Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Leiko Ikemura: Transfiguration

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

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On the last day of our Tohoku trip, a slight change of plans lead me and Dawna back to Tokyo a day earlier than planned. So while Dawna headed back to the land of mikans, I loitered around in Tokyo. On a whim, I decided to take Dawna’s suggestion and go to an art museum in Tokyo (rather than another trip to the manga store Mandarake where I would inevitably spend more money and buy yet more doujinshi). Thus I found myself in the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art where there was a special exhibit called “Transfiguration” on an award winning sculptor and painter  Leiko Ikemura.  I am not an art buff, and at best I mostly found Leiko’s artworks highly disturbing (like the hollow sculpture of the beheaded girl with a pigeon sitting on her neck).  So it was not surprising that as an  English Literature major I was immediately drawn to the poetry littering the walls of the exhibits instead. I believe Leiko herself wrote them in Japanese and was later translated into English (by herself or another I don’t know).  Here are some of the discombobulating verses I found.

Post research: Though she currently lives in Berlin, Leiko Ikemura hails from Mie Prefecture. That makes her poems, particularly the “Figure-scape” poem all the more chilling.  In response to the the triple disaster, she curated a exhibit in Berlin called, “Breaking News: Fukushima and the Consequences.”

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Matsushima: 5 months and 18 days later

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

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March 11, 2011 – a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami struck off the cost of Matsushima, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture in what would be known as the triple disasters of the Great Tohoku Earthquake.  Japan’s northeastern coast was devastated as the killer waves reached several miles inland, laying waste to everything in its path.

August 25, 2011 – Dawna and I visited the Matsushima Bay, the nearest point of land to the epicenter of the great earthquake.  Prior to the earthquake, the pine covered islands of Matsushima were known as one of the three most scenic places in Japan, the others being Miyajima in Hiroshima and Ama no Hashidate north of Kyoto.  Following the earthquake, the area was hard hit, though not nearly as bad as areas to the north or south.  This was due to the unique structure of the bay and the high hills that surround it.  Still, it did not escape unscathed and if you were to visit the area today you’ll find numerous tsunami warning signs and before and after pictures of the carnage.

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Yamanashi? Or Not: A Day Told in Texts II

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

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Having parted with cash I wasn’t supposed to have but guilty laden with delicious doujinshi, I attempted to meet up with Dawna and Wendy.  This “attempt” turned into a huge comedy of errors, miscommunications, and freak events that never happen in Japan (aka train delays).

Prior to starting our Tohoku journey, we were to meet in Yamanashi prefecture, an inaka prefecture about an hour and half outside of Tokyo on the northern side of Mt. Fuji.  Yamanashi’s unique climate made it Japan’s premiere source of grapes… and thus wine.  Near Yamanashi City in Katsunuma, is a place known as the “Grape Cave” where, for a paltry fee of 1,200 yen, the wine enthusiast could sample a number of Yamanashi’s plentiful wines.  Think Napa Valley, California except that the fee is a one-time deal and the time limit unlimited.  Yes that’s right, 1,200 yen for all-you-can-drink wine with unlimited time. Though I myself am not a wine enthusiast (actually I’m not a fan of alcohol in general) I thought this would make for quite an entertaining show with a lot of blackmail (which did indeed happen though I wasn’t there to watch it unfold). The plan was for me (coming from Osaka) to meet the two of them (who were coming from Tokyo) there and then to head back to Tokyo.

Here’s why that plan didn’t actually come to fruition (no pun intended)…

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Osaka, A Day Told in Texts

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

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“You’re going WHERE?!” was the response most people gave me when I said I was traveling to Tohoku.  Well I shall defend it as such: 1) It was the last region of Japan I hadn’t visited, 2) the Great Tohoku Earthquake was several months ago and the region had rebounded and was encouraging tourism to help rebuild its economy, and 3) we weren’t going anywhere near the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant’s exclusion zone (more on that later) .

But that’s not what this post is about.

So prior with meeting Dawna and Wendy for this vaunted Tohoku trip,  another friend of mine, Zung, and I had gone gallivanting in Osaka.  The previous day we had fun watching uniformed high school boys labor under Japan’s sweltering heat chasing balls at Hanshin Koshien station for the chance to be crowned high school baseball Koshien champions.  This was followed by a relaxing afternoon in Osaka’s 7-story spa and water park called Spa World.  After a good night’s sleep in a capsule hotel in Namba, I said goodbye to Zung and wondered how on earth I was going to spend the rest of my time in Osaka.  Then I discovered that Mandarake, a chain doujinishi store, had a branch near Umeda Station.  What ensued was a search that seriously rivaled Luffy’s elusive journey for One Piece…

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Whale Shark in South China

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

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Hi everyone! It’s me again, Whale Shark! I know it’s only been a few months since my last trip, but I already went on my second trip abroad! (I’m one lucky whale shark!) This time I went to the southern part of China. This was my owner’s second time to China, but it was my first. So maybe I got a little carried away… Oh well…

Author’s Note: This post is very picture intensive. And yes I realize my sanity is still in question…

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Chris’ Guide On How to Screw Up Your Nikon’s SLR Sensor

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

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((  The above picture is a recreation, not an actual representation of what occurred.  We joked halfway through the trip that this would make a hilarious blog entry.  So, I went ahead and did just that.  Special thanks to Chris for the idea and verbiage used in this post. ^.~ When life gets you down, make fun of it! ))

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China Day 14: Goodbye Shanghai or Illness Is a Dish Best Served With Tea

Friday, May 6th, 2011

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As luck would have it, our last morning in Lijiang dawned with the most beautiful blue sky we had ever had on this entire trip (I also felt much better after a sleep).  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  Jade Dragon Snow Mountain stood in the distance with perfect clarity, reflecting the morning sun’s rays.  The most beautiful day of our entire trip and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy it…. at all.

All three of us did some mental (and vocal) screaming and cursing (Chris’ “I’m going to kill puppies” smile returned) as we packed our bags and climbed into the van that would take us to the airport and out of Yunnan.

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China Day 13: Tiger Leaping Gorge or Me on a Mule

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

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As we had decided, our last day in Yunnan would be hiking in Tiger Leaping Gorge.  The day opened with overcast skies but no rain, and as the day wore on, the clouds would recede giving us beautiful blue skies and soaring hot temperatures.  Due to the gorge’s popularity, a shuttle van serving all major hostels in the area leaves every morning to take prospective trekkers to and from the gorge.  We left with another hostel guest who was also doing a one-day trek and headed off to Tiger Leaping Gorge.

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China Day 12: Where the Locals Do Business or Is That a Rave?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

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Today we were supposed to head out to start our two day trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge, heralded as one of the deepest gorges in the world and about a 2 and half hour drive from Lijiang.  It was to be the most grueling part of our trip and one that Chris in particular was looking forward to.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for three rather big reasons:

  • Chris was feeling better, but still a bit sick and didn’t want to chance a grueling two-day trek
  • I was coming down with a cold and my throat didn’t feel so happy
  • The weather was just plain shitty

So we did the smart thing and decided that we’d do a one-day Tiger trek the next day when the weather was supposed to be better.  That meant we had one more day to enjoy Lijiang.

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China Day 11: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain or To Blizzard or Not To Blizzard, That Is the Question

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

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While the previous day featured blue skies and bright sunshine, today dawned gray, dull, and very very rainy.  Chris’ complexion matched the weather, and Alissa and I convinced him to stay in the hotel and rest while we went out on our little morning excursion.

Our morning excursion was actually up Jade Dragon Mountain itself.  This normally would have been amazing except today was… dreary, rainy, and …. had a thick cover of gray ugly clouds.  Meaning, you couldn’t see the mountain. AT ALL.  We had no choice though, as we had already reserved a car and driver for the day.  So Alissa and I packed every single warm attire we had brought and headed out of town toward the iconic mountain.

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