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Fushimi Inari Taisha

May 24th, 2009

My favorite place in Japan from a tourist’s point of view is probably Fushimi Inari Taisha, the large shrine to Inari, diety of cereal grains and business. It’s a really quick train ride away from central Kyoto. If you read Japanese, you might be interested in the official site.

Even if you’ve never been, you’re probably already familiar with the site. It was featured in Memoirs of a Geisha. It was also the inspiration for the art installation “The Gates” by Christo and Jean-Claude. The epic arrangement of Shinto gates (鳥居 / torii) packed so tightly together creates an amazing, surreal illusion – you feel as though you’re walking through an otherworldly hallway.

I’ve been to Fushimi Inari Taisha 4 or 5 times now, and it sure doesn’t get old. It’s sort of like Miyajima in that it stands apart from other shrines and temples. If that sort of thing isn’t up your alley, you may find yourself thinking “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” You won’t get that feeling here. Visiting at different times of day, in different seasons, etc. all change the scenery drastically.

I included Fushimi Inari in my old student travelogue from my study abroad days. You can see a video clip that I put together by clicking here (it will open in an overlay) or by visiting the original. I also wrote about it a few years ago when I spent Christmas vacation in Kyoto at the J-Hoppers hostel with friends, including J-Web vlogger/blogger Claytonian.

If you do go, I recommend taking the extra time to wander up to the upper loop past the lakes. I love the view at the top – you can even see Kyoto Tower. Most people tend to go a little bit into it and turn back, imagining that things look the same all the way up. The truth is, the scenery changes. Fox statues, mini-torii and all sorts of devotionals, incense burners, and the like are scattered throughout the area. Perhaps you’ll meet and befriend a shrine cat there like I’ve done on more than one occasion.

The theme for this Japan Blog Matsuri was “your favorite place in Japan.” It’s being hosted by Shane at the Nihon Sun.

Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, Media, Photos, RIH Entries, Trips, Unsolicited Commentary

Imabari City Foreign Tourism Project

April 21st, 2009

This month, the Japan Blog Matsuri is being held at What Japan Thinks, and the theme is “Slow Times in Japan.” Now, while I live on a tiny fishing island in rural Japan, I’m a pretty busy guy. I’m frequently scooting from one school to the next, blogging, networking both on and offline, planning classes, planning trips, starting upcoming podcasts (the rumors are true…), and more. Then it occurred to me – this is the perfect opportunity to announce the special project that I’ve been asked to help with. You could say that my city, Imabari, is having a bit of a slow time with tourism lately. It’s my job to help – and I want your input! Read more…

Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, RIH Entries, Trips, Unsolicited Commentary

Peanut Butter in Japan

February 16th, 2009

Ah, peanut butter. That amazing American condiment / food. One of few peanut related things not invented by George Washington Carver, it has given delectable sustenance to countless people. According to some fans, it’s even a staple in 75% of American homes. And it does indeed exist in Japan – it just might not look the same. Or spread the same. Or taste the same. Or even be called by the same name. But it’s here. And I’ll introduce you to its more common varieties.

I went to my local grocery store and picked up the common Japanese peanut butter-ish products. You can see them in the photo above. Clockwise around the plate from bottom left: ピーナッツホイップ (Peanuts Whip), ピーナッツソフト (Peanuts Soft), Skippy (American-style Peanut Butter*), ピーナッツクリーム (Peanuts Cream), and ピーナッツランチパック (Peanuts Lunch Pack). I’ve done a video review of these products available both on this page and on YouTube. (First video! Go me!) * – American-style IS available in Japanese brands, too! Have no fear!

You can see a closeup of the 4 spreads below. The color differences are interesting, and they actually do reflect the depth of taste in each product, in my opinion. If you’ve ever tried these peanutty wonders, feel free to comment below. Do you agree with my review? Vehemently disagree? Let me know!

Needless to say, the American-style Skippy is my favorite. (But don’t think I’m just a shill for Skippy. I’d take JIF, Peter Pan, or generic American-style PB. Just not Reese’s – the stuff is meant to be in candy, not sandwiches.) Yum! In a pinch, I’d go with the Peanut Soft. This might be because my first experience with Japanese peanut spreads was with Peanut Soft. My poor host mom watched me as I tried to gleefully consume a peanut butter sandwich after discovering that the peanut butter…wasn’t. Ha ha. Once I got used to it I just kept on going with it. It’s not that bad, really.

If you’re one of those folks who really likes to get into the spirit of foods you love, you might enjoy making your own peanut butter. And to that end, I’ve embedded another video here. That’s right, it’s a peanut butter bonus round! :-D


(Bigger version!)

The clip above is from Season 11, Episode 9 of Good Eats, titled “Peanut Gallery.” It features host Alton Brown, one of my TV heroes, making his super-simple recipe for homemade peanut butter.

This post is my entry for the February 2009 Japan Blog Matsuri. The theme is Foreign Food. Thanks for reading! Subscribe to my RSS feed if you liked it, and consider hitting one of the social buttons, too! :-)

Culinary, Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, Media, Photos, RIH Entries, Unsolicited Commentary, Video

Location, Location, Location

January 19th, 2009

So…Bill has posed the question – how will I make the most of my time in Japan? Well, the answer may not be the standard, but it’s true for a lot of people here – I’ll make the most of my time in Japan by getting out of Japan as often as possible. That’s right, folks, I’m all about international travel.

Being an ALT on the JET program is a unique opportunity. I’m young, much of my cost of living is subsidized – so I have some expendable income, and I have the ability to take chunks of vacation whenever the schedule has an opening. Also, I’m geographically much closer to a lot of places of interest than I was when living on the east coast of the United States. Most of Asia is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. I will likely never be in this situation again. I’d better make the most of it, no?

Some folks are far more serious than I am about travel, but I’ve still done my fair share. In my time here, I’ve been to South Korea, North Korea (technically…if you count 5 minutes over the line in the DMZ), Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau, and the Philippines. (Posts containing photos and video clips from each trip are available by searching around. Too many posts to link to here.) And I’m currently looking at a trip to Taiwan in March. Of course, I’ve done loads of travel inside Japan as well – again, far too much to even list.

I still want to go to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia*, India*, Russia, mainland China, Australia, New Zealand, and some other spots. But we’ll see. I might be able to knock out 1/3 to 1/2 of that list by the end of my stay here. If not, I’ll at least give it my best shot. That’s how I plan on making the best of my time in Japan. Other than financially saving as much as I can – yes, it’s doable even with travel expenditures – and improving my Japanese, that is.

*Providing they are safe enough for me to go.
** Yes, I borrowed the map from GraphicMaps.com, so sue me. Figured I shouldn’t erase their watermark if I was gonna use their image. Ha ha.

Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, RIH Entries, Trips, Unsolicited Commentary

Last Christmas Cover

December 19th, 2008

If you live in Japan, then Christmas to you means hearing Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You and Wham’s Last Christmas (pop-up video!) about seven million times apiece in the month of December. But this year is different. EXILE has released a cover of Wham’s seasonal tune, in Japanese. What to do with that? How about learn all the words and sing it at karaoke? I mean, you’re going to hear it seven million times anyway – why not make it educational? Below you’ll find a karaoke-style video (also still currently available on YouTube thanks to user ghislain03091981), the full text of the Japanese lyrics AND a reasonable translation, as well as links to the iKnow video list that I created. And I tried to make it good – there are 30 vocabulary words, they all have lyrics from the song associated with them, and I even recorded myself speaking the lyrics so that you can do dictation practice if you want to. Go try it out and rate it. Then let us know how you performed at the karaoke box in the comments. Of course, all other comments are welcome, too. ;-) Oh – and yes, this post was also submitted to the special Christmas 2008 edition of the Japan Blog Matsuri, hosted by the community driven JapanSoc Blog! While you’re over there, check out the main page of JapanSoc, the Digg-style social network for the English-speaking Japan-related web.

Last Christmas 今はまだ思い出になんてできないよ
でも愛はもう ここにはいない this year
Last Christmas ふたりなら 願いはかなうと信じてた
まだ越えられない 君は今でも special

Last Christmas – I still can’t call it a mere memory
But love – you’re already not here this year
Last Christmas – if we were together, I believed my wish would be fulfilled
I still can’t get over it – you’re still special, even now

出会って気づいたよ 本当は僕も淋しがりやだと
ねぇ君は覚えてるかい? ふたりで交わした初めてのキス
思えば僕は 君にはたぶん重すぎたよね
わかったふりの強がり 張り裂けそうな my beating heart

We met and I noticed, the truth is that I’m a lonely person too
Hey, do you remember? The first kiss that we shared
When I think about it, maybe it was too serious for you
You pretended like you knew, it was as though my beating heart would burst

Last Christmas 今はまだ思い出になんてできないよ
でも愛はもう ここにはいない this year
Last Christmas ふたりなら 願いはかなうと信じてた
まだ越えられない 君は今でも special

Last Christmas – I still can’t call it a mere memory
But love – you’re already not here this year
Last Christmas – if we were together, I believed my wish would be fulfilled
I still can’t get over it – you’re still special, even now

悲しみもせつなさも 僕たちが生きてる証
失ってみて 初めて知った 大切なもの 大切なひと
もうあの頃には戻れない 君のほほ笑みは戻らない
(Show me your smile)
Ooh ooh この胸の痛みを覚えてる

Our grief and pain are evidence of being alive
When I tried to lose it, I realized for the first time, that it was important, that you are important
I can’t go back to that time, your smile will not return
Ooh ooh – I remember the ache in this chest of mine

Last Christmas 今はまだ思い出になんてできないよ
でも愛はもう ここにはいない this year
Last Christmas ふたりなら 願いはかなうと信じてた
まだ越えられない 君は今でも special

Last Christmas – I still can’t call it a mere memory
But love – you’re already not here this year
Last Christmas – if we were together, I believed my wish would be fulfilled
I still can’t get over it – you’re still special, even now

もうあの頃には戻れない 君のほほ笑みは戻らない
Maybe, next year!
だけど今でも 君は今でも special

I can’t go back to that time, your smile will not return
Maybe, next year!
But even now – you are special even now.

Ok – now that you’ve seen the goods, go try out the iKnow video list! If you want to jump right in and you’re already an iKnow user, you can click one of the buttons below to start the iKnow study application or the iKnow dictation application immediately. DO IT! :-D

iKnow Study:


iKnow Dictation:

This was my first attempt at making a list, and I think I botched at least one thing. There are an equal number of sentences to words, which is messed up. In total there are really only 12 sentences. I pulled the 30 words from them. But I wanted to link the sentences to the words, so I created sentences on each one. It works for studying, but the Dictation gets really repetitive really fast…which might be good if you’re attempting to memorize the song. Yeah….that’s the ticket… But seriously, if you have any list-building experience in iKnow, and you want to help me out, please let me know how I can avoid this problem in the future. Thanks!

Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, Media, Music, RIH Entries, Video, 日本語

Virtual Tourism

May 5th, 2007

It seems like many things are going digital as they gain importance. Banking, commerce, personal communications, and more have already taken the plunge. When it comes to seeing a corner of the world where you’ve not yet been there are already a few options available. Let’s take a look at the growing possibilities for virtual tourism. Read more…

Customary Drivel, JBMatsuri, RIH Entries, Trips, Unsolicited Commentary