Monthly Archives: December 2008

Counting Down – by Emmett

As we begin to mentally leave Japan (and our desks) behind for the golden green land of the Lao, Melissa and I have found ourselves drawn unexpectedly back towards the magical parts of this country which are found only in shadow, in a newly discovered ally, in places where you do not look for them. We made a night bike ride to the post office (which magically stays open late) to mail Christmas packages home and on our way back we took the deserted street of Earthen Houses, past the Bank of Red Brick, and into a tiny moment of Takaoka City where the cold night air heightens the smell of yakisoba and shouyou and draws from the warrens of crowded buildings the pique sent of pine like wood smoke clear into the air.

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Filed under For the Love of Japan, Laos

Christmas Koto Jam Session – by Melissa

On Monday, I played Jingle Bells on the koto.  Mizutani-sensei tuned it on a traditional Western do-re-mi scale and sounded out the sheet music’s title in katakana.  “Jinguru Beru,” she said and beamed at me. I had been playing Sakura Sakura and other Japanese folk songs whose names in Kanji I could not read.  Jingle Bells seemed unsuited for the koto, but her eyes were excited, like we were in for big fun.  Even with the new tuning, I had to play in funky half notes. This was hard for me and I kept losing my place on the vertical sheet music.  I could tell I was disappointing her the same way I disappoint other Japanese people when I don’t know something about American pop culture.  Like when my supervisor was shocked to learn I haven’t seen Bad News Bears and that I don’t own any Police albums.

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Takaoka to Nagoya: Preparing for Laos! – by Emmett

Well, our adventure to Laos begins 15 days from now on a Saturday. We will take a 3.5hr train ride–our first trip on the fabled Japanese Shinkansen “bullet train”–to Nagoya in neighboring Aichi Prefecture to catch our flight to Bangkok and from there, a flight to Luang Prabang, Laos.

The Nagoya airport is on an island made of trash.

It’s exam week in Japanese high schools so neither Melissa nor I have had much to do other than grading tests. I used today to gather information for our trip to Nagoya, probably too much info.  Here’s the email I sent to Mel and Ally (who is taking the same flight to Bangkok for his trip to Cambodia):

Nagoya Meitetsu station is the largest and 6th busiest station in Japan. There are plenty of hotels around to stay at around 5000yen for the evening. I don’t think its a hostel town.
More Nagoya Meitetsu Station maps:
Nagoya meitetsu Station to centair by rail, timetable:
Station Map: Bus Schedule:
Centair Website:

I’m excited to get out of the ken for at least an evening, not to mention a ride on a nice train for once. Every day I commute on an aging JR West workhorse of a train that has the atmosphere of a disused city bus. Taking a ride in a train with some comforts will be a nice change.

Winter is coming back with a vengance it seems. This morning was unsettlingly warm. I felt as if I was biking through the warm memory of spring in San Antonio on my way to the station this morning as I fought through sudden warm gusts of wind on my way to Takaoka Station. By the time the train reached Futatsuka (one stop down the line) rain was lashing the windows and students were jerking their heads out of sleep to gasp at abrupt thunder and flashing lightening. I picked up this morning’s paper and spotted the forecast for the week which reports a drop in temperature down to 0°C and snow. Eek! I can only hope that it ceases raining for the 10 minute window of my school-to-station commute.

That said, Winter is upon us at last. The real transformation will come, no doubt, when we are away in the tropical Laotian hinterlands and will be all the more amazing to our under-clothed selves as we arrive in Nagoya for a grueling 7 hour trip home by way of local train lines. A flight from Nagoya to Toyama, by the way, a mere distance of 350-some kilometers, runs to around $800 with an average flight time of 32 hours. This is perhaps the worst country for domestic air travel. I can only express astonishment and humor at such a figure. I believe I could hitchhike that distance in less time.


Filed under Laos

Welcome to TigerSpider

What is TigerSpider? Everyday it is becoming more and more about what makes us want to rush outside and tip our hats at the world.  We get really excited about life, humans, animals, plants, the occaicional mineral, and how they all coincide. It is the sounding board of our very own creation.  We hope to breathe life, sweet life, into this blog’s digital veins through the providence of word and image. We want to keep in touch and reach out.  So, dear friends, enjoy.


Emmett and Melissa

*Note: The question, who is TigerSpider would be answered quite differently.  She is Alice Jo and TigerSpider is her surname.  She is furry, petulant, and has four velveteen paws.  She occasionally allows the company of Emmett and Melissa.

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