Dec 31, 2008

2008: Most Awesomest Year Ever

I've thought about it for a bit, and I really don't think it's an exaggeration to proclaim that 2008 is the single Most Awesomest Year I've ever had. Yes, it was so awesome it made English grammar contort itself.

This was the year in which I hung out in the biggest city in the world, made an eye-opening trip to China, took up cycling, hiked in Korea and saw the DMZ, saw Kabuki for the first time, learned tons of Japanese in an awesome class, took (and possibly passed) the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, saw snow-covered sumo wrestlers throw beans at people, saw more than a few giant Buddhas, played lots of frisbee, appreciated the giant temple that's right by my apartment, read a bunch of brilliant authors for the first time, made some awesome friends, and decided what sort of career I want later in life. All in all, it was exceedingly kickass. A few memorable pictures:

This statue of a wandering monk is towards the back of Narita-San, the temple I live near. There are myriad statues of monks, Buddhas, and gods throughout the temple, either on pedestals or worked into the rocks. It's the second largest Buddhist temple in Japan, and it's become a place I quite love, particularly at night when all of the shadows make everything look menacing. This picture was taken in March when Japan's iconic sakura were out.

Some rather enthusiastic participants at Kawasaki's annual springtime fertility festival.

Kawasaki's Buddhist temple on the same day as the Shinto penis festival. The Buddhist temple was a bit more sedate than the nearby Shinto shrine, but still bustling.

A view of Zhouzhuang, a water village just outside Shanghai.

Shanghai's unmistakable Pudong skyline by night. Seeing all of the newness, all of the development, commerce and newly built infrastructure was amazing. All the while, antiquated red flags flapped in the wind.

I took this pictures while surrounded by the noise, lights, and heat of Narita's summer festival. The wooden wagon, called a dashi, was pulled up the hill by a team of enthusiastic (and somewhat tipsy) Naritans, all the while cheered on by the crowds.

Things made by enthusiastic Japanese Star Wars fans have tons more life in them than anything made by Lucasfilm.

Seoul's statue of Admiral Ye Sun Sin, the man who helped to thwart Toyotomi Hideyoshi's plans for a conquest of Korea. And he did it with turtle ships, some of the first marine armor ever created. The whole of Korea was great. If anything, I got the satisfaction of learning to read (though not necessarily understand) Hangeul.

Unfortunately, I don't really have an pictures of the place that has meant the most to me this past year: Tokyo. I don't bother to bring my camera with me when I go into town, though I should probably get a few shots of the place before I leave. Admittedly, I love Tokyo so much mainly because I don't have to live there. I live out in Narita, an hour away from Tokyo station, and the Metropolis is mainly my playground on the weekend. But what a playground it is. Whenever I get off the train I'm enthusiastic about doing stuff, about not having to be a teacher in the suburbs anymore- instead I get to be a city guy for a bit. I've got a month and a half left of this awesome place, and I know I'll miss it terribly.

But missing it is entirely necessary. In 2009 I'm starting my career.

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