Thursday, December 18, 2008

back to the U.S. of A!

So after coming up with five posts in just a week (personal record, I'm sure), naturally, it's been a full week since I've last posted. I do have an excuse though - I've returned to the comparatively unexciting California. In fact, I've been home, not doing a whole lot more than simply relaxing, for almost a week now. The plan at the moment is to hang out in California/Seattle through about late January, at which point, Oliver and I will head down to South America to take that cruise of Antarctica, booked, what seems like, such a long time ago by now. Perhaps a stop in Costa Rica to hang out with Lott and company on the way down... After Antarctica, it'll be off to Brazil for Carnival, then spend as much time in South and Central America and the Carribean as my bank account will allow.

There was a plan a long, long time ago to drive the mini to South America... In theory, that is still possible: the mini is currently somewhere in the Northern Pacific, supposedly set to arrive in Vancouver on December 26th (happy Boxing Day, Canada...). After more time (and money) spent dealing with customs services (Canadian and American this time), I expect to deliver the car to Seattle some time in January. At that point, however, I fully intend to park the car and leave it alone for a while - it is in no shape to be driven anywhere else, and I'm in no mood to keep driving (and fixing) it!

And just because I needed a reminder of dealing with car trouble, my very own BMW here in San Diego decided to give a quick refresher course shortly after I arrived: I suspected the battery in the car would be dying after not having driven it for six months (and the battery being close to dead when I was departing in June). So, of course, it didn't start, I called AAA, they got it started, and I drove on, presuming the battery would charge itself a little. On the way I got to appreciate some little things:
- the seats are a lot more comfortable than the mini
- the steering wheel is a lot closer to the driver than it is in the mini
- the rear visibility is MUCH better in the mini!
- the clutch behaves a bit, differently

Speaking of the clutch, as I pulled up to a traffic light (in pouring rain), I let go of the clutch a little too quickly and the engine stalled... No problem - I've had the engine running for the past hour, battery must be a little charged by now, right? Well... not so much... the car's dead. Last time I ran into a car problem at a traffic light was in Chita, where I watched my rear wheel come off and slowly roll away from the car, so, all things being equal, this seemed less bad. Getting help from passerby drivers is par for the course by now, so with a bit of assistance from a guy that pulled up behind me, I got the car out of the way (the BMW is a bit harder to push than the mini!). I gave a bit of thought to whether or not it's even possible to jump start the BMW, but figuring that, hey, I'm in the US now - I speak the language here and it should be easy to get qualified help, I instead set off looking for a service station that could jump-start the car. About 30 minutes later, and a bit soaked (did I mention it was raining? In Southern California!?), I walked into a Kragen auto-parts shop in time to have the following conversation:

me: I need my car jump started...
Kragen: sure just bring it around
me: uhmm, it's dead?
Kragen: right!

We did start the conversation with an exchange of "I have a stupid question" - "I have a stupid answer," but the rest really wasn't planned. Anyway, I walked out of Kragen with a portable starter. 30 minutes later (and now sporting an umbrella) I walked back in to return the starter and let them know that it's not big enough to start a BMW with a thoroughly dead battery. Another 30 minutes passed when AAA arrived (again) to jump start the car. The next morning I bought a new battery. I even managed to install it myself - I must be a fully qualified mechanic by now as the BMW dealer charges $150 for this service. It takes approximately five minutes. The car has been running fine ever since - now I just need to sell it, so that I can spend more time in South America (and not be involved in any more car repairs). So, if you decide you've been looking for a nice BMW convertible, you should really have a look here.

I shouldn't leave you without at least a few pictures, so some shots from my last couple of days in Japan:

A really big Buddha statue (Amida Buddha) at Daibutsu in Kamakura. There used to be a building surrounding it - that got blown away by a tornado in the 17th century. The Buddha? no problem...

The Buddha and me... coming to a TV network near you? I'm already starting to find American TV a bit tiresome...

The rows of figurines at the Hase-dera temple look cute at first glance. And then you read how each one was placed there by a woman who had had a miscarriage or an abortion...

Kamakura also happens to be on the water - Yuigahama Beach was drawing lots of wind surfers on this December afternoon.

I felt I should try some Kobe beef before leaving Japan. It does not disappoint (melts in your mouth as advertised). It is, however, best to not discuss the pricetag...

I was flying out Friday afternoon, so Thursday night, I stowed my stuff away at the hostel, checked out, had the kobe beef for dinner, and went on to spend the night in Roppongi, the surreal Tokyo night-life district. In the morning (very early morning: 5:30AM!), I was off to see the morning fish auction at Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market. And then I slept quite well on the plane...

Sunday, December 14, 2008


One of the advantages of traveling a bunch is you really appreciate home even if you're only there one week in four.  Seattle had some beautiful weather last week.  Sunny days and amazing sunsets - like this one from our balcony.


After savoring it, I headed to Poco Wineroom, right around the corner, to meet up with Sara to catch up and just hang out with some amazing wines and cool atmosphere.


I've also gotten time to cook in my own kitchen.  Last fall I bought a hind quarter of Zhi, a locally raised, grass fed, organic cow from Jubilee Farms in Carnation.  He's provided the main course at several dinner parties this week.  As delicious as beef daube was, my proudest culinary accomplishment was a bacon apple pie.


The crisp, savory bacon, sweet apples, and flaky crust work quite well together.

On Tuesday we read a trip report about an amazing powder day at Camp Muir.  On Wednesday the freezing level was down to 7000 feet.  So on Thursday Nate, Bailey, and I headed off to Mt Rainier in hopes that even more snow had fallen.

The skies were blue and the sun was out, which almost made up for the snow actually coming down as rain and crusting the powder.


We still got some turns in (Bailey's first backcountry snowboard trip)

Got peeks at peaks in the distance (Nate and Mt St Helens)

And generally had a great day in the mountains.

More shots from the day at Picasa.

Now I've headed off again, this time to Salt Lake City with my friend Robert.  The skies have been dumping the past two days with 20+ inches of new snow.  We've done a backcountry tour and a resort day so far.  Hopefully I'll remember to bring my camera on one of our other trips this week.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


There are tiny, gentle raindrops fluttering out of the sky and landing on my exposed shoulders. At times, including not 30 minutes ago, I might find this distracting, but here and now, in the town of Yamato onsen, in the mountainous region North of Tokyo, it's soothing and relaxing. I'm not really sure what to make of a few towns out here being called something-onsen - as far as I knew, the term 'onsen' refers to a mineral bath, sort of like the one I'm soaking in here in Yamato(-onsen). But, honestly, I have better things to worry about, like, say, should I return to the covered portion of this mineral bath (emitting a distinctive scent of sulfur), or should I remain here, in the more trance-like outdoor bath... I'm sticking with the outdoors for the time being. This morning, I had a wealth of things to worry about - hiking through a not so well-marked track in the snowy mountains, losing the track and deciding to simply head straight down the slope towards the town, staring at the astonishing Kegon Falls flowing from the secluded (at this time of year) mountain Lake Chuzenji and cresting over a steep 97m tall drop, eventually making my way over to Yutaki Falls, losing my umbrella while climbing into the middle of the stream for a better photo op, only to discover that the path I thought was leading to Yumoto was really a loop, which led right back to the falls... and my umbrella... just in time for this morning's sunny skies to finally succumb to the prospects of rain that the forecast had promised. But, now I'm just soaking in an onsen for an hour until I catch the bus back to Nikko to get the train back to Tokyo.

Nikko itself was rather disappointing (much like I'd been warned back in Tokyo that it would be). It's a spiritual center and one of the many former capitals, but the temples and shrines really all do look very much the same to me by now (I know conformity has always ruled this country, but there's only so many virtually identical five-story pagodas I can look at). Supposedly, some of the attractions here include a depiction of three monkeys demonstrating 'see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil,' and a rendering of elephants done by a guy who'd never seen an actual elephant... Fascinating certainly, but I've seen the photographs and the temples are nothing memorable, so is it really worth the $10+ admission to each of the temples? I decided it was surely not. Instead, I took the bus to a big, modern onsen that evening, then after spending the night at a deserted hostel in Nikko, went up to gaze at the lakes and mountains the following day.

A few pictures from my two days chilling in Nikko:

The Shinkyo Sacred Bridge in Nikko. You know, if I was going to build a sacred bridge for my emperor, I think I would've made it look nicer than this. The Thais and the French certainly understood this concept (and didn't spare a gram of gold to demonstrate)

Now the dragon fountain (a commonly repeated theme in Japan, of course), I did like quite a bit.

I focused on visiting the parts of the temples that were free of charge. The ancient moss growth here serves to underscore just how long these stone lanterns have been around (Nikko clearly not a WWII bombing target)

Here, I've found a way to make the five-story pagoda look a little different...

Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Falls, and the mountains in the background early in the day before the clouds had to come in and dampen all the scenery!

That's Mt. Nantai in the background.

Did I mention there was snow on the ground up here? It is December after all... I was sporting the fake North Face down jacket all the way from Kathmandu, which was doing a fine job, except for the rather sickening smell it had acquired from something in the mini...

Kegon Falls coming down with the full force of the 97m drop

This is the shot of the waterfall from the middle of the stream that [briefly] cost me the unbrella.

And finally, serene Lake Yunoko, with Yamoto-onsen on the far shore

Coming to America update: my original tickets had me on a plane heading for LA right as I'm writing this... so I've either missed my flight or changed it... Well, I wanted to get a chance to go to the famed Tsukiji fish market for a [very] early morning fish auction and since the market turned out to be closed on Wednesday, I pushed my flight back to Friday... Now to see if I can really get there around 5 in the morning on Friday when the auction gets going.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tokyo and Yokohama

So, I'm sitting here at my hostel trying to figure out how exactly I could've managed to have lost half of my laptop's power cord last night... Fortunately, it was the less important half, the hostel has one I can borrow, and I should be able to get a new one once I'm back in the US in less than a week. To be honest that's not bothering me all that much though - Maya, the girl that's sitting at a neigboring table, for the second straight night, happens to be annoying me significantly more - not even sure what exactly it is about her, I think it's the fact that she talks a lot (loudly), and, to me at least, appears to be an idiot...

But I digress, Tokyo... and Yokohama... and pictures - right... So, I wondered around Asakusa, the Tokyo area where my hostel is, and this being Sunday, there was obviously something going on because a bunch of these girls were standing around having a million tourists (mostly the Japanese ones actually) snapping pictures of them:


Not Geisha?


Not having spotted any actual geishas in Kyoto, I figured I might as well join in, even though I'm fairly certain these girls have absolutely nothing to do with geishas, and are probably some sort of a promotion for selling whatever the things are that each is holding in her hands? But, hey, they did look nice and were dressed up in proper Japanese kimono attire. BTW, a fun side note on Kyoto: I suspect the closest I came to seeing a geisha in Gion, the district Lonely Planet (in its unfailing wisdom) claims to be frequented by geishas, was passing my a fetish S&M club... If it's geisha you want, I imagine they can provide somebody dressed like that... I chose to leave it to someone else to actually enter the place, it just seemed to underline the fact that even if there once were geishas in Gion, I'm a little skeptical about any showing up there these days.

As the afternoon rolled around, I figured I'd make a quick side-trip to nearby Yokohama. It's actually a city of 3.5 million, but being a mere 30 minute train ride from Tokyo, seems to just be a part of the larger metropolis. It does, however, feel like a comparatively relaxed place where you can wonder by the waterfront and perhaps catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji from the observation deck of Japan's tallest building. So, a few pictures:

Japan's not quite Dubai, which has built a gigantic ski resort in the middle of the desert, but I did pass by a perfectly tropical palm tree yesterday, just to come by an ice skating rink not too far away today.

As for more famous attractions in the city, this is the Yokohama Landmark Tower - the tallest one in Japan. Features a Guiness World Record - an elevator that goes up at 750m/min (45km/h. You'll just have to do the miles per hour conversion yourself - I've been in metric countries for a better part of the past six months!)

Inside the tower - let's play the 'can you spot Alex in this picture' game.

From the observation deck. Significance: this is the Yokohama Port, from which the mini departed barely over a week ago. Hope you're enjoying hanging out with all those new cars on the auto-carrier in the North Pacific, mini!

Facing the other way on the observation deck, a slightly hazy view of Mt. Fuji. Really does look a lot more perfectly conical when you are not actually on the mountain.

The Yokohama skyline, by night, at an angle. If I had a tripod, I could get this shot without the angle, but then I'd have to carry the tripod around with me. Plus, I rather like the angle!

Yokohama is also famous for its large Chinatown, teaming with Chinese restaurants and stores seling a variety of Chinese themed souvenirs. Also, a couple of shrines - Yokohama Masobyo Shrine pictured here. I considered going to the Brazilian restaurant in Chinatown (naturally), but was dissuaded by the $40+ prices... and the fact that I expect to actually be in Brazil in a few months.

And later that night, wondering by the waterfront, back towards the train station.

And I just can't leave Yokohama without mentioning the best restaurant ad I've seen in Japan yet... This is from the official Yokohama tourist guide book, given to me by the very helpful Tourist Information Center at the Yokohama train station:

Meat Cooking by the Meat Shop, Mizumura
Djust dfiscovered in the back allery. Fabulous meat dishes at low prices

All spelling preserved exactly as the guide book presented it to me. Apparently, we don't spell check much in Yokohama.

PS. Maya remains an idiot...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tokyo Calling

Well, I'm back in Tokyo. Started the day off in Nagoya, saying my good bye's to Joel, Marina, and Taka, then took off for Tokyo. By now I've wholeheartedly switched over to buses as the transportation du jour (Nagoya -> Tokyo: train - 2hrs, $90; bus: 6hrs, $51), so I duly made my way over to the bus station, waited in line to get my ticket and had my seat on the double decker bus to Tokyo with a full 3 minutes to spare! About that... Japan's a well organized, efficient country. Things get done quickly, most of the time. For some completely unfathomable reason, buying tickets for trains and buses is an exception! The ticket clerks are ridiculously and painstakingly slow and thorough. The oh-so-necessary tradition of laying out each of the tickets and going over them in great detail after somebody has finished purchasing them tends to drive me absolutely insane. Needless to say, when I got to the ticket booth 15 minutes before my bus was due to depart and found three people in front of me in line, I had a few concerns. But it all worked out... with three minutes to spare!

The weather, which covered me in miserably cold rain all day yesterday in Nagoya had finally come back around to sunny clear skies, so as we headed North I got a clear view of Mt. Fuji out the bus window:

There's a little more snow on the peak now than there was when I climbed it a month ago. Still climbale, I think.

The mountain is notoriously shy, however, so an hour later, it was shrouded in clouds

I keep being reminded that Japan is actually fairly far South, so there are palm trees, even as I'm shivering a bit in the wind:

So, now that I'm back in Tokyo, I had been planning to take a trip all the way up North to the island of Hokaido for a little snowboarding getaway, but after evaluating my bank account, the projected cold temperatures up there, and the fact that I'd have to rent equipment, I decided it was time to wrap things up and head back to sunny California, so I'm presently having a discourse with American Airlines about getting me back across the Pacific using frequent flyer points... so, eventually, this will get resolved I hope, and I'll be back in San Diego before next weekend.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More blogging?

Happened to be looking over the history of our blog from about a year ago and came to realize that we were posting a lot more frequently back then, whereas now, I've sort of evolved to these drawn out and fairly infrequent posts covering a larger area with lots of pictures... The old way seemed more fun, so only seems right to attempt going back to more frequent posting, so we'll see how long it lasts before I get tired of this... or simply run out of things to put down on this electronic pseudo-paper.

So... do I have anything particularly new and interesting to report at this point? No, I'm afraid I do not. Got up this morning in my hostel in Nara, said my good-bye's to Heidi, the really cute German girl who had been finishing up her business school here in Japan and to Sara and Jazz, a British couple, who have quit their jobs and gone traveling around the world - seems like a familiar story to me, but actually the first such people I've met here in Japan. Most, who do something of this sort, seem to head from Europe (they're always European... predominantly British too) straight to SE Asia, then to Australia, South America, North America, and back to Europe... But these two did the trans-Siberian across Russia into China, then on to Japan, so definitely not the standard route. Plenty of tourists here in Japan, of course, (see my comments about Kyoto in the previous post), but most seem to come just specifically to Japan.

In Nara, I headed off to the station to catch a train to Osaka, then a bus to Nagoya. As I've complained about before, getting around Japan is astoundingly expensive, so the buses turn out to be the only semi-affordable way of getting around, even if they do take much longer than the trains. But, I did reach Nagoya three short hours later, finishing the book I had currently been reading (The history of Lonely Planet) along the way. Nagoya joined the highly exlusive list of cities I've visited more than once on the trip so far (currently limited to Bangkok, Paris, and Berlin. Tokyo soon to be added as well) - all this really meant was that I had no trouble negotiating the subway system and soon found myself back at the Rumblefish bar, which Joel and Marina have since turned into Cafe Cornelius during the day:

Cafe Cornelius. Now operating for almost a full two weeks! Come have a coffee and learn your English here!

Later that evening, we went out for a meal at a nearby restaurant. Some of the highlights of the exotic menu;
- chicken liver (raw)
- ostrich sashimi (sashimi = raw meat)
- chicken skin
- chicken hearts (two hearts to a little skewer)
- some part of a chicken that connects the heart and the liver? Not really sure about this one, but it does take 8 chickens to produce a single skewer of this stuff...
- squid lips... This resulted in some musing about the final expressions on squids' faces...
- other strange, yet tasty, stuff.

All in all, I've now arrived at the point of 'you should taste everything once, since you'll never get a chance to taste this again!' So bring on the chicken sperm ducts! Joel tells me that's available somewhere nearby as well. I'm still not sure if I could stomach a cricket, which you can apparently get here in Japan as well...

Well, that's about it for now, really. I guess enough things happened to merit a fair amount of text, so maybe I can convince myself to keep this frequent posting up for a bit longer. It does, of course, have an expiration date, as, presumably, I'm only in Japan for another 10 days or so, then back to the States for a while. But not permanantly just yet, as South America and Antarctica are still in the plans for the first half of 2009!

And, well, if you've read my ramblings this far, it's only fair you get a few pictures as a reward - no new ones since Nara, but here's a few from Hiroshima, where I was prior to Kyoto:

The O-torii Gate floating near Miyajima at high tide. One of the most photographed sights in Japan - I did my part in contributing to that reputation.

Met Signe at my hostel in Hiroshima and we went to Miyajima together. Signe's Norwegian and thus almost completes my tour of Scandinavia as I hiked all over Nepal and New Zealand with Buster of Sweden, covered Denmark with Louisa and Cecile in Luang Prabang, Laos (as well as diving with Anna in Borneo), and descended from Arthur's Pass in New Zealand with a guy from Finland, whose name I cannot remember... Iceland is still missing, even though I did meet a guy from there in Tokyo, but we only talked briefly.

We ran into a Japanese wedding while roaming around Miyajima

Back in Hiroshima, the Peace Memorial Park is a moving place. The Centaph, pictured here, commemorates the thousands of unidentified victims from the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. Seen in the distance through the Centaph are the eternal flame (to burn as long as there are nuclear weapons on Earth) and the A-bomb dome - a structure preserved just as it was left by the bomb in August 1945.

The Children's Peace Memorial built to commemorate the girl who battled leukimia by attempting to fold a thousand paper cranes.

The girl lost her fight against leukimia before reaching her goal, but plenty of others have since helped get well past the mark. The picture you see here is composed entirely of little paper cranes and is just one of the many displays at the memorial.

Where do we go from here? Well, I'm going to hang out in Nagoya for another day tomorrow, getting all my things organized, then off to the very North of Japan, the island of Hokaido, for a little snowboarding getaway, before coming back down to Tokyo in order to head back to the States. The car is currently bouncing around the Pacific Ocean somewhere on the way to Vancouver, tentatively scheduled to arrive right around Christmas, so there's a trip to Canada in the works right around the New Year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kyoto and surroundings

So, I realize it's not going to be a particularly popular point of view (downright blasphemy, I suspect, according to the Lonely Planet Japan writers), but I didn't really like Kyoto. There were a couple of reasons for this:
- the city is so amazingly chock-full of tourists (both Japanese and foreign), it constantly feels like you just can't get away from the onslaught of the crowds. Everywhere you look, there's swarms of them, all carrying oversized cameras, often with tripods in tow.
- the city's primary calling card is the myriad of temples scattering all around it. Unfortunately, with all due respect to the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Japan, they are largely all very, very similar to each other. So, after a fairly brief while going temple-hopping became a litle stale for me. Clearly, plenty of people don't feel the same way - the author that worked on the Kyoto section of my guidebook obviously and deeply loved every last one of them, but me? Not so much... Give me the variety of the Buddhist temples in Bangkok!
- it clearly didn't help that I seemed to be in sort of a bad mood throughout my two days there. This was, of course, exacerbated by the fact that the Lonely Planet (which apparently prides itself on its maps) does not make it any easier to find things in this large and fairly confusing city. Instructions for finding a particular restaurant that include gems like 'look for a display of plastic food in the window' really don't help when every single restaurant in this country has such a display!

Well, all that being said, there are still some beautiful sights in this ancient capital, so, without further ado, this is what we are all really here for - pictures:
One of the reasons there's so many tourists in Kyoto right now is the brightly colored foliage visible, oh, everywhere. Here, providing a nice bright red background at a temple. In fact, I'm not sure I've seen leaves this brightly red ever before Japan. The locals are clearly impressed too, as I'm pretty sure I've seen more photographs being taken of the foliage than of the temples...

I, of course, took plenty myself as well - playing with focus on the camera a little in this one.

And learning how to take the pictures at night a bit - Chion-in Temple (top) and Kiyomizudera Temple (bottom). The crowds, by the way, do not abate at night, still snapping lots of pictures of the pretty leaves. I tried to avoid the crowds a little at one point, taking, what I thought was, a slightly less busy path. Soon, I was walking through a barely lit cemetery on a clear, moon-lit night in Kyoto... Then had to climb over a fence to get out of the cemetery - very un-Japanese of me, the locals are very law abiding.

Kinkabuji Temple - Golden pavilion

Fushiminari-taisha Shrine.

On my second day in Kyoto, I rented a bike to make getting around easier and did manage to find some sights that I thought were interesting and rather unique. The Kinkabuji Temple, a.k.a. Golden pavilion (for obvious reasons) casts a stunning reflection in the perfectly still waters of the lake that surrounds it. And the Fushiminari-taisha Shrine is famous for the long paths turned into virtually enclosed corridors by hundreds of the bright red gates pictured above (the shrine itself is not particularly noteworthy). The bike, by the way, made getting places a lot faster. It did not make places any easier to find, and it clearly endangered the lives of many a pedestrian, as, in Japan, bicycles shared the sidewalks with [lots of] pedestrians and, better yet, my brakes barely worked...

After deciding that Kyoto didn't really merit a third day of exploration, I went off on a couple of side trips nearby. First up was Koyasan mountain, home to a huge collection of temples and a traditionally holy place of Japanese Buddhism. Also houses an absolutely humongous cemetery buried deep in a mountain forest:

Grave stones and Buddha statues, framed by flowers, at the Okunoin cemetery in Koyason.

Also of interest in Koyasan, all the acomodation is in Buddhist temples, where we were up for a 6:30AM service by our resident monk. I didn't comprehend a thing of what was going on (it was also hard to see), but it seemed an interesting experience. Also, a very cold experience - being atop a mountain in Japan in early December means overnight temperatures climb below 0... And I found these guys supporting lanterns in the village:

I was initially planning to do a little more sightseeing in Koyasan in the morning, but the cold finally won out, so I packed up my bags and headed towards the train station (takes a cable car to descend from the mountain) in order to get to the more ancient Japanese capital city of Nara. On the train, I, of course, immediately ran into the couple who had also been staying in my temple in Koyasan. They were in Japan on their honeymoon - Vincent, from Paris, and Anna, now studying in Paris, but from St. Petersburg, Russia originally, so an extra, unexpected chance for some Russian conversation deep in Japan. A few sights in Nara:

Todaji Temple is the largest wooden structure in the world, and this picture really doesn't do justice to how huge it is. Inside, it houses an equally giant Buddha statue. The current temple is apparently a 1790 reconstruction (first erected in 749) and is only two thirds the size of the original structure. Apparently neither Kyoto nor Nara were high priority targets during WWII, so you can actually find some things built prior to 1950. Good luck finding one in Tokyo...

Lots of lanterns adorning the walls around Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, originally built in 768(!), making it one of the oldest in Japan.

And of course, there's plenty more colorful leaves here as well, making for some interesting photos.

Deer were considered messengers of God in ancient Japan, so the animals have some sort of holy status in the country - not quite as holy as cows in India apparently, but they do roam the grounds here in Nara, and this one casually resting reminded me of the cows sleeping in the middle of the road in India.

Unlike India, there's plenty of 'Warning: deer crossing!' signs in Nara.

From here, it's off to Nagoya again tomorrow to make sure all the documents relating to the car having gotten shipped out to Vancouver are in order, then (assuming this doesn't take too long), off to Hokaido up north for a brief snowboarding holiday - I figure I need a break from all the culture. And somewhere along the way, I should probably figure out how and when I'm getting back to the States too...