off or blocked due to the festival. It was a pain. I just wanted to get home and get some rest. I didn't get to sleep until 2 am though... and then slept miserably.
 
 
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Chris Isaak - Wicked Games
 
 
ikinasai
11 July 2006 @ 11:44 pm
These last two days have been uneventful. Spending most of my days physical down in the lab running monkeys, but my head buzzes far far away. I feel less phased by state of mind differences in communication; still frustrating sometimes, but it's become part of my routine...necessary part of my day. My monkeys are still performing at chance level. They get about a third of the way into the sessions and then stop and pick at their hands and feet in the corner. Some part of me really empathizes. I remember organic spectra analysis. I'd work with it for so long and think I got it right only to find out it was completely wrong. And then I'd sit and pick at my hands, with my brain simply refusing to do any more. These guys get fed at the end of the day whether they learn a task or not. But of course they get the little bits of sweeter food for learning right. Maybe I too will get something substantial at some point, something that amounts to sustenance, with these silly little achievement awards that are good grades as nothing more than little cubes of sweet potato and apple.

Today was worse than yesterday. I haven't said that in a while. But it was, hands down. Yesterday was nothing noteworthy. Today was just not a lot of fun.

It started out pretty good though. But then work. And was afflicted with decently bad cramps... I went to get some food and something cool to eat with hopes that that might help (I hate medicine and did not bring anything). I ended up putting away my sushi and Italian ice cup in my fridge and taking a nap for 45 minutes in the middle of the afternoon. It helped. I brought the food back to work and ate and worked a little bit more, and then headed over to meet with another Japanese comparative psychologist to discuss plans for me to go visit a big primate research institute about 2 hours from Kyoto.

I was due to meet with Tetsuro Matsuzawa 15 minutes before he was due to give a talk on campus. I didn't feel particularly nervous during the day. I've been here a month and a half, I told myself, the language doesn't scare my anymore. I found where the talk was supposed to be easily enough, but there were already a lot of people around, and it looked like people were signing in or registering or something. I completely lost my nerve and ran and hid in the bathroom for a while, trying to calm down and get a hold of myself. I managed and went and asked told the people at the desk that I had plans to meet Matsuzawa-sensei... They asked if it was an appointment, I said it was (even though he hadn't replied to my email). The told me to go in... but of course I had no idea who I was looking for. I felt incredibly stupid but they eventually pointed him out to me. Luckily after the first line of my Japanese introduction he said we could talk in English. Thank God. I said he would talk with me later after his talk, and invited me to stay.

I tried to find a place in a corner to hide, but settled for a place along the wall. I figured I'd go get something to drink and nervously play around with that for the duration of the talk, but when I went over to the refreshment counter, the lady asked for some number card that I had not picked up at the front table. I didn't get it at first, and said all I wanted was some water and then fled back to seat completely embarrassed and once again losing my composure. To make it worse, the seat I had picked was right in front of some stupid fake tree so that was hitting my head. Finally some people next to me came and tried to move it out of my way, and I felt stupid again for not doing that in the first place. I tired very hard not to make eye contact with anyone and dug my nails into my hands just trying to not completely fall apart. I'm soo awkward.

The talk was relatively easy to understand, and interesting. Matsuzawa talked about his chimpanzee research and I'd say pretty successfully convinced the audience that they are all less talented than his animals. Convinced me at first, but then I thought "Well, hell, if I had nothing to do all my life but memorize stuff, I'd be damn good and damn fast too." That's not to undermine any of the work-- it was incredible to watch and very surprising, I just felt that part of it was that the tasks were novel to us audience whereas the chimps have done it millions of times. Novelty effect... or some other jargon term.

Afterward, I waited for a few minutes, but then sat down with Matsuzawa with some "milk tea" and talked about my school, my future plans, our mutual acquaintance, Kyoto, and Lancaster. In English. Thank God. He was very nice-- I'd say the typical Japanese gentleman. I think he was more what I was expected of Fujita when I came here. I'd say they both can be intimidating, but in very different ways. Hmmmm ;-)

But I need to stop drawing parallels between my professors over here and my professors back home!

I will be going to the research institute this Friday. I'm looking forward to it. I think it should be fun.

I went back to the lab to pick up my stuff and head back home. It was after 8:30, and I was met with a full lab. Although I hadn't spent a lot of time there today, between my lunch trip and lab, and then the talk and discussion, there had not been a full lab at any point that afternoon. And here, and nearly 9, everyone was present. I had to stop myself from saying, "What are you all still doing here??" They probably all think I'm such a slacker for not putting in as many after-dark hours as they, but I don't care. It's ridiculous.

I was happy to come back home though I was still really anxious. Then I got molested:


This guy was quite large and he flew right onto my hip. It would have been funny if I was one of those girls who freak out when they see bugs. Oh well.

I took a long, long bath and a very full bathtub. Even dragged my laptop right outside the bathroom door and brought the speakers inside with me. I finally was able to relax. Afterward, I went to got some frozen mandarin orange slices and green tea ice cream. Ah, feeding addictions.
 
 
Current Mood: okayokay
Current Music: Travis - Writing To Reach You
 
 
ikinasai
10 July 2006 @ 05:56 pm
I got a slow start Sunday morning. It's becoming a habit, but whatever. This is my summer vacation and slow starts are part of that.

I started out on my bike. I don't know what prompted my decision, but I decided to wear a skirt today, and try once again to bike with it on. It did work better than the last time.

I decided to go out in search of a golden temple or something. I don't know much about it, but it's one of those things to see in Kyoto that I haven't yet hit up. I biked over to my bakery and got some breakfast (it was mid afternoon...) and took it again to the Imperial Palace to eat. There are simply not too many other places to sit and relax and eat outside around here. I could probably have found somewhere, but I was hungry.

I biked west looking for the temple. I saw a street sign that pointed on direction, but me being who I am, decided I'd try to find a different route than the main road. "The Scenic Route."

The Scenic Route took me farther west than I had intended. In an attempt to figure out where I had gotten to, I biked up a hill and to a different temple instead. This one was apparently famous for its Zen Rock Garden. I decided since I was there, I would have a look around. It was a pretty place and I took several pictures of the pond (which was apparently famous for having lots of Mandarin ducks in it... "until recently." Made me wonder what happened to them...) and the landscaping.



Eventually I came to the temple and went to see the zen garden. I dont know what I was expecting, but it was probably one of the least impressive things I've seen here. Maybe I'm just not "deep" enough. I don't think that's it though. I can and do appreciate simple, natural beauty, which I've always felt was at the core of Zen beauty. But this garden struck me as sterile, not just simple. In a place filled with beautiful trees, plants, flowers, and animals, the rock garden seemed out of place and artificial.

Since I haven't seen any others besides this, I'm not sure if this is typical. I can see how something like it would be very beautiful in a place like Arizona (or even somewhere near the ocean!) where the rocks are a beautiful and present part of the natural landscape. But this garden felt constricting and I did not have the desire to sit and stare at it like the other visitors while I knew I could be enjoying the rest of the place.

Since the garden was the main attraction, there was not much else at the place. I took my time and enjoyed the place as much as I could before leaving in search of the golden temple. I realized it was probably going to be closed because it was after 5:30 or so by the time I left the garden. I thought that I should still find it, so that next time I won't have such a meandering trip. I headed farther up the mountain. I did find it. And it was closed. I stopped and rested for a while and got some mochi ice cream from a vending machine. This stuff,雪見だいふく or yukimidai fuku is ice cream wrapped in mochi, a sticky, pounded rice cake. This was a favorite of mine before coming here--- you can get them at Trader Joe's! It's good though, if you can get over the weird feeling of how it feels to hold a soft rice ball in your hand with ice cream melting inside it. Tee hee... ;-) I figured it was some type of American perversion of Japanese mochi. Whether that's the case or not, I found it and had some. It was great but I got the flour from the mochi all over me (go figure).

It was still pretty light out so I decided to follow a road that looked like it headed around the mountain rather than go back into town. I soon found myself in the boonies (who knew Japan had boonies??). It reminded me of my "neighborhood" in Bonny Doon... at some points it would be very forested and dark, other times it would be more meadowy and open. But consistently steep and "in the middle of no where."


At one point I came to a place with a good view of the mountains and my first instinctual thought was "this must have been a christmas tree farm." Stupid thought, yes, but I was correct to pick up on it being a logged area, full of planted trees. They were all the same age and had grown, like untended christmas tree farms, in unnatural uniformity.



The "community" in this area was an old logging community it seemed (like Bonny Doon & surrounding areas in the boonies of the Santa Cruz mountains!). I realized that isolated places like this could be very particular about "trespassers" (even though I wasn't trespassing-- that I knew at least!), especially a young female gaijin. In a skirt. I kept expecting to get attacked by some old gnarly junk yard dog, or have some equivalent of Japanese redneck come out with a shot gun and chase me away. And of course on the tail of those thoughts, I realized that if I were to get abducted out there, no one would ever find me. If I drowned in the river down town, everyone would know about it at least, but out there in the boonies, I was on my own.

Silly thoughts. I kept riding.

The road kept getting more and more narrow. I've had several of these experiences before. I remember following out this one road in the northeastern corner of PA (or maybe it was new jersey at that point) in the last days of Anthony's mustang. I kept telling him to keep going, I could navigate us out of there and the road became less and less maintained until becoming impassable. It was great :-)



This road was very steep and towards the end, I couldn't bike any longer. I was disgusting... completely sweaty and I smelled like dirt. It was actually disgustingly reminiscent of hot Bonny Doon summers... the road eventually turned into a hiking trail that went up the mountain. I would have continued, but I was not going to take my bike up there, nor was I going to leave it anywhere and face having it taken by creepy Japanese redneck children or some strange Japanese forest spirits (Didn't that nasty forest spirit in Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" have a bike stuck in it??). I reluctantly decided to head back, but stopped and refilled my water bottle with some water coming out of a wooden pipe near this one (quiet) house. There were cups near it, so I figured it was drinkable. I'm a mountain girl after all. What's a little water-borne parasites between friends anyway? It's good for my immune system anyway.


It was a wonderful downhill, but my breaks were awful still. I tried to use my tried-and-true Gran Turismo technique of never using my breaks and just going off the road when I wanted to slow down. This is why I don't drive.

Since it was still light, I decided to take one of the roads I had passed coming up. There was a sign for a golf course. I thought the road must go through to somewhere, so I went on. Sure enough, there was a golf course. And then a Circle K and civilization.


I managed to find some maps of the neighborhoods, but couldn't manage to find even an arrow pointed off the map "to Kyoto." I looked at my own maps, trying to determine where I was. There seemed to be two main roads. One up the mountain. One going down hill. Kyoto cannot be up any further! so I went downhill. It has to go through.

But it didn't. It turned into another creepy, dark, forested road. By that time, the sun was setting and I knew I would get dark soon. I turned around. I ended up passing this one guy twice and then sitting near him by some vending machines. Something or someone was whistling the Andy Griffin song in the background. I was not going to panic. And I knew he was watching me. I determined I was not going to ask him directions. I headed on. I did stop and ask someone I assumed was a contractor where Kyoto University was. He said it was very far, and said he couldn't really explain the streets, but gave me a point in the direction I needed to go.

I don't think I was ever really lost. Just reluctant to backtrack to the point of getting myself somewhere too far away when it got dark. I was getting cold because of my damp clothes in the creek-cool evening. But I did end up backtracking and made it back to the city in no time.

I stopped at Mos burger and got what I assume was a Japanese taco on pita bread. Then I decided to head downtown to one of the department stores to get some bread. It was closed, so I walked around one or two of the others. I knew I was disgusting, but I didn't realize until I'd been shopping a while that I had dirt all over my legs. Caked dirt. I thought it was hilarious that I had been browsing clothes in this pristine environment. I'm sure everyone saw and thought, "Please don't touch anything!!!!" Knowing I needed to get rid of it, I found a bathroom, but knew I couldn't just prop my leg up on the counter and wash off. I went into one of the stalls and discovered by some miracle there was a toilet seat sanitizing spray dispenser. I used that to clean off the dirt. Thank god for Japanese hypochondriasis.

I went home and took a bath and feel soundly asleep. What a day.
 
 
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: David Gray - This Years Love
 
 
ikinasai
10 July 2006 @ 12:32 am
Yes it was Saturday today, but I went into work this morning. My testing days are getting fewer and fewer so it's necessary. Ran all three monkeys today, but even my very smart one is only performing at chance level with the new stimuli. Jim seems convinced that given enough time, they will be able to make the discriminations, and I do agree with him. But even if I run out of time before that, I will have some good data to look at concerning which scrambled orientations are more difficult to discriminate between, not to mention effect of species etc. So I'm hopeful.

I did leave early though. I was out by 2. I got some convenience store sushi and something to drink and then headed toward a lake about 30-45 minutes northeast of Kyoto called Lake Biwa. It was a pretty day and I thought one best spent by a large body of water. I had intended to head right up to one of the neighboring mountains, but had to switch trains in Otsu, so I got out and walked around for a while. It was hot, though there was a good breeze that lasted most of the day. I stopped in a mall-like complex and got some green tea ice cream (surprise!) and then walked along the side of the lake for a while. There were thousands of dragonflies!


It was a nice place.I stopped and laid in the grass for a while, just relaxing. My hip had begun to really hurt (I know, I'm such an old woman...). I don't know if that is a rugby related problem or not, but I think that both legs are effected every once in a while.


But I decided to push on regardless. I headed back to the station to get another train to where I had originally intended. I was expecting more of a larger town, but this was an end of the line station and there didn't seem to be too much around. I tried to find my bearing and head up to a cable-way station that would take me to the top of the mountain. I was already getting hot again, but I found my first ice cream vending machine since coming to Japan so I got some. Unfortunately, the heat of the day caused it to melt extremely fast and before I knew it, I had it all over my face, my hands, my feet and even some on my pants. I sat down and laughed at myself. I lucky have been carrying one of those liquid hand sanitizer things, but I've been using it more to clean up after myself than sanitize me.

There seemed to be a lot of temples and shrines. I didn't have any particular schedule do I figured I'd take some pictures on my way to the cable-way.




I walked into one of the temples and one of the priests (I'm assuming) tried to tell me it was closed, asked me what I was trying to see and everything, and thought about trying to make some accommodations for me. I apologized, and I said I was just walking about and taking pictures-- that there was no need for special accommodations. I told him I was heading up the mountain and he told me that the last train was at 5:30, which was what time it was approximately.

I kept walking around. Every time I thought about turning around, I ran into a new set of stairs going up the mountain (the Japanese know how to do really steep scary stairs). I don't know what I was looking for, but I kept on climbing them. Although my hip was killing me because of it, I roughed it. Typical.

Eventually, I found this amazing building. I had seen it at one point when I was lower on the mountain and wished I could have taken the train up to see it... well, I managed to get up there one way or another. I thought it was a house at first, but I think it was both a house and a shrine. It was incredible. Incredible view, incredible woodwork, incredible landscaping. Everything was amazing. I couldn't capture it on "film."



Afterward, I went to another shrine. I was surprised to see a cage-- with two Japanese Macaques (or Nihon-zaru as I'd call them here) within it.


I supposed these "temple monkeys" are good luck, but I couldn't read the explanation. I watched the two of them for a long time. I'm not really sure why. I work with monkeys all the time so there was no novelty effect. They looked well taken care of-- I looked for any signs of stress, but there wasn't anything apparent. What a different life these two have up there on the mountain. They seemed very peaceful and beautiful to me, holding each other and grooming carefully. Capuchins are like misbehaved children who were all given Kool-aid. But these two reminded me of two-long time lovers, so comfortable with each other they didn't mind making eye contact with me at all.

It was getting dark so I decided to head back to the station, and as if to complete the spectrum of animal behavior, there were two cats mating right in front of me on the side walk. I found it very funny, and stopped and watched for a second like the pervert I am-- I had never seen it before, and it was right there in front of me on the sidewalk! (you know you would have done the same thing, you silly kids...)

I headed back to Otsu and went back to the mall to get some dinner. Again, I looked for a place with something I could read. I thought I would have Tempura udon, and went into the restaurant and was ushered to what seemed like a buffet. I wasn't exactly sure how it worked, but eventually the waitress was kind enough to tell me I could go back and get more to eat after I had sat at my seat with an empty tray for a while. It was good, at least as far as buffets go. I probably could have eaten a lot ordinarily, but even though I feel like I've been eating too much over here, it's been in small quantities. I just couldn't really eat as much as I probably should have to make it worth it. Oh well. They called it "banzai" too... I hate that word now because I have no idea why people use it so often.

Before heading home for the night, I watched this beautiful fountain in the middle of the harbor. It was a wonderful way to end the evening.
 
 
Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
Current Music: David Gray - This Years Love
 
 
ikinasai
08 July 2006 @ 11:45 pm
Going out to get my bike and head to work this morning, I was hit suddenly with the realization that I don't want to leave. I guess a lot of that has to do with the days winding down quickly, but part of it has been a feeling that I've had since coming. Sure I've had dissatisfied and lonely days, and today was no exception, but I'm not ready to come back to earth. I'm not ready for California and my family, and I'm certainly not ready for Lancaster. I want to remain here-- out of reach-- a while longer. I know that's impossible and I will take all I can from these last remaining weeks, but it's hard to have the knowledge that probably the highlight of my college career is passing me by. I will still enjoy my last year at school, but I have a feeling it will be tumultuous and stressful... and won't ever compare.

We had cleaning today at work. Afterward, I took a ride up the river for a little while and then over to the Falafel place. I sat upstairs with my mint tea again and read/looked at magazines. On the cover of one was one of those old books I had run into at the Japanese bookstore several weeks ago: "The Little House" or something like that. I think I might buy it, if it's not too expensive. i don't know what I'll do with it, but it would be cool to have a Japanese children's book that I remember from my childhood.

I came back to work for a little. There had been some talk about another dinner, this time to celebrate the new marriage of one of the grad students. I didn't really want to go, but thought it might be a good bonding experience. Close to the time everyone was supposed to meet, I got the feeling that since I hadn't officially been invited, it probably would be better if I didn't go-- if for no other reason than limited seating at the place. I didn't feel too excluded-- I was happy to have the opportunity to get out again, but wished the subject had come up earlier in the evening; it would have given me more time!

At work, when trying to coax one of my monkeys into his transport cage, a step-ladder in the monkey room had fallen over and hit the little bone that sticks out on the side of my ankle. I'm sure a certain friend of mine named Rick knows the name of of it, but all I know is my left one is about twice the size of my right one and pink. It hurt quite a bit. Luckily, it's not really a place on my body I use much, and so I got back on my bike and I headed down the river with no particular place in mind and ended up down-town.



I wandered around for a while, bought some things, but mostly just browsed and played the tourist and took lots of pictures (for more, larger, more detailed photos in all their glory go to my album) . I realized there are a millions little things that I'll never capture the way I want to that I will miss from here. Wonderful little details and situations. Saw this store... can't you all just see me in one of these? The Lolita look is popular over here...


And then of course the Japanese school girls in a lingerie shop...fulfilling someone's fantasy, I'm sure.


Along the same lines... so many things that are just wrong for one reason or another:


I walked into Gion again determined to finally get a picture of a Geisha or a Maiko, and maybe one like this:


I ran into one crossing the street again and chickened out. Then I passed another one and couldn't do it then either. I turned around and followed her for a while, figuring I'd at least get a picture of the back of her, but couldn't get a clear shot. She met up with another one and the two crossed the road and disappeared from sight. I felt embarrassed and stupid for trying to take the picture (even though there was no way any of them even noticed me).Then I suddenly realized how much I was acting like some shy awkward boy with a bad crush. I'm way too nervous to talk to these women, I just want to sit and look and think about how pretty and captivating they are. I'm such a weirdo.

Afterward, I was headed back to get my bike and head home, but stopped to hear some jazz band that was on the street. When I edged toward the front of the crowd, I noticed the drummer was a little boy-- a 7year old with hopes to go to NY to study jazz. He was amazing. I kept on thinking "I remember when my brother was 7..!" I also thought the 'shopgirls' of Japan are interesting. They give out advertisements/coupons etc. But not to me. It's strange to know I'm being racially discriminated against, but I find it funny.



After that, I decided to head down one of the little alleys/streets that I hadn't been on before. At first I thought it was going to be one of those "pink" streets I always find myself on, but it turned out to be full of these wonderful Japanese restaurants. I had already eaten so I felt no anxiety about trying any of them, but they were wonderful places and I took lots of pictures.



As I was walking down the street, I saw another Maiko-- this time with what I assumed was one of her clients: and older man who looked like some company president. The two of them were talking, and some company associates followed behind. It was strange because even though I know Geisha and Maiko are not prostitutes, I wondered for what type of thing they are hired for. I don't know where this crowd was headed but I assume they hire her to come to dinner and entertain them with conversation, music, and dance. It would be very interesting to see. I wonder how much they cost.

I got back home around 11 and had a long conversation with Anthony before heading off, relaxed and content, to bed around 3.
 
 
Current Mood: contentcontent
Current Music: Tracy Chapman - Fast Car
 
 
ikinasai
07 July 2006 @ 12:50 pm
I was up a little early this morning. I'm not quite sure why-- it was very unusual for me, but I got online for a little bit before deciding against going to the early morning seminar today. I always go to the one in the afternoon, but have only gone to the earlier one once.Today was no exception. I ran my monkeys with the new stimuli today, so we'll see how that goes. After I was finished with that, I got a sandwich from the student store and sat outside throwing bits of my bread at birds. I am not a bird person at all but these were those that resemble more little bits of fluff with wings than birds. I ran over to the post office and withdrew some money and then headed back to work in time for the seminar.

I can't seem to understand the perspective of the students here regarding class. Hourai-san came down and watched me test this morning and although she said she had a class at 1, she stayed until I was finished with most of it, leaving around 1:15. She had said she would just go late. What I was doing was not that important though. Same applies with the seminar: Supposedly, it starts at 4:30, but most of the time the students only start heading over there at 4:30. In class, sometimes one will randomly leave mid-class.... and this is not a big class. Maybe 10-12 people. They also have this ritual of passing around coffee-- one person stands and prepares it during class, then pours it into these little cups and then passes them from person to person. Pick up. Pass. Plunk. Pick up. Pass. Plunk. They go all the way around the table until everyone has one. I also feel like some of the students aren't prepared for presentations etc. I can't tell if it's that, or they are just presenting difficult material. When I went out to dinner with the undergrads this last weekend, they were all talking about various professors and everything. Most of them came to the consenseous that Fujita is "scary" (which probably translates better as "intimidating") because of the questions he throws at you during presentations, etc. It made me smile because it sounds just like some body else I know.

After the seminar, a group of us, including Jim (who hadn't gone to the seminar-- he doesn't know Japanese really) headed over to a restaurant on my street.


It was a great little place and I wish I had had the opportunity to take more pictures. It was very Japanese, but more in a traditional sense. We all went upstairs and sat on pillows around a low table that had already been prepared for us. It was full of food-- it was amazing.



We settled down and ordered drinks and then dug in. Everything was excellent. I've always had a hard time classifying "Japanese" food... I've had the usual, but all cultures have many different types of traditional dishes etc, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to try new things. And of course enjoy familiar things as well-- I love good sashimi! The food seemed to keep coming too. I know I probably ate a lot more than most of the girls, but I didn't care. It was worth it. At one point, I asked Hattori-san et. al to order me some Japanese sake. I've had bad luck with it thus far and figured they would probably have good stuff at this place. I'm not sure what I ended up getting. It was all right-- I think it's a lot stronger than wine and not quite as easy to drink. I think this probably also made me look a bit butch, but I still didn't care. I feel like eventually I got to a good comfortable relaxed state and actually started to talk a little more, which I needed to do. Of course in my bath later this evening, I discovered nail marks all over my hands that I didn't remember inflicting, but I guess I had been largely uncomfortable. Oh well.

It was a great evening. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and at least at my end of the table, the conversation focused mainly on different experiences in different countries, ages, balding patterns (which quintessentially enough, the Japanese have corresponding "rice field" classifications to describe), and of course applied all this to various people in the comparative psychology field. Of course Fujita and Jim are both blessed to have heads of hair into their fifties, so it was easy to pick on other people. Jim was asking the grad students who was the oldest among them, and they were equally interested in how old he was. Fujita told me that he doesn't celebrate any birthdays other than his 25th birthday. Every year, he has another 25th birthday, so now he just counts them instead. I think he said he's had twenty-eight 25th birthdays. I think I was the youngest in the group... riding that wonderful in-between line again, like I always seem to do.




I got back home after 10. I took a long bath and my good mood suddenly encountered a penetrating loneliness. I realized there in my bath that I really wanted someone to be there for me when I got home, even if it was just online. But instead all I have is me tonight.
 
 
Current Mood: lonelylonely
Current Music: Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me
 
 
ikinasai
06 July 2006 @ 04:30 pm
Tuesday: This week has been pretty uneventful. I've spent a lot of time in the lab trying to work on my project. I haven't had the burning desire to get out of this little basement of mine recently. That feeling of claustrophobia in the lab comes and goes. I suppose it always will.

I went on a bike ride after work. It was dark by that time, but I had managed to get a bit of a headache from being in front of a computer (working in front of a computer I should say...) all day long. Plus, the mouse I bought for the trip is crap and so I've been doing all my Photoshop manipulations with my trackpad. It is a wonderful way to develop carpel tunnel syndrome. My hands have been bothering me off and on recently. Part of it might be the biking, or specifically the breaking. I'm not used to it and for hours at a time every day, it can be pretty painful. I didn't end up biking anywhere really new yesterday. I tried to ride out along one of the mountains, but residential neighborhoods got in the way. In August, Kyoto has this big festival in which they light fires in the shapes of Kanji, etc. on some of these mountains (there are crazy fire traditions all over Japan I've discovered...). Although I will miss it, I've seen been able to see the dirt shapes of these figures in the mountains. I tried to climb up to one of a sail boat, but couldn't figure out how to get to it. It seemed close to the road, but I never found a path. Many of the others are very high up, and not a fun hike in the middle of the summer.

Wednesday was about the same as well. Only it was raining so no bike ride. I feel like I'm becoming jaded to the fact that I'm in Japan. It's really a shame-- I think it has both to do with the lousy weather and the amount of work I've had in the lab. Also, I feel like I've explored much of Kyoto already. I don't know. I'm making excuses. Even if the weather doesn't clear up, I will try to make my own little daily adventures. I think I've been decent about it though. I simply need to keep it up.

I've also been doing a little more writing lately. Not in here really-- these daily entries are getting painful to write and I've put them off quite a lot. Other writing, things more personal, or at least more insightful. It's good to get thoughts down on paper (literally, but often not), but I'm very obsessive about it so it can be very distracting and consume a lot of my time when I find myself in the right mood for it.

Before going to bed I had a conversation with one of the Japanese class alumni about Japan, living abroad, and our memories of such experiences. I told him I force myself to write meticulous details into these, as well as take as many pictures as I can because somewhere woven between words, millisecond moments, and music, the essence of these experiences of ours can be held onto with some emotional impact still very much present.
 
 
Current Mood: okayokay
Current Music: Naruto - Wind