crystal's capers

one girl's international adventures

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Life Without Riccardo

It's been about 35 days since Riccardo, my boyfriend, left Japan and left me here. That's just over one-third of the time we'll be apart (this time; since he's coming back for a visit at the end of October). Some of you may be wondering how I'm doing...

I'm fine.

I miss Riccardo like crazy. Having someone you love in your life every day and then suddenly not having him is hard - some days it's harder than I expected. Then again, some days it's easier. Riccardo is fantastic about communicating with me every day. We talk on the phone several times a week and email constantly (as my mother will verify - she got the brunt of that while she was visiting - SORRY MOM!). We also do this cute little "squillo" thing where we evade long-distance charges by phoning but hanging up after one ring; that way we know the other person is thinking of us.

I have found myself being something of a recluse, however. Perhaps this is because I excluded myself from social plans while Riccardo was here to the extent that no one thinks to invite me places, or perhaps it's because I'm enjoying being alone for a change. I have a lot on my plate right now anyway: back to full-time work, learning German (ich komme aus Kanada!), and a couple other projects...

Though I am well, phone calls and emails are appreciated. Love you all.


    • At 4:52 PM, Anonymous Shawna said…

      I know how it feels girl. Now that I am living with your family, I am away from my own. It's great being an adopted Hambrook right now. But I miss my man and animals. Phoenix and Al keep me company though.

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Double the Birthdays, Double the Fun!

What's better than 6 hours straight of nomihodai (all-you-can-drink)? Um, 6 hours of nomihodai with a fantastic group of friends??

Saturday was a dual birthday celebration: Nori turned the big 3-0, and Billy reached QC. We started at the Asian Cafe, a restaurant in Oyama that specializes in multi-cultured Asian fare (Indian, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, etc.) where we ate and drank to our hearts' content. Then to good ole karaoke, just a few blocks down the road, for 4 more hours of fruity yum-yum drinks! Thank god for daiko (cab service that brings your own car home with you).

Thanks to Nori and Billy for having birthdays and organizing such a fabulous event!


In other news, it has recently been confirmed that Billy has been hired for my position with EAC (not entirely without my referral). He starts on December 4th. Congratulations Billy!

Sorry for the shitty pics; I forgot my camera so alls I had was keitai. :)


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How To See Japan In One Week: Part Seven

So you're wondering about our accommodations during our vacation???

Well, we're not really partial to hostels, though a few nights were spent in private hostel rooms. For the remainder of the time, we opted for the classic Lobu Hotelu!

Okay, Love Hotels are obviously a humourous idea to begin with, but just imagine the laugh-factor when you end up with one circa 1955 that screams ELVIS! Here's an overview of the rooms we stayed in; some classy, some themed, some hilarious.

Staying in a Love Hotel with ones mother isn't always easy. Sometimes the parking attendant doesn't say "Konnichiwa" before he rudely states: "Two women: NO!" Other times, as was the case in our second Osaka accommodations, they are happy to welcome us. In this case, the parking attendant was so enthusiastic about having us that he supplied us with a 50% off coupon for our return to Osaka. We happily took him up on the offer (after a lengthy search for the hotel) and were even happier to receive complimentary beers as well!

Please note that a few hotels weren't included as they fared fairly normal.


How To See Japan In One Week: Part Six

On our last day of vacation we FINALLY got to the beach. Kamakura is a beautiful little town with a BEAUTIFUL beach. As it was Oban (holiday) weekend there were throngs of people to contend with, but it definitely made for good sight-seeing! One man even helped us dig a hole for our umbrellas. The waves weren't too big, the water was warm, the sun was hot: makings of a terrific cap-off to our Japan Adventure!

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How To See Japan In One Week: Part Five

Back in Osaka; I could spend a week in this city - unfortunately we got only another half-day. Our mission: to see Osaka Castle.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How To See Japan In One Week: Part Four

Miyajima is an island close to Hiroshima and is said to be one of the three Must-See places in Japan (Lonely Planet). We ferried there (25 minutes) and back with just enough time to hike around a little, to have some Japanesey lunch and, of course, to get mauled by deer. OMG! SOooOooo CUTE!


How To See Japan In One Week: Part Three

Panoramic view of Hiroshima after bomb

I surely need not dwell on the gripping horror of all that we saw in the Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum. I will say that it was a profound experience in my life to visit this haunted place. I wish that everyone would have the chance to know of these events in such detail, especially those involved with the outrageous current production of atomic bombs and the like.

Sadako and a Thousand Paper Cranes

A vivacious and bright child, Sadako was exposed to the A-Bomb at the age of two, and miraculously walked away seemingly unharmed. Parents and teachers marveled at the girl's love of life. Eight years after the bomb, however, Sadako became ill. What was first thought to be a bad flu was later diagnosed as leukemia. Like so many citizens of Hiroshima who seemed physically untouched by the catastrophe, for 10-year-old Sadako it would not be so. Sadako would struggle with cancer for two years, but not without a goal. Sadako believed that if she was able to complete 1,000 origami cranes she would be cured. Sadako died less than two years later, cranes unfinished. But Sadako's classmates rallied together to take up their friend's plight, and together finished her thousand cranes. Today millions of cranes are donated from around the world in a common hope that there be no more Sadakos, no more Hiroshimas.


    • At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Riccardo said…

      Your word in God's ear, as we use to say in Germany.

      What was Japan's tragedy was Germanies luck. As Germany had surrendered already in May 1945 the country evaded an atomic bomb. There had already been plans to drop them - I think Berlin and Cologne...


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Thursday, August 24, 2006

How To See Japan In One Week: Part Two

Oh, BTW, Miyazaki is on the southmost major island of Japan: Kyushu. This means it is VERY FAR AWAY. :)


How To See Japan In One Week: Part One

I'm skipping ahead to Day Two, because Day One was primarly spent in-transit and walking the narrow streets of Osaka's Lower East Side looking for our fleabag hotel. I will say that after an hour of stumbling over homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk of this tawdry neighbourhood, my mom and I, though not usually the picky sorts, decided that our "Business Hotel" was likely not worth getting molested in a dark alley for and instead opted for an ever-classy Love Hotel in a nicer part of town.

The next morning, with about seven hours sleep under our belts and the enthusiasm of six-year-olds, we found our way to Universal Studios Japan! What a riot! We discovered the best way to evade the lengthy line-ups is to opt for the Singles Line. Waiting time was between 5-10 minutes and in all but one occassion, we rode in the same car anyhow.

Our favourite ride, which we did twice back-to-back, was Spiderman; it fabulous interweaving of rollercoaster and 3D special effects. Even better, I thought, was the 40-minute long adaptation of the Broadway musical, Wicked. Having recently read and loved the book, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, I was gung-ho to see the musical, regardless of whether it was all in Japanese. Surprise of surprises, it wasn't. Actually, it was about half-and-half English/Japanese, with a synopsis and dual lyric guide in the brochure. I found it funny that a Japanese girl played Glinda and a caucasian played Elphaba; but both put on a fantastic performances. Elphaba's voice was enough to bring tears to my eyes - in a good way.

From Universal we went to the Umeda Sky Building in downtown Osaka. After riding the the-sky's-the-limit escalators and a glass elevator that ascends 35-stories we arrived at a circular concourse that connects two skyscrapers. I think we were well-planned to visit the Floating Garden, as it is called, at night; the scenes were gorgeous.

Great luck with a third love hotel, and we were off to dreamland and another adventure-packed day...


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

...And The BIG NEWS is...


Today I officially quit my job in Japan. My last day of work is December 2. I return to Canada December 9. And for those of you who don't know: I'M MOVING TO GERMANY! I'm moving there to live with my boyfriend and try to find work. We'll leave together from Canada around January 8/9th.


    • At 7:05 AM, Anonymous Riccardo said…

      Yippie! Couldn't wait for this to come true!!!
      Remember "the Producers"? You'll have to exercise this crazy dance if you want to have a chance on a German VISA, hehe.

      Love ya!

    • At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Kani said…

      Congrats darlin! I'm so excited for the two of you! Can't wait for December 9th!!!

    • At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Kani said…

      Congrats darlin! I'm so excited for the two of you! Can't wait for December 9th!!!

    • At 5:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Crystal,I will miss you. It has been fun and I am glad we met and braved living in a new country together. I will always remember you and I wish you all the best and every happiness in all your future endeavours. I hope you remember our time together fondly and years from now I hope the things we did together will bring a smile to your face...Love ya always.

    • At 11:44 AM, Blogger Crystal said…

      BTW, what this translates to is:

      If you've ever wanted to visit Japan, or to experience my life here you've got T-minus 3.5 months to do so. Best timing? First week of December. Gambatte!

    • At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Amy French said…

      good for you hun! I cant wait to see you and meet the boyfriend. Hope you will make some time for old friends before you move to f'ing GERMANY! crazy.
      Luv you doll

    • At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Congrats girly, I cant wait. to see you at x-mas byes Kim

    • At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      you'd better get an extra bedroom cuz i'm coming to visit!
      :) Parker

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Monday, August 21, 2006

The Week Before Crazy Was...


Though it could not hold a flame to its successor, my mom's first week here in Japan was a gongshow in its own right.

As mentioned, we returned from Tokyo and attended my staff dinner party on Sunday. We arrived home exhausted and zonked out early. Monday morning my mom attended my classes... or should I say took over my classes! haha! Actually, I was more than enthusiastic when my mom volunteered to help teach, and she did a fabulous job! The kids were all awed by witnessing the miracle of not one, but TWO gaijin in one room!

After briefly stopping home to collect a pack, Mom and I headed to Tsukuba for the day. Our first stop: the Ushiku Daibutsu, otherwise known as Freaking Huge Buddha. As it was my third visit to the buddha, I refrained from taking a grillion photos. Despite being my third visit however, I somehow managed to get lost between Ushiku and Tsukuba, and as such we missed our opportunity to visit the International Foods Store at Tsukuba Center Mall. Instead we went directly the cinema. We stopped at a terrific Italian place for some Crab Rose Spagetti and then viewed the tightly-wound third installment of Mission Impossible. There isn't a minute of downtime in that whole movie!!

Monday night at approximately 11pm, my mom commenced her Kyoto adventure. After boarding the nightbus I had booked her on weeks before, it was all downhill... figuratively, I mean. She had some difficulty finding the locations of tourist attractions in Kyoto and battled about a grillion other people who were also trying to use the public transit system. What's more, likely because there are three hotels in the central Kyoto area that have similar names (they are, in fact, owned by the same company), it took her about two hours, and the assistance of numerous friendly Kyotans to find her hotel. Once there, even worse news arrived...

Despite the intense 35+ degree weather, someone had put out a typhoon warning. In my experience typhoons are nothing more than a spot of rain, as was the case this time. Actually, Mom said the sunshine was unfailing while she was in Kyoto. Nonetheless, the friend who helped me book her buses phoned on Tuesday night to tell me that her return bus had been cancelled because there was to be a typhoon. Uh-oh. Not only had that night's and the following night's buses been cancelled, but the two night's buses afterward were booked solid. Wah-wah-waaaaah. In the end, Mom hopped a Shinkansen back to Ibaraki which took half the travel time and cost double the price.

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Since she was back early, we switched Karaokefest to Wednesday, from Thursday. Prior to going I got a rather long-winded lecture:

M: Crystal, once we are there, DO NOT make me sing. Please.
C: What?! You have to sing. It's karaoke.
M: I will NOT sing. Don't embarass me by trying to make me.
C: Whatever. Everyone sings at karaoke. It's contagious.
M: Not me. I'm a horrible singer and will not be singing, so don't try to make me.
C: Ok Mom. Whatever you say...

It took about 10 minutes and one Shibori Nama Grapefruit Chu-hi before I started noticing the microphone hanging out in Mom's hand. Phfft. Not singing... that's what everybody says!

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Thursday I had the day off. We were supposed to go to Nikko, a renowned shrine-town. Frankly, I'm all shrined-out, and it didn't take long for my mom to get to that state too. There are a LOT of shrines in Japan. So we skipped Nikko and headed instead to Sanuma Sun Beach in Shimotsuma, a neighbouring city. I had never been to the Sun Beach, but anything involving water in this weather (daily around 37 degrees, plus humidity) sounds good; even better when that water involves waterslides. As it turns out, we chose pretty much the only day of the summer that the Sun Beach was closed. Good luck there. Instead we jumped on the expressway and I took my mom to the ocean, Tokai actually, where we camp.

Friday morning we packed up what we needed, and that list was long, and began our VACATION! First though, I had to teach, so my mom attended class again, this time with a little less enthusiasm. We left directly from Koga and were on our way...


    • At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      hey girl

      good to see your having a great time. just a quiet thought from me.

      peace and love


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Tuesday, August 08, 2006


My first time staying in a hostel was about what I expected it to be. I mean, when one is paying $20/night to stay in the center of Tokyo, one has little right to complain. The bathrooms were kind of make-shift and stinky (the hostel is new and still under construction), but clean. The private 2-person rooms were FAR from soundproof, but the bunkbeds were comfortable. It was lucky that it was hot and that our air conditioner didn't pump out the cold at full tilt because I thought "linen service" meant bedding, when it in fact only meant sheets. Also handy was the free internet service and the ENGLISH television channels (first time seeing those in 7 months!)

After leaving Khaosan Tokyo Smile, we quickly found ourselves in the heart of Asakusa. Finding the Japanese Market was no trouble, for us or anyone else: there were grillions of people there. I could spend a small fortune at this market, buying Japanesy gifts and momentos, but alas, there isn't a small fortune to be spent.

Directly behind the market is a lovely shrine and an even lovelier pagoda. Can't get enough of those! Many people were paying their respects to the dead and whatnot, and many others had different reasons for visiting the shrine... Such as the two families that stopped us so that their children may practise their English and have a photo with foreigners. Somehow I felt it kind of eerie to be on display at such a spiritual place.

We found a brochure at the hostel for a river cruiseline and decided to try it out. For around $8 we took a 40-minute cruise from Asakusa to Ginza and enjoyed many cityscapes and photo ops along the way. Ginza is known to be the premiere fashion district of old, a place of revolutionary architecture, boldness and westernization.

From Ginza we took the train to Harajuku, which may be my favourite place to visit in Japan. I was a little disgusted by the lack of Japanese Harajuku girls and the prevalence of WHITE wannabe-Harajuku girls. Apparently a large concert was being held just a couple blocks from Harajuku station because the place was a gongshow.

So that my mom may have a real idea of the enormity of Tokyo (populus, height of architecture, amount of neon, etc.) our next, brief, stop was in Shibuya. Shibuya station is the busiest station in the world, and if I'm not mistaken, sees over 2 million people through it's doors every day.

Finally, we were off to Ueno. We had hoped to check out Uenokoen, or park, which features Japan's largest museum, but we unfortunately ran out of time. Instead we took some quick shots around the station and then booked our tickets on the JR Limited Express to Tomobe, where we had to attend a staff dinner party for the departure of two of my co-workers and so that my bosses could meet my mom.

There are several types of Express trains in Japan, but I was not aware that one of those types is akin to the Shinkansen (bullet train) and departs from the Shinkansen platform (which is quite apart from the regular train platforms). Only minutes before our train departed did we realize that we were on a regular platform for our line, and not the Limited Express one... this lead to an all-out race across the ENORMOUS Ueno station. While tearing through the crowds of people (some kid muttering, "They're in a hurry!") my backpack fell open, spilling it's contents willy-nilly. I shreaked loudly and my mom and I scrambled to get everything back into the bag or just our arms. Comments like, "That sucks," were heard from the surrounding crowd. Knowing our train, which cost over $30 each, was leaving NOW, we took off again toward the platform. Upon getting to the proper platform I saw a line of people waiting to have their tickets checked and, in an on-the-spot decision, burned passed them. The train we were supposed to be on was actually pulling away from the station, so I began screaming "Sumimasen!! Sumimasen!!" (like 'excuse me') at the top of my lungs to the conductor who's got his head hanging out of the last car. Perhaps it was the luck of being a crazy gaijin making a complete spectacle of herself, but the conductor stopped the train to allow two sweating, panting, bundle-packing girls onto the train and alas, we were not late for dinner.



My mom arrived in Japan on Friday afternoon! I felt horrible not being able to pick her up at the airport, but she made it safely by bus to a nearby city and we found each other without too much hassle.

Leaving no time for jet-lag, we awoke early on her first day in Japan and took the bullet train (Shinkansen) to the most fabulous place on Earth, Tokyo Disneyland Resort.

By 10am we were sweating our way around Tokyo Disneysea (it was about 38 degrees, plus humidity), just trying to take it all in. Surprisingly the park was not busy (we expected 1.5hr+ waits for rides and actually waited no more than 15 minutes!) so we got to do everything we wanted, in some cases, twice! As usual, the parades were fabulous and the rides were thrilling.

Our feet felt like they were going to fall off at the end of a long day, but we had to make our way across Tokyo and find our hostel (only $20/night/person! WHOA!) which was in Asakusa. We got some much-needed rest and awoke early again the next day for TOKYO DAY TWO!


Thursday, August 03, 2006





    • At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Dave said…

      Have a great time with Mrs. Crystal!
      By the way, I didn`t forget about that karaoke video... just haven`t worked out how to do it yet!
      See you soon!

    • At 10:36 AM, Blogger Fluffica said…

      what i miss more than b.c license plates is my b.c hammy

      love you!

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

I can count maybe half a dozen sunny days since April.
Thank god the rainy season has officially ended.
On the down-side, this means we are now in Typhoon season.
Which spells out torrential rain.
In re-reading some old posts I remembered:
at least October is nice in Japan...


    • At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Tiggy said…

      Of course OCTOBER will be nice in Japan, hihi.

    • At 10:39 AM, Blogger Clampett said…


      You should be happy.

      The heat is unbearable back in the states, I envy your... 'rain'

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