Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oh My God.

Now this is ridiculous.

Looks like this thing could eat a newborn in its sleep. And can you blame it? Look at it!

We saw this poor pooch in a doggy "salon" somewhere downtown while walking around the new baseball stadium.

To be honest, this poodle was not what caught my eye at first. This did: 

Yes, looks to me like a couple of poodles lucky enough to get a technicolor dye job. Stylin'! Check out the golden retriever, too. They hacked his tail into a swishy thing. Case you wanna sweep the floor, I guess.

Ah, Japan.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Engrish of the day

Saw this at a cheap Chinese restaurant and it made me chuckle:

A love affair has risen.
I must catch the beauty girl RIGHT NOW!
Thank you for your help.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Imose-no-taki waterfalls

Continuing our quest to see more sights close to home, our latest excursion took us to the town of Ono, a little less than an hour away by train. The draw: The Imose-no-taki waterfalls, also known as the Husband-and-Wife Falls.

Just a short walk from Onoura train station and we were in a lush little area with a creek running by a small shrine called Ogashira Shrine. Across the creek, we glimpsed the first waterfall, the 55-yard high "female" falls flowing in a slender stream down the cliff.

Female falls

Meandering slowly along the creek, we saw many children wading through the waters, nets in hands, hunting for minnows to scoop up.

Further upstream we came to the male falls, a powerful torrent rushing over large rocks. At 33 yards, it was the shorter of the two but definitely more impressive.

Male falls

It was awfully cute to see lots of young children splashing around in the ankle-deep pool below the falls. The cold water was a bit of a shock when I stepped in, but not unpleasant.

Male falls closer up

Such wonderful natural beauty. A selfish part of me wishes I could have it all to myself.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Paying a visit to the Peace Pagoda

Joe and I have been making an unofficial effort lately to do a little more exploring in our own backyard. Even after being here for nearly two years, there are still places we have yet to visit even though they are not so far from home.

One such place was the Peace Pagoda, a landmark pictured on the local GetHiroshima tourist map that isn't so much a pagoda as a large silver dome with a steeple on top. On trips around Hiroshima Station, we'd see it perched on the mountainside and wonder what it was all about.

So we finally made the trip there on a recent Saturday. As we began our hike up the mountain, we first came to the unassuming little Toushougu Shrine.

This shrine is supposed to be popular for wishing for prosperity in business and harmony in the home. The thousands of papers you see tied to a gate on the left are omikuji, fortunes received by visitors to the shrine. The belief is that tying the fortunes to this structure will make the good fortunes come true, or kill a bad fortune. On the right, you see a bunch of wooden boards called ema. Visitors write their wishes on these boards and tie them up in hopes that they'll come true.

More ema behind the shrine, along with a place to purify your hands.

Inside the shrine, a Shinto priest was performing a service during which he seemed to bless a young man and woman. After the service was finished, they went outside and the priest did a little ritual with their car.

He kept shaking this stick with white strips of cloth hanging off it. I thought perhaps it was customary for Japanese people to have new cars blessed at the shrines, but when I asked co-workers about it, they said no. So maybe it's just this couple.

Continuing on up the mountainside, we went through a tunnel of torii gates reminiscent of the Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine complex that we visited last year in Kyoto.

Pausing at one spot, we were rewarded with sweeping views of the city and the Seto Inland Sea. Sometimes it's easy to forget how close we are to the sea here, but when you get up on the mountainside it's always a beautiful sight to see the islands.

A little more climbing and we made it to the Peace Pagoda. Some hippy was up there beating away on some drums (figures) but I couldn't locate him before he packed up his stuff and skedaddled when some raindrops started to fall.

So here it is, the Peace Pagoda:

I thought it looked better from far away. The view was more interesting than the landmark itself. Also perhaps more interesting is the story behind the Peace Pagoda.

The placard at the site informed us "The Peace Pagoda was erected in 1966 as a prayer for everlasting world peace and the repose of those souls sacrificed in the atomic bombing. The pagoda houses two gifts containing ashes of the Buddha, one presented by a group of Mongolian Buddhists. It also contains tens of thousands of memorial stones, each stone representing a prayer for peace offered by a resident of Hiroshima Prefecture."

A close-up of the Buddha inside the pagoda.

I also discovered that the Peace Pagoda actually has its own Wikipedia page, which offered more background. It says that the pagoda was built under the guidance of a Buddhist monk named Nichidatsu Fujii, who founded his own order of Buddhism. The monk was inspired to devote his life to promoting non-violence after meeting Mahatma Gandhi in 1931, and in 1947 began constructing these Peace Pagodas around the world as shrines to world peace. There are 80 of them in the world in Europe, Asia and the U.S. In the U.S., you can see Peace Pagodas in San Francisco; Leverett, Massachusetts; Grafton, New York; and the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Neat, huh. Maybe we'll see another one someday.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My online shenanigans

As I'm sure all three of my readers have noticed, I haven't been as consistent about updating my blog for a while, but there's kind of a good excuse for that — I've been busy working on other websites instead.

First and foremost is the Wide Island View, an online magazine written for and by JETs in Hiroshima prefecture. 

Front page from last Nov.'s PDF version of the WIV

Fellow JET Josh Zimmerman and I took over as editors of the Wide Island View last summer. Up until a few weeks ago, the WIV had always been published in PDF format every two months and e-mailed to a mailing list of around 200 current and former JETs. It was a pretty slick little publication, but without a website a lot of great articles that could have been helpful to future JETs or other gaijin around Japan were getting buried at the bottom of a few people's inboxes, never to be seen again. When we took over as editors we realized what a treasure trove of knowledge we had in all the travel articles that JETs had written since the Wide Island made its debut in November 2006. Given how many JETs travel near and far while they're in Japan, it was really a shame that such knowledge wasn't being shared. So, now it is — along with all the other enlightening stories about Japanese culture, language study, recipes, event reviews and listings, etc., that Hiroshima-ken JETs have written. There are a lot of fantastic writers on the JET program, and I'm always consistently impressed by the interesting and helpful stories that volunteers contribute.

We're both really proud of the new site and pleased with how professional it looks, even though neither one of us is a professional web designer. It's amazing what you can do using Wordpress! Now we've been working to spread the word, encouraging everyone to link to the Wide Island on their blogs and Facebook pages. The more links we get, the higher the website will show up in the rankings on a Google search, and the more eyes will see the site.

(For those who might be wondering why it's called the "Wide Island View," it's because the kanji for Hiroshima, 広島, mean "wide" and "island" respectively. Hence, the Wide Island View.)

The other website I got involved with a few months ago is JetWit (JET Writers Interpreters Translators), a blog aimed at connecting JET alumni. It's got lots of job listings aimed at JET alumni, commentary on news from Japan, and updates on the various activities of Japan-related organizations. The blog was started by a former JET now living in New York. I'm now writing a weekly roundup of upcoming events planned by the many chapters of the Japan-America Society. We've been
cross-promoting each other's sites.

So if it's been a while since I've updated this blog, chances are it's because I'm busy working on Wide Island View or JetWit. The good news is that even if you come here and find nothing new, the Wide Island View has a full archive of past articles to give you your Japan fix. We weren't able to put up the pictures that go with the old articles, but you can still see them in original form if you download the PDFs of the old issues.