Sunday, October 14, 2012

... and 2 Months Later:

We've bought us a house!

Well, we're in escrow. Does that count? I don't know what escrow means. I just sign my name where they tell me to.

The Garsons in Monterey: coming January 2013! Or half the Garsons (aka me) in Monterey: now. Sort of. Maybe. I don't quite know what's going on with life yet. But whatever it is, it's fun and good.

More to come...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Showa Daibutsu (aka the Big Buddah)

It's Obon week in Japan. Obon is a Buddhist holiday celebrated over several days where people pay homage to their ancestors' spirits, often traveling back to their hometown to do so. Offerings are placed in front of Buddhist altars, lanterns are lit, and (from what I've been hearing) firecrackers are set off in the evenings throughout neighborhoods. 

For four days, there is a candle-lighting "festival" at the Seiryu-ji Temple (where the famous Big Buddah is) in Aomori. I went last night to check it out and see what it was all about. I spent a solid chunk of time sitting in one of the plastic chairs set up before the sea of lanterns, staring at the statue and listening to the monk's chanting. It was really tranquil and beautiful.

Along the path leading up to the statue were hundreds of colorful little pinwheels stuck into the ground along the hills. According to the English pamphlet:

"These are for unborn children. Their mothers come and pray to their unborn children, offering the pinwheels along with candles and incense, sweets, stuffed animals and clothes in hope of consoling their souls."

It's definitely a sight worth experiencing. If you're in Misawa, it'll be going on tonight and tomorrow as well until 9pm. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Bake Sale, You Say?


I spent an entire day baking for some sort of fundraiser at Corey's work. Since I'm being all healthy and junk these days and don't bake for myself anymore, I took this opportunity to go all out. I logged onto Pinterest, picked 6 things out of the hundreds of tantalizing pictures, and went to town.

S'mores Cookies (oh goodness, these S'mores cookies!)

You might not think this is an exciting post, but I sure do. The baked goods are gone from the house, but the photos live on. I think I'll make one my desktop picture.

I love you, sugar, butter, and flour.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Little Magic in the Morning

My new favorite thing about living in Misawa is the morning. When we got back a month ago, daily sunrise was around 3:30am and we were jet lagged anyway, so we got in the habit of waking up crazy early. Now, even though we're well adjusted and the sun holds off until 4:15ish, I'm still up bright and early every day and out the door by 4:30 to go running.

It's the best part of my day.

I know, what kind of a crazy person enjoys waking up at 4am to run? Well, first of all, it's the only time these days that is cool enough to run at all. So there's that. But more importantly, it's just plain awesome. Everything is still quiet, but just starting to come alive. There are no cars, only a few other early-morning relishers (the same people every day, meeting along the same corners each morning), and stunning sunrises. My route is mostly along open, calm fields of rice paddies, and my goal is to work up to running to the beach and back some days (I'm up to 6 miles a day; my route to the beach will eventually be just about 8). It's basically a magical conglomeration of gorgeous landscapes and gorgeous lighting and gorgeous solitude (and sweat...) all wrapped up in a perfect hour. It's kind of like my special time bonding with Misawa, and I know it'll be one of the things I'll miss it a lot when we leave (and in the winter when it's too icy to run outside).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Aomori Nebuta Festival

The Aomori Nebuta festival is probably the biggest/most well-known festival in this region of the whole year (and that's saying something- there are a lot of them). In all our years here, we've missed it for one reason or another every summer. Knowing this was our last chance to go, we made sure we got our butts out to Aomori (city) to see it last weekend.

So yeah, we got there. And then we sort of saw it. 

The parade started at 7:10. We caught the 3:50 train from Misawa, and it was already standing room only for the 75 minute ride. After the stops along the way, by the time we arrived, the train was as sardine-packed as any Tokyo rush-hour subway. In Aomori, we slowly made our way through the packed streets, stopping to eat a fried mashed-potato ball here, an ice cream cone there. By the time we found a place to stand along the parade route, we were stuck behind poles and trees and people. Seeing as how my main excitement over the festival was the photography opportunity, I was a sad panda. So, sorry for the less-than-stellar pics.

It was a really awesome event though. There was so much energy! The parade was colorful and loud and boisterous. The floats were huge and awesome. The people were happy. It definitely had a great vibe to it!

We left early to ensure we would make it on a train back to Misawa before midnight (because we're old now). We did, although it was packed to the brink even an hour before the parade ended. Crazy, I tell you.

Misawa will have it's smaller-scale version of this festival with the big floats in a couple of weeks. Hopefully I'll get to take some better pictures there. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Misawa Tanabata Festival

I wrote about this festival a few years ago (it's still strange that I've lived here long enough to say that about anything). Nothing new to it this time around- food, yukatas, music, beer, crowds... the usual.

Wait, I take that back (slightly). There were a fair number of Olympics-themed decorations this year. That's specific to this summer, obviously.

I ate a corn dog at one point in the evening. Why, with all the choices available, I chose a corn dog, I do not know. It sounded good at the time. I have regretted it ever since.

It's far too hot and gross and heavy-aired in our house right now to come up with any more sentences, so just look at the pictures...

I'll be back when the temperature goes down.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Matsuo Mines

Creepy place alert!! We had an eerie adventure last weekend.

With very careful steps, we made our way through the rubble, tall weeds, random hidden 6-foot holes in the ground, crumbling flooring, and BATS (*shudder*) in exploration. It was kind of nuts.

The ruins of the Matsuo mines in Iwate prefecture in Japan made #5 on this list of "The 7 Creepiest Places on Earth." Once the biggest sulfur mine in eastern Asia, it employed 15,000 people who lived, worked, and sent their kids to school in the network of buildings making up the community. The mine was closed down in the early 70's, and during the past 40 years it's sat abandoned. 

Normally the whole area is shrouded in thick layers of fog/mist, but for our visit the sun was shining brightly. That was ok; the place was unsettling enough without that added element.

The apartment blocks were dramatic in their decay and really fun to explore, but the school was the building that struck me the most: abandoned plates and frying pans in the kitchen, broken desks and tvs strewn about, shattered pianos and peeling chalkboards. You could still sense so much of the life that was once a part of that place. It was really beautiful, in that sad and haunting way.

This was also one of the first places in Japan where I've seen graffiti. I thought it was really gorgeous! Striking and dramatic. There are more pictures of it all on my photo page if you click on any of the photos embedded here.

This was a really fun place to see! We went with the Misawa Photography Club, which has been growing and setting up more photo-related activities lately (much to my happiness). It was really really great to dive back into creativity with Mark and Remmy (my cameras... what, doesn't everyone name theirs?). It's been a little while since I've actually focused much on this hobby, so I'm excited to get back into it more seriously again.

So obviously from the pictures, this place is a liiitle bit tricky and has it's share of potential dangers. If you're reading this in Misawa thinking you'd like to go, make sure you do so with a group and be very careful (repeat: hidden 6-foot holes in the grass and crumbling floorboards).