The Sign of Sakura

This will be really short because we're on the eve of our trip to Hiroshima and Kyushu and we need to get up early. This weekend, Gilda and I went to Kochi on the island of Shikoku to visit a friend from Concordia Language Villages: Erinn. She's an ATE in the JET program at a school in the countryside. We had a great time visiting Kochi's Sunday market, Kochi Castle, and getting the inakka experience.

The country is on Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Watch and we got one of the first sightings in Kochi. The picture above is one I took on the grounds of Kochi Castle. The blooming spreads Northward and soon the whole country will be congregating in gardens to enjoy O-hanami. What rites of Spring do you observe in your country? Write me with your comments! Sayoonara!


Dogs in Japan

Just a Chihuahua sized entry this week. Winter came back for one last party (I hope) today. It was a crisp morning followed by freezing rain and then snow. All while the sun shined. It must have been a concentrated storm that blew over. There's buzz about when the Sakura, or cherry blossoms, will bloom. Spring officially begins March 21. Will it be before then? Who knows. Next week I'll be in central Kyushu, a few degrees or minutes latitude more South, so maybe I'll see them bloom there before here in Nishinomiya.

I like to take evening walks to unwind after the school day. Often I see owners and their dogs out for a walk, too. A guy who helped my dad with home improvement projects, Jim, said that if he ever reincarnated, he would like to be an American dog. They have THE LIFE, he says. Well, Jim has never been to Japan. I think these dogs have it better. I see numerous boutiques just for dogs. When its raining, every dog has a raincoat. When it's cold, I see dogs with more cover than their owners. Back in the 80's, there was a film "All dogs Go to Heaven". Did you see it? Well, I thought of a catchy title for the sequel to be set in Japan: "All Dogs go to Heaven, scratch that, Japan". Did you get the pun? For my native Japanese blog readers, "scratch that" is an idiom for "let me make a correction" and it is also what dogs to a lot: scratch themselves. Remember, you read it first on ABNW! Now I just need to go and buy the trademark for that phrase...

Also, please take note of the new icon on the sidebar: call me. This will connect you to my Skype account where you can call over the Internet for free. You'll need a Skype account, a microphone, and headset on your computer. Ok, so it's a little involved. But if you're savvy with this kind of thing, you're only a click away from calling me. Until next time, sayoonara!


Chisai Progress in Nihongo

This will be a short entry because its almost bedtime here in the land of the rising sun. Actually today it was raining; a bummer after two beautiful days on the weekend. I've been planning my vacation when that comes after March 21. My girlfriend, Gilda, will come to Japan to join me for a trip to the west of Japan. First we'll go to Shikoku island to visit a friend of ours from Concordia Language Villages, Erinn. Then we're off to Hiroshima, where Gilda was a JET teacher for two years. Its also the hometown of this blog's #1 fan, Aki. After that, we'll go to the Kumamoto area of Kyushu island. We will do a farming exchange through WWOOF. We'll be there 5 days. Then make our way back to Nishinomiya.

People have always told me that Japan is an expensive place to live and travel. So far I've disagreed because my monthly expenses haven't been that high. But I haven't ventured too far outside of the Kansai region. When I checked out the prices for the Shinkansen bullet trains, I had to stop to find my lower jaw which had fallen to the floor. Yikes! Its pretty much the equivalent of an airplane ticket and takes just about the same amount of time. There is the Japan Rail Pass, but only tourist visa visitors are eligible for it. Being a savvy and budget minded traveller, I searched for an alternative. And found one. The Seishun juhachi no kippu (Youth 18).

This ticket allows you to travel anywhere in the country on local or rapid trains for 5 person-days during the major school holidays. In Japan there's 5 levels of speed on trains: local (slowest & most stops), rapid, express, limited express, and shinkansen. So in exchange for speed, you get price and flexibility. I suppose that this is not attactive for everyone who is used to travelling for the destination and thus getting there as fast as possible. Gilda and I like to travel more for the journey and take our time to enjoy the view along the way. My only concern is that my posterior may get a bit sore from six hours of sitting on a seat designed just for short trips. Stay tuned for a consumer report from the field on this exciting topic;)

Oh, so let me get to the title track of this blog post. I went to the Japan Rail station tonight to make a reservation for a special overnight train that many people with the Youth 18 ticket take: Moonlight Kyushu. Sounds romantic, eh? Gilda and I are taking it from Hakata near Fukuoka back to Osaka. This is a very popular train for people with this discount ticket because you save accommodation costs as well as time because its faster. So I planned out what I was going to say before entering the ticket office. I had all the necessary information. I said it to the ticket vendor. I clarified that I didn't want a shinkansen reservation. The Youth 18 ticket. On this day. At this time. 2 reservations. One-way. He understood! I thought this would be a big hassle, but it turned out to be rather straightforward. Fhew! I successfully accomplished a potentially complex language task. My Japanese language study has taped off a bit recently, but this experience has motivated me to pursue more study.

Countries I have visited

Where I've been in the USA