Monday, October 27, 2008

Post Halloween-Party Post

We hosted a fabulous Halloween party for our neighbors this weekend and, thanks to all the packages sent from our friends and family back home in the States, were able to go all out with costumes, decorations, and goodie bags!!!  

Eri seriously rocks the vamp teeth:

If they only knew the TERROR that lives next door...ah ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

We had a frightenly large buffet o' Halloween goodies and food galore, including homemade popcorn balls (Grandma's recipe), creepy cheese platter, witches' brew punch with frozen severed hand, and hot caramel apples!

Oh, and a few Japanese dishes came along as well and have now become Halloween-cuisine favorites including sushi rolls (as displayed by Jacob), onigiri, Sapporo beer, Japanese chocolates, iced green tea, and Hasukai & Meatball Soup (as displayed by Shibata-san).  I'm sure my weight after eating all of this is super scary indeed!

Food, Halloween music (can you ever get enough of "Monster Mash" and "Thriller"), and a rousing game of Pin-the-nose-on-the-jack-o-lantern made for a smashing time!

This is what happens when you give your sweet little neighbor-girl fake blood, a wig and teeth, and some face make-up crayons.  By far the scariest thing of the evening!

No one in attendance (except Jake and I) had ever been to a Halloween party before and they all assured me it was a blast (of course)!  Thanks once again to everyone who sent great geat to make this happen!

So, the rest of the week, Jacob and I will be working on our REAL costumes for Halloween on Friday!  Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mr. October (aka Colonel Sanders Of the Month)

Just in time for Halloween:

Another one of those "Asian takes on other cultures" oddities found in Japan:  life-sized Colonel Sanders statues outside of every KFC!  They constantly beckon me, especially when clad in various outfits.  My hope is to find one to include on the blog each month!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our One and Ten

Today is Jacob and my one-year anniversary!   One year ago we were saying our vows on a beach in Las Caletas, Mexico.

Saturday is our "ten years together" anniversary.  Ten years ago, we were two crazy high schoolers running around the plains of Kansas, USA together.

And here we are in Japan, happy, loving life and each other.  I'm truly thankful for the days, the months, and the years spent with Jacob and am looking forward to many more!

Thank you to everyone who has lifted us up, inspired us, befriended us, and have otherwise made us who we are, both as individuals and as a couple!  どもありがとうございます

Friday, October 17, 2008


We took a day-break from our short Kyoto romping last weekend to visit Nara, Japan's first capital established in 710BC.  It was during this time that the most important influences from China, namely Buddhism and kanji characters, made their impact upon Japan, something that is definitely still visible today.

Kofuku-ji Temple-710BC

One of the prettiest areas of Nara is Nara-koen park, a tranquil setting home to over 1,000 old stone lanterns.  In addition, some of the ancient capital's most important sites call the Nara-koen home.

(Lanterns slightly modified from their historical context)

1,000 lanterns pale, however, in comparison to the 2,000+ deer who roam freely and unintimidated throughout the park.  In pre-Buddhist times, the deer were considered messengers of the gods and today enjoy status as Japanese National Treasures.

These lovely treasured, heavenly messengers especially love to descend on children and "smaller" tourists who have the misfortune of carrying food (or train passes).  There are deer biscuits for sale in the park if you prefer, instead, to pay for your divine molestation.  

Not to be outdone by the old stone lanterns, the Kasuga Taisha shrine has 2,000 bronze lanterns gracing the premises.  I was a little disappointed we hadn't arrived in time for the Lantern Festival...I'm sure it's an amazing sight!

One of the coolest sites from our trip was the Todai-ji Temple with the massive Daibutsu-den Hall, which indecently is the largest wooden building in the world!  It was originally built in the 8th century, went through a few of the typical fires, and was reconstructed in the 1700s at only 2/3 of its original size!!!

Inside is a colossal seated Buddha, with fingers the size of a human!  Super impressive!

So, Nara wasn't all shrines and deer, but it was a nice little day trip adding to our Japanese image fantasies (which apparently includes Sega World as well)!

For more photos from Nara, head to our Flicker album here.  If you're still plodding through our Kyoto pics, you can follow this link.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Jacob and I just returned from an absolutely gorgeous weekend in Kyoto and Nara (down in Kansai on Honshu island), the Japan of my imagination!  If you have a certain image of Japan, it probably originated here in Kansai, and more specifically in Kyoto.  Although we were a few weeks early of the brilliant color change of all the fall foliage, the weather was gorgeous for temple-hopping!

We were also lucky in terms of accommodation.  On that beloved of all my travel sites, Couchsurfing (go, join...our username is photograbock), we found an amazing host named Shoji.  He has turned one of his rental properties into a free Couchsurfing guesthouse, hence forgoing quite a bit of additional income in order to meet and host travelers from all over the world!!!

We knew he was an excellent host when we told him we were from Missouri and he said, "Oh, Misery, like the Beatles song!"  He didn't speak much English, but he did know an obscure Beatles song from their very first album!!!  I love this guy!

This was one of our most favorite sites and I probably took a hundred or so photos here.  The Fushimi-Inari Taisha was dedicated in the 700s AD, and now consists of thousands of torii (orange shinto-shrine gates) covering countless paths and running all over a mountain side.  Families and businesses donate torii to ensure prosperity, and the glowing orange masses among the sprawling nature are extremely cool.

Kyoto itself has more than 1600 Buddhist temples and over 400 Shinto shrines, in addition to 17 Unesco World Heritage sites!!  Serving as Japan's imperial capital between 794 and 1868, it is still considered by most Japanese (and foreigners) to be the cultural heart of the country.

What does all this mean, besides the fact that there is WAY too much to see and do in only four days?  It also pretty much guarantees that I took WAY too many photos, some of which are represented below.  But feel free to check out all the others here on our flickr site!

Gion was another favorite district of mine as it's lined with old wooden shops, restaurants, and tea houses from the days of a slower, more traditional Japan.  You can still spot Geisha hurrying to appointments if you're lucky and patient (and I was both)...let me tell you, those ladies are fast and getting a good photo of them is extremely difficult (but, of course, worth it)!

We also had the opportunity to visit Nara, Japan's first capital, on this trip.  I'll be posting those pics in a day or two when I get a chance to go through them all!

Living up in Hokkaido, I feel as if we've finally gotten to see and experience a little taste of quintessential Japan!  For now, though, it's back to dairy farms, potatoes, and a new fall chill in the air for us!