Monday, December 13, 2010

Free Market at Tofuji temple

The 21st of every month there is a great big flea market sort of thing at Tofuji Temple in Kyoto. You can get some things that are normally really expensive for really decent prices. It starts sometime in the morning, I would guess around 10 o'clock because nothing opens before that except the trains, and it ends at three or four, I can't remember, Noon is probably a good time to get there. It is amazingly crowed, apparently the Japanese love a good deal as much as the tourists.  It is entirely acceptable to haggle for your purchases. There are also festival foods there and used kimonos can be bought for as little as Y500, you still have to buy an obi, but this is a steal if you want a kimono.Tofuji temple is west and a bit south of Kyoto station. You can get to it by train, but it's a bit complicated, maps are nice. Definitely a Japanese esperience.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Raindrops on roses...

I thought that as I am nearing the end of my stay in Japan I would like to do a blog about my favorite things in and about Japan. In the last coupe weeks I have been feeling a sort of culture shock, and a longing for the US. To combat this I have been looking for things that I will miss when I return. The first thing that I think I will really miss is the "Ofuro" or the bath.

The bath extends below the floor about another 18"-24". So the dimensions are about 2'x3'x3'. So after showering you can soak in water up to your chin. This is especially nice because the house is not heated except in the rooms that people are in by kerosene heaters. So the bathroom is kinda cold, and the water is wonderful. There is nothing like a cold room to make you appreciate a hot bath.

Another one of my favorite things is the sliding doors. I don't really have a great reason for this, I just like the aesthetics. 
I also like the "Genkan" or entrance way. Everyone leaves there shoes here which helps keep the house clean. I like the aesthetics of this as well. I love how the Japanese love to use flowers to decorate. My Okaasan always has flowers.

I love my down comforter, even though there is no heat in my room I always wake up nice and warm, although when going to sleep I have to warm the bed up with my body, which is a bit cold.

I love katsu don. This is fried pork cutlet simmered in a sauce with an egg then served over rice. Oishiiii!

I love "Okonomiyaki" This is a kind of cabbage pancake with meat in it and the wonderful Okinomiyaki sauce and (I know it sounds gross, but it's yummy) Mayonnaise, with nori and katsuobushi on top. This is making me hungry.

I love the convenience stores, because they have many different sorts of cheap food that is always fresh.

I love Onigiri, which is a rice ball with some sort of meat or filling inside with seaweed on the outside.

I love Japanese sweets. They have Alforte, which is chocolate with cookie in the back which I will miss. I love Wagashi, which are Japaneses traditional sweets. I like the mochi and sweet bean paste, I will especially miss sweet bean. There are these doughnut like things that have sweet bean on the inside and sugar on the outside that are wonderful.
I will miss Japanese Bakeries. They are every where and the bread is so inexpensive, usually. There are so many different kinds of bread that are so yummy.
I will miss milk tea.

I will miss Kyoto.

I love the river in Kyoto because after walking in the city all day surrounded on every side by people I can walk by the river and relax away from the masses of people.

 I like the "Nishiki Ichiba Dori" which is a food market street in Kyoto. There are so many different things that you can buy. You can buy things that you didn't even know existed.

I love "Tsukemono" Japanese pickled vegitables. There are so many kinds and they are all delicious.

I also like to see the castles.

I like the rice fields, the different seasons.

I might have more later. But this is it for now.

Thursday, December 2, 2010



So mom suggested that I do a blog on my pottery class, and I thought that it was a good idea. I already put some pics in one of my other blogs, but here are some more.
Wedging Tables

There are many wheels, so it is nice.

Glazing Center

Here is the place that you can paint oxide that will show through the glaze onto pots. 

This is where Sensei puts the fired ware

This is my shelf
I am making a Totoro for my host mom

This is Sensei

We went to Shigaraki together

This is Peter, who is British.
He insists that he is a great artist.
This is his first semester of Ceramics.
So, here at Kansai Gaidai you can take only one of two art courses. You can take Sumie, or Ceramics. I, of course, took ceramics. I have gotten to learn about Japanese (Eastern) techniques of throwing, and trimming.
 The main difference is that they throw clockwise when we throw counter-clockwise. As most people are right handed the techniques are different because in the west the clay pulls on the hand, and in the east it pushes on the hand. It is kind of hard to describe. The eastern technique uses the right hand on the inside or at 12 o'clock and the left hand supports, whereas in the west we through at 3 o'cock with the right hand on the outside. In Japan we learned to center a lot of clay, then throwing from the hump. It is very handy if you are throwing many small pieces. I threw mostly going counter-clockwise, but I used eastern technique, sometime it was kind of awkward. I tried throwing the other direction, and I could do it, but it was easier to throw the direction I had been throwing all semester. It was insightful into the differences in the techniques. I don't think that if trying to use western techniques throwing clockwise would work very well. I'm sure if you practiced a lot you could, but eastern techniques would work do much better.
Sorry for all of you who are bored sick with technical jargon.
About a month ago, Britany and I went took the train to Shigaraki, an old Ceramics center in Japan. One of the "6 Old Kilns". I would eventually like to go to all of the six old kiln sites in Japan, So far I have been to two. Setto, and Shigaraki. When we got there we rented bicycles and rode to a ceramics center where they have a visiting artist program. I'm sure it is quite competitive to get in. There was a really big hill and some kilns. Pictures.
Big hill

Ceramic pandas at the top of big hill

Grasshopper on ceramic bird house

Still at the top of the big hill

Visiting artist art (ceramic)

Big Pot

Ceramic stools to sit on


There were some people firing a kiln, and we got to put some wood in.
Which, for me, isn't really a big deal, but Britany really liked it.
They were on their second day, and they would finish the next day.
They had food, but we didn't get any. 

This was a kiln right next to the one they were firing. It was cooling.

The cooling Nobori-gama
 We went on to see a museum about ceramics and we saw a shrine with a festival. I also bought some pottery, but I got so caught up in that that I forgot to take pictures. Darn. Shigaraki is also known for ceramic Tanuki, which are a badger-like animal that they use to scare off bad spirits. They are a bit creepy.

Two weekends ago I went to Nara to meet Imanishi Masaya, a friend of Yoshi's (My Ceramics teacher at K-State), who is a professional potter here in Japan. He lives behind a Temple and has his studio and kilns there. I took pictures.

Imanishi san and his wife

Iminish san and me

between the house and the studio

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Being Sick in Japan

So, sorry for not writing for so long. I've kinda lost my steam.

About three weeks ago I caught a cold. This is not unusual for me. I usually get three of four colds a year, so when I came down with one here, it was annoying, but not unexpected. It was a rather bad cold and I was miserable. In America I can just go to the store and buy what I want or need. Here everything is in Japanese (oddly enough!) and Japanese just go to the Hospital and get a prescription. That's right, you read correctly. Japanese people go to the hospital for a common cold. They have required health insurance here, and there is no deductible. So if they feel the least bit off they hurry to the doctor who meets with them briefly and then prescribes them some medicine. If you have allergies you go to the hospital. If your leg hurts you go to the hospital. So when I caught my cold all the Japanese people urged me to go to the Hospital.
 Being American, I would never go to the Hospital to be told what I already know. As a matter of fact I probably wouldn't go unless I were bleeding profusely, had been ill for some time, or was in danger of dying. Needless to say I was somewhat shocked when being repeatedly urged to go to the doctor. My insurance has a deductible, I would have to pay for it myself.
 My host mom got so worried that she called the School to have them talk to me. I was informed that I needed to get some medicine. Usually I will take some vitamin C, zinc, and Nyquil at night to help me sleep. Nyquil being illegal here I had to forgo it, then I will just suffer through the rest of the symptoms. I had been wearing a mask (as is expected in Japan) to prevent the spread of germs. (Masks are terribly hot.) I shared my view of the situation with the lady at the school, and she told me a story about a time when she had had allergies and had gone to the Hospital to get medicine so that her co-workers would not need to be discountanced by her sneezing. Her point being that my cold was inconveniencing those around me so I had better get some medicine to hide it. My response to that situation would have been that I was the one suffering and they should feel sorry for me, not annoyed.  I was also required to return the next day to prove that I was improving, and if not improving I would be required to go to the Hospital. Being the good international student that I was I then determined to buy some medicine. I went to get some medicine at the drug store then realized that I didn't have enough money, Oops!
 Fortunately for my bank account I was somewhat better the next day. I went to the drug store and got some cough medicine the next day. It was very effective, and when I didn't take the medicine some days later I coughed all day. I guess that I felt a bit miffed that I was the sick one and I have to be the one to think about those around me. It's selfish, I know, but it was how I felt. It seems to be to be a good attitude to have, but I am not sure that I want others to expect it from me. In Japan, I feel that there is a lot of behavioral expectation  projected onto people. I find it a bit oppressive, a whole culture that guilts people into doing what is expected.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


So, if you want to go anywhere you need to know how to use the buses and trains. I would say that the most important thing to know is the stop you want to get to. I am going to start with the bus since you need to take the bus to get to the train from KG.There is a bus stop right outside of the front gate of KG. The one to the left as you exit KG goes away from Hirakata Station.

If you want to go to Hirakata station you need to go right and cross the street. The stop is in front of a Indian restaurant on the corner with stop lights. There is a bus schedule at the stop. These schedules are in kanji so if you can learn the kanji for the place you want to go it is very helpful. The main thing is that it tells you when the bus is comming.

The building in the background is Kansai Gaidai. When the bus comes you get in the rear door.
When you get to your destination The bus to Hirakata costs 220Y.  There is a machine that you put your money into when you get off. You must put exact change into the machine. Fortunately this machine also doubles as a change maker.
At Hirakata you get off at the end of the line so you don't really need to know the stop, but if you go anywhere else you have to listen for it. When you hear it you push the button. The button is everywhere. It is generally a good idea to not be loud in the bus or train.
When you get to the Train station you can find stairs and go up. There are two ways to get to the train. One end is smaller, and on the north end. The larger one is south. There are many stores in the station. From what I have seen most major stations double as a sort of shopping center. When you find the gate there will be a ticket place close by.
This one is to the left of the gates. Above the machines is a train map of the stops and how much you need to buy the ticket for.
So you pick a stop and look at the box below the stop and you put at least that much money in the machine. The ticket buttons will light up and you push the one for the amount that you want.
It will then spit out a ticket and your change.
You then go through the gate which you feed your ticket through and it spits the ticket out the other side. Grab your ticket! You will need it to get back out.
You then go up (in this case) to the train platform. On the platform is a sign that tells what kind of train stops at which stations. There are various speeds of trains. The slowest that stops at all of the stations is the Local. The fastest which only stops at the big stations is the Limited express. Fortunately these are in romanji (or English) so you can read it.
There are signs that indicate the next two trains that are coming on a track. The trains are color coded according to the sign and train. Handy! :)

When the train comes you just walk on, then you have to listen for your stop. If you miss your stop all you have to do is get off and take the next train back to your stop. Sometimes this involves talking to the man at the ticket booth who will stamp your ticket then you can go the the other gate and show it to the other ticket man. Remember your desired destination name, it makes everything so much easier. When you get to where you want to go you get off and go to the gate (which is usually found by following the crowd), and you put your ticket into the machine which eats it. If you haven't paid enough you have to go adjust your fare with the ticket man.
That is basically how it is done.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Host Family's Home

I think that when I imagined a Japanese home I saw some minimalistic, obsessively clean house. My host mother's house is not like that at all. It is rather reminiscent of any older couple's house, who has had sixty some odd years to accumulate stuff. The house is quite large for a Japanese house. It is a house that has been lived in by multiple generations, and so is an older traditional house.

 This is my bike in front of the house. The Laundry is done almost daily, and hung out to dry in front of the house. My host family has a dog. Sado looks very cute, but he isn't very friendly and he is prone to snap. He is also hard of hearing, so until he sees someone he doesn't start to bark, but He really likes to bark.
Okasan likes to garden in the yard. Most of the gardening is done in containers.
When you first enter the house you come into the genkan.
Okasan does ikebana, and there are always flower arrangements in the genkan.
Behind the genkan is the kitchen where we also eat.
This is normal, but somewhat messy. Food is frequently left out overnight on the dining table, even meat. This is very typical for Japanese people. I usually get four of five small plates of food for dinner.
To the right of the genkan is the living room. This is messier than usual.
She cleaned the table later that day.
To the left of the genkan is a room that used to be a sleeping room, I think, before they built bedrooms on.
It is mostly used for storage now, I think. There is a room to the right if this that is definitely storage. The door to it is almost never open. Through this room is the bedrooms.
The toilet is at the end of the hall. My room is next to the toilet. There is really nothing but the toilet and a hand washing sink in that room.
The bath is off of the kitchen.
there is a large sink and mirror in one room, and next to it is the bath. The bath has an approximately 2 ft deep  tub, and a shower head on a hose. You never get right into the bath, because everyone uses the same water. First you have to wash yourself off. You sit on the little stool, and wash yourself, and make sure you rinse very well, then you can soak in the Ofuro if you like.
My room is next to the toilet. My room is somewhat messy too.
And that is my house.