We relaxed a bit this morning, spending our time packing, reading, and practicing kanji, depending on who we were. :) Our lunch was a fitting ending to our visit: Naito sensei, Shimizu sensei, and Yuko had prepared a feast at Naito sensei's house. This also gave us a chance to meet Naito sensei's husband, daughter, and dog. (We have not seen many pets in Japan.) Janet enjoyed helping Naito sensei make sushi. Not to take away anything from the effort that went into the preparation, which is an art, but the Japanese have one great advantage over us when it comes to making sushi: one can buy beautiful pieces of fish, cut to appropriate sizes, at the grocery store! In addition to the fabulous sushi, we had delicious rolled-up sandwiches—one variety of which was strawberries and whipped cream!—salad, tea, and possibly some other delight I forgot to write down. For dessert we had lovely, individual confections that came from a bakery we had passed yesterday on our walk to the Takeda Shrine. We had looked in the bakery window briefly, but if we'd known what was awaiting us inside, we would have lingered. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 10:58 am | Edit
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There was no view of Fuji today, which goes along with the weather change from yesterday's cold to much warmer today. We walked to Ryuo eki, and on our way stopped at Big Boy for lunch. Yes, that's Big Boy, as in the U. S. chain, but with a definite Japanese flavor. We had to try "hamburg," which is popular in modern Japan, a large ground beef patty with onions and other flavorings, somewhat like an individual meatloaf but tasting like no other meatloaf in my experience. I've never been a fan of corn chowder, but the corn soup from the soup bar here was fantastic.

We took the train one stop to Kofu. Our objective was the HIPPO Family Club meeting, but we went early so we could enjoy some more time at Kofu Castle. We were able to see parts of the castle that had been closed on our previous visit, and the sakura trees were in still more glorious blossom. While we were there, Janet and one of the other HIPPO Club members recognized each other. (I'm always amazed at her memory for faces; she'd only met him once.) (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 13, 2006 at 1:20 pm | Edit
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Mt. Fuji was beautiful again this morning, definitely worth getting up for. I took time today to begin packing, since Saturday and Sunday will be busy. I also made another blog post, and Janet worked on her kanji Narnia book, while Porter read something he found in the bookshelf, left by Janet's predecessor. In the afternoon, we rode to the D2 store (sort of a cross between a K-Mart and a Home Depot) where we bought a few items to take home.

The day was so lovely we took another bike ride to Dragon Park, and today we were rewarded with the only local view of Mt. Fuji better than that from Janet's balcony. We arrived at the same time as a group of young children whose leader was not at all shy about approaching foreigners. He and Janet communicated reasonably well, in a combination of English and Japanese, but I believe he was disappointed that we couldn't say much about the part of American culture he knew: television shows and the NBA. We saw the same kids later, as we walked by the playground, and they inveigled Janet into joining them on the slide. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 13, 2006 at 9:54 am | Edit
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This was a much more relaxed day. Both Janet and I have personalities that require time for rejuvenation at home, and she is discovering how stressful it is to be the one responsible for planning an event. She's been a fabulous tour guide; everything has gone so well and been so much fun! But I know that when anything looks smooth and easy, that only means a tremendous amount of planning and effort have gone into it. Emotionally, Porter could keep up the schedule nearly indefinitely, but his foot was giving him trouble on the walk into Kofu (Achilles' tendon problem acquired/exacerbated by working on our roof), so the rest was good for all of us.

I was up early again, however, inspired by the hope of seeing Fuji-san again. Indeed, she was there, though her top was shrouded, and the clouds had covered her completely by the time Porter arose, so it was worth the effort. I took advantage of the extra time to make my first blog post from Japan. It still amazes me to be on the other side of the world and yet read e-mail, talk on the telephone, and post to the Internet just as easily as at home. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 at 6:15 pm | Edit
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I was the only one up for a long time this morning, and was rewarded by a fabulous view of Mt. Fuji as I drank my tea in the warm room. The weather has turned colder, thus clearer. There is just something awesome about seeing that magnificent mountain towering about all the other mountains that are so impressive when Fuji is hidden!

I don't know how long the others might have slept had not Heather and Jonathan called. The walls are sound-porous, and while one might be able to go back to sleep after being awakened by a ringing telephone, it's not so easy to pass up the chance to speak with loved ones! Jonathan was under the weather, but very articulate in his conversation. When he announced that he wanted to "go visit Aunt Janet tonight," Heather explained that he couldn't because Aunt Janet is still in Japan, and besides, he was sick. Immediately he proclaimed, "I'm feeling better!" Only much later did it occur to me why he thought he might be able to visit. After all, Aunt Janet has been in Japan for months. Even when Jonathan and Heather visited us in September, he made a point of telling us, on the way from the airport, that he was visiting Grandma and Dad-o but couldn’t see Aunt Janet because she was in "'Pan." But this time he spoke with all of us on the phone and knew we were together; perhaps he assumed that Aunt Janet had returned home. Not that he could have come to Florida for the evening, anyway…. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 at 11:32 am | Edit
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Today was a walking day, which we began by heading in the direction of Kofu. Our first stop was the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art. This gem is one reason we chose to narrow the focus of our visit to Japan to "Janet's World." I doubt it would be included in any package tour of Japan, but it is a lovely collection of artwork, ancient and modern, Japanese and Western, including a significant number of paintings by Millet. Most of the descriptions were in Japanese, but that didn't prevent our greatly enjoying the pictures. A museum docent tried hard to explain the pictures to Janet, who was clearly the only one of us with whom she had a chance of success. Janet's ability to communicate in Japanese is amazing, and even though it does not extend to the more technical terms related to art, she still managed to convey some of the meaning to us.

Remembering our pleasant experience of yesterday, we purchased more "soft cream" to enjoy while wandering the museum grounds. It was nowhere near the quality of the KEEP ice cream, but nonetheless my blueberry cone was delicious. Our admission ticket was also good for admission to the nearby Prefectural Museum of Literature, which we enjoyed but passed through much more quickly than we had the art museum. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 at 1:13 pm | Edit
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A stay at a Japanese-style hotel includes breakfast, and we had arranged for ours to be at 8:00. This was truly a Japanese experience, as the table was not one with a pit underneath, so finding a comfortable position for sitting was an issue. The food, however, was delicious, and quite varied, including rice, miso soup, and a variety of vegetables, including more pickled plum.

While waiting for Kasia to come get us, we conversed with the young man at the front desk, who I believe was the son of the owner. That's how we made the discovery that one of his friends is also a JET teacher, and knows Janet! When Kasia we drove to a place in the mountains where we hoped to hike and see some waterfalls. There was a guard/caretaker there who met us and apparently raised some objections, though I don't know what they were. He and Kasia conversed in Japanese, and he led us to a small shrine, instructing us in a pattern of clapping and bowing. Porter, Janet, and I did not want to participate, but if Kasia objected she didn't complain, and she was the only one of us he could see, so we got away with merely standing respectfully. After that we were cleared to go, and he led us to a footbridge swaying high over the river. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 at 10:22 am | Edit
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We slept well last night and felt better this morning, which is a good thing because we had another busy day ahead of us. After making a leisurely start to the morning, we took a long bicycle trip (fortunately, these are getting easier all the time). The destination was the Kose Sports Park to watch a kyudo (Japanese archery) competition. When we walked through the main building, we had our shoes off (no slippers provided, we just walked in our socks), but the competition itself was outdoors, so we had them on most of the time. The temperature was surprisingly warm, given how cold it was yesterday.

Kyudo is ballet with potentially deadly consequences. Form and procedure are as important as accuracy, and it's beautiful to watch. The audience was silent except for the cheers that went up when a target it hit, and applause for each archer who hit the target on every one of his four attempts. After watching the competition for quite a while, we went back into the main building and met with some of Janet's students, who were taking part in the competition. Janet is learning kyudo with them, but is chafing under the restrictions that she must wait three months before shooting an arrow, no matter how much she learns, how hard she works, nor how often she practices. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 10, 2006 at 6:37 am | Edit
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I was up first this morning, turning the heater on, making tea, and finishing up the potato salad. We all left early for school; yes, Janet had to work on Saturday. The Japanese schools end their year in March, and this was the day of the closing ceremony. Bike riding went better, though it was still a bit scary. Janet rides this route twice a day; no wonder she is in such good shape. When I could divert my attention from trying not to fall into a ditch, I enjoyed the scenery, though Janet was disappointed we couldn't see the great view of Fuji that she usually has to enliven her commute. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 9, 2006 at 9:10 pm | Edit
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For years we slept on a mattress on the floor, and we've always enjoyed camping, but both of us found it hard to sleep the first night. I think it had less to do with the futon and more to do with jet lag, but for whatever reason, both of us were awake much of the night. I also discovered that whatever body chemicals turn off bladder activity at "night" are basing their timekeeping on something other than darkness and desire for sleep. Nonetheless, we felt much better in the morning, so we must have slept a reasonable amount.

Porter was up first and turned on the kerosene heater, so the living room was toasty when the rest of us arose. We saw a little of Mt. Fuji through the balcony window, though it is far enough away to be mostly obscured while the nearer mountains were clear and beautiful. Janet lives in a valley with mountains all around—very handy for getting your bearings in a strange town. Porter and Janet found them very useful that way; being rather directionally challenged, I at least found them very beautiful. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 8, 2006 at 2:45 pm | Edit
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I'm going to try to give a detailed picture of our trip to Japan, though the posts may come slowly, as they are long. Well, the first one is long, anyway. After that I was too busy to take detailed notes, so they may shrink with time. No promises, however.

A friend (very good friend!) picked us up at 4:25 a.m. and drove us to the airport. All went smoothly—although there was a surprising amount of traffic for that hour—and we had checked our three bags and made it through security and to the gate by about 5:25, just an hour after departure. This gave us more than an hour's wait before boarding, but I'd much rather be a lot early than a little late. While waiting, we ate breakfast at Burger King/Cinnabon. Later I listened to some HIPPO language lessons, trying to distract myself from the ubiquitous television broadcasts. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 7, 2006 at 11:21 am | Edit
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The first thing I did this morning was fall out of bed. After 11 days of sleeping on a futon in Japan, the floor was two and a half feet lower than my half-awake body expected.

Eventually I will post a more chronological story of my version of our trip to Japan; in the meantime, Janet has an excellent rendition on her blog.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 12:52 pm | Edit
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Modern American Christians know so little about worship, and I include myself as chief of sinners. I find it a difficult concept because we have few practical referents. Being in Japan has opened my eyes just a little to what we are missing.

Experiencing, albeit briefly, a culture where it is natural to show respect and give honor by bowing gives much more meaning to worship practices like kneeling, bowing, and genuflecting. If we Americans knew more about physical acts of respect in everyday life, we might know more about worship.

And if we lived with Mt. Fuji dominating the landscape, we might know more about awe and reverence. Seeing her suddenly appear, as the haze lifted, was an experience that made me understand a bit why she is seen as a goddess. Fujisan towers with indescribable splendor over the other, much closer, and otherwise quite impressive mountains that ring Janet's Kofu Valley. Seeing her first thing in the morning, from Janet's balcony window, makes my knees weak and causes involunatary exclamations of amazement. I feel like greeting her personally.

And yet we (I) claim to worship, not a spectacular mountain, but the Creator of that mountain, of all moutains, of all that is, was, and ever will be. How often is that evident in our church services, let alone our lives? Truly our understanding is minuscule and our faith paltry!
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 31, 2006 at 2:54 am | Edit
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Chronological stories from our trip to Japan will have to wait until I have more time, but I'll try to fit in an occasionally tidbit here and there.

Many people have heard of the really fancy Japanese toilets, the ones with heated seats and more buttons than a DVD player, including Cover-Up Sound, Wash, and Blow Dry. I haven't had the opportunity to try anything but the warm seat feature (especially nice in unheated bathrooms), but we'd certainly have one if they were readily available at a reasonable price in the United States. I suppose we could special order one for an outrageous sum, but they aren't that wonderful.

It would take not money, but a societal attitude change, to make another of the great Japanese toilets available in the United States: the "squatty potty." Nearly flush with the ground (pardon the pun), these toilets are particularly great for public places, as they are much easier to keep clean than the kind we are accustomed to. They are also surprisingly easy to use. Before I tried one, I couldn't picture using it successfully, but it's really no problem at all.

My favorite Japanese toilet is the kind in Janet's apartment. It's a "normal" toilet with one fabulous feature: the tank lid is a faucet/sink arrangement. Flushing the toilet causes water to pour out of the faucet for handwashing purposes; the water drains into the toilet tank and is used for the next flush. What an economical, ecological idea!
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 at 6:22 pm | Edit
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It began when I said to Porter, "I'm riding to the post office; do you want to join me?"

The post office is less than two miles from home, so as part of our effort to make our gasoline supply last as long as possible, I had decided to go by bicycle to mail an important package. Porter was happy to come, but suggested we continue on and see how far we could get on the nearby bike trail. Bear in mind that our bicycles had seen but little use for a long time. Intrepid or foolish, we filled our water bottles, figured out how to work our new helmets, and took off.

For those to whom this has meaning: we crossed over the I-4 bridge! And went a bit further, to one of our churches, then turned toward home. I'd like to tell you how exhausted I was when I finally glided into our driveway, and how every muscle in my legs was throbbing...but Janet climbed Mt. Fuji this weekend and I'm sure after I read her report I'll feel a little silly...and a lot wimpy.

It was a lot of fun, though.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 3, 2005 at 9:58 pm | Edit
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