Monday, 27 July 2009


This weekend was something special. A freind of one of the local ALTs is learning english, and wanted to have a gaijin party to practice.. and invited them to their cabin house in hachimantai. They sent out the invitation and six of us went along to hachimantai, already giddy from the generosity of Dr Aoki and his wif, that they would invite us for the weekend. The "cabin" was enormous. And gorgeous. And they had provided so much food, more than eight of us could have hoped to eat. We BBQed meat and scallops and there was two huge platters of fresh fruit. This cabin had a massive plasma TV.
Everyone agreed that it was too much! But the best way to show thanks really would be to enjoy ourselves, so we did, and we taught sensei some jokes in english, and he taught us some jokes in japanese. And it wassuch a good night.

On sunday, we were back in Ninohe in time for the japanese language class, so dana and I accompanied jar and PJ to that. I'd like to continue going to that class, it seems like a good class!

After class we were seriously hungry, and Dana mentioned a kappa sushi place in Kuji. Now, she'd be needing diven home to kuji anwyay.. so we went to kappa for dinner! Yatta.... I love kappa sushi. I ate 9 plates.

more random objects of everyday life

I do have some worthwhile photos, but I was taking them on my japanese phone while I was out and not on my faithful old phone as I do when in the house. And it turns out that the complexities of connecting that phone to my laptop and getting the photos off it are boundless, so untill I work it out (or find someone who knows how to work it), here's another post of random stuff I have aquired through everyday life.

First, Softbank tissues.

I got these free with my phont too..

A Kunohe towel! I got this as a souvenir from the ping pong tournament last Friday along with this;

A COOL JUMBO.. whatever a Cool Jumbo may be. Any ideas?
The ping pong tournament was a great laugh, I was lucky and was almost always at a table with Fumiko or Tachibana-san. That was pure chance since we were given places according to a number you pulled out of a box, and we all arrived at different times! Anyway, the twist of this tournament was that there were no bats. You had to use one of an assortment of items as a bat, like a slipper or a frying pan or a rice ladle. I used a slipper! Here's a photo of the table of objects;

"Aloe and grape" juice. Yeah. and it had chunks of grape in it! or at least, grape flavoured jelly. It was surprisingly tasty, I really liked it after I got over the shock of the chunks of grape.

This one I think was pear flavoured. it says "furansu supaakuringu" on the right there.. which I could swear means France Sparkling.. but there's a picture of a pear. regardless of what this is or was, it pretty nasty. Not very nasty, I still drank it, but I wouldn't reccomend it.


It's raining today, raining heavily. Shouldn't rainy season be over by now *siigh*?

Well, last week, on a day similar to this one, I walked down to Ibonai (the centre of Kunohe). I did this mostly to prove that I could, and to investigate what Kunohe centre had to offer. I found a clothes shop, mostly with old-woman farmer clothes. A shoe shop of a similar ilk. A magazine and stanionery shop (yay)! Which, when I went in I heard the usual "irrashaimase.." followed by "Ah! Tina-san!". A kindly woman I'd met at the weekend was there, showing the shop keeper a photo she'd taken that very weekend of myself and Helen (the daughter of the family that had come to stay)! She's friends with the shop keeper there, and as a result I got a discount on a pretty new journal. Nice people, everywhere, Glasgow could learn a thing or two!
And I stopped in at Fumiko-san's family shop on the way back to buy a new umbrella, because the rain was getting heavy and the one I had was broken..

I decided to go and investigate ibonai shrine while I was there, and hoped to find somewhere to sit up there to eat my lunch (onigiri from Lawson.. I am classy).

here we have Ibonai shrine gate, it's litterally right accross from lawson. So I sauntered with my new brolly up the stairs.

The shrine itself. Overgrown, a quiet, but I think it's quite nice.

I took shelter here and ate my lunch while I waited for the rain to stop a bit. which it didn't... aand didn't.. and eventually I had to give up and make the walk home in the rain.

here's the view of the gate from the top of the stairs.

A few days ago I was in Ninohe and spotted another mysterious shrine;

This one will have to wait to be investigated, because I couldn't work out how to get to the bridge over to it! But one day I'm sure I'll see it properly.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Mind your heads folks!

Last weekend there was a family visiting Kunohe. Their son had stayed here on an exchange trip, and someone from the village had stayed with them before too.
Being both in kunohe and from scotland, I was to accompany them when Sakanoue-san took them to some sights and such! Yatta. A day trip is always fun, and both families were really nice (from scotland and kunohe), I made some new friends.

We started off at Kuji Amber museum, which was a surprise stop since sakanoue-san's information-imparting skill is patchy at best and we'd all been told different plans for the day. (I was told something about a cave).
Either way, I learned a lot about amber... and saw some that was still growing and was 85billion years old or some such. also amber is just.. magic or something, it can hold static electricity and floats in salt water. Did you know that? Well now you do! :p
Oh, it's also expensive.
The insects inside amber look exactly like modern insects. Does this mean that they haven't evolved? That surprises me. I stood on a beatle by accident today.. it went CRUNCH.. I was a little bit sad, it wasn't bothering me :(

Anyway, the next stop on our Magical Mystery Tour was a shrine in hachinohe, famous for seagulls. Yeah.. seagulls.

(you can see Sakanoue's head in the corner there.. with his jazzy orange glasses)
So, you can see the gulls on top of the gate right? we could hear them, see them, smell them.. it was a little scary.

"You're on my turf now....."

The shrine was much like any shrine.. except covered in seagulls.

They're like white and grey, feathery mafia.

The shrine had looked to pretty and inviting from the beach;

Up close it was Umineko gangland. I'm glad I braved it. But I'm even more glad I came away safely.
Along the harbour and the walls around the beach there was seaweed drying.

Looks tasty?

No, I suppose not. But we were hungry, and it was a hot day, so we went for sushi! This became my first trip to Kappa Sushi. A place I fully intend to go to more often! It's a sushi-go-round restraunt, with all the usual favourites and some specials you can order using the touch-screen at the table (Special orders come on a special conveyor belt straight to your table!). And each plate is 105 yen. All of 'em, except a few specified specials that are 145 yen or so.
I wolfed down 6 plates of sushi, for 630 yen. GOOD TIMES.

After dinner we were back on the road to Kunohe for a small party for the family that were staying, a lot of people I knew were there and some new people who were very nice.
We finished the evening with a trip up Mount Orihitsumedake to see the fireflies. I cannot express in words how amazing that was, and I couldn't get a photo either because fireflies flickering in the dark would take a lot more effort than I had time for to photograph.
We walked through the forest holding a rope (since you can't use torches), and the fireflies were all around, pretty much as if someone had put up hundrereds of tiny christmas lights. Only they moved, and you could catch them and see them fly.

During the week I painted the scene, maybe I'll take a photo of that.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Yamada beach and Keitai.

Last weekend's two-day cabin party was a blast. I met a good 40-50 new people in one go from all corners of the world, all come together in iwate. It was good fun.I wish I'd taken some photots though, the beach was beautiful and the people were nice.

[caption id="attachment_151" align="alignnone" width="604" caption="Teina to Deina"]Teina to Deina[/caption]

This is myself and Dana. Our names are written in japanese as "Teina" and "Deina". In katakana the only difference between these names is two little dots over the "te" (two dots changes the sound to "de").

This week has been about essentials. Setting up internet, getting a phone and making  a bank account. All of which were completed with some success. I even got a part-time job for the next few weeks untill the schools start backafter summer.

This is my new phone! (With attached otousan plushie, which speaks if you squeeze it..)

Friday, 17 July 2009

While we wait...

So, after such a whirlwind weekend I had a week to kill where I didn't have a phone, internet or the documents with which to get these things. I took lots of unnessicarry photos.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="breakfast"]breakfast[/caption]

First thing's first, breakfast! I don'always have onigiri for breakfast, but when i do it's always the Okaka one in the yellow label. Because it's tasty. Much better than the bitter purple one I had before xP

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="562" caption="kunohe card"]kunohe card[/caption]

This is a Kunohe points card. That little samurai is like the mascot for Kunohe village, he's on everything. The little star on that card means I bought something in the supermarket. But this card works in all the shops local to Kunohe! And once it's full of stars, I can use it as 500 yen.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="441" caption="Fanta grape"]Fanta grape[/caption]

BEHOLD.. the holy grail of the soft drink world. Fanta cider is a close second mindyou, but grape is the best.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="442" caption="Mr Snail"]Mr Snail[/caption]

It IS rainy season, and every second day or so there's a half hour of pelting rain and then it goes away again. Mysteriously. During one such episode, this little dude came to visit me. No wonder people think gaijin are odd... I don't know what I'd make of someone taking a photo of a snail in the rain back home!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="456" caption="dinner time"]dinner time[/caption]

I've spent a lot of time sitting at that window ledge. Here you see my dinner, my diary and a glass of tea. This dinner was special because Motoko-san brought spare food up here to myself and hiroko-san. Isn't she sweet?!
I took an extra photo of the gyoza, because they were impressive and made me think of Bry. (maybe I'll get Motoko to teach me to cook, then I can make the same gyoza for him?)

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="442" caption="Gyozilla"]Gyozilla[/caption]

Gyozilla! For bry.

During that week I went to Ebun's one evening to use his internet, because he, like everyone else in Iwate, is a gem.

I taught my first class on the wednesday evening! It was nerve wracking, and made me quite ill the next day, but I do soldier on :p Ultimately, it was quite fun really.

I also went to English club in Karumai and met Janine. And was invited to yamada for the weekend for a two-day stint Cabin Party at the beach.
Oh yes, said I, oh yes.

The first weekend.

Hiroko came to my rescue yet again on saturday morning, and toom me shopping in Ninohe! Really, she just had to get some shopping, but she let me go with her and I appreciated it fully. We went on a small detour to the softbank shop and Hiroko-san picked up some information for me to chew over untill I was to go back and buy my phone. We went to all the main shops in the area; Yakuodo, Jois, All Book One (with mr donuts's attached!). And some smaller shops.
On the way back, she drove the bus-route home to show me where to get the bus.
I fell asleep in the afteroon, as I always did the first little while.
And soon it was time to go out! Motoko-san, Fumiko-san, Hayato-san and Ebun-san had invited me the night before to go to a bar in Ninohe. I was exceited, and had great fun! I met some other ALTs, danced a lot, and generally had a good night. We took a taxi back to Kunohe and I crashed at Motoko's house, because my apartment was just.. too far and too empty and she insisted. This taxi service included a person to drive her car home behind us in the taxi. Handy or what?
The next morning I was in zombie-mode again, Motoko is a great cook, but I was misplaced and exausted and I couldn't eat. We watched dragonball on TV at 9. Then we pottered about all morning in her fantatical old fashioned house, watching TV, sitting at the kotatsu and such. She also lent me some CDs, which was lovely! I borrowed a japanese T-Rex tribute CD out of curiosity and because that's something I absolutely had to let mum know existed. (and it's not too bad either :p). We were going somewhere! So I got washed and changed, and scampered back out to the car. And off we went! A magical mystery tour!
We went to lake Towada, walked along the river and saw the waterfalls. It was amazing. Just, amazing. We had a lovely lunch in a nearby hotel restraunt, which I actually managed to eat because I was feeling wholly better. and we chatted about simple things as I did my best in broken japanese.
It was just such an unexpected, wonderful day.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="416" caption="towada painter"]towada painter[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="418" caption="rocky falls"]rocky falls[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="fave falls"]fave falls[/caption]

The first week.

Here I am, Kunohe, Iwate! It's half past 5 right now and there are people coming home to the apartments round about.

The flight here was great, dear Auntie Lynn put in a word for me with her fellow air hostesses and once we'd taken off I was upgraded to club class! Best flight ever really.

The first week in Japan was difficult. I'm not sure if there is any real way to prepare for such a momentous change in lifestyle, but even if there is, I was not prepared! I arrived in Narita airport, went for my train into tokyo and got the shinkansen to Ninohe almost on autopilot since I had barely slept on the plane the night before. I remeber being impressed by all the working folk's uniforms and being amazed at the houses with blue roofs! I attempted a photo from the window of the shink with my phone.


I had my first experience of a heated toilet seat on that train. I had a notion that that would become a theme of the year, and it has already.

Three hours later I got to Ninohe and met Sakanoue-san, and we drove to Kunohe, where he showed me my new house and all the important stuff therein, and my bike which used to be Hazel's. This was a perk, I was expectiong to go buy a bike!  we ran into Hiroko-san breifly, I was glad to see a semi-familiar face. And already it was time for dinner, so we went to an old fashioned japanese restraunt in kunohe. I remember being exausted, homesick and generally out of sorts. I didn't eat much.
as it happens, that night there was a childrens class on in the town hall, so Sakanoue-san took me there to see what goes on. I met Fumiko and Ebun for the first time. I was glad to meet another gaijin out here!
All too soon it was time to go, and exaustion and homesickness made for a miserable night for me.

Luckily my phone worked, and although it's expensive I took 10 mins to phone mum. and 10 to Bry.I felt better enough to sleep.

on the second day, I was whisked off at 9am to go meet all the officials in the town hall. Still feeling like a zombie, I stumbled my way through. That morning I'd discovered the hard way that they play music over the public speakers every day at 6am, 10am, noon, 6pm and 9pm. There's also quite often an announcement to go with it. Sakanoue-san took me out to Ninohe that day, to get photos for my alien application. I bought envelopes and some paper and started writing letters as soon as I got back! And I briefly popped in to see Hiroko with some questions about the area. She is always so helpful! Hiroko told me about the english club on thursdaysin karumai and the class in ninohe on sundays. I felt a little better

on fiday afternoon, Hiroko came and took me to see a plot of land that she kept. There was lettuce, strawberries and tomatoes. And she extended the offer to me to help myself to them if their were ripe ones! I felt calmer, and we both took some lettuce and strawberries. That night there was a welcome party for me! I felt a little more at home. Fumiko and Ebun were there, I met a whole host of other new people inc Hayato and Motoko.
Soon enough, it was hometime and I crashed out almost immediately, but still woke up at 3am.

Then it was the weekend.