December 17, 2007

Videos from Sydney


Our first two days in Sydney have been incredible!

On the first day we explored downtown, which is gorgeous, and full of character. We took a little walk on a trail in north Sydney, and Tisha got to see some lizards! We wrapped up the day by taking the ferry back into downtown, and were rewarded with some amazing views of Sydney from the water. Sydney waterfront has a variety of street performers, and this guy was our favorite:

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His group is called "The Web", and we loved the music so much, we bought the CD. We do not do that often! The CD, "Spirit of the Land" is a great album by the way. If you enjoy electronica, world music, or just something good, I recommend it. Check it out, here.

The big highlight of day two was our visit to the Sydney zoo. This was by far the best zoo we had ever seen. For starters, it had spectacular views of Sydney. In addition there were loads of animals from all over the world, and they had wonderful habitats for them. We saw a bird show that was quite memorable, and the meerkats were the definition of "cute". Tisha also got to see lots of reptiles, which she just loves. We also made friends with a few African transplants.

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After the zoo we took another ferry back into downtown, and decided to check out the world famous Sydney Opera House. The nutcracker is running here for the holidays, and we weren't surprised to learn it was sold out. But wouldn't you know it, some people who arrived late sold gave us their tickets and we were able to see the second act! Yes, we know we live a charmed life.

I would love to write more, but it's two in the morning and our flight to Tasmania is quite early.

Cheers!


Slideshow (will post more photos later):



November 13, 2007

Universal Studios Japan

It sure has been a long time since we posted, but don't think we haven't been up to anything! Far from it in fact. Way back in September we visited the theme park of movie company, Universal Studios with our friends Anneleise and Yukari.



USJ was not exactly an authentic Japanese experience, but it was a lot of fun. We spent the whole day at the park and hit the big rides including Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Spiderman, and a new roller coaster called Hollywood Dream, which was awesome. One ride that sucked was Backdraft. It wasn't even a ride, we just walked around and saw a bunch of fire.



Towards the end of our day we were standing near the front of the line for Shrek 3D when we spotted some characters from Sesame Street hugging and/or terrorizing Japanese children. Like most 28 year old Americans, I was practically raised by Sesame Street, and I really wanted to get my picture taken with my childhood idol, Ernie. I was a bit hesitant for fear of losing my spot in line, but Anneleise ordered me to seize the Muppet. I'm glad she did too!



It was a great day at the theme park. It was especially good to see our friend Yukari, who likes theme parks so much that she moved to Orlando to work at Disney World for a year!


October 9, 2007

Nara


Our latest adventure took us to Nara, Japan's ancient capital. I have been to Nara twice before, once with my parents and once with a good friend. While I have seen most of the big sights I still wanted to take James there.


Flashback to before the trip:

Me (calling the youth hostel): "So you are all full on Saturday night"
Hostel: "Yes, that's right, we have such and such sports camp and there isn't any room...
Me (turning to James): Hmm, the hostel is full, what about camping? I found a campsite that says it is only a 30 minute train ride from Nara OR Kyoto and a 20 minute walk to the campsite...
James: Sure, we have a great tent we might as well use it!

It sure seemed like a great idea at the time. It was cheap and seemed convenient! Maybe we could use this place for a Kyoto trip too! After many transfers, we finally arrived at Nagaike (Long Lake) Station. After walking a bit I asked a local construction worker if we were heading the right direction. He said yes, but is was another 3 kilometer... uphill.

When we finally got to the place, we had two choices for camping. A gravelly spot, or a mosquito infested one. We opted for paying a bit extra, staying at the lodge and then getting out of there as early as we could. OK, it wasn't such a good idea...
That behind us, we still had a great time seeing the sites in Nara, the most famous being Todai-ji, which has the largest Buddhist statue in Japan, and is the largest wooden structure in the world! At least that is what is said on the ticket.


We also visited a very beautiful garden nearby that I hadn't been to before.


Of course no trip to Nara would be complete without feeding the tame deer that roam Nara Park, living off of handouts from tourist and scaring small children. James still thinks watching the crying kids is more entertaining then the deer.

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October 1, 2007

Koyasan

Nearly 1200 years ago, a young Japanese man named Kukai traveled to China to study Buddhism. Kukai spent two years in a monestary. His master became deathly ill, and on his deathbed he asked the young monk to return to Japan, and spread his teachings. Kukai returned to Japan and founded the town of Koyasan in 816 AD.

A rock garden at Kongobuji temple

Tisha and I recently took a three day trip to the mountains south of Osaka to visit this beautiful town. Like many westerners, I am quite unfamiliar with Buddhism, and so this trip was particularly fascinating. During our visit we saw many Bhuddist Temples, and a beautiful cemetery. We also took a lovely hike, and stayed overnight at a temple.

(In order to maintain some semblance of brevity, I'm just going to run down the highlights of our action packed trip)

Funicular: The Ascent

Just getting to Koyasan is an adventure in itself. After a few hours and a few transfers on the train we finally arrived at the mountains south of Osaka. Koyasan sits in a valley amongst these mountains, at a height of 3000 feet. The final stretch of our journey was far to steep for mere trains... this, as we all know, was a job for a funicular!

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Riding the funicular, feelin' the flow.

After the excitement of the funicular, we needed to simmer down. Fortunately we still had a short bus ride into Koyasan.

Temples

We were finally in Koyasan, and it wasn't long before we got some sweet Buddhist temple action. If you're looking for temples in Japan, then Koyasan is the place to go. There are small temples...



...big Temples...



...and stone temples...
There's the pilot on top.

The most impressive temples are at the temple complex of Danjogaran. As always, our Lonely Planet guide gave us the lowdown:

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And here he is!

We liked Danjogaran so much, we decided to toss the old pie plate a few times:

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Filming your sweet trailing edge catch: priceless

Lodging

We spent our first night in Koyasan at a hostel, which was affordable and nice. Our second night in town we spent at Henjoson-in. Henjoson-in is one of many temples in Koyasan which offers shukubo style lodging to religious pilgrims (and tourists). The staff of these temples are all young Buddhist monks, who earn their keep by running the establishment. Shukubo provides a very authentic experience which includes distinctive vegetarian meals and morning prayer service. Henjoson-in also featured men's and women's Japanese baths, which were quite extravagant. Of course, this was Tisha's favorite part of the trip, and even I must admit that I enjoyed them, despite my well-known aversion to bathing. For photos of Henjoson-in, see the slideshow at the end of the post.

I See Dead People

For our final day in Koyasan, Tisha and I visited the town cemetery, which is located in the forest east of town. This cemetery is actually the main attraction in Koyasan, especially for the religious pilgrims. The most striking feature of the cemetery is its forest setting. Many of the cemeteries I have visited or seen in America are devoid of trees. None of them come close to presenting a native ecosystem, which is what is exactly what has been done in the Koyasan cemetery. I am particularly fond of forests because they are so alive. Walking through this place reminded me of the strong links between life and death. The fallen logs, gravestones, wandering children, and young saplings illustrate that without death there would be no room for new life.


I also realized in this hallowed setting that without mosquitoes there would be no need for bug spray. Fortunately, Tisha was prepared as always.

He is The One

The Buddhists actually believe that one guy has been holding on to his spot in the universe for almost 1200 years, and may not ever give it up. That man is Kukai himself, and at the far end of the cemetery there is small, and I suppose ancient, temple where he's been chillin' like a villain all this time. Of course, nobody gets within 100 meters of Kukai's final dwelling, and photographs are strictly forbidden. That said, Tisha loves candles, and has no shame:

Sadly, my wife will be reincarnated as a meal worm

I've Seen Enough to Know I've seen Enough

After seeing Kukai's mausoleum, we weren't exactly sure what to do next. Then we saw this...

Forget about Iran! The Buddhists have ICBM's!

... and we knew it was time to go home. As sad as we were to leave Koyasan, we knew we had one more thing to look forward to...

Funicular 2: The Descent

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Those poor suffering soy beans

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A near miss

Slideshow

September 21, 2007

Awaji Soccer Tourney

When I first came to Japan, there wasn't much ultimate being played in Kansai, so I decided to join the Hyogo JET soccer team. I was pretty bad when I first started but after 4 years of off and on practice and tournaments I have attained some level of competency. Last weekend we brought two womens teams to the annual ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) Awaji Soccer Tournament. James and I didn't take many pictures but he did get a video of me tripping a girl (sorry!)

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The Tishanator strikes again

Both Hyogo teams were split evenly and my team Hyogo B went on to win the whole tournament! While I wasn't too interested in the case of beer we won, it was pretty cool to win. It was also nice to have my own personal cheerleader for the whole tourney. ^_^

The Akashi Bridge

Last weekend, I accompanied Tisha to a soccer tournament (which I'm sure you will hear about soon). The tournament is on the island of Awaji. The ferry ride to the island gave us a great look at the longest single span bridge in the world, the Akashi bridge. The bridge is nearly two kilometers long, or fifty percent longer than the Golden Gate bridge. For more details, here's Tisha (never mind that I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about):

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September 20, 2007

My 1st Post

So James and I finally got our blog going, but the first 3 posts have all been by him. Originally after James set it up he kept bugging me to write the blog about the day we got married. When I started to write it he said it was too long, so he ended up writing it and changing the look of the blog. So now I am writing my first (short) post. I am pretty bad at keeping in touch with people and I am also bad at keeping journals. I have a paper journal that I started in 2000 and it still isn't full! Hopefully this goes a bit better then that. I think it will, since there are two of us and we can both poke and prod each other to update it!

So if you want to know what is going on in the lives of James and Tisha, bookmark this page and check it out every once in a while!

September 19, 2007

Japanese Baseball FTW!

Two of our friends here in Japan, are a married couple, Heidi and Naoto. Naoto loves baseball. Heidi does not, so I think both were happy to learn that I enjoy catching a game now and then. So far I've been to two ballgames with Naoto. The first game was decent. We went to the Osaka Dome to catch the Oryx Buffaloes play some other team. Neither was a contender, and their play showed why. Still, I was struck by the dedication of the fans, who bring drums, trumpets, trombones, and huge flags to show their enthusiasm.

The other game we went to was in the legendary Koshien stadium, to see the Hanshin Tigers play the Tokyo Swallows. Now this was a game, and the fans of both teams showed fanaticism on par with a Scottish soccer hooligan.

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Tokyo Swallows fans cheer for Alex Ramirez


Naoto is a die-hard Swallows fan, so we were sitting in their cheering section. When I say that Japanese baseball fans are dedicated, I'm not kidding. Our little cheering section stood for easily half the game. Every player has a song or cheer which is performed at least once per at-bat. These and many other cheers are orchestrated by a leader who shouts encouragement to the fans and uses a whistle to cue the drums and horns (seriously!) It is really amazing to see how into the game these people get; the average Japanese fan easily surpasses the American in enthusiasm.

So that was the Swallows cheering section, but what about the home team Tigers?

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Hanshin Tigers fans, doing what they do best: going crazy!

Naoto tells me that the Tigers fans are the most dedicated in Japan, and I'd probably say in the world. This video was taken during a Tigers at-bat, but there wasn't anything particularly exciting going on. The place was still rockin' like Safeco after a big win, and while I don't have video of the Tigers' game-winning hit, I can assure you it was pandemonium. I can't imagine how absolutely insane Koshien is during a playoff game, but I hope to get the chance to find out!

September 10, 2007

That Was Quick!

For those who did not know, at the end of July while Tisha and I were visiting friends and family in the Northwest, I proposed to Tisha, and she accepted! For those who need proof, or a good chuckle, you can check out the video.

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Well, just two weeks later we were living together in Ono, Japan. We, of course, knew that my tourist visa was only good for three months, and that we would need to find a way to keep me in Japan. With our parents' blessings, and guarantees of a big bash when we get back to the states, we decided to get the official paperwork taken care of, and to get married!


It turns out that getting married in Japan is a bit complicated (if you are not Japanese of course). We thought a trip to the consulate in Osaka would do the trick, but there we were informed that we would have to get the marriage license back in Ono. In Ono, we were told to come back with witnesses and given some paperwork as well. Tisha has met a lot of nice people in Japan, and we were able to wrangle two of them for the big day.

Mike and Fujikawa-san: witnesses

Our witnesses Mike and Fujikawa-san live in Ono. Mike is an English teacher, like Tisha. Fujikawa-san is the "tea lady", as Tisha puts it, at the first school she worked for in Ono. Here they are posing for the camera at the city hall on our big day.

At the city hall there were a lot of papers to sign, and I wasn't even sure which ones were which. After each paper I signed I would jokingly ask, "Are we married yet?" I think that this picture, is the actual moment I signed my soul away. Doesn't Tisha look thrilled!


Is Tisha smiling, or chuckling maniacally?

So that was it! The papers were all signed and we were married! But the fun was just beginning. Outside of city hall we ran into some teachers from Tisha's old school, who were shocked and delighted to hear the news. It turned out that all the teachers were meeting that day at city hall for a conference, and it had just let out. Of course, it wasn't long before Tisha and I were surrounded by Tisha's former coworkers who wanted to meet me, offer their congratulations, and of course take hundreds of pictures with their kei-tais (cellphones).

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After many photo-ops and refreshments at a nearby cafe, we finally left the city hall. Getting married is hard work, and we had worked up an appetite, so we hit a local restaurant just down the street from our apartment for dinner. It's a small establishment, run only by a nice married couple. It has a bar and just two tables. The place is frequented mostly by the hard working men and women of Ono, who regularly stop in for dinner and a brew after work.

We took one of the tables, and before long, two middle-aged gentlemen took the other. After giving them a glance Tisha said that one of them looked familiar. After a while, these two fellows struck up a conversation, and as it turned out, that familiar looking man was none other than the mayor of Ono! Of course it wasn't long before the cat was out of the bag, and we had a free bottle of wine on our table, courtesy of the mayor, and his friend from the city council.

Tisha and I with the mayor of Ono (right) and the city council-man.

So we wound up chatting it up with these fellows. It turns out that the mayor has visited Seattle, including our alma mater, the UW. Before he was mayor, he worked for a wheel manufacturer and did a lot of traveling in America, visiting tire plants in Ohio, Arkansas and elsewhere. The city council-man was a nice man as well, who remarked that we were probably the only foreigners ever to get married in Ono. I'll have to put that in the Wikipedia article for Ono.

So there you have it, Tisha and James got married on August 27th, 2007 in Ono, Japan. While we didn't exactly have a wedding, it was a very memorable and wonderful day anyway.

Kanpai!

August 31, 2007

Hello World!

Welcome to the blog of Tisha and James! They are a couple of American lovebirds, who are currently nesting in Ono, Japan. Tisha plays with kids, and James plays with computers. Both have tried their hands at the blog thing in the past, and those were short-lived endeavors. Let us hope that the third try is a charm!
< /third-person >

The purpose of this blog is to share our adventures so folks can get to know us better, and of course to record those adventures for posterity (whatever that is). We treasure our connections with family and friends; and hope that this blog will help to strengthen those connections, and perhaps lead to new ones.
*

Well, that is enough for this post. But stay tuned, because we will be posting exciting news about our adventures in America, Japan, and elsewhere!

*for the last time, we are not swingers!