Thursday, January 31, 2008


On Monday, Fox and I had the opportunity to go to Hiroshima with our friend Matt, who was taking his visiting parents sightseeing. We took a bus from a neighboring city and got there in three hours. Cash did great on the trip. It was so neat to be in a big city that had a Subway (not the transportation--the sandwiches)! It was also a very eye-opening trip.
Here we are in front of the A-Bomb dome. The A-Bomb was dropped above it. It's the only building that has been left in ruins, as a memorial of that tragic day.

Here is the memorial arch that shows the dome and also the flame that will only be extinguished once all nuclear weapons have been eliminated:

For any of you familiar with the story "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes", here are the actual cranes she folded. They got smaller and smaller as she got sicker and sicker, until finally she was folding them with a needle:

This is a diorama of the destruction of the bomb. This area housed over 6500 residents. By the end of 1945, over 140,000 people died as a result of the bomb's effects.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Yashima Island

On Sunday, Amy and I took Cash up to a famous touring spot with a student of mine named Miwa (Yes, it is actually Fox doing one of these posts in the first time since forever). Yashima looks like a peninsula, but a river cut around it making it an island, even though the river is not all that wide. It is very famous because it was the site of one of the biggest battles in the Genji wars. All throughout the temple grounds at the top of the island visitors can see paintings and bas relief sculptures depicting scenes from the battle. My student told us that there were so many bodies at the end of the battle that a pond turned red and was called Chinoike (Blood pond).

The island is shaped life a tall plateau. The locals here think it looks like a roof, hence the name Yashima (Ya- from "yane" which means roof & "Sima" which means island). We actually drove up the side of the island to the temple on top, though we could have walked up the steps like all of the pilgrims do. At the top is the 84th temple of the Shikoku 88 temples. It is a very special place for women wanting to become pregnant or have healthy pregnancies. It is believed that the temple founder was led through the fog to the place where the temple would be built by a tanuki (a sort of badger) disguised as a man. Tanuki are known for their rather large genitalia, so they are seen as a good spirit for expectant mothers.

We toured the temple quickly, since it was somewhat similar to other temples we had visited. But at the top, we took turns flinging small clay discs about the size as the top of a soda can off of the top of the plateau. It is thought that the further you can throw the disc, the greater your luck will be. Everyone was throwing them like you would skip stones on a lake. They went about thirty feet or so. I winged mine like a frisbee, and it flew out and curved around the mountain so that it was still sailing as it passed out of our line of sight. Everyone around us made sounds of being impressed. I tried again, but accidentally flung it behind me onto the roof of a building. I had to make sure to apologize quite loudly since everyone had been watching me on the second throw. The third and fourth throws went out really far like the first, and everyone was impressed again.

We kept walking, stopping occasionally to take in the artwork and artifacts of the historic samurai battle. We passed several hotels that had long-since closed down and made the entire place feel oddly creepy.

Passed the hotels, we came across a small aquarium that was set up near the temple. We didn't go in, but we could see some dolphins swimming in their tank through a space in the outside fence where we were standing. After a few seconds of watching them circle the tank, it became evident that they were doing far more than swimming. We all started laughing out loud together as it dawned on each of us simultaneously that these dolphins were copulating. At first I thought it was just me, but the comically shocked look on my student's face told me that she saw it too. I took some photos, but then realized that it was just a little dirty to be doing it. Then the voice of hilarious awesomeness in the back of my head berated me for hesitating. I mean, how often are you gonna have a chance to witness dolphins gone wild and then put it on your blog (sorry, gramma)?!?!?!

We laughed all the way to a picnic spot where we ate some sandwiches and took in the view. Amy and Miwa had to keep talking me out of sneaking into one of the abandoned hotels. I kept feeling the pull of Silent Hill telling me to wander into the creepy abandoned place. But my wife would have none of it. So we finished our lunch and made our way down to the parking lot. Every few minutes on the ride home Miwa and Amy would tease me that the tanuki and the dolphins were a sign that the Ellises should have another baby.

Tanuki at the temple

You may not be able to read this, but it's the story of the tanuki and the priest

Ellises at the temple

Actual Samurai armor from the battle of Genji. This was kept in the same building that I hit with a clay disc.

A fierce lion outside the temple

The view from the top

More of the same view from the top

Amy and Cash with our friend Miwa

WARNING: the following is a paid-program from Dolphins Gone Wild. Some content may not be suitable for younger dolphins

naughty Naughty NAUGHTY Dolphins!!!!!

Cash was completely tuckered out by the time we got home.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Seto-Ohashi Park

Last Monday, we visited the Seto-Ohashi commemorative park, which is about twenty minutes from our house. It was so fun! There is a huge pirate-ship playground. It was a national holiday, so there were tons of families playing ball, flying kites, and walking their rabbits. We had a great time!
Cash's first experience with a tunnel slide:

I like slides!

He didn't know what to make of this field of dry grass, though:

Fox and Cash in front of the Seto Ohashi bridge, the world's second largest suspension bridge:

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Example 1:

Example 2: (yes, that is stuffed, happy poo in a vending machine game)

Example 3:

Friday, January 11, 2008

House Tour

Just for fun, I thought I'd give you a 2-minute tour of our house. Please don't mind the mess or the fact that I have no make-up on. All that magic happens at naptime! Here's a brief glimpse into our small space:
Wow, I look stoned. Disregard that...stop laughing.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Kitto Katto

Kit Kats are huge in Japan! The reason, according to Wikipedia:

"The popularity of Kit Kats in Japan is a phenomenon attributed to the coincidental similarity between the bar's name and the Japanese phrase kitto katsu, which roughly translates to "You will surely win!" This has reportedly led to parents and children buying them for school examination days as a sort of good luck charm.[3]However, transliteration is not always in Nestlé's favour - kitto katto (where 'katto' is taken to be a katakana transliteration of the English verb 'cut') is understood to bestow Kit Kat with the less positive significance of "you will surely miss the cut". As such, gifts of a single kit-kat are a running joke for senior high school students taking the University Entrance Examinations in some areas. It is also in Japan that Kit Kat has in recent years seen a variety of different flavours emerge, although each for a limited time. Some examples include, maple syrup, melon, vanilla bean, grape, apple, caramel, kiwi, azuki, and cherry blossom. Further building on the teen market, Nestlé created a music label in 2005 and bundled Kit Kats with CDs which has propelled the Kit Kat to become the #1 selling chocolate bar in Japan as well."

We are always on the lookout for fun KitKat flavors! Here are some recent ones:

Sakura, or cherry blossom KitKats are everywhere right now. They are marketed to girls for Girls' Day in March. These are my new favorite, because they have an awesome artificial cherry flavor:

This is a more expensive dessert bar. There is a layer of apple creme underneath the chocolate. It's delicious!

Orange and Chocolate, which is okay:

Cookies and Milk is great--it's like the cookies and creme Crunch bars that used to be around:

Put your requests in now...and I just might be able to sneak some KitKats back home in August (if they don't melt)!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Year's Break

Last week, we had four days off for Shogatsu, the Japanese New Year holiday. Unfortunately, Fox was sick the entire vacation. We had our 5th anniversary on New Year's Eve, and for the first time, we had nothing planned. Of course, this is the first anniversary we've had a baby and no babysitter. The whole day was spent relaxing at home and then we finally decided to take Cash and go out to dinner. By that time, every restaurant was closed for New Year's. Oh well. Luckily, there is always next year! The highlight of our holiday break was going to karaoke (カラオケ? from Japanese kara, "empty", and ōkesutora, "orchestra") with the Morimuras (our boss) and their son (our branch president) and his family. I loved it! Fox was skeptical. There are tons of karaoke places around, as it is a national pasttime, and people take it very seriously. They are all great singers, since they do karaoke so often. As Fumi puts it, "karaoke is a thing to do when you are stressed. It relaxes you". I don't know if singing in front of total strangers is relaxing, but it's fun!
Fox and I are a bit performance shy as we stammer out our "A Whole New World" duet:

Bro. and Sis. Morimura are pros!

Miu, their granddaughter, enjoyed the music, as she toddled around and ate dried squid.

Cash has a mouth for singing!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


On Christmas Day, we decided to hike up the many stairs to Konpirasan, a famous shrine in Kotohira, which is just fifteen minutes away from our house. We thought, what better way to celebrate the birth of Christ than to visit a Shinto Shrine? Just kidding--we actually went because we decided that our Christmas presents would be a special souvenir from one of the many shops that line the starting staircases to the shrine. I got a Kokeshi doll. Fox got a Hanya mask. Cash got a stuffed bowl of Udon, which he loves!

Starting out:

There were 785 steps to the Main shrine:

Cash enjoyed the ride!

Six hundred plus more steps to the Main shrine:

Cash's stuffed noodle bowl: