Monday, July 11, 2005

2 more firsts in Japan

Yup, more firsts in Japan... number one, I was able to find footwear without that much hassle. I had to visit 3 stores before finding anything bigger than a 9 but I did find a very comfortable pair of sandals in a 12 which fits me nicely. Number 2, I got a hair cut this morning... though I find myself with much more hair than I usually do, that's ok...

It's been a glorious weekend in Utsunomiya with temperatures hovering around 28 and the sun being out for 2 straight days now, though I see dark clouds coming in now. I spent alot of the weekend out and about. Scott and I took a nice hike around yesterday and then I met up with a student for dinner and a movie. This morning I met up with Scott again and we had another walk out to a lovely park I'd visited with him my first weekend here... so nice to get off the concrete, you can feel the coolness coming off the park and the ponds. Then we met up with Kanako who took us to a nice French cafe she knows. It's run by a Japanese couple, who have never been to France but I was very impressed with it. Seems they got their inspiration from some of the cafes in California and they learned to cook by themselves and are doing a heck of a job of it. We all had a lamb stew with cous cous which was quite delicious... I will definately go back to practice my French and maybe show it off to some of the young ladies whom I've taken notice of here...

Here are the pics from our walk yesterday...

First, we headed down Kencho past City Hall to the construction site of the Utsunomiya Castle. They are currently in the early stages of building, and the large cement mound you see in this shot will actually be a grassy hill surrounding the castle topped with a wall and several guard houses. It's an interesting project, I'll give them that and it will be quasi-historic since it is being built on the location of the original Utsunomiya Castle a couple of hundred years ago. They performed an archaeological dig here and found some artefacts which are now on display in a nearby visitor centre. I say quasi-historic because it will essentially be a historic "theme park" more than anything. I hope for the money they're spending on building this thing that it brings in some tourists to the city.


After our tour of the future\past Utsunomiya Castle, we headed down to my neighbourhood to check out a large park which I've known was there but had yet to visit. This park is huge! It includes a shrine, graveyard, bicycle race course, children's park, suspended bridge, koy pond, landscaped gardens, and of course the Utsunomiya Tower. Here's a shot of the Shinto gate at the entrance to the shrine.


Just inside the gate, there's this odd comic-character like statue of an animal holding a pencil. Oddly out of place sitting on the old Oya stone stairs... no idea what that's all about.


Here's a view of the mountains to the West of Utsunomiya, World Heritage Site Nikko is somewhere out there though I have yet to visit it... hint hint to anyone with a car and a desire to show me around Nikko... lol


Here's a shot of some pretty cool Japanese Pine trees growing sideways.


This is the suspended bridge which stretches over a large koy pond. You can also see the Utsunomiya Tower, a TV broadcasting tower if I am not mistaken to which they've added an observation deck where you can get a nice view of ol' Utsunomiya, for a fee. Some day when the weather's clear (read Fall, Winter or Spring) and you can actually see some distance without a haze, I'll go check it out.


Two brothers having a footrace on the bridge.


Bigger kid doesn't look like he's getting much of a challenge.


Once more, longer legs wins out over enthusiasm, the world is not fair...lol


Good shot of south-eastern Utsunomiya. The train station is off picture on the right, Yamada-denki is almost center in the shot, with Yamaya slightly to the left. Higashi library is somewhere in the left of the picture. One of the view city views you can get without a cell or TV tower in the shot... though there are some massive power lines off in the distance...


Lovely flowers I took some time to stop and look at today. I liked the way some of the petals had fallen onto the leaves underneath.


Same bush of flowers...


Pretty cool that all this is within a few blocks of my work/home. Great little city this Utsunomiya.

This is the site of my next excursion, Futara shrine which is about 2 blocks from the office and which I can see out my back window at home. I went up with Matt the first day I was here but haven't taken the trip back up with my handy digicam. Notice the collection box in the forefront of the picture. I'm still amazed at just how safe everything is in Japan. I can't imagine churches leaving their collection boxes outside in front back home. Or having un-vandalized beer or cigarette vending machines in the streets for that matter. Regardless, it's an interesting example of an oasis in the middle of the urban jungle. This thing it right in the Centre of Utsunomiya, sourounded by office buildings and some residential buildings.


So that's that for now, I anxiously await the arrival of my package from NTT with my modem and such for Internet access at home... it'll be nice not to have to pay for internet...

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