Thursday, March 30, 2006

What do you call sashimi before it becomes sashimi?

You call it odorigui. Click on the first movie to discover what this is...

Odorigui literally translates into "dancing eats". The situation was quite funny and most people were in stitches. At the beginning of the night, my friend Naho came over to my seat and asked if I had seen what was inside the little container in front of me. I was expecting miso soup so you can imagine my surprise when I lifted the lid and discovered about 10 wriggling, squirming live fish. I actually let out a small scream of surprise. I was so embarrassed but not for long as each and every person at my table did the exact same thing. For most people at the party, it was hajimete (their first time). The way to eat the fish is to first scoop the wriggling creature out of one vessel and drop it into another vessel filled with a stock/soup. Then fish them out of the second vessel with chopsticks and swallow them whole. One swallowed they were okay but when they are flipping and flapping in your mouth, you might have to fight the gag reflex that begins. Watch Miho in the following movie for a general reaction to eating the live white bait.

PS... I ATE ALL OF MINE! This means that I never have to eat them again!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Can you hear the wedding bells ringing?

So my sister is planning her wedding for next February. She is in London, I am in Japan and most other people are in Australia. I can't do very much from here so I thought I would help with the wedding dress designs. I bought a Japanese wedding magazine and sent it to London. Now, Japanese people love getting married in the 'western' style. Hmmm I am not sure that they get it. I flipped through said magazine and suggested to Anna that she get married in the 'girlish' style as was featured. I am sure she is considering it. LOL... Now she just has to find the right doll or teddy-bear to go with her dress.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A t-shirt for AJ

Sometimes the English in this country makes me laugh out loud - literally. I had to buy this t-shirt for AJ yesterday. I can only imagine the amount of people who will stop Del in the street to re-read the t-shirt thinking that they misread it. Funny and random English...
Click on the photo to enlarge.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Osaka Aquarium

This is not a place for the faint-hearted! Don't misunderstand me, it has nothing to do with the creatures staring out from the tanks but has everything to do with the frightening crowds surrounding you as you try to see each featured creature! Imagine a public holiday (not really busy), and all people are ushered into a bottle-neck to walk through a tunnel-tank. Now if we had been alone, we would have enjoyed the above pictured tank. It really was pretty. This is the very beginning of the 'Ikea' like tour. You walk along a well planned path to the end. No back tracking. No wandering. No exploring. We were shuffled through the this tunnel along with many yelling children and adults, prams and backpacks. Every person was bubbling with excitement at being there, though Alex was about to have a breakdown. She threatened to let out a desperate scream to thin the crowd. We kept going and finally made it through.
I actually enjoyed the fish at the aquarium and the tour finished with the most beautiful jelly fish. My favourite creatures were the otters, penguins and jelly fish. The tanks were nice and well looked after though I still feel they were too small for the creatures contained within. All zoos that I have seen in Japan are like this so I avoid zoos! We enjoyed our time bustling through the aquarium. I wouldn't however, advise anyone to place it too highly on their 'must do in Japan' list.

Note : Most Japanese people walk through the aquarium exclaiming at each creature... OISHII SO (looks delicious)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

大阪城。 Osaka Castle

大阪の梅の花です。 Osaka's plum blossom.

Hmmm, interesting!

This morning I was 3 minutes later than usual though still 7 minutes earlier than my starting time. As I arrived, one teacher asked if I was okay. I answered yes and inquired why. She explained that another teacher was worried about me as I hadn't arrived yet.
Strange but nice too I guess...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sun and cold equals BLUE SKY!

The HEP building. This place is quite amazing and it is possibly more impressive from the outside than from the inside. Inside does however, have two red whales suspended from the ceiling. From the outside, you can see a lot of red, the glass elevators and the giant red ferris wheel perched atop the building. I rode the ferris wheel during my last visit and so satisfied myself with only photos this time. The day was icy cold but the sky was lovely. Bring on blue skies!

Osaka - early spring

We arrived into Osaka in the pouring rain. I am sure we have had more rain this year than last. I was following Lauren up the stairs, out of the subway, when she exclaimed in delight... 'ducks!' I reached for my camera in anticipation of the following image. Strange! The boy on the left was as delighted as Lauren, and he was playing with the ducks. Half an hour later, the ducks were gone (along with the man crouching down), never to be seen again.

The 2006, Melbourne Commonwealth Games

Right now as we speak (or read if you are reading my blog), Melbourne is in the throws of hosting the 2006 Commonwealth Games. You can see my god daughter, Milla, showing her support for the home team over the past weekend... eissua og (or Go Aussie!)

There are currently 72 countries in the Commonwealth and, though Japan seems to have never heard of the games, they are a big deal to us!

In 2002 (in Manchester), Australia won. Here is the final medal tally for those games,
Gold - 82, Silver - 62, and Bronze 62

Today is the 22nd of March and here is the tally for first place so far(Australia is in first place),
Gold - 54, Silver - 47, and Bronze - 41

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I know, more strawberries!

I know... more juicy, red strawberries. Sorry. I do love them! They will begin to disappear soon. Strawberries are in season during winter here in Japan. Anyway, I recently bought a fairly inexpensive punnet and discovered the following giant. The first photo shows the strawberry beside a 10 yen coin. If you have never been to Japan, the second photo shows the strawberry resting in my hand. It was so good. Yummy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Happy birthday to me...

Sunday saw me turn another year younger. Thanks for everyone's well wishes. Lauren, thanks for the party hat. Rosie, thanks for the pancake birthday cake. Alex, thanks for taking me to the bathroom (?_?)... If you click here you can see a cute video of my godchildren singing happy birthday from Australia. Thanks guys. xxx


Help... I have decided I really really like ichigo daifuku. See here for photos. One of my adults made some and used much less sugar than usual. They were fantastic!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Goodbye students of 2006

Well graduation for 2006 is over. Lunch has been had and it is almost time to go home for the day.

There were plenty of tears from all involved this year. Due to many factors, the least not being the fact the one of the class homeroom teachers died during the past year; a very popular and respected member of staff. Teachers were crying saying good bye to an amazing bunch of students, students were bawling and parents were teary watching their child move to the next stage in their lives.

The first 1.5 hours was the graduation certificate presentation and speeches by all and sundry. I enjoyed listening to the students speak and reflect on good times and memories. I understood enough to get tears in my own eyes. Actually the tears came from seeing so many people genuinely choked up!

Part two involved singing several songs. This school has a passion for singing and are amazing. Most songs are sung in Japanese but the power and beauty of it all blows me away each time. I hope they sing when I leave!

Finally, the graduating class leave the gym and walk through a guard of honor, made up of the other students, parents and teachers. Along the way they pass under floral arches and are given goodbye presents from junior club members. The tears are flowing now along with laughter.

Finally photo time and the signing of graduation books. Now all you can see are smiles and you can feel the energy of excitement. Boys give their button to a girl they like (I got four) and girls even worked their way up to giving a boy they liked a kiss. These stolen kisses were to the admiration and amusement of their friends.
After a while, people began to wander off and head home. Spring break will give them a small well earned rest until High School begins in April.

I am really sad to say good bye to this lot. I hope a few of them keep in touch. Get ready for them all Lauren, and fellow high school ALTs. They are a great lot. If you meet a great ichi nensei student in April, ask them if they are from Yamato Chu Gakko!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Graduation rehearsal

There have been tears already (not from me!)... Watch out for tomorrow!

Yamaguchi by night.

Sometimes, I forget I am in Japan...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Farewell letters and baby cuddles...

I had one of those days. Went smoothly, lots of kids talked and laughed with me, I said goodbye to some that will graduate, I received farewell letters and I got to cuddle a new baby. For me, all in all a lovely way to spend a working day...

The following letter from Fujii kun almost made me cry. Written from the heart without prompts from the teacher. I will rewrite it word for word following the photo if it is difficult to read.
Dear Ellen
Hello, Ms Ellen. I'm very sad now because we won't be able to meet you soon. But I'll not forget you forever. I'd like to tell you this word. The word is ishindenshin. It's one of the Japanese words I love. This word means "We are able to understand each other without saying something." So, I hope that we can understand each other without saying something. I'm glad to meet you. Your English classes are very fun. I had a very good time with you. Please speak to me if we meet anywhere someday. Our birthday is March twelfth. It's a little fate. Thankyou very much.
Kazunori Fujii.

Recently, the art teacher had a baby boy. She bought him in for a visit today. I got plenty of cuddles and put him to sleep. I then had to fight for cuddles with one of my 15 year old students (pictured above). The student kept repeating in Japanese... I want one! I want one!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

When being imperfect works in my favour...

Yes it is true that fruit in Japan is quite expensive. You can even find fruit to rival gold prices in big department stores! Even though it is expensive, there is no way I could go two years without buying any. The key is to buy what is in season and to look out for discounts. If that fails, bananas are still the cheapest fruit to buy. The thing with fruit in Japan is that no matter what money you pay, you get perfect, delicious fruit every time. Perfect in colour, texture and shape. The following really surprised me in a local supermarket. The cheapest strawberries available in strawberry season were these... As you can see, the shape is far from perfect. Enough of a reason to mark these beauties down. They were huge and DELICIOUS and luckily, cheap! They were about $4.50 for the punnet. Possibly even better than a regular shaped strawberry. It is like having three strawberries at once. And might I say again, yum!

Just for Mum

Is this Winter Allspice? I know you have it in your garden. They are all but finished here now. The name n Japanese translates to "yellow plum" as they bloom around the same time as plums. They smell lovely. Also, saw my first magnolia buds the other day which made me think of you and Jodi visiting. I love spring!

How Saturday panned out...

The plan was to have a kind of driving day. Leave home, drive to a shrine for another plum blossom festival, then drive onto a limestone cave and plateau area for night burning and finally drive home. Quite a big day planned. Here is how it all worked out. All in all, a fantastic day and the weather was wonderful!
Hofu has a wonderful shrine worth visiting at any time of the year. At this time of year however, it is plum blossom time. I have a plum blossom festival in my own town that is great (see following post) but I thought I would check out another location whilst on my drive. It was well worth the effort. So stunning. At Hofu, there were many weeping trees. I think I like weeping trees most whether they be plum or cherry. So pretty!
Six years ago I came to Yamaguchi and visited Akiyoshi cave. I love caves and I had been meaning to come back for quite a while. I was not disappointed by my memory. The Akiyoshi cave is said to be the largest lime stone cave in Asia. I don't doubt for a second that it is, as it is huge. I began walking through the cave all on my own - that was a little erie!
There are informative signs throughout the cave letting us know the sometimes ingenious names of the formations. Some of them really did make sense.
Above the cave, there is a limestone plateau. Once a year they burn the undergrowth to encourage new shoots. The actual burning off takes place over about a month. In the photo above, can you see one hillside that is untouched whilst all around the hills have been burnt? Queue... Night burning!
The final hill side was set ablaze after dark and the kanji for fire was also set alight on an adjacent hillside. Really spectacular! You should have seen the tripods and cameras lined up all over the place. It was of course a great 'shutter chance'.
And of course, ending the night with some hanabi - fireworks.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ume no hana no matsuri

A prelude to my weekend. I am hoping for good weather.

For the last few weeks, my local plum blossom festival has been held. This afternoon I finally found a chance to check it out. Beautiful.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Gokiburi (a word that scares most people)

Well I have just seen the first cockroach of the season. Yuck. Don't worry, it wasn't too traumatic. Actually it was a baby and it was stuggling on its back on my kitchen floor. First I drowned it in some cleaning spray and then I drowned it in the toilet. Who says you can't kill a cockroach?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A strawberry surprise in every bite.

Winter means strawberries here in Japan. Strawberries mean ichigo daifuku (ichigo = strawberry). An ichigo daifuku is one strawberry (always very big and deliciously sweet in Japan) surrounded by anko (sweet azuki beans) and then finally surrounded by mochi (rice cake). Kind of strange in taste but good too...