The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Monday, November 23, 2009

Catching Up

A few things happened in the past couple weeks that I wanted to share. Yoshie and I went to Oktoberfest in Yokohama. It was held at the Akarenga or "Red Brick" buildings, which were warehouses constructed by the port of Yokohama at the end of the 19th century. It's kind of funny that, in a country with buildings that are a thousand years old, these 100-year-old buildings are considered "historical". I guess because they are among the first buildings constructed in the "Western" style in Japan ...?

The Oktoberfest itself was kind of fun, although the beer was expensive, it was really crowded, there were long lineups to get food, to get beer, and to use the bathroom, and there was no place to sit down. Okay, on second thought, it sucked and I probably won't go back next year. Yoshie and I sat on the ground to drink our beer and eat our sausages. After 20 minutes or so, a couple of seats came open at the table right by where we were sitting; we jumped up to claim them, and another couple tried to grab them at the same time. It was a staring contest for a while, but eventually they relented, I guess because they could see that we had been sitting there before they arrived. Once we had a place to sit, it became a lot more enjoyable. Oh, did I mention that there were people dressed up like Nazis in the crowd? In the above photo, you can see a guy wearing a military costume of some sort. Well, there were also people dressed up like Nazis ... it just doesn't carry the same anti-social stigma here that it does, well, basically everywhere else in the world. Weird.

After I took that picture, I turned around and took this picture:

Which is just to say that Yokohama is an interesting place. Huge skyscrapers beside Ferris wheels beside sail-shaped hotels, beside Red Brick buildings. Lots of interesting architecture in a very small area.

The next week, I went to the Ramen Museum in Shin-Yokohama with a few of my former students. That was fun; you can order half-bowls of ramen so that you have enough space in your stomach to sample the noodles from 2 or 3 different shops. We went to three shops, so that equals about 1.5 bowls, so I was pretty full by the end of it.

Yoshie and I went to Zenzoji in downtown Tokyo one gray and cloudy afternoon. I still find the clash between old and new, as cliched as it is, to be pretty interesting. Here's an interesting contrast shot, kind of crappy though, because it was taken with my phone.

On November 3rd, I went to see a demonstration of traditional martial arts on the grounds of the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. This particular school of martial arts dates back at least 500 years:

There was also a display of Yabusame, or archery from horseback. It is a ritual offering to the gods, asking them to give a bountiful harvest. It is believed that it has been conducted for 1000 years or so. Archers wear the full regalia from the 1300's, including doe-skin chaps.

I was wandering around in Tokyo one afternoon, when I spotted this balloon. I approached for a closer look, and got this shot of them firing up the burner.

A couple weeks ago, I went to a huge sword show. Hundreds upon hundreds of amazing swords, costing anywhere from about $500 (for a small blade in rough condition) to over $100,000. The average price for a sword was probably somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000. Too rich for me. It was fun looking around, though.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Back to Enoshima!

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, we had a nice time in Enoshima, but we felt kind of rushed, so we decided to go again while the weather was still nice. We went back a couple weeks later (which is now about a month ago!) It was a weekend, again, so the place was really busy, but instead of being annoying, the crowds gave the whole place kind of a festive atmosphere.

We went up to the temple near the top of the hill where you arrive from the mainland. There is a special "knot" which is supposed to give you good luck (or fertility, or a long life, or something good, anyway) if you pass through it 3 times in a designated way. If I recall correctly, you go through once and go around to the left, again and go around to the right, and one last time, around to the left.

At the very top of the island, there is a pavilion with a garden, where a British merchant established a botanical garden in the late 1800's. Apparently, he was the person who introduced Darwin's theory of evolution to Japan, and he set about cataloguing the flora and fauna of the area. More importantly, there's now an observation tower up there.

From the tower you can look out over the ocean, and back over to the mainland.

Climbing up to the top of the island and then up the observation tower (who am I kidding; we took escalators and elevators the whole way!) gave us quite an appetite. Never ones to take a chance, we ate the same thing we did the last time - little fish on rice. It was just as delicious the second time!

We had a great time on Enoshima. The weather has really been cooling down the last few weeks, so I'm glad that we got there while it was still warm. Further updates to come...