Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sayonara no Toki

As the sun sinks into the west over Tokyo and the land of the Rising Sun, I cannot help but think that leaving this place once again has cast a pall over my life, just as the darkness slowly spreads from the east. The ancient peoples of Japan were right to call it as they did: “Nippon” written with the kanji for “sun” and “origin.” This is a land beautiful and bright beyond measure, fairly overflowing with a rich history and tradition that cannot help but stamp the hearts of those who visit here, however briefly, with an indelible mark.

I envy the people who are lucky enough to call this place home—all the while aware also of how lucky I am to live also in the country I am privileged to call home. The world is a dark place and every land has its own dark underside, but I am starting to understand that things really can be seen from the old, over-tired cliche viewpoints of half-empty and half-full. Thus I can look at a place like this, or a place like my home, and love it dearly and see all the things that are wonderful about it without making myself blind to the darkness. It is a marvelous and powerful thing to love a place or a person wholly, knowing that they are as imperfect as anyone or anything else—especially myself.

And so as I bid farewell to Japan once again I cannot help but worry that that this will be the last time I see this glorious land of dream-like beauty—just like I did the last time I left. However, there always is a last time, despite the best laid plans of mice and men. A last visit to a Book Off, a last handful of Mochi, a last rough-and-tumble with the Endo boys, the last sight of the stately and unearthly lines of a pagoda high on a hill among the trees. A last view of the Sakura, now shedding their blossoms in a late snow-shower of fragrant pink petals, the last grove of secretive bamboo and tiny delicate maple leaves.

I just pray that this will not be “Sayonara no toki” for me.

Keep yourself well, Japan, as you have kept yourself for nearly two thousands years.

Mata, ne.

Zenbu ga Hakanai Desu

I went back to Uji today. It sounds funny, but I can’t even begin to explain the feeling of homecoming. I only lived there for a month, and yet the whole city has this feeling about it that is so powerfully in tune with my own heart.  Byoudoin especially.  Frankly, I didn’t take any pictures because there is no way for an image--digital or analog--to carry the strength of the kokoro there. It is very old and is one of the few ancient sites that has been spared the ravages of fire over the long years, and so it is still there in its pristine beauty, looking almost exactly as it did in 1049 when Yorimitsu (?) turned it from an inherited manor into a temple. And it wasn’t even new then. It’s modeled to be what the “Pure Land” or the Buhddist heaven is supposed to look like. And really? My vision of heaven isn’t much off. At any rate, trying to describe it here is as useless as it is trying to take a picture. The funny thing is, the feeling I have there is as powerful as the feeling I get at the temples of my own religion, but it’s different. This really is something more of an echo than the strong stuff I feel at someplace like the Salt Lake temple, but there are pure strains of HOME in it that make my heart yearn for something I don’t even know how to define.

We ran into these loud and cute old men at Byoudoin who were speaking gorgeously southern Japanese, known as Kansai-ben or Osaka-ben. In my opinion, such Japanese is much nicer and easier to understand than the standard Tokyo-ben or any of the northern accents or dialects, so I found myself rather indignant in class when I would have points deducted from my score when I would slip into a southern accent. At any rate, one of them spoke English fairly well and was all prepped to tell us ALL about Byoudoin--only to find out we (or at least I--this was Sasaki’s first visit) already knew it! The Japanese people I have met all seem delighted that I not only am familiar with things but can add my own comments to a discussion about something like Heian era architecture or the role of the Shinsengumi in the Bakamatsu. At any rate, he asked us where we were from and the minute I said “Utah” he was like “MORMONS!” and I was like “Yes!” and then he was like “Salt Lake City!” and I was like “Yes!!”
We also saw a group of Chinese monks touring Byoudoin, complete in their amazing dusky orange robes, prayer beads and shaved heads. It was amazing.
It was all very delightful.

Sasaki and I also went to the Tale of Genji museum today. Three rooms and a twenty minute movie using Bunraku puppets. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s masterfully done and worth every out-of-the-way step it takes to get there and every yen of the entrance fee. I wonder if I can find a recording of “Ukifune” anywhere. I would love to force you all to sit down and watch it with me. My english recording that I had been given to listen to was sort of wonky, so I turned it off and listened to the story in Japanese. Luckily, because I happened to have read most of the Tale of Genji, I didn’t get TOO lost.

The used bookstore (furuhonya) I used to go to all the time in Uji was gone. The building was still there, but it seems to have gone out of business. I was very sad. But all in all only one sour note in a day is a good way to go! (Touch wood.) When I inquired at Kyoto station after a used bookstore, the guy seemed to think I was talking about a bookstore with books about old stuff, not like a used bookstore (furu=old hon=book ya=store) and so was really confused, which is really strange because “Furuhonya” MEANS used bookstore! It’s not something I made up or something weird. It’s something Japanese people say ALL THE TIME!

When they’re looking for used books, that is.

Our bus driver on the way back to the Ryokan was really, really cute. I blushed at him shyly and Sasaki winked.

Too bad we’ll likely never, ever see him again.

The Imperial palace is, sadly, something of a disappointment. It’s a giant shoving loud tour group that’s not allowed to go inside anything or see anything cool, and the palace itself isn’t really that old. It’s been moved and rebuilt, so...NOT the same place where Hikaru Genji would have walked.

Oh well. I suppose it would have been difficult for him to walk anywhere, fictional character that he is.

I wish we had time to go down to Miyajima and see the Besso (manor house, so to speak) of Heikei no Kiyomori, the infamous antagonist of the Heikei Monogatari. He may have been a nasty human being who died of a terrible fever that was brought about by karma for all the baaaaaad things he had done, and a nasty father who drove his son Shigemori (*ahem*hotness*cough*) to die because he was torn between loyalty to his family and loyalty to his friends and leaders of the Minamoto clan, the bunch with which Kiyomori was trying to start a war, BUT (longest sentence EVAR) his house is gorgeous.

BUT we do not have time. So instead I will go to Harajuku in Tokyo one last time and try to persuade myself that I do NOT need a lolita dress, which I will probably buy anyway because all of my good sense seems to have evaporated.

Oh well.

The sad thing is...the Japan I truly love is long gone, lost in the currents of time that draw us inexorably towards a future that is uncertain and more than a little frightening to one such as I. All I can do is grasp at the pieces—pulling them from the earth and preserving them with loving care, drawing from them all that I may of a bright, peaceful age that may never actually have been.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chajiko wa Shinsengumi no Hito ni Naritai or Something Like That, or Chajiko and the Giant Butt Splorch


I fell down a mountain today. 

No kidding. Not very far down, but down nonetheless.

That’s what I get for climbing a mountain after a 24 hour rain storm in shoes that are nearly bald because I can’t bear to get rid of them. (Hey, when you’ve finally found that perfect pair of tennis shoes it’s HARD to trash them, no matter how worn out they become!)
At any rate, I slipped on the downwards path and ended up butt-down in the mud, completely humiliated. I like to think of myself as sure footed, but...or butt, shall we say?

It WAS a really cool mountain, despite the whole slipping part. A path ran up behind a buhddist temple that is right near our ryokan into the beautiful ancient trees. There is no place like it at home for me. Sasaki said that it reminded her a great deal of the eastern united states, but as I have never had the pleasure to see that part of my own beautiful country, I can make no comparison.

At one point along the path we passed a single stone torii that was standing at the entrance of a fenced in enclosure, only half visible between the trees. The thing was, there was no shrine within the enclosure, and I get the strong feeling that we had run across a very old Shinto burial--my fingers fairly itched to get down there and see, but I managed to control myself. The mud was horrendous already, and there’s few things worse in the world I can think of than corpse mud.

Our path up the mountain was conveniently marked by little cement markers painted yellow and helpfully incised with the kanji “yama,” which simply means “mountian.”
Just in case we didn’t know where we were.
I saw a buhddist begging monk at Kiyomizudera, also known as the pure water temple. It was really amazing--he was dressed as monks have dressed for something around 1200 years, holding a begging bowl as the Buhdda did before him, wearing a kasaboshi (one of those awesome umbrella-straw-hats) pulled low over his face and chanting sutras. I was captivated by it.


It is always a pleasant surprise to me to see and meet people who take their religions seriously. Too many people that I have met are either “sunday christians” or even “Christmas and Easter Christians” or the equivalent in other faiths. They claim a faith as their own and follow the rules on the holy days, but don’t really let it interfere with their daily lives. 
I, as someone to whom religion is as important as eating or drinking, find this very puzzling despite the fact that it is the attitude seemingly adopted by most of the world. Anyway, I’m wandering off my point. It is so very neat to see someone like that--someone to whom also religion is food and drink. It gives me hope in an obscure way, though he and I could share nothing by way of common doctrine.

We met Sasaki-kun’s other host family whilst we were here--yet another st of amazing people. As we sat at their house on sunday evening and played games I was amazed to find that once again—the bonds of familial love transcend the lines of culture and language and take existence into a higher, more joyful plane. The spirit in that home of love and tolerance was so moving and was something of a shot in the arm to someone like me, who gets homesick after three days away from home.

That’s what happens when you have an amazing family with whom you can be the best of friends.

At any rate, the Shibas (name changed for the sake of privacy...) took us all about Kyoto in a rented car and bought us food and Omiyage (souveniers) and spoke to us in easy Japanese and were generally amazingly kind to two people so many miles away from home.
Kyoto is freezing. Seriously, Sasaki-kun s about to die (she’s acclimated to Arizona) and I’m even feeling he cold through my frost-bitten Utah exterior. It seems that Kyoto is experiencing an unseasonably cold week--bad luck for us, we didn’t pack ANY cold weather clothes! In fact, I almost didn’t bring a coat at all! Ah well, I’m sure we’ll survive.

Or not.


No more moving food for us, thank goodness, just some really weird Okonomiyake that was a little heavy on the leeks and unlike any I had eaten before. I have high hopes of finding some NORMAL okonomiyake (something like a Japanese pancake stuffed with meats and vegetables. YUM.) before we leave.

Though I will be very sad to have to once gain leave this country behind me, It’s probably a good thing. Not only am I so exhausted I can hardly move, but I am starting to run out of all the money I’ve saved--which is not something I recommend.




Kyoto is an amazing series of beautiful temples and gardens one right after another, and it is also the home of some of my favorite events in Japanese history. Google “Shinsengumi” and “Bakamatsu” and you’ll see some of what I am talking about. Aside from those recent things, though, Kyoto has been the seat of Imperial power for pretty much the whole time Japan has been a country. 

The nobles of the Heian Jidai (“Peaceful era” roughly 600-1200 AD) wrote positively heart-breaking Tonka and Choka (types of Japanese poetry that were the predecessors of the modern Haiku as we know it) about the capitol city in the spring, and how their hearts yearned to be there (usually these were written by exiled nobles who then either died of wasting fevers or chucked themselves into rivers in the approved Heian fashion).   And frankly...though I didn’t know what they were going on about at the time I read them, sitting in a classroom six thousand miles and 800 years removed as I was, I now think I can begin to understand.

The barrier of the long years is very thin here, and seems as though it might fade away as the kagerou in the light spring rain beneath a rising moon. There is a timelessness in the shape of the sakura, and a whisper in the onion grass that calls a soul beyond the limits of mortal thought into a twilight that has been dead for a thousand years—and yet must and will continue to exist.

It is echoed in the mournful sound of the flute and the austere strains of the koto and the stone lanterns seem to flicker with it as the sun goes down, beckoning...

Thursday, May 1, 2008


((Pictures will be added soon---ALL of mine from here seem to have vanished, which makes me EXTREMELY nervous. I'll put 'em on as soon as I find 'em!))

There’s this absurd little thing called Purikura that Japanese school girls seem to go bonkers over. I’m bonkers for it as well, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, what it is is this crazy photobooth that takes a bunch of pictures all with different backgrounds and fun poses and things, and then sends you around the back to a little touch screen booth where you can decorate your pictures with all sorts of random stuff. Then the pictures print out all on this sheet about the size of a post card, tiny and cute and actually ready to be peeled off of their back because they are STICKERS.

There is nothing about that whole process not to like.

Sasaki and I have done oodles of Purikura. We can’t help ourselves--I think it’s in the female brain chemistry.

We visited a lovely graveyard today. It was attached to Sounzen Temple in Hakone. Bhuddist graveyards are really very interesting, and I have this thing for graveyards. I know that makes me sound psycho and weird, but it’s a reflection of the fact that I am an archaeologist, and EVERYONE knows that the best artefacts are to be found in burials. Everytime we pass a graveyard my fingers start to twitch and my eyes go blank. Sasaki described it as “having a psychotic brain melt-down causing me to revert to my primal digging instincts.”

I think she’s right.

The cherry-blossoms (Sakura) were in full bloom and it was just gorgeous--AND the graveyard had the graves of the Hojo family, the feudal clan that ruled the area during the Sengoku Jidai (also known as the Warring States era--roughly 1350 to about 1600) and that was AMAZING to see. My fingers were twitching like MAD.

We went down into Odawara to the castle there, which had been the seat of power for the Hojos in said Sengoku Jidai. The Sakura were in full bloom and the castle loomed up in stately splendor—a magnificent echo of the Japan that had once been.
It is really an imposing structure and positioned very well for defense. It turned back army after army until the fifth Hojo Daimyo finally surrendered to the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the new military leader who was in the process of uniting the war-torn Japan.

For those of you who have read the book which my mother and I wrote, the castle from which Chajiko escaped by tying all of her lovely kimono together into a rope was written with this one in mind.

At any rate, it was a relief to see it. I know that sounds funny, but I was feeling oddly smothered and homesick by the not-really-traditionalness of the ryokan and the fake “back to nature” of the Hakone tourist spots. To see the castle, reconstructed recently though it may have been, was a sort of balancing experience.

I think I discovered something very interesting about Japanese culture today. I mean, I was aware of it in the past, but only in a limited sense, and today made me realize that it seems to go deeper than I had realized.

In poetry if one wished to lend a sense of verisimilitude and legitimacy to ones poems, one would make an allusion to another work, usually a famous one, written by a great poet sometime in the past. By tying ones own words in with the words of a master by the use of such a reference, ones own poem became that much more “important,” for lack of a better term.

For example, the great poet Basho wrote something along these lines:

year-end reveling
Still in pilgrim’s cloak must I
walk my lonely road.

And I, in my desire to give my meagre efforts a sense of legitimacy, may pen something like this:
the sparrow’s sharp song
startles year’s-end revelers
it is early yet

The reference to the year-end reveling calls to mind the poem by basho, which is something most readers would have known in the time when making haiku was still something that was commonly done as a form of entertainment, as well as for the purposes of art or literary exercise. At any rate, then with the reference to the work of Basho and the images his words conjure up to strengthen my own, the poem gains an entirely new level of meaning.

Am I making any sense?

At any rate, something I noticed in both Sankei-en and Odawara-jyo sort of clicked into place in my mind today. In Sankei-en, a lot of the buildings had been made around a central thing that had come from another important or significant building. A lentil piece, or a central beam, or railing banisters from palaces or temples. In Odawara, there was a metal capping-piece that had both marked and protected a nail that had come from the second house of the imperial family. What it seemed to me to be was something like what was happening in the poetry--using the pieces of something older and established to build something new, as if taking a piece of that reputation and attaching it to the new thing. I don’t know if it’s the same thing at all, but it came up in my mind suddenly as an interesting and rather startling parallel.

Tomorrow we get on the bullet train (shinkansen) and head to Kyoto, which is my FAVOURITE place in Japan. No joke. I adore it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My Food is Trying to Crawl Off My Plate, or, Chajiko to Ugokeru Wasyoku.

Did I mention that I bought an arrow? Sasaki-kun has declared me unfit for residence in Japan. Something to do with my brain having a meltdown or something and all my sense dribbling out of my ears.

But THIS is a SPECIAL arrow. See the five colours of silk? And the bell? And the paper wrapped around the shaft? This arrow is ready to do some serious demon-cleansing action.

...maybe Sasaki-kun is right.

Anyway, back to the food.

So...Sasaki-kun and I are, frankly, pretty darn experienced. We’ve lived with native families, had to solve complex problems of logistics in Japanese and have managed to make friends all over the country. We were NOT prepared, however, for the food that would be served to us here as part of our traditional and (high class) Japanese dinner. Granted, this is not the sort of food ANY everyday person would eat, indeed I doubt if even a small percentage of people ever really eat this stuff in their whole lives. Suffice it to say, however, that most of it had eyes.

And tentacles.

But the kicker--the kicker was the little roasting/steaming plates next to each of our dishes. The tops kept moving around oddly, and I thought it was the steam doing something strange, as both were lit and burning merrily.

So I lifted the lid and peered in.

Have you ever, I can’t think of a simile that will do it justice. It was grey/ and bulbous and slimy.

...and it was moving!!!

As I stared at it in horror, frozen, hoping beyond hope that what I was seeing was simply a trick of hot meat (whatever sort it may be) on a cooking plate, It was still alive, I realized.

“Cover it! Cover it back up!” Sasaki-kun shrieked, snapping me out of my paralysis. So I clapped the cover back down. It continued to move, back and forth...and eventually it stopped.

I don’t think I shall ever recover. The nice lady serving everything took it out of its shell and informed me very politely that it was a delicacy and everyone loved to eat it and said “Eat some and see!” So I had to. It was nasty. It didn’t taste like much but...but...OH THE SLIME!

So I couldn’t finish it. And Sasaki-kun ate a bite too because she felt bad for me.

Anyway, we sort of picked the edible parts out of dinner and ate the strawberries that were provided for dessert (to our intense relief) and ended up full. Then we both availed ourselves of the lovely hot mineral baths (my limit is about five minutes of soaking in hot water before I literally pass out) and are finally starting to feel a little relaxed. We are both travelstained, worn, paniced and BRUISED.

Now we are devouring Sakura manju--little pink buns filled with sweet red bean paste and a mild cherry flavour--and writing in our blog and journal respectively.

One last thing that I forgot to mention, and didn’t fit anywhere in the narrative above--never, ever try to take massive luggage on the bus up to Hakone. I ended up crammed into a seat with my knees tucked up to my ears, hanging on for dear life to two gigantic suitcases (one mine, one Sasaki’s) so that they didn’t go bouncing about the bus and killing people) with another bag under my feet and another about my neck which was slowly dragging me down, and seemed determined to make a pretzel out of me. All this with a demon-slaying arrow poking jauntily out of my pack.

My only solace is the fact that I am sure the rest of the bus was in near hysterics over the antics of the crazy gaijin. Even the other gaijin. Ah well, at least I gave someone a laugh, and at least they’re happier for it!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sugo~ku Hen na Gaijin!

I am sitting in a Ryokan at the moment--of course, by the time any of you read this the moment will be long past, considering that there is no internet out here. And truthfully--I am grateful for that fact. Too much of my life is based around connectivity and the ability to talk to people and find out what I feel I need to know INSTANTLY. Here--surrounded by the sound of feathers and the quiet simplicity of Japanese lines, I suddenly realize how tired I am, and how little I actually hold still. I mean, I hold still quite a lot physically, but my mind is rarely quiet.

I perceive that I am wandering from the point of my narrative, however.

For those of you who are SO very uncultured as to be unaware of what Ryokan is, I will enlighten you. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn. I mean, really traditional. They took our shoes away from us at the door and I have severe doubts about our ability to ever get them back. The attendants had sort of an air of finality as they directed us to the slippers--which were pink lined for the girls and set out specifically for “Sasaki-Sama” and her guest.
We were led to our room and shown the public baths--which Sasaki intends to force me into and which I intend to avoid at all costs, and then we sadly had to turn down a brief tea ceremony because we cannot drink green tea.

These rooms have tatami mats. And we’re sleeping on futon. And I’m wearing a kimono and tabi socks. Life doesn’t get any better. Well--I COULD be sitting here with an amazingly hot samurai and he could ALSO be in a kimono and some nice hakama, can only ask SO much out of life. This ryokan, though, is posh. I mean, we’re scruffy little ragamuffins as far as finances are concerned compared to the normal clientele. However, none of the rich gaijin (foreigners) who stay here bother to get themselves up in kimono, I am sure.

Sasaki is gorgeous in an embroidered cream coloured formal kimono, green obi and under-kimono, and I am rather stately in a light green butterfly-pattern kimono (not formal--more like everyday use) and orange obi. No underkimono for me, sadly. They ran out of colours. She looks like a princess. I feel like a samurai-ko that mistakenly wandered into the wrong house after being knocked over the head in battle.

Of course, that brings me to the last couple of days which I have not blogged because A)time got away from me and B)Blogger has refused to upload my pictures. This blog is NOTHING without my pictures! Anyway.

Have you ever been hit on by a twenty-something (or was he thirty-something?) Japanese man in gym shorts who thought the thumbs up was the ultimate in pick-up moves?

...don’t, if you can help it.

We bought the kimono we are wearing at a used kimono shop in Futamatagawa in Yokohama, which is just one stop away from where I used to live back when I was here for the homestay. We met my host mom again and went shopping--and Sasaki-kun became a life-sized doll. Dressed up, taken apart, turned about, clucked over, dressed again. At first she wasn’t so hot about all the colours of all the things that had been chosen for her, but in the end we prevailed and she left with the most stunning kimono and obi and things for about a hundred and sixty dollars. A STEAL. I tried one on too, as it is time for me to own a real silk one, and got out with paying only 120.00 dollars. These would have cost us easily into the 600-700 range new, without all the other stuff. Mine is quite old, and I’m sure my mother will want to hack it into pieces for the silk when I get home.

Iyada, mama-chan!

We did a great deal of shopping in Yokohama, as there’s not much else to see there that is of any notable age.

Sasaki and I wandered into Harajuku, the infamous shopping district of Tokyo. It was AWESOME. We found this Gothic/Sweet/Light Lolita store and the two of us almost lost our minds. Luckily they didn’t have a way for people to try stuff on, or else we would have walked out of there with clothing straight out of something like Tokyo Babylon. At any rate, it was SO crowded we could hardly move.
And if we hadn’t been trying to get to an insane used manga store (that didn’t turn out to be THAT great *grumble grumble*) we would have stuck around and (I’m sure) bought all SORTS of silly stuff.

I am so bad. If something’s newer than abut 250 years ago, I usually lose interest (unless it’s something built for shopping). Also if it’s too old. Stone age is not what I’m wanting here, nor are dinosaurs. There’s just that nice middle that I like to study.

At any rate, as of this morning we’ve been to the Embassy three times (curse them and their inefficiency) and will have to return at least once more before things are straightened out. Prayers would be MOST welcome that Sasaki-kun can find her passport and things before next thursday?

Meiji Jingu, Sankei-en. The Meiji shrine was built by (guess what) Emperor Meiji sometime in the last 150 years. Sankei-en was built in the early twentieth century and is a ramshackle mix of new buildings in the old style, new buildings built out of or around old parts, or old buildings that were actually transplanted there. Very odd and very beautiful.


Something which I have noticed coming back here that is really distressing to me is the amount of built-upness just EVERYWHERE in the Tokyo vicinity. In Sankein we climbed up next to the pagoda to the viewing platform and looked out--to an industrial nightmare. The bay, once wild and pristine, is lined with plants and factories all churning filth into the water and the air. Sasaki and I turned away, each saying that literally we were sick at heart over it.

Next, coming to Hakone, we had been promised an escape to nature and a giant change from the overcrowded subways of Tokyo etc etc...and what we got was a tourist hotspot, still with buildings all over the place. Instead of the beautiful remnants of the old Tokaido road, there are modern hotels and trains and busses and souvenier shops. Granted, the shops sell the local handicrafts (gorgeous wood inlays) but STILL. So, anyone who has ever seen a Miyazaki movie and picked up on the environmentalist overtones, this is what he is talking about. I have seen it, and it really is sickening. I can’t wait to get down to Kyoto where they have laws about how and where you can build something.

My heart yearns for the Japan that is long past--and the shreds of it can’t be found here, in the seat of modern progress.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I Don't Think I Can Be as Funny as I Was Yesterday

I was in top form.

This is sort of a placeholder entry, as blogger is refusing to upload my piiiiictures.  At least I got one.  Sasaki writing to her mama.
More coming soon--it's thundering and pouring buckets of rain outside.

Monday, March 24, 2008


So...I'm in Japan.



I had forgotten how much I LOVE this place.

For those of you who live with me--I know that sounds absurd to say, but it is nonethless the truth.

Things have been a little hectic and strange since the airport shuttle picked me up at my front door at 4:30 in the morning on friday. S (who will hereafter be referred to as Sasaki) and I somehow managed to be bumped out of our sets next to each other and we suffered through the whole flight alone. We GOT there OK, though, and everything went smoothly until Sasaki somehow managed to leave one of her small carrybags on the train--and of course it wasn't her camera or anything like that. It was (why would it be anything else, I ask you?) her passport, railpass AND social security card. Disaster. Calamity. Taihen. Calamari.


Perhaps a bisaster sapoot system is in order. Or out of order. No one can tell.

At any rate, after trying to deal with all of that (THANK
HEAVENS we both speak Japanese!) We made it to our (tiny) hotel room! Seriously, we're staying at a posh place and I think we're sleeping in the broom closet. Have I mentioned that I love Japan? All that matters, though, is that the beds are sugo~~~~~ku comfortable and there's a western style toilet and something that resembles a shower--kind of.
I can't get far enough away to display how
small this place seriously is. TINY.

Sasaki-Kun modeling the loo facilities.

At any rate--we spent sunday at church and in the company of Sasaki's host family from four years ago. WONDERFUL people. Just so warm and kind and willing to help and genuinely friendly. Their two boys are a complete delight. One is seven and the other is five and the two made me laugh harder than any comedy team I have ever seen. Our new names are a gift from the youngest--that is why "S" is now Sasaki-kun and I have gone from Chazi to Chahan-kun.

Why? NO one knows.

Electric green soda for breakfast.
Why not? And I can't get this photo to
not be sideways. LAME, I SAY!

Today we went to the Embassy to get Sasaki's passport replaced. She had called them several times to be sure of the location and procedure so we thought we were ready to go! After being practically strip-searched by the very polite and very firm Japanese guards outside the Embassy (seriously, we ran into one a block away who stopped us and asked our business. We were like "WOW.") we got inside and I sat at a table and tried to play Sudoku whilst Sasaki filled out form after form. Then she was called up...and came back five minutes later, passportless. Turns out she can't get one until wednesday, and needs to make a police report first and stand on her head, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in pig-latin whilst eating peeps. Of course, Sasaki CAN'T eat peeps, so this was an impossibility.

No, it was just a giant hassle and we wondered as we splashed back through the pouring rain WHY they couldn't have told Sasaki this ON THE PHONE during one of the THREE TIMES she CALLED THEM. So we wasted a whole morning going into Tokyo. But, that's life.

After we went back to Yokohama and made the police report and found some food and did Purikura, which is this amazing little photo-booth-on-steroids-and-a-sugar-high, the shopping demon that lives inside me reared its ugly head and I dragged Sasaki through the anime store and then the book shop.

NO I will not tell you how much money I spent! HOW RUDE.

Anyway, we're back at the hotel now waiting to meet MY host family for dinner, and I am SO excited to see them! I love them dearly!

We just got back from eating dinner with my host family. I love those guys--they are just amazing and sweet and funny. I pulled several "Chazis" as they are called in that family--I had forgotten I had an international reputation! People in America say "You just did a Chazi!" and my host family said this, after they were done laughing their heads off after I had managed to drop a piece of meat down underneath the yakiniku grill (which they'd never seen anyone manage to do before) "Chazi da kara!" Meaning, "because she's Chazi!" I recall now that they always used to say that when I lived with them for one silly thing or another I managed to get into, and it cracked me up that it came up again like that, right away!

Sasaki-kun has been labeled Chazi #2. :3 She deserves it. And now--bed. Thank heavens, the jetlag is murder!


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Boot to the--er, Head.

"Hooch," my mother accused.

"I am NOT," I countered. "KIM!" Shouting to my boss. "My mother just called me a hooch!"

Laughter. No support there.

"Well," Indignance dripping from the phoneline. "if I'm a hooch, then that makes YOU a Hoochy-mama."

Astonished silence. More laughter from the boss.

"I am NOT. How could you say such a thing?!"

"Think about it." Smugness may not get me much, but it is at least satisfying. "If I'm a hooch, then you MUST be a hoochy-mama."

Finally, intelligent words among the laughter from my boss's office.

"It makes good sense!"

There really is nothing like starting off your day by stepping out the door right into a pile of half-frozen dog leavings, which one of your beloved animals has kindly left for you on the front porch. There are worse ways to start off one's day, but I can think of few that are so stupid.
I didn't realize my mistake until I was halfway to work--and it wouldn't even have been then if not for the rich aroma that permeated the air inside my car as the heater kicked in.

Luckily there is still a lot of snow on the ground near my office. However, snow is only useful for removing disgusting things from the bottom of your shoes if you actually sink into it. I scuffed and shuffled in the parking lot for a while, then tried to step into the snow proper for a real cleaning. The first step took me knee deep. The rest, though, had me mincing along an top of the snow like some kind of moronic fairy-princess, looking in dismay at all the other footprints, which actually managed to find the ground. I got hold of a stick, eventually, and tried to pry some of the deeper stuff out of the treads. No luck. More scuffling. Snow mixed with crap was flying everywhere.

I ended up standing in front of the sink in the bathroom armed with papertowels, soap, hot water and my fingernails--and spent another ten minutes trying to get the stuff out. I was a half hour late to work (to be fair, I was a little late to begin with), but now my boots are very, VERY clean.
Close scrutiny of my boots reminded me, though, that they are ancient and falling apart. So I went to the mall on my break, thinking that a nice pair of office boots would not be hard to find.
Apparently, my shoe requirements are unreasonable.
Low heels are unheard of, unless I would like a pair of (undeniably cool) lace-up goth-ish boots from Hot Topic, or an insanely expensive pair of pretty-girl motor-cycle boots that aren't designed to actually be WORN (heaven forbid).

Rounded toes are a faux-pas this year as well, but apperantly zippered stretch snake-skin stilletto boots are totally acceptable, and reasonably priced to boot! (Ha)!

I think I shall start wearing my five-inch thigh boots around town. If that doesn't convince shoe-sellers to start selling boots worth buying, I'm sure nothing will.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Encounters of the Draconic Sort, or, My Hands Are Cramping Up From Too Much Typing

I warn you, this is VERY LONG. However, I wrote it and would love to share it if anyone will take the time to read it. I think it's enjoyable, but I am not to be relied upon.

It would be unfair of me to blame this particular situation on anyone but myself, but I feel that I must, in my own defense, state that I would not be where I was if I had not listened to the tantalizing clues dropped by a certain dwarf with a penchant for shiny objects.

One of the unfortunate side-effects of scholarship is the tendency to focus on a goal--whether it be the proving of a theory or a discovery of fact or artefact--and to allow the details of such finding fall to the wayside to be lost in vaguary. One of the only scholarly pursuits in which this does not happen to an alarming degree is the study of alchemy, in which the method is as important as the outcome if the alchemist does not wish to blow him or herself into tiny pieces.

But I perceive that I am wandering from the point of this narrative.

At any rate, however I had gotten there, I was there and I would have to find my own way out, blame or no blame.

I had always heard that dragons favored caves and that many of them also liked to collect certain kinds of valuable objects in a single place, usually said cave, with the same single-mindedness that marks certain scholars of my acquaintance. Thus, when Norad began to speak of a cache of objects in a cave that had appeared to be magical in nature and unlike anything that had been seen before, I should have guessed that the dragon would be the corollary right away.

I do not recall if he mentioned it or not--I'm afraid I had allowed myself to be distracted by certain of his descriptions of the objects he had seen.

The cave was somewhere in the Stonetalon mountains. I'm not sure where, exactly, though I'm sure I could lead anyone who is interested back to it if they liked--and if they wished to give me a very large incentive to do so. At any rate, Norad's directions were clear enough and I found my way with very little difficulty. It was a large cave, slightly smaller at the opening, but widening very quickly into a cavern of prodigious size.

I do not feel I can express the feeling that overcame me when I beheld what lay in that wonderful, terrible place. There was not a tell-tale pile of gold, which might have alerted me to the pending danger even in that fae state, but rather the most marvelous collection of magical armour, arms and other items. I darted from one thing to another like a child let free in a sweet shop, unable to contain my excitement. The objects were among the finest I had ever seen, many of them quite old and bearing enchantments I had only seen once or twice in my entire life, if at all. I even recognized a few pieces with the same properties as the armour for which Ekimdnaleve was searching, and decided that I would bring them back for him.

It was at this point that things began to "go south," as the quaint saying goes (though why "south" would be a direction indicating ill-luck and malevolent actions by outside forces, I cannot imagine). If the dragon had had better eyesight or better aim I would not have lived to tell the tale. Or perhaps it was more concerned about not squashing any of its treasures than making a mash out of me right away. Goodness knew I had little enough chance of escaping.

The clawed fore-paw that slammed into the ground mere feet away from me frightened me more than I can say. Luckily for me, as my mind froze my body decided it was time to take action. I believe I rolled away, then jumped to my feet and made a beeline for a crevice in the wall which I had noticed only marginally in my earlier distraction. Luckily for me it was deep enough and wide enough for me to slip inside, which I did with considerable alacrity, noting that the massive bulk of the dragon filled the room behind me, blocking the door and effectively trapping me within. The claws that pursued me into my refuge stopped a mere twelve inches from my body, straining against the stone to reach me as the dragon discovered that its bestial hands were too massive to pluck me from my refuge.

The claw withdrew and I blew out a sigh of relief. Trapped though I was, I had my life for now. My first thought was to simply teleport out, if that were possible through solid rock, and I rummaged frantically in my scrip for a rune. There were none, I realized with a sinking feeling. I had used the last to port a friendly Dreanai from the Exodar to Stormwind, and had forgotten to thereafter replenish my supply.

Then there was a massive, floor-shuddering thump and the eye of the giant creature appeared in lieu of the claws at the opening to the crevice. It must have lain its giant body on the floor, I realized. I reached for my dagger, having read somewhere that the eye was the dragon's most vulnerable part of its otherwise armoured body, then remembered with an ever sharper sinking feeling that I had left it sitting on my desk after I had used it to cut a new point for my quill. A queer rumbling sound emanated from the monster, and I realized after yet another heart-stopping moment that the thing was laughing.

At me.

"What a mouse I've got holed up this time," it said, in a tone of voice I would most certainly call smug if I knew that dragons could do such. "I was going to stop up this hole sooner or later--pity I didn't do it sooner. Now you've just made this harder for the both of us."

I had no answer to this, so I fear I simply continued to stare back at that giant eye. I'm sure I must have appeared singularly feeble-witted, eyes wide and jaw slack as they were.

"Come," the beast continued, laughing its earth-shattering laugh again. "You have nothing to say of yourself? Where are your manners, little mouse? I like to know who it is that will be providing me with my lunch."

"L-l-lunch," I said, my voice breaking. "M-m-more like a m-mid m-m-morning s-snack, I t-think. T-t-there's not e-enough of m-me with which to b-bother!"

"My my," the dragon said disapprovingly. "Speak clearly, my dear, or we shall be at this all day. But you are right, you are hardly more than a morsel. But a sweet morsel indeed, and who could turn down such a tempting tidbit when it so foolishly wanders practically onto one's plate?"

"I...I d-do not t-t-taste good," I countered, aware of how flimsy an argument this was. "M-my flesh is s-stringy and b-b-bitter from t-too many y-years of..."

I couldn't think of a single thing that I had done that would have made me even remotely stringy or tough. Those particular adjectives would apply more to people like Zytonis than to a soft little book scholar like myself.

"O-of s-s-study." I finished lamely. This sent the dragon into fresh gales of laughter, and I scowled.

"Oh come," it said, once it had recovered itself, though it was still blowing great gasps of mirth. "You can come up with something better than that. What is your name, little mage, and what did you want with my lovely collection?"

I thought fast. If I managed to escape and yet left my name to the brute, it might be able to track me down thereafter and finish me off wherever it might find me. Though, if I did not escape, giving my name to the monster might ensure that eventually my friends might know what on earth had happened to me. Deciding, however, that it would be better for me to plan as though I were to live than otherwise, I quickly made up my mind. I drew myself up and tried to look as haughty as possible.

"Augustina S-Schlothiem Reinbach III," I said loftily, "and I w-was here b-because I had h-heard of a a-ancient and c-clever creature who had a-amassed a n-n-notable collection of r-rare and b-b-beautiful things. I h-had hoped for p-permission to s-s-study them."

"That's rich," the dragon chortled. "Augustina, is it? Well, my dear, I'm afraid you should have sent ahead. That way you could have known ahead of time what sort of welcome you could expect. I have given many a scholar a chance to stay here--indefinitely. I'm afraid I don't share my findings with the rest of the world. I find there are too many willing to try to wrest my...acquisitions from me."

"W-what's the use of h-h-having them t-then?" I inquired, losing track of my danger as I considered the dragon's words. "T-they do you no g-good, hidden a-away as they a-are, and if you r-r-remove such t-things from m-mortal ken the c-chances of more p-precious things b-being created after t-their same m-manner is less and l-less l-l-likely!"

"Precisely." The great eye blinked and then shifted away from the immediate vicinity of my refuge as the massive creature changed positions, settling itself to wait. "Why on earth would I want people making copies of these lovely, unique things for which I have gone through much trouble to acquire? And as for using them--why should I? I have no need of their power, but I admire them much as a lady might admire her jewels."

"T-that is s-selfish," I said indignantly. "T-those things m-m-might be d-doing m-much good for s-someone who needs t-them, right n-now!"

The dragon blinked, then displayed most of its shining ivory teeth in a wide grin. "Selfish? I suppose so. Are you going to come out now? I tire of arguing."

"N-no. I t-think I shall r-remain in h-h-here, thank y-you. I am q-quite c-c-comfortable as I a-am."

The dragon began to laugh again and stretched itself out to lie where it could see me still clearly. "It will be a shame to cut you short," it said almost regretfully. "You've made me laugh more in the past hour than I have for ages."

"I-I'm quite t-t-the entertaining s-sort, actually." I said quickly. "I'd b-be happy t-t-to s-stay for a b-bit and r-r-regale you w-with w-witty stories, if y-you should l-like."

I got the response this preposterous suggestion deserved when the creature simply gave me a pointed look and an unpleasant smile.

After an interminable ten minutes of silence which I filled with frantic attempts to figure out what on earth I was to do, I noticed that the dragon seemed to be falling asleep. Its breathing became more and more regular and its great copper eyes were half veiled by drooping lids. I knew this would either be my chance to escape--or a ruse that would seal my fate.

After another ten minutes the dragon did seem to be actually asleep. If it was not, then the creature was a better actor by far than any I had ever seen. Its paws and tail twitched, and it mumbled low in its throat much as a sleeping dog might. I moved forward cautiously and silently then, glad that I had taken so much care in my youth to learn to make no sound while walking. I was halfway out of the hole when then thing I had been dreading--but hoping that would not happen--happened. Luckily, it took the massive beast just long enough to raise its fore-paw and heave itself into a sitting position that I was able to move mostly out of the way before the blow fell. Instead of crushing my bones and sweeping my head from my shoulders, the claws grazed my head and right shoulder and left several long, bloody furrows behind.

I stifled my cry of pain and pressed myself back yet again, watching those dreadful claws scrabble at the rock as the creature sought to pull me from safety. There was blood streaming down into my eyes, and running down my arm to drip off my fingers. As I pulled the mangled remains of my hood from my head with my left hand and clumsily tried to staunch the bleeding, I saw the dragon look curiously at its reddened claws as it withdrew them, and give them an inquiring lick with a long purple tongue.

"Oh my," it chortled. "You ARE a catch! I haven't had anything that sweet in years. Come out, my dear, before you waste all of that lovely blood on the rocks. Might as well put it to good use, hmm?"

I was done bantering with the creature. However, I began at this point to take a rather dim view of my future. Either I would bleed to death and die in this hole, or I would make another half-baked attempt to escape and end up crushed in a dragon's jaws. Neither one was all that appealing, though I have to say that, on the whole, would rather have preferred the former to the latter.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard another voice--this one oddly distorted and seemingly to originate right in the crevice with me. After a moment I identified it--Rask's voice, coming from my forgotten hearthstone. Cursing myself for a fool, I closed my left hand around it to muffle the sound, lest it alert the creature to the plan that had sprung up in my mind.

"Celune? Are ya a'right? Did I hear yeh scream?"

"R-R-Rask," I hissed frantically. "A-a-and anyone e-else w-who can h-h-hear me--for t-the sake of m-my life, I need you a-all to m-make as m-much n-noise as p-possible. S-shout, s-scream--s-sound like the b-biggest army y-y-you c-can."

There was a long silence in answer to my request, then after a moment I heard several other voices along with Rask's giving willing, if puzzled ascent to my request. I toggled the thing up as loud as it would go, then spoke again.

"R-ready--NOW!" In one move, I hurled myself to the opening of the hole, throwing the hearthstone as far as I could toward the back of the cave. The sound the burst from the thing was startlingly, blessedly loud--and sounded like a very angry group of people which had somehow gotten in behind the dragon and were now descending upon it to do battle. As the dragon turned to defend itself, I hit it with the most powerful frost spell I commanded, praying to whomever would listen that it would hold the thing long enough for me to get away. For a miracle, frost encased the creature's feet as it swung about, looking for the source of the threatening sound and I ran for my life along the wall towards the light, and life.

I would not have made it, I believe, were it not for a little spell known as "blink," which I had learned as an afterthought, thinking that it might shave a few minutes off of travel time when I was in a hurry. Now, as it sped me along every few seconds, leaving the confused sounds of the cavern farther and farther behind me, I swore I would never ignore a minor spell as long as I lived.

I will never forget the sight of the sky as I burst from the foul den--the west was blood red with sunset and the clouds blazed trails of glory up into the midnight blue bowl of the sky. I continued to run, knowing that the ice wouldn't hold the dragon much longer, and lost myself in the forest beyond.

I spent that night shivering in an abandoned fox den, listening to the dragon as it raged and then quieted at last towards dawn. I was rather weak with blood loss and reaction by then and was glad to set out under the protective canopy of the trees before the sun had risen over the mountains in the east.

I don't remember the name of the settlement I stumbled on at last, only that the people there were very kind, and that I knew that I would have quite the story to share when I made it back to Stormwind. I would probably scar, and I would never live down my foolishness--but at least I was alive for yet another day.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Little More

I know my blogs have been picture heavy lately, and this post is no different. I find that I have very little to say about my life lately—my pictures are doing the talking, really.

Quill Once Again by *Chajiko on deviantART

I love this guy. He is currently at the top of my hot-list. Also, can I just say that I WANT a feather cloak like his?

Why my gallery wouldn't give me an embed code I cannot tell. Hope this works:

Celune, my World of Warcraft character and her love, the blood elf Jath. Their peoples are on opposite sides of a war, but they have found love in each other through their common interests—scholarship and magic.

THis picture is a good illustration (ugh bad pun) of the leaps I'm making in my drawings. Couples have always been VERY difficult for me to draw, and this is the second successful one I've been able to do in the past three weeks! Not only that, but there's foreshortening on her body in that pose. :3 Also, note that I've drawn a background and be AMAZED!

Sunday, January 20, 2008


This is really just to showcase some new art because it's been so long since I've shown any! Most of these are characters belonging to me and to my friends in World of Warcraft. The one with the pony tail is my character, Celune!

WoW: Phrae and Celune by *Chajiko on deviantART

WoW: A Matter of Respect by *Chajiko on deviantART

WoW: Love in Name by *Chajiko on deviantART

Charlene by *Chajiko on deviantART

Quill by *Chajiko on deviantART