Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Matsuo Mines

Creepy place alert!! We had an eerie adventure last weekend.

With very careful steps, we made our way through the rubble, tall weeds, random hidden 6-foot holes in the ground, crumbling flooring, and BATS (*shudder*) in exploration. It was kind of nuts.

The ruins of the Matsuo mines in Iwate prefecture in Japan made #5 on this list of "The 7 Creepiest Places on Earth." Once the biggest sulfur mine in eastern Asia, it employed 15,000 people who lived, worked, and sent their kids to school in the network of buildings making up the community. The mine was closed down in the early 70's, and during the past 40 years it's sat abandoned. 

Normally the whole area is shrouded in thick layers of fog/mist, but for our visit the sun was shining brightly. That was ok; the place was unsettling enough without that added element.

The apartment blocks were dramatic in their decay and really fun to explore, but the school was the building that struck me the most: abandoned plates and frying pans in the kitchen, broken desks and tvs strewn about, shattered pianos and peeling chalkboards. You could still sense so much of the life that was once a part of that place. It was really beautiful, in that sad and haunting way.

This was also one of the first places in Japan where I've seen graffiti. I thought it was really gorgeous! Striking and dramatic. There are more pictures of it all on my photo page if you click on any of the photos embedded here.

This was a really fun place to see! We went with the Misawa Photography Club, which has been growing and setting up more photo-related activities lately (much to my happiness). It was really really great to dive back into creativity with Mark and Remmy (my cameras... what, doesn't everyone name theirs?). It's been a little while since I've actually focused much on this hobby, so I'm excited to get back into it more seriously again.

So obviously from the pictures, this place is a liiitle bit tricky and has it's share of potential dangers. If you're reading this in Misawa thinking you'd like to go, make sure you do so with a group and be very careful (repeat: hidden 6-foot holes in the grass and crumbling floorboards). 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Have You Heard the News?!

Holy smokes, guys- it's hot. And moist. So very moist. Everything in our house is damp. I think my lungs might be molding. Today the sun rose before 4am, I'm staring at a Costco-sized battery operated auto-trigger bottle of bug spray (which I have yet to use because that would mean actually going out onto the porch where the dozens of quarter-sized spiders are waiting to attack me), and everywhere- EVERYWHERE- smells like manure. That can only mean one thing: it's summer in Misawa. It won't last long (at least shouldn't, typically historically ohmygodplease), but while it's here, it's kind of like death. Except death is quicker and less melty, generally speaking.

My point in all this complaining is that while I suffer through what will be our very last Misawa summer, I've been channeling images of a cooler, more moderate and refreshing locale. The kind of place where a cool ocean mist kisses your face when you walk out the door, and the temperature rarely gets above 80. The kind of place where we can trade in fans and dehumidifiers (and snow jackets and boots, for that matter) for a light hoody. The kind of place where one can buy local fresh fruit for less than the cost of rent (seriously, there were packs of 4 strawberries for $6 at the store the other day and our monthly apple budget is $120. Not like an iPhone plan. Literally, apples.).

The kind of place where Corey and I are moving next summer.

Monterey, California!!

Corey has gotten a position as a language instructor at DLI at the Presidio (where he learned Chinese... aww, he's all grown up now), so we will be packing up and heading back to CA early summer of next year! We are VERY excited to get this assignment. While we'll inevitably be sad to leave Japan, the time has come and we're definitely ready to get back home. 

But not before a few more adventures on this side of the world! Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What Else Have We Been Up To?

I think that now, as I sit in Haneda airport in Tokyo waiting for our last flight to get back to Misawa (32 hours after leaving san jose, RAWR!), my blogging (and photography) is going to start picking up a bit. It was slumpy while I was in the states because I realized I was with most of the people who read it in the first place and didn't have the same urge to keep up. But now that we're across the world and far, far away once again, I think I'll try to post more.

So, what else of interest did we do during our last month on the west coast (besides eating frozen yogurt and doing jigsaw puzzles)? I present the following:

TrackTown USA!
Corey and I hit the road to Eugene, OR for a day to catch some of the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials. Ok, reeeaally my motivation was to catch Eve6 who happened to be performing at the trials, but the Olympics part still ended up being quite awesome. We didn't buy tickets to get into the actual stadium, but there was a whole festival set up around it, and we spent the day right outside lounging on a field where we could still hear the gun go off and watch everything on giant screens. We had commentary so we knew what was going on, and could lie down and eat food. And the Olympians were presented on the stage outside the stadium anyway, so... good deal. It was so, so fun (aside from being really sick, having no voice, and driving 18 hours there and back in one day... but totally worth it)!!

Chris Graduated!
A week before their wedding, my sister's husband Chris graduated from Stanford law school. He's worked long and hard over the past 3 years, and it was awesome to celebrate his work and get to know his family better since we were all together.

Kid Time!
We got to spend a lot of time with our perfect baby (and grown up) cousins before their big move to Seattle. We're SO happy their long-term plans are going to keep up there, since we foresee ourselves in the pacific northwest as well someday... but since that's not happening for a while, we had fun while we could.

4th of July!
We spent Independence Day with Katherine and Chris and friends, having a bonfire on Muir beach before watching fireworks over the city from our friends' rooftop in Oakland. FUN!

Anyway, now back to Japan stuff I suppose. To be honest, we're both kinda bummed to be back. We're ready for something new, I think. However, we'll try to make the best of it and have lots of fun until the time comes to move on. Sayoonara! 

My little sis is MARRIED!!

As of 2 weeks ago, I have another brother-in-law (an awesome one at that).

My little Kibbles and Bits finally got married in the most beautiful wedding ever in Santa Cruz. It was PERFECT! The beach ceremony was so special and gorgeous, and the reception at the Cocoanut Grove on the Boardwalk afterwards was so.much.fun!!

It was a full weekend with lots and lots of family, old and new. Plus: Roller coasters. Taffy. Sand and sun. Birds. Champagne. Freckle. Lots of love.

I'm including some pics I and/or Corey took, but hopefully Kib's awesome wedding photographer Jessica Burke will post some of the real deal pretty photos in the coming weeks.

Not that you weren't already, but "officially" welcome to the family now Chris! We love you!