Travelogue - Home

Date: 18 Feb 2004
Subject: The Chocolate of Obligation


The chronology of this missive is a bit skewed, but rather than straighten it out, I'll simply rely on your intellect.  When I say, "right now" or "this morning" etc, It could be that I was writing that section in December, or a week ago or, like this passage, right now.  In rereading it, I get confused, so I expect the same of you.

I welcome you to browse the site.  I'm adding bits and pieces everywhere.  The English Lessons will soon contain a small manuscript I'm working on Detailing the difficulties of Japanese English.  There's also a list of the Most Common verbs in english;  I'm becoming obsessed with Phrasal Verbs.  I think native speakers completely underestimate their ubiquity and complexity.  Teaching them is nearly impossible, as hundreds of combination are strictly idiomatic.  Also, I found a Grammar Glossary that's a neat little stand alone App you can find in the Library.   Besides this, I've been fixing dead links; including the entire section of Yuvia's travel writing, and a few from my Research page.  If you find any dead links on this site, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me about it.  Copying the address into an email would be eminently helpful.  .

Finally, I've added several new photo galleries I'd be honored to have you check out.  Concurrent with this posting is the addition of the following five galleries:

Agon Shu Hoshi Matsuri.  Agon shu is a 'crazy cult' by Japanese standards.  They are very resistant to new ideas here.  However,  last wednesday was the Agon-Sect Star Festival.  This was the occasion of the biggest goddamn bonfire I've ever seen in my life.  Now, for the record, I was a Boyscout.  I've seen more bonfires than your average redneck.  I remember one memorable occasion when we scrapped an aluminum trailer for its recyclables, and burned the remainder.  The bonfire on that occasion was impressive.  and yet, it was nothing to compare with what I saw last wednesday.  Please see the photo gallery if you have any doubts.   Agon shu is a combination of Japanese esoteric buddhism (Shingon) with Shinto.  Shingon has its roots in Tibetan Buddhism, and in Japan is centered on Shikoku Island, where there's a three month pilgrimage circuit around the island visiting 88 temples...  If you ever have three months to kill, and some sorta personal crisis to absolve, this is the way to go.   Anyway, Agon is not Shingon, nor is it tibetan, but there is a lot of meaningful ceremony, rollplay, bells and horns and some really tight taiko drumming.   The bonfires consist of Gomagi (ki?), which are small sticks of wood onto which people write prayers.  The two fires are for the living (on the left, Shinto) and for the dead (buddhist, on the right)  You will also see a mirror on the alter on the left, and a small glass-encased metal stupa on the right; this is a gift from Sri Lanka and contains a True Relic of the Buddha.  (I'm guessing the the buddha died 2500 years ago they minced him up into exceptionally small pieces; there seems to be no end to his relics.)  At any rate, the Shinto/living pile of Gomagi was bigger by half, but the Buddhist fire burned brighter and hotter.  And at one point in the burn the Buddhist fire spoke to me...  Also, Agon refers to the Agon Sutra in the Mahayana canon which likens life to burning probably. 

Also, I shot many many pictures of homeless encampments.  See, I had a lot of time in Osaka, what with making five trips to the Chinese consulate (more on that later).  What's always amazed me about Japan is the homeless situation.  There are tons of them, but you never see them panhandling (I think people would rather die than panhandle here.  The only panhandler I've seen drapes a black shroud over his head and remains stooped over and unmoving.  This is not an alms-giving country.  By contrast, the occasional monks who seek for alms are always moving to fast to ever recieve them.  Its merely formality...  At any rate, what is stunning is how formal and structured the 'squats' are.  They are all made of a uniform Blue tarpoline, but often, they have tatami mat flooring, and in one picture you see the guy actually has house slippers! So my question is, is this really homelessness?  I don't think so.  I'm tempted to move out this summer;  If I can build a squat of this magnitude under the Seta bridge, I don't see any reason to be paying 60,000 yen in rent!!!  Besides, I've been there before.  In these pictures its also worth noting that the river is exceedingly high, and many of the camps are nearly flooded.    I would estimate there are no fewer than a thousand squatters living along the river in Osaka alone.  I've seen several other locations for squatters, but along the river is where they're most noticable...  Several of the city parks are de facto homeless shelters.  Which begs the question of why they don't build homeless shelters in Japan...

Next, I've posted pictures of one of my favorite Japanese institution:  Pornography Vending Machines!!!  Notice the Anime quality of illustration, notice the prices, and Notice the knock-off Nova Usagi Vibrator! (our corporate mascot is an arogant rabbit, usagi).    If you cannot live without one of these products, I can arrange for discreet payment options and will mail you whatever you like.  My favorite cultural phenomenon in all this is the "ekiben" style blowup dolls.  Eki is from (train) Station.  Ben is from obento; Together it means "station box-lunch style."  This refers to days of yore when people would sell box lunches to commuters in the stations from a try suspended by a strap around the vendor's neck.  The doll in question, similarly, sits in one's lap, like an ekiben tray.  For 70 dollars plus shipping and handling it can be yours!    Also included are some bad photos of liquor vending machines.  I'll try to get better pictures later.  Still have to take pictures of the roadside condom machine, the battery vending machines, the film vending machines, the cup-o-soup vending machines, etc, etc, etc.  The vending machine culture in Japan is stunning.  One of the rare moments of efficiency for this People.

Also there's yet another gallery of random images from Osaka and kyoto.  My two favorites are this one and this one.  This latter image is of one of the old Zaibatsu.  Japan rushed into the Industrial revolution a late comer, so in order to expedite industrialization of the country, the government founded industries and sold them off dirt cheap to four major corporations.   Toray, Toyota, and Toshiba all spun off of the same original Zaibatsu, and likewise, Mitsui and I think Mitsubishi were part of the same Zaibatsu.  In theory, the occupation government under whatshisname, Marshal? was they Europe.  I can never keep it straight.   Anyway, the American occupation in post WWII abolished the Zaibatsu.  In theory at least.  Mitsui is still a major banking player. 

Many of these images are shot with my new lens, a 2X teleconverter, which lets me capture images the size of a half-dollar held in one's outstretched arm.   For example: this image is not something that you'd notice as impressive until you're looking through this wonderful lens.  My new motto:   Life begins at 400mm.

Lastly, there's some pictures from New Years, of which I'll write more below...

In one week I fly to China.  Oh shit.

The Chocolate of Obligation

The nervousness is starting to set in. Embarking on the next journey is just as nerve wracking as the first, except where before one is nervous for the unknown, later one is nervous for both the known and the unknown.  So as any sensible man, I'm sitting here, getting drunk on Sake while writing to my imaginary friends.

I've fallen out of touch lately for several reasons.  Most to the point is that I've been writing in a few different forums.  I was, for a time, a member of the Yahoo group "Living our Dreams." After several tumultuous posts, and a few sleepless nights, I opted out of that group.  Later I was writing extensively to a couple of friends.  Jayme, and Robin, thanks for being a sounding board.   Now, however, I find myself several months behind, and with the timeless delimma of how to relate the untranscribable.  So lets start with Valentine's day.

In Japan, Valentine's day is a celebration where girls give chocolate to boys.  Sounds simple enough.  Yet, the really profound weirdness comes from the fact that little if nothing is expected of a man on Valentine's day.  By contrast, in America, it is not uncommon to drop five bills on the holiday, In Japan, we don't even have to buy a single flower.  Instead, the holiday is permeated by Giri Choco.  Giri = obligation, duty; and Choco = chocoate.   All day saturday I was eating the chocolate of obligation.  It was delicious.  The Japanese ladies devote their customary fastidiousness to fashioning or procuring chocolates of the most refined grade.  All day at work we were bathed in chocolate.  And at night, with Miyuki visiting, I continued to gorge myself on the finest in cocao delight.  Besides the chocolate, Miyuki knitted me a sweater.  But not only a sweater; also the matching cap.   The mere fact that she knitted a sweater is impressive.  That it fits perfectly, and that it is intricately woven with cabling and diamond patterning is a feat of which I would never have imagined myself worthy.  Truly an astounding Valentine's day present. 

And on Sunday, Miyuki continued to win my esteem.  We woke up, it was a grey, cold day threatening rain.  I proposed we climb the mountain nearest my house (Daimonji), half in jest.  Yet she jumped at the idea.  So, bundled up and under grey skies we climbed to 466 meters, walked for four hours, and in the end found our way home via the Tetsugaku no Michi (Philosophy 'of' Road).   Interestingly, in the middle of the woods, off of any main trail, we found a large tori gate.  I've never gotten used to the Japanese notion of gates divorced from fences.  But here we found a tori gate, surrounded by a fence, instead of being a gate as an entrance to a fence.  The freaks.

The last several weekends before this were devoted to the ordeal of obtaining my Chinese Visa.  No fewer than five visits to the Consulate were required.  The first visit was to discover which paperwork I was missing.  It turns out I needed my Certificate of Alien Registration, and not merely my Alien Registration Card.  The former is the official document that certifies me to live in Japan.  Now, this begs the question of why in the hell the Chinese care that I'm officially licensed to live in Japan,  but these are questions best left unexplored.   The second visit, being a Thursday morning, was to confirm that the Consulate was in fact closed for Chinese New Year, despite the official Party stance against superstious relgious beliefs like new moon celebrations.  The third visit, was to discover that I needed to add pages to my passport.  My Moroccan visa bled over onto the last blank page in my passport, and while that may be okay, I read between the lines and left for the American Consulate to get my extra pages.  God bless America's worship of efficiency, something you all take for granted stateside, but this process took only one mostly-completed form and ten minutes.  Then back to the Chinese Embassy, which, was decidedly third-world by comparison. 

Now this whole process delighted me for a number of reasons.  First of all, I can say I've filled up my passport.  Which is cool.  Second of all, when I went to the american consulate, the entire contents of my bag turned out to be prohibited.  I had a knife, a computer, a water bottle, a camera, and Celine Dion cassette.  Kidding.  No Celine Dion.  But for one reason or another, everything I had was banned from the American Embassy, so I had to leave it all in the lobby.  This, strangely, made me happy.  That and the fact that I could speak English to officials with no sense of remorse or pleading 'aigo hanashimasuka?' for the first time in seven months.   The downside was that I had to break my vow not to set foot on American Soil until George Bush was out of office.  But in the end, I got my Chinese Visa. The fourth visit saw the acceptance of my paperwork, then five days later I was able to pick up my passport. 

Next was the securing of my Reentry permit for Japan.  Because of course I have to get permission to return to the place that I am... (and y'all wonder why I'm an Anarchist)...  Anyway, this was an amazingly simple process, requiring only half-an-hour.  I filled out the paperwork, showed it to the first woman, who informed me I needed a revenue stamp.  For those who've never experienced governmental corruption, revenue stamps are official stamps purchased in lieu of direct payment.  The way it works is that I have to leave the government office, walk across the street to a travel agency, buy a 3000 yen stamp (30 dollars, the cost of the reentry permit) and walk back to the government office.  I hand them the stamp, and they put it on my paperwork.  My theory is that this keeps the officers honest.   Being accustomed to these absurdities of Asia takes the edge off, but doesn't entirely assuage my desire to blow shit up.

Anyway, the paperwork for travelling to china not finished yet, I have to make my third visit to my travel agent and give them photo copies of 1) my passport 2) my chinese visa and 3) my reentry visa.   Why they need this to sell me a fucking plane ticket is beyond me... But, paperwork, being the official Japanese religion, is not to be questioned.

God Bless America where it is our God-given right to sit on our ass and get fat and do every last piece of this over the phone. But I'm not bitter.  I wouldn't get far as a traveller if I let petty trivialities such as this daunt me...

However, living in Japan is one perpetually flying curveball.  I earmarked today for buying Traveller's checks.  I left my house with several hours to spare for the bank, expecting a two hour wait and dozens of pieces of paperwork.  My calculus told me 1) there's money involved 2) there's a bank involved 3) I'm in Japan, so, this is bound to take forever.  I was a little sleepy when I got to the bank, and expected to have a nice long wait to wake up.  However, I was immediately able to approach a counter where a woman spoke English.    She ushered me to an ATM-looking machine, that had helpful english instructions.  My brain wasn't working fast enough for what happened next.  It turns out it was an Automated Money Exchange machine.  Or, rather, a Traveller's Check Vending Machine. [Oh my god, the most amazing girl I've seen in a hour is in front of me in metal spike-heel knee boots, A super-short camoflage mini-skirt, and a bright pink zip-front sweatshirt.  But, see, in Japan, this isn't slutty.  It's cute.  Where was I...]  Oh yes, before I knew what had happened, I had a non-english speaking attendant, point me through the process of how to withdraw Traveller's checks from an ATM.  Cause I think that's what happened.  The money was deducted directly from my account, then a guy sat in front of me and watched me sign all the checks.  And suddenly, I was carrying a thousand dollars in traveller's checks.  I've never used them before. ( I was also surprised to find I couldn't sign my name anymore.)  Japan walks both lines, exceptional convinience and exceptional inconvinience.  When approaching an unfamiliar situation, it may be ridiculously complicated, or like this, surprisingly efficient.  Another case in point is are the automatic hand driers.  They are all motion-detector activated, and with a sophisticated design that makes America's versions look like they were designed by Soviet second-stringers.  For that matter, everything has a motion detector here.  The ATM, the ticket machines in the subway, the faucets and toilets, the crossing lights.  Its actually wierd the variety of machines that sense your presence.  Today I found a combination soap dispenser/faucet; move your hands to the left, you get soap.  Move them to the right, you get water.  All part of the same fixture, both automatic and touchless.. I was impressed.

But back to the recent past, still not quite awake, and with an entire day free, I found my way to the Coffee shop.  I bring my own coffee, which I know is déclassé but they only offer five ounces of american coffee from an automated coffee machine for two dollars, which is unacceptible.  Truly, starbucks is not spreading the gospel fast enough.   And yet, none of the Starbucks' nor the Seattle's Best, nor the Tully's have free wireless internet.  Life just isn't fair sometimes, so we must compensate by being low-class.

Anyway, January came and went.  The year began with me at Chion-in Temple, the head temple of the Jodoshin Shu, the most popular sect of Japanese Buddhism, and the owners of one of the biggest goddamn bells I've ever seen.  It is a biiiiig bell.  Anyway, they have a team of people swing a big-ass log which then clangs the bell a hundred and eight times over the turning of the year.  Afterward, everyone goes to the nearby Yasaka Jinja to get a piece of hemp rope, to set it on fire, and to swing it in a circle and carry it home to light the new-years' hearth.  This ritual is to ward off fire in the new year.  Given how many fire ceremonies there are in this country, and how much people play with fire, its a sensible ritual.  I remember as a student studying Japanese architecture wondering about the design.  They live on reed-matt flooring, with a hole in the center in which they build a fire.  There is no chimney.  The roof is made of thatch.  The walls are made of paper.  The framing, timber.  My question has always been; 'doesn't this pose a minor fire risk?'  The answer: hell yes.  I always assumed there was something I was missing.  But no, all the buildings in Japan eventually burn(ed) down it seems.  Fire is the greatest tyrant in Japan.   Earthquakes, typhoons, and volcanos don't even factor in to traditional accounts of disasters compared with fire.  These are not a people accustomed to efficiency.  They build by traditional methods traditional structures that are traditionally succeptible to fire.   What part of this seems odd?

Oh well, its not for us to reason why.   I have become accustomed to Japan.  I enjoy it.  This has got to be one of the nicest places to live in the world.  Today in class one of my students was talking about going to the Mechanic in Los Angeles.  He was talking about how the mechanic ripped him off, which of course seems completely natural to me.  However, at first I assumed he was talking about mechanics in general.  But quickly he corrected himself and said how a Japanese mechanic would never gouge a customer.  You can trust a Japanese mechanic to give a fair price.  I checked this with some other students, and yes, mechanics are trustworthy in Japan...  But, of course, the Japanese mechanic's fair price is probably equivalent to the American mechanic's price-gouging.  Its too difficult to sort out all these threads...

In the end, Japan is still the 'nicest' place I've ever been.  And while people are not generally 'genuine' by American standards, they are a hundred times more honorable.  Even convinience store clerks take their job seriously, and are concerned about doing a good job.  This should drive home the point.  Today, I was in a Department Store.  I was buying a seven dollar pair of rain pants, on clearance sale.  While fumbling with my change, I dropped a penny (1 yen) and continued to fumble with my change to give to the cashier.  But she stopped what she was doing, and started to run around the counter in order to pick up the penny that I had dropped.   I had to yell dai-jo-bu to her "its okay", or else she would have been scrambling at my feet to hand me the penny that I had dropped.  By American standards, this is unacceptible behavior.  But by Japanese behavior, its par for the course.  Also, I never get used to the train attendants who stand beside the bank of turnstiles and say "arigato gozaimasu" (thank you very much) to every person who passes through the gates.  One day I'm going to lose it and punch those ingratiating motherfuckers.   

And yet, when all is said and done, I am happier living here, I feel fundimentally safe.  I can leave my bike unlocked on the street, and I can forget my change in a vending machine.  I've had people chase me down to return the fifty cents I've inadvertently left behind in a (ubiquitous) vending machine..  My reaction is always thankful, but deep down I want to say, "what's wrong with you people!"   But enough about this...

Japan is stuck in 1950.  I think that's the real problem.  Right now I'm in my 'favorite coffee shop.'  (Favorite solely because they have free wireless internet...)  They have a big-screen projection T.V. that plays two movies.  One is a collection of Charlie Chaplin shorts (which gets tedious the fifth time through), and the other is Audrey Hepburn's Roman Holiday.  I was stunned, shocked, and a little appalled to discover that Audrey Hepburn is an all-time favorite of Japanese girls.  Its like these people are caught in time warp.  Some mornings I feel like I woke up in a 1950's sci-fi movie.  I think its the orchestration accompanying the Newspaper recycling truck.  lofty violins in a soothing, shmaltzy harmony, along with an uber-polite woman's voice politely requesting that you bring your newspapers to the curb... or so I presume.  All I see is the mini flatbed truck drive by on a beautiful crystal-clear spring day, accompanied by onegaishimasu's and kudesei's. 

In the coffee shop right now, Audrey Hepburn is eating icecream on the Scalinata di Spagna, with her ruggedly hansome boyfriend and her impossibly thin waist.   She seems to be spending every moment of this movie eating and looking petulent.  I never realized Audrey Hepburn was Japanese, or else, an entire nation of women have modelled their mannerisms after her ideal.  The more I think about it, the more it creaps me out.  So I'm going to stop it.    I was turned on to this phenomenon in a class; I had two students, and I was asking them where they'd like to travel in Europe.   Sayaka, an 18 year old flirt said, without hesitation she wanted to eat  ice cream in the park like Audrey Hepburn.  I did a double-take.  I explained how my mom moved to New York because of Audrey Hepburn's Breakfast at Tiffany's, but that I doubt but few 18 year old girls in America even know who Audrey Hepburn is...  Later I surveyed my female students of all ages, and they'd all seen Roman Holiday at least once, but often several times...  Life is crazy sometimes. 

In other news, I did the gayest thing I've ever done recently.  I bought a tea kettle to match my apartment.  It just started grating on my nerves, a silver teapot that didn't really match anything.  But that's all changed now.  I have a teapot that matches my futon covers, my tatami mats, my alter cloth.  I have bath towels that match my dishes and a comforter that matches my wallpaper.  I must be queer, because there's no way a straight man could ever be this coordinated.  My whole apartment is a study in color-coordination.  The teapot was merely icing on the cake.  Is it politically incorrect to acuse oneself of acting gay?  The alarm bells are sounding, but the fire is in the firestation.

Bowling pins reflect
On the lane;  Which are real and
which the illusion?

Winter's introspection looms;
again, I relearn my game. 

Bowling.  I found my new favorite Bowling Alley.  Its about a five minute bike ride from my house.  Its not too expensive at its worst, but On Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Fri before 2pm one can bowl for 150 yen a game!  This is super cheap!  So, I and the senior citizens go bowling in the mornings on Thursday.  (for some reason wednesday is 280 a game; Wednesday and Thursday are my days off.)   There are some awesome seniors bowling during the week.  I love watching the concentration on the elderly women, with their own glove, shoes and ball,  who get spares every frame.  By contrast, my game still lingers around 115.   But I don't bowl to become a good bowler.  I bowl to become a better person.  Welcome to the Second Church of Bowling (I'm sure there's been a first).  I don't believe bowling is you verses the lane, you vs. the pins, or you vs. the rest of the bowlers.  Bowling pits you against yourself.  Like all target shooting sports,  from billiards to archery, the composure of one's mind determines the final outcome.  Thus, when I bowl, I appreciate the solitude.  I rarely bowl with friends.  However, notice my score still hovers around unacceptible.  Also, Bowling teaches one to be mindful of the mannerisms of one's body.  There are two approaches.  Either find a way that works for you, or be trained in a proper method.  In either case, success in the game depends entirely on surgical precision and exact repetition of the same series of moves for ten frames in a row.  Any variation and you will not repeat a good throw.  To get a high score in bowling one must get consecutive strikes.  This only happens with strict repetition of movements, much like the Japanese Tea Ceremony.    My game still sucks, because this is precisely what I am bad at.  I am constantly adjusting, reevaluating my stance, grip, approach and release.  I have learned a dozen ways to throw a ball down the lane.  And just recently have I developed the wrist strength and concentration to truly control the ball at will.  However, I cannot repeat from one frame to the next.  Last thursday I had as many gutter balls as a beginner.  And yet still I persevere.  Here ends the reading.

The Kerosene truck is making its rounds, with it's public announcement punctuating by the voice of sing-song children singing a song, always the same 15 seconds of the same song of the coming snow.   Almost comforting when it first wakes you up, like an old friend, but grating in its repetition.  This has been going on for four months now.   The childrens' lilting melody taking on demonic tones in my mind.

Yuki kon kon
ararei kon kon
futemo futemo
zun zun tsuru

or something like that... It means snow is falling, hail is falling, icicles are growing, etc.  Every Japanese person knows the song, and knows that it means "kerosene."  Or it could be a Kansai thing...

Now we find our way back to Christmas in Japan; which is not free of the despicable Christmas Carol.   I remember hearing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in India as I lay in bed on Christmas Eve, after listening to the Dali Lama lecture all day.  It was almost okay, I was almost sentimental, but more than anything, I was horrified that there was nowhere in the world I could go to get away from those stupid fucking songs; not even to a Buddhist monestary in India.  Likewise, Japan, also, is no exception.  Every supermarket, every department store.  And on that note, America doesn't know what a department store is.  Japan has refined the concept to five stories on average, and ten not being unusual.  with two and three on oposite corners of an intersection.  Also, most supermarkets are thus only on the lower level.  On the ground floor you buy food, but clothes, dishes, home appliances, and hardware are all upstairs.  Often, topped by a 100 Yen store in the cheap seats toward the top of the building.  Oh, Japan has its moments of efficiency.  Don't take my cynicism at face value...

But what of MY christmas in Japan?  I went to visit Miyuki in Nagoya.  For the record, Miyuki is not my girlfriend, and I'm not in love; we're not going to get married, or make babies, or any of that.  We're friends.  I like the word 'friend.'  But add the prefix 'Girl' and you have a synonym for suffering that I want no part of.  But moving on...  In Nagoya, they have a Christmas Eve fireworks festival.  During the day, we hung out with her nephew, played soccer, and then later went bowling (I bowl so often; why am I so bad?   Its not fair!).  But on Christmas eve, the strangest thing of all, we had te-maki-zushi with her family.  Before the fireworks, we all gathered in the livingroom of their apartment, where her mother had prepared a platter of sushi fixings.  There was ikura (salmon roe), tuna, crab, cucumbers, some root whose name I forget, etc.  Everyone was presented with a plate of  5 X 5 inch nori (seaweed) sheets, a bowl of rice, and a small dish of soy sause.  Then, as in the Amercan tradition of a burrito party, everyone rolls their own sushi.  Te means hand.  Maki means rolled.  Sushi means... I don't know what anymore.  The term is so diluted in my mind, its lost all meaning.  You can put nearly anything on a small lump of rice and call it sushi.  That's basically the idea.  Alternately you can roll damn near anything in nori and rice and call it sushi.  But the real delimma is knowing when it stops being sushi.  This may be one of the questions no one really ought ponder, though...  A few days ago I learned about "Scattered Sushi" (chirashizushi).  This somehow unassembled sushi.  Now, you've got rice on a plate or in a bowl, and raw fish on top of it.  Perhaps not raw, perhaps cooked even.  Or even vegetables.  So, I interrogated several friends.  Apparently its "sushi" because the rice is seasoned with sushi vinegar.  So, the next logical question.  If you season rice with vinagar, is it then 'sushi?'  Who knows.  Perhaps sushi is the mere intention to make sushi.

Anyway, after a very awkward several minutes hanging out with Miyuki's father around the dinner table (his only words to me in the two times we've met was to offer me Shochu, straight, which I gladly accepted; he doesn't speak any english of course.  You don't know awkward until you're hanging out alone with the taciturn father of your lover around a dinner table waiting for the women to get their act together and come eat, without even a common language between you),  Her dad announced the start of dinner with an itadakimasu and left the rest of the family to scramble to the table in their own dear sweet time.  When he got home, Miyuki was in the shower.  As any good woman, this process takes a minimum of 45 minutes.  The chemistry set in her toiletry kit would put a forensic detective to shame.  But it does a fine job; at 35, she still has smooth, clear, beautiful skin.  Is it worth the 550 hours a year (45 minutes morning and night = 22 days a year in the bathroom)?  Why not.  I appreciate her efforts.  Finally, we proceded to eat,  I rolled temakisushi using the same technique as I roll cigarettes, which amused me greatly.   (Speaking of which, I've kinda stopped smoking.  I still smoke socially, but I don't smoke at home on my own. )  Christmas Eve ended with us getting ridiculously drunk, watching fireworks from the living room out the sliding glass door, over Nagoya Port, and me teaching Miyuki the difference between very drunk, so drunk, and too drunk.  That's about the last think I remember.   I think Miyuki was kissing her best friend at some point.  Japanese girls do that when they get drunk; but they recoil at the idea of bisexuality.  Japan in general is very homophobic.  Which is too bad, cause all the girls really seem to like to kiss eachother...

But lets change the subject to my washing machine!!!  When I moved into my apartment, there was a washing machine, but on the spin cycle, it was always horribly out of balance.  So finally, one day, I complained to the landlord.  He happily replaced it... with a manual washing machine.  Now some of you Australians may know what this is, but I don't think anyone in America who knows of the internet has ever seen such a creature.  When I dig in my memory banks I can almost imagine seeing washing machines of this design in illustrations of the forties and fifties.  But with the Advent of the Laundromat, the manual washing machine was a dinosaur. 

The way it works, is you have two tanks.  On the left is a square-ish tank into which you place your clothes, and which you fill with water via a spigot valve on the water line.  Then once you've combined soap, clothes, and water, you turn another knob which begins the agitation.   Perhaps for ten minutes.  You leave, do something else for a while, then return to drain the tank.  Then you remove the clothes from the left side, and place them in the spinning drum on the right.  After three minutes' spin, you add some water, and spin some more.  Usually, I wash twice as much as fits in the spin tank at one time, and hence have to do two cycles.  Lately I've realized that for optimal clothes-washing, only as many clothes as can fit in the spin tank at once should be washed.  But I'm not looking for the optimum.  Anyway, then back to the wash tank for the 'rinse cycle.'  And then again to the spinning drum for the final spin, and then, finally, hanging the clothes to dry.  This machine is the compulsive housewife's dream.   Needless to say, I love it.   


Who wants to be my audience?

I need your help.  I want to write a primer on Buddhism and Yoga, but I don't really have a concrete idea of who to write to.  If you click on this link and send me an email, I'll keep you in mind and try to structure my writing with you in mind.  This means I will throw a few kernels specifically in your direction, and you can imagine which these would be, sorta like an easter egg hunt, when you read the final product.   I am envisioning a two-part text, Part I: Theory, and Part II: practice, as I address these independantly in my own life.  I'll also write a million pages or so on the history of Buddhism, what is known of the Buddha's life, and the historical development of Buddhism.  In your email, you can make specific requests, and I will fit them in with a little more detail than I might otherwise...   This would be extremely helpful for me in narrowing the scope of the thesis; I'm going to aim for 30-50 pages summarizing my last ten years of research.  This work will be entirely hyperlinked, and located on my website.  I'll also have .pdf and .doc files for those who'd prefer to dowload and print it out. 


Fun facts:  China exports more products to WAL-MART than to Germany or Japan.  If Walmart were a seperate country, it would be China's fifth largest export market. 

That's all for now!  Hope you enjoyed this page!

© 2003 Hudson Cress. All rights reserved. No portion of this document may be used in any way without the explicit written consent of Hudson Cress. For more information, visit