No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

30 June, 2009

Probably Not Being Exported to the US

Shiso is a large leaf that is sorta minty and very strong.

The Japanese don't really seem to drink a lot of soda. Most vending machines are packed with tea and juice and coffee. I wonder if Green Tea flavored Coke with vitamins will persuade them.

28 June, 2009


We took the old Hiroshima street car to catch the ferry to Miyajama, a beautiful island off the coast.
Look at the hordes of Japanese students leaving the boat. Everywhere we went was bombarded by school groups.

the Five-Storied Pagoda on Miyajima

gorgeous colors together

The famous floating Torii considered one of Japan's top 3 views. James says my hair is the perfect length for a Darth Vader helmet.

To enter a temple correctly, you are always supposed to go through the torii. These tourists paid to go through it the right way. When this temple was built it was only for a royalty, so by building the torii in the water they thought they could keep the commoners out.

The floating temple bogged down by tourists. A Japanese version of Venice?


From Kyoto, we took the Shinkansen another hour and a half to Hiroshima, on the northern side of the island. It's a beautiful, vibrant and laid back city with 6 rivers running through it. The A-Bomb Museum in Hiroshima.

The museum seemed most dedicated to not only telling the story of the victims and survivors of the atomic bomb, but also to preventing another occurrence. This sign made the threats that North Korea has been making at the US, South Korea and Japan all the more real.

Click to enlarge the picture and read the story of this sad little tricycle and helmet.

The names of all 140,000 victims are inscribed on this memorial. The flame will only be extinguished when the last nuclear arm in the world is destroyed.

Teachers in particular may know the story of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Sadako was a young girl who was effected by the radiation fall out. She got very sick with leukemia years after the bomb exploded. Old Japanese folklore says that if a sick person folds 1000 paper cranes, their wish will come true. Sadako died from leukemia, but her classmates kept making cranes. Her story was told in the museum and there is a special part of the park dedicated to her memory and that of all the children who lost their lives and parents in the bombing.

Sadako's monument

Schoolchildren still send thousands upon thousands of paper cranes each year to this memorial.

The A-Bomb dome, just yards away from the hypo-center. The museum showed pictures and maps of the devastation. Hiroshima was completely flattened for a 4 km radius.

On a lighter note, meet my Japanese chikan (pervert). He was excited to chat with me and asked to take my picture. He seemed like a friendly old guy....then he accidentally showed me the pictures of all the girls on his camera. Seems he has a penchant for blondes of all nationalities. Aside from this guy, the people in Hiroshima were the kindest we have met anywhere in Japan. People were so friendly, willing to chat and interested in us. Amazing that your country can do the worst imaginable offense to their beautiful city and people, and they cannot only forgive you, but like you! People said hello on the streets, in the elevators, in restaurants and tried out their broken English. It's such a change from Tokyo where we just put our heads down and go about our business. Minutes after my chikan left, the Mormons showed up.

More okonomiyaki eating and grilling. Hiroshima is famous for their okonomiyaki which also has soba noodles inside.

And of course, Michael. His music blared everywhere we went and the newspapers splashed his pictures across the front.

No geisha sightings on this trip

I love how a train can make everyone marvel.
I think Edita was most excited about the Shinkansen. We've been on it before and we were still looking forward to our trip to Kyoto primarily because of the bullet train. The Japanese still marvel at it and it's over 30 years old. It's just so smooth, fast and cool.

These kids approached me with a sheet that said, "Let's Talk English!" They took turns asking me questions directly from the sheet, such as, "What have you bought in Kyoto?" and "What is your favorite food?" I was having fun with them and asked them the exact same questions back. The only response I got was a blank stare and "eh?"

Inside the grounds of the Golden Pavilion of Kyoto.

Kinkakuji is stunning. The gardens, the gold leaf and the pond made for the most breathtaking scene.

To be out of the city and into nature again was such a wonderful feeling.

I love vending machines in Japan. I think I will make a photo book of just vending machine pictures. This one is selling vacuum cleaner bags, batteries, film and memory sticks. The one next to it sold men's ties.

My "pretty good" 100 yen fortune from the temple.

hmmm....I couldn't have said it better.

Tie your fortune here if it is not "excellent, pretty good or good."

another shrine in downtown Kyoto

wishes and paper cranes at the shrine

Nishiki Market in Kyoto. Check out the guy bowing. Kyoto had such a lovely small town feeling compared to Tokyo. Even though it is filled with over a million people, it was more casual, old world and enchanting than the skyscrapers of Tokyo. You could see the hills from most areas in the city and people were genuinely friendly to tourists. We hit Gion at night, the old town area from Memoirs of a Geisha era, to see the modern leisure district, tiny wooden houses and maybe a glimpse of a maiko on her way to an appointment. It's become a concern that tourists are too aggressive in their pursuits to spot a geisha in Kyoto.

making delicious okonomiyaki in Kyoto

The gardens at Nijo-ji castle in Kyoto. The grand palace had a "nightingale floor" that alerted the feudal lord if anyone tried to enter the palace. As you walked the floor gently squeaked--even a ninja couldn't get past it!

Night on the Town

We had saved all our Tokyo sightseeing trips for when guests come, so we don't overdose on Tokyo. The famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo shows its best action between the hours of 5 and 7, so we decided to stay out all night, past last train to catch the action. A few drinks with an incredible view from Legato in Shibuya and then on to the spa L'aqua to bathe in the warm waters and sleep in the comfy chairs. We slept until 4:45 (to a resounding chorus of Japanese snoring) and caught the first train to Tsukiji. I wish I had read the guidebook recommendations a little better to realize that it was closed every other Wednesday. You feel pretty stupid standing in the rain at 4:45 a.m. next to a smelly, desolate fish market.
Konbini (convenience store) action

I wonder if he thought a concrete pillow was a good choice. Honestly, we could devote an entire blog to the sleeping places of the Japanese.

This is what 4:45 a.m. feels like.

27 June, 2009

Asakusa Temples in Tokyo

Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa

It's rainy season here in Japan. A switch turned in the middle of June and it started to incessantly pour everyday. It's gray, sticky hot and wet. Makes you want to stay in all day under the air conditioning, but we forced ourselves to do a little sightseeing in Tokyo with Edita. These are the famous temples of Asakusa. The arcade leading up to the temples is filled with shops, one of which is a homemade o-senbei shop (Japanese rice crackers) that sells over 100 different flavors of senbei. I know what some of you are getting when I plop down in Oregon this summer!

Edita made it!

Our friend Edita came to visit us in Japan. We've been dragging her around against her will through the crowds and heat.

standing room only Kabuki performance

choose your crepe!

You are going to be Mrs. Foss????

The girls were pretty cute and excited when I told them I was marrying Mr. Foss. Not only that their teacher was getting married, but to another teacher in the school! This card below is pretty great. If you look closely you can see that the drawing of me is dreaming of having children and the drawing of James is dreaming of a house. Their concept of marriage is so funny. A few memorable quotes:
  • Are you marrying him just because you like the ring?
  • Will you get mad at him and ask him to go to the garage and he'll just start drinking lots of wine and then you will yell.
  • To Mr. Foss: "Did you ask Ms. Latter to marry you." "Yes." "What would you have done if she said no?" "Asked another second grade teacher." "Oh, yeah."
  • Can you get married during our music special class so we can sing for you?
  • But Mr. Lewis (the other second grade teacher) will be so sad that you are marrying someone else. His heart will be broken.
  • Don't get married in America because there is swine flu there!