Monday, August 23, 2010

Hachi, Akihabara and the last days of summer

This is Hachi. If you don't know about him, rent the movie Hachi, a dog's tale with Richard Gere. My sister-in-law, Carla told me about Hachi and after seeing the movie, I had to go to Shibuya station to see the bronze.

Hachi belonged to a college professor in Tokyo and they walked together to the Shibuya station every morning. In the afternoon, he would wait outside the station entrance for his master's return. When the professor died in 1925, the dog continued to wait every day at the same spot until his own death nine years later. People around the station fed Hachi and he was a mascot of sort for the commuters.

This station exit is named for Hachiko. Hachi means eight, so maybe he was the eighth puppy born in the litter. The ko is an old-fashioned endearment attached at the end of a pet's name.
It was difficult to get a shot of him. People were crowded around to see the statue and pose for photographs.

Two weekends ago, a group from Allan's office went to the zoo or dobutsuen. It was pretty much the same group of people who went to the aquarium a month previous.
These two guys are additions to the group. Alex and Sean are the sons of HM1 Hood. HM1 represents his job and rating. Their mom, also HM1 Hood, is on the USS George Washington, (an aircraft carrier) so she's not always in port.

Here are two of the inmates. These elephants (zo in japanese) had an area not much larger than your yard to walk around (and around and around) all day, every day. Rhinos, giraffes & kangaroos were equally cramped. BTW... the Japanese word for giraffe is kirin, like the beer. This zoo also had several insect exhibits... odd.

This is all the males in the group. The three ladies worked as photographers.

Yokosuka is a rockin' town (apparently). These two are selling tequilla shots on the street for 500 yen. I should mention that while driving while under the influence will get your license revoked for life, walking while under the influence is a non-punishable offense. >>>

It's been a busy time for TADs. There have been four (that I've met) naval personnel on temporary duty with the Public Health Dept. in the last eight weeks. Last week these two sailors from Diego Garcia were in Yokosuka for training.

Diego Garcia is a teeny little island in the middle of the Indian Ocean with about 500 members of the U.S. military stationed there. You should google it.

They took us up on an offer to show them around Tokyo. We hadn't been to the electronics district (Akihabara) and thought they might enjoy it. This store was seven floors and took and hour for just a cursory look. It was like being in a Pachinko parlor (noisy).

I shopped for an hour and came away empty-handed.

A short subway ride to Asakusa and we took a boat tour. It was the first time I've been anywhere in Japan, where there was no English. I recognized about 10 words, but Allan had his Japan tour book, so we recognized this as the Asahi beer building. I think the symbol on top looks like a jalapeno pepper, but Allan agrees with the book that it resembles something a bit less savory. UCK!!

This is what our boat looked like. And here is the Tokyo skyline. Have I mentioned that Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world to live in? With the dollar/yen exchange rate, Yokosuka is getting pretty expensive as well.

There's no shortage of unusual architecture in Asia. This building was not in the tour book, but it looks like something Brian might have built with an erector set. After the ride, we found a restaurant and had great Chinese food. Thinking that Trey and Alex might want to stay in Tokyo when we headed back, we jumped on a train and headed for Shibuya (where we saw Hachi). We stopped in Starbucks overlooking a busy shopping area, for some people watching.

We're coming to the end of our first year in Japan. There's still plenty we haven't seen and done. Our list is pretty full, but when someone we know returns from an exotic place with a great story, our list gets longer. For now, we're sticking close to home.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Odawara - Okay

Allan is enjoying the pace of work at the base. Prior to his arrival last year, the Public Health Dept. was understaffed, and remains backlogged. But he and Gene are happily plodding along. I'm teaching English Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, having given up my Sunday night class. My students were lax about showing up and I prefer not to teach on the weekend.
This weekend we took the train to see Odawara Castle. Allan heard about the castle at the base.

It took about an hour on the train to get there, and then a walk to the castle park, but we stopped on the way to do our favorite thing - eat. I had a rice bowl with tempura shrimp and vegetables. Allan got a set, which included a smaller version of my bowl, soup, pickles, some soba noodles and dessert.
The castle is a tourist site, so it was easy to find. It has a history that goes back to 1417. Unfortunately, the structure was completely destroyed in the late 19th century.

The old castles, palaces and stuff like that here have great doors. It's a replica, but still great. Once inside the outer door, you're still not through the main gate, which is shown below. This leads to a courtyard, which leads to a park. There are some out buildings and originally a stable, (15th century, no cars).

The tops of older buildings have statues, and in the case of this building, that statue is a fish. The ocean is important to life here, there is even a holiday called Sea Day. According to some of my students, Sea Day is a rather new holiday, created because they needed a holiday in July. Since they eat as much seafood as beef, pork and chicken combined, it makes sense.

The castle is a replica, and the inside is a museum filled with military equipment. No matter where you go in the world, museums are filled with the paraphernalia of past wars.

There were suits of armor, spears, swords, shields, helmuts and a little artwork. I hoped it would be a good place to take visitors, but I think I'll stick to the big Buddha and the sites in Tokyo. The distance is about the same.

Where Allan is standing, a vendor will photograph you in traditional Japanese attire, which they supply. I couldn't imagine putting on a kimono in that heat.

When we left the castle, we had a lot of sunlight left, so took a walk through town. We did some shopping, but the heat and humidity was stifling. Going into the shops was cooler than being on the street, and we picked up some baked goods before returning home.

On a funny note: Hiromi, our Japanese teacher, gave Allan a book called "Making Out in Japanese". We have enjoyed reading the phrases like "Your tool is small", "Are you on the pill?", "Is this your first time?", "Do that same thing again" and my personal favorite - "Aishiteru-kedo kekkon wa dekinai" or "I love you but I can't marry you".