Thursday, December 28, 2006

Like Clockwork

Please note Tara's detailed itinerary of our upcoming adventure in the previous post. Also note my responses to your Christmas greetings in the giant blog-stocking post. Thanks!!!

As predicted, Christmas in Japan went off with highly efficient technical precision.

All gifts were delivered on time.

Naturally, this operation was executed by a 9.14m tall, gift-launching, Santa-bot (see below).
The Japanese sarariman (salary man, and no...I'm not making fun of their accents, this is actually a word in Japanese, obviously borrowed and butchered from English), took a brief moment to enjoy Christmas morning with their family, before getting back to the 10-16 hour work day at the office. No, just kidding...I think most of them had the day off except the employees of our "school" which seems to be the only English school in the country that doesn't give it's teachers Christmas off. Ah well, that's over and done with, and all in all it really was pretty nice. Definitely made nicer by the thoughtful comments that many of our friends/family/and beloved fans left for us in our blog-stocking (p.s. that was my idea! Cool, huh? That's sure to start a trend...I should patent it and sell it to or some other billionaire...).

So, just wanted to say thanks, Merry Christmas, and happy new year to everyone. Sorry for the lack of posts as of late, but I assure you
Please see Tara's detailed itinerary for our trip to SEOUL (!!!) below.

Without further adieu, here to say thanks the way only he can...

the big guy I like to call the Ho-Ho-HoBot.


Seoul-full Itinerary

Ok all, tomorrow we hop on a flight to Seoul with an itinerary so chalk-full of craziness that we decided to post it for the world to see! When we get back we will bombard you with endless pictures of our escapades! Here it is, in detail, our New Years plans:

December 28th (evening): arrive in Seoul, make our way to our little Guesthouse we are staying at. It is run by a Korean family and came to us highly recommended. Here's the site if you want to check it out -

December 29th (morning): By recommendation of one of Ian's students, we are going to be participating in a Korean Home Culture Activity course, lead by a family by the name of Yoo. Here we will spend the morning wearing traditional Korean "han-bok", learning greeting etiquette, learning kim chi cooking, playing Korean folk games, eating Korean Pancakes, and participating in Tea Ceremony. Here's the link to their site:

December 29th (afternoon/evening): The rest of this first day we will try to see the main Palace, and a few of the fortresses and temples. That evening we will wander some of the 24 hour markets and do some cheap shopping!

December 30th: Korean Spa day!!! For those of you who don't know, Korean Spa's are apparently where it's at. Everyone here recommends them. You pay a fairly cheap flat fee to enter, and then you spend the day relaxing in their numerous themed baths, and steam rooms. If you get tired of those you can take a break and get a massage. And after all that hard work, why not take in a quick nap in the sleeping room, or watch a movie in the DVD room. If that doesn't suit your fancy, why not take out a few comic books and have a read. After all that, its back to the steam room! Whew....what a tough day! If you want a description of the one we are looking into, check this article out:

December 31st: While most people may be bringing in the New Year at a big bash, we will be travelling 2 hours south of Seoul to stay in a Buddhist Temple overnight. We were quite pleased by this last minute addition. Originally our first plan, we never heard anything back, but last week I recieved an email inviting us to stay. It sounds like about the most amazing experience, we participate in everything just as the Monks do. Here is our itinerary for our 2 day stay:
14:00 Arrival and Orientation
15:00 Temple tour
15:30 Tea Ceremony
17:00 Evening Buddhist Ceremonial Service
18:00 Dinner
19:00 Time on your own
20:00 Meditation and Dharma Talk
22:00 Light off

05:00 Pre-dawn Buddhist Ceremonial Service
06:30 Breakfast
07:30 Time on your own
08:30 Walking meditation
10:30 Noon Buddhist Ceremonial Service
12:00 Lunch
13:00 Departure

So, not only will our bodies be renewed but so will our minds. We will enter the new year refreshed and enlightened!! (Hopefully!)

January 2nd: After the most peaceful 2 days ever, we will head in the opposite direction - North - to the border of one of the least peaceful places around. At 8am we will meet our tour group and head for the DMZ - the demilitarized zone encompassing 2 miles south of the border and 2 miles north of the border. We will spend the day touring the UN buildings where the peace talks took place nearly half a century ago, take a walk down the 3rd infiltration tunnel, where North Korea attempted to dig through to South Korea, and we will see the only bridge connecting the 2 sides which are divided by a large river. Some of the buildings we will enter actually broach both borders, so we will officially be able to say we stood in North Korea. For lots more info, and to see everything we will do that day you can check out this site:

January 3rd (evening): Hop a flight back to good old Nagoya, where it is only a matter of weeks before we move!! Wooooo! I will post more info on the new job and apartment once we get back, but suffice it to say, I am looking forward to it!!

Talk to you all next year!! Have a great one!

Lots of Love

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas Everyone

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for all of your wonderful comments. It was great to wake up and read them all. It really made the day a little brighter. We are very lucky to have so much love and support from so many amazing people. I think this was the best stocking I have gotten thus far.
It certainly hasn't been an easy day, as far as Christmas's go, but I think Meaghan said it best:"Christmas comes every year, but Christmas in Japan will only come least for us!" And so we have made the best of it. We had a wonderful dinner with some friends, and we ate delicious home made food (thanks again for the trifle recipe was a hit!), and though it hurts to be away right now, it really makes me appreciate everything that I have.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and know that you are all being thought about. Thank you again for everything you have given us. I couldn't have asked for more.

All my Love

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ian and Tara's Christmas Stockings

Its our Christmas corner!!!
As promised, we have another little activity for everyone. You see, our Christmas is going to be a small one, and its hard not being around all of our family and friends, so we decided maybe you could help us by filling up our stockings!
Basically, this post will act as our Christmas stockings, and we would love it if you could all leave a little something in here for us on Christmas day. We promise there will be no peeking! No comments will be checked until December 25th!
We miss everyone so much and with Christmas around the corner it makes everything a little harder. We are making the best of it though, and I really hope you all do as well.
We don't even know how many people read this site, so it would be nice to hear from as many people as possible! Please help make our Christmas a little more Cheerful!!
I can't wait to open my Stocking!!!
Love you all lots and lots
Tara and Ian

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Monkeys Monkeys Everywhere!

Things have been fairly busy around here, what with us acquiring the Wii, and my constant search for a new job, so there is not much new to tell. However, for your interest I brought my camera to work yesterday and took some pictures in one of my kids classes. I thought about taking pictures in the office, but since its about the size of a broom closet and a bit disgusting, I decided to spare you.
I also added, for your entertainment, some of those monkey pictures I meant to put up long ago.
So anyways, here are some of the monkeys I have been hanging out with lately:

It looks like they are in cages, but really we are the once locked up. If you want to feed them they make you go behind bars. And with good reason big guy nearly took Ian's finger off when he realized Ian had no more food!

Those monkeys belong to my kinder class on Wednesdays. The only thing I like about my branches is that I do get a lot of kids classes. BUT to keep you all updated, I have 2 job offers right now, and I have another interview lined up, after which I will make my decision. All the jobs are with kinder aged kids, in smallers schools, and with better pay! Wooo!
I will let you know when I make any decisions!
Thats all for now! I hope everyone is enjoying December! Also, keep a look out soon for a new Christmas based activity!
Love Tara

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Part Two!! Nagoya Station, all decked out for Christmas!



Well, they may not celebrate Christmas, but they sure like to decorate for it! This is Nagoya's main train station, and how Ian and I get to work everyday. The rest of the pictures are all from up top where those trees are.

There were a few main themes running through their decorations. Teddy bears, colourful mushrooms, and down on the street....dolphins.

This picture may be over exposed, but it suits the psychadelic theme beautifully.

These white trees were quite nice and tasteful.....

I find this picture amusing for a different reason though. Back somewhere in our Kyoto pictures is a shot of Ian lined perfectly between 2 tall white trees. He obsessed over how good that shot was for a long time, and I think that is why he requested to have his picture taken here....

Yatta, Yatta!! Teddy bears are cute. This one was sticking his butt out into the amused me.
It took me a good while to get this seat. He was a popular fellow.

The station is always packed, but since the lights have gone up its near impossible to move through. I like it though. The lights make me smile.

Its amazing how well these shots work sometimes. Maybe one day we will actually ask someone to take a picture for us...

I was amused by something here, though I am not sure what.

Probably the bear with the butt...

This little girl was too cute. She was trying to make a peace sign for the picture, but couldn't manage to get that 3rd finger out of the was a good effort though.

I decided I'd show her how its really done.

I was trying to get a shot of Ian with the decorations but this boy ran up super excited and it didn't seem like he was going any time soon...

And finally, what you've all been waiting for. That magical Christmas Dolphin that lines our streets year after year....or at least, the streets of Nagoya.

I just don't get it....Dolphins???

Friday, November 24, 2006

Much like Nagoya's Christmas decorations, these 2 posts have no coherent theme....

The Japanese staff from my branch are great! Helpful, friendly, and they even help me learn Japanese. Here's a nice picture of Tara with Mari, while Yoshi demonstrates a traditional Japanese silly face.

Incriminating photographs of your work supervisor are always good ones to hold onto for later.
Here's Piers and Ben caught in scandal. Piers is responsible for my on job observations. You can bet I'LL be getting good reviews next month!

This picture is good enough quality to make a magazine cover.
Hmm... now you're all wondering what kind of sick magazines I read...
Well, no turning back now!

This is about half of the people I work with every day. They're good people. Nathan (top beside me) is now back in Australia. Ben (second from right) is back in England. But they were darn good times while they were around.
Note how it looks like my head was pasted onto my body in this picture. Strange. I assure you I was really there.
Note the authentic American decor, also. This is one of many establishments that strives for an authentic Western atmosphere. Kind of nice for nostalgic-homesickness-remedy-purposes, though I actually prefer the Japanese izakayas... cheaper, and better food!

Its JEFF!!!!!
Yes, he really exisits, and he is really our friend. This shot is from the time him and I attempted to see Gifu Castle. We failed that goal, and got lost, BUT I did manage to sort of understand a bus driver's directions!! Woooo!!

These next few pictures are also from Gifu, though on a different day. Ian and I decided we wanted to see the castle. Once again, we failed. But it was a gorgeous day!! Bet it wasn't 17 degrees celcius anywhere in Ontario today!!! (Mom and Dad....I don't want to hear about Florida's weather..haha)

We started to walk up the mountain a bit towards the castle. Though we didn't get to actually see it, the scenery surrounding was well worth the trip.

Good job Ian for being tall! The sun was setting and the view was great, but the bushes were tall, and in the way of me and my camera.

This bridge was really nice, and there was a waterfall and little stream running around us. This is what is great about Japan. You can step out of the city, and into the past. You get the feeling that the area hasn't really changed much over time.

I think the path we were on lead all the way up the mountain, but it was getting dark so we didn't have much time to explore. You can also take a ropeway too the top, but this way is cheaper AND more exciting. One day we will actually make it to the top.

The leaves here really were some amazing shades. Its funny because "the changing colours" are like a national icon here. I never really got it before - the leaves change colour in Canada too. But people here really take the time to stop and admire it. And when you do, you realize how beautiful and amazing it really is.

AND: Finally a taste of Christmas in Nagoya. The next set of pictures will focus more on this, but I want you all to notice the brightly coloured mushrooms behind me. Apparently in Japan, Colourful mushrooms, and dolphins, are symbols of Christmas! Who would have thought....

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Day in the Life ... (Of a Monkey)

At long last I have for you the final installment of the Kyoto adventure. It's hard to believe it was exactly a month ago that we were in Kyoto. Time does move along quickly here.
Anyway, without further delay, here's what you really want to see...
Uninterrupted, non-stop, monkey action!!!


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Where in the world are Tara and Ian?

Well, between the dates of December 28th and January 3rd, Tara and Ian will be found in SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA!

So, technically there are 2 winners for this one. Once again, you are too smart for my games. I will just have to be more sly next time.

Anyways, South Korea? You may ask how this came about. After realizing that our original plans were not going to work, we decided "hey...why don't we FLY somewhere??"
Of course the first thought after that was, "How much will it cost??"
So, we went to the travel agent with a list of places and said where is cheap! Seoul won that contest by a few hundread dollars. Interestingly enough there were also only TWO seats left on that flight. Fate I'd say. Someone wants us to go to South Korea.

Of course, Neither Ian nor I know the slightest about the country but we have been starting our research and requsting advice form other travellers. It actually sounds like it will be a neat place. We are attemtping to do a temple stay while we are there, though I am having a hard time making contact with the temple we are interested in.

Anyways, if anyone has any advice or knows ANYTHING about South Korea, let us know!!!

As for the winners : Arlene (though you did not follow rule number 5 we will let it slip! and Aunt Linda.....CONGRATS.
You will be contacted shortly with a skill testing question!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Who remembers Carmen Sandiego?

Well, here's the deal:
Ian and I have some 'new' New Years plans and I have decided to make a game out of it. Basically, its a guessing game. Whoever guess where we are going will win a prize. There are a few rules though:
1. The country name is not what we are looking for. We want a city, people!
2. For every 2 days that someone fails to guess, we will post another clue. Your prize will be determined by the amount of time it takes to guess.
3. Each person is only allowed ONE guess per clue, and THREE total for the duration of the game. If you go over your limit your will be disqualified!!!!
4. After guessing the correct country you will be asked to answer a skill testing question if you wish to claim your prize!
5. Please label your guesses "Guess"...


Two of the many main religions are Buddhism and Christianity

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

C'est la vie.

A brief note on coming and going:

Things within the company here change quickly. This can be a good thing, but it also has its drawbacks. Two of my favourite coworkers will leave Japan this week. It's a shame because just when you're starting to make friends here, it seems like they get shipped off to new shores. The Japanese staff changes even faster than the teaching staff. On one hand, it means that if you're not happy with how things are, don't fret...they'll change soon. But it also means it's hard to get to know people... Just when you're getting comfortable with them, somebody has to move on.

One student told me that I'm getting to be a better teacher. The lessons definitely feel more fluid now. Because the students can book into lessons at their own leisure, the students also change from day to day. Some people you see more than others. It's also a constantly fluctuating dynamic. On the one hand, you get to meet a variety of people. But the drawback is that you really don't see the same students so often, so it's hard to build up a good sense of trust between each other.

To end on a positive note: Japanese style going away parties are fantastic! All you can drink and all you can eat. Mmmmmm. Lots of beer and sake, and a brilliant variety of food. My favourite is takoyaki (baked octopus balls).

Anyway, that's what's going on here. More monkeys to come soon.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Kyoto Day 3 - Arashiyama Monkey Park

Join us as we enter the monkey park. Admittedly, it was a little scary walking up the mountain path, which was well shaded by tall trees. We didn't know exactly what to expect, but we knew we wanted to see monkeys. We were not disappointed...

The final video installment of the Kyoto trip will be posted soon.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Kyoto Day 3 - The Golden Pavilion

Konnichiwa tomodachi.

Some of the Day 2 video was too dark, so I decided to skip ahead and show you something from Day 3. This one was hard to miss during the day, since its made of GOLD! Well...ok, it's covered with Gold Leaf, it's not really "made of gold"... but still, pretty impressive. Unfortunately, there wasn't much else to do on the grounds because the secret paths were all blocked off. This place was PACKED with swarms of school children. After taking a walk around the golden pavilion, we quickly headed towards Arashiyama, which was a beautiful site on a river. It was also the location of the monkey park!


Friday, November 03, 2006

I was going to post more Kyoto pictures.....

But then this happened:

It wasn't my fault!!
I mean really, they tasted fine, other then the few burnt parts...
And considering that I had no measuring utensils and only a tiny toaster oven to cook them in...would you turn me away if I showed up with these??

As for the recipe, I may have to put in a formal complaint. According to this "Angie" person who posted the recipe online, "These brownies always turn out!"


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I think this video is pretty self-explanatory, but I'll be happy to field any further questions.

p.s. remember to look below at the previous pictures and videos, if you haven't been here in awhile. arigatooo!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

More Kyoto!!

Continued from Day one :
These first four pictures are still from Ginkakuji Temple and its garden areas. These trees on the mountain just looked so surreal to me. The hill was very steep so even though this picture is 'straight' on, it looks like I was pointing the camera up. All I know is these are very different forests from the ones I am used to.

This is part of the sand garden. I still don't understand how they stay so perfect. You would think the wind would startle them, but I suppose people spend hours raking and perfecting these gardens. It was impressive, thats for sure.

This was part of the temple, looking in either direction out into the sand gardens surrounding it. I just thought it was a neat little room.

This is the entry way into the temple grounds. The first thing Ian said when he saw the giant hedges was "Wow- this really reminds me of Harry Potter". Meaghan, you would have been proud! Haha

And Finally - We move onto day 2!!

These fist couple pictures are from a place called Heian-jingu, and it is a shine complex. Though they are not originals, they are replicas 2/3rds the size of the original Kyoto Gosho. They were built in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto.
They were pretty impressive to look at, but thats about all you could do here, so we moved on fairly quickly - there was too much more to see!

The rest of the pictures posted here are from Nanzen-in and Nanzen-ji. This was possibly our favorite spot while we were there. The Garden, Temple, and surrounding trails and sub-temples were just stunningly beautiful. Its the kind of place the just feel serene. It began as a retirement villa for an emporer and was dedicated as a zen temple when he died in 1291, making it over 700 years old. The grounds were massive, and we ended up spending almost the entire day in this area.
This first picture is a shot of the entry way and the building is called San-Mon: you can tell they really like to build big around here.

This is just one of the many sub-temples that spotted the area. You weren't allowed access to all of them, but they were amazing to look at non-the-less.

This shot if from the garden inside Nanzen-in and I can't begin to tell you how much the shot does NOT do it justice. The pond is heart shaped and has carp swimming through it. There are paths that wind all the way around and up into the mountains where you can hike. Ian and I took advantage of the paths and hiked the the top before we came back down to sit and enjoy the surroundings.

This last picture is from inside Nanzen-ji. Ian called this a perfect dining room and I have to agree. The room is so simple, and the sliding doors open up onto the most beautiful little garden and pond. Again, the picture doesn't nearly do it justice but it was amazing. I would definitly love to eat dinner there every night!

The lesson you should take from today's post - Kyoto is amazing, but it is a million times better in person....therefore - COME VISIT!!!! Free personal tour guides?! Come on...who can say no to that?!

Anyways, there are still a few more shots from this area, and about a hundread more to come after that, so stay tuned!!

I Love you and Miss you alllll!!!!!


Monday, October 23, 2006

Kyoto Day 1 Video

If the the video does not appear in the box above, please try the following link:

Here's part one of the trip to Kyoto. On the first day we visited Ginkakuji (the silver pavillion), and later in the evening we explored the Kyoto train station, which itself is a work of modern art.

Editor's Notes:

The video is a bit shakey in ginkakuji, but you get the impression of the place. In one part you will see a display of many different kinds of moss. Some of them were labelled VIP- and infact, they did look quite impressive as far as moss goes. You can't see much, but I included this anyway because the entire grounds were covered by moss, and I think this is important to the shinto belief that everything is alive. If you're not interested in eastern religions, replace the word "Shinto" with "Jedi", and read as "The Jedi belief that everything is part of the force." It's essentially the same religion, as far as I can tell....not to offend any Shintoists out there, I just don't know anything more about it. Point is, the whole garden is so green and alive, as you walk through it you feel like it's breathing and growing with you.

Kyoto Eki is really quite an impressive building, although many locals protested it when it was first errected; calling it an eyesore in the middle of a beautiful traditional city. On the contrary, I was quite impressed with Kyoto station. Down the middle, an endless line of escalators carry you up a whole 14 floors from ground level. At night, many people were sitting on the roof top where there is an open air bamboo garden, and a small patch of lawn. The station is filled with large bizarre curving shapes, and is mostly open to the sky. I think it is a good example of the harmony of the modern world with ancient tradition, which I think Japan pulls off so well. It also incorporates the natural world with the constructed human world, an ideal that Kyoto pulls off perfectly. As you will see in future episodes, the city is a wonderful harmonization of these opposites, and that is what made it such an intriguing city to me.


P.s. Please see Tara's pictures below if you haven't already!

Kyoto: Part 1 of Day 1

So as you all know, on Wednesday we headed out on our first real adventure - to KYOTO! We decided that we would take the local trains instead of the Shinkansen (bullet train) because it would save us some money. Unfortunately for us, the Shinkansen may be more expensive, but it makes up for it by being easier. We lost a fair bit of time in our first day because we didn't know how the local trains worked. Then when we finally did arrive, I decided to take the map and direct us to our hotel. Anyone who knows my sense of direction will immediatlyask...ummm...why???? So I got us lost for a bit but eventually Ian took the map and we were at the Hotel in no time. Unfortunatly by then it was around 2 and most sites close around 4 or 5. But we headed out anyways, in search of the silver temple that isn't really silver (Ginkakuji Temple).

Ginkakuji Temple was absolutely gorgeous. The temple itself was impressive but the grounds with all the gardens were the real appeal. It was built as a retirment villa for Yoshimasa and established as a Zen temple in 1482.

There is a waterfall in behind me, though it didn't turn out in the picture.

You will notice that everything is still super green, despite the fact that it is mid October. Apparently fall here doesn't really start until around November. I ceertainly won't complain about that! We were a bit disapointed though, because people kept telling us the 2 best times to visit were in the fall when the leaves change, and in the spring when the cherry trees bloom.
I guess we will just have to go back!!

From the main grounds there is a path winding up into the mountains: When we reached the top there was a beautiful view of the city. Unfortunatly because the sun was setting on it, none of the city shots turned out great.

The sun did help make for a few other impressive shots though! Actually if you recal from from the previous post, the Rivendale looking picture is from this same location.

Though the temple itself was probably the least impressive of the ones we saw, the grounds more than made up for it. This was one of my favorite places we saw.

These sand gardens were so impressive. We kept seeing them everywhere, and I can only imagine the effort and time that goes into making them look so perfect.

I have a few more shots from Ginkakuji which I will post soon. As I said before, we have about 200 pictures, and Blogger is picky about how many they will let us put up at a time. Enjoy these one though, and there will be lots more soon! Ian is also working on editing his video which he will do in 3 parts, so there is still lots left to see.

I miss everyone!!!

Love Tara