Rigors of work

PixelJunk Racers is coming to a close. Rhod takes a rare nap, free from weekend work for the first time in months.

29 08 07 - 23:06 - kieren - default| No comments - §

Itsy bitsy

All Japanese spiders seem to jump rather than walk, making them scarily unpredictable. Spiders in our bathroom! Crikey.

29 08 07 - 23:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Dusk at Thunder Mountain

With the sun failing on us, we waded across the weir at Arashiyama to cool our sun-slapped bodies. The water was deliciously cold, but the stones were dangerously slick with algae so we had to be careful picking our way over the man-made steps.
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26 08 07 - 18:32 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Laze daze

Rhod takes a break from rowing.

26 08 07 - 18:23 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Punch face

A night of Mexican food and pore strips. Nice. Click on (more) to see a picture of Misako's new beau.
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26 08 07 - 18:21 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Verdant

Spot the heron.

26 08 07 - 18:17 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

When the weather is fine, you know it's the time...

... For messin' about on the river. When there is nothing to do, and the day is so hot it would make camels cry, then why not escape to the river.
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26 08 07 - 18:14 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Lightning

24 08 07 - 19:31 - kieren - default| No comments - §

Kyoto

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23 08 07 - 04:28 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Corn mecca

On the shores of Lake Biwa, we were accosted by a swarm of ants who seemed very intrigued by our sweetcorn.

19 08 07 - 20:03 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Lord of the manor

My dad poses outside Melford Hall. 'With its dramatic skyline of tall chimneystacks and fanciful octagonal turrets, Melford Hall is one of the finest and most satisfying Elizabethan houses in the East of England'. Yes, quite. Look at all that grass!
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19 08 07 - 19:20 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Lara Croft in Slovenia

Louisa and Jason recently returned from their holiday in Slovenia. Looks more like Lara Croft in her next adventure. I'm liking the get up.

'We were away for 8 nights. It was a lovely, healthy holiday. Slovenia is so beautiful. We were based in three places, did walks on our own from each of them, and taxis transferred our luggage when we moved from one area to the next, so it was quite a luxury walking holiday! I think we averaged about 15kms a day - two days doing over 20kms and that doesn't tell the whole story as some of the terrain was really rough and there was lots of ascending / descending. I've never been so physically exhausted on holiday before but it had the advantage of meaning we didn't need to worry too much about what we ate - which was just as well, as the portions were enormous at most of the restaurants we went to and I don't think either of us ever managed to finish a meal! Anyway, if you ever fancy a holiday away from the hustle and bustle, I can thoroughly recommend Slovenia - some days we went hours without passing anyone on our walks and the scenery is stunning. Amazing mountains, lakes and tiny Alpine villages. I'll try to attach a couple of pics in a separate e-mail but they can't really do it justice! Oh, I'll include a people pic, with me carrying the rucksack (J carried it every single day except one and is lamenting the fact there are far more pics of me carrying the bag than him, which definitely gives the wrong impression!!) .'
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19 08 07 - 19:17 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kewpie Mike

At the supermarket today there was a big old kewpie doll advertising the tarako range of Alaska pollock roe pasta sauces. Yum! Mike jumped at the chance to have his photo taken.

19 08 07 - 19:11 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Fangs

This little chap was hanging out at Shiga Station. If he hadn't been the size of my pinkie nail, there would have been no chance of anyone getting me near to the wee beastie.

19 08 07 - 19:10 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Before the storm

Mike, Nicky, Rhod and I spent the morning on the shores of Lake Biwa, cooking on little disposable barbecues. We swam, we lazed and we ate, listening to music and hanging out on the quiet little beach at Shiga. Only two stops from Omimaiko, the beach seemed a million miles from that bustling cattle market. A noisy group of Russians set up camp next to us, but the afternoon buzzed on, cloudy and warm. Rhod and Mike floated out onto the lake, stretched out on our giant rubber rings. Ropes are strung up to prevent people swimming out too far, which is a lucky thing as the waters are quite crowded with speedboats, waterskiers and banana boats.
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19 08 07 - 18:39 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Squall and the pink lightning

Gathering our soggy belongings, we trudged through the small neighbourhood and back to the station, survivors of the great storm. With soaking and clammy clothes, we paid for our tickets and awaited the train. Soon it arrived and we piled on to the over-airconditioned carriage, shivering and wondering why it was not moving. The conductor announced that the electrical storm had levelled trees and thus we would have to wait until the tracks were cleared. For up to three hours as it was a sunday.
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19 08 07 - 18:39 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Thoughtful

My mum glances over the mud-flats at Maldon.
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18 08 07 - 07:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Barbie

In preparation for a grand day out to Shiga on Sunday, we cleaned up the old BBQ and decided to have a test run on our balcony. Save for forgetting the fire-lighters, the whole evening was successful thanks to Mike's amazing cooking and perseverance. A few beers on the deserted hallway that runs down the front of our grim slum and we were happy.
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17 08 07 - 19:51 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Race

A group of men on the beach at Omimaiko seemed determined to prove their manly credentials. They raced, swam, held their breath and stripped one another naked. All very funny and strange. Japanese men do seem to like get naked wherever possible.
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17 08 07 - 19:45 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Mackerel sky

Returning to Kyoto, I could see that there was a mackerel sky, the thin wisps of cloud looking like fish scales. 'Mackerel sky, mackerel sky. Never long wet and never long dry.' Could it be that thunderstorms or rain are on the way?

17 08 07 - 19:42 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Mirrorpools

Behind the beach of Omimaiko there is a small fishing lake with rotting rowing boats and weed-clogged edges. As the sun slowly dropped to dusk, the mountains were perfectly mirrored in the still waters. It was peaceful and beautiful, and for a few moments you could forget the thousands crammed onto the shore-side just beyond the thin fence of trees.
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17 08 07 - 19:41 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Omimaiko and the chavs

My first mistake was to get off of the train to change platforms. JR's wonderfully confusing concoction of train schedules meant that we left the correct train and were thus forced to take a series of three more to get to the small beach at Omimaiko on the shores of Lake Biwa. Mike had heard word that there was a decent beach and so we packed our things and skirted the northern shores, under the shadows of some spectacular mountains. Frazzled by the sun, we sauntered through the ghost-town of vending machines and crumbling holiday homes, and emerged onto a pebble beach crammed full of people. All of them orange.
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17 08 07 - 19:36 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Burning bright

Mike and Nicky pose with Hidari-Daimonji burning on the mountain behind Mizu's parents house.

16 08 07 - 07:02 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Mapping Daimonji

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16 08 07 - 01:23 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The Send-Off Fires

Daimonji is Kyoto's most popular mid-summer event. Obon is an ancient rite to honor the souls of one's ancestors. The origin of the event is not clearly known, but it has been an important public summer rite since the early 17th century (the event is described in great detail in a historical record written in 1603). Rhod, Nicky, Mike, Misako and I cycled to Mizu's parents house, where we could see three of the five great bonfires from the roof.

On the night of August 16th five giant Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (Send-off Fires) are seared into the mountains that encircle Kyoto. No-one can exactly remember why the bonfire tradition was started, though there are a handful of historical suggestions.
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15 08 07 - 19:49 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

13) Conclusion of a Short Guide to the History of Kyoto: The Living Museum

These photos resemble the jumble that is modern Kyoto. Old rubs shoulders with the new, tradition with modernity, the bizarre with the sombre, and the beautiful with the scars of recent years. The Aoi Matsuri, celebrated on May 15, is one of the three main Kyoto festivals. It dates back to the 7th century. (more)

14 08 07 - 04:55 - kieren - Photostory| four comments - §

Ki and Gil

It is very fun to make Gil smile and laugh.

14 08 07 - 04:54 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

A million Kittys

Kitty caught in a series of mirrors that are supposed to represent an insect-eye view of the world.

14 08 07 - 04:52 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

When dinosaurs walked the earth...

...they spoke with a genteel voice and a tip of the hat. Kitty was as fascinated as I was bemused that the ridiculous voice spewing from the fanged mouth seemed like a country gent. Tyrannosaurus Rex surely did not speak like this. If so, I rather like to think that in England this beast would have the voice of Alan Rickman.

14 08 07 - 04:51 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kyoto planetarium

Erina drove us to Fushimi today, to the city planetarium. I have never been to a planetarium before and was very excited to see the star displays. By the time I had gotten home, my dreams were dashed, but I was happily exhausted by spending the day with Kitty and Gil.

Like anything run by city funds, the planetarium is a sad decaying shell, housing mismatched displays and odder items. It felt like walking into a primary school jumble sale. There was just no logic. In my first few steps I had looked at shells, seen an earthquake machine, observed hatching chicks, freshwater fish and walked through a house of mirrors. And slap bang in the middle of it all was a talking Tyrannosaurus Rex. The beast jerkily roars as if it is doing the robot, introducing himself in what can only be described as a gentleman's voice. I am not sure why there are dinosaurs at the planetarium. But then I don't think butterflies, sea creatures and water experiments necessarily go together. I suppose you could cram everything under the umbrella of 'education'. A science museum gone potty.
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14 08 07 - 04:49 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Peek-a-boo

Misako and pink Ki-chan pose for a photo on the Nihon-kai coast.
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13 08 07 - 03:43 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

12) A Short Guide to the History of Kyoto: A Merchant City



The Togetsukyo Bridge spans the Oi River. Togetsu means "moon crossing" - and this bridge was so named by Emperor Kameyama because of the resemblance to that phenomenon. (more)

13 08 07 - 03:41 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Pink Ki-chan eats well

Pink Ki-chan (why is the bloody thing named after me?) tucks in to some traditional Japanese fare. Fresh sea-food from the Nihon-kai.

13 08 07 - 03:40 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Nihon-kai

Misako has been driving up to the Sea of Japan (Nihon-kai) quite a few times this month to surf and eat the local crab, and fresh sea-food. Kyoto's northern coast is exceptionally beautiful, but is a frustrating couple of hours away. Jealous much.
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13 08 07 - 03:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Grassy capibara

Misako spotted this grassy capibara while out and about in Osaka. Capibara seem to have made something of a splash in Japan lately, with cute characters popping up everywhere. Strangely, it appears to have a double set of eyes.

13 08 07 - 03:28 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Congratulations to Mizu-kun

A few weeks ago, Mizu-kun tied the knot. Here are some photos from Misako's point of view. Congratulations!
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13 08 07 - 03:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

I'll take this one

Rhod falls for baby Gil.

11 08 07 - 18:43 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Introducing Gil

As Dale and Kitty went to watch Ratatouille, I caught up with Erina and new baby Gilead. I love that his nickname will be Gil. I know that people often say that babies are cute, but this little bundle of baby really is adorable. It was very cool to hold him and listen to his gurgling. I swear he said his first words, though he is little over six weeks old. Well one word, 'milk'. There is something magical about baby hair and their fat little arms. I definitely want one.
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11 08 07 - 18:41 - kieren - Photostory| four comments - §

Kyonoki chaps

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08 08 07 - 05:11 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

11) A Short Guide to the History of Kyoto: The Tokugawa



The Hozugawa River (here growing serene as it becomes the Oi River) was dredged in the Edo Period to make it navigable. (more)

06 08 07 - 07:29 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

My fair lady

The late Summer appears to have finally arrived in the UK. Here is my mum looking very genteel in Felixstowe. I really like this photo.

05 08 07 - 18:07 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Shoryo Tombo

'In Japan, the dragonfly is a national emblem. In fact, Japan used to be called Akitsushima, or Dragonfly Island. The long, rainy summer season and numerous rivers and streams provide ideal living conditions for dragonflies, which spend the early stages of their life in the water. More than 190 dragonfly species can be found in Japan.

In Japanese culture, the dragonfly has many meanings. It symbolizes the summer season, success, victory, happiness, strength, and courage. Long ago, Japanese farmers believed the presence of dragonflies in their fields meant an abundant rice harvest. Among the samurai, or warrior class, the dragonfly was a favorite emblem for decorating armor and helmets. Throughout the homes of noblemen, dragonfly images appeared in paintings and on porcelain, furniture, and fabrics.

The mythical creature Shoryo Tombo (Dragonfly of the Dead) is associated with the Japanese festival of Obon. During this Buddhist festival, people honor their ancestors. The spirits of the dead, carried by Shoryo Tombo, return home to be reunited with their families.*
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05 08 07 - 18:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

In search of the swim

August's sweltering heat and relative freedom from work has had us searching more and more for places to swim. As the sea is a two or three hour drive away, and as Lake Biwa is only clean enough for swimming on its Eastern shores, we are forced to turn to the rivers that slice through Kyoto. The Hozugawa is perfect, but all swimming is banned and the swirling, violent currents make most of its stretch inaccessible. The Kamo in contrast, to the East, is stilted and slow flowing, overly muddy and rank come the hot months of Summer. So it was a nice surprise to find two spots in the North East of the city, one below Mt. Hiei and close to the cable-car station, and this one on the North Western branch of the Kamo River at Nishikamo.

Success at last and my feet are itching to get back into the water.
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05 08 07 - 17:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The dark side

Just as Lucas was inspired by the samurai armor of old, so Darth Vader seems to have come full circle, transformed back into a samurai warrior. It is both odd, yet fitting. I am not sure how expensive, or how in demand these metre high dolls are, but they are fairly cool.

05 08 07 - 17:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

When summer gets too much

The diving exertions of the day seemed a little too much for this chap at Nishikamo.

05 08 07 - 17:45 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The naked divers of Nishikamo

Sunday was one of those cloudless days where the sun is so hot that you can feel your skin prickling and crackling in the heat. With the apartment draining every last piece of energy out of our muscles, oven-like and humid, we decided to escape the soupy heat. With Mike and Nicky in tow we zig-zagged across the city and followed the Kamo River to where it pours down from Mt. Kurama. Passing by the Kamo Shrine, the houses grew larger and more spacious, and the mountains crowded in, paddy fields and small factories replacing the urban sprawl.

Just when we thought we could cycle no further, the river-path vanishing and our bodies sleek with sweat, we came upon the Northern most bridge of the Kamo. Below us was a small gorge in which the river gushed around rocky islands. Families were camped out in the shade of the bridge, children hunting for fish with their nets and rubber rings, the smells of a BBQ wafting up, fathers dressed in wet-suits and snorkling in the shallows. Setting up our meagre and ill-prepared picnic, we watched men dragging their still-clothed girlfriends into the icy waters. Rhod was stripped and swimming about, happy as a fish.

So the afternoon passed. A little way upsteam were two giant steps, man-made waterfalls. In the space between them the water pooled deep enough for boys to toss themselves off the edge of the first waterfall without harm. We watched as one by one they gathered enough courage to throw themselves over, hitting the water with a dull slap each time. One boy stripped off naked, paraded his manhood and then dove in to much applause. It was all very engrossing and added a summer-time easiness to the day.

Above the waterfall dozens of families were camped out for the day. They all seemed to have brought the entire house with them: umbrellas, chairs, BBQs, camping equipment, toys and icecoolers all vied for space in the gentle flow of the river and the muddy plain. We were happy enough to just sit amongst the gushing locks and sparkling pools. Next time we will be a little more prepared and I am looking forward to returning soon.
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05 08 07 - 17:43 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

HQ

I love my work chair, very lush. Looks like I should be stroking a pure white Persian and pondering earthly annihilation. Which I don't, not at work. The school is very small and like an apartment really, comfortable and homely. Easy to teach and feel relaxed doing so. Still, I wish I had a cat.

03 08 07 - 08:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

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Rhod and Ki's tour of life in Kyoto, Japan.

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