Tuesday, August 31, 2010

best tuesday and more engrish

i had the most wonderful tuesday night with my amazing girlfriends at a rooftop beer garden!!! i will explain the japanese beer garden concept at a later date with some photos, but for now, some more amazzzzzing engrish, from a cloth book jacket i discovered in Loft:

mmmmm, air conditioner

and it wasn't the only air conditioner on the menu. literal translations = amusing cocktail names.

the katakana ダージリンクーラー reads as daajirin kooraa. the latter bit is one manner in which the japanese refer to an air conditioner. as well as a chilled flavored alcoholic beverage. but it looks like someone has been using google translate, for indeed, i have never imbibed an air conditioner of any sort.

a list

i've lived on kyushu for 13 months but i've been to an embarassingly small number of places on this fabulous island (or at least, very close by). here is a list of some places i want to go within the next JET year, though the sooner the better.

* Takachiho
* Mojiko. Ganryujima, and Shimonoseki
* Beppu and Yufuin
* Kagoshima City and Yakushima (in the works for late November!)
* Ibusuki
* Sasebo
* Iki island
* Yanagawa
* Ariake Sea
* Gunkanjima off of Nagasaki City

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Taiwan, Day One

So after Yamakasa was over, I went back to my apartment to sleep for a few hours before I went to the airport to fly to Taiwan. It was SO FAST. Less than two hours, direct! Fukuoka really is a convenient place from which to travel to Asia. My uni friend Joe came to pick me up at the airport, which is about 40 minutes outside of Taipei. The bus ride into the city was very interesting, but I remarked to Joe how I could already see the Japanese influence on this very Chinese place. It started raining when I first got there, but soon let up.

Taipei Main Station, a horrendous piece of architecture, but very convenient for taking trains out of Taipei and the subway around town.
View of Taipei from my hostel, which was run by a very nice Japanese expat.
Crowded, noisy, full of motor scooters, and SO many eating options!
Don't ask me what these are called. Mine was a meat filled bun (DELISH) and Joe's had some green veggie and onions.
Taipei 101 looming in the distance! Until recently, the tallest building in the world (or at least Asia, I think).
It's supposed to look like bamboo. I really like it, even if it's a bit weird. It is also simply MASSIVE.
Somewhat posh area around Taipei 101.
Sunset in the city.
That's just the base of it! The square-ish thing attached is a gigantic, fancy mall.
Mmmm. You know me and my shiny reflective glass building fetish!
Inside the mega posh mall. Every designer you can think of, and some you can't.
View from the 89th floor viewing deck.
"Is that one of those Chiang Kai-shek memorial halls?" "Yes, precisely."
That's the area we walked through to get from the subway to 101.
Evening over Taipei. Surprisingly, there are few skyscrapers in this quite modern city.
Not sure what direction we are looking here. It's all Taipei, haha.
Taiwan has beautiful mountains.
The gajillion tonne damper ball that keeps Taipei 101 from swaying in the wind. According to Joe, not the most sophisticated technology its purpose.
You can buy "damper baby" goods in the giftshop. They turned the damper ball into a cute character good, just like they do with all sorts of seemingly uncute things in Japan!
The city starting to light up.
Busy busy.

A huge lobster made of red coral. The gift shop was really pushing coral and jade jewelry, but I would have preferred this ridiculous and unnecessary carving.
Longshan Temple, which is technically Buddhist (I think) but is full of statues of Daoist masters and is often considered a non-denominational temple.
But a lot of people come to actively pray.
I felt a bit weird taking these photos, since people don't really pray much at Buddhist temples in Japan, apart from a quick clap and head bow.
The entrance to the Longshan night market. Taipei is particularly famous for its night markets, which are full of food/drink vendors, clothing stalls, knock off goods, and even little old ladies selling sex toys (I kid you not, I just didn't have the balls to blatantly snap a picture of one).
Quite popular places to hang out at night.
So near this night market is a covered shopping street known as "Snake Alley," where the big attraction is watching snakes being skinned and gutted in front of you, then having its meat prepared as a meal for you. I didn't notice the no-pics sign, but the guy sitting behind this MASSIVE CONSTRICTOR looked super bored, and didn't care.
This is Snake Alley. Some famous person was doing a TV spot or something and everyone was taking pics of him, so I took a picture of them all taking pictures.
Mantis shrimp. Fierce buggers, and huge! They don't look appetizing to me, and I hope never to meet one.
A typical street corner. There is food EVERYWHERE in this city. The problem is reading the menu ;_;
I forget what these funny looking fruits were.
Being a partially tropical country, Taiwan is just rolling in delicious and super inexpensive tropical fruit. Delightful!
More motor scooters than anywhere I've seen.
26 is the new 21?
This trendy area is sometimes compared to Shibuya in Tokyo, though it's not nearly as big. But it has everything you could want as a young, hip person with money to blow.
They were sitting on what looked like porch swings.
Modern Toilet Restaurant. The menu looked normal, but nonetheless, we chose NOT to dine there.
We had hot pot instead. It was so cheap, like MAYBE $6.
And we EACH got a massive bowl of veggies, in addition to a plate of thinly sliced mutton.
This is a kind of blood pudding cake thing with rice inside. Surprisingly tasty!
Mmmm hot pot. A filling and delicious way to end my first day in Taiwan!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hakata Gion Yamakasa (butts galore)

Slowly but steadily, I'm catching up... Rewind to July 15, 3:20am. Yes, you read that right. 3:20am! An ungodly hour. But that day I had to drag myself out of bed at that time to catch a special bus (special in that buses do not run in the 3 o'clock hour, except on this day) to Hataka Ward, to witness the last event of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival. This is perhaps Fukuoka's best known festival, and is one of the city's three great festivals (along with Hojoya in October and Hakata Dontaku Minato Festival in May). Seeing a pattern here? There's a "three great~" for pretty much everything imaginable in Japan, including scenic views (Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima in Hiroshima Pref., Amanohashidate in Kyoto Pref., and Matsushima in Miyagi Pref.), ramen (Sapporo ramen from Hokkaido Pref., Kitakata ramen from Fukushima Pref., and of course Hakata ramen from Fukuoka Pref.), and beautiful women, or bijin (Akita bijin, Kyoto bijin, and Hakata bijin- hence the title of this blog, in case you didn't already know ^_~) .

In fact, Yamakasa is one of the three great Gion festivals. When I lived in Kyoto for the summer two years ago I saw the Gion Matsuri (matsuri means festival, just so you know, in case I use the two interchangeably) in Kyoto, which i the most famous Gion festival, since it is that which all the others in the country are based on. The history of the Kyoto Gion Matsuri goes as such: sometime around 900 A.D., Kyoto (then the capital and by far the biggest city in Japan) was struck with a terrible plague, earthquakes, and various other disasters. To appease the god who had supposedly caused the big ruckus, the emperor ordered a fantastic purification ritual to take place at Yasaka Shrine (where my family celebrated the New Year two years ago!). This included the creation and parading around of huge floats, carried by the men of the city. Kyoto's Gion festival has been a tradition since, and Hakata's own Gion festival began in the mid-13th century. It begins on July 1st and continues to the biggest event on the morning of the 15th. I didn't really take note of the goings on prior to that morning, although we first got to see the men carrying the floats a few days before when they ran from Hakata Ward to City Hall to greet the mayor (a couple hundred years ago, they would be greeting the local ruling lord).

So anyways. This grand finale of the festival is called Oiyama ("float run") and starts at the stroke of 4:59am on the morning of the 15th. The old merchant town of Hakata was divided into 7 areas known as nagare (this word means stream or flow, which makes sense in the context of the festival, at least, to me...), and each nagare builds a new float every year for its local men to haul around. The seven areas are Ebisu, Daikoku, Higashi, Doi, Nishi, Nakasu, and Chiyo. I forget the order they run in... Ok, so at 4:59, the first one departs Kushida Shrine (the sacred shrine of Hakata, like Yasaka is to Gion in Kyoto) and they come a-runnin' with their butts hanging out of their loincloths. Yep, there are a lot of naked butts in this festival! Most are not pleasing to see, but I spied a handful that looked like they could belong to swimmers or rugby players. From quite a distance, though, so it was impossible to tell. The next group follows five minutes later, etc. etc., and boy, did we have to fight to maintain our good viewing location!

Enough history and rambling. Here are the photos. Please be warned that they are largely VERY blurry, as my camera doesn't behave very well in low-light and around lots of movement. But at least you will get an idea of my Yamakasa experience!

Right when we got on the bus, it began POURING rain. I mean, monsoon-level. We were prepared with crappy clothes, rain coats from the 100 yen store, and umbrellas, though it was still pretty miserable for the first half hour of waiting.
Thankfully, by the time the first nagare came running, the rain had largely stopped. You can't see it very well in this photo, but in the distance (to the left of the float) there is a big pole. The floats are carried from the street running left to right in front of us, up the boulevard a bit, AROUND the pole (it's sacred or something, I dunno), then back towards us, and to the right.
This picture seems crappy, but the guys carrying the float are eerily clear if you enlarge it.
That's the Ebisu float. Ebisu is one of the seven gods of good fortune (as is Daikoku, after whom one of the other nagare is named). I guess he is the god of fishermen, hence the big decorative fish.
Run, boys, run!
The Doi nagare was my favorite because they have those rad indigo-dyed happi coats. Much cooler, in my opinion, than the less-patterned white ones of the other groups.
At the front of each nagare comes a group of young boys carrying the name of the group on these wooden plaques. I'm sure they have some further meaning too. My pictures got better as it got lighter out.
I think this one is the Chiyo nagare?
It's said that Yamakasa marks the end of the rainy season in Fukuoka. YEAH RIGHT.
The Higashi nagare, on whose float is Fudo Myo-o, the "Immovable Wisdom King" in Japanese Buddhism. He's always pictured sitting, grasping an upright sword. No, he's not going anywhere!
Oh, I guess he is. Ciao, Immovable Wisdom King!
They re-roped off the area for the running of the last float, a kazariyama, or decorative float that doesn't belong to any one area, really. It took a different path, so we couldn't see it very well. Also, our friend, a fellow American, was running in that group and we really wanted to see him (so we could tell him we'd seen his butt), but alas, we couldn't pick him out. That group had a lot of really tall people in it!
Cool angle, blurry picture.
The float actually spouted smoke and the figures moved at times. I've got a video I will try to upload of it.
Hahaha S taking a picture of sleeping J on the bus ride back. "I'm a terrible girlfriend, aren't I?" "No. As much as you tease him, I know you love him."
Copyright © 博多美人
Blogger Theme by BloggerThemes Design by Diovo.com