Sunday, February 26, 2012


N has REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to take us to the Biwa canal and museum for several months, ever since his school took a trip there. So, yesterday the kids and I took the bus down and spent an hour and a half walking around the old canal grounds, the short train line that connects the upper and lower canals (you walk along the train line, it no longer runs) and then we followed the canal up into the hills and foret to the east. You're in a city, and then, all of a sudden, you emerge at a zen garden called Nanzen-in.  Stunning. I didn't have the camera so I took a few shots with my phone. Nanzen-in was built in 1264 and the garden was constructed around the same time. The original building was lost to fire in 1393 and the current structure (picture didn't turn out) was built in 1703. So, that makes it one of the older structures we've seen. I definitely want to go back with the camera and take some more pictures of the canal and the forest.
zen garden lower pond

small waterfall

After Nanzen-in, we wandered around for a while to get back to the start. There is a big temple complex here, nestled in the mountains. N wanted us to take pictures of this huge lantern

After the walk, we went up to Qanat for yummy Japanese food. M ate yakisoba!!!!!! and a bite of chicken!!!! and N really enjoyed his ramen.  The kids were tired after their adventures and went to bed early.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Plum Blossom Festival

The kids and I went to the Plum Blossom Festival at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.  The festival is at the same time as the regular 25th of the month flea market. You can read a little about it here (  It was raining and a little chilly, so we didn't spend as much time at the flea market as usual. We had lunch which consisted of dango, M's favorite and yakisoba for N ( and I had takoyaki ( We also had fried chicken, and little fried circles filled with either custard or mochi and red bean.

N eating yakisoba

rainy day

N&M in front of a bull decorated with prayers, and a plum tree

There were purple/red..

... and white. Looks like we should come back later in the week if we can to see the best color.

M has a VIPEr tattoo on her face, and I bribed them with hot chocolate because they wanted to go home immediately after eating.

You can see how wet and muddy it was. N insisted on wearing shorts even though it was in the 40s. We told him it was going to be cold... His teeth were chattering the whole time.

There was a place you could buy tickets to walk through the garden, but the kids were cold and wet and the blossoms weren't really open. Maybe Wendy and I can come back this week and enjoy the walk through what looked like a lovely garden.

One last photo. This shrine is near the Aikido dojo the kids and Wendy go to. We always see this place near the bus stop, and finally got a picture. We call it the "barf" shop, which is why M is "barfing." ใƒ™ใ‚นใƒˆ is katakana for "best" so this is the best haircut in Kyoto, apparently.  But it looks like it says "Bart" or "Barf."

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I woke up really early this morning, and I was very cold, sitting in the dark, drinking my coffee.  Eventually N woke up. We chatted for a while, pondering the universe. At some point I asked him to look outside.  And this is what we saw!!!

We walked to the river and spent an hour and a half playing, having a huge 3-way snowball fight, making snow angels, and basically getting soaking wet.  The kids were drenched, cold and wet by the time we finally walked down to Obanzai for an yummy all-you-can-eat vegetarian Japanese food buffet.

It was great to be able to take the time off and just enjoy the day!

Here are some pictures and movies.
The view looking southeast from our balcony at 8am.

the courtyard of our apartment building

a house a block or two away

the park the kids meet at to go to school

beginning of the snowball fight

Wendy moved out of range

M loading up

N loading up

Dad loading up

really cool snow-trees

the river bank!

the river!

M's snowball

N and A's snowballs

We pushed them downhill for fun because we couldn't lift them up to make a snowman.

M's angel!

so cold and wet

the Dai on the mountain, covered with snow

a shrine near Kurasuma Oike

Saturday, February 11, 2012

long time between blogs

Its been a while since I blogged.  We are all alive. The kids and I have been sick with a nasty cold for more than a week.  N missed 2 days of school last week, but he did homework and helped out at home.

I have been writing; I am about to get a manuscript out the door I think.  And, I am not going to China after all. The conference I was planning to go to turned out to be (at worst) a phishing scheme, or (at best) a for-profit conference (expensive and not worth going too) so I am withdrawing my talk.

My running took a serious downturn the last 2 weeks as I've been sick but I have 4 weeks until my race. I know I am in good shape and its just going to be a mental setback. I have 2 more 20 milers scheduled (one later today) and that will get my confidence back on track.

We experienced some Japanese culture last week; we went to the local Setsubun festival at the shrine near us. Apparently it is one of the biggest and/or best in Kyoto. This is the festival where you throw soybeans at Oni (evil spirits) and there is a big bonfire where you burn old amulets and wishes and things.  All that apparently happened late at night, and it was the coldest day we've had in Kyoto so far, so we missed it. We saw the big street fair with booths and yummy food and games, and we walked around in the snow and cold for a while before we abandoned ship and went home to get warm.

The kids have started doing gymnastics every Friday night from 6-9. They really are enjoying it.  Its about a half mile walk to the gym. I usually ride W's bike down and the kids run to warm up.

Thats about all for now.  Maybe we will do something fun this week and take some pictures.