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Posts Tagged ‘proof for the existence of God’

Sorry for such a long absence!

The last month and a bit has been very busy with a fantastic 10 day visit from my parents, never ending mountains of work, and a trip up to Niigata for a weekend of snowboarding!

Seeing my parents was a really nice break and we managed to cram a lot of travel into a short period of time, visiting places like Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara, as well as Nagoya! Its interesting to see Japan through their eyes since it was their first visit. Some of the things I take for granted here or have become used to are actually really strange when you think about it – like the lack of fresh vegetables in my diet, vending machines which serve anything from a meal to beer to hot drinks in cans and cold tea in bottles, crows which are the size of a semi-detached in Harlow, and how can I forget the crunchy bean bag “rice pillows”!

I think my favourite place we went to was Kobe due to its small size and the friendliness of everybody I spoke to.

Throughout the trip we stayed in a mix of normal western hotels and Japanese style ryokan with tatami mat floors and futon. We visited a whole variety of places from the ancient mossy zen temples of 8th century Japan in Kyoto and Nara to the more modern style of Kobe and a glimpse at sprawling and gittering futuristic-tecnology-centric Tokyo (Shibuya, Akihabara, Ginza etc).

Other stuff:

Snowboarding was absolutely fantastic! I loved every minute of it. I had never done it before, but I guess all that practise at surfing on the tube back home helped because I got pretty good pretty quickly. Rumi taught us the basics and before lunchtime we were hitting up the Intermediate level slopes! Its just as well I’m fearless when it comes to stuff like that because it meant that hurtling down the slopes at what feels like 1000 mph without having fully grasped the concept of braking or mastering basic steering was a lot more fun! The snow was abundant and beautiful, and such good quality. Luckily the 9 hour bus journey was worth it – going an extra couple hours north of the highly popular Nagano resort meant that the slopes were virtually deserted and the snow hadn’t become compacted into ice. I lost my phone the first morning and I thought that it was buh-bye (either destroyed by water damage from melting snow, or buried under fresh snow that fell later that day, or stolen) but this is Japan. I found it the next day – someone had handed it in! What a miracle. All in all it was an amazing weekend. I didn’t break anything, although the proceeding few days had me in a world of pain, the likes of which I haven’t experienced for a very long time!

The workload this term is much more than I anticipated, with business Japanese taking up a lot of my time (learning how to use honorifics in the workplace is essentially learning a whole new set of verbs for all the basic actions and their respective conjugated forms… fun.) On the flip side we went to the Asahi Newspaper office in Nagoya to see “a real Japanese work place in action” and although I only got the bare minimum of what the tour guide was saying it was an interesting experience, plus  we got a bunch of cool freebies.

Taking my first ever foreign policy class this term has also been a challenge – it is absolutely fascinating and the teacher makes it interesting, but its pretty hardcore for a newbie like myself having to start from scratch! The learning curve is steep but I prefer it that way. I’m finding out all sorts of things about Japan and its politics that I should probably have known before; for example, Japan is still technically at war with Russia having never signed the peace treaty at the end of WW2! (Its all to do with the fact that the land border of the northern territories is still disputed.

Ikebana and Sumie (black ink painting) are still my”escape classes” and I love having them as a creative outlet. Last Friday in sumie we were practising all the different types of brush-stokes we have learnt so far and the main task was to create out own new brushstroke. As he was walking around and checking our work he saw the one I had designed and said that he had never seen one like it before – that it was highly original and should be called “Shepheard Stroke”! He then proceeded to show the rest of the class and use it as an example of what you can do with different types of pressure and water/ink balance. So I felt really chuffed about that!

I’m doing English Conversation with a few pupils on the side to earn a little bit of extra money which is working really well for me. The exchange rate is so bad right now that earning yen is far more lucrative than it used to be, and so a fairly standard fee of 3000 yen suddenly has  increased in value from about £15 to a mighty £25! Even though its only occasional, its actually quite fun and once you have the materials its really easy.

A final thought; My theory of Umbrella Karma. Sometimes you lose your umbrella or it gets borrowed/stolen. Other times you may have to “borrow” from other people. Its a never ending cycle trying to stay in balance. There is also a black hole where all the lost umbrellas go – umbrellas left in shops, bars clubs. It is also an indisputable fact that umbrellas are able to grow legs and walk. Possibly towards said black hole.

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For the last month or so, one group of friends  have been telling me of the wonders of a particular restaurant in Nara (not so far from Kyoto). This restaurant was said to have served very authentic and delicious Indian food the like of which I have not seen for over 4 months. Ever since they got back they have been talking about making a return trip, and on a complete whim (and also out of boredom) I decided to go and see what all the fuss was about.

My oh my. I was not disappointed! Proper Indian food, tasty, hot, flavoursome, authentic AND all you can eat (cooked to order) for only 2500yen! We all ate until we could barely move!

Whilst we were in Nara we also got to see the giant Buddha that sits in the middle of the main park in the worlds largest wooden structure. The Buddha is absolutely vast; one really does have to wonder how they made it all those years ago.

We also got to feed the deer which were a little too hungry/friendly for my comfort. They are “technically” wild, and they roam around the markets and parks like cattle in India, although I don’t know if they would be able to survive on their own without all the tourists feeding them deer cakes. Far too much time was spent trying not to get  nibbled or headbutted, or indeed running away like a little girl from these cute critters which are only a bit bigger than dogs! Luckily the males have their antlers removed or else I would probably be in a world of pain right now…

Argh! Deer!

Oh I almost forgot to write how we had a nice little adventure getting home too. We arrived and planned to return via JR local trains which is a pretty cheap route if you have the time and don’t mind a couple of changes. Unfortunately we forgot to check how late the various lines ran and we missed the last connecting train. Luckily we checked before we left because if we had got stuck at Kameyama then that would have meant Actual Death, by which I mean spending the night in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with no hotel or place to stay, no place to eat and no food in temperatures which have recently been barely above zero.

So we took a very long winded route home via Kyoto from where we caught the shinkansen home. Saying it like that makes it sound like a rather casual affair, but in all honesty we caught it by the skin of our teeth! I’ve always admired how punctual Japanese trains are. They are Never, Ever EVER late. Especially not the bullet trains. Their reputation depends on it. However, for some reason (*cough* MIRACLE *cough*) this particular train was 4 minutes and 30 seconds late. Buying the tickets for shinkansen always takes a bit of time so you can imagine what it was like trying to get six tickets in only 5 minutes! If it had not been for those extra 270 seconds… Even one of the guys agreed it was the most compelling evidence for the existence of God that he had ever seen!

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