ar_wahan: (Default)
Clever idea. But . . . "natural, free world"? (that's one one visitor said).,32068,104576135001_2000212,00.html
ar_wahan: (Japan trip?)
I just found this while trying to determine if arame and hijiki are the same (they are not).
ar_wahan: (Japan trip?)
When we were in Japan in June, it was hot and humid. The heat may be why there were vending machines stocked with beverages on many street corners in Kyoto. As a diabetic who must count carbs, however (in order to administer the corresponding amount of insulin via insulin pump), I was reluctant to try these tempting beverages because I had no idea how many carbs anything except water contained.

On our second night in Kyoto (the last one I wrote about, months ago), we headed out for dinner too late to find any restaurants open within walking distance, so we went to a convenience store a few streets away from our B&B (ryokan). We bought some prepackaged soba salads. And then I spotted a beverage that filled me with glee. When I got back to the B&B, I took two discarded beverage containers that Samurai had in her room, and set them in triumph next to my valuable find.

Guess which one is the Rosetta Stone )

Tonight, rather than take a photo of my scrawling attempts at Japanese lettering in my little booklet, I decided to look for the word on line. And I was gratified to learn that I had read my Rosetta Stone correctly!

And, I was right! )


ar_wahan: (Japan trip?)
I actually wrote up part of this months ago, and LJ ate it. :(

When I started looking on line in May  for ryokan (bed & breakfast) places in Kyoto for June, I was puzzled. April and May were the high tourist seasons, when the cherry trees are in bloom, but for June, I received notices from ryokan after ryokan that no rooms were available. I didn't understand why. But after having stayed in this ryokan (and, later, in others, in other towns), I think I "got it."  These are largely family-run establishments, and the people -- at least, the women (I hardly ever saw the men do anything) -- work really, really hard. I'm guessing after the heavy tourist season, they just say, "We're closed -- on vacation!" Good for them.

On our second morning in Kyoto, I was still seriously jet-lagged, and woke up frequently during the night, and at the crack of dawn. I knew Samurai was still asleep in the next tatami room. The ryokan was on a very narrow street. All the buildings were made of some sort of cement, and there were no trees on the street. An occasional residence would have a courtyard beyond a high cement/concrete garden wall, and at least one (that I could see from my height on the second floor) had a tree inside it, but otherwise, the street was a concrete canyon.

I am assuming that is why every sound in the street was amplified.

Lying there waiting for the rest of the ryokan (and Samurai) to awake, I paid attention to the sounds, having nothing else to do.

There were loud footsteps below my window, and the explosive burst of a man spitting on the street.

Minibikes going by sounded like Harleys.

The click of the claws on a dog's feet on the pavement were sharply clear.

In the house across the narrow street, children preparing to leave for school were bumping up against the inside of their front door with thuds loud enough to make me think someone was pounding on the door to my room.

And yet, between these sharp bursts of noise, there were great silences -- broken by nothing but the cawing of crows. Except for those children at the door, no sounds escaped from the houses themselves. The "canyon" walls seemed to protect us from the noise of cars and buses on the four-lane avenue down at the end of the street.

It struck me then that from the carrying of sounds, you might come away with the illusion that you knew everything about your neighbors  But at the same time, you would not.  Public and private sounds, liveliness and stillness, were as clearly divided (and yet connected) as alleyway and home, as yin and yang.

[I had a much better explanation of this, at least I think, in the paper journal that I was carrying with me and wrote on that morning. But I managed to leave it later on the train to Takayama, for some poor conductor to puzzle over.]
ar_wahan: (Japan trip?)
The thing that struck me the strongest was how in their crowded country, the Japanese make the most of every square inch (or centimeter) they have. The houses are very small and very close together, even in what we'd call the suburbs. But where Americans and other westerners have backyard lawns and flower gardens, the Japanese (at least, from what I saw on this first train ride and from that point on in our journey) grow food. A small back "yard" might often be a flooded rice paddy. (I do wonder if they lease the land to some kind of co-op... it can't be that useful to harvest the rice themselves.) Each narrow strip of ground, about the size of a parking strip in this country, between, say, the railroad tracks and a wall, might be home to tomato plants, berry bushes, fruit trees or even corn.

"Sustainability" seems to be ingrained here, and I admire the Japanese for that. That is the model our world needs.

Even the space, often empty or derelict in this country, under elevated highways is used. I saw people playing on tennis courts beneath the freeways. (At some later point, you'll also see a photo of an old canal in Yokohama still harboring boats under the concrete of an overhead highway.)

It being a Saturday morning as we traveled, I was also reminded of my own kid and parenting rituals as I saw young people playing soccer and baseball (not under freeway overpasses, in this case) with their parents cheering them on.

Did I mention that the houses are really close together? :P You'll read some more reflections on that later, if my memory can reconstruct what I wrote at 7 a.m. or so on our first morning in Kyoto. But for now, on the train to Kyoto, I was struck by how each house had a deck or a rooftop, or at least a little balcony, and each one was filled to capacity with drying laundry hanging out for all the world to see. I would later climb up steep stairs -- well, more like a ladder -- to such a rooftop myself, as I learned that the (electric or gas) clothes dryer is a rare beast in Japan.

Good for them.
ar_wahan: (Japan trip?)
I'd forgotten that in the northern part of Japan, where the few Japanese cranes that live year-round are to be found, there was a fairly large earthquake on June 14 (or maybe June 15 in Japan, thanks to that whole International Date Line thing....).

In a related note, I was Googling "Japanese Cranes Osaka" yesterday prior to my post and ended up seeing wonderful, full-color photos of .... Japanese mechanical dockside cranes loading cargo onto ships at Osaka! :P
ar_wahan: (Japan trip?)
Three-day forecast for Shutesbury, MA:
93 with T-storms (humidity 63%)
87 partly cloudy
82 partly cloudy

Three-day forecast for Kyoto, Japan
62 cloudy
76 am showers
78 light rain.

Sounds good to me!

And man, do I have a TON of things to do between now and the 18th!!!


May. 13th, 2008 12:51 pm
ar_wahan: (Japan trip?)
Anyone had any experience with this translator device or similar products? Samurai located this....


May. 9th, 2008 07:50 pm
ar_wahan: (Default)
Stella is home! (Vet wanted to keep her last night, after all.)

Our new furnace is installed and mostly hooked up. We have heat downstairs, hot water coming from faucets, but no heat upstairs (a different heating zone). It's a bit chilly now upstairs, but we all have electric blankets, and the weekend will be warmer than the 40s and 50s of today. The crew will come back Monday morning to finish up.

I got my assignments done on time!!!!

I'm hungry. Off to make chicken piccata, wild rice with portabella mushrooms (OK, from a packet, I confess) and a salad, and then veg out. It's been a very tiring week.

Still no answer about Kyoto lodging. Web site shows it is "under processing." The web site said we'd have a response from its member ryokan in 3 days, and this is day three. I may contact the site if I don't hear anything tomorrow. They don't allow you to double book, so I'd have to cancel the process with this ryokan before trying to get another. But I don't want to do that if I don't have to.


Apr. 2nd, 2008 07:29 pm
ar_wahan: (head shot)
My new passport arrived today. I had the photos taken at a photo shop that takes passport photos and crops them to fit, and while I didn't like the image (we are now told to smile, but not show teeth, and when I don't show teeth, I don't look like I'm smiling at all), at least the colors were right.

Well, the new passport shows my eyes are blue (correct), denim jacket is blue (check) and my hair.... is lime green (and so is the shadow under my chin!).


Anyone else have a recent passport with weird colors? I wonder if it's a new trick to prevent fraud -- that the passport folks can scan the photo with a wand, or something, and the "real" colors appear on a viewscreen.

I don't know ... but I do know I've never had green hair, and now I've proof that it wouldn't become me.
ar_wahan: (highland kitty)
Tomorrow we're going to the Suffolk University open house for incoming first-years and parents. We have to register between 10:45 - 11:15 in a hall at Suffolk Law School. Because I have the energy-efficient Prius, I'm driving. Plan is to leave here a little after 8 a.m. and park at the end of the Green Line -D (there are several Green lines) in Newton, where there's a big parking lot, and take the T in to Park Street (which is by the Boston Common). The Law School is right there, across from the common! The trains run every 10 minutes. But it took me a bit of searching to find that info on line.

The last few days have been days of puttering in addition to interviews for a work assignment. I boxed up two Duncan tartan bagpipe bag covers and the matching set of cords/tassels (used to connect the drones to each other) and shipped them off to Bob Duncan's 14-year-old grandson, along with a bunch of old bagpipe music books my dad had. (The grandson is studying the pipes.) I sent the leather sporran ("purse" that hangs at the waist) and one of my dad's balmorals (caps) to Colin, another of Bob's grandsons... this one is a young adult who received my dad's Duncan tartan kilt after my mom gave it to Bob. He doesn't play the pipes, but he likes wearing the kilt to the family reunions.

Any bagpipe music that was written down on blank sheet music paper in my dad's handwriting is staying here. Same with his Stewart tartan balmoral, and his skean dhu (the black knife that fits into the top of the stocking).

I am starting to feel a little foolish about my on-line order of the bagpipe display rack I mentioned in my post of the 19th. I've had no confirmation of the order, and upon revisiting the web site, discovered there was no contact information at all! (Even though the site says "Any questions, contact us below." The links below have no links within them with which to contact them.) I considered pointing this out to eMartCart, which handled the transaction, but after doing a Google search did find an email address for the company. I think this is a home-based operation, and it's only been a week. Also didn't see anything bad written about it by irate customers.

No more weird dreams last night. Whew!

I have an assignment to write Monday, but I'm not going to think about it now! :P

Last week I also sent in my passport (which will expire tomorrow), new photos and the fee for a passport renewal. I am kind of intimidated about going to Japan, but I think Samurai and I should still do it this summer. I need to get my act together and start figuring out how long we'll be there, though, so I can book our flights.

So many of you have been talking about how it's spring where you are. We got MORE SNOW the other night, and it is still very cold (27 degrees last I checked). But if you can find a sunny spot here out of the knife-like wind, the sun is warm on the face. Spring will come, will come ...


ar_wahan: (Default)

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