Sunday, February 26, 2006

Finally... A touch of spring

Plum buds in Yamaguchi City.

Yuda Onsen - Yamaguchi City

If the opportunity is there, you shouldn't miss it - the foot onsen. Yuda in Yamaguchi City is an area of many onsens. A Japanese onsen is a natural hot spring. I LOVE them. They are so relaxing and luxurious. In Yuda there are also several public foot onsens. They are at the side of the footpaths. Lauren and I stopped for a snack and rest. What could be better than chewing on an icy treat whilst you plunge your feet into scalding water. After about 10 minutes, my feet resembled lovely pink, honey roasted ham. My feet felt divine. I will be going back...

Yamaguchi City Library

This library was amazingly cool. Lauren was frothing at the mouth. I was very impressed. Too bad all the books are in Japanese. It was like being in a lolly shop and not being able to eat a single thing! A very cool window in the library.

Happy Birthday Alpot

A big and warm Happy Birthday to Alex. We spent a fun weekend in Yamaguchi city. What a cute city. Nice cafes, nice libraries and wonderful historical buildings. I don't want to go home.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sunday, February 19, 2006


On the JET program, we hear over and over again about internationalisation. It is a big word. The emphasis is on bringing the rest of the world to Japan. I like to think that I do my part by taking Japan to the rest of the world as well...
A very serious AJ at the recent 'Osaka Festival' in Melbourne. I sent the yukata pattern to his Mum. She whipped it up in a flash and a bit of help from a Japanese friend.Milla being very 'unJapanese' in her pink yukata. Look at that puku (tummy)!

To read more about these two ratbags, my god children. Look here...

Yuki Ichigo

I thought it was time that I tried a yuki ichigo or snow strawberry. I am going through a stage where I feel the need to try everything (well, almost everything), at least once. I was with Angela the first time I saw one of these winter delights. She was enjoying her lunch time snack immensely. I was, however put off the yuki ichigo before now as it is a big pink ball, roughly the size of a tennis ball. Also, the pink part is a rice product (mochi-like substance) and I am not too keen on rice sweets. I was also weary of the layer of cream between the pink and the jewel inside... a big strawberry. Someone recently told me that there was in fact no cream. Wrong! The label clearly states that there is a cream layer... The results of trying this seasonal specialty? Delicious but very sweet (right Alex?) The strawberry is sitting on a thin piece of sponge. It is then covered in quite a thick layer of cream and the entire thing in encased in a thin layer of pink mochi...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A telephone conversation...

We asked a class of 13 year olds to write a telephone conversation in English. They had a few hints but could basically write anything they liked. This led to some hilarious situations. The following was one of my favourites... The conversation was between Michael and Saramandora...
Michael : Hello, this is Michael. Can I speak to Saramandora?
Saramandora : Speaking.
Michael : Oh!! Hi Saramandora. How are you?
Saramandora : Um... I'm sad.
Michael : What's the matter?
Saramandora : Awww, my heart is broken.
Michael : Oh, too bad. By the way, will you come to a movie with me tonight?
Saramandora : Oh, um, oh, um, ok, yes.
Michael : Oh, really? Let's go tonight. I will pick you up at 11.
Saramandora : Oh, thank you. See you then.
Michael : Wait...
Saramandora : Yes?
Michael : Um. Um. Um. Um. Ah. Um, I love you.
Saramandora : Um, um, I love you too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A list of topics

I travel about 30 minutes every second Monday for an English conversation class (eikaiwa). The people I see there are really lovely. They ask me interesting questions about Australia, bring in souvenirs and even bring me food. A standard class consists of me chatting about what I have been up to and then each member talks about themselves. They may share some news, talk about their week or bring up a topic for discussion. I want to give you a quick outline of this week's topics. Two in particular stood out to me. One is person was funny and the other, I admire highly...

Person 1 : Brought in origami paper and showed me how to make a new crane. I had asked her to show me a particular trick she knows. She is really into crafty things. We share some interests in this area...

Person 2 : Is having a new house built. He gave an update on the progress...

Person 3 : Told us how her friends use her email box as a counselling service...

Person 4 : Brought in photos to show her two passions/hobbies. Life painting and ballroom dancing. She talked for quite a while and everyone had questions for her. Her large oil paintings take upward of 6 months to complete. She once sketched a nude lady the size of a sumo wrestler.

Person 5 : I love this guy. He retired about a year ago and does lots of interesting things. He recently visited his daughter in South Africa. Whilst there he got hemorrhoids. He has spent the last two classes decribing his condition in English. Both interesting and amusing. He was operated on less than a week ago. Another member inquired about his pain. He replied, 'Not so much pain. Just a little when poo.' So funny. Thanks for the information. (This was the funny topic)...

Person 6 : This is the guy I admire. I am not sure of his age. Maybe he is about 70. He brought in an article about a recent marathon he participated in. He ran the full marathon. This alone impressed me as it was 10km. He then went on to tell us about his pregnant daughter - his first grandchild. He seemed so excited but then went on to tell us how she is due to give birth on the day he is entered in a special marathon. This is the part I really admire. The marathon goes from one of the main Japanese islands to another. The length? 100km. Seriously, 100km! He went on to explain that he has done the marathon before and completed it in 40 hours. There is no sleeping and almost no stopping. He mostly runs and occasionally walks. Toilet stops are anywhere along the way with only small breaks to eat. The completion cut off is 60 hours so he is doing pretty well. He also told us that the world record for that distance was 6 hours (I think). Just to recap... He is around 70 years old and will run a non-stop 100km marathon in May. AMAZING!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A few photos to keep you interested

I always send my SLR films back home for developing. This means that it takes a long time for me to get prints back... The last time I sent any home it was a batch of 14 films (dated September to December). Phew, expensive! Anyway, enjoy these few that I have posted and leave a comment if you feel like it. More soon...

My favourite 'red' shot of the past autumn

It is hard to beat yellow and blue

Congratulations Anna and Tino

So my sister went 'real' ring shopping on the weekend. Look at the beautiful engagement ring they picked out. Congratulations again and have fun with all the crazy planning.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A universe of fun at Spaceworld

Back in late summer, I visited Spaceworld. And whilst it wasn't as good as Universal Studios (Osaka) or Disneyland (Tokyo), I had a great time... I actually almost made myself sick several times. I began the day on the teacup ride and then had to rest for about 30 minutes. I ended on the Ferris Wheel. Easily the most enjoyable ride.

The main reason for this post is to trial adding videos to my blog. I hope this works and I hope you enjoy the movie clip!

Friday, February 10, 2006

A night of raucous laughter and great memories

So, a group of four male teachers asked me to go with them for a fun night of karaoke... Those of you who know me will be surprised that I said yes! I did eventually tell them that I don't usually enjoy a night of karaoke. I then suggested an izakaiya (Japanese style bar). I was a little nervous about the prospects of four guys and me together for dinner... Me with my limited Japanese and, as far as I knew at the time, one guy with pretty good English. I dragged a female teacher along for support.
I HAD THE BEST TIME. It turns out (as with many Japanese), that most of them had passable English and with a mixture of both native languages we got by. The boys were hilarious and lots of fun. They had me laughing so hard I almost cried. They were behaving in my kind of 'normal'. There was no behaviour that they had to conform to. Just relax and have fun. Anything goes style...
Oh. I forgot to say...
I ATE THIS!!! Sea cucumber - raw!
Not so much I can say about the flavour. I didn't like the texture though. It was like trying to chew through a huge rubber band. It went down and stayed down and I can check it off my list of things tried. I will not have it again though!

I am SO cold!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Things you shouldn't do whilst driving...

Dangerous I know but I like how this turned out...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

2006 Yuki Matsuri

Oh, I said I was going to go and how I wish I really was going. The 2006 Sapporo Snow Festival would have been amazing. Just being there would have been great. Lots of opportunities for photography. Most importantly, it turns out that they have a huge sculptured Flinders Street Station. The most famous station in Melbourne. When you want to meet with your friends, people usually say, "I'll see you under the clocks at Flinders Street Station!" Everyone in Melbourne knows where it is. The Japanese interpretation... The real thing...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Shichi nin no samurai

Made in 1954, Seven Samurai (though 3.5 hours long), is well worth watching. A cult movie, now I can say I have seen it. If anyone is interested, I bought it for the bargain price of 1400 yen.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


For 2006, yesterday was Sestubun. In the old days, there used to be 4 Setsubuns a year. One for every change of the season. Now Japanese people only celebrate one. Yesterday was the change from winter to spring in the old calendar (funny as it snowed a bit last night). A change in the season is of course cause for celebration.

Several things happen in accordance with this special day...

Whole families make a pilgrimage to their local shrine. Mum, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa and kids. They take with them, the new years wreaths and decorations. They hand these over and proceed to pray for good luck and happiness for the following year. They then make a donation to the shrine and receive goods and or mame maki.

A growing pile of new year garbage...

(Geisha photo from BBC news)

Mame Maki. At home that night, Setsubun festivities continue with mame maki. Mame maki is a bean-throwing ceremony. Firstly people of the household toss roasted soybeans at one member of the family who is dressed as an oni. The oni is a representation of a demon or things that are bad. During the throwing, everyone chants, "Oni wa soto. Fuku wa uchi". This means "Demon (bad luck) out. Good luck in." After throwing, each family member collects beans from the clean tatami floor and eats the amount that corresponds with their age for good luck. I feel sorry for the grandparents who are over 90. The beans are hard and dry! Next, windows and doors open and family members toss beans outside, chanting again. Some children participate in this bean-throwing ceremony at kinder or primary school. I have seen them on TV, terrified of the big scary monster, tears streaming down their faces but they continue to throw beans. Very, very cute.

The mask on the left is the scary oni. I guess the beautiful lady on the right, represents happiness and good luck. They were bought at a local supermarket as a set for mame maki. Can you see the bags of beans underneath?

This is an advertisement at the supermarket for traditional Setsubun fare. One food that is popular is an entire roll of makizushi. I was told that eating this sushi for Setsubun originated in Osaka. The tradition goes that each person gets a whole roll. You should stand facing a prosperous direction for good luck and consume the entire thing with out talking. Sounds easy but they are remarkably huge!!
Also at this time of year, many people eat whale. Throughout the year you can purchase whale but right now it is everywhere. It is supposed to be expensive but as the photos show, it is decidedly cheap. 698 yen is about $9 for 100 grams. Not bad for endangered meat!


So I got pretty game today. My aim? To sneak into the supermarket and try to get at least one photo of the kujira (yes... WHALE!) available today. The result? I got quite a few photos.
A lot of the meat is really dark. It actually looks a lot like beef.
You may not want to know what this is... Here goes. It's blubber. The black lines are skin. I asked a Japanese friend how this part of the whale is eaten. She said you boil it and then season it with soy sauce. Delicious - I think not!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Did anyone else feel the baby earthquake at 12.19 today? It was so small I didn't feel the movement but I heard the walls and windows shaking. Only level 2 and centered in Shikoku.