Woe! It is our last day. I wish I could stay longer in Kyoto, and watch the season change. Even one more day would have been nice. Alas.

As you must have inferred from my poll, I watched the movie Onmyouji and was enchanted by Abe no Seimei, the sly onmyouji with the remarkable face, an actual historical figure whom Stephanie says is like John Dee in that legends began to spring up around him even during his life, whose mother was reputed to be a kitsune. I am madly in love with Seimei and the actor playing him, a Noh actor who looked quite different (but still hot!) out of makeup in the "making of" featurette we watched.

So Stephanie wanted to buy her mother, who weaves, something woven, and we both wanted to visit the Seimei shrine. We decided to bail on the river noodles place, which looked like it would require a lot of walking in the heat, and visit the Kyoto handicrafts center and the shrine.

Yesterday we had a ten-course crab lunch, served at a restaurant with a gigantic animatronic crab, waving its twenty-foot legs and snipping with its five-foot claws and extending its three-foot eyestalks. We assumed from the crab that it was an informal restaurant, perhaps with paper tablecloths, but it was a gourmet place with tatami floors, private booths, and a luxurious twenty-five dollar lunch special. Except for the yogurt dessert, which was gross.

Then we went to a manga shop and I bought Kazuya Minekura's art books, Salty Dog 2 and 4, a Bleach art book, and what I thought was the Mushishi art book but which turned out to be an overpriced anime episode guide. There I met some fans from Peoria.

"Have you seen the movie Akira?" one asked. "Remember how at the beginning, these thugs on motorcycles are beating people up with baseball bats? That's Peoria."

I searched the store for Rukia: the Styling, but was disappointed. But this morning, while searching again at a Lawson's, I found Naruto Timeskip figurines, series two! Eight figures inn mystery boxes! I bought them all! And got all eight figures, plus an extra Naruto! Woo-hoo! I am in geek heaven!

The handicrafts center, though, was awful: touristy, overpriced, and dull. After a lunch of eel (me) and beef (Stephanie) over rice, we went to the Seimei shrine. It was fantastic. There were five-pointed stars everywhere. There were lion guardians. There was a demon guarding a bridge with a weeping willow. There was a lucky metal peach. There was a significant tree. There were Seimei paintings. There was a gift shop. There was even a cut-out Seimei with a cut-out face! Alas, Stephanie refused to stick her head in the hole, so that must be left to the imagination. We both bought charms and left those wooden thingies hanging up, figuring the Seimei shrine would have mojo if anywhere would.

On our way back, I discovered a store selling Naruto coloring books: regular and time-skipped! Clearly Seimei at work!

Then, though almost everything was closed down, we ran across a shop with a middle-aged guy working a loom: weaving! Stephanie bought her mother wool and some woven thingies. The weaver, either delighted in his last customers of the day or else bored our of his gourd, made us green tea, chatted, and wrapped everything very carefully... then threw in a ball of silk shreds. "This is very difficult to weave," he said. "But your mother can try!"

Stephanie and I (before repairing to this manga cafe) went to an izakaya. I quote from the menu:

Sea tangle (tempura udon-- how did they get sea tangle from that?)

Under "Dainty," Salted entrails of a trepang (konowata-- what the heck is that?)

Salty sqied

Mountain jellyfish (yama kurage-- what is that? It sounds like a mushi.)

The steamed meat dumpling of a shrimp

A boiled spinach

Salty-sweetly cooked herring

Shouchu (for slack digestion)

It was very good, though a bit smoky, as the place was entirely occupied by salarymen and one unhappy-looking salarywoman. A distinguished-looking gentleman fell out of his seat while we were there.

I have more to tell, but my elbow, in which i have tendinitis, is protesting. Thank you all for joining me on this trip-- what a fantastic trip it's been.
rachelmanija: (Autumn: small leaves)
( Sep. 10th, 2007 07:41 pm)
This continues my last post, which left off after I secured my saucer of chrysanthemum sake. Scroll down (not forgetting to take my poll) to read that entry. And also to read our big announcement!)

It was blazing hot, so we took a taxi to Giouji, a moss temple that Stephanie had discovered via a Kyoto expat's blog. Unlike the more famous moss temple, this one is not packed with tourists, does not require reservations, and does not make you copy sutras before entering.

The taxi driver took us up a narrow bamboo-lined road, and dropped us off in front of a temple through whose gates (decorated with elephant-demon-creatures) we could indeed see moss. We paid the small entrance fee (usually three to five dollars/300-500 yen) and were given a brochure which listed a name other than Giouji. "Um..." I began, but before I could continue a monk whisked us inside a building, where we were greeted with great enthusiasm by another monk, one who clearly had not seen visitors in quite some time. He gave us a guided tour of their small museum, empty but us and an old lady who muttered darkly about gaijin (I gave her a big gaijin smile), and hand-sold us lucky charms. I got "health," Stephanie got "art." Then we wandered the garden, which was quite pretty, before heading further up the road to Giouji, our destination.

Giouji proved to have one of the most stunning gardens I have seen yet. A winding path, cleverly designed to block your view of the main garden until it opens up before you, leads to a lush carpet of hillocky emerald moss, with slim white trees rising out of it, curving and branchless like pillars bent in a gentle wind. Behind that vista rose a solid forest of green bamboo.

There was also a little hall inhabited by several statues of the Buddha and a lazy white temple cat, who accepted the pets of visitors in a lordly manner. It was all lovely and peaceful. Until I suddenly heard a whirr and rustle of hasty wings, and a great big bug slammed into my temple. I shrieked in what was apparently a hilarious manner. My guess, judging by the ungodly huge specimens we've been seeing, that it was a dragonfly. A woman who had one invade her tea shop said they are called "oniyama." Is that actually "mountain demon," or are those different kanji?

We then went to the garden next door, which was just as lovely, all steep winding paths among maples (which will be clear wine red come autumn) and bamboo forests overlooking a deep ravine. People had carved graffiti into some of the bamboos-- no doubt stuff like "Ichiro was here" and "Seimei [heart] Hiromasa." Stephanie mentioned that she'd heard of a church somewhere which houses an ancient tablet upon which is carved in runes something like "Olaf was here."

It was so hot and humid in both gardens that my glasses kept fogging up, and despite my liberal application of mosquito repellent, I was bitten all over. When we emerged, the little vampires pursued me, and I slapped at them and swore before the gates of the first temple we visited. "Ha ni sasareta!" I remarked plaintively to the temple attendant, a grandfatherly type. [livejournal.com profile] homasse taught me this useful phrase, which means, "I have been stabbed by mosquitoes!"

He admonished me in Japanese for wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt to bamboo forests, where the mosquitos lurk. "But it is very hot!" I whined.

"Yeah, that's when the bugs come out," he replied. He then vanished into the temple, and emerged with a spray can of bug repellent. I sprayed myself.

We walked along the road, prettily lined with old-fashioned wooden houses with elegant tile roofs, houses and cafes and art shops selling exquisite handmade pottery, when we noticed a stone torii with rocks piled atop it, nestled into a stretch of woods. I peeked inside, and saw two orange torii forming a longer archway, and leading to a rough wooden shelter and a most mischievous-looking stone fox guardian.

We went inside and admired the statue, then sat in the shelter to rest our weary feet. That was when we noticed that the fox stood before a small door-- I would have had to stoop to enter it-- in the hill. It was an old wooden door, open a crack, but chained shut.

There were coin offerings laid before it, most old and battered.

We peeked inside. Nothing but black. Why would there be a door in the hill, at the heart of a fox shrine? Why chain it shut? I took a flash photograph, but it illuminated nothing but rough dirt walls, and then further blackness.

"Was that there before?" asked Stephanie. She pointed to a second fox statue, also on a pillar, this one more fierce-looking. I hadn't noticed it.

"Are those seals?" she added, indicating the words on slips of paper plastered over the shelter.

"I think they're the names of people who paid for the shrine to be built," I said. "I hope."

We sat for a while longer, contemplating the fox guardians, the door, and whether it was meant to keep something in or keep people out, and whether it had been altogether wise to disturb it with a sudden burst of light.

When we left the shrine, the heap of coins before the door was topped by several shiny new offerings.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Sep. 9th, 2007 06:15 pm)
Mitakari festival: After prayers are said for a bountiful harvest at 10:00 AM, two men with kiyome no kami (purification papers) between their lips engage in a wrestling match. Off and on between 10:30 and 16:00, bouts of children's sumo wrestling will take place, and at some point several one-month-old babies are rolled around in the sumo ring, a practice which is believed to make them strong.

Needless to say, we decided that was a must-see. Unfortunately, the shrine where it took place proved to be off most of our maps. One guide book explained that to get there, you have to take a train, then a bus, then walk, and added ominously, It is an excellent place to view cherry blossoms, as its inaccessibility keeps even most locals away.

Given Stephanie's strained ankle, we decided to instead attend the Choyo no Sechi-e (Chrysanthemum festival) at Horinji Temple, in which chrysanthemum-flavored sake is served in honor of the Chinese legend about a wine of eternal youth. The temple is at Arashiyama, clearly a popular weekend getaway; we followed the hordes of tours, complete with flag-waving guides, away from the station until we reached the town center, along a river and backed with forested hills and tacky souvenir shops. We first ate lunch at a place mostly notable for a wall painting of what were probably supposed to be frogs, but which looked uncannily like male genitalia; and a particularly earsplitting waitress chorus of "Irasshiamase!" and "Arigatou gozaimashita! Okini!!!" ("Welcome! Thank you! (Regular Japanese) Thank you! (Kyoto dialect!))

Horinji Temple was crowded with sake fiends faithful worshippers, and I was delighted to hear the monks chanting the same chant Sumeragi Subaru uses when Kamui goes catatonic after something very bad happens to him in CLAMP's X: "Om maribori sowaka," or something like that. It was very hot. very very hot. Incense added to the heaviness of the air. The altar was decorated with chrysanthemums wearing small cloths and with a giant Japanese doll.

After the chanting, there was a brief Noh performance. At least I think that's what it was. A young man in a black kimono and a golden fan did a slow, stately dance/movement piece to the accompaniment of several drummers and chanters, plus one flutist (all oldish-- three men and a woman) and four young men whose job was to hold fans, do a brief introductory chant, then sit in seiza for twenty-five minutes. One closed his eyes and looked peaceful. The other three, after about ten minutes had gone by, looked like they could not wait to get out of there. At the end, they chanted for about ten minutes, then ceremoniously put away their fans.

The man doing the performance was very good, I thought, though I don't know much about Noh, if that was what it was. He was slow and hypnotic, face completely still, fan movements extremely precise. Sweat slowly dripped off his face, and off the faces of everyone else in the temple, performers and audience.

At the end, the chief monk came in and made an announcement in Japanese, thanking us for coming and announcing that sake would be served now. He then said what I am pretty sure was "Thank you for doing shugyo with us." That was pretty funny, as shugyo means "endurance training," like a weekend of doing karate all day.

Then the monks poured out sake into little saucers. There was a mad scramble, and after people drank their saucer, they handed it back to a frantic monk who rinsed it in a bucket, then wiped it off and handed it to someone who didn't have a saucer yet. I kept getting mine grabbed out from under me, until an old lady grabbed my wrist, and made me snatch a saucer from under the hand of an old man.

I drank my lucky sake, then Stephanie (who had gotten overheated and sat it out) and I caught a taxi to a moss temple, Giouji. or so we thought...

(To be continued!)
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Sep. 8th, 2007 05:37 pm)
I am posting from the Kyoto tourist center with [livejournal.com profile] telophase and [livejournal.com profile] homasse, because it's POURING RAIN and I sort of accidentally bought a kimono and I don't want to get it wet. And [livejournal.com profile] homasse is carrying a very beautiful thirty dollar FMA doujinshi (mostly Roy/Ed but to my delight, apparently also some Roy/Hughes involving Ishbal war angst.). So we are afraid to go out in the rain. Alas.

It was [livejournal.com profile] homasse's first time in Kyoto (!) so we hauled her off to see some beautiful traditional thing, namely, the Fushimi Inari fox shrine. On the way in, we stopped to gawk at a used kimono seller, who helpfully fanned us. (It was hideously hot.)

The woman salesperson offered to pop me into a kimono so I could see what it looked like. I assumed she meant "drape it over my shoulders," but next thing I knew, she had cinched in my waist tighter than the corset did, and about forty seconds later, I was in a kimono and obi and the man kimono seller was telling me to go stand beneath the giant orange torii so my friends could take my picture. Then I looked in the mirror. Then I had to ask how much. It was 25 dollars for kimono and obi, so, well, I bought it. Greatest sales pitch ever. They even held it for me so I didn:t have to lug it around the shrine.

We walked through tunnels of torii upon tori, seeing many fox statues, and I made several offerings of five yen coins for luck in love. But [livejournal.com profile] homasse got viciously attacked by ferocious mosquitoes, so we had to beat an early retreat.

Then we stuffed ourselves at a "things on skewers" restaurant, and now I must post as I have 2 minutes left.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Sep. 7th, 2007 06:21 pm)
Courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] sho_sunaga (who also did the frame and added text, of which I think the part I could read says "very [something] sexy??"), a photo of me. In The Outfit. Eating a chestnut cream pastry.

rachelmanija: (Default)
( Sep. 7th, 2007 01:18 pm)
The tattoo was temporary. Ellen Kushner decided that what was needed to complete my look was a tattoo, and she just so happened to have extra press-ons from her wedding: green oak leaves and brown acorns, which she helped me apply above my left breast.
Note: Please check my last couple entries; I am posting in chunks because I'm paranoid about posts getting lost. Also, do I not have very many Bleach fans reading my LJ, or do many of them hate Rukia/Renji, or what? I expected much more excitement over that post! Excitement to match my own at the thought of its existence!

After exhaustedly dragging our luggage past our ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), we checked the Magome tourist information office, which told us that we needed to go back down. The only English signage explained that while no bears had ever been sighted on the Nakasendo hiking route in modern times, the Magome tourist information office rented out bells, just in case.

We declined to rent a bell, suspecting already that we would be doing no further hiking, but headed over to our inn, the Tajimaya. It was a lovely old wooden building with a stuffed tanuki in front, blue curtains dangling from bamboo poles, and an amazing old hearth called an irori, with a pulley system dangling a kettle that could be raised and lowered over the coals. It did not, unfortunately, seem to be in use.

Our first thought was a bath, so we scrubbed off, sitting under the waist high showerheads under teeny wooden stools, then crammed ourselves into the rather small bath. To my delight, it had an jet like a jacuzzi. To the delight of the two Japanese guests who eventually arrived at the bath, we were just getting out-- the bath emphatically did not fit more than two.

Though our room was very large and quite nice, with tatami matting, closets full of futons and bedding, a TV (which we never turned on), screen dividing it into two sizable rooms, and a tokonoma with a nice wall scroll and a rather baleful-looking stuffed pheasant, what pleased us the most was that it was air conditioned.

Thus refreshed, we trotted about the town a bit, then returned for our luxurious eleven-course (not counting tea, rice, and miso soup) meal, laid out elegantly in separate dishes. Perhaps the best part was the cube of luxuriously textured tofu with tiny shrimp and a brunoise of carrots and mushrooms-- perfect cubes the size of this typed letter a. I have been watching Top Chef, so I know how difficult that is to achieve. There was also a miso-broiled and smoked whole (smallish)fish, two kinds of sliced seared beef in mustard or soy, eggplant and chicken in tomato sauce, soba, sushi rolls cleverly made with chopped soba instead of rice, a number of pickles, watermelon, and tempura of eggplant, squash, shredded carrot, and a green leaf that might have been burdock, which I held up to the light to see the delicate tracery of veins.

We then watched an episode of the anime Mushishi, which is already one of my all-time favorites, and collapsed into bed.

After a substantial ryokan breakfast including a poached egg made in a heart-shaped mold, the innkeeper asked me in Japanese if there was anything I'd like for dinner that night. Rather surprised, I replied that I liked everything except eggplant. He seemed rather startled, then told us there would be a dance after dinner. Hours later, it occured to me that he]d actually asked me how I'd liked my dinner last night! I proceeded to feel guilty all day over dissing his eggplant.

After insulting the innkeeper, we set out for the other town, Tsumago. Despite being dropped off at its bus stop, it proved surprisingly difficult to find. And boiling hot. And full of (almost all Japanese) tourists. Pretty, but not as restful as Magome. The hiking route looked gorgeously green, but also very hot and full of mosquitoes. I have been breaking out in enormous hives when bitten, it was hot, and Stephanie's ankle hurt, so we had a snack of sweetish grilled miso-brushed pounded rice molded onto a stick, and took the bus back. I fell asleep and we missed our stop, so we ended up doing a tiny bit of hiking after all.

That night, there was no eggplant served for dinner. Some dishes were the same, others were different, all but a gross slimy vegetable were delicious. We ordered a bottle of (somewhat harsh) sake with dinner. I drank more than Stephanie, I must confess.

Sure enough, after dinner the innkeeper gathered us up and taught us a Magome folk dance. Once he felt that we more-or-less (more less than more) had it down, he had us put on geta, which are wooden clogs, and led us out onto the cobblestoned public street, where we danced some more, in a circle, stamping our geta with loud traditional clacks.

Thus invigorated, we sat around the irori and attempted to have a conversation, albeit much hampered by Stephanie knowing almost no Japanese, the innkeeper knowing almost no English, me and a woman whom I think was from Taiwan and an American Worldcon guest not knowing much Japanese, and a slightly drunk Japanese man with an Asahi can not knowing much English other than the names of Japanese baseball players on American teams-- a subject which took up a lot of conversational space.

When the latter asked where I had studied Japanese, I confessed that it was from watching anime. But when I named off anime I watched, I couldn't pronounced Bleach in a recognizable manner. "Hold on," I said in Japanese, "I'll be right back." I jumped up and ran out.

Later Stephanie told me that they had remarked on me being "genki," which translates as "peppy," basically.

I returned with a stack of manga and a figurine of Renji Abarai from Bleach. "Abarai!" exclaimed the probably-Taiwanese woman.

"Shinigami!" exclaimed the Asahi man.

This confused the innkeeper, and required some explanation. Renji is indeed a shinigami-- a "death god" or "soul reaper"-- but as that figurine was from Bleach: the Styling, he was dressed in a school uniform.

The next morning I woke up with no hangover, and the Renji figurine beside my pillow.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Sep. 6th, 2007 02:51 pm)
Please check my last couple entries-- I posted pics, plus big news of my newest upcoming project. Also, check [livejournal.com profile] telophase for further updates.

I don't think I've sufficiently explained how incredibly hot it has often been around here. When we went to the heavily forested Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, right in time for the Summer Festival, which is apparently celebrated by hundreds of people in large teams, all wearing their different vaguely traditional and incredibly colorful polyester outfits, then waving giant flags and dancing frenetically to pop songs onstage, it was so hot that I ate three shaved ices. The cicadas were so loud that it was like being at the front row of an electronica concert-- they almost drowned out the music.

So the other day we departed to Magome, an old rest stop along the Nakasendo Road, the old Tokaido Road between Tokyo and Kyoto. There is a crossroads sign with arrows pointing the way to Kyoto and the way to Edo. It was very hot. Very, very hot. I drank a lot of Pocari Sweat, the sports drink which is milky-colored, a bit salty, a bit chalky, a bit lemony, very slightly thicker than water, and whose label appetizingly explains that it is "the exact compostion of human body fluid."

That, plus Stephanie straining her ankle in Tokyo, is why we did not walk the old road from Magome to Tsumago, the next town over, but instead took a bus. I am certain it is very beautiful, and there is a waterfall that Miyamoto Musashi sat under or composed a poem near or about or something like that (but not bathed in, for he was notoriously averse to bathing)-- like George Washington, Miyamoto Musashi seems to have spent half his life rushing madly from location to location, if he really slept everyone that advertises his stay. But I think I would have gotten heatstroke. Maybe I:ll try again in autumn.

Magome is almost entirely composed of shops, inns, and houses on either side of an extremely steep cobblestone path winding up a hill. It is rather aggressively picturesque, with old-style wooden slats on every house, wooden water-wheels turning and water splashing, monstrously overfed koi gaping their jaws from tanks below orange poppies, evening-blue morning glories and hollow lantern-vines twining up trellises and fences of bamboo and black twine, and men baking fresh pastries stuffed with your choice of red bean paste, white bean paste with chopped boiled walnuts, pickled vegetables, curried meat, or eggplant.

It was a bitch to lug our suitcases, backpacks, and handbags up in that heat, let me tell you.
Taken and sent to me by a kind gentleman attending Worldcon:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v280/telophase14/brownartidea.jpg (in post-apocalyptic landscape, apparently)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v280/telophase14/worldcongorgeousrachelbrown.jpg (In front of Yokohama World's Largest Ferris Wheel, and I want you all to know that the photo was sent to me with the title already attached)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v280/telophase14/worldconbrownbuescherstanford.jpg (with Henson puppetteer Julianne Buescher and Henson exec Halle Stanford)

Oh, I forgot to mention: that's a black leather collar.
rachelmanija: (Saiyuki Gaiden: Drinking buddies)
( Sep. 6th, 2007 02:39 pm)
Last night I drank half a bottle of sake, then danced in the street.

In geta. (Japanese wooden clogs.)
The Harajuku outfit-- revealed!!!

1. A very tight black pleather (but high-quality pleather) lace-up corset with straps.

This gives the illusion that I have, not merely breasts, but BREASTS, and led to incidents like "May I take your photo again? You're very..." gaze drops, jerks back up... "boobalicious photogenic." And also a plaintive request to button my coat so we could have an actual conversation, as the guy I was speaking to confessed that he kept getting distracted.

2. A floor-length black coat with pleather (again, high-quality) elements, and at least eight large shiny buckles. Plus lots of straps and snaps and a slightly batlike collar. Picture Vash the Stampede's coat in black, basically, but sleeveless. If I walked quickly, it swept out behind me in perfect bishounen or Matrix or swashbuckling fashion.

3. Vanbraces! These are forearm sleeves with three large shiny buckles each and a thin black strap connecting them to the shoulders of the coat-- somewhat like Lust in FMA.

The rest of the outfit, being cobbled together from what I already had with me, consisted of black cotton pants, black hiking sandals, and black fuzzy socks to make said sandals look like regular shoes to a casual glance.

Stephanie put my hair up into a chignon, assisted by a French twist, two different types of black hairpins, hair clay, and gel. I wore a bit of face powder, red lipstick, and fire engine (Stephanie corrects, "fuck me") red nail polish.

The most remarkable thing about this get-up was not the attention it received, but how wearing it made me feel even before men started dropping at my feet and rushing up with cameras. The corset reminded me to use the perfect posture that my physical therapist is always nagging me about (my natural posture is something of an L-like slouch), the coat dragged on the floor unless I walked quickly and very erect, and the whole thing made me feel cool, elegant, sexy, and tall. Yes, tall!

Quite amazing. It was the first time I'd ever worn a costume (I have acted a bit, but only in contemporary plays) and I suddenly realized what actors mean by "getting into character."

It better not get lost in shipping.
I am about to leave Tokyo and go into a rural area, on the old Nakasendo road between Kyoto and Tokyo (then called Edo.) It used to be THE major road in Japan, and lined with inns because it took a week or more to traverse by foot or horseback. Some of those inns are still there, and we'll be staying in one. So I may not have net access for the next couple of days, until I get to Kyoto.

But before I have to rush out of here to ship this quite amazing outfit I bought in Harajuku, spiritual home of Tokyo's most stylish teenagers, to the USA before I check out of the hotel, I wanted to mention something:

Last night while walking back to the hotel, on a street which was otherwise completely silent and empty, I saw a man's collared, button-down shirt on a hanger on a lamp post. A well-fed, fluffy white cat was on a leash that was tied to the post right beneath the shirt's right sleeve, so the shirt appeared to be taking the cat for a walk.
rachelmanija: (Anime is serious)
( Sep. 2nd, 2007 09:58 pm)
I am sitting in a manga kissaten (manga cafe), side by side with [livejournal.com profile] telophase, [livejournal.com profile] bravecows, and [livejournal.com profile] sho_sunaga, all of us typing away on our respective LJs. It is a great moment in the history of geekdom, especially since it is the culmination of a day which also included manga-shopping, doujinshi-shopping, and a dinner in which we regaled each other with tales of how we discovered slash, fic, and fandom.

Meeting [livejournal.com profile] bravecows and [livejournal.com profile] sho_sunaga was definitely one of the best bits of Worldcon for me. I think some of you know the former already, but the latter is newish to LJ; she is a Japanese fan who is into manga, SGA, Supernatural, Sentinel, Star Trek,, and fic.

Today, after a brief stop at an English used bookshop, Good Day Books in Ebisu (where Stephanie was briefly trapped in the elevator), we met up at the statue of Hachiko the loyal dog at Shibuya station, along with approximately one thousand others attempting to meet friends at the same coordinates.

We went to a bookshop, where I bought several copies of Saiyuki Gaiden 3 and was irritated that many of [livejournal.com profile] sho_sunaga's favorite manga have not yet been translated into English, and where [livejournal.com profile] telophase [livejournal.com profile] bravecows bought bilingual Tale of Genji manga.

Then we went to Mandarake, a massive doujinshi shop, where [livejournal.com profile] bravecows talked me into buying a mysterious doujinshi with the subtitle "The love between an animal and a plant," from the RPS section-- I think it might be Russell Crowe/Paul Bethany. [livejournal.com profile] telophase made an astonishing find, detailed on her LJ.

Then we proceeded to an izakaya, where I had a lychee soda, and we all had a fantastic appetizer of Vietnamese/Japanese/California spring roll sushi-ish thingies, before proceeding to sashimi, fried chicken wings, soup with noodles and cabbage, and oyakodon (chicken and egg over rice). It turns out that me and both had original Trek as one of our first fandoms, and discovered slash when searching for it online. [livejournal.com profile] bravecows, the baby of the group, began with Hanson fic at the tender age of ten!

[livejournal.com profile] sho_sunaga showed us some downloaded manga she can read on her cellphone (which also connects to the internet.) When it gets to the rape scene, the phone vibrates!
I am having a hard tine getting net access, so I am way behind in recording what has been going on. Expect some out of order reports as I catch up.

A couple nights ago Stephanie and I were tired, so we decided to spend a quiet night in the hotel watching DVDs. But before putting in a DVD, we decided to check out Japanese TV. Two DVD-less hours later, we went to sleep. This is what we saw-- all in Japanese, but I translated a bit:

1. An international women's shot-put competition, held in Osaka. This was pretty amazing. I had previously not known what shot-put is: it's a very heavy-looking metal ball on a long wire, which you spin around your head until it spins you in a tight circle, heels digging a hole into the earth, and then release it to fly some ridiculous distance away. Those women were really built on the upper body, and it was great to watch.

ETA: Stephanie says that's actually the hammer throw.

(Speaking of women's upper bodies, a number of people at the con seemed quite hypnotized by mine, due to the spectacular outfit I had previously purchased in Harajuku and wore to the con. Several men asked to take my picture (and some women did too) and some of those asked if they could post it on their home page. Due to a language barrier, I momentarily thought one of them was asking if he could use it as a model for a figurine, but alas, no-- he just belonged to a figurine club and was indicating the home page on its business card.)

2. A sushi-eating contest. The contestants, three men, one of whom had matching green clothes, and hair, consumed plate after plate of conveyer-belt sushi in a leisurely fashion, with a loud DOING every time they finished a piece.

(We had conveyer belt sushi for lunch today. It was delicious! The sushi chefs stood in the middle of an enormous conveyer belt, bellowing (in Japanese) "Two uni for number thirty-nine!" HAIIIII!!!" My favorites were lush salmon striped in orange-pink and white like rock strata, a very nice tamago (egg omelet cooked in dashi), and cold but still fine and sweet unagi (sea eel-- not to be confused, as I did once, with usagi (rabbit.)

I did not care for the disturbingly cartilageneous crab salad or the natto roll, though Stephanie enjoyed both! A roll involving some fish and salmon eggs was also very good, and probably the first time I've enjoyed salmon eggs. We also got some nice broiled salmon-- finished by a chef with a blowtorch in either hand.)

3. An episode of an anime series I like, Naruto. It was the conclusion of the post-timeskip Sakura puppet battle of DOOM. Nothing can shamelessly break your heart like anime, and I especially liked the image of the lonely little boy with puppet jutsu, creating two life-size parent puppets after his own parents had died, and using magic marionette strings to make them embrace him. Awww!

4. A competitive glass-blowing show, in the style of "Top Chef" or "American Idol." This was fantastic and I think would do very well in American remake (probably in the works right now.) Four glass-blowes, three men and a woman, were first assigned to create donburi-- rice bowls-- in glass. One made an eel bowl, one made pork cutlets (tonkatsu) that doubled as a money box, one did a mixed one that doubled as a jewelry set (shrimp brooch, ginger rose ring, salmon egg bead necklace, etc.)

The last two continued to the final round, where they were tasked to create a goldfish bowl like none other. The methods were amazing, and the results were spectacular: the man did a fisherman's net with a crayfish peeking out inside a gold swirly bowl, all in a moat-dish with guppies in it. The woman did a three-tier planet thing with rings of Saturn! I kind of preferred his, but hers was the most spectacular and she won--Japan's newest Top Glassblower!
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 29th, 2007 08:22 pm)
[livejournal.com profile] telophase posted a (too brief) account of our Koya-san trip. Check her LJ-- this isn't letting me cut-and-paste a link.

I forgot to mention that after our magnificent feast of rice, miso soup, tea, stewed vegetables, not-vegetable-of-the-ocean, sweet pickles with thin rice noodles, soba with dipping sauce and an orange slice, chewy mock-sashimi, mysterious glowing pink jello triangles tasting like dilute raspberry jello, tempura, eggplant (which I didn't eat), tofu (which I didn't eat either-- it had a strangely repulsive texture, like toothpaste), and grapes (fermented in the heat)-- we were informed that we should eat at a restaurant the next night, as the next night's meal would be identical.

The next night we set out. the International cafe of Mystery was closed. So was every other restaurant in town! So were most of the convenience stores. Though if we wanted to buy manga, T-shirts, sunglasses, or makeup, those stores were open. We finally ended up in a convenience store which, unlike most in Japan, was very poorly stocked. Shockingly, it had no bento. We depressedly poked at the pathetic offerings, grabbed two pastries, two mystery onigiri, a small thing of mystery fried stuff, and a packet of potato salad, and decided to eke out this meager meal by making sandwiches. What we first took for mayonnaise proved to be cream, so we decided to forego condiments and just buy ham and a loaf of bread.

On the way back to our room in the temple, Stephanie grabbed a melon soda and I got my addiction, the chalky-lemon sports drink Pocari Sweat ("The exact composition of human body fluid. Refreshing!") (The temple had an indoor drink vending machine. Of course. Also a mural of rowdy chubby monks engaged in raucous activities, such as playing with the rope-like white eyebrows of one monk, or sitting on an unhappy-looking tiger.)

Back in our room, we made the following discoveries:

1. The melon soda smelled like bubblegum and tasted like revolting chemicals.

2. One of the onigiri was both mysterious and inedible.

3. One of the fried things turned out, upon dissection, to be chicken. That was OK. The other was a scary mushy thing with black speckles. We didn't try it, and you wouldn't have either.

4. The "loaf of bread" turned out to contain stale whipped cream and balls of gelatinous apricot jelly, rendering it useless for sandwiches.

5. The pastries were awful and largely consisted of the same stale whipped cream as in the bread loaf-- which was ordinary bread, by the way.

6. The ham and potato salad were pretty good!

But overall the meal was awful: so we had our best and worst meals in Japan on successive days.

The next morning the monk inquired as to our dinner, and insisted that in fact, at least one restaurant in town had been open, and if we had only turned left at the tourist information office as was clearly marked upon the map, we would not have been forced to pathetically resort to the convenience store. At least I think that's what he said. However, such advice would have been useless even had it not been after the fact: I am certain that we also failed to find the tourist information office.
We just got back from Koya-san, a mountain town which is a center of Shingon Buddhism, and in which you must stay in a Buddhist monastery as there are no regular inns. I had been there before in autumn, and it was quite beautiful, and the food in the monastery was excellent.

This time we stayed at a different monastery, and due to a rather nightmarish time getting there, involving being unable to get tickets on a non-smoking train car until a much later train came by, staggered into the monastery tired and grumpy. (I should mention that the last leg of a journey involving five trains, a subway, and a bus, was a cable car-- a funicular, to be precise.)

We were greeted by a voluble monk who looked rather like a Chinese statue of the Buddha-- round belly, round face, thick neck, round bald head. He chattered away in Japanese and a tiny bit of English, recommending a Japanese dessert (mochi) place after cunningly inquiring if I liked dumplings, and suggesting that we visit the International Cafe, run (he said in English) by an `International Man Of Mystery.`

Then he escorted us to our dinner, which was a cold (because we were two hours late) eleven-dish feast. Not counting rice, miso soup, and tea. He sat there and instructed us on how to sit (cross-legged, `samurai style. Like Tom Cruise!`) and on what everything was. In Japanese, mostly, which I barely speak. At one point he showed us a peculiar vegetable, scratched his head, named it in Japanese, but said he didn`t know how to explain what it was. Thinking it was a type of seaweed but not knowing that word, I asked, "Is it a vegetable of the ocean?" That got a laugh and a no. I am still not sure what it was-- it was shaped like a canned pineapple ring and looked somewhat like one, but translucent yellow-white, in a thick translucent sauce-- but I am sure that whatever it was, I don`t like it.

But the rest of the meal was lavish and terrific, though portions, like the faintly glowing pink gelatin triangle, seemed to be the sort of thing which might give me superpowers after I ate it. My favorite dishes were stewed pumpkin, which normally I hate, some pickled things, and tempura which included squash, lotus root, and some large flower.

Sadly, that was the best I did with Japanese, to the great disappointment of the monk. Every subsequent tinme I saw him was first thing in the morning, before coffee, when my listening skills were at a low ebb and my speaking was nil. However, he did give me a very nice parting souvenir-- a Buddhist dorje pinky ring. I shall treasure it.

We missed the lunar ecipse, though we did see a very brilliant moon with a copper corona, the aftereffect. But the meal was so good, and its setting-- a huge hall with painted scrolls of birds and a tiger staute-- was so cool-- that we didn't much care.

The next day we visited the amazing 2000-year-old cemetary, Okunoin, in an ancient cedar forest. The trees were enormously tall and mossy, and the interior, older parts of the cemetary were full of toppled moss-covered tombstones, stone torii gates with ferns sprouting from them, and statues of Jizo, who watches out for babies, in little red bibs, shocking bright against all the green and brown. The more recent parts of the cemetary were atmospheric in a different way. There were several tombs of company men and women, with memorial giant stone coffee mugs (for coffee company employees) and a huge stone rocket ship, I assume for an astronaut. No doubt that will become very picturesque in a hundred years when the moss covers it.

Unfortunately, it turned out that my mutant power was attracting mosquitos. They ignored Stephanie and attacked me, and sent me fleeing the more moist and dank portions of the cemetery, with a ravening dark cloud in hot pursuit. I went to a pharmacy later and all I had to do was say "Mushi" (bug) and the counter-lady immediately handed me a tube of bug bite soother, which she had right on the counter. (And when I added "Bug go away," she had no trouble understanding that either.)

We are now back in Tokyo, about which I will write more later. This internet cafe is very smoky, though, so I have to sign off now. Well, one last thing, before I forget. Men in Tokyo seem very comfortable with their masculinity, so much so that they do not feel, for example, that anyone might look askance at a young man in jeans and T-shirt, carrying a silver lame purse.
Yesterday I had what I believe was the very strangest moment of my whole entire life. As those of you who have read my memoir know, that is saying a lot.

It all began when we went to Asakusa in the hope of finding traditional Japanese handicrafts, or something like that. But when we exited the subway station, we were surprised to see huge crowds crowding along the road, with police keeping order. Clearly, a parade was about to begin.

I asked the police what was going on, but as has been my all-too-common experience lately, I knew enough Japanese to ask the question, but not enough to understand the answer. I tried asking, "Is it a festival?" The word I used for festival, "matsuri" does mean literally that, but generally means "Traditional Japanese festival," like the one where they parade a giant wooden penis down the streets, or the one which the guidebook mentioned without explanation as "the bean-throwing festival."

"Yes, a matsuri," replied the cop.

"Which matsuri?" I asked.

The cop said what I thought was "sanban"-- "number three." "The third festival?" I repeated bewilderedly.

Stephanie rescued me. "Samba," she explained.

Indeed, we were just in time for the Japanese samba festival!

And that wasn't even the strange part )


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