The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Sunday, November 27, 2005

November, Pt 2

[Read pt 1 if you haven't already]

On Sunday, we headed into Kyoto and began our quest to see as many temples as is humanly possible in one day. We started by driving up Mt. Hiei to Enryakuji, one of the first Buddhist temples in Japan (I'm too lazy to research this properly!) Although many of the buildings are not originals, it is astonishing to think that there has been a temple operating on this site since the 9th century or so. Here's a picture of yours truly ringin' the bell.

Enryakuji wasn't particularly crowded, but I did notice what was to become a common theme throughout the day: despite the fact that Buddhism is all about charity and selflessness, people in Buddhist temples can be pretty damn pushy, even if it's just to elbow their way past you so that they can light some incense and pray to the Buddha statue before you do. Kind of crazy, and very surprising when you get hip-checked by some 70-year-old woman.

Next, it was off to Nanzenji, a major zen temple. It was quite impressive and very large in scale. Then it was Ginkakuji, which is not particularly old by Kyoto temple standards, but has a beautiful garden and a nice reflecting pond which people really like. It's a great place to see the leaves turning, so it was ridiculously crowded.
Fall colours at Ginkakuji

Finally, after a very tedious quest for parking, we made it to Kiyomizudera, the most famous temple in Kyoto (probably). It was insanely crowded. What's worse is that is consists of a large wooden temple clinging tenaciously to the side of a cliff. There were about 1000 people leaning on the railing of the temple, trying to get a picture of the fall colours; I was sure that the railing was going to give way with a mighty crack and hundreds would fall to their deaths. But that's the kind of worry-wort I am. Nobody died as far as I know.


That evening, I said goodbye to Mori and his family and sped off to Nagoya. I stayed with another friend (Tada, for those who know him) because the next day, Monday, I had a job interview in Nagoya. The interview went pretty well, but took 3 hours. Is that normal?

Before the interview, I took some pictures of Nagoya castle...

So anyway, a busy 4 days. It was great to see my friends Mori and Tada, and Kyoto in the fall is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Plus, I managed to squeeze a job interview in there, so it was a very fruitful trip all around.

November Pt 1

Wow! It's been three weeks or more since I updated. I've been really busy lately and just haven't had time to update. The other problem is that, in our teachers' room, we are supposed to have 3 computers (for 6 teachers); two of the three have been on the fritz for the entire month, leaving that one working computer in high demand for "legitimate" uses like record-keeping and so on. So I haven't really been able to blog for a while. Sorry. I'm going to do this update in parts so as to keep them down to a reasonable length.

I had a 4-day weekend (thanks to the school's culture festival) and so I decided to go to Kyoto. Fall is the best time to view the foliage in Kyoto, which means that it's quite crowded with tourists from all over the country. But I decided to go anyway. The first day, I took the bullet train from Tokyo. It's always fun to ride because, well, it's just so durn fast! It also afforded me a very nice view of Mt. Fuji on the way past.

I arrived in Kyoto and had most of the day to wander around by myself. I visited the national museum and went on a wild-goose-chase trying to find a small private museum full of Japanese armour, but despite spending almost 2 hours walking around, I couldn't find it. Oh well. It was a nice day, anyway, and I saw quite a lot of interesting neighbourhoods and a nice temple called Kenniji.

After that, I took a local train to my friend Mori's place. He lives about 30 minutes away in a small town in Shiga prefecture and was nice enough to let me stay at his place with his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

The next day we got up early and went for a beautiful drive through the mountains. This was breathtaking, but my pictures can't convey the depth and breadth of the mountain views. We stopped a little waterfall on the way through; I was quite amazed that it was unspoiled and hadn't been turned into a tourist spot.

We eventually got to our destination: the Ninja museum in Iga-Ueno! This place is fantastic! They have a ninja house (full of tricks, traps, and secret passages), a collection of antique ninja artifacts, and a demonstration of ninja techniques. It was pure entertainment from start to finish, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a chance to go. I thought it would be cheesy, but actually it was really fun.

After the ninja museum, we checked out the small local castle, and then stopped at a number of pottery shops on the way home. Shiga is famous for a type of rustic-looking Japanese pottery; it's really crusty and natural looking. Some of the cups make you feel like you're drinking out of a hollow rock! I really like that kind of stuff so I bought a teabowl which I may or may not give to my Dutch friend who does the tea ceremony, depending on how charitable I feel...

Finally, exhausted, it was back to Mori's place for some play time with his young daughter, Natsuki. She is generally scared of men at this age, (even her grandpa) but she warmed up to me after a little while and actually let me take a picture of her smiling. It was pretty cute.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Recent Happenings

I've been pretty busy lately, which is why I haven't updated this thing in such a long time. Sorry. I've been looking for jobs (no luck so far) and have come to the conclusion that there is deflation at work in this country, or at least in the English Conversation industry. The standard salary seems to be going down, slightly, and there are definitely more and more part-time jobs. There are also a lot more "semi-part-time" jobs, e.g., jobs where you work 5 hours a day every day. Sigh. I guess Japanese housewives have less disposable income these days and can't afford to take English classes just for the fun of it anymore...

It's been so long since I updated that I'm having trouble remembering what I've been doing lately. I had a Halloween lesson and dressed up as a wandering samurai; I wore my iaido uniform and I also went and bought some straw sandals and a big straw hat. I think my students were just confused by the whole situation. Some of them are absolutely humourless and just looked at me and said "Good morning" and that was that. Some of them, however, were shocked and awed (odd?)

Last weekeend I went to Nagano prefecture for a martial-arts seminar. It was really fun but kind of expensive. I took the bullet train there, and we stayed in a little Japanese inn with a natural hot spring spa. Quite relaxing to train all day and then get into a steaming hot bath after. And the mountains were beautiful. Not the best picture, but...

Next weekend, with any luck, I'll be off to Kyoto for a few days. The fall colours there should be really beautiful, and I might even be able to throw a job interview into the mix. We'll see how that goes. Hope everyone is well,