Monday, April 30, 2007

Iriomote Jungle Adventure

Hello everyone.
This is the second video from our island vacation. Please check the last few posts also, if you haven't seen them yet.
Japanese people are ultra-tourists. They love tour groups, tour busses, souvenirs, and taking pictures. Of course, we're doing much the same these days.... but as they say, when in Rome, do as the Japanese tourists do and take lots of pictures of everything.
We were pretty happy with being able to book the tour ourselves in Japanese, but we didn't really think about the guided tour being entirely in Japanese. Soo, we may have not understood everything we were doing, but that couldn't detract from the scenery! Please enjoy.

After this we had another one and a half days in Ishigaki. You can see Tara's pictures in the previous post, and there will be a little more video posted soon.

This will be a busy month as we are preparing for our next special guest stars, and I will be changing jobs in the next two weeks. As always, so much remains to see and do, and we're sure to have many more stories to tell.
-the ian

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ishigakijima to.....Ishigakijima!!!

So I know these are going up fast but I want to get everything posted before my FAMILY gets here!!! And since I only have 5 more days and a million other things to do this one is going up now. Ian has another video in the editing process that should also be ready to go very soon. If you haven't seen the previous video or pictures, PLEASE LOOK!

Ok, to the pictures. These range over the span of 2 days, with most of them coming from our second to last day (my Birthday!!). There are things I will leave out, as they are more effectively depicted in Ian's video (best one yet, I think!!)

So, as our stay grew to a close, the weather grew steadily worse. One day we were confined to our area, and spent the day jumping from coffee shop to coffee shop in between souvenir shopping.


And the infamous 3 faces shot....Ian's, Maria-Chan's, and if you look into Ian's coffee....well, you just might see an evil grin staring out at you!

Ok, there are about a million other similar shots in around 3 other locations, but I will spare you from those for now. What else could we do?!?!

The next day was a bit more adventurous. The owner of our Minshuku recommended we make a trip to Kabira bay, on the other end of the island. So for my birthday we took a bus out there to explore. It was magnificently beautiful, though our trip hit a few snags. Since the water isn't safe to swim in (poisinous sea creatures abound) the trip is quite literally a sight seeing one. Unfortunatly it was about the coldest day yet, and when we got to Kabira we realized that other than the beach, there weren't really any 'sights' to see....not a problem if the buses are frequent.

We were there for about 5 hours....hahaha
So once again, we just took alot of pictures!

Ian, posing before his beautiful little boat.
I think he really debated stealing it....
Though seeing as the rate of foreigners is quite low, we would probably be pretty easily identifiable....

Just to mix it up a bit, Ian and I swaped recording mediums for a while.

Beautiful Picture eh?
I was quite proud of it...until upon returning home I did an online search for Kabira and found that EVERYONE has this exact same picture....
Popular spot I guess! Though I can't say I blame them....

So I have decided that there are alot of places in Japan that remind me of Lord of the Rings...particularily the Elvish portions....

I think its the trees....

Ian REALLY liked the trees....

Hello Shisa!!! And hello....Ian pretending to be a Shisa....
Who shall I choose to protect me and ward off evil spirits???!!!!

....It was a tough decision but it had to be made...

La la la la la.......

I am KING!!!!

Eventually we did actually DO something...
After a failed attempt at finding playing cards (the ONE time I don't have any with me...) we decided to go on a glass bottom boat tour. No pictures from that but I am pretty sure Ian has some video of it..
Anyways, it was a good and cheap way to waste half an hour, though it made me feel bad for all the fish we were staring at..all those boats just can't be good for the reef....

ok...back to more...wandering.


Alright. I apologize for the lack in commentary. Its just that....there were SOOOOO many pictures....haha.
It was a good day though. We topped the Kabira trip off with some sweet potato ice cream (mmmmm) and then headed back to our Minshuku.
That night we went for an AMAZING dinner, and then per suggestion of the hostel owner, we went to see some traditional live Japanese music and dance.
Lets just say...the video will do that part much more justice than my description. I will leave you just one tidbit....We left the place frightened and wondering if we had been cursed....hahaha

To top off the night we headed back to a local favourite of ours. This one bar where the owners seemed to love us and always brought us free food...anyways, we went to have a drink and turns out they bought me a birthday cake and presents!!!
It was awesome. The day had been nice, but it was lacking that birthday this really made it seem like my birthday. Thanks guys!!!
This is just a shot of us inside the restaurant:

The owners were sooo nice to us....all night we stayed there, eating and drinking, and all they would let us pay at the end of the night was 2000 Yen (about 20 bucks Canadian). When we were leaving I thought the one guy was actually going to cry! Anyways, they begged us to come back, and so, Ian and I promised that in about one year we would revisit them...thus setting the first step for our journey home. Fly to Ishigaki, stay a few days, hop a ship to Taiwan, and then a flight into China. Phase one....SET!!!

Ok....keep checking for Ian's video! I promise its a GREAT one!!!

Lots of Love!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Return to Genki

I think after a few days of horrible coughing I've finally recovered. Fortunately the doctor at the clinic directly beside us, speaks quite good English, and was able to give me a prescription which has helped greatly... Actually, to be more exact, he gave me 6 prescriptions! Ech, but it seems to have worked, and I'm well on the way to being perfectly healthy again.
I will have new job information in the near future, but for now please enjoy this video accompaniment to Tara's 1st set of stories and photos of our ISHIGAKI ISLAND ADVENTURE.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ishigakijima to Iriomotejima!

Wooo! Internet!! I don't know how long we will actually be able to STAY connected so I am posting this quick!! Ian has a video to go along with the previous post, and hopefully we can get that one up here too!!
Unfortunately we haven't been able to get online since our first day back from the trip!

Ok, so, these pictures are from a day we spent on Iriomotejima (jima=island). This Island has been dubbed as Japan's last frontier, and is 90% wild jungle. It is also home to Japan's "Yamaneko" (wildcat). Of course being Japan, the wildcat is quite miniaturized and the result is that it looks more like a common house cat. Haha...ooooh Japan. The land where EVERYTHING is cute.

Ok so our day went a bit like this...
We got up and were at the port by 8, where we joined an all Japanese speaking tour group. Someone was kind enough to handwrite the day's itinerary for us in English, so we at least knew where they were taking us! It was an hour ride to the island, and after disembarking, we hopped on a bus for another 40 minutes where it took us to the base of Japan's "mini-Amazon" river. We took a boat ride down the river into the jungle and then they let us out to hike. Of course, it was pouring rain : P
Needless to say, we were a little bit muddy by the end of the day!

Anyways, it was really great, and it really was like you were in the middle of the amazon. We got to see Japan's largest waterfall, and mangrove forests (which look reeeally cool).

This is a shot from the boat ride down the river. Even though the weather was crumby, the mist actually seemed to add to the scenery and the mood.

Welcome to the Lost World!

This is as close as we got to the waterfall. It was a pretty impressive site. Of course, once you've seen Niagra Falls, no waterfall ever looks big again. But it was really pretty!!

I tried to get Ian and the waterfall, but it just wasn't working for me.....

Ok, so when we got off the boat they gave us a time to be back by. We followed the pack all the way up to the lookout for the waterfall, but on our way back down we somehow took a different turn. We ended up totally separated from everyone but this other foreigner and his girlfriend. We walked and walked and ended up in the spot you see in the next picture. It was really cool, though we were quite confused as to how we got there. We continued along our way, but everytime that we thought we were back on track, something that we had definitely never seen seemed to pop up. We ended up making it back just 5 minutes late, but there was a point where I was starting to wondered if we were going to be stuck in the wild. Luckily the people we were following had some semblance of where they were....though I have always kind of wondered what I would do if I were stranded in the middle of nowhere.....

After we escaped the wild, we were taken to an awesome little Japanese restaurant for lunch. It was here that I was introduced to the most tasty dish.....tempura leaves. Haha I have no idea what it was exactly but it looked like they picked a leaf up off the ground and lightly battered it. Either way, it was delicious!!!
After lunch the tour continued to another beach...

Ian waited very patiently for the tide to come and take us away....
I'm in a boat!

When that failed, these guys where nice enough to give us a lift!
We were serenaded during the ride, by the driver playing the shamisen and singing what I guess were Japanese folk tunes. Everyone else seemed to know the words and joined in, giving the ride an extra touch of old-world magic.

Ahhh.....nice bath after a long day's work.
Actually by this time I was so muddy I was ready to jump in there with him.
Ian did.

Once again, leave it to Japan to make even the butchiest things look Cute.

(Yet another picture of Tara riding on the back of wild boar playground equipment.)


After a long day's work we headed back to our Minshuku and got all cleaned up.
This is the common room in the Japanese style hostel (minshuku) we stayed in. There was an ancient massage chair in this room, that felt kind of like being punched gently in the back. It was acceptably relaxing. The place was decorated mostly with artifacts (one hostel owner's treasures) which she found on beaches in the area. It's possible she dug up the massage chair from the beach also. She may have also found herself on the beach... she was a mysterious character with many a good suggestion about the island.

Unfortunately our travels where a bit restricted due to the rain, so we entertained ourselves by taking pictures alllll night. I realized as I was uploading my photos that probably about 70 percent of all my pictures where just of us amusing ourselves in restaurants.....
And with so many to choose from you'd think Tara might have been able to post a nice one of the Ian...

I love having my picture taken.

These shots were in a restaurant that served a variety of Asian foods: Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese... mmm....all delicious.
Anyway, hopefully I'll have the part 1 video up soon; it compliments the first Ishigaki post. In the meantime, the Ian has secured a new job and will leave Nova in mid-May. Between now and then he will spend most of his time coughing up his lungs as he has also secured a fantastic case of bronchitis!

Ok! I know I say this everytime, but check back again soon for there is much more to come (granting our Internet 'allows' us connect...)

I miss EVERYONE!!!

Lots and lots of love

Tara & Ian

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ishigakijima to Taketomijima!

We're Back!!! And we have about 5000 pictures to post!! Just so you know, I am putting them up a bit backwards. I still have a ton of Cherry Blossoms shots to show you all, but right now I am too excited from our trip to Ishigaki. Therefore, those pictures are going up first. But then I promise....Cherry Blossoms!!

Ok, so for those of you who don't know, Ishigakijima is part of the Okinawa prefecture in Japan. The southern most group of Japanese islands are the Yaeyama Islands, which is where we went. Basically, we flew south into Okinawa city, and then took another plane an hour further south. We stayed on Ishigakijima, but through the week travelled to 2 other islands: Taketomijima and Iriomotejima. Though we didn't have the most perfect weather, our week was still AMAZING, and left both of us wanting to 'miss' our flight back to the mainland!

The trip is going to take a few posts to show you everything, so keep checking over the next few days and I will try to get them all up as quickly as possible! Ian promises, hands down, some of the best video footage to date! right from the start our trip was highly entertaining. After landing at Ishigaki airport, we hopped in a cab to take us to our hotel. Now, this might not seem like the most interesting thing, but even the cab drivers were different!! In Nagoya, the cab drivers all wear suits and white gloves and caps. When they have no customers you can often see them standing beside their car and polishing it up with a cloth....very very formal.
Not so in Ishigaki. We got into the cab, and right away the driver started trying to talk to us. Of course it was all in Japanese, and though we understood a good portion, we didn't always know how to respond! So we had a bit of a conversation and he told us a bit about the island. After a few minutes we came to a stop at some lights. Then, quite unexpectedly, the driver says..."ok, now I will play" and pulls out a Shamisen (traditional Japanese 3-stringed instrument)!!! So he's sitting at the lights just singing and playing and Ian and I are in the back trying soooo hard not to burst out laughing! It was a perfect way to start the trip. When we arrived at the hotel the driver gave us his business card, and 'I believe' tried to tell us to call if we wanted a tour around the island!
Ok, moving along. That night we wandered into a soba (Japanese noodle) restaurant that was offering 'Ishigaki beef', and apart from it actually being a cool little spot, the food was AMAZING. Now I know you don't all know this, but I have been having a bit of a difficult time with the food here. Since I don't really do the seafood thing, that limits me alot. But to top that off, I really don't find the meat too enjoyable here either. I know, I am a picky eater, but I can't do the grizzle and fat thing, so it ends up being a bit of an ordeal when it comes time for me to order.
On the other hand, food was a bit of an issue in Ishigaki, but that was because there was TOOOO much good stuff!!!! Ahhh....I miss it already! And Cheap!!! Sooo much cheaper!!
There was only ONE point in our trip, on the first night, where I hit a bit of a snag with regards to the food. After eating dinner and wandering a bit more, Ian and I decided that we would go somewhere for a drink. Before we left Ichinomiya, (our home), we were told of 3 things we had to try in Okinawa: Mimiga (pigs ear), Goya (A reeeeally strange veggie), and Awamori (the special Okinawa alcohol).
So we found a little place that looked cool, went in, and realized we were the only ones there. We told the waiter that we wanted to try Awamori and he in turn showed us a list about a mile long. We had no idea what to order so we just said, one bottle please. He brings us out this bottle that is QUITE large, as well as a bucket of ice, 2 glasses, and a pitcher of water. Not knowing what to do, we had him explain. You fill the glass with ice, then put in about an inch worth of awamori, and fill it up with water.
Hmmmm....we started thinking, maybe this bottle thing was not such a good plan? At that rate it would take us forever to get through it!! So we began drinking, and the stuff was actually pretty nice. We decided to order some food along with it, me a Taco salad, and Ian some mimiga. However, when my 'taco' salad arrived, I was in a for a bit of a surprise! Apparently, when they said Taco (in Katakana I might add...which is USUALLY used for FOREIGN words) they meant in , the Japanese word for Octopus........
Ian liked the salad!
Anyways, a bit later we realized how much the bottle was actually going to cost us, and decided we may as well get our moneys worth. We tried offering some to the staff, to help us out, but they declined. In the end, we made it through lets say "a very good chunk" (Ian impressively downing glasses of the drink between chopsticks full of Tako salad and pigs ear), and then decided it would be best to leave. As we were leaving they called out, holding up the bottle and then proceeded to put it in a bag for us....
Well sheesh...if they had told us we would be bringing the bottle HOME with us....that would have helped a lot!!!
Ian will narrate the remainder of the evening:
...Bought a glowing necklace from a man on the street with no fingers on one hand and two dogs at his feet. Another local stood there and attempted holding a conversation with me, which I imagine went just swimmingly...

Back to Tara:
Ok...what next. The next day we spent a good portion wandering around and then in the afternoon decided to catch a ferry to Taketomijima. We rented bikes and decided to bike around the tiny island. The place was AMAZING. Not only was it small and green, but the only town on the island is a little village with totally traditional housing! It was awesome! Any ways, all these pictures are from that day on the island!

This first shot is what pretty much ALL the streets looked like in the village. Outside the village there is a main road looping the island, and little paths leading off the main rode to different spots.

This was a good shot off all the traditional houses. Most of them had Shisa statues on top, but you can't really see them in this pic. Traditionally, the Shisa statues are there to ward off evil spirits. You will see a pic of one later, but believe me, they were EVERYWHERE.

We weren't positive, but we assumed that these were sort of a Japanese style Catacomb. There were a few spots on the island with clusters of these.

Hello!!!! One of only 2 shots of us together the whole trip! Haha. If it looks like a strange angle its because my camera is on the ground on Ian's little tripod. Its the best we could do!

Pretty beach

Ahh!! Say hello to our friend! We were riding our bike and passed him and he was kind enough to pose for a picture. You will see more of his/her kind in posts soon to come.

Ian, looking oh so quaint on his little bike in this cute little town.

Even though it was fairly gray the whole time were were in the islands, the colours were still amazing. I mean if it can look that good in bad weather, I can't even imagine what its like when the weather is perfect!

Ummm.....where are Ian's arms and Feet????


Ok....that's all blogger will allow me to post for now. But I promise, more VERY soon!!!

Lots of Love!!!