Sunday, August 15, 1999

It was raining today and I wasn't sure how far the "Lantern Burning Festival" would have gotten in the rain. That would suck to get all the way there and find out it had been canceled or postponed or something like that. And since Yura wasn't even on a train line, I don't think it's worth it today to try.

Besides, I got a dead lock on the Demon Dance tomorrow. It's near Koya-san, which is a huge Buddhist temple and cemetery complex. If I miss the dance I can just hop on a train and be at Koya-san in no time.. I could hang out there for a while, and maybe have lunch at a temple. Maybe I'll spend the night, who knows. They've probably got some great stuff going on now because of Ubon this week.

My CD ROM drive is busted. I took the whole thing apart today, even bought some more screwdrivers from the hardware store. When I finally got the drive out of the frame, I heard a jingling sound... that's not good. I did clean some dust out of it, but when I hooked the whole thing up again the darn thing still wouldn't work.

I bid on a new CD ROM drive on EBAY, 48X. Better than my old one and it only set me back 40 bucks... not too bad, eh?

Monday, August 16, 1999: Headin' for the Hills

Today I was all set and ready to head off the to the train station to go to the Demon Dance, but just as I was about to get my shoes on I got a call from Kristy who said that a bunch of them were going to go to a festival in Kyoto and wouldn't I like to come along? Heck yeah! The festival was called "Daimon-ju Gozan Okuribi". Enormous fires are lit on the sides of the surrounding hills in the shapes of kanji (Chinese characters).

When we got to Kyoto train station (the largest train station I've ever seen, it's like an airport, I swear), we waited for Grant's friend for about an hour then left, went to a Italian restaurant, then walked around and tried to find a spot for the festival. It was crowded but we still managed to find a decent spot to view one of the kanjis. There was an "oohhhh" and an "ahhhhh" as the kanji blossomed with light and everyone clapped. Then there was a mass exodus as many people either left or tried to find another kanji (there were five in total, I think). We decided to head back to the train station because it was a long way home, and in crossing the first bridge we saw another kanji, but we didn't get to really appreciate it because it was so crowded on that bridge and all we could think about was getting off the bridge!

The trains were jam packed and we were lucky to catch a train just as we got back to the station.

Wednesday, August 18, 1999

Sick all day today. Queasy stomach, sore throat, headache, muscle aches. It's summer!! What am I doing sick?!? AARRGHH!! Friend from Kyoto wanted to come over and nurse me back to health, but she's leaving in just a few days for Egypt. That's the last thing I want... for her to get sick just as she's flying into Cairo? No way, Jose.

For most of the day I just read. Pretty uneventful.

Thursday, August 19, 1999: When Death Comes...

Still sick today. Talked to Hiroko (friend from Kyoto) again. Had to convince her for the second time why coming over here to watch over me was a bad idea. I told her what she could do for me though, was to send me some sand from a temple in Egypt. Now that's been a little fantasy of mine for a long time. I don't know exactly why I want it, I just do.

Really tired too. But that's my fault; I stayed up way too late last night. I was having problems sleeping and tried to read to relax, but I discovered that Anne Rice's _Memnoch the Devil_ is not the best reading material to relax to.

Was feeling a little better later on and so I dragged myself to the video store without too much of a fuss. Rented an X-Files and a weird, whacked-out movie with Mira Sorvino. It's about this Japanese guy who finds out that he's got only 12 hours to live, so he tries to do some extraordinary things, but they turn out to be not so impressive, his best friend dies, and he ends up killing himself, fulfilling death's own prophecy. Total drag of a movie, and a bit disturbing at times. It's been a while since I've thought about death and now I know why.

Friday, August 20, 1999

Mailed ALL my bills today. Woohoo!! I'm all caught up. Once in a lifetime event. Went to city hall to turn in an application for Japanese classes, correspondence course. I promised myself I wouldn't do that, but Japanese learning has stagnated more than a little. Tsuyama (my supervisor) really wants me to do it, don't really blame him either. I think it'll be good. Looking at the syllabus. New ALTs got their school lists... I wonder who got which ones.

Change is most definitely in the air. I'm leaving soon. I think Sunday. We'll see. I wanted to go to Hokkaido but now I'm not sure where I'll end up. Maybe I'll play spin the map or random train. Random train, you know that one? That's where you get on some random train and you follow it until you feel like getting off. Did that in Europe a couple of times. That's good fun!

Saturday, August 21, 1999: Chubu

This morning, wasn't feeling so great so I was up for the earthquake at quarter to six. It was a good shaker. Probably a 4.5 or so. And AGAIN it happens during the fifth hour in the morning. What's up with that, you know what I mean?? Just let us sleep for the love of God! Sigh. Only one of them, though, so I went back to sleep and slept until 12 or so.

I still wasn't feeling 100% this evening, but I went over to the neighbors' for dinner and watched X-Files on tape. The new episodes for the sixth season came out at the video store and I'm trying to get myself up to date. Bummer to be so behind, but that's life. It could be a lot worse, though... I could be in a country where they don't get all the X-Files on tape... not even video stores in the US have as extensive collections. I had actually already seen that one when I was back in the spring. We argued over whether Gillian Anderson is attractive or whether she looks like a turtle.

I've charted roughly where I'll go tomorrow. Well, at least I know a rough area, Chubu, which is central Honshu. I'm going to leave really early, that is, if I'm better. This morning I could hardly get out of bed, I felt so awful. I hope it's gone by tomorrow.

I've made no reservations, as per usual, but it's high season with a lot of hikers and tourists out in that area. I hope I can find an open hostel or something or this is gonna be a real short trip.

But I really feel like this is going to be a great trip, even though I don't know the specifics (it's more fun that way). I'm taking a few changes of clothes, my cameras, and a lot of cash. Hope I meet some cool people in the hostels around there, unlike my last mini-adventure through Nara and Kyoto, where the hostels only held one down-and-out English teacher and a bunch of schoolchildren.

OK. The main focus of the itinerary is castles (I'll see three castles which are supposed to be really cool), hiking around an active volcano, hiking through the countryside and wooded areas, and seeing real, traditional Japanese houses. The OLD kind. There's very, very few of those left. Oh, and maybe I'll throw in a few museums for good measure if I feel like it. If I see all that, I'll be a happy camper.

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