October 31, 2005

Fishes' eyes are filled with tears


It didn't surprise me that the Fuji mountain was (is) considered holy and that it inspired so many different art forms. When you see it looming in the horizon, you truly get a very humble feeling of belonging to this insignificant human race.


To appreciate Fujiyama in all its glory, I went up to the hills to the 5 Fuji lakes area. But the mountain was shy - covered in clouds the whole time. I got to see (and take a picture of) Fuji only from the shinkansen (bullet train) on the way to Kyoto. However, Kawaguchiko lake and the nature around was one of the most amazing shights during the trip.


First of all, because autumn was a bit more advanced in the highlands. The temperature dropped down to some 10C degrees in the evening and some trees were already getting autumn colours in their leaves. I didn't quite realize how much I missed seasons untill I saw autumn.


Besides beautiful colours, Japanese nature is unbelievably cute! Even after some 4 hours hike into the forest the trees seem to be trimmed to please the eye. I went a bit overboard with hiking (Kaj wasn't there to stop me:) and completed a 6 hour hike in 4 hours. At the worst times when I thought I wasn't going to make it, I'd have a bite of rice crackers from Asakusa and carry on forward.. :) However after that day I had sore muscles for the rest of the trip (to the extent that I'd walk with completely straight legs (they wouldn't bend at knees) and not be able to go downstairs without holding the rail with both hands..)


It is very easy to understand how the Japanese came up with all their most sensitive art forms - looking at foggy rice fields, listening to the crows, feeling and knowing that time passes. Like these haiku, I can trully appreciate them. This is how it feels in Japan. Really.

Autumn wind.
Two plates,
Their designs differ
Sekitei Hara

A bubble grows.
A thin ice plate moves a little.
Suju Takano

A crane
Shading in the evening twilight
Trails its smokelike wings.
Kakio Tomizawa


Yeah, in many places in Kawaguchiko I had my eyes tearing.. The beauty and feelings it provokes is almost unbearable. I couldn't believe that the Lithuanian painting and musical genius Ciurlionis hasn't been to Japan. Many of places in Japan actually look like his paintings!


Its difficult to feel all these things in Leijonakaupunki. Its scorching summer all year round and you have to hide from nature as much as possible, because its threatening, damaging and inconvenient. ah.. I just miss waking up in the morning and checking weather forecast for the day.. Or hoping that the sun will shine on the weekend.. It gives you some kind of sensitivity..


If you ask me, Japan nature beats many places on Earth. Its of the same league as Nida in Lithuania and m¨kki in Finland..

Spring departs.
Birds cry
Fishes' eyes are filled with tears
Basho Matsuo

Posted by gkligyte at 07:46 PM | Comments (1)

October 30, 2005

Big in Japan


Finally I got myself together to sit down and sieve through the pictures from Japan. I'm still amazed and thrilled about it. All I can say is that after traveling around Asia for a while, I thought that nothing could impress me anymore. I've been to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines.. Every place is different, but somehow very similar too. I was curious about Japan, but didn't expect something so overwhelmingly different. In general, my expectation was that it is very packed with people, very developed and urban. It is, in a way, but I can't describe how wrong about everything else I was.


The urban part of it is not so horrible (actually quite calm and very cool) and besides that you don't have to hang around in the big cities if you don't want. Every day I was in constant awe about everything. Just walking down the street you get this happy feeling of disbelief, how extremely beautiful and great everything is! The cities, the people, the nature, the arts, the design, the food.. Everything! Sadly all my pictures are overexposed, so I had to spend some time trying to recover some of the original colours and contrast.


The reason why I "had to" go to Japan was because I needed to change my passport (it is full of visas already and the nearest Lithuanian embassy is either in Tokyo or Beijing. A good excuse to visit the "too expensive" and "too faraway" Japan!) Before coming to Japan I had the impression that the Japanese don't speak much of English and that the cities are very difficult to navigate through. How wrong I was once again! The subway/train system is enormous, but very easy to navigate. The train stations are full of helpful people in uniforms that are able to point to the right platforms and that know train timetables by heart. The trains work like clockwork - I haven't taken a wrong train throughout the whole trip and didn't get lost in a "grand way" at all. There's lots of signs in English and in fact Japan is very accommodating for a traveller. Although crowded, Tokyo is very quiet. You don't get such a sensory overload as you do in Leijonakaupunki if you dare to venture to the Orchard rd on the weekend.


I stayed in Asakusa area - a very nice and non-pretentious place. It has a strong spirit of the olden times, there's lots of small restaurants, the streets are narrow and people ride bicycles everywhere. Waah.. The food was brilliant! Btw, in Japan when you eat sushi or sashimi, you don't drown everything in wasabi. There's very moderate amounts of it on the sushi itself and no additional wasabi anywhere in sight! The fish is so good and fresh, that you don't need to "kill" the "fishy" taste with wasabi. But my most favorite throughout the whole trip was soba - buckwheat noodles. Yummy!!


The Senso-ji temple in Asakusa stroke me as something amazing (when I think about it now, probably more as the first Japanese temple..:) There were a lot of people in the early evening hanging around, there were lanterns and small shops everywhere.


It felt that a lot of people were just going around their daily business, it didn't seem to be set up exclusively for tourists. The white papers tied to the frame are fortune lots. You pay some coins to draw a piece of paper with your fortune, but if you don't like it, you can leave it tied on a frame in the temple. Its somebody else's business to bother about it then. Not yours anymore.. :)


I got very excited about the way Japanese use caligraphy. It is amazing to see how traditional arts, crafts and designs get a new life in mordern days. Japanese are very good with typography in contemporary design - text has a lot of visual expressiveness to the extent that I've never seen in any other place before. Many times I thought about the P. Greenaways The Pillow Book movie while traveling in Japan. It is an amazingly visually inspiring place. Sometimes it was difficult to sleep at night, because I kept seeing pictures, imagining new kinds of patterns.. ;)


The great rice crackers from Senso-ji fed me well into the trip. In many places while travelling in Asia I wonder how the Christian churches would look like if Jesus wouldn't have taken the stick and kicked out the merchants from the temple. I don't really see anything wrong about selling things at the holy places. It makes the experience more fullfilling (and filling sometimes.. :)


Japan is still very much the Men's World. You see thousands of men dressed in black suits everywhere in Tokyo. If you ever wondered where the makers of the Matrix movie got their inspiration for Mr. Smith, you should come to Japan. The trains are packed of this kind of "salary men". I got the feeling that females are not quite catching up in the job market and everywhere else. As far as I understood, women play mostly supporting roles in businesses and most of the "high-flyers" are men.. The good old mens club-clan-meetings taking place behind closed doors are very common. I am not sure about submissiveness and the value of the group before the individual known as traditionally Japanese. It felt that many people are very cool and it seemed that very many of them have hobbies (train models, comics, toys, handcrafts, etc). Also the streets are full at any hour of the day, so I guess they have a lot of time for shopping, not only working? And they also line up to get on the train, to enter different places and don't cut ques!!! That is a clear sign of high level of civilization - centuries of living in urban spaces teach you some courtesy...


There's a lot of things "most-est" in Japan. For example the imperial palace is the most expensive piece of land on the planet Earth!!!


Shinjuku station is the busyest train station on Earth. Every day 2 million people pass the station (imagine, thats more than half of Lithuanian population!!)


Oh yeah! And the earthquakes! Supposedly there are about 1000 earthquakes a year in Japan (some of them very small). So I was not suprised at all when on the second night in Tokyo there was quite a strong earthquake (I think some 6 grade or whatever you call it). The house shook like a train and the glasses were ringing. But as everything is built out of "carton", I wasn't worried at all. They don't build very sturdy structures and it comes in handy during earthquakes. The walls don't crack, the roofs don't collapse. Everything shakes a little bit and thats about it. I think that the electricity cables are outside because of the same reason. If smth gets pulled and torn underground, there could be a lot of trouble trying to find and fix it..


On the way out of Tokyo I had a tempura soba in this place where salary men come for lunch. You get to sit down just for a short while and there are a lot of people lining up behind you eyeing you seat. Happy slurping!

It is very late already and there's still a lot to tell. I finish here now and will continue sometime soon. There's a lot of days off ahead because of Deepavali and Hari Raya and we're not going anywhere... To be continued...

Posted by gkligyte at 08:07 PM | Comments (1)

October 11, 2005

Not lazy now, but soon will be!


Yes, lots of things have been happening that kept me from writing my blog.. Tonight I realized that if I don't write now, I won't be able to update my blog for a long time.. This is after I rushed back to work to complete one thing that I completely forgot about and that I had to do before the holiday.. Tomorrow we're leaving to Thailand for a "long weekend". After we come back in a short while I'm leaving for Japan. I ran out of pages in my passport (it is full of visas) and the closest Lithuanian embassies are in Beijing & Tokyo. A nice excuse to go to Japan - always dreamed about it, but it was always "too expensive", "too far", etc. I'm really looking forward to these holidays. It has been tough for a long time at work & it will be even tougher in November... I'm thrilled about experiencing another season - autumn in Japan. We've been in +32C scorching sunny environment for over a year now, its about time to see some colourful autumn leaves & experience moderate +20C temperature (I'm slightly worried, because I don't have a proper coat here.. :) And before that, a few days of lazing on the sandy shore (or a hammock?) by the ocean.. Yeah! :) Reading books! Yeah!


If you wondered why I wasn't updating my blog, here's the answer for you - Natalia with Kien (the cute white bundle in her arms..:) There was a lot to chat about, to see and do and somehow I didn't find a moment to sit down.. Besides that, for some time I was "passwordless", because Pekka reinstalled the blog software & then the mail server cooling system died.. To cut the long story short, here I am again.. :)


I think our stories about Leijonakaupunki are a bit biased. Natalia said that the city is exceptionally friendly for a mother with a baby. I've witnesed several occasions, when people jump and hand in a tissue when the baby throws up, or then you hear very concerned voices "baby this, baby that" when Natalia enters the bus and everybody magically gives way.. From the funny experiences, there were several Chinese "uncles" coming up to her to ask if the baby is not choking in this hippy-style cloth. I tried to inquire from my colleagues if there's some kind of belief on giving space for a child, but seemingly no. They were just worried that Natalia is suffocating her baby.. :)


Natalia is a very adventurous (relaxed?) mother. She's been eating all sorts of spicy things and in general, not worried at all about bacteria in the air and things like that. They're coming back together with Borzin to Asia in a few weeks. And why not, if little Kien is earning them maternity money that goes a long way in Asia.. :)


From the other things that happened during this time is that I got 1 year older and we had 2 little occassions where I collected presents.. yeah! :) One was at our home and at the pool downstairs.. Fity, thanks for coming!..


..another in a cool Mexican restaurant in the East. Nam! Look at the pictures, you clearly see where Kaj photographer's attention is - burito turned out very beautiful in the picture.. Its tasted superior too!!!


And few weeks ago I also graduated from the Teaching in Higher Education program, that means that I'm fully qualified to teach (in my current workplace.. :) & that I completed 90 hours of teacher training! Wow! Waiting for this to start showing in the classroom.. :) The semester is starting at the beginning of November, and I'm totally not waiting for it!!!!

Posted by gkligyte at 11:50 PM | Comments (1)