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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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!