Friday, October 28, 2011

Maneki Neko Madness

For Nicci, one of the most exciting parts of Japan was to indulge one of her favorite past-times: collecting Maneki Nekos, or waving kitties. Possibly her most important goal in visiting Japan was to grow her collection, which started out looking like this:

10.4.2011 001

Japan certainly did not let her down. There were waving kitties for sale everywhere!


They were even in advertisements and posters:



We also saw some very interesting maneki neko on display in restaurants:


As an exciting bonus, we even happened upon some real (but not waving!) kitties in Osaka:



But this story is about waving kitties and Nicci's collection. She managed to collect 6 in all, and at least one in each city we visited: Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Look how happy she was collecting them:


Look at how pretty they look in her new, expanded collection!!

10.4.2011 007

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


One of our favorite things about Osaka was the kaiyukan (aquarium).  There were penguins there, so you know we had to go.


We got there just in time to see them being fed!


Unlike American or European aquariums that we have visited, there was some pretty strange signage to let the gaijin know how to behave.


I am guessing this one is warning us not to ride the fish.  In addition to strange signage there were strange and never-before seen fish.


I dare you to try to ride that fish.  He was pretty huge.  Also this one.


You are also not allowed to hold crabs above your head.  Or maybe you are.  I can't really tell from the sign.


Really, though, they had an amazing collection of jellies.


Just as we were leaving we spotted an entire floor called the kawaii (cute) collection.  We had to see this.


It was mostly miniature and baby sea life. Like these adorable jellies.


You can just make them out under that adorable face I am making.


Also, they had a large touch pool with sharks and rays.


Although I am not sure I would consider sharks and rays kawaii.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bike (Half Way) Around the Bay

Just after Japan, we rode in another 150 mile bike ride--Bike Around the Bay.  Well, sort of.  You see, the first day was glorious.  We got there early and lined up with our bike.

10.11.2011 006

Then Dave and Dana joined us! Here's a picture of their butts.

10.11.2011 009

Dave is the shark butt.  Dana is #147.  The route was breathtaking. It took us right by the ocean. Well, it was the Gulf. But it had waves like the ocean and it smelled all ocean-y and there were palm trees. But it was brown like the Gulf. Harumph! When we got close to Galveston, we got to take a ferry ride over to the island.

10.11.2011 016

There were tons of dolphins out that day jumping and following along with the boat. It was amazing! When we got to the hotel, there was a swim up bar.

10.11.2011 027

That night we dined with DP^2.

10.11.2011 033

Ah, day 1. The next day was a different story. I woke up super sick, tropical storms rolled in and long story short, we didn't ride the entire route home. Instead, we rode across the causeway in the morning--they close down two lanes to let all of the bikers across. Then we wussed out. We weathered part of the thunder storms at the lunch site where we helped out the volunteers a bit.

10.11.2011 036

Then we went home, camped out on our couch and watched the first real Houston rain in about a million months roll in. Were we proud of ourselves? No, not particularly. Were we cozy and dry. Well, yeah, actually we were.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Incredible (Occaisionally Inedible) Food of Japan

One of the most -- ahem -- adventurous parts of visiting Japan was the food. Even "American" breakfast wasn't quite American; the most defining feature of it seemed to be that it involved hot dogs:


At least one of us (quick quiz: try to guess who!) liked to order the Japanese breakfast, though, which included fish, rice, and pickled vegetables... but we enjoyed it so much we forgot to take any pictures!

For dinner, the easiest way to find something we liked was when restaurants displayed their options as fake food. Sometimes, the whole menu would be arranged in front, in an array of shiny plastic soup, shiny plastic noodles, and shiny plastic meat:



We also found some excellent Japanese junk food, including ice cream already wrapped in a cone:


and an "apricot" donut, which tasted more like bean paste, but was delicious nonetheless. Look how much Nicci liked it:


Last but not least, the most traditional meal either of us -- well, just Eddy -- had was a dinner on the first night of the conference. The star of this meal was definitely the fish course... which was a whole fish:


"How do you eat this?" all the westerners at the table asked. "Just start at the head,"our Japanese host replied.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TSFB Visits Traditional Japan

"The Team" just spent a great week and a half in Japan! Eddy was involved in ICFP this year (you can see my name on the program committee!), and it was a great excuse for TSFB to see some of Japan!

On the spiritual side, one of the things we really enjoyed about our visit was the more traditional side of Japan. We saw some breathtaking castles, with beautiful, manicured gardens. We first saw the Imperial Palace in Tokyo -- which you aren't allowed into, especially if you are a gaigin, but we got some pretty pictures of the outside:


Here is Nicci walking into the front door at Osaka-jo, the castle in Osaka:


We did some reflection at some of the many shrines and temples, including this giant Buddha in Kyoto:


Note to intrepid explorers: around back, you can walk up a stairway into this Buddha, where there are more little Buddhas!

One of the coolest things we saw in a temple was in a pagoda in Osaka, which contained five floors of thousands of tiny gold medallions, each with someone's name (we think) inscribed on it:


Finally, what trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to the most traditional Japanese sport: Sumo!


Also, I'll bet you didn't know it, but Nicci has some sumo in her too: