About Me

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

Thursday, 29 November 2007

My Japanese "Class"

Well I got to Jap Class, and it wasn’t really class! We were in the tatami room and the Hagi Bunko group were there to play – shamisens, taiko and ‘trumpet tritons’ – 200 year old ginormous shells! They played for about 10 mins, and then we got to run riot – playing all the instruments and dressing up in the costumes! Playing the shells was really hard! Managed to make some noises come out of it though. The drum was heaps more fun!

The worst part was, that at the end of the night, we all had to make comments on how we felt! Then we had a ‘party’ – a whole bunch of edible omiyage.

Also, this is a good time to remind you that the rice harvest was a J-class activity! I promise we occasionally learn Japanese!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

The Naked Part of the Name is a Lie

So today was Naked Man Festival Day. Phoebe, Dom and I had planned on participating in the shrine carrying but Dom got shingles, so Phoebe and I decided just to watch – we had no idea where to go to participate even if we had wanted to! Ran into a whole bunch of ALTs from the Ken. Also met Georgia for the first time - a CIR who is therefore excluded from the ALT stuff, which is why I hadn't met her.

So we went and watched the women in the early afternoon. There were 3 different shrines being carried around – I think if you had an aerial view there would have been a pattern to see, but obviously we couldn’t see that!

We were given some Amasake to drink while we watched – like creamy, sweet sake with bits of dessicated coconut. Not so nice really. Anyway, there was to be a bit of a wait before the men started, so we headed to the mall for some Baskin & Robbins, and shoe shopping. We collected some more ALTs and headed down to the festival. There were so many teams carrying ‘shrines’.

The women had been carrying things that looked like mini temples, but the men were carrying wheat barrels, draped in branches or tinsel. And these ‘shrines’ were like sedan chairs – long planks of wood coming from a platform on which the ‘shrine’ rested. And on each plan there were several people to carry it. The aim, for the men, was to carry it down the long street that leads to the temple, and drink and dance in the street. Then when they reached the temple they had to run up A LOT of stairs still carrying the wheat barrels. Once inside the temple they would smash the ‘shrine’ – no idea why.

Anyway, this activity is called the Naked Man Festival. Complete lie. No one was naked. But in the street leading to the temple, and in the temple itself, there was so much to look at and do that I am over the lies. There were so many stalls – it was probably the best festival I have been to yet.

Once all the little shrines have been brought to the temple and destroyed the teams form one mass of men and have to carry 2 bigger ‘shrines’ down the stairs and a pair of wheels that apparently weigh 2 tonnes. There were so many people, and apparently people have died in the past. We did the ambulance sirens a couple of times, but the injuries were minor. We really couldn’t see what was going on with the wheels – we saw them go over the stairs, but have no idea how they didn’t crush everyone and everything within its path.

Back to the train station – and I managed to miss my last bus to Hagi. I had a timetable which said the bus was at 8.30, but when I left the waiting room for the bus platform the timetable there said the last bus was at 8.15. So I had time to make it, but didn’t because of the timetable change! Called Phoebe, who emailed me Georgia’s details – thank God I met her today, and Georgia was kind enough to let me stay at her apartment though, so all good!


It is cold here. We went from a long summer into winter pretty quickly, so I have had very little time to get used to the cold weather.

Not coping with it very well, as I am sure many of you can imagine! The school classrooms are cold, and the hallways even colder. Luckily they turn the heaters on in the staff rooms! Also, houses/apartments aren't insulated, so they are difficult and expensive to heat. Finally I have set up my kotatsu - a table that you plug in! Basically you have a futon on the ground, and a futon between the 2 table tops, and plug it in and it gets all warm under the futons. You can also get a heated carpet - something you layover the tatami and plug in!

And of course, there is the trusty kerosene heater. Yes, seriously, I have a kerosene heater. I have no intention of attempting to use it - would most likely asphyxiate myself in the process!

So I complain about the cold. What really irritates me is when people respond with, well where I am from it is snowing/10 degrees colder. All that means is that that person has no reason to complain about this weather - in fact they should be exclaiming how it is positively warm! However, I don't come from the German Alps, so I will complain about how cold it is!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

My goodness I am helpless!

So after school I went to the BOE, to get Tsucky to come and change my light bulb, but he wasn’t there so I had to leave a message. In the mean time Shak said no seminar tonight – woohoo!. Tsucky called and he said, yes there is a seminar! Bugger. And he said he would come over and organize the light bulb issue. So he came over, and couldn’t reach the light bulb – in the kitchen – and asked for a chair. But I don’t have a chair! He was incredulous, but had a look around and couldn’t see a chair so had to believe me. So we went up to Sueshi-sensei’s apartment (she is a teacher at Hagi Nishi JHS who lives in the apartment above mine) and borrowed a chair! She must have thought we were crazy. And it was a rolling chair so I had to steady the thing while Tsucky removed the old light bulb. He then went and bought a new light bulb, and came back to put it in. Then had to return the chair, and Sueshi-sensei was suitably amused once more. Poor Tsucky! Then for the rest of the night, at the seminar he kept complaining that his back was sore from all the effort!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Weirdness at Nishi

This week I spent 2 days at Nishi - both of which had weird aspects.

To start with, on Tuesday I arrived to find students welcoming me, and everyone else. Really not sure what is happening. I suppose it doesn't help that I can't read Japanese!

Any ideas?

Secondly, on Friday afternoon there was a meeting of all teachers of Japanese from Yamaguchi-ken. So as a result school started earlier (though no one told me) and then everyone could go home at 12, but the students were meant to stay in their homes until 4pm. So to ensure compliance different teachers were assigned to check different areas in Hagi. I went to one of the supermarkets that has a video game parlour too. We didn't find any students, but when we were leaving the carpark we found an 8th grade boy. One of the teachers started hitting him, somewhat gently. Then she told me to tell him off! Great, telling him off in a language that he doesn't understand! The whole situation was a little ridiculous really.

Everyday Japan surprises me!

Ikebana again!

Today at Ikebana I made a couple of creations - both in the Shoka style, but the one on the left is the more modern shoka style.

Now they are both decorating my apartment!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Tears over English

I did 3 self introductions today – only found 1 student out of the almost 90 who sort of liked the vegemite! None of the teachers liked it either! It is quite a nice school – the teachers speak a decent amount of English for elementary teachers, and the kids were nice.

However, I managed to make 1 student in the 5th grade cry. Actually I don’t think I had anything to do with it. The teacher had prepared all the students to give mini self introductions – My name is, I like X and my favourite sport is Y. Well 1 kid, a boy, got through sentence 1 and 2 but then had a minor meltdown. He just could not say his favourite sport, and the teacher was harassing him in nihongo, and then finally I caved and said well done, sit down etc. He sat, but burst into silent tears.

This is my first experience of tears in English class. I maintain I did not cause the tears, but it was still an unsettling experience.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Samurai Festivities in Hagi

On Saturday, I met Carolin up at the post office, and we wandered around the festival stalls. As the token foreigners we got roped into many things – pounding mochi, posing for photos with costumed Japanese people, participating in ‘quizzes’ and taste testing a million different things.

The festival was pretty big – they had so many weird things on sale. I bought a base for ikebana, and some souveneirs, for whomever I decide later on. Also there was a couple of stalls selling goldfish of different sizes, ranging from tiny fish for Y100 and mega ones for Y5000.

Some of the hagi omiyage was delicious – I will buy it closer to the date of my return to Australia
so it stays fresh. However, some of Matt’s high school students kept bringing me things to try – most of which were disgusting! Also, there was so much air-dried squid – and the smell was a bit overpowering. Did eat some sweet potato fries for lunch – thought they were going to be just a slight variation on the regular kind, but rather they were covered in sugar!

On Sunday I met up with Carolin again, and Carla and Melody.

We watched a whole bunch of different parades – school marching bands, people dressed up as all kinds of characters in Hagi’s history and then a whole lot of Yosakoi dancers. All the stalls were there from yesterday, as well as some more food choices. Last year some of the ALT’s got dressed up as Samurais – but we weren’t invited this year. No big deal, because Flick said the experience was less than comfortable.

We watched heaps of yosakoi dance teams – at the end it turned out that they
were in a competition, and there were some really quality prizes on offer – bags of rice and boxes of daikon. Quite strange really.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

My own (sad version of) Melbourne Cup

Anyway, I did a class on cell phones on Tuesday – riveting stuff really. However, I had been given carte blanche with the ‘game or activity’ so Melbourne Cup, here we come. My justification was that last year a Japanese horse had won. So we did an information gap exercise – thrilling really, and then a sweep. When we were doing it I don’t think the students really understood what the point was. But then I told them I would be back just after 1pm to give prizes, and suddenly the lightbulb went on.

So after my 1 class for the day I went to the staffroom, and wasted the time away, until the race was on! Then I jumped on the internet, and waited for the results!

Back in the 9th grade I announced 1st, 2nd and 3rd – and they all got Australian omiyage – clip on koalas etc, and then the loser! Well I had announced that the person whose horse came last would get vegemite. I had earlier made them all eat it, in a previous lesson where I did a self introduction, and knew NONE of them liked it, so that was going to be great! One of the speech contest boys won, and he was so unimpressed! Everyone else laughed so much though – it was totally worth sacrificing a little vegemite!

Monday, 5 November 2007

My latest ikebana creation

No comments on the last one, am going to assume that meant it was awesome and left you all speechless :)

Anyway, I did this one yesterday, and it is currently brightening up my living room. This is 'freestyle' which means no rules! Actually that makes it difficult, and requires more thought! Given the weekend I had had (and the little sleep enjoyed - see below) I was not at my best. Perhaps that is why I am staring off into the arrangement, hoping for some inspiration???

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Party in the Inaka

Shak and I met up with Mitch and Phoebe in Shim, and did some shopping and they ate lunch. Mitch and I also had a crepe – ok, but a bit boring because the toppings weren’t all the way to the bottom of the rolled crepe. Highlight – the mega Hyakuen on the top floor of DeoDeo.

We grabbed a train, then a cab out to her house, where a few people were waiting. Just enough time for a G&T (actually a Gin & Mitsuya Cider) then headed off for a fairly long walk in the cold to the only izakaya in Phoebe’s inaka town. The food was fabulous – okonomiyaki! Then off to do some karaoke – where we found Daryl!

We hit the karaoke pretty hard, partying for well over our 2 hour time! The drinks bill for the 10 of us was Y22000 – a fair effort!

Back at Phoebe’s we had some more drinks, and snacks before I finally hit the bed just after 3am. Paid for it this morning, when I was up before 7am to get back to Hagi for my ikebana class!

Shak's Confession

So as some of you know I was quite unimpressed at seeing some of the American JETs come over here with over 50kg of luggage, whereas we were only allowed 20kg.

As a result I carefully weighed my suitcase many times while I was packing it. Our travel agency had drummed it into my head that I would have to pay a lot of money if I was 1kg over the limit. In my caution I forgot to pack any shoes in my suitcase (though I had 3 pairs for Tokyo, so I wasn't entirely shoeless!) I know some of you will find it hard to believe that I did that, but it's true.

So I was wearing an old pair of sandals everyday, and they weren't the most comfortable things ever... and I was hanging out for the box of stuff Geoff was going to mail over to me.

Now I made sure everyone in Hagi knew I was desperately waiting for my thongs to arrive! However, only yesterday Shak told me that he was entirely baffled by my desperation, and that I would share it with him! When they arrived he finally realised I meant 'flip flops'.

Aah the English language is a beautiful thing!