About Me

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

Thursday, 20 December 2007

The Sounds of Japan

In a previous post I have mentioned that music coming from the speakers out the front of City Hall so blind people can find the building! However, there is so much music/noise in Japan everyday.

- The traffic signals
I think it depends on the orientation of the crossing, but at some crossings when the green man lights up a bird noise sounds.

- The midday noise
At midday there is always some kind of signal. Out at some of the rural schools sirens sound out - actually, on my Island school the siren sounds like it is coming from everywhere! In Hagi I don't notice it very often because there are other noises of people going about their lives, but there is always some kind of music.

- 9pm
Every night at 9pm in Hagi I can hear some music for a minute or 2. No idea why.

- The music in the supermarket/most shops

Coldness an addendum - for the love of Kairo

No, I haven't misspelled the Egyptian capital! I have recently been introduced to kairo by some elementary school children. Basically, it looks like a tea bag, and is filled with iron shavings. So they come individually wrapped (so Japan!) and when you take it from the plastic and put it in your pocket for a couple of minutes it heats up. It stays hot for a few hours... it's like carrying a mini hot water bottle in your pocket!

So most days at school I have one that I carry around! Apparently, the Junior High kids are not allowed them, but a few students have gestured that they are carrying kairo too! Apparently you can get kairo that you stick to the inside of your clothes (if you stick it to your skin you may get burnt) I haven't tried them yet, but I have no doubt I will progress to those very soon!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

A selection of soy sauce

So the other day I had to buy soy sauce. Up until now I had been using what Jo left behind, but it ran out. I didn't think to take a photo of the bottle (or the bottle itself) with me because I thought it would be easy!

However, as you can see, at Sun Live there is a LARGE range of soy sauce. I stood in front of the shelves for a few minutes, but I couldn't figure which to buy. So I grabbed a guy stacking shelves and said to him "korerano bottle wa shoyu des ka?" (are these bottles soy sauce?) and he indicated yes. So I said "onaji" (all the same?) and again, he said yes. So finally I summoned my reserves of Japanese and said "kono shoyu wa ichiban des ka?" (which is the best?) so he wandered around, and said "cooking?" and I said yes, so he chose me a bottle. Then he pointed to himself and said "ichiban des" which i think meant, "I am the best!"

I was amazed that he had been so talkative, and then made a joke! Most Japanese people are a little (or a lot) scared of foreigners!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

The politics of the car park

Next to my apartment there is some kind of office, and behind it, a car park. The car park is full most of the time, given Japanese people tend to work ALL the time.

However, some mornings I see the cars arriving. You notice that they all just park each other in, so there must be some serious negotiation at the end of the day - who wants to go, and who is trying to impress by staying the latest... I seriously don't know why they don't just mark lines, and give each other some access!

In Japan it is really important to be seen to be busy - Japanese people often talk about how busy they are, while they are sitting in the staffroom drinking coffee. Or they do this funny run/walk - moving their feet quickly but not moving anywhere fast! And, all the staffrooms are packed full of 'work' (piles and piles of papers). So I suspect parking the car closest to the building is a sign of working the hardest.

No option to be ex-directory in Hagi

So this is part of the Hagi Street Directory. What you are looking at is a really zoomed in melways - all the buildings are individually marked, and the kanji on each block is the (male) owner's name!

The ALTs were invited to a Christmas party, but there was no address on the invitation, so at the Board of Education we used this map to find the house!

Can you imagine how much effort it must be to make this??? So obviously my name is not on there - but my building is marked - right next to 'Gusto' (a Japanese fast food place).

As Shak remarked, I suppose there is no 'unlisted' option in Japan!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The Famous Hagi Half Marathon

So today was the famous Hagi Half Marathon - 22km run starting at the Wellness Park (love Engrish!) and finishing up at the stadium. So I went down to the arcade to watch them run through - almost the halfway point actually. I like to think of it as the Champs Elysees of the half marathon!

Brent - pictured - was probably somewhere in the top 100. He's an American exchange student at a Hagi High School. There were well over 2500 runners though - and a fair few foreigners, not from Hagi!

Actually, there were some beautiful outfits - totally 80's style. And one Japanese man was sort of dressed as Santa. Some of the runners were totally focussed as they ran past, some with music playing, but others really enjoyed themselves, high-fiving and waving!

The Japanese Club Christmas Party

On Saturday I rolled out of bed to get up to City Hall for chorus rehearsal – the Japanese class is meant to be singing Christmas carols at the party from 12.30. So no rehearsal, no one was there (well Alex and the Japanese organizers were) so I just sat near the heater! Finally ‘rehearsed’ around midday.

Anyway, there was flamenco dancing, our chorus, random games (I won some tomato flavoured Korean biscuits) and then the JETs from Yamaguchi City had to talk about Christmas in their hometowns/countries – China, Spain and the US. The Yamaguchi City JETs are the ones who can speak fluent Japanese, so I didn’t understand what they were saying – could guess though. Spanish girl talked about Christmas Eve, American about all the food, and the Chinese JET simply said, we don’t celebrate it! Food was good, though. I was surprised that more of my students weren’t there – perhaps a good thing given our ‘chorus’ – for the record, we did Rudolph (at breakneck speed for some reason) and White Christmas.

Possibly the worst part were the Japanese people who, having been encouraged to talk to the 'friendly foreigners' by the MC at the beginning of the party, decided that 'talking to me' meant listing all the places that they had seen me in the last week. Stalker much?

Friday, 7 December 2007

Kent came for dinner

I met Tsucky down at the HH Eki, and shortly after Kent’s bus arrived – we took him to the hotel, then straight to dinner. Rather, Mrs Tsucky drove us around, then dropped us at the restaurant.

We ate a magnificent Japanese spread – and in true Japanese style we got about 4 mouthfuls of everything, all on separate, beautiful plates! Drank some hot sake too…

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Latest Ikebana creation

My latest creation... did you know that in Japanese the flower is called 'Sutorechia' - you learn something new everyday.

The worst christmas present idea ever!

I swear, if anyone gave me this...

And can you believe that its almost $30 for this laundry christmas gift pack!!!!