Taking in an afternoon.

20111219-144312.jpg

Sometimes you just have to sit down, grab some fresh fried chicken, and watch people be accosted by pigeons outside a Buddhist temple.

Weather is turning colder, not a threat of snow at all. Every day for the past two weeks has been sunny, with only a day or two of clouds.

Xmas is an interesting holiday here. Completely secular and a day to be spent with your loved one – it’s a “lover’s holiday” as was explained to me. Makes sense since most of the country follows Buddhism & Shintoism. Decorations everywhere, especially in the retail areas. Seems a whole lot more inclusive to be honest.

I did hear somewhere that many kids here think its Santa’s Birthday. Hehe.

So fried chicken. Pigeons. Xmas gifts. Buddhist charms and some fun plans coming up. The holiday season is sure interesting!

Advertisements

Hello Microblog!

20111216-144827.jpg

The posts are a little less frequent but that does not mean the thrill or excitement has diminished at all from living here. 🙂

If you spend any time on my Flickr or Twitter I tend to do most of my posting of things happening RIGHT now in 140 characters or less. That works most of the time, but let’s try something different right now.

Phone blogging – admittedly this is a little longer than most of these will be, but a little premise is nice to put things into perspective and answer “why?”. Besides, now I have an excuse if I have more spelling mistakes. Luckily I have a wonderful editor who is quick to point out any mistakes for me.

So here I am, resting on a park bench outside of the Nagoya Harbor. It’s cold, 20mph winds, clouds here an there and I can still see mountains in the distance.

Hello micro blogging. Nice to meet you too!

20111216-144744.jpg

Mini-Cultural Note #1 – Sake Pouring!

In addition to reporting various things going on here that we are up to, I figure that the occasional bit on culture and the life that we are experiencing here would not only be relevant, but welcome to those following along.

Sake

Let’s start with a something short and sweet I learned the other night about pouring Sake. (酒)

It is impolite to not fill the glass all the way to the top. In fact, if you were at an establishment that serves Sake and the glass did not look like like the photo to the left, it would be expected for you to be upset at the situation presented to you and your drink and ask the pourer to top you up!

To help facilitate this wonderful display of surface tension, the glass is set into a small box. Upon pouring the glass, you fill it to the top and continue to pour.  Without the catch-box, this could get really messy – and wasteful! – as the Sake would then be spilled all over the table.  (I am unsure of the phrase for Party Foul in Japanese, but I am sure it exists.)  The extra Sake then washes over your glass into the box (I won’t say excess here, because I’m pretty sure there isn’t a phrase for “Too much Sake” either.)  This works out all too well.  Not only do you have a glass over-filled past the brim, and no mess to clean up, you ALSO have the chance to refill your glass with all the Sake that fell into the box!  What an amazing idea!  I’m sold. They need this with every drink.

Now I believe this to be wholly accurate as it did come from Japanese friends of ours, but we were all enjoying a night out to welcome another member to the Theoretical Astrophysics group so take everything said with a glass of Sake.  Or Two.

かんぱい!

Today is …

It wasn’t until later into our day of exploring Nagoya that Jen pointed out with a smile on her face that today was actually the 13th, and that means we’ve been married for 4 months now.

I’ll leave most of the the sentimental thoughts in my own mind for now, and just leave a picture. There’s a castle in it as well, so that’s even better. I love my wife, and I am truly the happiest guy in the world when I’m with her. Each day brings something new, and I know that as long as I have her with me, things will always be … well … 🙂

4 months in. :)

I’ll keep the mushy stuff down in the future, promise. Maybe.

🙂

A visit to the Nagoya Aquarium!

An Afternoon at the Nagoya AquariumAs it turns out, we live in a city with a fairly substantial Aquarium near the main port. Gorgeous area, only a 320Y Subway ride from our station as well. We decided to check it out a wee bit ago and see what it had to offer. Even though I was a little under the weather I decided to chance it and see if I would still be OK even after going (which later turned out to be a mistake, was kept essentially in bed for 2 days straight after this sleeping … whoops. Lesson learned.)

An Afternoon at the Nagoya AquariumI love aquariums. Absolutely love them. I used to be an avid fishkeeper myself (looking at setting one up here before the New Year as funds allow, just something small either with a single Betta splendens or some shrimp, live plants, Amano-style all that.) Keeping it under 5 gallons for sure. (Easy to move then!) I’ve been lucky to visit a few back home: Shed Aquarium (of course!), Baltimore Aquarium, Georgia Aquarium(Wow. Just wow.), and the Tampa Aquarium. I won’t go into critique mode, but this is an impressive place – doesn’t have much in the way of Freshwater specices and focuses mainly on Tropical/Subtropical & Japanese ecosystems (which makes sense) but there is, in particular one feature that actually left me nearly speechless.

Read More…

Japanese Gardens and lurking danger.

Beautiful steps in the gardens.

National Cultural Day was on the 3rd of November, and Jen was given the day off. That’s a full on excuse to go see cool stuff, so after a quick scan of the handy English-version of the Sights of Nagoya City Map we had our route, and were off.

We did stop the Toganji Temple & the Atsuta Shrine on our way to the Shirotori Gardens (白鳥庭園 – Swan Gardens) However, I’ll refrain from commenting too much on the Shrines, Temples and Buddhist / Shinto religions here till I know more about them.  Besides, keeping things short and sweet sound like a good idea, and I’d rather not go too into depth about everything and it gives me an excuse to write later on too. ;D

The Gardens are in a traditional Japanese Style, lots of water, lots of carefully pruned plants, very serene feel to it all. From the official English map that we were handed, here’s what was written in it:

“The Shirotori Garden is a Japanese-style garden with a path running along the banks of streams and ponds.  The area of the garden is approximately 3.7 hectares.

The mound at the southwestern corner of the garden represents Mt. Ontake and the stream originating from the mound, the Kiso River.

In the center of the garden lies the Seiu-tei, a couple of tea ceremony rooms.

Seiu-tei was designed after the image of a swan, or “shirotori”, flying down to rest its wings.

Seiu-tei was designed after the depiction of the flow of the tides, one of the traditional aspects of Japanese gardens.  The ebb and flow effect is achieved by the use of modern technology.”

Fantastic … so what does it all mean?

Shirotori Gardens

Oh. That’s pretty darn cool.
Read More…

Sub-Tropical Island Adventure Part 4: Black Pearls and Okinawan Girls

Our sub-tropical island vacation was finally winding towards the end. Only another couple days left on Ishigaki. The sunshine filled morning set a wonderful stage for the rest of the day. With Japanese-only talks all morning, both Jen and Vladamir cut out early and the three of us went on our own little adventure towards the North of the Island. Kabira Bay was calling, and even without any influence from my love of the Pirates of the Caribbean Movies, I was excited to check out what a Black Pearl looked like, without all the zombie pirate skeletons.

Glass bottomed boat! A visit to the bay is not complete without a glass-bottomed boat trip though! Our wonderful taxi driver even got us setup with a tour company for one of them (I wonder if he got a comission …) and within a few minutes of walking along the soft, white, sandy beach we were off to see what sorts of reefs lie just tens of meters off the shoreline.

Nemo!
Read More…