Archive for July, 2009

17th Jul 2009

Nanjing: writing with Johnny Cash

Sitting here in a rooftop restaurant in Nanjing listening to Johnny Cash, working on updating my very neglected blog. I’ll be posting some post-dated blogs from the beginning of the trip. The first two are below.

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14th Jul 2009

Vino, Miho, Sumo and a broken toe

Our last few days in Japan consisted of yakitori (meat on sticks), wagyu (Kobe) beef, the Miho Museum and of course sumo! Todd and Kirsten took us to two of their favorite restaurants on our last Thursday and Friday night. The yakitori was delicious and great with a cold beer. While the Kobe beef and a bit of delicious red wine was phenomenal.

So after being well fed, the four of us woke up on Saturday morning to make a kid-less trip to the Miho Museum located outside of Kyoto. Riley was not too pleased and was trying to convince us that since she is a big girl now, she should be able to go to the museum too. Kirsten and Todd were not swayed by her superior logic. The location was stunning as the museum had been designed by the I.M. Pei and epitomized serenity. The exhibits were also some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Sunday, Tony and I went for something a little less academic and headed to Nagoya for a sumo tournament. We got a fairly early start, but had to head back to Todd and Kirsten’s after I decided, while riding a bike, to ram my foot into a cement pillar and break my toe. It was just the baby one and so, after a bit of ice, we got back on the bikes and made our way to the tournament.

Sumo wrestling is really entertaining. The tournament goes on for about 10 hours a day for two weeks. During the first half of the day, most of the matches are between low-level sumo wrestlers, which is fun because the matches are over quite quickly. There is a bit of ceremony and then no more than 20 seconds of wrestling and then the next two challengers come up. In the afternoons, things start to take a bit longer as the quality of wrestlers improves so does the ceremony preceding each fight. But all in all, the tournament was very cool. The sumo wrestlers were basically like rock stars and some of the guys in the later matches were greeted with huge cheering from the fans.

We left Japan on Tuesday morning. Riley was not too excited. I think she was more upset that Tony was leaving than that I was, but it probably didn’t help that we woke her up to say goodbye. That girl is not a morning person. We found our boat quite easily and boarded for a return trip to China, which proved to be much more choppy and seasickness inducing than the trip to Japan.

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09th Jul 2009

Japan – Week 2

Our first week ended with a trip to the Kobe Club to go swimming with Riley and Tess and then dinner in Osaka at a Mexican restaurant to celebrate engagements, birthdays and a fun trip. Mom and Dan left the next morning and the rest of us went down to the river for another day of swimming (for the girls).

Our second week was a bit more laid back than the first. Tony and I stayed a bit closer to Kobe for the most part. Monday, Todd headed to class and Kirsten took Riley in to see the doctor. Tony and I volunteered to watch Tessy. Kirsten and I were both a little nervous that Tess would not be very excited to stay with us and without Riley. When Kirsten told her that she and Riley were going, but Tess was staying, the crying began. However, much to my surprise, Tess threw herself into the arms of . . . me. So, I carried her into the living room and as soon as she saw Dora on television she began giggling and didn’t seem to mind being left at home with Auntie and her new favorite person . . . TO-NEE! That afternoon we headed into Sannomiya to meet Todd and take the girls to the bird park.

The next day, Tony and I stayed on Rokko Island. We took the bikes we’d borrowed and cycled around exploring some of the pretty and not-so-pretty sights of the island. We collected some groceries and headed back to the apartment, where I started cooking dinner for Todd and Kirsten. They had taken their first Japanese driving test (a clearly very stressful activity) so I volunteered to make dinner. Todd made some fresh pasta and Riley helped by passing the pasta to me. Tess helped by eating the pasta dough. Mmmm, pasta dough.

Wednesday, we went back to Osaka to pick up our visas. After that was done we took the train to Nara. We spent the very humid day wandering around seeing the Todai-ji temple and after having our fill of more wild deer (these a bit more wild than those of Miyajima), we got on the train to Kyoto. We stayed in a great hostel (K’s House) and spent the next morning wandering around some of the sights of Kyoto.

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03rd Jul 2009

Japan – Week 1 – catch-up post (way late)

Well, I was going to be a bit more thorough in my description of our time in Japan, but realized that a) I’m slow; b) Kirsten already wrote most of it (see for more); c) the wedding planning is taking away from my blog upkeep.

So, our two weeks in Japan were split into two periods: the first with Mom and Dan and Todd full-time, the second after Mom and Dan had left and Todd had started his morning Japanese classes at the Y. During our first week, we traveled to Arashiyama, Miyajima, Hiroshima and Kyoto. Tony and I also had the joy of going into Osaka to organize our tourist visas back into China, which proved much cheaper for the British citizen than the American one. The Chinese consulate in Osaka was actually, compared with most other consulates I’ve been in, a joy. Quick, efficient, generally friendly and with the help of a friend of Todd and Kirsten’s, easy to find.

But talking about the consulate is rather boring. The highlight of my trip was Miyajima. To start with, the island was beautiful, quiet, covered in vegetation and from the ferry on the way in, shrouded in low-lying clouds. All of that natural beauty coupled with dramatic Shinto shrines and a smattering of lovely local residents to help us out made the island a lovely spot to spend the night. The house Kirsten arranged was perfect for our group and we had a great time exploring the island and of course sitting around the tatami rooms playing cards and drinking beer and wine. Dan and Tony’s knees preferred chairs but they made do. Of course the best part of my time in Miyajima was the second day, when Tony and I headed off on our own to explore the natural surroundings of the island. We found a quiet spot with a small waterfall, some wild deer and sat and talked for an hour or so. This was also where Tony asked me to marry him. So, after our peaceful exploration of Miyajima we made our way back to the ferry to meet the rest of the family. We decided to wait until later to tell everyone (why I don’t know), but struggled for the rest of the day to keep our mouths shut.

After Miyajima, we headed by train into Hiroshima and went to the Memorial Museum and Peace Park. This was a bit sobering after our time in Miyajima, but the museum was well-done and quite interesting. The girls played with bubbles in the peace park with Kirsten, while the rest of us went through the museum. After the museum we got back on the super fast, super quiet, super smooth shinkansen and made our way back to Rokko Island.

That night after a great Indian meal and the girls had gone to bed, Tony and I announced our news. We wished that Dad and Tony’s parents could have been there for the announcement as well, but we’ll all get to meet soon.

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