Monday, August 29, 2005


Hello to all! Sorry for the long delay in updating. I`ve been observing classes all week and settling into the new apartment. I`ll have some pictures of that place soon, when it doesn`t look like a bomb went off inside it (a bomb filled with tacky decorations). In the meantime, here`s some pictures from a jaunt to Kobe! This was about two weeks ago, when Jeff and I were still enjoying unemployed bliss. It rained all morning, so when we arrived, we made our way to a shrine near the train station. It was a really cool one: huge curved roofs, paper decorations and enormous gates. There was a naming ceremony going on at the time, kind of like a Buddhist baptism. That huge rope in front of the interior of the temple is attached to a giant bell, shaped like a bell you`d put on a cats collar. Here`s a shot of the prayer cards outside. You write a prayer on the back and hang it at the temple site. It looks like a lot of people are praying for cars. There were also some sweet looking lanterns. After the shrine, we took a cable car up the top of the mountain. Here`s a cool shot of the city. Can you believe this whole place was leveled by an earthquake less than ten years ago? Amazing. At the top of the mountain was a botanical garden park. It was really nice to walk around the plants (though they were mostly European). What a nice time! Thanks for all the comments, guys! It`s great to know people are actually checking the site. I love and miss you all!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Beautiful Imazato

Alright, here it is, as promised. These are not award winning pictures, but I thought y`all might enjoy seeing where I`ve been living. The apartment that the crew moved into after the first exciting week was in just about the quietest place you could think of in the city. The neighborhood is called Imazato, and, as you can see, it`s pretty residential. This is the apartment from outside. Pretty luxurious, huh? We were all thankful to have a place to stay, but we were also thinking that we`re definitely earning our stars on this trip. Inside it`s actually quite nice. New tatami mats, very clean, and some fun decorations from Marisa, the girl who let us stay at her place. That`s Jeff in the living room (or the second bedroom :) Here`s the actual bedroom, which has an actual bed. Pretty rare for Japan, most people sleep on thick bedrolls on the floor called futons. We bought two of those for the unlucky couple who`d be camping in the living room. On the first night, Jen, Kevin, Jeff and I all played Scrabble to see who would get the bed for the first week. Jeff and I lost. Here`s the kitchen. It was pretty small, I`ll admit, but it did the job. And this is the shower and bathroom (the handle on the right is the toilet closet) Pretty awesome!! It took some adjustments to get used to smaller living (Jeff and Kev definitely had to learn to duck doorways) but we learned to maximize space using the glass and wood dividers. It was fun! We also made use of the roof, which was so awesome to have access to. Here`s the gang chowing down in style. The neighborhood was really convenient and the people were pretty friendly. We lived right next to a covered shopping street. This place had everything, from clothing shops and hats and shoes to a pet store that sold crickets. Also, used furniture and second-hand pottery, plus tons of little eateries and markets. Everyone rides bicycles right through the mall and they play Hawaiian music all day long, making the whole place seem just slightly surreal. They also have these crazy looking paper decorations everywhere. But, enough about the mall. Many of the houses have beautiful potted plants outside of the front door. It really brightens up the area and makes up for there being no trees. These really made me think of my mom, who was nervous about downsizing to an apartment and losing her ability to garden. See mom, no matter how small your place is, you can still have a garden! And, I hope to get my own little garden started at my new apartment! That`s right, Jeff and I found a new place, and we`ll be moving in next weekend. So, stay tuned for that. Take care and love to you all! -Erin

Sunday, August 14, 2005


No pictures on this one. I just wanted to let everyone know that I got hired! I`ll be teaching preschool three days a week and a few conversation classes two days a week at a school called Pros Language Center. Luckily, it`s only one location, so I won`t be traveling too much, and I have Saturday and Sunday off! It`s a pretty cushy deal, I`m so happy stuff worked out. Now, on to the apartment search...
I`ll post again soon with pics of our current apartment and neighborhood. I swear, I`ll get this thing up to date! Lots of love to all, Erin

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Jeff`s Blog

I can`t figure out how to put a link to Jeff`s website on mine, so here it is, for everyone`s viewing pleasure:


Fireworks, crowds and karaoke!

Continuing with the festival.... Evening fell and as we wandered through food stalls and games, we followed the sound of fireworks in the distance. On the way we passed people selling chicken satay, pinapples and grapes on a stick (for $3 each! fruit is so expensive here!), and assorted grilled squids and other creepy seafood. It actually smelled really delicious, but it was just too hot to eat hot food, so I settled for a pinapple stick. Fantastic! So sweet and sticky :)

We finally found the place they were setting off fireworks, a bridge over the main river, with a view of Osaka Castle in the distance. It was really beautiful, but the place was packed with people. Some policemen were passing us with megaphones yelling something in Japanese, but we didn`t let that stop us. Off we went, following the crowd to the other side of the bridge. HUGE mistake! Before we knew it, we were trapped in a crowd of unimaginable size! This picture does not even do it justice. People were literally smacked right up against each other and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn`t get anywhere, not back or forward. I started to feel really panicked, especially when some drunk kids started pushing each other. What a scary feeling, to actually think you might be trampled. But, just when I thought I was going to freak out, I saw a kid, no more than 4 years old with her dad. She was smiling and talking as if this was the most normal situation ever. I thought, if this kid can stay calm, so can I. Finally, a policeman cut his way through the crowd with his arm up, indicating "Everyone who wants to get out of here, follow me." We let ourselves get caught up in the flow of people, and in less than a minute we were free!

After all that excitement, we decided we deserved a drink or two or five. So, we bought a few six packs at the Family Mart and played drinking games in the hotel. Then we went out for karaoke!! Here`s a few shots of the gang, partying like rockstars ;)

As you can see, it`s not like American karaoke where you have to make a fool out yourself in front of an entire bar. In Japan, you`re free to act as silly as you like in the comfort of a private room.

What a night!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The park and the cool boat

Ah, some beautiful green leaves! Well, continuing with the continuting saga, here are Jen and I at Osaka-jo the main park in town. We came here to see a festival that we heard about, but couldn`t find any information on in English. We just knew the dates and the place, so here we are waiting for something to happen. The park had very well kept gardens and it`s on an island in the river, so the breezes were very nice. There were some boats decorated with flags, and soon, we began to see boats coming down the river, being rowed by groups of men in traditional clothing to the beat of traditional drums. A little further down, we were luckly enough to see a group of these guys pulling one of the wooden boats out of the river.

It didn`t look like it was going to budge, so we started to leave. But then...!

Oh my gosh!

They hauled the boat up the incline...

Straightened it out...

And pulled it down the street!!

What a sight! We were kind of proud to be the only forgieners witnessing this amazing thing. Just goes to show the rewards of wandering around once in a while :)

We watched as the boat got loaded up with kids in traditional costume. Then a child took the huge wooden drumsticks in hand and began beating out a rhythm on the giant drum at the back. The men geared up and hauled the boat down the street, a crowd of people in kimonos following them. What a cool thing to see!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Finally, the first few pictures!

Hello everyone!! Well, I finally figured out how to post pictures on this thing, so here`s an update. I figure, even though it`s been two weeks already (can it be???) I should start at the beginning. So, here`s the four of us outside the Kansai Airport, happy to be on the ground after our exhausting 16 hour flight.

This is the massive rainstorm that we took off into in Chicago. I was definately more than a little nervous... thanks for the happy send off, America!

And, this was our first view of Japan! Note the man made islands. I believe the airport was actually on one of these.

Once we landed, rested for a while and took in the obligatory sushi and beer, it was time for exploring! Here`s a shot of Dontonburi, the Times Square of Osaka. That`s Jen in the foreground, taking in the sights. There are hundreds of restaurants, karaoke complexes, arcades, and pachinko parlors throughout this area (pachinko is a gambling game). There are also tons of shops selling the lastest fashion at astronomical prices. It`s a happening area, and a crash-course introduction to the absurdity that is modern Japan.

Speaking of absurdity, here`s an action shot of your American ambassadors (me, Jen and Kevin) acting a fool outside of the Umeda Sky Building. We didn`t get to go inside to get a view of the city, but we did ride an enourmous ferris wheel and got a pretty good view from there.

This city is huge!! It`s like this is every direction! Luckily, in the weeks to come, we will discover that there are quieter places. But, for now, everything is bigger than life and every square inch of this place is packed. Even underground! I think you could walk from one end of the city to the other purely using the underground malls. Here is a mall that we walked through that had life-size replicas of sperm whales. Only they`re red. Go figure. And on the right is the store where we bought our cellphones. Do you think they`re having a sale? I can`t tell...

Ok, this is already too long, but let me finish with a few parting shots. Here`s Jeff in America Mura, a part of town where they sell American fashions, reggae music, and McDonald`s burgers. I accidentally ordered a Teriyaki Burger at this place. It wasn`t so bad, actually. And this is the very well kept Tower Records in America Mura. I think some of these Japanese kids know more about American music than I do!

And what would a Japan trip be without a little bad English? Internet Cafe World has it`s mission statement posted here. It sounds pretty inspiring to me, don`t you agree?

Well, that`s all for this installment. I hope everyone reading this is doing well and if I know you, I love you and I miss you! Until next time...

This is Erin Lawrence, signing off :)