Yay! Friday! Yay, only 3 more Fridays left that will feel like true work Fridays!

It’s been a week. A whole lot of stress and angst over holiday plans. DLJ and I had it all the way we were happy with, given certain situations and financials, and then it all got put to hell with the best of intentions. I am going to the Bay Area for 36 hours, flying back on Christmas Day. It’s not the trip itself that is what got put to hell, but my decision making abilities about my own actions. It got chosen for me. And we are paying for part of it, meaning it will cost more than if DLJ just went alone. It just feels like no one asks me what I want, and it’s my time and my life that is being decided for me! None of it is intentional in terms of making us pay or anything…but I’m still just overly not pleased. Still, you make do with what you have, and press on, so I am sure it will be a fun trip. But things will be done differently in the future, I can tell you that.

More flying. *Sigh*

I have to fly again in January and maybe again in March. NO MORE after that for over a year. Seriously. I am over my limit and just want to curl up at home and go nowhere.

Flying events, even if they are fun ones, are things I think of as “events to get through.” I like trips and enjoy them, but I would be lying to say each one ends with a sigh of relief at being back home, until I start dreading the next one.

This weekend is busy, I have an intermediate level lampworking glass at Bullseye. Ah, brain expansion. It should be a fun two days.

DLJ is having the last round of his dental work done today, and then we can be done paying for all that. Until next year, of course. There is more work to be done.

I had my first auction of my beads and someone bought them with buy it now within three hours. Nice. Now I get to learn how to do the seller’s part of things, which is good. I am going to try to post one auction a week at least, while I ramp up on how it all works and while I am still working the webmonkey thing.

Not much else to report. I’m tired, mentally. But I will just have to make the best of things, and keep moving forward.

Borrego Springs

I did really well on the plane again. That pilot’s site really, really makes a difference in how I feel during flight. I don’t get scared at all during turbulence anymore. The worst thing about this flight was the three New Zealander kids behind me that would not shut up or stop slamming their trays up and down. Both me and the guy next to me (not DLJ, the other side) turned around and told them to can it. I usually am nice with my leaning back of my chair, I don’t do it all the way, but with these over-sugared under-contained kids I leaned alllllll the way back while I worked on my business plan for most of the flight.
Borrego Springs is a nice place. It had dreams of being another Palm Springs, but it hasn’t caught on, so it remains a small town out in the middle of the desert.

My only complaint is it really felt like the one branch of the family show vs. my immediate family. I wanted very much much to play golf with my cousins, etc., but plans were made for all of them to play on another course than us all the days we were there, without trying to include us. Some of this was due to my uncle getting a good deal on rounds at this other course, and I understand that…but really, what’s more important? I have never played with my aunt and uncle and kids of my cousins…I wanted to.

Not that it mattered in terms of fun. My parents, DLJ and I played a fun round of golf ourselves, went to the driving range on Friday when we decided it was too windy to play the course, took an amazing hike through the Borrego Desert National Park, and relaxed by the pool, reading interspersed with swimming. Dad did play a little tennis with some of the rest of the family, and I did get to catch up with my cousins M and D and did get to talk to my aunt and uncle…but sometimes, it felt like we were having two seperate vacations, meeting for meals in the middle. We had a great time and the last night we went to a wonderful place for dinner, an old resort that used to be the favorite hideway of M. Monroe and other movie stars. It has a beautiful large pool, and has kept to the modern mid-century look and feel with a wonderful restoration. Dinner was delicious and a real treat to end the trip. It was casual, but the food was at fine dining standards, and very tasty.
You can see the hotel here.By that time, everyone else had gone home, we were the last to leave by leaving on Sunday, but again, that was just fine. Borrego has a dark skies policy due to a nearby observatory so we wandered out, DLJ Dad and I with a flashlight and star map to see the skies. We all saw the same shooting star, it was so bright. We all sat and watched “The Apartment” together the last evening before going to bed.

I hope it gels together with more thoughtfulness next year. We won’t be there, as it’s DLJ’s folks for Thanksgiving in 2006. Overall it was a wonderful time and I am glad to have seen my family from the Bay Area, as I hadn’t since before we moved to Oregon.

Dichro and turkey

We are off today to be with family for Turkey Day. Flying. I’m calmer this time than usual, but I’m still not thrilled about it. It’s a short flight at least.

Made my first dichro bead Tuesday. I love the color, the glass started out reddish/yellow! ;)

If I have access to them Internets I’ll update from the road, otherwise, I’ll be reading, relaxing, playing a little golf (now that’s comedy), making a couple of bracelet orders, and hanging out with family. I haven’t seen some of them since I moved to Oregon, so…lots of catching up to do.

Take care and I will be back in a few days. Yep. Planes will be good.

posted out

So many letters in the mail today. I sent the property taxes (which we are considering appealing, but we have till Jan. 2 do to that), a bead, and my CD and fee for the SE Portland Artwalk in 2006. I tried to go to the post office in Depoe Bay on Saturday, but they weren’t really open, just taking packages I needed stamps and one envelope, so it was not to be.
The coast was marvelous, rainy and stormy. Saturday night there were, according to the folks in the tiny cafe we ate in Sunday morning, gusts up to 80 mph. Lots of crashing waves as we watched Ice Age and drank wine. During the day Saturday we did errands, buying cleaning products and basics for the place. I stopped by a local glass fuser/lampworker not far up the road and talked shop; she gave me five pieces of dichro to play with, yay!
It was a good weekend of not doin’ much, and we were back in time for the Simpsons yesterday.
While at the post office mailing away beads, cds and way too much money, I filled out an app for a post office box. The waiting list is only two weeks, no problem.
And now I must go make some pretty webpages.

Japan Day 6 and part of 7.

We woke on our last full day ready to go. Plans had been flipflopping all week. Dinner with M’s parents, lunch with the parents, lunch with Dad, dinner with Mom…by Friday it had been nailed down. And actually, I like the way it turned out. We walked up the street through the neighborhood and went to M’s parents’ home, around a quarter of a mile away. Mom was home, as she worked evenings, and that was why dinner had been nixed. Also at home was M’s Grandmother, an elderly but sprite woman. The house was very modern looking. Buying land is expensive in Tokyo, but after that, it’s not as pricey to build as it is in the United States. A lot more people have their homes custom made for them without it breaking the entire bank…the land does that on its own.
We removed our shoes and climbed the stairs to the living room/dining room area. The rooms were small but cozy, and we sat on couches while M’s mother made and served us tea and small snacks. I was thrilled. This was way better than everyone in a restaurant, I got to see another home of a family in Japan! M translated for us back and forth, and soon, Grandma showed up from the upper floor. She sat at a chair in the dining area and interjected here and there, but mostly just listened with a smile on her face. I offered them one of my glass dishes as a gift, so conversation moved to how I made it, then back to housing, real estate, and other relatively simple conversations. I asked about a collection of dolls over the piano, and before I knew it, we were off to go have lunch. We went downstairs and put our shoes back on. M’s Mom was coming with us as she had a dance lesson scheduled, which was why she wasn’t coming along for lunch. Grandma followed us all the way down the stairs and out the door to the front gate, and kept waving and saying goodbye. She seemed really happy we came to visit so I kept calling “Bye bye!” until we were out of site around the corner.
We walked to the shopping area near the trains and entered a small building. Dad’s office. M’s sister was there, who I have been helping the past few months, shipping things from the US to her to sell in her Dad’s store. It was great to see the face and the world of the person I had been helping from afar. Dad led us to a restaurant nearby and we all sat together at a larger table. Lunch was sushi, and man….oh man….was it EVER.
The first thing that appeared in front of us was snails. Giant sea snails, coiled inside shells. One plunged a toothpick down inside them and pulled them out, several inches long. Later, we found out her Dad was testing us with that, to see what we’d eat. He likes them, so wanted to see what we would do. DLJ and I just popped them down, they tasted sort of like soy sauce to me, but not overpowering at all.
They ordered us some tempura, which was lovely, but oh….the fish. So much lovely stuff. I ordered some of my usuals in order to compare them, but Dad did most of the ordering, which was fine with me.
Every now and then, a chef in the next room would ring a large bell. What he was doing was making a recommendation of a certain fish. After ringing the bell, he would take a net and catch the fish from a large tank behind him. One of these recommendations was taken by Dad, and I tell you…I had sushi within ten minutes of it swimming around. Holy cats.
We were stuffed. I wish I could have gone on…it was so delicious. I was in food heaven. M continued her role as interpreter and we talked about food, life, and my glass. They are interested in my glass for their store, but there is only one of me, so production churn isn’t something I can handle. Still…it’s a possibility.
We left, barely able to walk, so that Dad and sis could get back to work. J, M and I ambled our way on to go shopping, DLJ was looking for his own souvenir. We bought some postcards, and kept looking. I was getting very tired, shopping is not my strongpoint in the first place, and I was worried about M, 8 months pregnant. We went back to their little neighborhood and stopped at a crazy clothes shop and of course, bingo, DLJ found something right there that he liked. We all stumbled home to relax as the sun went down, then wandered out for our last dinner in Japan. I gathered all my photos into a photo album in ITunes and we watched them, played with Mu and just sat up talking late while we started packing.
Saturday, we got up and got breads and treats for the plane, then took the local train to the main station, hanging out for an hour in a shop while we waited for the next train to Narita airport. This train also was covered by our train pass, which was such a good deal for the week we were there. And then M and J walked us to the train, we got on, and waved through the windows. It was sad to say goodbye. J is more isolated than I knew, living in Japan. In my head he had more of a social life, either friends of M’s or other foreigners, but in reality, it’s a quiet existence. Of course, that will be blown to part in a matter of weeks with the arrival of their first child. But I am glad we could spend time with him, reconnect him with friends and having folks to relate to within easy reach. I hope they come to visit us in Portland some day…and maybe, if we are lucky, we will enjoy ourselves with a drink in the backyard that feels like a meadow in comparison to the small plots in Japan, as our kids run around together, laughing and sharing time together because the parents stayed in touch and remained friends.
Our trip was amazing because of M and J. We saw more, experienced more, ate more, and knew so much more because of their invaluable input and willingness to share ideas, time, and even a little money. I cannot imagine what our trip would have been without them. Fun, interesting, but a completely different experience.We can’t thank them enough for sharing their home with us. I only wish Mu hadn’t gotten so sick and left them, so quickly after we did. But at the same time, I think it made it a little easier for them to grieve after, as they weren’t alone. We had known Mu and had just been there with them, DLJ even had some pictures, the last ones taken of her. They shared their lives with us, and in return we could help them share their pain.
No pictures this time, I still have so many to process….but I didn’t take many the last days…however, I will post the last one I took of J and M as we left on the train soon.

Japan – Day 5 – Kyoto day 2

We were up by 8 am, and down to the hotel lobby for our included breakfast. It was the most American thing we ate our entire time in Japan, but since it was included in the price of the room, I wasn’t complaining.

I had poached eggs, DLJ had scrambled, toast, muffins, a small breakfast salad of fruit, tea and juice. We went back upstairs and packed, checked out, and stowed our stuff in cloak check so that we could explore for the day without dragging the stuff around. We went to two large temples the opposite direction from where we walked the previous day. The first had the largest wooden building in the world. It was being renovated so it was hidden beneath a metal shell of a larger building, so the view from outside was clearly not impressive. But it was open inside and the floor was the size of over 920 tatami mats. Definitely beautiful.
From there we wandered to another temple, also with a building under renovation! But a smaller one was not so we removed our shoes and walked up the stairs. An older man slid open the door for us and….*gulp!* A ceremony! Hundreds kneeling on the floor, people in robes! We dropped to our knees by the door. I felt completely out of it as a foreigner, but fascinated to see this. We stayed for about five minutes before beating a quiet retreat back outside. As we put our shoes back on, singing started to emnate from the building. We walked back to the road and along the outside of the temple back towards the train station, ducking into a small entrance into the same temple to check out a smaller building. No one was in that one, and for a few minutes even DLJ wasn’t there, it was fun to stand in the temple alone.
And then we were off again, back to the huge train station to catch a local train to Inari to get to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
We found the train, and the stop just fine. DLJ got a cheesecake and strawberry ice cream out of a vending machine and we left the station. The shrine was easy to find due to the massive orange gate right across the street. The shrine is huge, with hundreds of fox statues, as the fox is the messenger of the god Inari. Trails take over two hours to complete, through forest, by lakes, up hills and through tunnels of torii, the orange gates given by those whose wishes were answered. I am a stone lantern (ishidoro) junkie, and this place was heaven. It was a sunny day, causing the inside of the tunnels of torii to glow. There were small restaurants along the way serving tofu and noodles, but we were full, though the restaurants looked like a lovely place to stop and rest. My friend Berto was absolutely right…we bought our drinks at the bottom as the prices on the vending machines rose as you started hiking away from the main gate.
We made good progress but did not walk everywhere, as we had to get back to town and start our way back to Tokyo. I think this shrine was my favorite place, as it held so many things that fascinated me about Japan when I was a little girl, gates, lanterns, statues. We saw many cats weaving in and out of the endless pockets of small shrines and offerings that were draped all over the pathways.
Our trip back to the train station was easy, and we had one more stop that we had to get to on time…the English tour at the Imperial Palace. English tours happen only twice a day, and you have to first get to this little “application office” and show your passport, fill out a form and gain a “permission slip” to enter. I felt like I was in elementary school. We got our slip shortly before two and speed walked to the gate, gaining entrance.
The tour was just of the grounds, people can enter the palace only on a few days a year. But it was completely worth it to wander the outsides of the buildings, visit the formal gardens, and explore the business and living areas of the old palace from when Kyoto was the capital of Japan. The tour guide had good information and it was the largest gathering of foreigners I saw my entire time. At one point, an Asian tour went by the other direction, they had us going in opposite loops.
By the end of the tour, which lasted an hour, we were exhausted, and trooped back to the subway, back to the train station, back to the hotel, got our bags, back to the train station and slumped down into seats on the shinkansen. It was a sunny day and great for watching the scenery fly by outside the windows. We got some baked goods to eat on the way home, and arrived in Tokyo after dark. We made it all the way through several train changes back to J and M’s city inside Tokyo, with only one goof up of getting on an express that went by the station we wanted, so we went to the next one and turned around and came back. We walked back to their place without needing to look at the directions J kindly made for us. He was home and happy to see us. We left soon for dinner, a wonderful treat of a local place, nothing fancy. I had cold buckwheat noodles and a bowl of rice with katsu on top, along with a lovely sauce I had had at their apartment. I have got to see if the local giant Japanese place here has it.
It was nice to be back with friends, but I was glad to have given them a break from us while we explored another city.
Then it was home for the usual cup of brown tea and talking before we all retired to bed. One full day left to explore, and the big day where we met M’s parents!

cat in the Inari shrine on a statue of kitsune.

This guy looks like he stole his glasses from Leela on Futurama!

Random Japan Pics

I can’t even remember if I posted this one. Wierd statue in a back shopping alley in Tokyo.

Large and small torii gates at the Fushimi Imari shrine. The small ones are left by people asking for their wishes to be heard.

Shrines and temples have areas to purify before entering. Each has running water and ladles to ladel water over one’s hands. Some people rinse their mouths out as well. I was fascinated by the dragon at this one in Kyoto.

A local train trundling by near the Edo Maru (museum) in Tokyo.

I was just fascinated, amused, and sometimes apalled by the fashion on streets and trains. I loved this group, the woman on the left never stopped preening and staring at herself in the window reflections and mirror, high heeled fuck-me boots with tight jeans. Next, an Elvis style popular due to a Japanese band that had adopted the look, and a wholesome schoolgirl on the right.

J has a livejournal. If you feel like reading his version of things, it’s in his journal.

Japan Day 4 – Trip to Kyoto

Day 4. Train to Kyoto.
Note: I am a little distracted and sad as I write this. Mu, the dog of the fine folks J and M we stayed with in Japan, died within 24 hours of our leaving. I feel really sad that perhaps we kept them from being with her as much as they could her last week, or that we prevented them from taking care of her by trying to keep us happy and amused our last day and and a half in Tokyo. Mu was a darling dog and we loved living with her for the days we were there. She was old and definitely acting sick by Friday evening. It was apparent things were not right all week, but she was still happy, and having not known her previously, I had no way of knowing how sick she was. =( I am so glad we got to meet her, her tail thumped everytime we got near and she was a happy, good dog. But I feel really bad we were in the way in such a time. I knew she was really sick by Saturday morning, and I know M was especially distracted. I didn’t say a word as I understood completely, for both of them, though perhaps I should have said that “not being on best behavior in front of us was ok.” What was wrong with her was serious, I don’t know if any medical help could have done anything other than prolong her agony…but I still feel very sad. I am glad though, that her decline was very rapid at the end, and she had a fun last week filled with lots of attention, love, and crazy Americans come to visit her. DLJ took two cute photos of her but I am hesitant to post them until J and M are feeling better, and are ready to see it should they read my entry.

J took us to the main train line Wednesday morning for our two day sojourn to Kyoto, and we waved as we went through. In our day bag was enough clothes to get us back, the computer, some books and a handy package of directions and notes provided by J and M. We stopped and bought bento boxes from a small vendor before climbing aboard. We got on a car that was non-reserved, but smoking. UGH! DLJ found a seat and I was off immediately to check if there was such a thing as a non-smoking non-reserved car. Two cars up, there was. I came back and got him and we fled the smoke-soaked cars. Even after only being in there a few minutes, it took more than a half hour for my hair and clothes to air out. We sat on the right side of the train; if it was clear we would be able to see Fuji-san, the fabled mountain of Japan.
The trip to Kyoto was about three hours at most on the shinkansen, or Bullet Train. And it was FAST. Eventually the thought crossed my mind how obliterated we would be if it went off the tracks while rocketing at full speed. Of course, such a train is connected to the tracks way more firmly than would ever let that happen. But it was the first train I had been on where the train seriously banked on turns, causing the world to come in at a slant. as if all the construction occured leaning downhill.
Finding the hotel was more difficult than it should have been, simply because the station was so LARGE. We walked around a block we didn’t have to to get to the entrance, but no harm done. We checked in and went up to our room on the 9th floor. It had a large bed, tea, a radio in the headboard, slippers, and a full bath complete with crazy toilet and fully-stocked bathtub.
I really wanted a nap but couldn’t fully fall asleep.
So instead we wandered out into Kyoto. We were trying to find the tourist office which literally took an hour to find, as the info we had was several years old. Instead of an obvious streetfront it was on a top floor in a large mall in back, boring corridors. I was pretty frustrated but it was worth the maps we got in the end, and we set out to try to find a temple. This wasn’t hard. In Kyoto temples and shrines are everywhere, like Starbucks in America.
But after a few blocks, DLJ started looking at the map and being confused. I stopped a young guy on a bike and managed to get him to point where we were now…exactly 180 degrees opposite of where DLJ thought we were. But ahead of us, what do you know! A large temple! So we went in, and we scored jackpot. It cost us about 500 yen each to enter, but inside was amazing! Acres of grounds of gardens, the largest pagoda in the town, it was huge! And large lecture buildings filled with gold statues of the Buddha, the Gods of War and the Guardians. Everything was so large, and quiet. We strolled around until the place closed at 5, then wandered the backstreets back to our hotel, finding small shrines and interesting buildings along the way. One very small neighborhood shrine was tucked away, helter skelter and had a cute black cat sitting inside. Some of our best findings in Japan were those we got just by taking a stroll.
Our feet were TIRED when we got back. Everyday we walked so much, we always had foot fatigue by day’s end.
Back to the hotel, still no nap.
Instead DLJ and I engaged in some couple-monkey business as we had been on best behavior at our friends’ house. ;)
I then took a much-needed bath, soaking in the tub and relaxing. The room had Japanese style robes, I tied one around me after the bath and we hung out for an hour before figuring out dinner. We had had a place recommended to us but we were so tired, and it was 20 minutes at least by public transit to get to, once we figured out at the front desk where it was. So instead we opted for the top floor bunch of restaurants in a nearby mall at the train station. The whole area was called The Cube. There were so many choices of varying price and kind, the train station simply was SO huge, along with the mall that it encased. We chose a place with simple Japanese fair, DLJ had some tempura and rice and I had chilled udon with bonito flakes, shrimp, a raw egg, nori, and daikon radish.
We paid and left and went out another door, and found that a whole outside area of escalators and stairs went all the way back down to street level, as well as one more level up. We went up top and found a rooftop garden area, as well as walls made of glass so that you could look out over the city. We saw the temple with the pagoda, the Kyoto Tower, it was a clear night and very beautiful. Then we took the escalators back down and walked the short walk back to the hotel, where I promptly fell asleep and DLJ watched “Bladerunner” on the computer. All the motorcycles, city buildings and narrow streets got to him, I guess!

Lunch on the shinkansen (bullet train). This cost 1100 yen.

The pagoda at the first temple we visited. I’ll find the name eventually. ;)

A large lecture hall near the pagoda at a Buddhist shrine in Kyoto.

After dinner at the top of the Cube, the largest department store/train station combo I have ever SEEN.

Nighttime shot from the top of the The Cube. The brown glow near center is the shrine with the pagoda we walked to.

Later today I will post some more pictures without trip journal. It’s 6:50 AM, I have been up since about 3, but most of that just laying in bed thinking. I’ll try to stay awake till normal bedttime tonight.

Japan – Day 3

I went with J and Mu, the dog, for their morning walk so that I could see more of J’s town.
Breakfast was yummy pastries, again! This time sitting in the restaurant and eating them. I really like the red bean paste ones.
Kamakura by train wa the day’s main activity. It was nice for J to get out of the city, and the train trip took only a little more than an hour. Outside of Tokyo the land is towns, villages, and plots of farms for vegetables, rice, and ornamental trees. Little shrines can be seen tucked into hillsides and forests, and buddhist temples were easy to recognize by now as they went by. It was one of the trains on the JR train system, so our pass worked for it, hooray! Kamakura is a small town near the water. We got off the main train and switched to a small local one to get to the actual part of town near the Giant Buddha, a main reason for tourists to visit the town. Walking there from the train was fun, lots of little shops and things to see. The temple was one you had to pay for, because of the Buddha I guess. And we rounded a corner of shrubbery along the stone path and there he was. So huge. Breathtaking. Japanese students took pictures of each other standing at his feet waving the peace sign with their fingers. An offering of oranges and flowers was in a large bowl nearby. To the side there was a giant pair of sandals hanging on a wall that belonged to the Budda. For an extra 50 yen, we could go inside the giant bronze statue itself, which we did! Inside the other tourists milled around and shoved yen into the walls and seams of the statue.
Behind the statue was a lovely little garden where we took a short break before heading back out down towards the train station. We passed a small craft shop on the way that had lampworking stations set up! They looked very different from mine, but it was neat to see, and they had many of their beads for sale in the small store. The owners were making pottery when I passed by. We stopped for some sweet potato and green tea soft serve (purple and green!) ice cream and saw what looked like the end of the road, so we passed the station and kept going. From there to the left we could see the water, so we walked there, standing on the dark brown sand next to old sinks and fishing boats. Windsurfers were out on the water, and racing boats further out to sea.
We milled around and J picked up some shells for his nephews, then we turned back and returned to the small station, and back to our main stop.
The last tourist stop of the day was a shrine where J and I picked our fortunes. The view was astounding at the top, you could see all the way down a street back to the train station, with Torii gates inbetween at intervals. To get a fortune we paid 100 yen, then shook a box until a stick with a character came out. The woman behind the table then selected a fortune based on the character, telling her which pile to pull from. It turns out mine was the worst! To fix it, I had to tie it off at the shrine on a board specifically for
that purpose, but at that time we didn’t know it was so bad. I still have it, and at this point J has cheekily suggested throwing it away as an equal solution, or buying another one to replace the bad news. ;)
We took our tired feet home after that, relaxing back in Oizumi before heading out for the night’s dinner adventure. Yakiniku! Korean bbq, Japanese style. J ordered several types of meat and they brought us a charcoal brazier that set into the table. J cooked everything for us, different cuts of beef and even round slices of cow tongue! We had rice to fill the space not quite filled by the meat and the boys had beer. Soon it was back home to laze around, drink brown tea and call it a night. J and M have been AMAZING in the food department, showing us all these differnet things we never would have found on our own. I will definitely be missing the food back home, but we do have a HUGE Japanese market near us that we keep meaning to go to. Now, we finally will.

DLJ and J picking out breakfast at the local neighborhood bakery in Oizumi.

The giant Buddha

Inside the giant Buddha

Ramen, once the plate of veggies and meat has been added to the noodles and pork broth. This might have been my favorite meal. This or the sushi meal to be discussed soon!

From the top of the large shrine we visited in Kamakura.

Day 2 – Japan

(I’m writing this on Friday, our last full day in Japan)

J took M to work by riding double on his bicycle to get to the local train station. I waited outside on their wraparound type balcony to snap a photo, but didn’t time it very well, catching only J on the bike. Better luck tomorrow. While he was out he went to a local favorite bakery and brought back a selection of baked goods for us to have with our morning milk tea. We were ready to roll out a little after ten. On the agenda for the day was something M had found in a magazine article and saved for us. She knew about my interest and glass and had seen an article a few weeks before about a local small business creating glass c himes. Each chime was hand-blown, then hand-painted. They were a summer tradition, the gentle sound meant to provoke feelings of coolness as they caught the breeze in the middle of Japan’s humid summers. Recently, with the advent of air conditioning they were no longer needed to lend a hand to the imagination of coolness, but were still lovely to hear. The family had been creating these for decades, and they were called furin. The family business was tucked away in an older, blue collar neighborhood which required many train changes to get to. As we walked I remarked that it somehow made me think of a beach town. J responded it might be because I was smelling the water nearby; the neighborhood was not far from it. We passed many auto repair shops, a group of welders working on a large frame of a truck, not wearing any visors. We finally made it to the small, brown building. Out front, three large baskets held chunks of broken glass. We could hear a small hammering noise. Through a window were shelves, with round glass objects on them but the light was turned off. J called his wife at work and she called the place, to tell them there were three foreigners right outside unsure where to go. A thin woman came out and beckoned to us, walking past the room with shelves. J said she said “this is where you buy” and kept walking. We turned a corner and followed along the side of the building, towards what would be the backyard area. There were piles of bags holding things like hundreds of glass doorknobs. Another corner and suddenly we were in a small foundry, with two men exchanging large glass punties , one starting a small ball of glass and the other enlarging it and doing the actual blowing to make a small glass ball. He would then hand it back to the first, who by that point already had a new teeny starting ball ready to go. The first would then take the finished ball and rest it in a tray of very small glass shards, knocking it off the punty and sanding the bottom of the chime down quickly, then leaving it in the tray to start a new one to hand off to the older, experienced blower. They worked in silence once we approached. We all wondered how often foreigners came to see them in this tucked away, completely invisible from the outside family tradition. We all agreed that the vast majority of any visitors they had would have to be local Japanese.

After watching for several minutes we thanked them. I had tried to answer questions for J from my limited experience with glass blowing and my larger knowledge of glass in general, and he really seemed interested in what he was watching. We traveled around to the front building and went in the door where the objects were on shelves. On a raised platform sat the thin womaan and a man, we guessed her brother or husband. A Japanese radio station went on in the backround, mostly talking and no music. The man was sitting on a low bench surrounded by small bowls of paint thickly crusted from years of additions. He had a small brush and was painting designs on the now-cooled glass balls. The woman was working with a fresh batch of balls, sanding them down further and discarding any imperfect specimens. The prices were very reasonable so I chose one I liked with dragonflies. There were two with different tones and chose the lower toned one. J bought the other as well as one with a wave and a rabbit painted on it. The woman wrapped them up asking if J wanted extra padding for travel. He said no. When she got to ours, he said yes. “Aren’t you traveling too?” she asked. “No, not me, I live here!” he said. All three were placed in small white boxes and put in small plastic bags. We all said “Arigato” and left back into the small but busy indutrial street. Glasswork in a small family business! What a find! I was elated and J and DLJ were both happy as well. We were getting hungry so we made our way back to the train, stopping at a convenience store for a particular snack that J really enjoyed called *whats it called*. These were triangles of rice in crunchy nori (seaweed). Each one had something different in the middle of the rice. The outer packaging had three numbers showing the order in which you unwrapped it to get it to pop out smoothly. I chose one with tuna and mayonaise in the middle, DLJ had salmon and mayo, and J I think also had the tuna, he had said that was his favorite. These were awesome snacks, healthly but packing energy for the afternoon. J said many Japanese just have on of those for lunch. I wonder if the huge Japanese market near our house will have them.

We moved on, traveling to the museum. Alas, it was a Monday, and it was closed. But we still wandered around on the grounds, which were absolutely deserted. It was kinda fun. While J lamented his luck on the phone with his wife (M acted as our offsite navigator many times that day, at work with the Internet) we looked at the few displays outside, the trains and the large sumo building. The season had ended the previous day. While changing money in a hotel before going to the area, we had seen a sumo wrestler sitting in the lobby, his hair all styled and wearing the traditional clothing. It was neat to see one!

We next went to a nearby Japanese Garden, but it literally closed one minute after we arrived. J was frutrated by now but we were fine, every place we went was something new to see, so it wasn’t a big problem. But by then we were getting in the mood for our later destination: J and M’s favorite ramen place. I was almost drooling in anticipation of this all day. Back on the train and off towards a giant department store where we had actually started our day looking again for a watch. The store had watches, but they were much more expensive than the one we saw in Electric Town the previous day. But it was fun to see the sorts of things sold there, lots of modern furniture and accessories, and bunnies, puppies and beetles for pets!

M had mentioned a street we could go to to look for a watch. Ameyoko Street. We had no idea what we would find. Turning a corner, it was amazing to see. Lights everywhere, thousands of people, hundreds of market stalls with fresh fish, food, vegetables, crazy t shirts, urban clothing, jewelry. It was like a giant outdoor market. In between a few streets in a covered area was a hive of small shops and sellers, an endless maze of commerce. DLJ found a G-Shock he liked at a good price, slightly less than what we found the first day in Electric Town. He purchased it and we made our way back out of the market, passing pachinko parlors and milling crowds back to the more slick, wider streets of the shopping district near the train to take us back to near the department store.

The ramen place was one bulding down from the department store, a long narrow room with heavy wooden stools Everything was red and black and behind the counter were large vats with times written on them in black marker, the time they started each broth. We all ordered the same thing by coincidence, pork broth with all the extras. Waitresses shouted behind us finding seats for new customers. The room was so narrow that those in line stood right behind the diners. We were the only white folks in the room while 20 or customers slurped noodles to our right and left. Within a few minutes our ramen arrived, the broth and noodles in a bowl topped with a plate includng pork, onions, a season half an egg that had been marinated in soy sauce, seaweek, softened bamboo, and other mix ins. I moved half the batch from my plate to the bowl and grabbed a first clump of noodles with my chopsticks and sllllllluuuuurp, slurp, slurp….

AAAAAAH. Oh, sweet Heaven. The last time I had had even decent ramen was in Japantown in San Francisco at Sapporo-Ya, and this was transcendent ramen J had taken us to. So. Good. Each bite was just….oooof. I moved most of the rest of my plate of includes to the bowl. DLJ was a happy camper to my right. The waitresses called and the men behind the counter kept dishing up noodles and broth, sometimes stirring the giant vats with a wooden paddle and holding samples of the broth up to the light in a small vial contraption. It looked like they were testing pool chlorine. They took their broth seriously. I finished my whole bowl (a sign of reverence) and we got up quickly and left, as the wall behind us was almost completely lined with people waiting to sit and eat. I grabbed a card and we were out the door back into the busy street. I was elated.

DLJ stopped for some ice cream in the train station and we went back home. It was now past 7:00 and the trains were crammed with salarymen commuters. We packed in like sardines until our stop, transferring to the smaller train back out to J And M’s Oizumi neighborhood, then home with tired feet. At the corner by their house we heard a tinkling sound I had heard most nights when the wind blew, waiting to go to sleep. It was a sound like a bell. We looked in the yard and there, hanging off a tree branch, was a furin, a single glass chime in the evening air.


Baked goods for breakfast! I am really liking the ones with red bean paste in the middle.

Furin family business.

Blowing the chime.

Ameyoko street, the marketplace where DLJ found his new G-Shock. It’s solar powered!

cooking ramen.

More later, don’t want this one entry to be any larger than it already is.