Thursday, November 28, 2013

Apple cider

   Today was Thanksgiving. For school lunch, they served an omelette, corn soup, and cucumber salad, and I shed a single tear.

   Japan has apple orchards, but they don't have apple cider. I don't know what they think they're doing with all those delicious apples.

   Chestnuts seem to be the token Autumn food here. Back in October, everyone was eating "kurikinto," which is chestnut paste shaped into a candy. It has two ingredients: chestnuts and sugar, but it's not very sweet. That fad has passed, but you can still buy baked or candied chestnuts and chestnut lattes.

   I drove past an apple orchard last weekend. I had to drive over an hour, into a more mountainous region of Japan, and then wind my way up a tiny one lane road that cut through a forest that looked like something out of Princess Mononoke. When I got to the top, the apple orchard was already picked clean, so I drove on and found a petting farm with goats, sheep, ponies, rabbits, and lots of little kids. The kids weren't for petting though, they were just visiting. 

   Way back in April or May, there were a few clear days when I caught a glimpse of some snow capped mountains off on in the distance. I don't know why Japan is so hazy, but most of the time, even when it's sunny, everything gets pale and fuzzy on the horizon. This trip, I finally got a better look: a whole range of snow capped mountains.

     Lately I've been missing home a lot, but this drive was a good reminder of why I'm living in Japan. I thought I came here for the language and the culture, but the thing I've enjoyed most is the land.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

This panda is not impressed

   This is a shirt I now own.

   My mysterious chuckle is a little rusty, but I've been practicing.

   Apparently the fashion this fall is flannel shirts and beanie hats. Non-functional suspenders, usually attached to skirts, are also in. As a result, everyone looks like a hipster. I guess it was just a matter of time.

   I tried to go to a cat cafe today. That's a cafe full of cats that you can pet and hang out with while you drink coffee. But when we showed up there was a three hour waiting list. Make a note: you need reservations for the cat cafe.
   I've noticed a lot of stray cats in Japan. If you go to the city, there'll be a bunch hanging out by a river or canal or behind restaurants that they can scrounge food from. Most of them stay away from humans. But the other day I went to a park off in the middle of nowhere and two well-fed, non-spayed cats were chilling in the parking lot, meowing at visitors. I think they had been abandoned. It's also not uncommon to see dogs that are just chained up outside all the time. There's one that I see all the time because it's right on the side of the main road I take to get to the mall. Its fur is dirty and matted, and it's there at all hours of the day, breathing in exhaust fumes from the trucks blowing past. I saw another dog like it in the city today, chained to a tree in front of some run down shop. You could tell by the smell of it that it lived chained there on the sidewalk. It gave us a friendly little jump as we walked past.
   It's pretty depressing! A friend of mine looked into the animal shelter situation, but not only are there very few animal shelters, but the ones around here only keep the animals for two days before putting them down. They don't try to find the animals new homes.

    Here's a link to a poem I like: