Young Reporters at the Shinto Shrine

Making YouTube videos has become one of my passions. No, it hasn’t quite reached the level of obsession and madness as my writing; I don’t find myself waking up in a panic if I haven’t made a video in a day, hardly something I can say when I haven’t written anything for a while. Still, though, the behemoth content and social media service fills a need for community and a visual creative outlet in a way that still surprises me.

For one of my most recent videos, I walked the mile or so to my local Shinto shrine to film a travelogue of sorts. Shinmei shrine is thick with the look and feel of history. A thatched roof cottage-like home sits in one corner of the property. The yellowed exterior and disheveled hay top of this Uryu family home, the oldest of all family homes in Fukui prefecture, tells a story of a much older Japan. 315 years older.

uryu home sabae

The centuries old Uryu family home.

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Drumsticks Crackling in a Vat of Oil

I knew that Christmas would be different in Japan. Yes, I expected the tears to drown me out of my apartment when I couldn’t get home to be with my family, and I planned ahead for the resulting need for cheap liquor. The one thing, I think, I never really planned for were the things that turned out to be great about Christmas abroad.

Japan and KFC: The Holiday Love Affair

The traditional Christmas dinner ’round these parts is a tub of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a plethora of sides. It’s incongruous enough to have me wondering whether I’ve accidentally moved to the Deep South instead of rural Japan to teach for the year. I don’t want to dive too deeply into why KFC is so popular a yuletide meal — GaijinPot does a pretty good job of that — but it basically breaks down to the rise of technology and great marketing. Apparently, that’s all it takes to convince a 99.99% non-Christian country to not only celebrate Christmas, but to do so with a bucket of delicious Frankfort Fried Grease.  Continue reading →