Category Archives: out on the town

Gero Onsen Gassho Mura (and the slide)

Saturday was a wet and rainy day, but Sunday the sun came up and we took a trip over to the Gassho Village in Gero aka Gero Onsen Gassho Mura. As you can see from the video the trees are still gorgeous… and the slide is still fun.

Sega Arcade

We went to Takayama last night to meet some Canadians. We ate at C4H and then went to the SEGA arcade. Lots of games! We also tried out the photo booth…(more)

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Sand from China

Sand dust from China

..a lovely mottled yellow color.

I asked Nick what caused the dirt on vehicles. Here is his reply:

“First of all, the accumulation of dirt on vehicles can be attributed to sandstorms in China that get picked up and carried over on air streams from the west and then deposited down on to Japan.  This is why many vehicles look like they have been driven down a dusty road.  Indeed, before coming to work earlier last week, I wondered why there was a dusty sediment on my scooter.. As I have not been driving down any gravel roads.  I have been warned that it can be hazardous to your health, and another reason why wearing masks is a part of the norm.  Also, do not bother washing vehicles as they will just get coated in the China-yellow-sand soon afterwards.
If the air seems a little smoggy or smokey, it is in fact an invasion of Chinese dust.

Secondly, it is allergy season.  Yet there are not any flowers in bloom yet that I have seen.  There are pollen-emanating evergreens (that are sometimes brown) that exist all throughout Japan, and this is the reason behind allergy season in Japan.

It turns out Japan is a much more dangerous place than I had originally thought… Especially in spring.”

Narita-san mentioned that the sand is much finer than normal beach sand, which is how it is able to make the journey from China.

Historic Villages of Shirakawa

About 2 hrs from Gero is the historic village of Shirakawa. For a few weeks of the year, they illuminate the gassho-zukuri farmhouses. I had seen pictures on the internet, and it looked really cool, so we were game for the drive. Dietz and I hopped in the car, manned only with our phone GPS. It was snowing like crazy (and pretty cold) at Ogimachi, but it was beautiful. If you want to look at it when it’s not a winter wonderland, check it out here.

 

Tagged

Tonki: A 73 year tradition

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Shiro and I were out in Tokyo once again for business. We kinda have a thing going that when the other person helps each other out we say, “You owe me Tonkatsu” basically meaning “hey, I did you a favor you owe me dinner”. Being Puerto Rican, it’s only natural that I would have fallen in love with Tonkatsu, a deep fried, breaded pork chop. You can find Tonkatsu pretty much every where in Japan, and it’s a very safe meal for those who aren’t too adventurous.

So dinner was on me this time, and Shiro had been telling me about this Tonki place: the best place for Tonkatsu… or so they say. He claims they have been in business for some 70 years. I wasn’t sure what to expect, after getting off Meguro Station it was a short walk,  kinda squirreled away off the main street behind Meguro Hilltop Walk tower.

From the outside, it is underwhelming to say the least, however the line was practically out the door. Once we got in we stood in line and slowly started seeing progress as the line moved forwarded.

Ojiisan’s were holding the place down- all dressed in white. The head chef is running point calling out to everyone in line, figuring out what everyone wants, and how many are in their party. They only sell variations of portions – Tonkatsu is their only dish. We finally sat down after 30 minutes or so, the place was packed. The tonkatsu was excellent. It definitively kinda has a Soup Nazi thing going on.. but I definitely recommend it!

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SnOw it begins

The quick trip to Takayama last night involved crafts, ski stores, hamburgers, and snow. (cont’d)

At the counter waiting for the deliciousness to arrive

… the deliciousness in the making.

The accumulation of this season’s snow.

Quiet streets

Gero Driving School

The course

From all accounts on the world wide web, passing the driver’s test the first time doesn’t seem to happen all that often. “Driving Schools” are a HUGE business in Japan -around $3,000/person. (Of course, you wouldn’t know that there were such high standards for getting a driver’s license because the general population of this island doesn’t drive any better than the US). We didn’t go to the driving school, but we did spend an hour at the Gero Driving School driving around on a course “similar to the one in Gifu”.

Takeaways from the Gero Driving School:

  • Drive slow on the inside of the course, but not too slow on the outside.
  • Pump the breaks (3x) prior to reaching a turn. (?!)
  • Exaggerate your mirror check/blind spot checks.
  • Don’t hit things. You immediately fail.
  • It’s OK to drive with your blinker on if you are going to turn in the next 3 minutes.
  • If the test administrator has to use the emergency break you fail.
  • There is a specific order for moving the seat, locking the door, adjusting the mirrors, and putting on the seatbelt… but I can’t remember the order…hmm.

 

Q: “What happens if you miss/forget a turn during the exam?”

A: “Nothing. Loop back around and try again. It only gives you more opportunities to fail”

If you are interested, check out the Japanese road signs. Word on the street is that the not-as-populated prefectures are more lenient, so I guess that’s another plus for living in GP.

Taking the car for a spin

2013

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!  2012 was a crazy year of new experiences, challenges, and opportunities.

We have had a lovely time seeing our friends and family over the holidays. Seeing them is always wonderful, but it is even more special now that we live on the other side of the world. Y’all are welcome to visit us any time. 😉

Here’s to 2013!

The last sunset of 2012

Getting a little Christmas shopping in.

Mrs. Camacho, striking a pose.

 

 

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Thought this building was pretty cool with the giant abstract Sakura.

 

 

Christmas is a great time of year to visit Tokyo, there are lights everywhere!

December is a great time of year to visit Tokyo, there are lights everywhere!

Taiko

Earlier this month, Nakagawa-san brought us to taiko practice. We had a front row seat, and it was just as exciting/powerful as KODO! Watch the video and see for yourself… (cont’d)

Feel the beat!

Mr. Bolt

We got a up close look of the Nissan GT-R. Very Shiny.. Very Fast.

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Check out the guy on the bench, he was obviously blown away from the grand viewing.

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Annual Festival of Onsen-Jinja

MD wandered downtown and happened upon the Annual Festival of Onsen-Jinja.  It was a very small event, but still very neat to see! There was a parade (Sanshin-Gyoretsu) and traditional dances (dragon and maiko). All of the costumes were beautiful, but I especially enjoyed the egret* costumes.

At the end of the festival, the ladies served the crowd sake in a commemorative masu (box cups) and men climbed to the top of the scaffolding and threw rice cakes to the crowd (Sengomaki). My Louisiana upbringing came in handy as I was able to catch a throw and take video at the same time. As a side note, rice cakes taste absolutely nothing like king cakes.

Why is the egret is the mascot of the Gero Onsen? “From ancient days Gero Hot Springs were familiar to people for its bountifulness. One day the springs had been stopped because of a big earthquake. People were so sad. One day one egret swooped down on the Masuda River and stood for awhile. And the very next day he came the same place and stood there. Day after day he did the same thing! They wondered why, but look! There is a spring! They were so glad. The egret left the place and never came back again. They noticed that there was a statue of Yakushi-Nyorai. So they appreciate that the egret was the embodiment of Yakushi-Nyorai, who was pity for them and tell them the source of the Hot Springs.”