About Me

maker, creative, living lightly, local, craft, minimalism, and taking joy in the small things

Monday, 29 October 2007

Space World!

We met at 9:30am down at Higashi Hagi Eki – Flick, Shak, Nicole, Eki and I. Then we drove to Tsucky’s house to pick up Mika and Tsucky. We took Eki’s car – a massive 8 seater people mover! It was just shy of 2 hours to Space World, including a stop just before crossing onto Kyushu.

We got there, and rushed straight onto the rides – neither Shak or Flick had been on rollercoasters before, so they surprised everyone by going on all the available ones!

We went on the Titan – a 60m drop that was awesome, and then to the log flumes – you could pay Y100 for a poncho, but we decided it was unnecessary, and were proved right! Most of the Japanese people had bought them but though we made a big splash when we came down the last ramp we remained relatively dry! We bought souvenir photos, which were a bargain compared to every other theme park/tourist attraction I have ever been to, and there is an absolute stunner of Flick!

Hit the rest of the rollercoasters, and some other rides, before the fabulous (read: crazy) four: Nicole, Shak, Flick and Mika climbed aboard the Zatern. This ride is insane – 135km p/hr, 65m drop at 89 degrees! Nicole and Shak enjoyed it, Mika wasn’t thrilled by it and Flick literally kissed the ground when she got off!

After all our hard work we decided we had earned a greasy hamburger lunch! Again, not as prohibitively pricey as in other tourist attractions. Feeling a bit full, especially Shak (as he had ordered 1 burger but was half way though eating one when they brought him another – apparently they had given him the wrong thing!) we went to the 4D theatre – a silent cartoon – well no dialogue, so easily understandable! Our last activity was the Mission to Mars – a simulator. We went to buy omiyage on our way out, and met a parade – didn’t seem to have much of a theme. J-girls as Ballerina Cowgirls, the 4 characters of the park (no idea what their names are) and some J-boys dressed as cartoon Elvis’!

Hagi Nishi's Cultural Day.

This morning I was at Hagi Nishi by 8.30am – just! It was the School Bunkasai (Cultural Festival). I had seen some preparations at Nishi, but no rehearsals, earlier in the week, so I was vaguely looking forward to the whole shebang! I say vaguely, because I knew it was all going to be in Japanese, and that I would have pretty much no one to talk to all day.

Firstly, the Mishima kids had to get up on the stage and introduce themselves. My goodness, they must have been freaking out! They are used to 10 people in the room at any one time for a ‘crowd’ whereas there are almost 400 students at Nishi, plus a sizable collection of teachers and parents also there, all staring at them! To their credit, they did pretty well on the self intros, and then later when they gave a short presentation about their lives in Mishima.

So firstly each year level presented sort of ‘a year that was’ - except for the 7th graders, who have only been at JHS for about 5 months! Then came the choral competition. Each year level had clearly been assigned 2 songs, and each grade had to sing each of those songs… Let’s just say that sung Japanese is not the most attractive noise! Or rather, Japanese sung by 7th and 8th graders is not pleasing to the ear. The 9th graders were actually decent!

Lunch break – ok bento, better because I didn’t have to pay for it! Then back to the warm, dark hall (some may say perfect for sleeping, and I would have to agree – I had to get up and stand near the open door for fresh air to stay awake). Each grade presented a ‘play’ – rather the 7th graders did a play, and each the 8th and 9th grade had made videos. I didn’t really understand a lot of it, but I did gather that the 9th grade video was about bullying.

Thankfully it was almost over – because I was in serious danger of falling asleep!

I must say, ‘Cultural Day’ to me conjured up images of a school fete – different food, and shows. However at Hagi Nishi I was proved wrong. 2 of the speech contest entrants did their recitations, and at the end the word ‘thank you’ was uttered in 8 different languages. Not quite sure who was being thanked, nor what they were being thanked for.

I suppose it would be hard to celebrate ‘culture’ in terms of multiculturalism – that simply does not exist here. Obviously I notice in the classrooms that everyone is Japanese – contrast it to an Australian classroom where students come from everywhere. But today’s event really brought home the idea monoculturalism, and how prevalent it is here. That may explain why people find us Gaijin so interesting – looking in our shopping baskets, questioning our eating habits and congratulate us on our chopstick usage (“hashi jozu”).

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Just for Sars - the reverence of G-town

This is an ad at uniqlo - i suppose the J-version of target - for cardigans that are made of Soft Geelong Lambs Wool - wow sars! did you ever imagin that G-town would be so revered here?

My not so secret desire to be a flower arranging housewife!

Today I went up to City Hall to meet Carla, who had brought Carolin as well, for some ikebana classes.

Ikebana – Japanese Flower arranging
“In contrast to the massing of blooms typical of flower arrangement in western countries, Japanese flower arrangement is based on the line of twigs and/or leaves, filled in with a small number of blooms. The container is also a key element of the composition. The structure of a Japanese flower arrangement is based on a scalene triangle delineated by three main points, usually twigs, considered in some schools to symbolize heaven, earth, and man.”

So we had a lesson for about 1 ½ hours in one of the rooms at City Hall – apparently Kiyoko-san’s apartment is absolutely miniscule! It was Y1050 for the flowers, which seemed like a good deal, and then she let us take a vase and the flowers home to recreate the magic! We just have to bring back the vase when we have our next class on November 4th.

I did shoko style, and the other two did free-style – we will swap next time.

Shoko involves 3 groups of branches/flowers – the shin, the soe and the tai. There has to be an odd number of flowers/branches in the vase OR ELSE! Seven is ideal, but nine and eleven are both ok too.

Anyway - comments on my creation?

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Some time in Hiroshima, to drink sake

I stayed at Mitch's place on Friday night, with Phoebe and Lucy and we left there by 9am and we were at the A-bomb dome by 10.30am. It was amazing to think that the bomb exploded only 600m above it, and so much of it was left standing. The Peace Park is beautiful – very lush and well cared for. We wandered down to the paper crane exhibit – for Sadako the Japanese girl who tried to make 1000 paper cranes to cure her leukemia.

At some stage some weird guy hooked onto us, and even though we tried to ditch him politely he couldn’t take a hint, so we lost him in the hyakuen shop! Enjoyed some shopping along the arcade – bought a cardigan in the mens section, which is becoming too common! We ate Mos burger, stole a coaster, and dashed to the station to meet the other ‘Guch JETs.

Got out to the Sake Festival after a long train ride to Seijo. Y1500 for a little china sake cup, and all you can drink. We started off intending to work our way down Japan – from Hokkaido. But the queues at Hokkaido were hideous, so we gave up on that plan! Rather, we just joined the shortest queue, and then went to the Kyushu tent because we had been told it was good.

Mitch and I met a weird girl, who wanted our opinions on whether she and her fiancé should circumcise their as yet unconceived son. Strange. And she was still sober, not sure if that makes it better or worse.

As the day turned to night, and the Japanese became drunk, thus more confident in their English ability, we started getting approached by randoms. We made friends with some, took photos with others, and ignored the complete crazies!

By this stage we were stationed by the Yamaguchi end of the Chugoku tent and drank all their good sake. By around 7.30pm we had cleaned them out of all their good stuff, so we headed to the train station to find our hotels.

I ended up sharing a room with Dom, which worked out well. Basically we checked in and then rushed out to dinner, given it was close to 9pm by now, and everyone was starving!

We ate ‘American Food’ at The Shack. Never again. I’m not into it enough, the burger was nowhere near Grill’d quality! But it was a fun place, and we just all sobered up a bit with the food.

This morning (Sunday) we woke up, and ate the sumptuous hotel breakfast (really it was good, and had a huge selection) before checking out and going to eat at Subway. It's so typical, over here, living in our small cities and towns where foreigners and 'foreignness' is minor, we get pretty excited seeing stuff from home. And I don't even eat Subway back in Australia!

Anyway, made it home alive, with all my belongings, after a great weekend.

I will definitely go back to Hiroshima for some more sightseeing next time! There are 2 albums on Facebook - 1 of the Sake Festival and the other is from the little bit of sightseeing in Hiroshima we did.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Japanese Toilets

So of course you can buy toilets in the home stores, but have you ever seen such a choice of lids!

And that's not the only choice to make! When you sit down you can experience a range of delights, utilising the buttons on the side!

Honestly, I only use the flushing sound noise, I'm not really game enough to try any of the others....

The Joy of Cleaning Time

So at all the schools in Japan the students, and some teachers, have to help clean the schools. Usually when I arrive at a school early enough I find teachers and students gardening. Then at some stage throughout the day, depending on the school, there is inside cleaning time.
At Hagi Nishi the kids turn up in the morning, and sweep the staffroom, and then get down on their hands and knees and polish the floor with face washers.
At Sanmi cleaning time happens just after lunch, when The Carpenters 'Sing A Song' comes over the loudspeaker. The kids clean until, when at the end of cleaning time, the song is played twice more.
But my all time favourite has to be Mishima JHS, where they save the weirdest cleaning times for me. For the first couple of times I was out there I ended up weeding the unused oval. The justification was that the sports festival was coming up (even though the sports festival was being held down at the elementary school). But the best was to come, last week when I was out there cleaning time was picking up rocks from the same oval we had earlier weeded. No justification was given this time!
Possibly the best part of this is when the kids ask me about cleaning time in Australia, and they are flabbergasted when I tell them that students in Australia don't clean the schools!

Monday, 1 October 2007

The rest of Geoff`s trip to Hagi

Basically, Geoff spent a lot of time eating in Hagi - checkout the facebook photos for the evidence! Curry, donuts, a variety of Japanese food... Geoff tried it all! We hired him a bike, and while I was at work during the day, he spent his time exploring Hagi, and eating by the sounds of it.

He also got to come to the welcome enkai - the party the Board of Education had for us. It was all you can eat, and all you can drink, so Geoff was in heaven!

I actually managed to get him to do some karaoke - with the help of Flick, Shak and the all you can drink he had already consumed! He did sterling job of Wonderwall, but the proceeded to butcher Cosmic Girl!