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もいちど: 日本語

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Wednesday, 30 January

There have been three (3) proposals submitted to date Travel Giveaway for the Travel Giveaway. The deadline is February 15. To accommodate some eager young folks, the age limit has been lowered to 18 years and above (from 20 years).


Kakunodate is mostly a wonderful town for visiting foreigners. A manageable scale with basic essential human services and a great many barbershops is punctuated by lovingly maintained buildings a century or two old - stately manors of the old samurai class. Most are open to visitors, and for a small fee you can peek behind the screens of the private lives of Japan's upper classes from before modernization.

The Aoyagi house is particularly worth visiting.
Howard's Armor This suit of armor in the armory at the Aoyagi house reminded me very much of Howard; maybe it was the little grinning demon with long golden horns hovering over the forehead.
The former residence of Odano Naotake, the man who illustrated Japan's first modern guide to the human anatomy (a gruesome affair, with pictures of mustached men missing large flaps of skin realistically peeled back off to expose their thinking), he was a learned man with many passions and his home reflects that, as well as the senior samurai standing of the Aoyagi family. The grounds are sprawling, housing five buildings including an armory with some impressive suits of Japanese samurai armor, as well as an antique gallery, woodblock print exhibition, a small temple, a museum of local culture, and a cafe. It was in this cafe, amidst all this collected culture where I had planned to spend my afternoon, working writing and occasionally breaking to stare at something old.

for men without yen.

Before I commenced that wonder I stopped by a bank to refill my wallet from my American bank ATM card. In Japan, only having $250 in your wallet is not enough to get around; especially since most businesses do not accept credit cards. My lodging, the modern and well-appointed Yamaya Ryokan was costing around $70-$80 a night, with breakfast and dinner included. So I couldn't afford my third night in Kakunodate unless I either dragged my bags across town to a $50 no-frills-no-meals hotel that took credit cards, or found some money from a bank.

However simply I expected to be able to use my ATM at any of the four banks in town I was sorely mistaken. At each bank my card was immediately spat out, as though the very taste of it offended the machine. The employees could coax no better behaviour from these machines; even at the Ubinkyoku (Post Office) where much of Japan's money is wrapped up. The kind lady there pointed out that I hadn't used the "cooperation" button on the machine (as it is so labelled in English) but even that wouldn't yield human-card-machine interaction. Standing in a small town in which I wished to stay, with my bags in a room reserved for another night, I realized I had to cut my losses and head for Morioka, the next biggest town around, where I might expect to find a bank that will read my foreign card and give me real money. And I could at least expect to pass the night in a hotel prepared for card-carrying debt holders.

It's closer to Tokyo, and funny to think that I might be urged finally into that town, unable to stay in Akita as their banking networks are not yet intercoursing with the global unlimited commerce in cash. I can scheme and try all I wish; fortunately I'm moving largely without preference so as ever I'm down for whatever.

My one guiding spirit here is to keep from going where I have been. index.html I take this approach when I head out walking, to always find a new road back to where I live. I could now return to Tsurunoyu, and stay on credit, or I could find money in Morioka, and then return to Kakunodate, picking up where I left off learning Akita-Japanese from the two nice young girls at the J-Phone shop who sold me a USB-to-phone connection that might have put my laptop online with my mobile phone if only I was running Windows 98. But explaining 今まずいたちばにあります "I am in a difficult position" to the ryokan, and proving them right as they intimated on the phone to start with and found yesterday when I actually spent the first part of the day in my room soaking electric heat into my bones and writing and sleeping to recover from an illness that hasn't started yet, I proved them right that foreigners are difficult and unreliable, well, because they are not a part of the first-order network of cash machines, and we don't know any better than to vacate a traditional Japanese guestroom during daylight. This combined with the knowledge once again gleaned, as I rounded a streetcorner at dusk in Kakunodate last night, I saw down a street with more houses, past a gas station where two Japanese high schoolers waited to gasoline a tiny white economy van, one with a giant slice-wound across her mouth and chin, they smiled at me again as they had yelled something at me as I approached the convenience store that morning, and I had actually responded, approaching the car, to speak and exchange just a few words; now as I nodded at them, and the chunky driver said "oh!" and waved at me, I looked up ahead and saw so many more corners to the world that I have never seen. And so it seems okay to keep moving.

This kid was peeking at me on the bullet train:


Now towards ten PM, frozen crystallized water falls in thick flakes fast outside my window, making beautiful snow. I am happy to be in Akita, Morioka, even if the street outside my window resembles only a snow-draped shrunk Tokyo. Tonight I dined as I can at a Korean restaurant - three full entrees packed in a single stomach with two beers. All on a credit card. Pyon Pyon was it's name, something like that, and while my belly and nose drew in the rich grilled meat and reddened spicy cold raimen soup, my mind was delighted to be reading some of the first informed outsider-insider social critique I've yet picked up about this country. Until now I've been absorbing much text by foreign journalists discoursing on the state of affairs here. But this book of collected Japanese feminist writings reflects back on Japan with such a nuanced history of the culture and language and politics, each argument is both wildly local, intensely reflective and immediately illuminating. Thanks Mimi, another wonderful loan: Broken Silence: Voices of Japanese Feminism.

Tuesday, 29 January

words: 15720

travelling in Japan, you miss the "will they kill me and take my stuff?" part of being away from home. Instead you get occasional shadowy glimpses of some kind of loathing, locals wishing you would leave before you sully their paradise.

I trudge through snow over ice under a full moon through a deserted town to a payphone outside a defunct NTT office. Here I can connect to the Internet for a short time tonight. I trudge for business, to send in articles that pay for my travel. In my head, I wonder, what is the struggle of my fiction, but the struggle to stay awake?

Monday, 28 January

Ayako came to visit Akita. We had a marvellous short time, and then she left.

motegi ayako justin sometimes travelling is the very soul of alienation.

She got on a train and I'd spent much of the last half day remembering what I think about instead of committing to this woman. And all the while we're dashing about throwing snow on each other playing little games laughting outloud, carrying on. She gets along with people and animals admirably. But she smokes.

I keep saying, I'm a travelling man, I'm not living anywhere, I can't have a girlfriend. Mostly this I say to the people around me who keep asking, "is that your girlfriend?" Ayako seems smarter than to ask any of that; she's mostly interested in having a good time it seems. As am I. And the world is full of delicious potential as always. But when the rain is falling and the last bit of fun is still lingering in your nose while the host glides off on silent rails, you stand alone in another train station without a place to go, you regard your heavy bag and wonder why you're moving, and what you're looking for.

Exerpt from a letter to Mom:

It was strange, two weeks of living in paradise. Snow would fall on steaming soothing water as I sat for hours each day easing away the pain of writing too much. That was marvellous. My inability to cook regularly in a sub-zero temperature kitchen left me thin and weak I think, as did the routine exposure to extreme heat and cold. The beauty was inspiring and there was silence and great conditions for writing, but basically my body broke. I could return now, but I feel urged to move on down the road.

I'm not sure what I'm looking for at this point; I want very badly to work on this fiction project and I feel driven to avoid Tokyo because of all the distractions there. Still being on the road is completely distracting itself; finding a new place to live every two or three days, and seeing such marvellous things in between.

This week I'm living at a newly built Japanese inn. It's nice to have a strong heater and some TV after so much drafty isolation. This town "Kakunodate" is known for having many pristine condition large samurai houses. Most of the rest of Japan was paved or bombed; very little old architecture remains. This place is like a small town in the American South packed with plantation houses. There's a lot of craft and picturesque old Japanese beauty here that is inspiring. I expect to feed off this for a few days at least.

Next on the list of places to travel is Yokote - it's not necessarily a place of great beauty, but somehow I imagine this it might be a good mix of convenient and quiet for two weeks where I can write. Some of my curiousity and traveller instincts could be satisfied by the town's big winter festival, which should happen while I'm visiting. Also, there was a gentleman I met at the inn who was very nice and sent me some fruit and foot while I was sick; I will look forward to thank him there in person.

So I'm trying to balance travel and the urge to work with some grounding in the coming weeks. Then in March I leave for an Internet conference in the United States. After March I don't know where I'll be living! So far my open time has been well filled with exciting stuff so I'm optimistic for the future.

Tuesday, 29 January

I look at my watch these days and i think, it's been about two days since i felt the consequences of my stupidity. Time to test that again!

Somehow I had some kind of ugly sex-related injury. It seems to have gone away. I tested that by trying it again. Hours and an entire language away from medical care.

24 January 2002

I was as sick as I have been in some years, sweating hallucinating fever sore throat couldn't eat or move much. Two days I spent in my rustic room, stretched out flat or curled up fetal, trying to avoid more shivering and the resulting body aches. Whether it was the horrible pissing ice rain weather Monday, the little bit of Japanese moonshine I drank again, or some fish/bacon cooking error on my part, I wasn't able to communicate with any worlds except those outside our own for that time. My friends at the inn brought me rice balls I couldn't eat and caramels I gladly sucked on the second day for any little bit of body pleasure and throat relief.

Lonely, in pain, I had to come into town when I could to connect to my emotional self online. Sitting this morning, I wondered, am I physically ready to travel over an hour away from my bed? And as I was thinking, and studying my own condition, I let a small fart go, because that is one of life's great pleasures. And well it wasn't just a fart, I shat in my long underwear I'd been wearing for two days straight. That sent me to a toilet, and through the snow in sandles to a bath, and feeling much stronger after all that I am now here in town where the tourist bureau has asked me to review some roadsigns they will be making soon to see if there is any "bad english."

Still I feel physically weak and wonder where I am to travel next? But I have found that if you wait long enough, you will be forced to do something, and that's usually interesting so this is what I am doing.

21 January 2002

From the winter bed/desk/chair (futon):
  • How do I spend my time here? a long record
  • Remembering the best ramen there is.
  • walk and crawl in the snow
  • the woman I have been seeing the most of since I came to Akita: Motegi-san

    18 January 2002

    stationed Plugged in to a payphone, sitting next to wanted posters in a train station in 田沢湖 Tazawako, a car ride and a bus ride one hour from my lodgings in the mountains where Japan mobile phones don't work. I sleep on a futon on a tatami mat floor. I soak in water smelling of old eggs a few times a day. I write a lot. I come back to my room and I'm repeatedly startled to discover that I don't have any mail, I don't have any phone calls, I don't have any noise, except Ito-san who is dragging futons around above me, and the guy who is scraping ice off the roof near my window. That's a lot of excitement for me these days; talking to the hot springs staff members who live in the same part of the hot springs that I do.

    I sent out an email update before I left. Now I have the chance to try to stuff a cheap phone card and a 44k dialup connection with a few day's worth of media and email. And then rush out to buy food for the next few days. The last bus leaves for my mountain home in two hours!

    Between late Monday and early Friday, 466 new messages; 233 obvious spam. And no proposals for travelling. It only gets easier to win!

    I'm doing great. They're playing Beatles muzak here in the train station, rendered entirely by small bells. I'm losing weight again; each day is miso soup, yogurt, little bits of pork. But my brain is alive - I'm thinking, writing, studying Japanese, talking to mostly older Japanese people, going for long walks in the quiet snow stuffed woods. I bathe long and slow two or three times a day; my skin constantly smells like sulfer.

    9 January 2002

    My routine this week:

    Wake up at 6am, say goodbye to Ayako as she leaves for her house. Go back to sleep until 10.30. Work until late lunchtime, writing correspondence, tinkering with an article. Either eat lunch at my desk and work through the afternoon until evening, or take lunch out and have meetings or errands in the afternoon. Evening, gather with Ayako for dinner and entertainment, then back to my place. I tie her up for some intercourse, then naked I type correspondence from midnight until 4am so that my American and European peers will get my emails as they are coming in to the office.

    I eat convenience store yogurt for brunch, and a large dinner.

    3 January 2002

    New advertisers:

    GCPress, SoozRadio, Cabrad, ThatLittleBastad, Wireless Game Review

    GK advises that A Terrible Thunder has finally been released in paperback.

    1 January 2002

    Visions of Akita

    Thanks to Ayako's diligent phone work, I might have a place to stay alone later this month in the mountains, in the wintery north of Japan. This is my first choice: Tsurunoyu - the pictures nearly stop my heart. I'm preparing of course for unstoppable optimism and good times in the face of an emotional let-down or physial obstruction. They asked, "What is the guest's name?" and when Ayako said "Justin Hall" - they said, "Huh?!" They were quite surprised and, it seems, a bit miffed about having to support someone foreign and probably unfamiliar with the interface to a Japanese mountain residential bathhouse. There's no blankets, they said. (But I can rent them for $5 a day). There's no utensils or plates or pans. (But I can buy some at a 100 yen store). Will he know how to communicate? Ayako is going to write me a letter of introduction. All told, I'm looking at about $35 a day for a cook-it-yourself place to live. So if you can see photos here, picture this with two meters of snow over it. I think.

    They only had space until Feburary, so it looks like I'll be Inn-hopping in Akita. Pack light for the thick winter!

    December - gosh what a month.

  • index.html
    Tonguing Snow

    TheFeature: Where is Location-Based Marketing?
    If your mobile phone knows where you are, what might someone try to sell you? Reporting on Japan's early location-based tests, interviews with Finns.
    31 January 2002

    powerful stuff Tetsugakudou
    Black Magic Ramen - the Devil's own noodle soup.
    23 January 2002

    Akita: TsuDazed
    Living - the return: illness, misplaced cigarettes, Germans.
    27 January 2002

    kenjiki baka Akita: Snow Shoe
    Once more into the woods, this time with snow shoes.
    25 January 2002

    Akita: TsuDaze
    20 January 2002

    Akita: Gentlemen
    A group of distinguished older men teaches me about Japan as I try to keep vomit from out of my lap.
    17 January 2002


    Akita: Snow Walk
    How do you walk through four feet of snow? You crawl.
    (Now featuring Colin Adams's educated interpretation of these tracks)

    16 January 2002

    Akita: Turunoyu
    Bathing with Japanese folks in elegant 400 year old bathwater.
    14 January 2002 Mileage Giveaway
    A free round-trip airplane ticket to the person who writes the best web content proposal.
    7 January 2002

    Japanese Homeless at Tokyo DisneyLand
    New Year's Eve: Tokyo's homeless problem comes to a capital of worldwide theme park entertainment.
    1 January 2002

    index.html Considering Ayako
    My brother was dating a woman. When he met her grandmother, she asked him, "What are your intentions?"
    31 December 2001

    index.html Christmas in Japan
    More neon than nativity
    26 December 2001

    Too Much Walking?
    I've changed my short daily route from the train station to my apartment in Uguisudani. Now I take narrower alleys. As a result I pass by four or five prostitutes each night, instead of just one or two.
    26 December 2001

    Freezing at the Emperor's Birthday
    Shivering in a courtyard with gangsters and right-wingers watching the Japanese Emperor smile and decry the economy.
    20 December 2001

    Foreign Correspondent
    An aged journalists' club with a lusty legacy welcomes a web itinerant.
    December 2001

    True Wireless
    If you have to plug your phone in every few hours, that's not true wireless - that's occasionally unwired. If we can send data through the sky, what about Wireless Electricity?
    December 2001

    Modern Madame Butterfly
    Many Foreign men date Asian women. Fortanately, all the Asian women are submissive and the Foreign men are wealthy. A recipie for harmony?
    December 2001

    For Men with Yen
    A guide to the sexy side of Japanese nightlife from the 60s still has lessons for heedless young explorers.
    December 2001

    Aum Shinrikyo
    Two books about the Cult behind the Sarin Gas Attacks in the Tokyo subway reveal only a modicum of LSD and sexual impropriety.
    November 2001

    Roppongi: GasPanic
    Compulsory drinking in the fetid Tokyo swamp that breeds interracial dating.
    November 2001

    Winged and Wired
    Worried that some folks might have a moment to themselves, several companies are promising to keep business travelers online in-flight.
    October 2001

    Raving on Mount Fuji
    With speed-snorting male hosts on the site of Japan's sacred mountain, reaching for a bit of trance culture and ending up with the end of a zen stick.
    October 2001

    New Orleans
    A visit to an old friend in the city of sin yeilds truly dangerous moments with the dead and lively dancing where Jazz music still moves feet.
    September 2001

    A trip to a culture fortress and Finnish playland in Eastern Europe.
    September 2001

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