Monday, June 13, 2005

Just call me Flower Mountain...

Exactly one month ago, on May 13th at 2PM, I was landing at Narita International airport in Tokyo. Still have a difficult time believing that all that time has passed... so much has happened since then... I am having the time of my life, truly... thanks in great part to the wonderful people who greeted me both in Tokyo\Omiya and here in Utsunomiya. It's been so great to have Scott and Stacy as resources for those things which only a foreigner living in Japan would know about. Also on the Japanese side of things, Motoki and Yoshi have been a great help with anything I've asked of them. (2 examples that come to mind are Yoshi's help this morning to cash in some traveller’s cheques and Motoki's offer to use his car to carry the furniture I'll be buying shortly back to my place.) Don't know what I'd do without these people and the staff at the school to turn to for help.

As for the flower mountain thing... that's my name in Japan... In order to open a bank account, or for any multitude of other official uses, you must get a stamp (Hanko) with Kanji on it to use as your signature. Since they don't really have any French sounding sounds here I decided to translate my last name to Japanese, the flower... and the closest thing that sounded ok was flower mountain (Hana-san). And after yesterday's climb up a mountain to look at some flowers, I found it appropriate.

On to my story about this weekend. Friday night, I tried Korean BBQ. Every table is equipped with an exhaust fan and they bring a pot of glowing red embers from the stove over to your table so that you can roast your selection of meat. Very cool... and apart from a small salad, the entire meal consists of meat. (Patty would like Korean BBQ)

Sunday morning, I was picked up by Motoki (cars are a wonderful invention) and taken to meet with Stacy and Yoshi for a trip out to Tochigi-shi (Tochigi city) where we met up with Yukiyo, the other assistant manager who lives there. ***Side note alert Yukiyo's mother gave her some gifts to give to us... 2 frames and a few little baubles which she had made herself... I'll hang them up soon*** The five of us putted around the main street there for a little while and then proceeded to drive out to the base of Ohira-san to see the Hydrangeas which have started to bloom. Much to my surprise, I was soon greeted by a series of steps leading up into the mountain and found out we were going to climb Ohira-san (Ohira-san is one of the mountains surrounding Tochigi-shi and I believe denotes the end of the Kanto plains) to see a temple at the top. To encourage visitors, a sign at the bottom listed the number of steps (it said 1000 but I think that may have only been up to a certain part of the mountain and the elevation of 345M) So up we went, and up and up and up... every time I thought we were there, we'd turn a corner and be greeted with another bunch of steps to climb. It ended up being well worth it though... even though we skirted the temple in order to get some fluids into our bodies (the temperature must have been hovering around the 30 degree mark with the humidity). Quick side note here... after climbing 1000+ steps, we had to climb down some to get to the refreshment stand... makes sense to you??? Anywho, as we got to the stand, we were greeted by a beautiful view from the top of the mountain South-East towards Tokyo and Fuji-san. Unfortunately, due to the humidity we could not see all that far but on a clear day you can actually see Mount Fuji, about 200km away. After getting hydrated and relaxing a bit on these table\beds they had there, we treaded on back down the steps to the car.

We drove back in to Tochigishi to try and find a tea house but didn't have any luck so we then drove out to a type of restaurant called (I forget but something like Mashongji) where you cooked an interesting cocktail of things right at your table on a grill. It's difficult to describe and I didn't have my camera with me so I'll document the event with pictures next time... Everyone was quite amazed at my stir-frying skills... I think I may have more cooking experience than most men in

We were then surprised to be invited out to Yukiyo's home, a wonderful large traditional Japanese house with a lovely garden. Her mother greeted us with Genki drinks and we had a nice time playing with their kitten Ku who they rescued about 3 weeks ago. Apparently the crows here are pretty vicious... one had taken up this poor little kitten as lunch and dropped it in Yukiyo's garden... As usual Japanese hospitality is un-matched.

Afterwards, Motoki took us to Trial, the Japanese equivalent to Wal-Mart but even cheaper. I picked out a great table and office chair which I'll buy sometime soon... am now just about officially out of cash, which is why I need to open my bank account and deposit them traveller's cheques... life in Japan is cheap but I have been here for a month after all!

Now, here are today's pictures:

First off, here's a traditional building where they were selling all kinds of straw items... I'm assuming home-made...

Motoki and I next to a Koi pond at the museum

We were lucky to be in town while there was a festival\flea market going on. Here's a shot of the Omelette man in action...

This guy was amazing... notice no hands! And he went one stick higher and then balanced it on his chin but my camera didn't have the width to take it all in... my fault for now taking my lenses with me...

Here's a road which leads up the mountain to the lookout... the road we didn't take.

A quick shot of the climbers before a journey of one thousand steps up to the 345 meter summit of Ohira-san.

The first few steps.

Lovely gate in the lush green forest.

Two thirds up... only 0.1KM to go.

I thought this was it... but this was just the Gate for the temple... there are still more steps to go...

Lantern and sculpture behind the gate

The view to the South-East of Tochigishi, if you could see it you'd have ocean on the left and Mount Fuji on the right.

More view

More view, see all the rice fields? Very cool!

Statue and old building in front of the now vacant courtyard where the festival was held. It was odd to come back after our hike and see the place totally vacant and all cleaned up...

So that was that, another marvellous weekend... visiting Japan one village at a time... it's great! I should have my Alien card by this time next week which means I can finally get hooked up to the Internet at home... and get a bank account... and a cell phone... woohoo!

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Anonymous Kim said...

'tis I, Kim, with time to waste at the internut cafe.

I didn't have to get a hanko.
And...I already got a bank account, cell phone (no internet access yet, as the money is running dry--5,000 yen till the next paycheck) without my alien registration card. When I applied, my boss got a paper that I was able to use to get a bank account and cell phone.

Um. Nyah, nyah?

9:35 AM  
Blogger Dak said...

Just wanted to say "Hi!" and thank you for your Blog. I came here by way of Blue Lotus' Blog. I am very eager to read about your adventures in Japan, as I plan on visiting for a couple weeks next summer. If all goes well for me, I'd like to do something similar to what you are doing, teaching english. I was just curious, how did you get your job with Aeon? Did you have to have a degree in English?

10:03 AM  
Anonymous S'Mee said...

Dear Flower Mountain Sensei.

What can I say. What an adventure. I think it's cool they give you a stamp for your identity. Now there's a keepsake. I wonder how they contain identity fraud? LOL. The pictures, the story, the new name....I'm speechless! Oops! No I'm not! Here, try this:

Spring Flower Mountain
Time walks the path of seasons
Leaving blossoms tramped

*LOL* Haiku anyone?

Have most BIG fun my friend!

11:01 AM  

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