Saturday, July 29, 2006

motorbiking, at night, in a t-shirt, in the summer, through the dozens of little towns inbetween my grandparents' oldhouse and my apartment. lonely dark and hot, kept company by the cicadas trilling in the trees; but then, the pop of firecrackers as i pass a park, and some children in summer kimono traipsing home after a festival, red lanterns lit.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


We took the ferry over from Kowloon to Macau to see the Portuguese-Chinese culture and to get more stamps in our passports.

In Macau, the crumbling buildings manage to look charming rather than menacing and depressing as they do in HK. It's all the scrollwork and marble that gives it a dilapidated splendor.

The Museum of Macau, next to Monte Fort, is excellent. Really interesting displays telling about the history and customs of the area. I like the way the introduction claims that the museum is trying to present the way that the two cultures influenced each other without judging either one as being superior. Touchy, surely, after 400 years of colonial rule, but 400 years is a long time. So much must be ingrained. Nice views from around the Fort, too.

I just want to say that Northwest is a terrible airline, with bitchy flight attendents, horrible food, and incredibly cramped conditions. Fly Korean. Fly Singapore. Fly China Airlines. Even Delta. NWA: saiaku!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Kowloon, a steamy mess of lights and people and guys muttering "copy watch? copy watch? handbag." at you in the alleys. The streets are teeming and pungent and it's a game to avoid the incessant dripping of a thousand air conditioners raining putrid water from the endless highrises above.
Odors are rising in steam every few feet, from suspect pots, each looking as if some 1000 year old deep sea creature were trying to crawl out, or as if there was a porcine war and this pot is a receptacle outside of the field hospital where many unfortunate, brave hoggy souls have valiantly lost their limbs and have been subject to amputation.
There are drip ducks in doorways and buckets full of turtles and toads outside of restaurants and aquarium stores, and which is which?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

HK island

There is a klatch of Chinese ladies chattering in the hall. I can hear them as I come foggily out of my nap. Then I realize what an inane observation that is. I'm in Hong Kong. Of Course there are Chinese ladies in the hall.
Let me take a moment to tip my hat to the Pacific Coffee Company. Yes, it's probably an evil international chain, but I had never seen it before coming to HK, and they have very good coffee and muffins and free internet. Pacific Coffee Company, where Billy Joel (Just the Way You Are) and Simply Red are the musical currency, though this is by no means unique - we heard these two brilliant artists all over the shopping districts of HK and Kowloon.
We rode the ferry over to HK island and found ourselves a tasty vegetarian restaurant for lunch, after being stymied twice by the non-existence of two other veg places we had the addresses for, from Lonely Planet and Happy Cow. Actually, the first had probably been knocked down as there was construction of a new hotel occuring on the site. The latter's building was undergoing remodeling, so it might still be in existence, but just wasn't accessible at the time. No matter. On Hennessey street smack between the two we found Tung Fong Siu Kee Yuen, claiming on their business card to have been established in 1918. Outta sight! The food was good, the menu large and available in English, the service good enough. I reviewed them over on Happy Cow.
After that, we located the really long series of escalators that climb HK island. I was under the mistaken impression that these moving staircases could bear one all the way to the top of Mt. Victoria - boy was I wrong. I did buy some cute clothes on the way up, though, for about a dollar apiece. The escalator-side city life is really interesting, and you wouldn't know it was there if you didn't know it was there. Tons of restaurants and shops and hawkers flank the escalators and there are lots of places to get off and browse.

We got to the top of the escalators and tried to walk up the rest of the mountain. Big mistake. Soon, tired and mosquito-bitten, we found our way to a bigger road and flagged down a cab, requesting the top of the island. Where there's a mall.

It was beautiful, though. Nice views of HK and Kowloon. After, we took the ropeway back down to the bottom and got on the subway back to our side of the water.

HK, I feel you, I hope you comprehend.

Hong Kong: Arrival

We arrived in Hong Kong pretty late at night and got on the subway to Kowloon, where we navigated our way to our guesthouse, the Cosmic, located in the Mirador Mansions. The first impression of Kowloon was pretty overwhelming - so much action, even late at night - people, tall tall buildings and lights.
Our room was okay, with its own shower-power, but it did fell a bit like a huge bathroom, because it was floor to ceiling white tile. The window was about a foot from the next cement apartment block, so it was much like having no window at all.
The administration was nice, though.
I recommend trying to either get a room with a window looking outdoors, or try the hostel right upstairs. I think it's called the Garden Guesthouse, and the manager showed me rooms with great views overlooking the water.

Monday, July 17, 2006


I feel like I peaked at age 5, and have been trying to live up to that time ever since.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Matsue and the land of my ancestors

My family went to Matsue to inter my aunt Mami's ashes. For the Takigawa Hoys it was the first visit to this town, to this prefecture, and to see the Japan Sea.
We had heard about our ancestor Takigawa Kazumasu, but in planning this trip it was revealed that not only did he retire to this small backwater after Oda Nobunaga lost his war; but TK also established a temple, lugging a huge Buddha across the country to install on the grounds.
400 years of Takigawas are interred in the family tomb, and the old liver spotted monk told us some of our family history after chanting many Namu Amida Butsus for Aunt Mami.
The temple is called 信楽寺, Shingyouji I believe is the pronunciation. Belief in fun temple. That's us.

After the ceremony, we checked out Matsue Castle and went up to Shimane prefecture to wade in the Japan Sea and eat in a little Indian restaurant there called Kashmir Dabar. Again, managing to find something for all of our picky-ass diets. Amazing.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Moving back in time

Flew to Izumo from Haneda after class on Saturday, meeting the rest of my family and Jessica at Izumo airport. We drove to the Tokyu Inn and checked in to our 3 twin rooms, then met up with Asako, Jung, Masayasu, and Satoe for dinner at the macrobiotic restaurant Beehive, a lucky find in such a small and out of the way town. They even had seitan dishes, and the bill for ten people, including drinks, was very reasonable, though the service was sketchy and the table they gave us much too small, despite our reservation days in advance. We gave them a translation of their menu into English, which mom had done so that we could all easily order, but they seemed weirded out and standoffish rather than grateful.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

oh my god, get it out

An insect just died in my ear. For all I know, it's still in there. Motoring through Tana, the bugs were so thick that I'm surely no longer a vegetarian; they were commiting mass suicide by flying into my eyes, embedding themselves in the folds of my sweatshirt, and somehow finding their way beneath my helmet and into my ear, where the frantic buzzing was way too close for comfort. I started having a hissy fit at 50 kph, shaking my head madly and wiggling and writhing in an unsuccessful attempt to turn off the ringing in my ears. Finally, helmet already disengaged, I pulled over to the side of the road and had a full on spazz attack, shaking and jerking madly, clawing at my ear, trying to disengage the thing, which responded by buzzing more insistently. Finally it stopped; I assume it's dead and lodged in my brain.
After that, I got on the big main road, full of traffic and mercifully free of devil-cursed Nature.