additions and Kabuki

I have just added some stuff to my earlier post about Japan.

While in Japan we decided we would like to experience Japanese theater the easiest to understand is Kabuki: it is dramatic, colourful and the plots are easy to comprehend if you don’t speak the language. Going to a Kabuki theater is an experience in itself, the performances can last 3 or 4 hours and the audience take lunch into the theater with them and often give voice to shouts of appreciation during the performance. It is possible to buy cheap tickets (in the gods) for a single act which is what we did and while the story escapes me now, I do remember the acting and costumes.
Kabuki is a popular theater form in Japan and developed in the early 1600’s as risque dances performed by all female troops. The Shogun then banned women from performing because of Kabuki’s association with prostitutes but the young men who replaced them were no better and eventually Kabuki actors were mainly older men, which is what they are today, with some specializing in female roles (“onnagata“).
It became a more serious form of theater in the late 1700’s when Kabuki was cultivated by the merchant class, it gave a theatrical interpretation of city life and the tensions between samurai, merchants and peasants. Today it gives you a view of this life. You may have seen posters of some of the actors in Kabuki, if you look at the photograph you will see a poster of a Kabuki actor displayed on the left. We very much enjoyed our experience.

Where have I been? Not here obviously!
A lot to catch up with but I must write about today first. We went to mass, as we usually do on Sunday mornings, in the little church here in Tien Mu (the church is also called Tien Mu which translates as Mother of God). The church was very full, the 10am service is usually busy with mostly expat familys but today was even busyer, the reason turned out to be because it was Scouting Sunday and a lot of young boys in uniforms had taken over the first few pews together with their leaders. The boys were hosting the service which meant they did the readings (2) and the responsorial psalm as well as the Prayers of the Faithful. They also took the Gifts up to the priest as well as collected the offerings and served on the alter. Some voices were loud and strong others quite but firm, all very well rehearsed with no mistakes, something even the adult readers do not always manage! It was a very pleasant way to celebrate mass, the boys were very good in all they did with the odd proding from a friend when one forgot something making it seem like a real family affair. To me this is the purpose of going to mass, sharing the time with my “church family”. Thank you scouts I enjoyed your participation very much.

Saturday was the first day of the lantern Festival here in Taiwan and we went to see some of the fantastic array of lanterns in the evening. They are magnificent, the ones we saw were mostly made by local schools from Bamboo frames covered with fabric. I will include some pics here. I see Dave has already beaten me to it but here are some more.I will also include a picture of my lantern attempt which i learnt how to make in a course at the Centre. We used bamboo for the supports tied with string and i painted the picture with a Chinese brush and black ink. i copied it of course but was quite pleased with how it came out.

These are made from plastic embrodery canvas

These rats are

enjoying Sushi
Me and my lantern
Dave at Lantern Festival

Meeting Junichi san

Tuesday afternoon we met Jun and daughter Misako in our hotel. It was great to see him again, I remembered him exactly when we met, I have changed a lot more than Jun, I was a slim unworldly young woman in the late ’70’s!!
We chatted over old times in the hotel lobby cafe and Christina and Misako got to know each other a little, they are about the same age. Then we were escorted on a tour of a part of Tokyo. We went by train to Asakusa, part of northern Tokyo where the city is still traditional in appearance, we wandered around streets that have been restored and watched the antics of what looked like an old fashioned street sweeper.

The Street sweeper

Christina, Dave, Junichi san and his daughter, Misako

We looked at some gorgeous shops selling Kimonos and headdresses for Geisha or princess. Some of the shops sell theater costumes and some just for the public. the Kimonos are gorgeous but so are the prices!

Theater stuff
Tricia with Kimono
Senso-ji, main entrance

Nakamise-dori, a parade of small shops leading up to the temple

We walked on to Senso-ji, or Asakusa Kannon, this temple was founded in the mid 1600’s to enshrine a tiny golden figure of Kannon, the goddess of Mercy which had turned up in the nets of two local fishermen. The buildings today are mostly post war concrete reconstructions but it still has a lively atmosphere. Not much to see inside the temple as the tiny image is “hibutsu” a hidden image considered too holy to be on view.
Young men pulling rickshaws with pretty women in them behind is the sothern entrance gate to Senso-ji temple

We decided to go to the fish market as it was still early, although not 6:30am as recommended in the guide book. This is when we experienced the train “Pushers” but arrived intact at Tsukiji (reclaimed land) AKA Tokyo Central Wholesale Fish Market at about 8:30am, too late for the full on bidding but still in time to view the amazing variety of fish. Almost every day 2,300 tons of fish are delivered here from all over the world, there are over 400 different types of sea food; eels from Taiwan, salmon from Santiago, and Tuna from Tasmania. Although we only concentrated on the fish market, meat and vegetables are also traded here (information gleaned from 2005 Rough Guide) .

a worker wielding his knife

Christina and Dave with our new car!!(Actually a mini forklift truck)

Walking around the area we discovered a lot of cafes selling Sushi, of course, but however much we love Sushi it didn’t seem a good fit at that time of day.
Tsukiji Honganji, a large and Indian-like Buddhist temple is in the area so we went inside, it can hold up to a thousand people.
We ended up in the Ginza (Place where silver is minted) it became Tokyo’s most stylish shopping area, although this is no longer true it still has snob appeal and expensive department stores. You have probably seen the main intersection many times in films. Their is also a theater in this areaKabuki-za, where you can see the famous Kabuki more on this traditional art form in another blog.

Kabuki theater


Arriving at New Tokyo International Airport, AKA Narita, Dave and I took a taxi to the Central hotel in Shinagawa, an area of Tokyo city. We were very excited as Christina was to join us the next day for the rest of the two weeks. While settling in, Jun., an old friend we first met in UK while he was on a working exchange in 1979, called us. Junichi San wanted to arrange a visit, it was at least 10 years since Dave had last seen him and we were eager to meet.

Next morning we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building described in the guide book as a 400,000 square meter complex that has the feel of Gotham City, I would agree. Apparently the architect was trying to remind us of Paris’ Notre Dame. Maybe a link?
We had gone to check out the tourist information centre on the ground floor but we also ascended one of the 48 storied twin towers and had a coffee in the restaurant which gave us our first taste of Japan’s expensiveness!!!!!!

As it was 1st October they had an exhibit set up outside to remember friends and family members who have experienced breast cancer, at the risk of offending those I left out, I added two names to the many trees people where placing pink label name tags on. I was surprised and pleased that Breast Cancer Month is given widespread publicity here.
In the picture you can see a little of the “Gotham” architecture.

We spent the rest of the day walking around the Ginza district and trying to work out the extremely complex metro system. One of the problems is that the map shows the normal railway and private railways as well as the metro lines thus making it look like a spiders web, impossible for me to figure out, even Dave had trouble sometimes. The other problem with the very efficient, fast and frequent trains is of course the amount of people who use the system. It is always busy, sometimes extremely busy, at those times we experienced the “professional pushers”, people who literally, when you are convinced the carriage is full and will take no more, push until they get an extra five or six or more people in, no such thing as personal space here!! Christina was quite perturbed by this experience and said she will never think the Toronto Metro is overcrowded again!!!!

Christina arrived safely and got herself to the hotel for a very happy reunion. We had an early night as we were all a little tired. Christina awoke early the next morning and took herself off to work out, only to return a little later with the news our hotel had neither gym nor pool. It was an expensive hotel, but I guess being in Tokyo to get a pool you need to stay in a very expensive hotel!!! As we were by now all awake we decided to visit the fish market.

UK visit

Dave and I went for a flying visit to UK in August. Dave wanted to go check on the house and also see a UK Dr. about his health so I thought i would take the opportunity to go and see my Mum.
We spent a week in Reading during which time I was able to get stuck into the gardening. I think you know we have a large garden which is looked after in our absence by a property management co. They manage to cut the grass and keep the hedges in trim but a lot of the bushes and shrubs were looking very overgrown especially with all the rain England had over the summer. I enjoyed very much getting my hands dirty again, since we have moved to Taiwan I do no even have a balcony garden as the balcony in the apartment is really not conducive to growing plants on.
We were also able to meet up with Jan and Bernie , who visited us many times in Bangkok. Bernie was retuning from Saudi on the Saturday after we arrived thus Jan came by train from Tiverton and we had a reunion. They bought a house near Bernie’s sister and Jan has gone back to work with the police after a 5 year career break.
After 6 days Dave returned to Taiwan and I went up to visit my Mum who is doing much better since they sorted out the medication for her Atrial Fibrillation. We went out for a few days, met with Helen for lunch and shopping, (got mum some clothes that fit as she has lost weight), sorted out some “stuff” and had a nice family meal out. I was also able to spend a day with Bernadette and her grandson Jack and son David, we went for a day out. Jack is such a great kid, he was 21 months while I was over, he isn’t really talking so you can understand words but he is verbal and seems very happy.
On my way back to Taiwan I had a 5 day stopover in Bangkok. Always my favourite place to go. I met Dave there who was on his way to China, and was also able to meet some old friends. I was in time to take part in a final farewell lunch for Elaine who is now back in Ottawa presumably getting settled back into her house and preparing to return to work. Also met with a couple of other friends who are still living in Bangkok and visited the library at the museum where I used to work. i was able to enjoy a boat ride on the Chao Phraya river while watching; the great huge barges, almost submerged with their load of sand or rice or stones or what ever, being towed slowly by the tiny tugs chugging along in the bright sunlight, the majestic Prang of Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) slide modestly by, the rickety, almost collapsing (for at least 3 years now), wooden extensions to houses that cling to parts of the rivers bank, contrasting with the tall gleaming towers of new hotels and apartment blocks. The noises assault the ears with piercing whistles used to direct the boat into and out of the stopping places as we travel up or down the river, high throbbing notes from the engines of the “long Tailed” boats which ply up and down with tourists who have hired these long low slung flimsy but fast boats for a few hours sightseeing trip.
Bangkok! Did I mention I love it?


Today we have been confined to the apartment, well we have just been out but most of the day we stayed put. I was expecting to go to Mahjong this afternoon but because Typhoon Wipha is coming near Taiwan the Govt. declared a work stand down day so govt. offices and schools etc. are closed. Dave was actually in town so he spent the day working from home and Mahjong was cancelled.
Having just been out in the “storm” as it has now officially been called, as apposed to tropical storm or typhoon I can see that it isn’t too bad. It is torrential rain, very windy but in gusts which isn’t‘ good for umbrellas, it is warm and “muggy”. However on the 17th floor is sounds like the sound track for a production of Macbeth or the storm scene from King Lear and all the windows rattle and whistle at times. Oh well I guess we have been lucky as their have been 12 typhoons in the region this season and so far we haven’t experienced any of them. I think Taiwan was only affected by one other and that was in the south of the island while we were in UK in August.

I am hoping tomorrow things will be back to normal.

More stories from Taiwan

I forgot to mention that we won the grand prize in the raffle at the Canada Day celebrations; it was a free ticket to Canada from Hong Kong or Japan to be used in the next year. We managed to get it changed so Christina can use it when she comes to Japan. Great present!

Early in July Joanne and Paul, old neighbours from Brampton and good friends, arrived in Taipei for a 15 day vacation. Before their arrival we had been worried about what we could do/show them in Taiwan, we need not have worried, a great time was had by all.
This is Bao an Temple begun in 1805 it took 25 years to complete with all the materials and artisans brought over from mainland China. The main deity is Baosheng Dadi, the God of Medicine, a real life person from the Song Dynasty. It is a Taoist temple
From a visit to the Grand hotel, to the spectacular Taroko Gorge w/e we had a fabulous time not least because J and P are such good company, we laughed until we cried many times and have some great memories.

This shows the lighthouse and one of the beaches on Lyudao or Green Island. Although now it is a wonderful place to visit it has a notorious past as a place of imprisonment torture and execution during the country’s “White Terror” period (1947/87)

Joanne and Paul at a place in Taroko National Park which is home to one of the worlds most amazing and narrow river gorges, it stretches for 20km and has walls of marble overshadowing the Liwu river.

Me being very brave on one of the suspension bridge crossings on a hiking trail in the Gorge


June was a busy month. It got quite hot and has stayed like that, it is like Bangkok hot and humid, sometimes it cools off a little after a storm but the humidity stays so back to the sweating and 2 showers a day routine!

We went to another Chinese wedding reception, this time the daughter of Steven, who owns his own company and does business with Dave, married the son of another Taiwanese entrepreneur. It was held in a ballroom at the Far Eastern Shangri-La in Taipei and was quite a grand affair. There must have been about 500 people attended a sit down dinner which was served to us. The food was also very pleasant compared to some of the dishes you usually get at Chinese weddings, they even had white wine, almost unheard of. It started at noon and finished about 3pm, we left around then, guests usually don’t hang around at these affairs.
As you will see from Dave’s blog of 20th June we went to watch the Dragon Boat races that took place here over 3 days 16th, 17th and 18th of June. This festival commemorates a famous Chinese poet and thinker from a long time ago who, despairing of the rulers of the time, threw himself into the river. The people, who loved him greatly, tried to save him but when that failed they threw sticky rice packets into the river so the fish would not eat his body. I have no idea why this has resulted in dragon boat races, but they do still make and sell the packets of sticky rice which are delicious but full of calories, they are wrapped in green leaves and steamed or boiled. It was a very hot day but lots of fun watching the races and after that we went down to the mouth of the river and walked along the promenade area. this was also a holiday w/e here in Taiwan.
We also celebrated Canada Day here with a day out to a farm just out of town. Apparently a Canadian who has lived here for years offers his farm for a lot of people to gather and celebrate Canada’s birthday. As well as Canadians there were a lot of Australians, Americans, other Westerners and Chinese all having a great time. There was a beach near by although the shore was covered in coral (hard on the feet)
The photo of Dave and I was taken by Dave which is why he is looking odd! It was an extremely hot day and obviously the guy next to me was tired!!!
The firework display, when it got dark about 7PM, was magnificent they did a wonderful job of celebrating Canada’s 140th birthday.

The guys below are not RCMP officers but the Taipei police force in their dress uniforms which are modeled on the RCMP dress uniforms. They led the mayor of Taipei and the Canadian official representative (no countries have “ambassadors” here because of the strange political position of Taiwan) on horseback to welcome everyone and cut the birthday cake, all in all a good day.

Back again

What have I been doing? Lots.
If you look at Dave’s blog you will see photos from Joanne and Paul’s visit in early July. I will write about that later.

The main event has been Dave and his colon cancer!
Dave decided, now he has turned 60, to go for a BIG annual check up here in Taiwan at the Taipei Adventist Hospital. In June he spent a day being checked out everywhere; inside, upside, downside and outside. This resulted, a few days later, in a phone call to say that they had found cancer in his colon and he should see a surgeon about it.
As you can imagine it was a bit of a shock to suddenly be told this. Turns out they had done a SIGMA SCOPE and had found some polyps in the descending colon, taken a sample for biopsy and it came back positive. From knowing nothing about colon cancer (except Audrey Hepburn died from it) we are both now fairly knowledgeable about it.
The surgeon, Dr. Liu, was a lovely man, said he had done hundreds of these operations and explained what it would involve. The operation was scheduled for a few days after our Canadian friends left.
Dave went into the hospital on Sunday afternoon to prepare for the operation on Tuesday 24th July. He was put on a liquid only diet until Monday evening when he had to fast.
The operation lasted about 4 hours in the end and all went well, Dr. Liu was so excited he insisted on showing me the offending piece of colon which he proceeded to cut open to reveal the cancerous polyp. It was such a sudden thing I didn’t really have time to be disgusted and found it very interesting, it was a piece about 8 inches long and when he cut it open the polyp was a cauliflower floret shaped lump only small but dark coloured, perhaps with the extra blood cancer demands.
Dave’s stay in the hospital was good, he had a private room and good nursing and I visited everyday. The day of the operation I stayed in the room overnight, but he was fine after that. He had a morphine drip for the pain but after two days he got them to take it away because he didn’t’ like feeling out of it and the strange dreams he was having. (I, on the other hand, become very attached to the great feeling of unreality it produced, when I had one)
Dr. Liu was very pleased with the way Dave recovered, he finally came home on 3rd Aug. and has been improving everyday. He even went into work for a few hours on Monday and plans on going in tomorrow.

Dave has lost 6 Kg. because he had to stay on a liquid diet for the first week and is still only eating vegetables. In fact we have changed our diet a lot lately and had already started to eat mostly chicken, fish and vegetables. Fish is OK but I think I prefer vegetables. Anyway radical changes to eating habits are obviously called for.

Word of advice to anyone out there aged 45 and over get a sigma scope done ASAP.