This weekend I visited Kuroishi city near Hirosaki where there is an onsen (hot spring) that is also home to the Kokeshi doll museum. Probably about a thousand Kokeshi dolls from all over Tohoku can be found inside. You can also watch wood carvers make Kokeshi dolls as you peruse the gift shop. Kokeshi dolls are made only in the Tohoku region of Japan and the ones in Tsugaru are classified as "NURUYU" Kokeshi, whatever that means. While I was given a piece of paper with some English on it, information about the dolls was pretty lacking. The Nuruyu dolls were created by a famous Kokeshi artist named Mori Hidejirou. His signiture doll (pictured here), which I like to call "Jenny" after a former Hirosaki ALT by that name, can be found all over the museum. Giant 20 feet tall versions can also be found all over Kuroishi town and in front of the place. You can even buy sake at the local Justco department store that comes in a Jenny shaped bottle. The much more interesting attraction at the museum however was one that is rarely even mentioned in the literature about the place, that is the 1.9 million dollar gold and silver Kokeshi dolls.
After visiting the museum I was treated to a big Thanksgiving turkey dinner at the home of a English professor named Tony Raush that many Hirosaki ALT's are friends with. At the party I learned more about these mysterious Kokeshi from a former ALT who's been living in the area for 15 years. Apparently during more prosperous times, Kuroishi ordered up a solid gold kokeshi for ?100 million and a solid silver one for ?90 million as a means of promoting the area. The idea was that after displaying the dolls for a few years, during which time the price for gold and silver would presumably appreciate, Kuroishi intended to melt them down and sell them at a profit to help pay for various civic improvements. Unfortunately after 5 years the prices for these precious metals plummeted and the dolls still sit there to this day. The museum has absolutely no security from what I could tell and anyone can walk right up to the gold and silver idols and touch them (and presumably walk out with them too if they are strong enough). It's only a matter of time I think until some gangsters or hooligan teenagers get the idea to abscond with them. For information about other Japanese tourist attraction ideas gone wrong, check out this site.
Real Teacher: "Jamie sensei, we are having bowling enkai next Thursday. Will you come?"
Jamie Sensei: "Sure, sounds like fun. Is it the same place as last year?"
Real Teacher: "Yes, it's at 3 p.m.. Teachers get the afternoon off because exams are in the morning"
Jamie Sensei: "Great!"
Real Teacher: "But you are not a teacher. You are ALT so you must use nenkyu, is it okay?"
Jamie Sensei: "What? Why?"
Real Teacher: "You can come if you are off duty only, because if you get in car accident..."
Jamie Sensei: "Yeah, yeah, I know the drill. I don't want to use nenkyu so I guess I won't go then."
Real Teacher: "You are not coming?"
Jamie Sensei: "No, but thanks for teasing... I mean inviting me... sort of."
I really don't understant why ALT's always get screwed out of time off that normal teachers get. This is exactly the same thing that happens every summer when teachers get a week off and I have to sit in the staff room all alone. If I really am "not a teacher" then I wish they would stop inviting me to those damn 8 a.m. staff meetings. I guess this is their little way of getting me back for doing nothing all day while they actually do work and junk.
My cousin Katharine and her boyfriend Andrew paid me a visit in Japan this week while enroute to begin their exciting new life in Vietnam. Friday I headed down to Tokyo by Shinkansen to meet the weary travelers and begin my weekend stint as a terribly unqualified Tokyo tour guide. The couple stayed in a really cool hotel in Ueno's bum town called The Andon Ryokan, while I stayed at its 'sister hotel' nearby called The New Koyo Hotel. I guess the Koyo is kind of its ugly sister cause the place was a real dive to say the least. I don't know what exactly was new about The New Koyo, because the place looked about a hundred years old, was dirty, ugly, noisy, freezing cold, and just all around horrible.
Anyway, the three of us hit all the usual sightseeing spots in Tokyo. Katharine and Andrew were most interested in eating authentic Japanese sushi and other traditional cuisine. To their surprise, it's much easier to find a McDonald's in Tokyo than an actual sushi restaurant... especially when I'm the tour guide and that's all I know how to find. As you can guess, I wasn't really the best choice as guide for authentic Japanese cuisine. Eventually we found a few sushi bars in the tourist trap areas of Asakusa and Akihabara, so they were happy. I'll save the rest of details about the weekend for when I post the rest of the photos. But since we're talking already about eating raw fish, I'll leave you with a link to the world famous Meguro Parasitological Museum which we tried but failed to find. Judging from the cute descriptions on the website and from my brother Andrew's personal accounts, it sounds like a cool place to check out. Maybe next time I guess. I also heard a rumor about a McDonald's museum in Tokyo somewhere. Now if only there was a McDonald's parasite museum!
Apparently a Baywatch movie is in the works, and David Hasselhoff isn't going to be involved! As a half-German, and proud Hasselhoffiac, you can bet that you won`t find me in line for this one. I`m now going to go and watch the greatest music video ever made as my own silent protest.
(In case you can't get the video to work, here are a bunch of still images from it. Pictures alone don't really do justice to the genius of this video. It truly is the strangest and most wonderful piece of art ever produced by man, and that's no exageration!)
Lately I haven't had much going on that I though was worthy of being written about on here, so I've decided to start adding short posts whenever I learn something new about Japan that is interesting to me. Today's post is about sneezing.
In English when we sneeze we say "Achoo!". In Japan, they say "Hackshon!". Also Marijuana is pronounced "Marifuana".
I thought this site was kinda funny. It's a place for Americans to apologize to the world for electing George W. Bush: < a href=http://www.sorryeverybody.com/gallery/1/>SorryEverybody.com
Update: This is pretty good too
As many of you know, this site is one of the most famous "Video Blogs" of all time. Back when I started this thing about a year ago, I was but one of at most 6 or 7 true video blogs on the web. Back then the majority of video blogs didn't actually have any videos, just nerds bitching about the possibility and problems of video blogging. The handful that did exist were presented just like text blogs, except instead of reading what some nerdy guy thought about something, now you could also see and hear what he looks like! There were also a handful of art-faggy interactive video blogs that featured various experimental videos. As you can see the term "video blog" (or Vlog, Vog, Vid Blog) has come to mean many different things. It also can refer to collaborative blogs like Silversow.com or Demand Media where people post links to random videos on the net that they feel are interesting.
What inspired me to create the kind of videos that I've been making over the past year were a new bread of video blogs lead by Blumpy.org's Jacob Ludwick and OneTrick.net's Justin Johnson. These guys weren't computer nerds playing with streaming video technology, but young semi-professional video producers using video blogging to improve their skills as film makers. Their videos are really well done and actually interesting, which can't really be said for the majority of video blogs. I don't think any of my videos are in their league, but I think my editing ability has improved a great deal over the past year. My goal with this site was simply to document my experience in Japan for my family, friends and for myself, while improving the shooting and editing skills I learned at Trailervision. I'm not looking to start any kind of video blogging revolution or even impress anyone. Still video blogging seems to be growing in popularity very fast, and now there are at least three Japan vid blogs that I know of including this one (Japan-Link, KevinInJapan), not counting Francois, Jacob and Hugh's videos. Today you can visit Vidblogs.com to find all sorts of different video blogs by dozens of people, and that's only a fraction of those that are out there.
So what does the future hold for year 2 of Avoidinglife.com? I'm not sure. I haven't been taking my camera around as much as I used to. I don't know if it's because I'm starting to get bored with the vid blogging, or if life in Japan just doesn't seem as interesting now as it used to. Maybe it's the fault of those darn first year JET's that just don't know how to party like last year's frat boy squad. I'm still sitting on tons of footage from last summer I need to edit, so until I do something with that I probably won't shoot too much new footage (unless something awesome happens of course). I also would like to start creating things that have wider appeal than my vid blogs or dumb JET related comics. I'm not sure exactly what that should be though.
Today there has been a lot of posts in the comments section by 'bots'. For those few of my readers that aren't otaku, bots are programs that are responsible for doing really annoying things like send you spam emails, block search engines like Google, spy on your websurfing habits or advertise crap like penis pills and online poker in website comment pages. These programs act like viruses in that they copy themselves and send themselves to other people`s computers where they secretly cause havoc. I suspect that one or more of my readers may have one of these bastards running on their computers without even knowing it. It may be that all the comment spam is coming from somewhere else and just finds this site using Google or something. One thing I find curious though is that the IP addresses for the spam postings seems to fit within the range that OCN/Flets uses for its DSL service. That suggests to me that perhaps one of you guys are unwittingly behind this. If you are a Windows user than I strongly suggest you install a good anti-spyware program like Spybot Seach and Destroy if you haven`t already done so. It will hunt down and kill most of these nasty buggers, and should make your computer run faster while protecting your privacy. If you use a new anti-virus program, then it may already have some anti-spybot features built in as well. Francois, it just dawned on me that there is a chance that this is the reason why you can't access the site from home most of the time. Basically if you use the Internet, you should always use an anti-spyware program. If you don't then it`s like having sex with random strangers without a condom. It's only a matter of time until you get infected with something.
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