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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Aoyama/Gaienmae fireworks from Thursday--12,000 booms!
Some randoms from the last few days....Unfortunately none of this series turned out, but it would have been great! from l-r: dave, andrea, kong, jordon, mike, jen, helen...on our way out after the party
chocolate cake with peanut butter in the middle....soooo oishii!
a frozen lamb carcass, with trotters, from Nissin
super cool eye-testing glasses from Zoff
Whew, busy last few days, as one might imagine! I had my goodbye (for now!) lunch at work on Thursday, since there aren't so many people in the office on Friday, so we all went down to Suji's, of course, and it was really nice! I got the sweetest card from everyone and they also bought me a really really cute Anna Sui wallet, which I love! (And I'll be thinking about you guys everyday when I use it!)

That night, Helen I went, MELTINGLY, to the Aoyama/Gaienmae fireworks which were the last ones of the season and also one of the bigger ones of the season with around 12, 000 'booms' as they call it. Beautiful! They went on for about an hour and were very cool--so many different types of fireworks! We went with the Tokyo Gaijins, so saw some people that we'd climed Fuji with, and met a Japanese woman who is just coming out of a divorce and seems to be completely making the most of her 'second life'. She was in yukata, and SO cute! She must have been absolutely dying in it, given that it WAS Tokyo's hottest day ever... (keep in mind when reading that those would be air temps, not 'feels like' temps, which go up a LOT in the 70-80% humidity that we also had... It was basically disgusting!

Anywaaaaay, after we sweated through the massive crowds at fireworks (it was great fun, actually) we took a bus up to Roppongi Hills (I, btw, had SOO much crap, including a bag that was disintegrating because of the sweat/humidity (yea, gross, but true!) and I dumped my stuff in a huge locker at roppongi eki (the last one!) That was an adventure, because it was a pasmo locker, so you don't get a key-you just put your crap in a locker and push the button, and then the machine knows which is yours, and codes it shut, plus takes your money, all of your pasmo. (IC/train card). IC cards are great! Now about 30 pounds and three bags later, we headed with most of the other gaijins back to the HUB and spent a few hours laughing and drinking there...We rand into one someone Helen knows through work (sort of) and he was absolutely hilarious--had both of us in bits for the last hour or so before we dragged ourselves home. great!

All too soon, Friday rolled around and I headed in for my last day of work-Kieron and I were in the office in the morning because Helen was at home greeting Caroline!!!!! Now back after five weeks, which is great :)

I went out for a nice and long (oops!) lunch with Anthony at Va Tout, and then when I got back, Helen was in the office. Later in the afternoon, Kieron had to go pick up his (lucky!) sister who was coming in from Narita that day--here to work at one of the international schools for the next couple of years. So Helen and I closed out my last day at work for the next 8 months, which somehow seems a little bit fitting. I cleaned out my drawers, turned in my key, and we headed down to Suji's for a couple. Just spent a quiet night at home--we both decided we were too knackered to go out 3 nights running...

Saturday, we went to Zoff so I could sort my glasses situation, which I did in a big way! I had a really entertaining vision test where I had to say if the horseshoe was up/down/diagonal/etc. Pretty funny! There was a kana test, which would be the same as our eye charts, but since I could so easily confuse ro and ru or wa and ne etc anyway, we decided against that one!

I've decided Zoff is just like IKEA - you go in, pick your frames (all are one of three prices including lenses), and in 45 minutes, they're ready-in that time, they give you a 50% off drink coupon, and you can go get that at the cafe in the shop while they grind down your lenses. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to do that as we had some food shopping to do at Nissin in the meantime, so we headed back there (oh yea, peter drove for the first time yesterday!) to shop while they made my glasses.

By the time we got home and I showered, Hitomi and I only had 1.5 hours to get all the food prepared before people were supposed to start showing up. Luckily, just about everyone was late! It was not a huge group of people, but it was a great group, very fun! We had the 'lets give Dani her first drink' experience, where Jordon and Helen decided to give me chu hi as as beginners drink and Jordon gave it to me in a martini glass, which was so sweet-the two of them were so funny making sure I was ok and monitoring every sip I took. Helen was very careful to make sure I didn't bolt anything, not that I would have anyway, and there was a 1 small martini glass of chu hi to 2 bottles of water ratio. Everyone was gathered in the room watching this with interest, and laughing at how slowly I was drinking-Mike was like "I've never seen such moderated drinking-Jen could be drinking like you!" and Jen's like "Yea, me and the baby, we'll take you on!" It was "Helen's proven program of drinking for beginners and babies" Anyway, very entertaining!

We all left around 11:30, abandoning poor Peter and Hitomi with all the mess (sorry!) and while everyone else headed home, Helen and Jordon and I headed to Shimo Kitazawa to a really cute bar she knew about.... We just stayed for a couple of drinks (or well maybe a 1/3 of a weak rum and coke and water for me) and then Jordon headed off and the two of us headed to La Fabrique in Shibuya to meet up with that girl we'd met at fireworks, but after a short time, we headed off to another club she knew about in Aoyama.

We chilled out there for the rest of the evening, chatting and people watching, and running into some friends she knew from a few years ago... After a quick dance and an improvised song played for me by a saxaphonist who told me I was very kawaii and that he was 'playing my feelings' we headed out for some coffee and food and at about 6:30, said our goodbyes at Shibuya eki.

I came home for a couple of hours of sleep, and got up at about 11:30--called a couple of people at home, packed a bit, chilled out, etc... Can't believe I leave tomorrow. It's been such an amazing 10 months, and I hope that everyone knows how much I appreciate everything you've all done for me! I will miss you all soooo much!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back at work the last two days which has been lovely--mostly working on moving stuff over to my laptop so that I can get organised for working from home, which is nice, because I think knowing I'll still be involved (BAB layout, women of the world, inevitably some writing) is really nice!

The goodbyes, have, of course, started with a vengeance--on Tuesday, I went up to Peter's office after work, and said goodbye to the guys that happened to be up there, and then yesterday I had dinner with the girl that I went wakeboarding with and her friend which was really nice. We went to Suji's and had a long dinner there. I may actually see her in Victoria in a couple of weeks as she will be there the same time as me. She's taking a whale-watching boat from Vic-Van (Prince of Whales) the same day that I need to for school, so I'm kind of considering doing that with them, depending on Saanich Fair and everything.

They were very sweet, and since I got there a couple of minutes after she did, she had a chance to pre-arrange a cheesecake with sparkler delivery to the table whereupon 'Thank you Danielle-san" was sung to the tune of Happy Birthday. It was super cute!

Just eating breakfast now (thursday) and then heading into work... Today we're doing my goodbye lunch at work and then Helen and I are hitting up some summer fireworks in Jingumae (the fireworks are a big deal around here all summer!) so it seems like a good, Japanese/summer thing to do.

And yes, there was an earthquake last night, and no, I didn't feel it. Which surprises me a bit, actually, since it was close and shallow and 5.3. I guess I was tired as I slept straight through it!


Monday, August 13, 2007

So kind of a long and not-so-fun day today, but it picked up later thanks to good friends and also Peter and Hitomi getting home from Hawaii which is always nice :)

I took the day off work today to start packing, and am finding that I have too much crap and not enough space--no surprise there! I have packed one bag that will be my 'don't open this till you get to Vancouver' bag, and then have a pile of stuff for the next week here and two weeks in Vancouver... I'm a little worried about it all fitting into my big backpack, but whatcha going to do? I can hope! Or maybe pay excess baggage and take a third bag home, thus not stranding my other big suitcase here, which would be nice!

Its weird having to pack 'winter' clothing for at home, but with the entire weekend being '30C/feels like 40C' or even hotter, (40C=104F!!) and I swear hotter in the sun, whereas Victoria is '18C/feels like 18C' I'm sure I'll be grabbing a hoodie the first few days that I'm back! Actually, it will be lovely, esp. for vaulting and riding and stuff... Peter and Hitomi even said they noticed a difference when they came back from Hawaii, not exactly a traditionally cold place!

So anyway, a basically boring day of getting organized to go, which of course, is not high of my list of fun things to do! The rest of the week is shaping up with fun events though, and as I don't leave until nearly 9pm next Monday, if not all of the packing gets finished this week, then I can always shove things in then...I think, however, that I'm going to end up with three bags to check, which, along with my rolling carry-on, is going to be a bit of a nightmare to handle on my own in the Vancouver airport since no one is coming to pick me up! That's what luggage carts are for, I guess!

Just chilling out for a bit now, and then heading to bed--back to work tomorrow :)


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Went omiyagae shopping in Yanesen today (walked from Sendagi to Nezu to Nippori) and then ended up getting stuff at Oriental Bazaar in Omotesando! Doh! Saw the very lovely Nezu shrine though, and had a great experience in a 7 and i holdings--was asking for directions to a store, and i had the address and phone number but didn't know where it was, so I asked the guy, who clearly had no idea where it was, but he ran into the back and I think, called them, then five minutes later, came back out with a lovely map. It was hilarious, helpful, and just so not likely to happen in a 7/11 at home!

Came home, meltingly, around 5, and was working on another project for the evening, before heading to Orijin for a tonkatsu bento (so good! going to miss them!)...Have been working and watching Friends all evening, along with doing laundry in preparation for packing tomorrow (ACK!) I'm going to sleep now in order to procrastinate that whole packing process, but in the!

(The above are all from the NACT in Roppongi--from yesterday--followed by Midtown and then today's trip to the Nezu Shrine)

Ugh, sorry about the sideways photos...not really sure what happened!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

So my last weekend here without set events and I have no real plans--a bit of a bummer, but not a total disaster by any stretch... This morning, I headed to shimo kitazawa and got a couple of pairs of jeans to take home with me from UNIQLO--you just can't beat two pairs of nice jeans for about 65$ CDN (and hemmed in half an hour as well!) I grabbed a quick lunch while I was waiting for them to be hemmed and then also wandered around Shimo in some backstreets I'd never seen before--I saw some cute cafes and shops and stuff, but was reluctant to spend too much time there as it is SO freaking hot these days! Today was 'feels like 42C' and I was melting! I feel like I can't even function without a drink in my hand these days--thank goodness for AC!

I came home in the early afternoon, dumped my clothes and laptop (working lunch, SO loving the mac!) and then went back out again, this time to the National Art Center Tokyo near Nogizaka which is a VERY VERY cool building (all curvy glass and the such) to see the Skin and Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture exhibition they're having through Monday. It was pretty interesting and very cool to see all of the actual couture clothing they had there-some of it was really sculptural, which, I suppose, was sort of what they were trying to get at through the exhibition. There were lots of different designers represented, and it was cool to see the different items, as well as movies and sketches.

The mueum itself is a really nice space as well (HUGE!) and is intersting because it doesn't actually have a permanent colelction, just a few big temporary exhibition spaces. I took lots of pictures, especially of the cool raised restaurants and exterior glass wavy-ness, which I'll post ASAP... They also have a very nice art-bok library, which anyone can use, for free. It also includes lots of art magazines, so I had a great time reading id, which I haven't seen since I got out here.

Headed back home after deciding it was way too hot to go see the fireworks or Bon-Odori with zilions of other people, and basically just chilled since--I've been doing tons of laundry in preparation for starting to pack soon (YIKES!), made burritos for dinner, worked on mom's website (again/how annoying!) for a bit, and watched some Summer Sonic program on TV which was a bit odd as it was billingual, so about half was interesting, and half went straight over my head...looks like a GREAT show tho!! I'll definitely be trying to get tickets next year I think--if the lineup is half as good as this year (Modest Mouse (!!!!!), Gwen Stefani, Black Eyed Peas, Avril Lavigne, etc) it would be totally worth it. Unfortunatly, they were sold out by the time I decided that for this year... Ah well, shogunai!

Just waiting for my computer to die now (cycling the battery) and then going to take Venus out for a quick walk in the not-quite so-blazing heat before getting an early night's sleep--tomorrow is futsal (well a big maybe to that, its so hot these days!), and a trip to yanesen for some omiyagae shopping...

Friday, August 10, 2007

We have a long break for Weekender because of Obon and a long break for BAB because August is a five week month, so this week has been a big deep breath and catch up week following our crazy last couple of weeks, which has been good cause I've had the chance to have dinner with a couple of people and start slowly tying up loose ends...

Karin headed off to Vietnam yesterday, so we had dinner at the pink cow on tuesday, which seems like a fitting place for the two of us to eat. It was great--I really love that space and am glad I discovered it,(er, well, finally リンクwent) even if it was 7months into my trip! We chatted about writing and stuff, and I had my computer and subsequently got totally hooked on AvanteGarde and Media Bistro--great writing resources and fun articles...
I also ended up at the pinkcow with sarah yesterday, whom I haven't seen for ages, but we had a nice catchup and chat...

Other than that, haven't been doing too many exciting things--Venus and I are along in BMT this week as Peter and Hitomi have headed off to Hawaii, and are back after the weekene, which should include both some packing, and hopefully, some FUN! I refuse to do nothing on my second-to-last weekend here
speaking of which, we're about to head down to suji's for a friday evening drink...

Monday, August 06, 2007

So, Mt. Fuji.

We all met up at Shinjuku at about 10:30 and boarded a big bus, all 45 or so of us, ready to head up to the mountain, a few hours away. We stopped part way up at a big rest stop and got ramen, which we ate outside while we met two of our fellow climbers--an English teacher living in Saitama-ken, and her boyfriend visiting from San Francisco.

We continued up to the mountain while Helen had a pre-hike nap, and we got increasingly apprehensive as the oxygen and headlamps were handed out and we got a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, with the summit somewhat obscured by clouds. Hoping desperately for good weather, we we praying to the sun to come out so we had a hope of a sunrise.

At 3ish, we got to the 2500m bus stop, and and hung out there for 20 minutes before driving the next few minutes up to the 5th station. It's one of three or so places where you can start hiking up the mountain. We got water and checked out the shops, buying our official walking sticks, and acclimatizing to the altitude a little bit in this very mountain-lodge like area...

At 5, we all grouped up for a briefing, stretch, and group photo before heading up the mountain at 5:30. Helen and I were 'buddies' and headed up together, with our front-of-the-group leader, Anton. The beginning of the hike was as you might expect--hardpacked path and gravel and all uphill... A little while into it, we befriended two guys--one who work at the Serbian Embassy and another who was his friend visiting from Belgrade. They were so sweet--buying us kit kats, helping me with my bag, hiking with us, etc.

About an hour in, we reached the 6th station, and kept hiking from there. It was actually much more rock-scrambly than either of us had imagined, and was quite fun, but definitely a challenge, especially when it got dark! I was kind of worried about getting pulled backwards off the path (maybe I packed too much!) so I went for the hands and knees thing as we both scampered up the mountain...

Luckily, we took regular breaks, and it was great to have a guide to tell us when to stop and when to start. We stayed right up at the front, which maximised our breaks and kept us heading up at a pretty swift break. It was very cool at the 7th station (well one of them, there are actually a bunch of each station!) when they started setting off summer fireworks in the valley by the five lakes and we were above them, which was pretty great to see, as were the stars--STARS! I haven't seen stars for like 8 months!

We got our sticks branded, had an onigiri at one of the last 7th stations (remember that point!)
and headed on. By the 8th station, I started feeling kind of nauseous, but brushed it off as exertion, or my something diabetes-number related, or a touch of altitude sickness... Unfortunately, the feeling didn't wear off, and I started feeling REALLY ropey! The oxygen wasn't helping, and we started having to stop more and more as I struggled up. Helen was doing an amazing job getting up the mountain, and was VERY helpful in getting me up it too!

We summitted, in one of the first pairs in our group, at about 1:30--a fairly fast ascent at 6 hours, and then tried to get some sleep in a sheltered area. We were really lucky there was no wind, and were basically not freezing, although it was cold. I still wasn't feeling very good, but I figured that some sleep would help things, so we curled up and tried to sleep. Unfortunately, at about 3, I started shivering uncontrollably, and feeling REALLY REALLY crappy! My shivering woke Helen up from out of any sleep she might have been getting, and eventually, we got Anton, the group guide, and told him. I actually though that I was dehydrated, b/c the only time I'd felt like this before, that's what it was, be everyone also thought maybe I was cold, so I bundled into Anton's spare jacket and Helen tried to keep me warm, calm, and un-shivering.

At 4, still working on the assumption of being dehydrated, we went into the absolutely NUTS ramen shop, where you have to fight for a spot sitting on a group bench, and then put your hand out when they call out what you want, and then basically fight for it, b/c they have no idea who ordered what and people are so hungry and cold and tired they'll just grab it. I finally got my ramen, and the smell of it made my stomach turn to the point of being sure I was going to throw up...Helen convinced me to try it and every sip made me gag, but since I thought that liquid and salt was going to help, I made it through most of the bowl of ramen, during which point the sun started to rise, so Helen went out to take photos, and I was struggling through my bowl while trying to protect hers beside me. One of the hut guys came up to me and barked something at me and pointed at the ramen, and I was like 'my friend' and pointed outside. He was like blah blah blah TABEMASU!! (eat) and I was like 'hai hai hai!'

Just a moment later, it all went terribly wrong and I sprinted out of the ramen hut to puke infront of literally thousands of people watching the sunrise. Go me. Embarrased, crying, and feeling utterly crap, and people just pointed and laughed. It was pretty brutal! I did feel instantly better though, which led me to believe it was not diabetes, not altitude sickness, not dehydration, not hypothermia, and not exhaustion, but that stupid tuna onigiri from 5 hours before. THIS is exactly why I didn't eat fish for eight years! I hadn't felt that sick for a couple of years at least, and owe A LOT to Helen for taking such good care of me and making me feel a little bit less like death!

After sunrise, around 5am, I was feeling much better, if not exactly genki, so I staggered over to find Helen and watched the sunrise, which was lovely, and then we fought through the Yamanote-train like (and aggressive!) crowds that had gathered at the top to go get organised to leave. Unfortunatly, we didn't make it to get our sticks stamped, to mail postcards, and in my case, to see the crater. Thus, Fuji 08 is a distinct possibility!

Unfortunately, the way down was much harder than the way up--scrambling down in deep, loose volcanic gravel which was very slippery and hard going, especially in the hot sun and huge crowds. It seemed like the switchbacks kept going and going, and it took us probably 4 hours to get down, stopping for fairly frequent but short breaks, as we just wanted to get off that mountain by that point!

At the 6th station safety centre, we saw the horses you can ride back to 5th station (about a 45 minute walk) and I almost rode one back, except it was Y10,000 (about 100$)! Yikes! Thusly, the four of us slogged down under our own steam, staggering into base camp around 8am. Helen and the guys headed out for breakfast, and I got water before heading back to the concrete area where we were meeting, and passing out on my backpack for two hours. I was feeling pretty rough as I was on a mission to go get everything from the locker, which was literally 30 meters from where I got water, and I didn't have enough energy to do that--I had to go back to rest up, but that proved to be an hour long pass out til Helen got back from breakfast.

We had to wait for people to come back from the trip down (first up, first down for us), and while we were waiting in the bus, found out that four people didn't summit, and that one person was actually lost on the mountain. (After making contact with her, we actually ended up leaving her as we needed to get going back to Tokyo, a rather long proposition!)

One rest stop and some interupted bus sleep later, we pulled into Shinjuku just somewhat worse for wear! I got home around 4:30, just in time to send peter and hitomi off to the airport for their Hawaii Vacay followed by a crashing on the couch and approximately half an OC before falling fast asleep. I woke up at about 1, just in time to feed Venus and grab a half a bowl of cereal before going back to sleep around 2.

This morning, I got up at 6 and went to work for 8 to help get Weekender to print. Karin and I had lunch--I just had chicken soup and rice as I was still feeling not so great, and then I headed out of work early, around 4, and have basically been chilling since.

Overall, Mt. Fuji was much more doable than either of us had anticipated, and we would both do it again. You definitely need headlamps, walking sticks, chocolate, and a basic level of energy, but it's totally doable, especially the getting up the mountain part--coming down was a bit of a nightmare!

Very cool to do though!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fuji pics; part two (these are all courtesy of Helen)...
So I'm back from Mt. Fuji!! Helen and I both successfully summited--she basically trotted up that mountain, and the two of us made it up in the first 6 or 8 in our group, at 1:30 am (a 6 hour ascent). Anyway, I've just woken up from a 7-hour nap, and I basically want to get straight back to bed, so photos part 1 tonight, and tomorrow, a proper blog...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Wow what a crazy couple of days! Yesterday (Friday), we sent BAB to print, after an insanely long day at work the night before, and then spent the afternoon getting weekender together, as that goes on Monday... Between Thursday and Friday, Helen and I were in the office something like 26 out of a possible 34 hours...We both crawled out of there at around 7 or just after last night I think and then I headed up to Orbitune to meet Peter and cross a 'to do' item off my list--visiting Royal Host, or roy-ho, one of the big fami-resu's here. It was tasty, and had a few great only-in-japan surprises, like this splatter guard for protecting yourself as you pour gravy on the hot stone plate thing, and this cell phone charger, where you can pop your phone in a locker and charge it for 20 minutes as you eat...
After dinner, we headed back to Orbitune, where I finally managed to reconcile the 3 different chunks of the office and their relative locations in my head--when I go, I always just go into the kitchen, or Peter's office, or to the part upstairs where the dart board is that they used to have when I was 9... The new bits of the office that they've gained since, I'd only seen once or twice since I've been here, and once was my first day, so it was all VERY fuzzy! Peter gave me the grand tour and I think that now, two weeks to go before I leave, I finally know where stuff sort of is!

(wire trough behind the servers...yikes!)

Anyway, its now Saturday AM and I should get going, as Helen and I are meeting in an hour and a half in order to go climb Mt. Fuji! Expect lots of pictures and a very very very tired Dani tomorrow night!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wow, August already, how did that happen? Its been a pretty busy week at work this week because we have a BAB going to print on Friday, and a Weekender going next Monday, with a jaunt up a mountain in the meantime...Yikes!

Helen and I had a fantastic lunch today at a new little cafe called 'Eat More Greens' which is an additive, coloring, meat, egg, and fish free restaurant for lunch today--we were reviewing it for Weekender, and we both loved it! We sat outside, but the patio is down a little side street kind of, so you are off the main road, and in the shade, and it was very pleasant--just what we needed! We both had lunch sets--mine was cold corn chowder, salad w/ avocado, and tomato and tofu dressing, and bagel, and then after, we had organic coffees and a small dessert--very yummy and surprisingly filling!

After work today, Karin, Marie (+2) and I headed up to the Goethe Institut near the Canadian Embassy to see Michael Martin speak. He did an amazing slide presentation including 1,400 pictures, 50 music tracks, and him speaking, in very good English, about his crazy trip across the deserts of the earth. He traveled with his partner Elke for 900+ days, and many many thousands of km, on one BMW bike, with no support team. It was crazy! The photos they took were absolutely gorgeous, and so different despite all being deserts-you could certainly see how they were all different.

We saw everything from a sheik's 150,000 falcon (he also has a treasury including concept cars and an originally Louis XIV coach. I was dissapointed to not see any horses though--I'm sure he must have had some amazing arabians and thoroughbreds!) to the kids in nepal who were trekking across freezing passes with younger siblings on their backs and barely any clothing.

Pretty fascinating! Learn more by clicking on the book cover below...ok, off to bed now--lots to do tomorrow!