An adult beverage, enjoyed in Ikebukuro.  It's called El Cielo and is pineapple juice, fresh kiwi, blue curacao and coconut rum garnished with a lemon wedge.
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Upon returning to Tokyo from camp all the staff went to an izakaya to enjoy some adult beverages and dinner.  As I was walking through the station to go home afterward a guy had three little dogs sitting obediently at the entrance.  The poodle was groomed to look like a heart.  On one hand you may think the dog has been tortured and feel bad for it.  On the other if you consider how much love and attention the dog gets from passersby (including everyone wanting to pet it), it's pretty lucky.

Got permission to take the photo from the owner.
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Still at the English Camp, I discovered a lovely banner promoting...Safety Outdoor?  Okay, well we understand what they meant but how does something like this develop?  Apparently this is now the accepted way to say this in Japan.
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This week the parent company of my work organized a Kids' English Camp out in Chiba and I was chosen as one of the counselors.  One of the activities was to make Native American headdresses out of paper (the theme this year was Native American). As much as I'd like to have posted one of my many pictures of the adorable kids wearing their crafts, it's not legal to post photos of children without their parents' consent so I'll stick to the other counselors.

The camp was way out in deep Chiba prefecture, with the nearest station, Kimitsu, being a 40-minute drive away.
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Kami-Kumagaya station is so small it only has one platform for trains going in either direction.  It also doesn't have a ticket gate.  Instead of putting your ticket in a machine you buy the ticket from the ticket machine and hand it to the station attendant when you leave the station (show it when you enter).

This is mind-blowing because even at the stations without attendants, the stations closer to Tokyo (such as on the JR Nikko line) have a suica swiper at the entrance.  This line isn't suica (IC card) compatible...which is completely amazing.  I am mesmerized by the anti-tech.

EDIT: I say closer to Tokyo but I suppose the Nikko line isn't.  But it's JR and that makes a difference.
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Today is Eel Day in Japan.  It's a summer holiday (sometimes two, depending on the calendar) where you eat eel to beat the heat.

It's rumored that a man owning an eel restaurant wanted to boost his sales so he consulted a friend.  His friend recommended that he post an ad on a certain time during the summer.  During that time it was believed to be good to eat food that began with the sound "u" (eel in Japanese is うなぎ, unagi) and his sales increased markedly.

There are other theories, but almost all talk about some sort of marketing ploy.  Today people say that eel helps your "stamina" and keeps you safe from heat stroke.  I disagree but it tastes good, so I had the bento above for lunch.
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This crew wasn't particularly skilled at carrying their shrine...

During summer there are festivals where men (women aren't allowed to help) carry portable shrines, called mikoshi, around town.  The women carry lanterns and banners but cannot touch the shrine.  It might be because dropping mikoshi is forbidden and they are afraid women are too weak to carry something so heavy, but that's just speculation.  These guys were swerving like a drunken beast and almost dropped it in the middle of the main intersection along the route.
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This time of year in Tokyo it's hot enough that you wish you could hide out anywhere away from the heat.  Unfortunately, that's not always possible and you find yourself blinded by sunlight and barely coherent while staring at the bushes.

At least it's not raining every day anymore.
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Went to a place called Kani Doraku (カに道楽 - "Crab How You Like It") with Moo Cow.  It wasn't my first time but I love the variety of crab dishes you can get.  It's an Osaka-based chain and the original is in the Dotonbori, which you can see from the last time I was in Osaka.  We had a nice multi-course meal and everything except dessert had crab in it.  This was the sashimi course.
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This major intersection in West Shinjuku pretty much exemplifies what crowded Tokyo is all about.  Next to the intersection run the tracks to the Japan Rail trains going to Shinjuku station. Beyond them is a massive shopping and social district, as well as the famed Kabuki-cho...full of bars and hostess clubs run by the Yakuza.  Each time the crosswalk turns green a mob of people hurriedly cross the street to rush off somewhere, often while messaging on their phones (the crowds can be seen to the left of the intersection here).  And cars haphazardly zip down the streets to rush through the next light, taxis stopping wherever they please.

Tokyo is mesmerizing in so many ways.
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In Kyoto there's an area called Gion.  Before WWII it was a major entertainment center, famous for the best Geisha in Japan.  All of the buildings there are sided with lovely wooden panels.
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Takarakuji booths, or lottery booths are often surrounded by Maneki Neko.  This cat is a good luck cat in Japan.
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Today was Marine Day (海の日) so everyone went to the beach.  I really wanted to try the balloon thing--I hear it's called orbing--but didn't want to pay the 800 yen to get stuffed into a sticky ball.  But it's like a giant hamster ball and I love the webcomic xkcd so I thought I'd post a tribute.  Thankfully no naked children ran into this photo.

Just a typical day at the beach.
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Seasonal flowers are nice.  Found some morning glories but didn't have my nice camera with me.  The variety of colors was amazing.  Most of them seem to turn purple just before they shrivel.

That's dew, not rain.
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Fairly typical bar food in Japan is a lot better than the usual bar food in the West.  Whether it be because it's generally healthier, more fresh items or just different, for whatever reason it's easier to eat and be happy about.

There's also something fun about eating squid tentacles with a glass of plum wine.
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Kaiten sushi (回転寿司, also rotating sushi or conveyor belt sushi) is quite popular in metropolitan areas.  It's fast, inexpensive and low-fuss.  Sometimes the good places get crowded and you have to wait a bit to get in, but it's a good way to have a decent meal for relatively cheap.  You just have to be careful that you choose a good place.  The actual prices and quality of course varies from shop to shop.  This is my favorite place in Tokyo.  Incidentally, it's a 20-minute walk from my apartment.
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Bars are a significant part of working life in Japan.  And social life.  Perhaps life in general.  And a lot of the larger chains have specials.  If they have these overhead dispensers where the customers can see them the bottles all change to whatever the featured liquor is...and it gets quite commercial and boring.
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Akihabara (Akiba) really does have everything.  If you wanna pretend to be a maid or...naked you can.

Went to Akiba to buy a new camera.  Hopefully tomorrow's photo will be taken with my new Nikon D40.  There are a few shots I've been trying to take for weeks and haven't had success because of my camera's limitations.  I might need a telephoto lens to reach one of them but we'll see.  In any case the camera was past due.
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Had my last visit until September at the kindergarten I usually teach at every week.  Seems every suburban town must have an old movie rental shop...with an arcade and used bookstore attached...
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Fruit markets always have the most perfect and amazing fruit specimens.  They come at a price though.  The big watermelons in the back are about ¥2500 ($25+) and the rest isn't cheap.  But they do taste delicious.

This time of year it's critical not to buy fresh items that you can't eat in a day or two or you'll have flies.  Some fruits like bananas will have flies the next day in the peak of summer.  Beware!
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This weekend I went to Aoyama Red Shoes to see a friend's band perform.  Since I've already posted a shot of The Blue Donuts I thought I'd try something that makes them look a little more epic (which they are).  This dry-brush filter makes them look like something I'd buy on a poster, and I love that the mirror caused a lens flare.  And if you like jazzy music with a Latin twist you should check out their page (official site has concert schedule).
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In the wee hours this morning, Moo Cow and I finished making a peach pie from the glorious peaches you can buy from local farmers. Pies don't really exist in Japan in the form most of us are familiar with; what is called pie here is often a phyllo dough puff. It's taking everything I have not to eat the pie before Moo Cow gets home from work today.
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Political activist standing in the rain.  None of the photos turned out because of how heavy the rain was so I added a filter to the photo to make it usable; it seemed important to use this photo since he said I could.

(photo taken with permission)
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Trains are a major part of life here.  Streetcars not as much, but they are an important part of the local history.  Most of the Toden Arakawa line has been removed and replaced by the trains and subway systems.  The particular stretch has a huge variety of rosebushes planted on both sides, and in some areas irises.
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Happy Tanabata!  This holiday, also known as the Star Festival, isn't an official Japanese holiday that's taken off work but it's still fun.  It's believed that the Milky Way is a river of stars that separates two lovers, Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair).  Once a year they get to meet if the sky is clear.  If it's cloudy they have to wait until the next year.  So far they've been pretty unlucky while I've been in Japan; of the four times I've celebrated this holiday here it's been clear once.  Officially the holiday is supposed to be on the Japanese lunisolar 7th day of the 7th month, which is usually in August but a lot of people now celebrate it on July 7th, including in Shiga prefecture where I studied as a student.

To celebrate this holiday, if you celebrate it, you write wishes on strips of paper and tie them to bamboo trees.  People often wear yukata (lightweight summer kimono) to all summer celebrations.  I wanted to wear the new one I bought in Kyoto at New Year since I hadn't yet.  Here's the obi I tied for myself.
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The flowers in Japan always seems so much brighter and better than the ones back home. Is that due to care or environment or both?
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Even the sidewalk tiles are decorative sometimes. These caught my eye in Osaka.
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American goodies given to me today by the mom of a student.  My student tried to write my name on a card inside but spelled it wrong, so cute!
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Most of the exterior walls that aren't some sort of brick or tile are covered with a stucco-like texture that's been painted over.
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Giant spiky caterpillar at the entrance to my office.  My brilliant coworker touched it...he said it was prickly...
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Cats in Tokyo often are missing tails.  That's not an illusion; it doesn't exist.
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