Sunday, 30 August 2009

English Club Party

yesterday afternoon was the long-awaited annual English-Club party hosted by the fabulous Fumiko! This party was to involve a BBQ, American drinks, and english word games forboth the kids and adults. Ebun, Hayato and I were in charge of games.

The party started at 2, and we were to turn up around 10 to start preperations. I thought this was a bit silly at first, but it turned out to be a good call, we had a lot to do! Luckily we'd prepared the games already, last thursday night. I was in charge of Balloons for the morning, and decorated the garden with them. (Only a few didn't survive, but I did hang them up next to a thorn bush.. oops).
We had an early lunch of deliiicious curry and rice, and watermelon for afters, then we were to start preparing the food for the BBQ. There was a LOT of food. I mean, a binbag full of aubergenes, a binbag full of peppers, a box of leeks, a box of scallops and squid (yeah). And so forth. My job was washing vegetables for Hiroko and Motoko to chop, haha, I took some photos to demonstrate how mnay there were;

Weird long thin eggplants called "Nasu"


yum yum. Vegetabubbles.

OH, and the customary Drinks Photo;

That is an ice-water bucket full of cans of root beer and cherry cola. CHERRY COLA.
Grahame and I took a few moments to lament the lack of Irn Bru.

Now, I had heard legend and song about Fumiko's amazing house. And I can tell you, it's all true, the house is gorgeous! Even though this was an English Club party, there was to be Tea Ceremony, and a Koto demonstration in the tatami room at the back of the house (near the garden, a very nice set up :))
You know your house is impressive when there's seperate mens and woments toilets...

Also, Julia had her own house in a seperate section of the garden. Whats the big deal right? Most dogs have a dog-house in the garden right?

That's Julia in her house. She's so cute and so soft. I love Julia :p

I learned that Motoko is a licenced Master of tea Ceremony (or something to that effect). Isn't that awesome?!
here are some photos of the tatami room of Fumiko's house;

You can see the set up for the tea ceremony there :) and in the back is the household shrine for departed family members, there were photos of Fumiko's grandparents and older brother at the shrine, and incense.
Most family shrines are much smaller than this.

In this room we helped set up the koto for the demonstration;

They're very large, but surprisingly light.

Blurry, sorry, but here are two women playing the Koto.

And afterwards, we were alowed to try playing them ourselves!

The english word games we'd prepared went down well,

Kids game!

Adults game! (from left to right, Hayato, Kunohe's official Photographer, Tomoka, Anna, Fumiko and Hiroko)

After all that, it was BBQ time. Squid, scallops and vegetables on the grill!
So delicious.

It was a long and exausting day, and so much fun.
There was one incident in which a lady fell on the stone steps and had to go get stiches in her knee, but we were assured later that she will be okay. Apart from that everything went smoothly.

I hope whoever is here for the party next year has as much fun as we did this year :)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

My House

Way back when I first arrived, I took some photos of my new place with the intention of posting them here to show the world what my new house looked like. (or to show people what rural japanese accomodation is like, whichever way sounds most interesting!).
But the photos were bleak, my house had no furniture, all my things were on the floor;

No shelves in that cupoard. No pillow. The bus and recycling scedule on the floor in the corner there.

The floor is just like a really big desk.. right? right?! Oh, and that TV doesn't work.

Anyway, this is what the place looked like for the first month. But then, I got paid! I bought a table from Fumiko-san's shop. And some kindly friends from Kuji knew a guy who had left and had left spare shelves and stuff fot the use of a new person! With these things, my new place is starting to look a little better;

My fabulous kotatsu. There's a pillow on the bed! And there's shelves in the cupboard holding my books.

The broken TV is still there, but it's a bedside table now. My notices are up on the wall! And there's more shelves (you can never have too many shelves).

The other room (through the screen doors there...) is the Kitchen;

My little gas burner and sink and cupboards combo.. there's a small bathroom and toilet room  just off to the side aswell.
and that's the whole set up. It's small, but it's more than enough for just me!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

yare yare yare yare!

Obon's epic festival that consumed Kunohe for three days is finally over. I am sad, because it was the most wonderful experience. And I am glad, because any more of that and I would fade away and turn into very sleepy dust.

Day 1;

The parade!
There goes tengu.. on his way to the starting point of the parade.

here they come...

(masaki's friend, Yachi is in that tiger costume!)

led by a dancing fox..

agh! He saw me..
and there they go...

Next, the floats!

everybody, PULL!

After this, there was slushie-ice, yakisoba, and fireworks! Really, beautiful fireworks.

Day 2;
Possibly one of the best things I have ever done, I did yesterday. Last week at the kimono class, I was pretty sure I was told to be at the town hall at 5pm. I wasn't sure why, but then people kept asking me if I was going to dance. So I thought, that must be where the dance starts off! Sure, festival dancing I can do.
Oh no, it was so much better than that.
The kimono club were there, and were getting into Yukata. And sensei had very kindly brought a spare, for me! I got to wear this beautiful yukata, and thenw e were going to dance. I was breifly given a run down of the dance steps... it was far more complicated than the festival dance we did on friday.
And we were starting from the other side of town, so Yabichi-san and I went ahead to the starting place, to meet the other dancers and make it known that our group was here.
When you walk down the centre of the main road of a small town on a festival day ina yukata, everybody looks. And all the old folks know each other, so every house we passed and everyone we met we had to stop and bow and promise to do out best! It was really, really wonderful.
The starting place was packed. This was a bigger dance than the festival dance I saw on friday. In fact, this was another parade.
And we danced, more than a hundred of us, in threes, down the main road of Kunohe for almost an hour.
And it was magical.

Just before setting off for the starting point, Sakanoue-san took these photos for me.

Day 3;
This evening, it was raining. But the parade has to go back up the town, in the oposite direction from the first day! And this time, I was helping out.
Masaki loaned me a matsuri jacket, and we went to pull the floats along the road! It was hard work, and its a hot day. But it was so worth it for this experience!

waiting in the rain..

Masaki and I, after pulling the floats.

Sakanoue-san in his traditional clothes! he pulled a pose too late, so this photo will have to do :p

And a delicious dinner for the workers. I ate this.. and a second plate of soup. Then we went to Masaki's cousin's food stand for yakitori... then I had a chocolate-coated bannana and a slushie.
masaki called me a monster XD for eating so much.
But then said "it's okay, I'm a monster too!" and got even more food. I'm not as hardcore a monster as masaki.
And now I'm at home again, and it's all over.
I want to rememebr this forever!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Coming of Age Ceremony.

In japan, turning 20 is a big step, and you are officially considered an adult. Every year there is a ceremony for all the people who turned 20 in the last year.
In Kunohe, this ceremony was yesterday morning and grahame and I were enlisted to help out by signing in people as they arrived. The ceremony started at 9, and we opened the reception desk at 7.30am. And it was busy.
Kids of families have all come home for Obon, so there were many new 20 year olds at the ceremony!
Guys mostly wore suits, there was one guy who was wearing traditional japanese mens clothes. I hope he didn't feel too out of place, he looked fantastic!
Most of the girls wore Kimono, there were one or two in prom dresses though. The Kimono were amazing, I have honestly never seen clothing so amazingly beautiful before. And I know they come with an appropriate price to match all the work and effort that goes into them.

Old friends chatting before the ceremony begins.

All the girls had their hair curled and in comlicated styles with the appropriate accessories in it to go with the Kimono.

3 girls, the guy in traditional clothes and a guy in a suit make a speech.
I listened really carefully, but I couldn't catch most of it.

Beautiful Kimono!

Kimono are usually made to order, and hand painted.

yaren souran souran souran HAI HAI!

On Friday morningt I got an email from masaki saying there was a mini-matsuri that night, he was going with some friends, and did I want to go?

YEEAAH. The big festivals aren't untill next week, but this was so much fun! Now, my phone camera isn't the best ever but I got some videos to share.

some music, and dancing, to get you in the Matsuri mood!

one of the guys I work with is actually in this dance group. I had no idea! He's very quiet at work.

dokoissho dokoissho SOURAN SOURAAN.. I've had this stuck in my head ever since. And now you can too :p

Matsuri seem to be mostly at night, so there wasn't many photo opportunities for my poor struggling camphone, but it did it's best;

people and lanterns!

A pikachu sitting on one of the food stalls!

and it wouldn't be an SC post without a Weird Drink. This doesn't look so weird, it's just milk tea in a can. But the can was HOT. Hot tea in a hot can, from a vending machine that somehow sold both hot and cold cans. The mind boggles!

Thursday, 13 August 2009


yesterday was a hot, hot sunny day, and I was working an afternoon shift. There are no busses between 10am and 2.30 pm, for reasons I don't care to look into, so I decided to walk!
I took my umbrella for use a parasol, a very japanese thing to do, I know! But I honestly might have fainted if not for my umbrella. I left with 40 mins to spare so I could take my time, and I wandered slowly around Kunohe roughly in the direction of the swimming pool.
There was a slight breeze every so often, and I had my umbrellasol, and Kunohe really is just beautful. There's mountains and trees and farms and gardens.. and not much else!

Some gardens in kunohe are more interesting that others though, some people get artistic with their gardening! Here we have trees shaped like birds;

This garden is about 5 minutes away from me. I see it pretty much every day.

And next is the Panda Tree! This one is a little more out of my way, but I had time anhave been meaning to take a photo of it for ages;

I love panda tree!

Soon, I had to head towards work for real, and on the way I stopped a vending machine for Something Mysterious and New;

"Mikkusu Nekuta-" or Mixed nectar.. is peach juice! and it was delicious.