Today is the first day of spring holidays. Although the past few days have been freezing cold, rainy and generally pretty bleak, today the sun is shining on the advent of two grand weeks of relaxation and heavy drinking.
Nothing huge to report. Went to Nara last weekend, which was a very calm, beautiful area. A whole bunch of holiday snaps below, if you can be bothered.
Had the end-of-semester staff party last night. Very typical Japanese gig, with plenty of unspoken rules and formalities for interaction. Always follows the exact same route; arrive, take a card to find out which seat yr in, make polite conversation, kanpai, pour drinks for other teachers, out comes the crazy marine life revenge entree, then sashimi, then tempura (it's all very good of course), get progrssively more inebriated, share a few laughs with the principal, find some interesting conversations and be interrupted by drunks, clock hits 8 and we out. Normally the male teachers will rope in some chicks and it's off to party #2 in some karaoke joint, where the 45-year old men go all scaly and be as seedy as possible to the young girls, eg. open their pants and encourage them to "pull my tassels"... thanks Nick for that one.
Last night, none of that. All the kids were already plastered enough without kicking on, so just me and two other young English teachers went on for some Coronas, the 'purest beer in the world' etc etc. I think we finished early coz all the others, unlike your humble correspondent, have to hit up school tomorrow. Ha!
So anyway, here are the photos youve all been waiting for. Now that theres plenty of free time, expect replies to yr emails and more frequent ranting. Cheers. Oh, I don't know how to put these in some separate page so just check em all out here. First up: Sonic Youth, Friday March 18, Namba Hatch, Osaka. The band opening for them, 'Psychobaba', as I recall, was this hypno-sitar trio with a real 'technical' kick-ass drummer, the sitar kid, and this screeching keyboardist. Without being on any particularly interesting drugs, they were not so enthralling.
Unlike my boy Thurston and the Yoof. They were really good for most of the time. Opened with "Golden Blue" and "Stones" from the new album, and did a few other new ones, as well as some oldies... but most of the non-Nurse
tracks I didn't really know, and considering that I own and am familiar with all their good albums, that part of the night kind of dragged. Funny bit was when Lee started getting all this static electricity eating up his mic like some deadly killer bee swarm... he yelled out really earnestly, "I can't do 'Rain on Tin'! I can't do RAIN ON TIN!!!
" I don't know why it was that particular song which was the problem, but Thurston just yells back, "Whatever, man!" and totally dissed him. I don't really know the normal band ch-ch-chemistry but that was kind of harsh. And entertaining.
So after some crazy Ethiopian food, we found ourselves in Nara in a dodgy little hotel. Hired some bikes and checked out Nara park, which includes:
Crazy coked-up deer junkies. They could smell the crack in Kanako's pockets and couldn't resist. Check it out, they even pashed each other like real crack whores trying to turn you on so maybe you'll give em some small change.
This is the south gate of Todai-ji, which contains the fabled Big Buddha. Really imposing wooden deal. Moving.
And that's Todai-ji in the background. And some random in the foreground.
No, it's not Scarborough Chinese restaurant. It's the outer walls of Todai-ji.
And this is me ruining an excellent photo of the temple itself.
The Buddhster him/her/itself. Doesn't look all that big but...
Some crazy grin, and this is a hole which is apparently the same size as the nostril of the Big Buddha. No way in hell could I fit through that, right?
Right? No way!
Oh the humanity. I did it!
This is a photo which I think is really nice. A cool garden called Isui-en. When I 'earn' my millions by inventing some rad personal hover device or whatever, I will definitely have a big zen-trance garden like this.
Horyu-ji, another temple just outside Nara.
This is right outside our hotel (you can see the doors in the back).
First time I ever ate in one of these dodgy outdoor food stalls, but it was really good (gyoza and oden) and I was able to wake up the next day so power on.
Outside Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara Park. Those deer are fucking everywhere.
One of the hard-and-fast rules in Nara is that you must never, never get pac-man drunk.
These spring things are at every shrine in Japan but I thought, why not get a photo of this one for posterity. This being at Nigatsu-do in Nara.
So on Sunday we hotfooted it out of Nara and met up with Kanako's friend Miki and her new husband Takahiro, who live in Mie-ken. The most famous place in Mie is Ise-jingu, which is the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan. The complex is amazing, so pure and clean, and once you cross a massive wooden bridge and traverse a big rocky yard, you get into this massive solemn forest.
And right in the middle of the forest is the shrine, which you're not allowed to enter unless you're the Emperor or a religious-dude. Being neither, we could only take photos from afar (you couldn't take them up close). The shrine is over that wall.
Every 20 years, according to tradition, they demolish the shrine and build a new one somewhere else in the forest. Typical Japanese government measure to keep people employed, no doubt.
So if all that was a bit solemn for you, how about 4 LITRES OF BOOZE FOR 20 BUCKS?
It's not like they tried fucking around and packaging it nicely, they're just like... "well, it's turpentine, so just stick it in the turps bottle but stick on a different label." Many Japanese folk must have had very very bad hangovers after drinking this crap. Which may go to explain why the Japanese hangover-cure-drink industry is so big.
On Monday, which was the holiday to mark the 'vernal equinox'... which I think is the day when it officially becomes spring... we went to Asuka near Nara to check out some old kofun, or ancient tomby/shriny things. Apparently in ancient Japan, like 7th century, the emperors were buried in these. Then the Buddhists came in and decided, no way are we messing around with the chance that they will all come back as royal zombies, so cremation is the shit now.
Under this mound you could enter a subterranean cavern. Fuck knows what the deal was here, but you gotta take some snaps, you know?
The end. Sorry about all that, but I know some folk will be interested in it, and you gotta play to the audience. I bet Metallica always
plays Nothing Else Matters.
Next time.... well, Dirk has been working the whole 'furious political commentary' gig lately, so I'll try to catch up with some Japannery. If anyone cares.