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Today's weather forecast is...

...a giant Japan-sized rain blob of death:

That's what I found when I was curious about the current weather conditions this morning. Luckily that thing is heading away from me.

IUC (pre-) Day One

I made it back to Japan, and my apartment with giant suitcase in tow. I quickly realized that Japan is seriously lacking in the "accessibility" department after dragging that thing up and dstairs own with nary an escalator or elevator in sight. Not that I mind so much, but it makes me wonder what do people with wheelchairs do around here?

After unpacking and such, I went out for a quick grocery run and enjoyed chilled soba and an aptly sized 4.5 ounce can of Asahi beer:

Afterwards, I attempted to study for my placement tests this week, but jet lag got the best of me. I woke up sometime in the middle of the night with all my lights still on, list of vocabulary words still gawking at me from my computer screen and a kink in my neck.

Anyway, today's schedule is as follows. Hopefully I don't get lost trying to find the room.

9/6 Mon.           9:45     Assembly, Meeting Room 5F

             10:00-12:00   Orientation

             12:00-12:30   Class Photo, outside

             13:30-17:00   Japanese Language Oral Proficiency Test, 15 minutes for each students.

                                    General Interview with Director, 20 minutes for each students.

                                      The schedule for individual time and place will be announced.


Best of the last month's pictures - Part 1

For those of you (*cough* mom *cough*) who don't have facebook, you haven't seen the rest of my pictures from Japan since I haven't updated for about 5 weeks. Sorry!  It's way easier to do on facebook, but I'll pick out some of my favorites for here!

At Mount Koya, one of the centers of Buddhism. Stairs to a very large temple

Buddhist temples at Mt. Koya

A (very nice) traditional style Japanese room with tatami mats

Tying up "fortunes" on a rope. At Mt. Koys's giant Buddhist cemetery

Another wonderful (and filling) Japanese bento - at Mt. Koya

At my friend's favorite Takoyaki stand in Osaka!

Eating takoyaki (those doughy balls with octopus inside)

At a Buddhist temple


Yes yes, I know I haven't updated in about a month. 

Moved to Yokohama the other day, and I think I'm going to like it. My apartment seems to be in the center of everything!  Well, its close to the port (possibly the best thing about it!), close to China town, the government offices, and the baseball stadium. Not to mention two giant book stores: a 6-story store and a 5-story used book store. Potential danger for my wallet. 

This morning I took a jog to the port area and it was quite amazing. Wonderful view of the ocean, the city, and lots of boats <3

Currently I'm in Tokyo for the ending ceremony for the National Science Foundation EAPSI program. They gave us all single rooms in a nice hotel - I'm on the 22nd second floor with a great view of the city! They also gave us a nice dinner which included unlimited drinks of all sorts. 

Tomorrow I'm off to Ohio for 10 days before going back to Yokohama! I can't wait!! This is my to-do list:

Ride my bike
Visit friends and family
Ride my bike
Go to my favorite cafe/bar/local food restaurants
Play tennis, enjoy real parks
Ride bike
Drink good beer
Play with cats
Ride bike


Kabocha bowls and Mt. Fuji rice mountains

Eating delicious Japanese food of course!!

This one is my creation, made from recipes in my newly bought Japanese veggie cook book:
Sanma (the fish) pan-fried with mini-tomatoes and onions, on the side is sweet potato simmered in
brown sugar and lemon. Nom!

The next five pictures are from a cute restaurant specializing in veggie dishes. It was called Hatake-ya (畑舎)
Below is fish in a vinegar type sauce with a curly radish stick

This one was great: Soy grautin in a Kabocha bowl! You can eat the whole thing (which we did)


Lastly, onigiri with some sort of beef mixed in :)

Shot of the restaurant, you can see the grautin "bowls" lined up on the counter.
Tomoe says "hi"   ;)

This picture is from Gotemba, which is at the foot of Mt. Fuji.
This restaurant served a fun dish called Mt. Fuji Curry: the rice is made to look like the
mountain, haha. 

Destruction of Mt. Fuji......

Until next time!

Layers of Kobe City

These pictures are all from the bridge that runs from Port Island to Sannomiya, and the dock thats at one end. I was inspired by the beautiful day and the great composition that the multiple layers of the city and beams of the bridge made over the water. At the dock, the colorful boats and blue sky were reflected in the water and back onto the side of the boats themselves.  The walk across the bridge has become one of my favorite things to do near the dorm - its always a nice view, good exercise, and walking back at night gives me view of the sparkling city lights.  Hopefully a bunch of pictures of the bridge don't make you too bored ><  Again, click on the pictures if you want to see a bigger version.

Looking toward the main land/Sannomiya

The red beams are great!

Looking back towards Port Island. You can see one of the docks.

Another slightly different view

The loading cranes for the big tanker ships!

Boats and reflections, one of my favorite pictures :)

Layers of monorail, walking paths, roads, and parking lot

The start of the bridge on the way to Port Island

A boat...

and its ropes...

Alrighty, I'll spare you from more bridge and boat pictures! 


Suita city is part of Osaka prefecture and basically connected to Osaka city. Pretty urban area, apparently only 8% of its "natural areas" are left after it got developed!  Hime-fireflies still live in those areas.

The train on the way to Suita, its like a never ending city! If you click on the picture to see the larger version, you can see the sky scrapers of Osaka in the background if you look reallllllly hard

Another pic from the train window, this time looking the other direction

Park where you can still see Hime-fireflies. There are apartment buildings and houses all around it now.

Stopping for a drink and kushi-katsu after the interview!  Kushi-katsu is deep-fried things on small wooden skewers. You can get a variety of stuff:  baby bamboo shoot, fish including salmon, quail eggs, tomato, mochi, shiitake mushrooms, squid, octopus, kabocha squash, beef, chicken, lotus root, potato, sweet potato, okra, etc etc. Its pretty delicious.

First of all, here's the restaurant

The stuff on the sticks is the kushi-katsu, the one in the middle that looks like 3 round balls is the quail eggs.
You dip it into the sauce on the left there in the metal pan.  We also have a tofu and veggie salad.  Kushi-katsu also
always comes with raw cabbage, which is on the right side.

and another picture :)

Last week was spent going around to different places to conduct my interviews: Suita, Wadayama, Tanba, and Nagoya (2nd time).  I only have 2 more interviews scheduled, one in Gotemba (near Mt. Fuji) and one in Niimi in Okayama prefecture.  I'm wondering if this is actually going to give me enough data to write a master's thesis?!?!  Lets hope so...

Bamboo forest in a park in Nagoya

Finding cool red mushrooms in the park! Apparently you can eat them...

Eating delicious Japanese food in Tanba, the ingredients they use at this restaurant are supposed to have medicinal properties (in other words, its super healthy ;)  )

Hime-firefly rice crackers!

Part of Tanba, a bit in the country :)

Wadayama, even more in the country! Lots of rice paddies and mountains

Shinto shrine in Wadayama (around 350 yrs old!)
There's apparently tons of Hime-fireflies that live in the woods around it

Entrance to the shrine

Working the rice fields in black and white...

and in sepia.  By the way, Heike-fireflies especially like rice fields b/c they are a wetland/marsh species

Must... get.... farm....

Bugs of Japan

I couldn't resist....

These guys are some type of damselflies.  Aren't they cute sitting there on the leaves? They have black wings <3
A local elementary school is participating in a study with the Museum of Nature and Human Activities, Hyogo.
The 4th graders catch them, mark them and release. Then the researchers can see where they've been flying!
(In Takarazuka, near Kobe)

A close up, this one has its wings marked

Giant dragonfly!! (Takarazuka)

A little guy... (Takarazuka)

From an earlier post, but I had to put this guy w/ all the other bugs ;)  (Kamakura)

Stag beetle female. The males have giant horns! (Nagoya)

More dragonflies (Nagoya)

I have no idea what this is but it looked cool (Shonan/Hayama area)

A moth of some sort (Shonan/Hayama area)

A ground beetle of some sort (I think)  (Shonan/Hayama)

Thats all the bugs for now!


Nagoya <3

I survived my first interview session with the Hime-firefly groups! Actually, it was super fun, the group members were awesome, eager to talk to me, and showed me the firefly habitats around Nagoya Castle. The castle is in the middle of the city, and its extremely rare for there to be fireflies in a place like that. Hime-fireflies are especially susceptible to  habitat destruction and degradation because the females cannot fly. In other words, unlike other species, once things get bad in their environment, they can't just fly off somewhere else. If their home gets destroyed, then they go right along with it. Since the area around Nagoya Castle (the dried up moat and tree filled area between the castle walls) hasn't been bothered in at least 400 hundred years, the Hime-fireflies are still present there.

After getting to Nagoya, the group showed me some of the firefly habitats and then I interviewed them...it took about an hour and a half. After everything was said and done, it was off to the izakaiya (Japanese style bar)! Talk about work hard and play hard...I was served up 2 draft beers, 2 ume-shus (plum wine), and some sake/shouchu... needless to say, I wasn't completely sober by the end of the night and we didn't get back to Kobe until around midnight!

Next week is filled with interviews, it'll probably be pretty tiresome, but I don't think they're all going to involve all day and night activities. The worst part, though, is transcribing the audio recording of the interview!  Seriously, 10 minutes = about one hour of typing out everything. My last interview was 1.5 hours... Dx 

Anyway, as usual, some pictures (by the way, if you click on the pictures, you can see bigger versions):

View of Nagoya City from above... you can see the castle in middle there,
and if you look closely the mountains way in the background.

Scoping out some newly discovered Hime-firefly habitat around the castle...

Entrance to Nagoya Castle

Its apparently the 400th year anniversary this year!

There it is! I didn't go inside the castle grounds,
but it still looks good from outside the walls.