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December 18, 2006

Off to America for the holiday

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I am off to my sister's place in Colorado for a week or so. I am taking the laptop, but no guarantees that I will find an Internet connection. Will try to post a few entries if I can.

I just checked the weather forecast... -7 degrees and sporadic snow throughout the week. Cool.

Posted by Kirk at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2006

Kappabashi - all your kitchen needs and a big giant head

Kappabashi is the area in Tokyo dedicated to kitchen and restaurant supply stores. I always hear of it mentioned in reference to "plastic food", which is sometimes displayed in front of Japanese restaurants. On a side note, when I first came to Japan, this did not seem strange as I could not red any Japanese and a handy visual display was welcome. As I am writing this, I wonder why Japanese people would need plastic food displays.

In any case, it has to come from somewhere and Kappabashi is the place. It is not just plastic food, however, as some of the pictures below show. There are also shops for furnishings, signage, uniforms and kitchen supplies.

So, how do you find Kappabashi? Head West from Asakusa towards Ueno on Asakusa Dori. When you see the giant chef's head on the Niimi Building, you are there.

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I spent fifteen minutes walking around after my language school's end of semester outing to Hamarikyu and Asakusa. If I am feeling motivated later, I will post some photos of that, but I probably have a million on the website somewhere already.

In the meantime, these are shops that sell the signboards, giant plastic pigs, red lanterns...and the latter is where you can go when you have lost your appreciation for things that are new. No indication on whether they sell to cats.

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Posted by Kirk at 05:10 PM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2006

Return to Echigo Yuzawa

I made a quick getaway to the mountains today. And I mean quick…I left Tokyo at 1:32pm and will return tomorrow morning at 8:30am. I really wanted to get up here before I went back to the US for Christmas and this was the only day I could do it, so here I am. It is a bit early in the season, but there is already snow on the ground, thanks to a storm last weekend, and some of the ski areas higher up are open. So, if you are ready to ski it is all waiting for you. As for me, I am here long enough for a walk around town, a dip in the onsen, and dinner. I will even miss breakfast thanks to needing to catch the 7am train (which gets me to my Japanese class by 9am!)

I am staying at Hatago Isen again – if you read the blog, you may remember I stayed here last March. As expected, it is absolutely fantastic and if you did not take my advice last time on coming here, you should listen now.

Here are some pictures:

A slightly dated Echigo Yuzawa Station…if you look closely, you can see the Tokyo-bound bullet train is in the station. On the right is a picture of the entrance to the ryokan.

Lovely! The coffee shop in the lobby is excellent (I really wish this was within walking distance of my apartment) and I had the good fortune to speak to Baba-san of We Love Snow, who came up and introduced himself when I arrived. (I don’t have time to stop in and visit the We Love Snow office this time, but I definitely will when I am back again).

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Here are a few shots of the town – not much going on, as you can see – but there is snow on the ground and that makes it blog-worthy!

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I should have taken pictures of the dinner, but I did not think to take my camera with me. There was SO MUCH FOOD, I feel like I am going to explode. It was very tasty and I am glad because it is probably the last meal I will have for awhile. I cannot imagine eating again. So...it is 9:22pm and I am either going to:

1) take a bath
2) go to bed
3) sit here and moan because my stomach has expanded so much

in all three cases, there is no need for me to continue writing. See you back in Tokyo.

Posted by Kirk at 08:15 PM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2006

Lovely winter days in Tokyo

I have been carrying my camera around with me for the first time in a long while, so I took some pictures. This time of year is really nice in Tokyo - it's very bright, although the trade off is that is not very warm. (If you are in London - ha ha).

Anyway, I walked through Azabu Juban with one of my classmates Sharan after school today and ended up on a road that I had never been on before. This is right behind Roppongi Hills, which really seems to stand out against a cloudless sky. Here are a few pictures:

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To balance the old and the new, I also got pictures of a sake shop and a temple entrance. These have no signifcance to me whatsoever, except that I happened to walk by them for the first time today. It seems like a nice street.

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Japanese class - arggghhhh

There was a passing reference to school up there, so let me follow up. The semester is ending next week, which is good because I am really burned out on studying. I feel like I am not learning anything, but someone told me that is when you are learning the most. (or did I just make that up to feel better about the whole situation?).

I felt like this at the end of the last two semesters and later noticed the improvement, but it is not much comfort when I am in class flailing away without understanding.

On a positive note, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test was last Sunday and I feel fairly confident that I passed Level 3. We find out in February.

I have to decide whether to keep going or not...my school is 40 minutes away and it seems a bit too far for three hours a day and there are a lot of schools around here. Fortunately, I do not have to decide today.

I am off to Echigo Yuzawa for a quick overnight trip tomorrow (woo hoo!). You might remember that I went last April and it was fantastic. Yuzawa had its first snow this last weekend, so I am looking forward to seeing that.

And I will head over to my sister Terri's in the US in two weeks and stay through Christmas. That should also be fun. (It better be fun Terri, heh heh)

Posted by Kirk at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)