In this video you can see the inside of one of Imabari’s novelty attractions – the towel art museum located in Asakura. In Japanese it’s called タオル美術館ICHIRO. It’s a pretty trippy place, but I give the museum props for taking a local industry and making a fun outing out of it. Imabari City makes 60% or more of the domestically produced towels in Japan, so it’s common to hear about the towels – but you don’t often get to see animals made from towels, or watch the row of mechanical looms create them at high speed. Unfortunately, all of the cute stuff (the art part) is in exhibits where photography is prohibited, so I can’t share any of it with you. But I can recommend that you go there once for yourself just to see what it’s like.
Wow! Twofer Tuesday! This video shows us arriving in front of the Murakami Pirate Museum (which I’ve visited previously with my students). The restaurant operates a touring boat that takes you through the rapids (another thing I’ve done previously). And yes, this is totally where they hold the annual Pirate Race – so glad you asked! The Japanese name of the place is 村上水軍博物館. We tried on armor and goofed off a bunch. But we didn’t have much time, so we had to keep moving.
[Yup, these are both from the Imabari City Foreign Tourism Project daytrip. How ever did you guess? Last video from the daytrip will go up tomorrow, guys!]
Customary Drivel, Media, Trips, Video
Hello, hello! I know, I keep making it harder and harder for everyone to believe I’m not dead. But I’m not, please rest assured. Allow me to break the radio silence I’ve had going for…almost all of June, and post a quick video I’ve uploaded. Last weekend (yesterday, actually), I went on the first chunk of the Imabari City Foreign Tourism Project’s Monitor Tour, or as I affectionately refer to it, ICFTPMT. (No, I really don’t call it that. Ha ha.) This was the daytrip portion of the project, so I jumped onto a charter bus with my fellow monitors, our ICIEA colleagues, and a few folks from the local government’s tourism board. We then bounced around all over Imabari – in both the city proper and out on the islands. This is the first video of a few, hopefully. Enjoy!
(Going to Tokyo for the upcoming weekend, if anyone fancies a meet-up. Anyone in Tokyo, obviously. Shoot me an email or give me a call.)
Customary Drivel, Media, Trips, Video
Allow me to open this short entry with a quick quote. I’m stealing from myself here, when I posted my Tainan pictures. “Tainan is way cooler than Taipei for the lazy casual cultural tourists. … Here’s an analogy for you SAT-prep nerds out there. ‘Tainan’ is to ‘Taipei’ as “Kyoto” is to ‘Tokyo.’” You see, if you’re not a person who wants to shop, you might run out of stuff to do. Granted, I got to stay at a super trendy boutique hotel, eat lots of western food that I’ve missed so much, and generally feel pampered. But it wasn’t a particularly “Taiwan-y” experience. It was the same experience you can get in any large city anywhere. I loved the museums and temples that we got to see, but at the end of the day, I really wished I’d spent more time in Tainan. Incidentally, I’ve heard the same from friends who’ve also traveled to Taiwan. Oh – one last interesting thing that happened is that I bumped into some JETs from my area at random in the middle of Taipei. I was chillin’ out at Cold Stone Creamery (for the second or third time) and they walked right in front of me. I shouted out to them and we caught up for a second, but we were all sort of shell-shocked at the abrupt coincidental meeting. Ha ha. Seriously, what are the odds that that happens unplanned?
Customary Drivel, Media, Photos, Trips
This was so weird, it really deserved its own post. No but(t)s about it. I went to a restaurant in Taipei called 便所主题餐厅 in Chinese, or “Modern Toilet” in English. It is exactly what it claims to be. A restaurant themed entirely around toilets and other bathroom fixtures. You can visit the official English site here or the official Japanese version here. Here’s a quick video that I whipped up.
It was an interesting experience all around. All of the tables are converted plumbing fixtures, most surfaces are tiled, the dishes are all special ceramic novelties, and the real bathrooms are relatively difficult to find thanks to their inadvertent camouflage. Ha ha. Specialty teas come in urinal cups, but you can purchase a take-home pee bottle to go. while I’m sure it was, I actually found it hard to feel like the place was properly sterilized / clean. Kinda makes sense, I guess.
The main dishes in the toilet bowls were great. (I actually realized that the bowls are self-contained chafing pots when I watched this video! You can see a little bit of flame under the lip of one of them.) I had the Thai curry and made a bad poo joke about how my meal won the prize for resembling its eventual end state. Oh,come on, dining in a place like that you can’t help but make a few bad poo jokes. Don’t judge me.
The sides that come with the main dishes were really lousy. I didn’t bother finishing anything but the rice and curry from my main dish. The included soft serve at the end was similarly disappointing – and not only because it wasn’t solid chocolate to complete the effect. It’s also non-dairy and you can really tell. It’s super watery and doesn’t really taste of chocolate or vanilla…or anything else, actually. That’s probably due to the fact that they offer monstrous portions in their desserts. I saw a few parfait/sundae frankenstein bowls pass by us, and I’m telling you, you’d need a hungry soccer team to kill one off. No wonder they don’t use quality stuff – they’re going for quantity. It’s all part of the spectacle of the thing. Having said that, the fries were freaking amazing. Worth your time? Sure, it’s a restaurant themed for the bathroom! Take the chance when you get it. After all, when nature calls…
Culinary, Customary Drivel, Humor, Media, Photos, Trips, Video
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
I went to Taiwan recently, and I thought I’d share a few of my pictures. I won’t pretend to know anything, because this was one of very few times that I did absolutely no research about the country I was visiting prior to…visiting. I knew woefully little about Taiwan before I stepped off of the plane. I basically knew that Tainan (台南), Taipei (台北), and Taiwan (台湾) all share kanji. I knew that Taipei was the capital and that Tainan was the more cultural city, being the oldest on the island. I knew the basic gist of the country’s political history from my Asian Studies classes back in college…but that’s pretty much it. And if I’m perfectly honest, I still don’t know very much. So I’ll leave the instructive sounding stuff to other people and just show you random shots that I liked for one reason or another. I’ll sum up stuff that I “learned” after the gallery.
I did “take away” some observations, in spite of my total tourist mentality (or perhaps due to it?). 1) Tainan is way cooler than Taipei for the lazy casual cultural tourists. I’ll elaborate on this when I post my Taipei pictures. Here’s an analogy for you SAT-prep nerds out there. “Tainan” is to “Taipei” as “Kyoto” is to “Tokyo.” 2) The ridiculous stuff is often cooler than the famous stuff. I honestly thought the Anping Tree House was cooler than Anping Fort, which is the more historical and more widely known attraction in the same area. 3) The Dutch were freakin’ influential EVERYWHERE. Ha ha. Going through the museums and histories, I often found myself wondering if things had gone differently, would Dutch people rule the world? 4) Night Markets are the coolest thing to do by a long shot. Way cool. Still couldn’t bring myself to try stinky tofu, though. (臭豆腐 = literally “smell” + “bean” + “rot” according to my limited / Japanese understanding of the characters. [Obviously, 豆腐 is "tofu" normally. I separated it for effect.] Whew. Very accurate name.) Most people who’ve tried it say that they love the stuff, but dude…..I had to hold my breath to walk by the little stalls selling it. I’m all for expanding my formerly uber-picky culinary horizons, but I just don’t think I’m there yet. By the way, the English “fermented tofu” seems redundant to me, since tofu is “fermented soy bean curd.” But yeah, that should tell you how pungent it is – it’s twice rotted! Ha ha. 5) Walk everywhere you can. Only take cabs for long distances. You get to see so much more of the city. Anyhoo, like I said, I’m still unfortunately ignorant of a lot of cool stuff in Tainan, but I got to know the city over a few days. Good times. More on the Taiwan trip – specifically Taipei – later.
Customary Drivel, Media, Photos, Trips