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On a transient life.

The life I’ve fallen into over the past five years or so has been extremely temporary in nature. I trained for a temporary life in college (not by obliterating my short term memory with substances…) but what is theatre if not the most temporary and transient art form? That’s part of what makes theatre so fascinating, whether you’re one of the people creating it or watching it, you are experiencing something that is only in existence at the present moment. It can never be that again.

When I graduated, I essentially walked away from that lifestyle, I thought. (At least temporarily…oh the irony).  I had worked in a few professional settings in the theatre, and they left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Part of this was the emphasis on the temporary. Much of the mindset seemed (to me, as a participant and observer) to be one where long-term consequences (or results) simply didn’t occur. We built, we created, we erected, we tore down, on a constant cycle. And we did that to people too.

In the past five years, I’ve changed location, apartments, friends, men, co-workers, and  life philosophies more times than I care to count.  That being said, it’s made me realize some really positive things too. I don’t have the same sour taste in my mouth anymore.  I’ve become way more out-going and better at making friends than I used to be…which seems to me at this point to be an invaluable life skill, and maybe one that I wouldn’t have developed if I hadn’t thrown myself head first into new (and admittedly, stressful) situations over and over again.

This has put in a position where I am always missing a lot of people. It gets me down a bit sometimes, especially when I consider that I’m missing people whom I don’t even have a tangible friendship with anymore, but these people still matter to me. On the other hand, it’s made me realize that love (platonic or romantic) actually isn’t that unique or difficult to stumble upon.  I used to think that since I had a few unfortunate occurrences with friends or men that perhaps there was something about me that caused this (and I’m sure sometimes it is ME), or perhaps that I simply wasn’t meant to have those types of things in my life.

I understand now that wherever I go I will always find dear friends, I will always find people who feel like family, and I’ll probably end up falling in love, willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly. Thus is my nature. I want people in my life, I embrace them fully, I want them to be happy, and oftentimes I care about them more than is returned. But that doesn’t mean that I want to stop. I like extending that care toward others.

Part of me hates that I keep this lifestyle up. It’s really difficult. I mean, massively fucking difficult. For me. I’m insecure, I feel awkward in social situations, etc, etc. We all have a laundry list like that, don’t we? It’s difficult to start over. It’s difficult to jump in. And it’s equally difficult to jump back out. I’m going to cry for three hours straight on the bus to the airport. This life is almost masochistic. But I’m so glad that I get to live it, because the people I’ve met in the past year (and also in years prior) have made it entirely worthwhile.

I love them with the giddy abandon of a child; irresponsibly, embarrassingly, and (barring a deadpan look for comedic timing) smiling so hard that my cheeks hurt.

And that is one thing that is not transient.

Tokyo Disneyland

ImageTokyo Disneyland was much the same as Disney World in Florida (I’ve never been to California’s Disneyland, so I can’t compare). It was comfortable to navigate, even without Japanese; all sales transactions and the like were handled with ease. I didn’t have any sort of issues/emergencies, so I don’t know how well equipped they are to handle something like that in a foreign language, but I imagine they’re at least competent. 

The rides and attractions were largely the same as at Disney World. There were a few differences: There’s a Western Land “Shooting Gallery” (I didn’t go to this), a Westernland Picture Parlor, where you can dress up in western style outfits (Western here meaning cowboys and such), Pinnochio’s Daring Journey (also skipped this…I think it’s along the same type of track ride as Snow White’s Adventures or Peter Pan’s Flight), Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (a kid ride, skipped it), Chip n Dale’s Treehouse (a house for kids to climb through),  Donald’s Boat (similar, for children), Goofy’s Paint n Play House (Also skipped this, it’s in Toontown…the description says, “Use the special paint applicators to help Goofy redecorate the room”, I’m not sure what that actually entails, but I bet it’s not as fun as it sounds), Monsters Inc. Hide and Go Seek (skipped), Captain EO…a 3D Michael Jackson film, SKIPPED, and Star Jets, in which you ride a rocket very slowly in a circle, and you can control how high or low you fly. There’s also a kids’ roller coaster in Toontown called Gadget’s Go Coaster, that was quite fun. It’s a kiddie coaster, but it’s fast and fun with a lot of dips and quick turns. 

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Some attractions/shows are available with English subtitles, but most aren’t. I went to see Mickey’s Philharmagic 3D, a show with a lot of classic Disney songs weaved throughout the show. It was actually really interesting and enjoyable to hear those songs in Japanese, and Mickey’s “Arigatoo, arigatoo” at the end of the show was super cute. 

I would say the largest difference is the food selection. Food here is quite Japanese…expect to be a little disappointed by the churros at the food stalls, expect strange flavors of popcorn (curry, for example), the pizza is Japanese-style, there are spring roll carts, etc. There is some Western food available also, but from what I ate while I was there…don’t expect it to taste like normal American food. 

Another difference is the souvenirs which are offered. They’re, again, mostly the same, but there are a few things that specify “Tokyo Disneyland” on them, or seem to be specifically Japanese. For instance, there are floor cushions for sale (which Japanese people use to sit on tatami floors), key chains with Mickey and Minnie in kimonos, school folders which show Minnie dressed up geisha-style, handkerchiefs with Japanese patterns on them, etc. 

I’d pretty much always recommend a trip to Disney, to anyone. It’s the happiest place ever, after all. The staff at Tokyo Disneyland and the experience itself were wholly pleasant. Everyone was very polite and happy. The lines were long, but not what I would classify as insane. I went on a weekend in summer, and it was comparable to a day at Disney World during spring break (but it wasn’t as bad as Easter Sunday). If you want to go to Tokyo Disneyland during a summer weekend, I’d definitely recommend grabbing Fastpasses ASAP for whichever rides/attractions are a priority for you.

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The Leopalace Characters

Leopalace is quite a deceiving name for the sardine pack of an apartment I live in. There are no lions. It is certainly not a palace. It is not even a Lion’s Palace. I have no idea where the word comes from, nor do I care, other than it’s some seriously false advertising. 

Alright, so the apartment is tiny. Like, tinier than a studio apartment in America. However, this is not a huge issue as I live alone. The only thing that usually bothers me is that my bed is in a really awkward place (and is built into the wall, so it can’t be moved), and that the kitchen is just entirely impractical to cook anything in. 

I think Leopalaces house the absolute dregs of society and businessmen who are having regularly scheduled affairs. (I would include the cheating businessmen as the ‘dregs of society’, but I don’t think the Japanese would). 

I live within conversational earshot of about 98,000 other people. No, I know you know I’m exaggerating that number. But I’m not exaggerating this number: 75. I think based on the number of apartments surrounding me, 75 is a totally realistic number, and it seriously invades my American sense of personal space (which I didn’t even know I had until I came here). 

Since I live within rubbing-elbows-distance of so many miscreants of society, I’ve managed to get used to quite a few of their habits. Let me enlighten you. 

1. 4 am laundry person. The first few months I lived here (and had American style hearing sensitivities) this person’s washing machine would wake me up a few times a week at 4 am. What a considerate laundry doer. 

2. 5 am Japanese opera listener. I didn’t experience this personally, but my coworker in an apartment 3 away from mine was routinely woken up for 5 am concerts. 

3. Spitting man. Spitting man lives in the apartment directly across from my window. His front door is about 10 feet from my only window. Every single time he leaves his apartment he hocks an enormous (and quite audible) lugee. Disgusting.

4. Belching man. (May or may not be the same person as Spitting man) Also lives in the apartment complex directly behind my apartment. Belches loudly whenever he is walking to/from his apartment.

5. Frat boys. These are most likely not frat boys. There were however 3-4 boys staying in the leopalace next to mine. I have no concept how 4 people of any size, let alone young men (I’d peg them at their early 20s) could even stay in the same leopalace for an hour, let alone several months. To be fair, I don’t know if they all live there. I DO know that they were all socializing there nearly every night, and well past midnight. There was a lot of angry wall pounding on my part. 

6. The runner. Runs to and from his apartment whenever leaving or arriving. I have no idea why the fuck this happens. 

7. Girl with iPod on Repeat. This girl listens to the same song over and over whenever she cleans her apartment. One song. Over. And Over. 

8. The asshole who thinks a driveway is his personal parking spot. ‘Nuff said.

9. The Yakuza. I don’t really know this for a fact. I just know there sometimes sketchy looking men in suits come (en masse, not with some slutty hostess girl). Occasionally they go into an apartment, but sometimes they just lurk in the parking lot in nice cars. For quite a long time. 

So the next time you’re in a normal sized American apartment in the United States, and the couple upstairs is having their monthly bout of obnoxiously noisy though short lived sex, just think of the cast of Leopalace characters, and grab some headphones. 

The Beach at Oarai

A trip to the beach is a non-negotiable for me during summer. A lake-beach will do, but an ocean-beach is a treat (considering I’m from Wisconsin). My friends and I decided to take a trip to Oarai (oh-ah-rye), which is the closest beach to our city in Gunma. It’s about 3 hours on the train, 3 hours on the non-toll roads (which we opted for, since we’re poor) and about an hour and a half on the toll roads.

The beach itself was probably underwhelming, as far as beaches go. The pros: It’s a beach, it’s an ocean-beach, it wasn’t so crowded that we were on top of other people, there was a tourist center across the road with helpful brochures (if you read Japanese) and even more helpful toilets and vending machines (any language will do for these amenities). The cons: The city was built up right along the beach, so scenery wasn’t whimsically nautical or anything, the water was cold (about the same as Lake Michigan in summer…so calf-deep is about all most people would want), the sand was brown (not cute brown…is there cute brown sand?), and the Indian men were desperate and determined. I’m unsure of why Indian men are so forward and persistent…are they like this in India? Do their women go for that? Do they think that their behavior is at all appropriate ever? Or are they just shameless bastards? I don’t have the answers yet and I’m not motivated to conduct any in depth research.

All in all, I’m glad we took the trip out there, since I’ll happily settle for just about any beach (provided it isn’t made of spiders or something equally horrific), but I can’t recommend it as a tourist draw. If you’re desperate for beach or to get out of Gunma though, it will do quite nicely. Image

Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto

In my opinion, Kinkaku-ji is a bit overrated. If you go there expecting to see the outside of a golden temple and take a short stroll around a pond and some gardens, then you will not be disappointed. I simply didn’t find a three story Buddhist temple covered in gold leaf to be that compelling. Seeing the sun hit a golden building is somewhat impressive, I’ll grant you, but there seemed to be no artistry to the gold leaf. It was just solid. It looked as though it had been spray painted on. One of the things that Kinkaku-ji is supposed to exemplify is how Zen Buddhist temples harmoniously blend into their surrounding environment…

It’s a bright golden building in the middle of a less than idyllic pond. Err….what? 

It’s not a bad place. It’s good for a stroll. The gardens are gardens. There’s the obligatory green tea and souvenirs. It’s tolerable pretty. It’s just not jaw dropping majestic. Perhaps my expectations were too high for it.  It’s alright. If you’re in Kyoto, you should probably see it. 

For more information, and biased from the other perspective, here’s a link for your convenience: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3908.htmlImage

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Kodai-ji in Kyoto

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Kodai-ji is another temple just down the mountainside street from Kiyomizu-dera and in the Higashiyama District, talked about in the previous post. Kodai-ji is worth a visit because it offers a few experiences which not every run of the mill temple in Japan has to offer. A large zen garden (with raked stones) is worth seeing, at least once when you’re in Japan. The other garden the temple has to offer is a “tsukiyama style garden”…which from what I can tell seem to resemble normal non-flower gardens: rocks, ponds, hills, trees, done, though the 16th century landscape artist who designed the gardens was a fairly big deal. There are two tea houses in the complex,  a santcuary with a small shrine with impressive lacquer work (the finest lacquer work of the period, actually, which incorporates designs in gold; unfortunately you’re not allowed to take pictures inside the buildings), and several other buildings, including a mausoleum. The artwork and gardens are absolutely worth seeing and talking a stroll through, and most of the buildings in the complex you can actually go inside and walk around in, which is a nice change from most historic sites in Japan, in which most of the building is only viewable, and not walkable. (You will need to take off your shoes to enter these buildings).

The buildings date from different times, because of several fires over the years. The oldest are from the early 17th century, and the most recent was rebuilt in the early 20th century. Kodai-ji is named after a noble woman, Kita-no-Mandokoro (her honorary name was Kodai-in) who became a Buddhist nun after her husband died.

More information on Kodai-hi is available here, including hours, admission fees, and a map!

Todaiji_ed02http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3927.html