Monthly Archives: December 2005

Eiheiji and the Depressed Panda

Monk central command. As mentioned above, taking pictures of the monks was strictly off limits, but we just couldn’t resist a single furtive shot as we headed out the door of the “front office”, one of the most surreal scenes I have seen since coming to Japan. Behind the counter lay a fully equipped business office with one major exception – it was staffed entirely by Zen Buddhist monks dressed in flowing black robes from head to toe. As we walked by, Yasu started giggling uncontrollably as one of the monks appeared to be having trouble with his computer and turned to another monk who was making photocopies for help.
Together, the two of them hunched over the computer screen trying to sort out whatever it was that was going wrong (“no, try clicking there”), while all around them other monks answered phones (“Eieheij Temple, how can I help you?”), filed papers and rolled around on wheeled office chairs.

Bumper Cars

So it’s been continuing to snow on and on for the past two weeks and things are starting to get dramatic. And by “dramatic” I mean “I keep crashing into shit left and right”. It’s always been a point of pride on my part that I have always been the best driver in my family…
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Snow Tires

“AAAARRRGHHH!!!” I curse, frustrated by both my failure to stop my car’s backward careening slide and inability to figure out what the hell “a vague deception of a dying day” means. I’m getting desperate – any second another car is going to come around the bend below me and I’m going to crash straight backwards into them. Or worse yet, I’m going to slide right into the living room of the house at the bottom of the hill. I struggle to remember the chapter in my driver’s ed book entitled “What to do if you’re sliding backwards down an icy hill in the middle of Japan and about to T-bone an old person’s house”…

Himeji-jo and Acclimatization

What starts as a simple comparison of differences between cultures quickly spins out of control into a series of increasingly disconnected judgments, finally culminating in a bizarre tangent about the supposed submissive role of women in Japanese society! In the process a fully painted – yet completely falsified – picture of moral drama unfolds, complete with villains (Japanese teachers, “repressive Japanese system”), heroes (“I’m not going to sit down and do nothing”), treacherous deeds (“brainwashing”), and the archetypal damsel in distress (“this frail young girl”/ “timid and erased Japanese girl with no will to fight”/ “a good and submissive housewife”).