Tag Archives: Experiences

Experiences Sights & Sounds

Updated Gallery with Hustai pictures

I’ll have 2 sets of pictures from my trip to Mongolia – one from the trip to Hustai National Park and some from around the city of Ulaanbaatar.  First up are the pictures from Hustai, below is a sample, and clicking HERE will take you to the full gallery.

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The trip to Hustai is not one I recommend for people who get carsick easily.  I’ve been on rollercoasters that bounced less than we did on the drive from Ulaanbaatar!  Thankfully I have a (relatively) strong stomach and I had a fun time bouncing all over the place. 😛

After arriving at Hustai, we opted to stay at the more distant lodging (about 11km away from the main entrance area).  I think it was a great idea since we were able to get a much better “feel” of just how expansive and beautiful the park was.  We also got more peace and quiet since there were quite a few tourists at the main area.  I stayed in a little ger on my own and I had the best/most peaceful sleep I’ve had in a long time (as opposed to the rest of my family who chose to stay in a more western-type cabin, and were kept away all night be the creaking and banging of the doors!).

The only thing that bugged me (pun intended) about Hustai was the overwhelming amount of insects.  We didn’t bring any insect repellent (not sure if that would have helped though) and were just bombarded with midges and gnats flying around, literally in clouds around us.  The only time we had any respite from them was during the early morning and late evening/night.

Despite the bugs, it was a great trip.  Mongolian nature is really amazing; sometimes a bit stark, and I can’t even begin to imagine how frigid it must get in the dead of winter, but it’s beautiful in many ways nonetheless.

Experiences Travels

A trip to Izu

Sorry for the lack of posting again lately… work has been extremely busy and honestly after spending all day working on or in front of a computer, I don’t always feel like coming back home to sit in front of one again.

Today I thought I’d put up some pictures of a one day/night trip I took with a friend and his family a couple of months back to Izu.  It was actually my first time there (in my whole 7+ years in Japan!!!) and it was really nice to relax among friends, play with children, and get out of the city (and work) for an all-too-brief period of time.

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The trip to Izu is fairly quick – about a 3-4 hour car ride (the family had a car).  The place we stayed at was a lovely cottage up in the hills (more like a mountain actually).  Not quite a resort, but more a mountain “getaway” area of sorts containing several individual cottages that families could rent out as well as a hotel/inn for smaller groups.  Since we were a total of 5 people (3 adults and 2 kids) we stayed at one of the cottages, a spacious wooden dwelling that could easily have held at least 6 people.  There was an onsen at the place as well (we never used the shower in the cottage!) and the food…oh the food was bountiful and de-li-cious. (at least the dinner – breakfast was your standard fare)

Izu (at least to my knowledge) is known primarily for its islands.  I remember back in college one of my professors would rave about going around the Izu islands for fishing.  In a similar vein, Izu is also popular for its beaches, and the one beach we went to certainly did not disappoint.  Crystal clear water (though still chilly at the time since it wasn’t yet summer), white sands and open space – it’s a great place to spend a day exploring and swimming.  The beach we visited also had some cliffs and rocky outcrops nearby, most worn away to rocky outcrops.

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In particular there was one that had a tunnel of sorts, created by the water pounding and drilling into the stone over the years.  The gallery will show some of the pictures I took and I will say that I was highly highly tempted to try crawling in there to see what I could find, but in all honesty I chickened out because 1) I didn’t have a flashlight, and 2) I’ve seen too many horror movies where one see the chirpy adventurers go poking about holes or caves in the ground and end up being messily killed by some creature.  I always scoff at how dumb the adventurers are for going into these creepy dark places – but I must say that I can better understand the tug of curiosity that leads one into such situations.  Next time I’ll bring my flashlight – and maybe a hard hat.

Overall it was an extremely relaxing trip, I had GREAT great fun playing with the kids, K and Y (full names withheld for privacy reasons), and I’m really grateful to my friend for inviting me along.  It’s the kind of place that’s really difficult to get to and enjoy without a car.  Hence why I’m seriously considering getting a license in the coming months despite the insane cost… >_<

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Minami-Senju Matsuri

I know this is pretty old (the Matsuri actually happened in early June!) but thought the pics would be interesting to share.  I was woken up one morning by the sounds of voices shouting, whistles blowing, and drums a-banging – all of this happening right outside my balcony.  I grabbed my camera and stepped out to take the following pictures.  When I left my place later in the morning, the matsuri parade was still going strong – I passed them at the main street and snuck a couple more shots.

One interesting thing I noticed was that the people carrying the portable shrine would occasionally pause in front of select locations and then proceed to tilt the shrine back and forth several times.  I wish I knew what the significance of that was as it was the first time I’d seen that.  You’ll see what I mean if you take a look at the pictures towards the end.

It was fun to watch, but I’m just glad that such events are fairly infrequent as they can get very (enthusiastically) noisy! 😛

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Ding-dong, the wedding bells ring

Whew, it’s been a crazy the past few days and posting has kind of been pushed on to the back burner again.  The main reason of why it’s been so busy is because a friend of mine (Neal) got married!

Not only was it the first wedding I’ve ever attended, but I’d been asked to serve as “best man”, which, frankly, made me extremely nervous because I found out that the best man is also supposed to give a speech!

I spent the week before preparing for the speech, reserving a dinner jacket outfit (otherwise known as a “tuxedo” in the US), and also participating in the wedding rehearsal.  On Friday evening I picked up my outfit and headed over to Neal’s place.

We ended up staying awake till after 3AM to do last minute preparations such as going to convenience stores to print out programs, prepare the music selection, and go over the schedule…finally ending up crashing around 0330, and oversleeping a little till 10!

From that point on, it was madness, with everyone rushing about trying to get a million and one things done.  We kept coming up with schedules and discarding them as plans kept changing.  Finally though, the parents departed for the church, and Neal, Josh (another good friend who is a fantastic photographer), the bride, bride’s cousins, Sumiko, and myself were left to finalize preparations.

Neal suddenly found out that he couldn’t locate his belt.  Then his cummerbund went missing (we later found that one of the ushers had borrowed it, not knowing it was the groom’s!).  And all the while we kept rushing around with last minute preparations and calls to friends and guests.

Then worse disaster struck.  We got a phone call from Neal’s dad saying that Neal’s mother had fallen out of the car just as they were arriving at the church and she had landed on her wrist, breaking it.  He was calling from the hospital and at that point didn’t know what was going to happen.  This threw another wrench into the schedule since the dad was supposed to be coming to pick up the bride – and people were already waiting at the church since everything was supposed to be starting in an hour or so!

We ended up calling two taxis, and also delaying the start of the program by about an hour so that the mother could get her wrist in a cast and make it back in time.  In the end, it all worked out – and I didn’t forget the rings! (yay).  The wedding was actually really pretty and, despite the 80% humidity, things turned out ok.

Also gave my speech without freezing up, and just a little tremor in my voice (hopefully disguised with a bout of throat clearing :p

All in all, a very memorable day!  EXTREMELY exhausting, but memorable.  I don’t really have pictures myself since I had absolutely no time for picture-taking but will be putting some pictures up later that Josh took.

Hopefully things will be settling down and I can start writing more soon 🙂

Experiences health

I’m illegal!

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Sorry for the lack of updates recently.

It’s been somewhat stressful at work (not the work itself which is busy but nothing I can’t handle – rather… the “environment”) and in between that and still going to look for furnishings during my spare time has meant that I’m pretty wiped out when I get home.  I often just get home, change, start to do some cleaning… and wake up around 2-3AM wondering why all the lights are on.

I’ve even stopped exercising for the past month or – no running, no taichi… 🙁

But – I ran 10km last Friday!  I’m sure that wasn’t the wisest of ideas, but… heck, when have I ever claimed to be wise? 😛

The run was actually the Odaiba summer marathon – a yearly event where people can apply to run in a 10km run around the Odaiba dock area.  Since it’s a fairly “easy” run, and it’s in a fairly accessible spot, the Odaiba marathon is quite popular and there’s a lottery that people have to sign up for in order to see if they can get in.

I lost.

Actually, I lost last year as well, but that didn’t stop me from joining both this year and last.  Last year, 1 colleague won the lottery and this year that same colleague plus 2 more won.  (you probably understand why I never buy lottery tickets – I’ve been fortunate enough in very many areas, but gambling/lottery is not one of them. (not that I’m complaining mind you – while it would be nice to win a bajillion yen, life could also be so much worse!)

Anyway, to get back to my story – last year both myself and another colleague decided to participate “unofficially” to encourage/support the 1 colleague that did get in.  What we did was mingle amongst the official participants and use them as cover so that officials wouldn’t see that we didn’t have any running numbers pinned to our shirts.  We joined in the 3 laps, then veered off to the side just before reaching the finish line.

Last Friday I did the same and participated again as an “illegal runner”. 😛  To be honest though, I don’t think that officials would do much even if they did catch us.  It’s not like they would halt the entire race to kick us out, and of course we don’t get any official time records or the Odaiba marathon T-shirt.

I’m happy to say that even though I hadn’t run for a month, I made pretty good time, coming in just under 56 minutes.  But BOY HOWDY did I feel it.  The run consists of 3 laps and by the end of the first lap my lungs and chest were already burning.  By the second lap my legs were dying on me, and by the end of the third lap, it was all I could do to just keep up a semblance of jogging.  I did it though – didn’t stop once, but kept on moving the whole time.  So a thumbs up for me. 🙂

After the run, 3 of us went to a nearby onsen – it’s a really nice one (at 2,000 yen entrance fee it better be!) and after about 40 minutes of soaking, a bowl of miso ramen, and 2 bottles of whole milk the self-inflicted torture I had just imposed on myself was already already fading.

Needless to say, I slept well that night!
(though I did have to get up after only 5hrs of sleep to go back into work – but let’s not talk about that)

Experiences Thoughts

I dream of golden autumn days

This is a slightly different type of post than I would usually make, but I felt like putting it down, even if only so that I remember it years down the line. 

I don’t usually dream. Or rather, I most likely DO dream, but very rarely remember what I dream about. Most times I just wake up completely unaware of whatever thoughts have filtered across my subconscious during the night – probably just as well since I think it’s more restful that way. (and no, I’m not counting that one morning I woke up after dreaming all night of fighting off zombies – I really shouldn’t have played “Left 4 Dead” into the wee hours of the morning that time…)

This morning though, I woke up promptly at 8AM, wide awake and completely aware of a dream that I had just experienced. It wasn’t scary, though it startled me at one point, but what surprised me was just how vivid my memory of it was. As I lay in bed I realised though that my memory of the dream was already fading and so I got and sat down in front of my laptop and started typing out everything below. I’m glad I did because I could literally feel the details of the dream getting foggier as I typed, but I think I got everything.

I don’t know how we got there, but S and I were in a forest, it must have been in the autumn as there were trees with golden leaves everywhere – beautiful crisp fall season. I have no idea what country it was. We suddenly came upon an old wooden house, decrepit, in the gradual stages of falling down because of neglect. No one had obviously lived there for ages. Together we walked into the yard area, where I stopped and commented something like “I’ve never seen a place that looked more like a haunted house”. I had my little yellow xacti camera and stayed outside taking pictures while S decided to go inside. I joined her after a few moments and as she went to look around upstairs I continued to take pictures downstairs.

The overall atmosphere inside wasn’t too dark as the house was so run down that sunlight filtered through the holes in the roof. Suddenly, I nearly jumped out of my skin because I noticed movement in the shadows several feet ahead of me. A short man, wearing grungy clothes, face all scrunched up in a fierce scowl, stepped out of the dark and had started slowy shuffling towards me. The odd thing was he didn’t seem to be looking at me. His gaze was focused off in the distance, as if he was looking right through me and not paying any attention to me at all.

I was nonetheless freaked out and started yelling for S, telling her to get downstairs because there I didn’t know if there were more people upstairs that we weren’t aware of. I heard her start to come down while I began backing away, not wanting to get too close to the guy. I walked backwards, never taking my eyes off of him but he never once looked at me. As I backed out the gate, I turned off to the side, still walking backwards and the man kept going in a straight line past me.

He reached an old tree and started climbing up it. It was an old tree, and unlike most of the others in that it didn’t have any golden leaves, making it easy to follow his progress. When he reached the crook of the branches he paused, looking ahead of him into the forest. After a moment, he retrieved an old wooden bucket from somewhere up there and dipped it into the hollows of the branches the same way one would dunk a cup into a sink to scoop up water. After pulling it back up, he carefully made his way down the tree and proceeded to pour out the liquid onto the ground. Instead of just the bucketful of water that one would expect, the amount of liquid he was pouring out never stopped, and in moments he had poured enough water to form a small river that snaked off past the clearing and further into the forest. It was still a peaceful late sunny afternoon day by the way.

When he finished pouring, he stepped back into the house gates and for a moment was out of view. Not wanting to lose sight of him, I started to take a step forward but immediately stopped as I saw the hull of a small boat coming out the gate. The boat wasn’t too big, about as large around as a raft but about as deep as a rowboat. The boat was pushed into the stream/small river that had just been created from the contents of the bucket and the little man stepped onboard as it started to move downstream.

At this point S also came out the gate, eyes wide and questioning as she noticed the man on his boat floating away. I briefly explained what had happened and together we started to follow the boat, running along the stream and trying to keep the boat in sight. After a few moments though, we had to stop as something (I think rocks and fallen trees) blocked our path and we couldn’t go ahead any further.

I suddenly remembered that I had my camera and, telling S to wait, tried to get closer to the edge of the river by jumping from stone to stone. I powered on my camera and started filming even though the man and boat were already pulling away. I was close enough to see that the boat was passing a little dock of some sort. There were several young men (late teens/early twenties) lounging around on it and were obviously startled and taken aback when the man on the boat passed by. He passed them and faded off into the distance.

I carefully made my way back to S and together we thoughtfully headed back to… what I think was the old house again. Though now my memory of the next place we found ourselves at was of a nicer, much less decrepit structure. It was a brightly lit room, I think on the second floor. S left the room to look around and I started fiddling with my camera to take more pictures when suddenly another person walked in. A woman this time, possibly partly Asian but more western looking in terms of facial features and also dark blond in a Shibuya girl kind of way, she seemed familiar though I couldn’t place her. Looking pensive, she gazed at me and moved towards the open window in the room. And I woke up.

And that’s that! I actually crawled back into bed after typing it out and dozed off for another hour or so and I know that had I not written it down I would have forgotten everything by now. Since this is pretty rare for me, to actually remember a dream, I thought I’d put it up 🙂