Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ho Ho etc..

Merry Christmas! My internet gift to you lucky readers is this Youtube clip of a monkey bullying a couple of tigers. Please enjoy.

Adam and I went on a day trip to Haruna shrine on Christmas Eve, easily one of the nicest shrines I’ve been to in Japan, and it’s only about an hour from home. Most shrines and pagodas are rebuilt as copies of the originals due to fires or earthquakes or bombings, but this one is the original structure, built in 1869. You can really feel the history in the faded paint and weathered wood. To get to it you have to hike alongside a mountain path lit by lanterns. Really nice. We packed a bento and drank some hot tea before hiking up to the top, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

At sunset we headed up to Lake Haruna at the top of the mountain, where there was a Christmas illumination show taking place. This was an involved production which culminated in Christmas lights, hand-holding couples, peevish adolescents in Santa suits, and a bubble machine. (Which was awesome because the bubbles froze in mid-air. Frozen bubbles. Frubbles, if you will.)

We caught a bus back home and bought some fried chicken for dinner. I could go my entire life without going into a KFC and be content, but Japanese eat fried chicken on Christmas, so I thought we’d do it their way this year. Japanese are also big fans of Christmas cake, so I decided to make one of those too. We don’t have an oven, so I made a cake in the rice cooker. This is completely reasonable, since most Japanese homes aren’t equipped with ovens or anything else that would encourage much baking. Rightly so, as baked goods in Japanese homes are doomed to failure. 7 hours after putting my cake in, I gave up waiting for it at 2 am and went to bed. After that time I turn into a surly underslept harpy and nothing good happens after 2 am anyway. The aftermath of it all was something more like a Christmas bagel. We dressed it up and ate it anyways.

Christmas morning was spent hunting down presents and opening packages from home. Thanks to everyone from home. All the gifts exceeded far beyond what I deserved for Christmas; namely pervasive neglect or a swift punch to the nose.

Also, I made Adam a Christmas TARDIS. I am the coolest.

Oh, and check out what Adam made me for Christmas. He was a slave to Microsoft Paint for 2 weeks in order to make this. Steampunk Santa! If you look closely, you can see a man riding a penny-farthing in the background. There's also a TARDIS if you can find it...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Scavenger Hunt

The next clue is an easy one,
If you can read between the rows,
Tralfamadorians and guns,
Dead one by one, and so it goes!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sick Muffins

I write this in bed on a Monday afternoon. Having taken a sick day from work only to wake up briefly in the morning to accept a Christmas package from my dear friend Mandy, I slept all afternoon and am the better for it. And so begins my undoing: blogging under the influence of cold medicine in excess. A slow but steady progression to sedatives/uppers.

This weekend, Adam dragged my sick-ass out of bed so that we could take a 1 hour ride up into the mountains to go see something called the Sistina Chapel Trick Art and Monkey Show. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. That is to say, it’s a facsimile of the Sistine Chapel set up in the middle of nowhere. Inside, there’s a stage where a troupe of zoot suited monkeys do shtick for a keen audience. The rest of the building is devoted to various optical illusion exhibits that provide great photo ops for camera-happy tourists such as ourselves. Enjoy. (note: there are no pictures of the monkey show because both of us were just too depressed by it to take any. Contrary to what their whimsical costumes would have you believe, the monkeys were defeated and broken. So sad.)
An anatomically incorrect statue:

Trapped in a mirror.Vampire Chelsey.
There has been a lot of Christmas shopping lately, which means multiple trips to Tokyo. Living so close to a world class city has its advantages. You get a nice mix of old:

And new.

We took a shopping break to go to Ueno zoo, which was all kinds of amazing. I saw some animals that I never even knew existed. The tanuki were my favourite, mostly because Japanese folklore makes them out to be the bearers of drunken tomfoolery. They also have magic testicles that can take the shape of anything. Also, someone was rather underdressed for the party:

In other news: License to scoot!

Getting my license was a giant pain in the ass. The prefectural driving office offers foreigners a half-hour window to come and apply for a license, and if you’re not closer than 4th in line, you’re pretty much SOL. I know this because I went to obtain a license last Friday, and being 7th, was promptly told by an overly shouty man that there was no point in me waiting around since they probably wouldn’t get to me anyway before the window closes. I had to come back on Monday and elbow and pinch my way to the front of the crowd in order to be first. It’s a terrible system, and it’s almost as if they’re trying to make it so frustrating that foreigners give up on getting a license completely. But there’s a silver lining, at least if you’re Canadian. People from the U.K, Scotland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, etc, are all exempt from having to take any kind of test. Americans have to take a written and practical exam, both of which are extremely hard and I’ve heard of people failing it 13 times before they could get a license. Presumably, I’m exempt because all of the aforementioned countries drive on left side of the road… same as Japan. Which is true. Except for Canada. Yeah. I don't know either.

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve decided that the best Doctor of all time would be played by either Michael Caine or Geoffry Rush. Despite my wild arm-wavy attempts to advise the BBC to increase their budget to accommodate either of these actors should they wish to consecrate the show, they’re still going with Matt “I-can’t-pronounce-th” Smith. Please accept this vandalized Matt Smiff photo as a symbol of my irrational resolve to dislike him, as Caine or Rush could likely drop a fart with more intellectual and emotional resonance than anything put forth by Mr. Smiff. (I find googly eyes are most effective.)

11 days till Christmas!