Posts Tagged ‘Ise’

Scoring Fame and Fortune

2011年 10月 13日

We had a photo society trip to Ise, Toba and Shima during the summer with another chapter from Nagoya. Both chapters were interested in having a little photo contest, so we submitted photos and let the judges figure it out. Last night at our monthly meeting we heard the results: I was very surprised when I heard that I had taken fourth place.

Both of these chapters are filled with people who have been practicing photography for a long time. Also a lot of them are retired, giving them free time to shoot away. I have never placed better than sixth in our monthly contest – which is just our chapter members – let alone in a bigger contest.

I was further surprised when our teacher came around with a prize envelope for me. I had no idea there were prizes. There was a certificate for 1000 yen inside. Doing a little math, you’ll figure out that a thousand yen is not a lot of money; particularly, if you back out the printing costs. We had a little dinner afterwards and some of our senior members were apologetic that my prize was so small; however, I assured them that I was just happy for the acknowledgement amongst such elite company.

Next month, the winning photos will come to our monthly meeting for a study session. I am looking forward to seeing the others. Contests after photo shoots are always tough because people are generally shooting the same subject. The fanciest lens and the best printing make a difference there; however, I think I got into the top ranks by looking at the world from a different angle: literally. Ironically, the photo is one which I totally overlooked in my first few passes through what I shot; sometimes you need to look again.

After the study session, I think I can upload an image for you. I’ll explain the shot a little at that time.


Closer to Zero

2011年 9月 26日

Ideal commute time is zero minutes. While I am at work, my time is being used and I am being paid for it. When I am commuting, I am spending my time getting to work, but no other compensation is forthcoming. Given my choice in the matter, I would have a job where that time was eliminated or greatly reduced.

For two and a half years I chose to live in Ise for personal reasons even though my work is in Tsu. Our circumstances that pulled me to Ise vanished suddenly on April 1st and I set about contriving to get back to Tsu. September 17th – amidst a downpour – a moving company arrived in the morning and hauled our personal belongings to Tsu.

Before the move, whether going by train or by car, I needed to leave about 7:15 to comfortably arrive at my workplace by 8:30. Doing some simple math shows that two and a half hours of my precious time was vanishing in the commute. This morning, facing my longest commute from the new house, I left at 8:10 and arrived precisely at 8:30. Further, I hope to learn a more direct route which will drop it to less than 15 minutes with luck. Friday’s commute should take less than one minute by bicycle.

It has only been about a week, but the luxury of sleep is already greatly appreciated. My calligraphy study has also improved and I am able to do a lot more around the house.

Already there are several posts I want to make, but they require a lot of photo uploading so they may have to wait for my new internet connection (October 6th, hopefully). Looking forward to communicating here.


2011年 9月 17日

The clock struck 2AM here in Ise, Japan as we prepare for our move back to Tsu. Seven short hours from now, the man from iTV cable company will cut my umbilical and charge me more than $200 for the operation. We ordered broadband service in Tsu, but will not be connected for almost three weeks. Until the 6th of October, I will have intermittent access wherever I can find a chance… Unless someone has an unprotected wireless connection near the new house.

This may possibly be the longest time without home internet in more than two decades. For some reason, Japan won’t make any quick connections: everything in its time.

Once I get settled I will write up a few book reports about “Japanese Beyond Words”, “Eat, Pray, Love”, and a special one whose title escapes me as it is taped up in a box right now. There is a lot of other paperwork I need to finish soon, so maybe this is a blessing having a distraction forcibly removed.

Moving (Back) North

2011年 8月 22日

May of 2009 saw me leaving Tsu after five years living in the capitol of Mie for the historic and spiritual Ise. Two objectives dramatically inspired the relocation south. Naturally the first reason was to be able to see her more than once a week, but the second is more involved.

My then-fiancé was living 24×7 in a home for abused and neglected children providing guidance and care. Even for people who love the children and the work deeply, there is a significant amount of stress from living in such an intense situation. As a result, she sought soothing and healing ways to spend her brief breaks each day. Renting an apartment minutes from her workplace allowed us to create a bedroom, kitchen and dining area to her desires. Even if I was up at work in Tsu, she could study at her table, make her tea, listen to her music, nap on her futon, concoct goodness in her kitchen, … Essentially, I desired that she should have her space where she engage herself in the ways which most cleared her mind and refreshed her heart.

As of the end of March, my now-wife, left her position after all these years under the prompting of many plans and hopes for our new life. Resigning leaves us in a nicely arranged apartment to which we are accustomed; however, it also leaves me living more than an hour from work without compelling reasons to be there.

We discussed moving back to Tsu a bit since March, but started looking in earnest in late June. Hoping to move at the end of August, when teachers can easily take vacation, I tried to push the house-hunting efforts along. My desired schedule proved too aggressive, yet we have found our new home and signed a lease commencing September 15th.

Allowing for two days of intense cleaning, we contracted movers for the morning of the 17th. Critical utilities (gas, water, electric, and internet) need to be arranged and we will rest a little easier. My expectation is that proximity to my workplaces will free up 10 to 20 hours of my time each week, to be used for doing more chores, studying more calligraphy and Japanese, and blogging.

Rescuing Halloween

2010年 11月 2日

Troubled by loads of paperwork for a not-so-beloved government agency, I have been forgoing most of my social activities recently. Last weekend was no exception. Even though there were some fun parties going on I stayed home; although, I wasn’t so productive, but that’s another issue.

As I was sitting home and reading people’s updates on the internet, I was reminder of something good in the past which was lost. When I was a little tot, we received homemade Halloween treats from some of our neighbors; however, I was still quite young when the fear spread. Announcements were made at school about how people could put dangerous things in homemade goods. Strong recommendations against accepting them were sent out. Over a very short period, they had vanished.

Sometimes I wonder if this rumor mill was stirred up by candy manufacturers. Regardless, what we get now are just the manufactured items.

Here in Japan, knowledge of Halloween is getting around and occasionally there are parties; particularly, around English schools. Trick or Treating is still non-existant because you need widespread participation for it to catch on. Nobody is going out trick or treating if one in twenty houses will have something for them.

Ruminating during my seclusion, I think I hatched a plan to rescue homemade treats and create trick or treating in Japan (if only in a small area).

  • Step 1: get to know the neighbors – Not just the people next door, or the ones who put out their trash around the same time. Actually meet and greet everyone in the neighborhood as much as possible. Seek opportunities to talk to them. (Honestly, step one is fairly well along anyhow – due to my gregarious nature.)
  • Step 2: rally support for doing trick or treating – Starting with the families with children because they always want to learn more about international customs and they have the most to gain from participation. After that, working on the sentiments of neighbors who love to cook; especially, the ones who might enjoy a chance to learn about making something traditional from America. Finally, catching the others in a web of “everyone else is doing it”, which carries far more weight here than back home.
  • Step 3: teach, teach, teach – help everyone learn about making traditional goodies, costumes, and decorations.
  • Step 4: enjoy the fun – and follow up with encouragement the next year and the next.

Can I succeed? I have no idea. Perhaps soon we can be enjoying carameled apples, salt-water taffy, popcorn balls, spiced pumpkin bread, and so on.

Mandatory Cooling Off Period

2010年 10月 1日

Bathing in very hot water is tradition in Japan. Often people will go to natural hot springs to soak in baths of various mineral content. Depending on the salts in the bath, different conditions are said to improve with regular bathing. Also, many people like the slippery texture of skin after relaxing in the spas. Although most homes use tap water in the bathroom, it is common to settle in to a 41 or 42 degree tub of water in the evening at home.

American readers might need a reference point, so 104 degrees F is considered maximum healthy temperature for a hot tub and that is 40 degrees C. Japanese people sometimes use hotter baths as well although I haven’t tried anything over 45 degrees. Health benefits and improved sleep claims are associated with this practice; however, friends who study non-traditional medicine have given me a caveat. For best health, it is recommended to cool off for about an hour before sleeping.

Check the time stamp for this post and you’ll see that I didn’t get my bath until late. We have a female house guest and a bath arrangement which doesn’t lend itself to use with multiple people milling around. Thinking it best not to expose myself to my wife’s friends, I opted to wait until they were settled in for the night. Once I cool off a little more I’ll doze off here.

Five People, Five O’Clock

2010年 9月 30日

Tsuitachi mochi (朔日餅) and Tsuitachi gayu (朔日粥) are, respectively, special rice desserts and special porridge breakfast which are only sold in the morning on the first of the month. Ingredients change each month as does popularity. July and October are known to be in demand. Tomorrow’s mochi dessert includes chestnuts (栗) which are considered a symbol for October in our textbooks.

Readers may recall that I picked up this practice as a way to enjoy my new life in Ise. Before moving here, I enjoyed the porridge with my wife, who ultimately was my reason for moving. That was back on November first, 2008. Generally my wife can’t join me because she is working; whereas, I can finish in time to ride the train to work. My first solo venture was June first, 2009. I also went in July and August; however, riding home from the last one I was struck by a driver. Resting up from my injuries (and a little fear of riding my bike on what I formerly considered a safe street) I missed several times. February this year marked my return since I could drive safely in my new car and picked up an interested friend to pass the time better.

Tomorrow will be a special trip, my wife is off work, her friend is visiting from Kyoto, my regular friend is up to the task, and a new teacher wants to ride along. We are expecting to be a party of five. Hopefully, heading out at five in the morning will give us enough time to buy mochi and sit down for a nice meal with porridge.

One Shot

2010年 8月 6日

Apologies to all of my readers. Finally, I will give you a brief glimpse of the wedding events. First, I have been busy and there were delays in getting digital images from the wedding, so I haven’t made the time to write up details here. Second, I totally spaced out and mistakenly thought I had posted a link to some photos. (I think I did that on facebook, but clearly didn’t do it here.)

Wedding DinnerWe had the wedding on a Sunday afternoon and Saturday night we had a party for the relatives. Originally there was talk about wearing kimono for the wedding; however, logistically and artistically it wasn’t working out. We chose a restaurant in an old feudal lord’s home for the dinner party and wore traditional garments. My wife is wearing the same kimono that my mother-in-law wore for her wedding. We changed out many accessories, so it has a different feeling, but this allowed many relatives to recall the previous occasion about 40 years ago.

Shinto weddings typically have the bride in a special white kimono. This kimono is a type called furisode (振袖), coarsely translated as ‘flapping sleeves’. Furisode are for young, unmarried women to be worn on any formal occasion. Typically they have much brighter patterns than standard kimono.

My kimono is very traditional and subdued for a wedding. We wanted me to look appropriately cool, but not distracting from my better half. Many foreigners have a very negative reaction to foreigners wearing traditional garments. Claiming it is a kind of dress-up game or that it looks awkward or inappropriate. We disagree and felt that it gave us a balanced pairing for this event.

When I return from the honeymoon, I will upload more photos and make time for writing up some of the highlights from May.

Ironic Little Twist

2010年 7月 15日

Choosing to live in a different city from where I work added several complications to my schedule. If it weren’t for all my extra-curricular activities, it would just be a simple matter of adding commute time; however, outside of work hours I have many things to schedule – some in Tsu, some in Ise, and a few in other places.

When I was in physical therapy things got very crazy, often riding the train to Tsu in the morning for work, riding back to Ise for therapy, heading to Tsu for an evening activity, and taking a late ride home to Ise. At least I made good use of my commuter pass during that time.

Given the chance, I try to arrange my schedule for efficiency: putting all my Ise activities on the same day; shifting things so they are back-to-back; etc. While this can open a lot of free time, it can also leave people frustrated if they want to reach me on a busy day when I can’t call them back.

Recently, I restructured everything, making Thursdays busy, but opening Friday up on my schedule. On the way home from work I can stop off at my Japanese teacher’s home for a lesson and still get home in time for dinner or playtime.

As some of you know, my wife’s eight days off each month are chosen for her for the most part and those are the only days we can be together; so, we must make the most of those days. So, here’s the twist: the last three Fridays in July are days off for her. This left me unable to study Japanese with my ‘good’ schedule because, I’ll be heading back to be with her.

My next lesson will be August 6th and then vacation will prevent me studying until September. Of course I can still study on my own.

My Front Porch

2010年 2月 2日

My Front PorchHere’s the view from my front porch. We chose this apartment for it’s beautiful surroundings. Can you tell? Actually, this is meant as a bit of humor. By choosing the time, conditions and direction for the photo, it looks pretty drab. Sometimes life is just about what angle you look at it.

Fumes are belching from the stack of our local public bath or sento (銭湯). It was the source of some mistaken impressions earlier. During the spring, I thought my kindly neighbor was burning plastic in his garden because the oil odor was coming into my study.

Once they get the water up to temperature the boiler furnace shuts down and the air clears up quick.