Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Way Back Machine Goes to Nao-shima

A long, long time ago, we visited the island of Nao-shima in Japan's inland sea. The island has become a community for artists, and dozens of sculptures are scattered around the island. There are also a couple of world-class museums and some great pieces by James Turrell, but, sadly, we were unable to take photographs inside.

We spent two days visiting the island, riding bikes to visit the various sculptures and museums. There was a surreal air to the place - an island of full of obscure artworks that's completely off the international tourist trail. It has definitely become one of our favorite places we visited on this trip. The locals think that the island would be the perfect setting for an upcoming James Bond movie, and we have to agree. Join the movement to bring James Bond to Nao-shima!

I love this pumpkin.

Ian's the king of the world!

An installation called "Cultural Melting Bath," with a jacuzzi you can actually use.

Nao-shima is where we first had okonomiyaki, a savory pancake with cabbage, eggs, bacon, pickled ginger, and some other odds and ends, topped with a sweet sauce, mayonnaise, and some seaweed. This stuff is goooood.

Ian and Charlie wait for the ferry.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tokyo and the Tsukiji Fish Market

We were fortunate to visit Tokyo on three separate occasions during our five weeks in Japan. We loved the bright lights, people-watching, great architecture, cheap food, and strange happenings.

A tiny bit of the massive Tokyo skyline, as seen from the top of the Metropolitan Government Building.


Sure, why not?

Insane scramble crossing in Shibuya.

When my parents came to visit us, we all decided to wake up at 4am one morning to check out the tuna auction and the Tsukiji fish market. The auction was recently reopened after being closed to tourists for a long time. We can see way - this is a serious place of business, with trucks driving up narrow aisles and people carting fish worth $50,000 to restaurant owners. We were probably in the way, but we were really excited that we got to catch a glimpse of the action. Of course, we followed our fish market visit with a wonderfully fresh sushi breakfast.

Rows of really expensive tuna.

Tuna in transit.

Looking for fresh tako at the Tsukiji market.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ian!

Today is Ian's birthday. He is officially in his late-twenties. We will be spending the day in Venice, saying goodbye to our youth, but since our blog is living in the past, I'll commemorate this occasion by showing you two pictures from Kyoto. Here is Ian walking on his favorite stone steps while heeding the advice of this wonderful sign at the Heian Shrine:

Happy Birthday from the Farang Team! Charlie told me he hopes you get lots of chocolate and that you share it with him because he looooooooves it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hiroshima and Miyajima

Pardon our tardiness. We have been in a pasta-induced coma in Italy for the last two weeks and have been very bad about blogging. As we are now setting a record for being behind in our blog, I'm going to spend the next few posts dumping lots of pictures from Japan. For today, I'll show you a few from Hiroshima and Miyajima.

Visiting Hiroshima was powerful in a way that reading about it in a history text never could be. I read the story Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes with my 4th grade students, so visiting the children's memorial to Sadako was particularly moving for me. We were both surprised by the tone of Peace Park, casting no blame toward the United States and instead representing itself as a world city committed to peace and the abolishment of nuclear weapons. It was remarkable to see photos comparing Hiroshima the day after the bombing to the city today. I find it amazing to think about how the city was one of four possible targets, and was ultimately chosen for the bombing because there was good weather overhead that morning.

The A-Bomb Dome, restored to look exactly as it did immediately after the bombing, serves as a reminder of the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons.

The memorial to the children who died in the bombing and in the following decade as a result of radiation.

Cranes for Sadako.

The beautiful and iconic island of Miyajima, which we visited on a day trip from Hiroshima.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


We went to Miyajima several weeks ago, a fact you would never know from our once again woefully out of date blog. In addition to having its very famous orange tori gate in the water, it also has tame-ish deer.

Japan refuses to let natural selection run its course and has smattered the island with the following, very, very obvious warning sign:
The Kanji reads: "Especially be pleased to not forcefully examine the prostate of horned deers and so on"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Take Me Out to the Baru Game

We had the good fortune of being in Osaka while the Hanshin Tigers (the local baseball team) were in season and at home. We also lucked out by couch-surfing into the home of Paul, who helped us buy tickets through an otherwise indecipherable vending machine. The results were fantastic.

Yes, the balloons are a little phallic

As far as I know (and I'm no expert on baseball), the game is played exactly the same as in the US. The fans, however, are much more animated. Every player has a theme song that plays when they come up to bet. For example, one of the few American players, 'Mench' (pronounced 'Menchi' by the locals) enters to a Metallica song. Japanese players tend to opt for either electronic music or more interactive intros. Star player Kanemoto features the '99/2000 Darude dance hit 'Sandstorm', while less famous Sekimoto features an American vocalist crooning "Everybody Saaaaay...." prompting the crowd to respond with an enthusiastic "SEKIMOTO!"

In addition to the theme songs, there are also general chants for all players, plus each player has an individual chant specific to them. These chants are only employed when the relevant player is at bat. Here's a clip:

Finally, and this is the clencher, the game we went to featured a massive whistling balloon launch. See those balloons in the still above? Everyone blew them up partway through the seventh inning, then released them when the Tigers finally got up to bat. Some cool Osaka fans even hooked Tiara and me up with balloons so we could participate. I shot a video without looking, so it's a tiny bit cruddy. I was having too much fun to be a cameraman.

Grand Caption Tournament Winner!

The results are in, we've tallied our votes, and the Farang Team is finally ready to announce the results of the Grand Caption Tournament, albeit a little late. We are pleased to present the Grand Prize to two(!) winners. Drum roll, please....

Winner #1 is Rick for his caption, "You dropped something from the kaiten-zushi place." Rick played by all the official rules and submitted the very best caption within the contest's three-day time limit. Congratulations, Rick!

Winner #2 is Cindy for her caption, "Ok, NO MORE BEETS for you!" This caption made us laugh the hardest but was unfortunately not submitted within the time limit. We couldn't overlook it, though, so please give Cindy a huge round of applause!

Honorable mention to Lynne for her captions, "I told you, I don't want any more beets!" and, "I swear I didn't see Cindy's comment!" We like the beet-oriented train of thought and the credit given to Cindy for getting there first.

Both Rick and Cindy will be receiving the Grand Prize: a personal visit from the Farang Team! Rick and Cindy will have the opportunity to host Ian, Tiara, and Charlie in their own homes this summer!! It will be the event of a lifetime.

For her contributions, Lynne will be receiving the Honorable Mention prize which, coincidentally, is the same as the Grand Prize. The Farang Team truly understands the spirit of generosity.

Thank you all for your participation. We hope to hear from you again in the next Grand Caption Tournament.