Kyoto #1

December 29, 2006

My trip to Kyoto was fantastic. Although most know Kyoto for its abundance of historic sights and classical Japanese beauty, I was more impressed with Kyoto as a modern city. Rather than filling my itinerary with temples and ancient places I opted for a more accidental sightseeing method. Kyoto is by all means a thriving metropolis. It’s very clean and cosmopolitan yet with the same run-down, dreary, grey aesthetic that typifies the modern Japanese city. What makes Kyoto fantastic is that in the midst of a sea of drab concrete structures you find everywhere ancient shrines and temples: some two thousand of them are scattered about the city. There are patches of neighborhoods left over from the Meiji period or older, kept in good shape and cared for not by any governmental means of preservation, but by the families who live in them and consider them homes rather than historical landmarks.

These are some pictures of Kyoto Station, where I began my tour of Kyoto. These photos really don’t capture the scale of this building. Keep in mind that the main structure is some 15 stories tall! I don’t really know anything about the design of the building except that it was completed in 1997.


I just finished listening to this Howard Zinn lecture and I think every warm blooded American should hear what this guy has to say. So please download it, put it on your listening device of choice and partake when you have an hour’s worth of driving or cleaning, etc. Bon Apetit!

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WARNING!!! For those of you who are of the puritanical sort or who may have small children who you do not want seeing carvings or drawing of peoples’ privates, you may want to skip the last section of this post which contains images of large wooden or stone carved penises, statues of women in the midst of childbirth or blurry, indecipherable photos of Edo period wood-block print erotica. If you are one of these people please squint your eyes and scroll to the next postings, which have some very lovely photos of the beach at sunset. Thank you.

First, let’s begin with some profanity! Here’s a picture of a cute kid from the school. Please read his shirt.


Now, here’s a few of my friends: Liam (coworker), Darumaya, and Go.


…and now…
A Sunday Drive

Despite the throbbing head full of snot and phlegm granted to me by some Japanese youngster I decided on Sunday to take a drive up the Shimanto River through the interior of Shikoku island to Uwajima, famed for it’s Shinto fertility shrine, Taga-jinga, and the accompanying Sex Museum. The drive was scenic and quite windy (wine-dee, that is), and getting out into the country was good for my spirits. I stayed in bed most of the day before with a nasty cold, which I think was actually the overlap of two different cold varieties. I’ve recently, to my great delight, discovered Podcasts, and I set out Sunday morning with the weeks’ news updates, a few weeks worth of NPR Science Friday, and two episodes of Democracy Now with Amy Goodman (if you’ve never heard of it check it out) to catch up on my current events.

At around noon I reached Uwajima, and despite being forewarned I was thouroughly dissapointed with the town. It’s about twice as large as Nakamura, and I think this is its downfall because it’s just big enough to try to be a real city and small enough to fail miserably. My first stop was the castle, which was pretty cool in that it’s my first real Japanese castle experience (the one in Nakamura, I found out, is completely fake), and it’s one of the handful of castles that didn’t get destroyed in WWII. The castle was fairly small and the grounds were under renovation, but the walk up to the castle was really cool and there was a decent view from up top.

Afterwards I went to the nearby shopping arcade to try to find some food, and much to my dismay they were playing f&*(%ng Christmas music. AArrgh!!! The arcade was huge and deserted except for a few old ladies perusing the stationary shops and window shopping at the small town clothing boutiques (you know the kind). I eventually ended up dining at a grocery store deli…and then I went to the fertility shrine…oh, yeah.

The shrine was tucked away in an awkward corner of a neighborhood, and the grounds were quite small compared to the other shrines and temples I’ve been to. This made it all the cooler since they had to cram all the phallic/venerial(?) holy items into a smaller space. The shrine itself was in in pretty good taste with the exceptions of a few large conspicuous penises here and there. I bought an Omikuji (shrine fortune) and got highest luck!! I havn’t gotten it translated yet, but I hope since I got it at the fertility shrine it will predict a harem of beautiful and lusty Japanese women in my near future.

Now, I’m not exactly sure if the sex museum was worth the $7.50 admission fee. I mean, when I think of paying for a museum I expect a couple of hours of entertainment, but this was still totally awesome. It was housed in a small, inconspicuous three story building. What it lacked in square yards was definitely made up for in density, though. Every square inch (excluding the floors of course) was covered in “exibits.” For example, most of the ceiling was covered in facsimiles of erotic illustrated Japanese picture books from what looked like the late 1800’s. Even the stairwell was covered in pictures and illustrations. The museum was divided for the most part into geographic regions. Most of the bottom floor was devoted to ancient Japanese fertility “objects.” The second floor covered India, Africa and ancient Greece with a small display of vintage bondage gear from the first half of the 20th century. The top floor was divided into two sections, one was pornographic Japanese and Chinese woodblock prints, and the other half was a diplay of what must have been hundreds of rough hewn wooden carvings of couples. This was a little puzzling to me because I had no idea where they were from or why there were so many of them.

After I left the museum I left Uwajima as quickly as possible. On a wild hair I took a detour and drove out on the Yurano-Hana. I think the road sign called it “Yurano Peninsula,” but the map has “hana” suffixed to the name. When I looked it up I expected the translation of ‘hana’ to be ‘peninsula’ but it turned up ‘nose.’ If you look at it on the map, it does kinda look like a nose…it’s still a funny way of labelling geographic features. So, it was a really beautiful drive as the pictures will attest to-but it was scary! The road was a single lane with no room for passing, and much of it was on high precipices looming over the sea. It twisted and turned incessantly and there were mirrors posted at every curve that you had to look in to avoid running into any oncoming traffic. This was the most rural place I think I’ve ever been. I passed several fishing villages along the way, and I got a couple of long stares from old men who had no idea what to think of me. I think the way of life for these people probably keeps them pretty isolated from the rest of the world since they fish for a living and most likely don’t need to go into town for much at all. I imagine there’s a solid barter system going on here with the local farmers and anything they sell commercially is probably to vendors who make their rounds to all the little villages buying up their catch. I’m planning on taking a big bike tour this spring, and I’m definitely coming back this way so I can appreciate the beauty without the nerve-racking drive.





I’ve been infatuated with the ugliest, most delapidated buildings I can find, and this Uwajima beauty takes the cake. I would have taken more pictures, but, lo! My battery was low.


This is the Uwajima red light district in the day time. I had to walk down this street to avoid the X-mas music the next block over at the shopping arcade.


Ok kiddos. Cover your eyes. This is for big people only. (The last one’s my favorite)



Ok, we got pickled pigs feet, pickled eggs, red hots, geoduck (i.e., gooey-duck), and bull dongs…what’ll ya have?

These are some pictures from Katsurahama beach in Kochi City from my trip a couple of weeks ago.



Here are some videos I took in Tokyo when I first arrived.

Touchdown in Tokyo. This one’s not all that exciting…and it’s a little long.

This is an intersection at Tsukiji Fish Market. Notice how the traffic cop just is just faking it.

Baby Snakes? More from Tsukiji.

Sunday in Shinjuku.

A Butoh performance in Ueno Park

Ocean and Tunnels. On my train ride from Kochi to Nakamura.