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Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics (Part II) March 16, 2010

Posted by Dru in Canada, Sports, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics (Part II)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-nE

In terms of the Olympics themselves, the opening ceremonies were wonderful.  I heard a lot of great reviews from many people.  Of course, we couldn’t top Beijing, and we never tried to.  We did our own thing and had a great time with it.  I am extremely biased, so of course I loved it.  It was artistic and the music was wonderful.  I did, however, fall asleep halfway through, but I blame jetlag as the biggest factor, and it wasn’t very interesting in the middle, to be honest.  In terms of the events themselves, there has been a lot said about different things, and about the Canadian pride.  I will let the media and others talk about that on their own.  For myself, I thankfully had the opportunity to see two events.  I went to see women’s curling on two different days.  When people talk about curling, they only think, “curling”?  It’s a strange sport that is extremely underappreciated.  There is a lot of skill needed to do curling, and there is a lot of thinking involved.  You must use a lot of strategy.  During the games themselves, it was extremely rowdy.  The crowds, obviously it was mainly Canadian, cheered loud and hard for Canada.  Thankfully, many people understand the basic rules of curling, so most of the people could cheer correctly when there was a good or bad shot.  It wasn’t perfect, but people were pretty good about it.  Unfortunately, some of the other players were complaining that it was too loud and they couldn’t hear each other due to the cheering for the Canadian team.  It was part of the Olympic experience, and part of being an athlete.  I personally feel that they should be capable of dealing with these problems as they arose, but I also understand that the fans shouldn’t be as mean about things either.  Even the crowd should get penalties for unsportsmanlike behaviour.

On the Japanese side of things, there were only two sports that really mattered.  The first, and by a long shot, was figure skating.  Figure skating is now the number one winter sport in Japan, at least for the number of fans.  With the rivalry between Mao Asada and Yu-na Kim, it was impossible for Mao Asada to escape the limelight.  She had intense pressure, but by and far, the favourite was Yu-na Kim.  As you must know, by now, the results of their ranking didn’t change anything, and it was a predictable 1-2 finish for them.  The men’s side, however, had a small surprise with Daisuke Takahashi.  He is one of the most passionate skaters I’ve seen in a long time and it was fun to watch him skate.  Many skaters have very little passion when they skate, and it appears lifeless.  He had beaten the odds to become the first Japanese medalist in men’s figure skating.  He should be a hero in Japan.  The second biggest sport of these games was curling.  The Japanese women’s curling team was a young team from Aomori.  They were dubbed, Team Aomori, or Curling Musume (young girls curling).  They were all in their 20s and fairly cute overall.  It was a typical Japanese thing where they took the cutest women and focused a lot on them.  It was a little sad to see them knocked out in the round robin, but I think they did a great job.  If they had another 4 years to train, I’m sure they could come in and possibly steal a bronze medal.  Unfortunately, it’s unlikely, but a new group of young girls will take over and I’m sure women’s curling will get stronger and stronger for them.

By and far, the biggest “event” of these Olympics has to be the party.  Everyday during these Olympics, there was a party somewhere in Vancouver.  Whether it was in the bars, or just on the streets of downtown Vancouver, there was a party somewhere.  When the Canadian women’s hockey team won gold, we had a party.  On the final day of the Olympics, the Canadian men’s hockey team won gold in a nail biting overtime victory over the US team.  The entire country roared to life and screamed at the tops of our collective lungs.  There wasn’t a quite voice in Canada.  From that point on, the city partied until the early morning.  It was amazing to see all of the people erupt into cheers, if not tears, of joy when Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal.  To see thousands of people jump and scream at the same time is amazing.  The only other time you will see this is during a FIFA World Cup final.  You will never see this again.  The only other time you will ever, possibly, see this again is if a Canadian team wins the Stanley Cup.  It was amazing and I hope to experience this again sometime soon.

All in all, the Olympics were an experience that I will never forget.  I will never forget the energy that was in Vancouver while I was there.  I wish it was like that all the time.  People seemed friendlier, and to be able to see so many people walking around and enjoying themselves was a treat.  After the Olympics are finished, and the city returns to normal, things will be different.  I doubt it will return to normal, but the city itself has changed.  Hopefully, the amount of fun we had, and the amount of fun we will have, will continue to grow.  If you ever have a chance to visit Vancouver, I hope you will enjoy it and see all of the things that are left to see.  It’s amazing to enjoy this beautiful city.  It may not have the fashion of New York, or the history of Paris.  It may not have business of Hong Kong, or the craziness of Tokyo.  I would say it’s the most beautiful city in the world with some of the friendliest people as well.  Make sure you meet some people and have fun with them.

This is Part II of a two part series.  To read more about my experiences at the 2010 Winter Olympics, please go to Part I.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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Matsuyama July 14, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Shikoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Matsuyama” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-cN

Matsuyama is a city located on the western side of Shikoku.  It is, by some standards, considered the largest city on Shikoku, but this is debated with the city of Takamatsu.  The city itself has a very small feel, yet has enough shops to keep city folk happy.  It is also an excellent place to see different things at a somewhat relaxed pace.  You’ll be able to see a castle, onsen, parks, and temples, all in one city.  If you don’t have a lot of time, Matsuyama is a great place to see everything in a couple of days.

The heart of Matsuyama has to be the castle.  Matsuyama-jo is located on Mount Katsuyama.  This is a relatively small mountain that provides a nice getaway from the city itself.  There are about four different routes to climb Katsuyama to reach Matsuyama-jo.  Heading to the east side of the mountain is by far the easiest way to get to the top.  You can ride the gondola, or take the chairlift.  Both take roughly the same amount of time to reach the top.  The chairlift is a single chair that slowly climbs the mountain.  It is a very Japanese style of moving people.  It is very peaceful, providing beautiful views of the city as you climb the side of the mountain.  Riding the gondola is better if you have many small children with you.  The gondola is usually packed, so the view depends on where you are inside the car.  At the top of the gondola station, you’ll be greeted by many shop keepers trying to entice you to buy one of the citrus fruit drinks and bring a bottle home with you.  It is a nice refreshing drink, especially if you decide to hike up the mountain, but a little expensive.  Depending on the day you visit the castle, you might also find a few activities in the outer courtyard.  On the day I visited, there were opportunities to dress up in period clothing, such as a samurai, or in an old style kimono.  The castle itself is a well preserved original.  As I mentioned before, Shikoku has many wonderful and original, castles, unlike Honshu, the main island.  This one is no exception.  Upon paying the entrance fee, you will have a great opportunity to have spectacular views of the city.  The inside of the castle is extremely busy.  You must remove your shoes and wear slippers as you walk through the castle.  Unlike Kochi-jo, there isn’t much to see or do in this castle.  It is too busy to place dioramas, so you can only enjoy the original architecture and views from inside the castle.  It was amazing to see the Japanese people lining up in a very orderly fashion to leave the main tower of the castle.  If you have the energy, I would also recommend hiking down the mountain and taking a look at a shrine located halfway up the gondola.  If you head to the south side of the mountain, you can also visit Bansuiso.  It is a French style villa that is now part of an art gallery.  Unfortunately, I didn’t visit this gallery, but if I do return to Matsuyama, I will.

Matsuyama has two stations named Matsuyama, JR Matsuyama and Matsuyama-shi.  When you travel to Matsuyama, it is important to know which one you are at.  JR Matsuyama is a nice station, but it is highly focused on travellers only.  There are very few things to do around the station itself.  Located a fair walk west of the station is Matsuyama Central Park.  It is a more secluded park that is probably used by locals rather than everyday tourists.  It does have its own “castle”, but it is modeled after European castle walls, rather than Japanese style castles.  Matsuyama-shi station is more interesting.  It is the start of Matsuyama’s long shopping arcade.  As I have said, countless times, shopping arcades in Japan tend to look and feel the same.  Matsuyama’s shopping arcade is no different.  It is definitely worth a visit as it is somewhat unique.  I would probably take a quick look through the arcade, but focus more on the area just below Matsuyma-jo.  Around the gondola, you will be able to enjoy a more touristy and local experience.  This is also the location of the Matsuyama Guesthouse.

Matsuyama Guesthouse was my home for one night.  As a tourist on a budget, hostels are a great way to save money.  Although the sign says it’s a guesthouse, you can also rent rooms for one night.  The day I arrived, the hostel filled up completely.  There were two long term guests.  One was a New Yorker who had lived in China for a couple years.  He was just starting out in Japan, and decided Matsuyama would be his base.  There were also a couple of American hikers who were hiking all around Shikoku, but had to stop and return to Tokyo as they needed to get back to work.  An older Australian couple also came by.  They shared their stories of travelling throughout Japan and how they were going to another country, maybe Korea, to visit their son.  I also got to meet a Dutch “kid” who just finished High School and wanted to spend his GAP year in Japan.  At night, they had a special party for either Kids Day or Green Day.  In May, Japan has Golden Week, 5 consecutive days off, including the weekend.  With so many new guests, I guess we had to party.  We had some homemade okonomiyaki, cold sake, and some umeshu.  It was a wonderful time, but unfortunately, I couldn’t stay more than one night.  They were fully booked the next night.  The host of the hostel is very friendly and very kind.  Her English may not be perfect, but she tries so hard and she is always smiling.

Overall, Matsuyama is a wonderful city that is a must visit if you go to Shikoku.  While in Matsuyama, I would also recommend heading over to Dogo.  It is a very short tram ride, and I’ll talk about that next week.

Please feel free to visit Guesthouse Matsuyama and read their blog.  Unfortunately, their blog is only in Japanese, but the pictures are always nice.

Website: http://www.sophia-club.net/guesthouse/
Blog: http://www.sophia-club.net/blog.php

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part II) May 5, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2009 Sapporo Snow Festival (Part II)” complete with pictures:  http://wp.me/p2liAm-al

Note: Any and all descriptions of sculptures and activities are for 2009.  The sculptures are guaranteed to change, and some of the activities may also change.  It’s best to check just prior to going.

5-chome brought a little ice and eco awareness to the festival.  The first part was an Eco Plaza.  This was essentially a place to put windmills and other eco friendly stalls.  It was easy to forget this section as it was there to promote ways to save money and the environment.  If I could understand Japanese a lot more, I would have enjoyed it.  Unfortunately, it was too difficult at the time, and too cold, to really appreciate it.  The main attraction was the Hakodate Bugyo Chousha.  This is the original government building, located in Hakodate, to govern all of Hokkaido.  It was destroyed but it is currently being rebuilt.  It should be opened in 2010.  The park is well known in Hokkaido.  This sculpture was made out of ice, and lit up with various colours at various times to coincide with special shows.  Unfortunately, they turned off the lights as I was about to start taking pictures.  It was beautiful though, and how a large ice sculpture should look like.

6-chome was a place that I could easily forget.  It was the site of the food park.  One block where all they did was sell nice hot food for the hungry festival goers.  I would avoid this block as a lot of the food didn’t look that good, and I was already full from dinner.

7-chome was the first site of the first non-commercial snow sculpture.  They recreated, to scale, Sungnyemun.  It is the main gate that allowed people to enter Seoul.  Having been originally built over 500 years ago, it was a national treasure.  Unfortunately, an arsonist burned the structure down in 2008 and the wooden structure was destroyed.  The stone foundation was still standing, and thus they will be capable of rebuilding this beautiful structure.  Thankfully, the Korean government did an extensive analysis of the structure prior to it being burned down, so they know how to rebuild it.  Unfortunately, we don’t know when it will be rebuilt, but hopefully it will be sooner than later.  While this is a non-commercial sculpture, it was sponsored by HBC (Hokkaido Broadcasting Company), so their name is featured in all advertising, and below the sculpture itself.  In this day and age, it’s hard to get anything done without sponsorship.

8-chome brought another beautiful sculpture.  Hamamatsu castle, located between Tokyo and Osaka, was recreated.  While it isn’t the most beautiful castle, or the most majestic, it is, as any other castle in Japan, historical.  I can’t help but feel it was recreated because they ran out of other famous historical buildings to recreate.  I will admit that it was more beautiful and more detailed than Sungnyemun.  This one was also sponsored, by HTB (Hokkaido Television).  Behind Hamamatsu Castle, they had a mid sized snowboard ramp.  They had small competitions and demonstrations for people to watch snowboarders in action.  I doubt it was very special.  I find watching a half pipe competition to be more exciting.

9-chome saw a large reduction in the size of the sculptures.  A mid sized sculpture of a train and station was the main attraction.  The only problem was that the station was hard to see, and the train was covered in fresh snow.  I’m sure it could have looked better, but unfortunately, it seemed to have been rushed a little.  Thankfully, the rest of this block was comprised of various other sculptures that were no bigger than 2 metres in height.  Unfortunately, with so many people, it was difficult to take any pictures.  I might suggest going before 10am, as the festival officially opens at 10am.

Information:

Sapporo Snow Festival (English): http://www.snowfes.com/english/place/index.html
Sapporo Snow Festival (Japanese): http://www.snowfes.com/
Sapporo Snow Festival (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapporo_Snow_Festival

Note:  Part II of a 3 part series .  (Part I) (Part III)

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

White Day March 10, 2009

Posted by Dru in Uncategorized.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “White Day” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-9o

HAPPY WHITE DAY!!!

Last month, I wrote about Valentine’s Day in Japan and about how it is a commercial holiday where women are supposed to give chocolates to their male co-workers. On March 14th, Japan “celebrates” White Day. While Valentine’s Day is a commercialized holiday based on misinformation, White Day in Japan is a completely commercialized “holiday”. It was invented by a sweets maker in Japan as an answer to Valentine’s Day. It was originally used to sell white marshmallows, but it soon expanded to white chocolate and now any type of chocolate.

Today, White Day is where men return the favour of Valentine’s Day and give chocolate to women. While chocolate is not the only gift that is given, it is the most popular. Men can give almost any gift that they choose. Typically, office workers will give women chocolate that is more expensive than the chocolate given to them on Valentine’s Day. However, when it comes to their significant other, they don’t have to give chocolate. They can give almost anything that they choose, as long as their significant other enjoys the gift. This holiday has also started in Korea, where they do the same as in Japan; however, men give candy, not chocolate to women.

While a little more obscure in Japan, Korea has expanded these two holidays to include a third, “Black Day”. For any single people, especially those who didn’t receive any chocolate or candy on Valentine’s Day or White Day, will eat noodles with black bean sauce. This is to commiserate being single.

HAPPY WHITE DAY!!!

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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