2010 in Photos

Ok, so I know I’m really milking this new year/year in review stuff for all it’s worth, but it’s a good excuse for me to take a moment and reflect on life in a way that I rarely have time to do. I was clearing some space on my cameras recently and ran across all sorts of random photos that reminded me of days gone by—and also reminded me of the large chunks of time when I was way too busy to even think of picking up a camera. I thought I would share my “year in photos” with you, with one shot per month and no repeat photographs from previous posts (which turned out to be a challenge at times). Here we go!

In January, I took a two-week trip to a very wintery London. Unfortunately, I spent most of the time ill, and the weather was incredibly cold and snowy. But I still got the chance to see lots of sights like the British Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the National Gallery, Borough Market, and Chichester Cathedral, as well as do some general wandering and meeting up with friends. My favorite place was probably the British Museum. I basically had to run through the exhibits in order to see as many as possible, but I got to see things like the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon. And all sorts of ancient things that museums in the US don’t tend to have. I also fulfilled my wish to go inside St. Paul’s–the last time I was in London (on a high school musical tour), we took pictures on the steps, but the cathedral was closed so we popped down to the gift shop. But while we were in the gift shop, they opened the cathedral! It was closed again by the time we resurfaced, leaving me quite annoyed. But now I’ve set things right!

By February, however, I was back to work. With a new semester underway, I was busy shoring up my dissertation prospectus, taking advanced Japanese classes, writing a paper on Sino-Japanese relations, editing a book on Russia, writing grant proposals, planning conferences and generally being a busy bee. This was the only photo I took in February, and I think my no-nonsense expression pretty much sums up why.

March was more of the same: work, work, work. I stayed in Berkeley for spring break in order to focus on getting things done. Again, not many photos to choose from for obvious reasons. But the one highlight of the month was visiting Chez Panisse, Alice Waters’s famous Berkeley restaurant and the birthplace of California cuisine. The fixed menu for the evening consisted of: an aperitif (Prosecco, grapefruit juice and pomegranate juice); asparagus salad with garden lettuces and prosciutto; steamed northern halibut with morel mushrooms and green garlic sauce; grilled Green String Farm beef rib eye with anchovy butter, fried potatoes and herbs, and Chino Ranch spring vegetables; and a Churchill-Brenneis Orchard Page mandarin soufflé. It was truly delicious, and a welcome break from the drudgery of the semester. As you can see, we were so excited about the food that we forgot to take a photo until everything had long since been eaten.

I bet you can guess what I did in April, huh? That’s right, I worked! But again, I took some time to do some wine tasting in Napa with some friends. This is a picture of us at Mumm Napa, a winery that focuses on sparkling wines—I was a member of their wine club at the time, so all of the bubbly you see above was totally free. During my time at Berkeley, I took advantage of the proximity to Napa to go wine tasting every couple of months, which made the wine clubs a pretty good deal since you don’t have to pay for delivery fees. I also had a membership at the Hess Collection at the time, which I recommend. Other wineries I like: Cosentino, Elyse, Trefethen, Domaine Carneros, Trahan, Etude, Girard, and Hope and Grace. For tasting rooms, I like Vintner’s Collective and Silenus Vintners. And for food, I like Mustards Grill, Bouchon, Gott’s Roadside and the Bouchon Bakery. But yes, I ❤ Napa, can’t you tell?

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In May, things got even more hectic. I finished up the semester, moved out of the house I had been living in for the previous three years, said my goodbyes, and hopped on a plane to Washington DC for my orientation for the Critical Language Scholarship Program. I also managed to meet up with a few friends in the between moments. The photo above is of a party to celebrate the graduation of a couple of my sempai in the Ph.D. program.

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June just flew by as I was studying Japanese at the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies, which is based at Doshisha University in Kyoto. We had class for four hours during weekdays, and then we usually had about six hours of homework (yes, every day). And when we weren’t studying, we often had a rather hectic schedule of spending time with our host families and (mandatory) cultural activities such as “kimono day,” where all of the students received lessons in kimono dressing and then went for a pleasant stroll around Nijo Castle. I blogged about much of that over the summer, so you can find those entries in the archives. The photo above is of my class, with whom I spent countless hours learning and suffering and frolicking.

The first three weeks of July were Japanese, Japanese, Japanese all the time. But somehow, we managed to get through all of the exams and final speeches, and then we embarked on a week of (scholarship-funded!) sightseeing through Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kamakura, Yokohama, and Tokyo. I also took an independent trip to Takayama. The photo above shows me and a couple of my classmates in front of the famous floating torii on Miyajima. One of the fantastic things about this torii is that it looks very different as the tide comes in and out. As the tide was going out in the hot summer evening, the three of us took a stroll through cool water out toward the torii—it was one of the most fun and memorable experiences of the trip.

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By August, I was already back in the Bay Area (and probably already forgetting the Japanese that I’d learned). After the hectic insanity of intensive language study, the following four weeks in Berkeley seemed incredibly quiet and restful. Of course, since I had moved out of my house in May and was going to be moving to Japan in late September, there was no use in renting a place to live, so I was also nomadic for much of the month of August. I spent time housesitting for and crashing with friends and trying to prepare for a short trip to Washington DC to conduct interviews and for my big move to Japan. I also made an effort to do all those mundane things that I like to do in Berkeley—for example, the picture above shows me, a friend, and a Japanese exchange student eating at Zachary’s, Berkeley’s Chicago-style pizza institution.

The first two weeks of September saw me attending a conference and conducting research interviews in Washington DC. It was a really energizing and productive trip—I really like DC. When I came back, however, I only had about a week left to gather up my suitcases, tie up my loose ends in Berkeley, and literally hit the road—I drove my car from Berkeley to my parents’ house in Washington State. The photo above was taken from my car (by the passenger) as we drove into downtown Seattle—a very familiar and comforting sight for me.

Most of October was spent trying to get settled in to my new life in Tokyo, a process that always takes much longer than you would think. Getting an alien registration card, attending various orientations, opening a bank account, setting up a mobile phone, getting all of the keys for my new office, applying for library cards and internet access… all of these things take time. I also had to get my new apartment all set up, which gave me an excuse to make a few trips to Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara (pictured above), one of my favorite places to kill time and a paradise for those who love gadgets and electronics.

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By November, the leaves were turning red and I was starting to really pick up momentum interviewing people for my research and meeting lots of new folks through seminars and various events. I also spent a fair amount of time in my office at the University of Tokyo—the photo above is of the famous Akamon or “Red Gate.” Aside from being pleasant to look at, it’s a cultural treasure and the only one of its kind in Japan. It was built in 1827, which makes it one of the few structures from the Edo era to survive (much of Tokyo was destroyed in the fire bombing of World War II). At that time, the university campus was occupied by the Maeda family of the Kaga-han, one of the old aristocratic families of Japan (whose crest you can see on the eaves). It was built to welcome the daughter of the shogun Tokugawa Ienari, who was marrying into the Maeda family. Only daimyo (feudal lords) were allowed to build gates this impressive. It was moved to its current location (15 km west of its original position) are the end of the Meiji era. (Information pieced together from this site and this site) Aside from work, I made a couple of sightseeing trips to Naritasan Temple and to Rikugien.

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I’ve already told you about much of my December, which was largely absorbed by a trip to Berkeley for a conference and to Seattle to see my family. I also went to the imperial palace for the emperor’s birthday and enjoyed a low-key Christmas in Tokyo. Aside from that, I spent a lot of time hiding from the cold in my cozy apartment and experimenting with new recipes and my roaster oven. The photo above shows my favorite dish so far, homemade palak paneer from a recipe in The Indian Slow Cooker. (I made the paneer too, which was quite tasty, despite its not-perfectly-cubed appearance above–the naan came from the store though.)

And that was my 2010, in photos!

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