Dolls and Castles

Before I go any further I have to give a Trinidadian “big up” to my sister Katrina who somehow has managed to survive two years in Japan raising four kids, including a baby. I witnessed first hand the bizarre things that happen here. Half the time you just wander about in a daze not sure what really is going on. People are nice, but you don’t know what they are really thinking. And the baby, she is adorable but… let’s just say I don’t plan on having any kids in the near future. After making breakfast and lunch for the kids, and getting them ready for school she has to plan the evening meal, go shopping, clean the house, do the laundry, take care of Annika, and a myriad of other chores and errands. It is amazing. She goes nonstop all day.

As if that were not enough she somehow finds time to do her art. She is currently into making these strange dolls. I find them oddly compelling. Here is an example:

She has more for viewing and purchase at her etsy site (this is like ebay but for arts and crafts). You can see them at

Back on the road, I stayed in the town of Matsumoto for a few days trying to sort out my bicycle. Here are some random shots. This old woman was dressed in a traditional kimono. She was waiting at a bus stop and let me photograph her. I either caught her in mid-blink or she was thinking, “if I just close my eyes maybe this rude gaijin will go away.”

A group of school kids passed by, all wearing their colorful red caps.

Everything is crammed together in Japan. Consequently they have a lot of mirrors so you don’t back your car into someone. I could not resist a goofy self-portrait.

I visited the castle in Matsumoto. It’s a good one. It was built in the 1500s and various daimyos lived in it during the shogun period. Interestingly, it was almost torn down in the 1800s when Japan came out of its period of isolation. The government wanted to rid the country of its old feudal past, so they destroyed many of these fine castles. One guy lobbied to protect this one and he succeeded.

Since everything is so crammed together in Japan, people build upwards. So you can have shops and restaurants several floors up in a building (in fact I am writing this in an internet cafe on the 5th floor of a building) . Very few enterprises actually open onto the ground floor. Here is a typical sign that describes the businesses in this particular building.

In fact, here is the building that houses the internet cafe. It is the orange one near the top that says 5F and 24H on it. It took me forever to figure out the kanji symbols for internet.

Cars are expensive so many people get around by bicycle. Cities usually just buy bikes and leave them at various places like train stations so if you need one you just take it and leave it for someone else at your destination.

Another woman in a kimono. They are so cool.

Why let a blank side of a building go to waste when you can plaster it with advertisements?

In Nagoya I visited another castle. This one is a fake, though. The original one burned down during bombing attacks in May, 1945. They rebuilt it like a museum.

I met these two at the castle. The Japanese women enjoy dressing up in some strange outfits. What’s with the Little Bo Peep look?