Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Night of the Fireflies

Last night, I was reminded of the anime film Grave of the Fireflies. The film is set in Kobe during the war and centres around two young children and their struggle after their mother dies. It is a beautiful but sad film.

I went out locally with some friends to see the fireflies. Firefly season begins as it starts to get humid again; now! I really love walking amongst the fluttering insects. It is better than Christmas. Actually think of Christmas tree lights or the lights at the front of a house but many, many more... and they move around. It was so beautiful. Fireflies are so easy to catch. At one stage, I think I had about 15 in my hands.

I think I may go out again tonight.

Friday, May 26, 2006


I love the guy at school who keeps a can of fly spray right beside his desk. He will happily run around the staffroom chasing a lone mosquito just for me. Go get 'em tiger!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Do you think Matilda would be waltzing to this?

I feel the need to explain the following movie. Matt, Crystal and I headed over for dinner at Alison, Testuo and Elizabeth's house last Sunday night. Their place is huge and fully renovated. Down stairs is very Japanese and upstairs is quite western. Down stairs they even have a teppan grill (like an indoor bbq). You can sit around the grill and cook/eat anything that takes your fancy. We had the most delicious okonomiyaki. YUM! After about four hours of eating, chatting and drinking, we decided to move to the tv room. Testuo has set up a wide screen computer that also acts as a tv. He even has a karaoke system. Very cool.

So, about Matt... He is American and actually spent a chunk of time in good old Aus, and seems quite fond of his memories of his time there. He actually knows the song Waltzing Matilda. We were both very excited to find it in the karaoke book. Matt had drank quite a lot of Japanese wine by the time he attempted the song. Bless him... he really did a good job but the lyrics were really wrong. We were all laughing pretty hard by the end.

Alison, Tetsuo and Elizabeth, thanks for another wonderful night at your place.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

When Green Peace came for lunch

I was surprised to hear that we were eating Green Peace for lunch today. The first graders seemed very excited. I was wondering how they were going to fit the whole boat in their mouths. And anyway, shouldn't Green Peace be off in the Pacific stopping whaling!

It turns out we were having green pea rice...
Green Peace = green peas

"Say cheese..."

This could become a new obsession...


Monday, May 22, 2006

I'm Tom Hanks.

One of my classes had to play a self introduction game today. The game was way too easy for most students. Several stumbled through the provided lines. These are the sentences as they were written on the blackboard.

I'm (so and so).
I like (so and so).
I play (so and so).

One of the funniest students I know, walked confidently up to me and said,

"I'm Tom Hanks. Nice to meet you."

I laughed so hard.

PS... These kids are around 12 years old.

Frogs and crickets and bats, oh my!

The frogs were singing.

The crickets were chirping.

The bats were clicking.

I got home quite late last night (just after midnight). When I opened my car door, I was surprised to hear such a lot of noise right in the middle of the night. The afore mentioned animals were all hard at it. They were really trying to out do each other.

I climbed my stairs happily thinking about the turn in weather and hoped to myself that there were not creepy crawlies at my door. The porch light was off and I fumbled with my keys for quite a while. I eventually stumbled inside and caught sight of something lying right beside where I had been standing seconds before. The small furry object was illuminated by the inside light. I opened the door a fraction more and noticed a teeny tiny bat. He seemed to be resting or sleeping right at my door. He was seriously lucky that I didn't step right on him. Actually, I am lucky too, as I would have got a terrible fright and perhaps even screamed.

He was gone this morning. I wonder where his day bed is? I wonder if he will be back?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mr Four and a Half

AJ, I really hope I don't have to beg for snuggles and cuddles when I get home. My cuddle tank (as Rach used to call it) is very low.

Can't wait to see you. Not long now!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cute as a button

I can't deny it, Japanese kids on a whole are super cute. Especially the young ones. I personally can't wait to get home to two pretty cute Aussie kids; one of whom is pictured left.

PS I think I bought almost the entire outfit being modelled - though not the jacket!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

No-one is meant to understand fully!

A small look into the funny side of Japanese TV. Enjoy...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Friday, May 12, 2006

Just waiting...

As the seasons change, I patiently await the return of the suika bar!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Today's headline

Click on newspaper for easy reading.

Sugoi ame!!

Though I am not from a religious family, when I was a child, we used to say that thunder was God moving around his furniture. Well, today I think God is literally dumping full buckets of water on us. What is with the rain? Is rainy season early this year? The wipers on my car were going full speed and it was still difficult to see. There is so much rain that I can't hear the frogs anymore.

As the rain fills the rice fields, the frogs sing its praise...

雨 is rain...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A last glance at Iya.

Guided by a rough map, we wound our way up and up a mountain, to the end of the road, to find this house. A renovated Samurai homestead. This wonderful building has a relatively new thatch roof. They rarely (if ever) light the fire inside. The care taker was quick to say that the roof will not last long without smoke.
Throughout the Iya valley, we stumbled across bridge after bridge. This was a particular favourite. It is actually a walking bridge. A mighty feat of engineering that doesn't seem to lead to much at all. Beautiful view though.
The peeing statue. Everyone stops to take a photo of this very European statue in the middle of Japan. He is perched precariously on the edge of a very deep valley. It was actually pretty with the low rain clouds. Everything was so green and clean.

Mr and Mrs Bridge

Apart from Chiiori, the main reason for heading into the depths of the Iya Valley, were the vine bridges. There are only three bridges left in the whole valley. Years ago, fighting clans, used the bridges as a point of defense. If enemy attacked, the bridges could easily be cut down, stopping any kind of advancement for at least a little while.
There is one particularly famous bridge, and hoards of people were there to look and walk across it. There is a purpose built car park close by which was also quite amazing. Alex and I stopped for a look but didn't cross. We were holding out for the lesser known 'Husband' and 'Wife' bridges in East Iya. These bridges hang side by side. The husband bridge being the larger of the two (of course... sheesh).
Mrs Bridge.
Me, balanced on Mr Bridge.
It wasn't that scary but you had to hold on. I found it exciting, trying to balance and juggle 3 cameras at the same time. Please notice how wide the steps are. My foot could quite easily fit between those planks!
Holding on carefully. As I said, not that hard. The funny thing was watching a tough bikey walking slowly across. He was holding on for dear life. He looked really scared!
Though difficult to see, each bridge is reinforced throughout by metal cord. The bridges themselves, are replaced every three years.


With a free day up our sleeves, Alex and I headed off to see the lesser known Husband and Wife vine bridges (a post on that later). About 10 minutes from the bridges, we stumbled across an interesting sight. It turns out that a husband and wife make elaborate scarecrow type creatures and place them around their farm and even in their house. There were probably around 100 of these 'people' in all sorts of positions in the field. They were quite life like. The lady of the house, told us to explore and check out the house further up the drive. She then took us to her own house and showed us inside. She was so kind... Maybe she was happy to talk to some 'real people' for a change!
The scarecrows were even scattered up the hillside behind the houses. They went for miles.
This one has no face but most were amazingly life-like and detailed.
These two lovely ladies were just inside the house. They had perfect manners!
Sitting down for a nice cup of tea with the family. Hehehe
Some fellows enjoying the sunshine from the porch.

Friday, May 05, 2006


About four years ago, I read Alex Kerr's, Lost Japan. From that time on, I have wanted to visit his house in the Iya Valley. Iya, is in the heartland of Shikoku and I didn't think I would ever actually get there. This Golden week provided me with the opportunity and now I want to go again.

Chiiori, is a 300 year old mountain farm house set on a steep incline. Even the drive up to it was a struggle for my little yellow plate car, I can't imagine what it must be like to walk or ride there.

There are not many luxuries but I like it that way. I felt like I was camping within an old house, actually it was exactly that. There are two original, traditional fire places within the house. These have to be lit daily to help cure the thatch roof and keep away animals and creepy crawlies. The fires make Chiiori a very smoky place in which to be, but oh what fun. The thatched roof costs somewhere in the vicinity of $200,000 to replace and needed to be replaced about two years ago. Alex talks about the last rethatching in his book. This occurred 18 years ago. The thatching should last around 50 years if cured properly. For approximately 10 of the last 18 years, Alex used the house only occasionally and therefore lit the fires occasionally. As a result the roof needs rethatching now!

If you want to get clean, you have to drive approximately 25 minutes down the road to the local onsen. The onsen itself was a real treat. It belongs to a hotel. You take the lift to the third floor, at this point, you can take an indoor bath or get on a cable car and travel up the cliff for the rotenburo (outdoor bath). The rotenburo is set in the cliff face and was a wonderful experience.
You walk down to Chiiori from the car park. Lots of fun, especially at night when we went to the onsen. Lots of us tried to walk by the light of our mobile phones. This was quite difficult as I am sure you can imagine what little light phones actually give off!

The resident dog, Jackie Chan. Jackie has been living at Chiiori the longest of all the volunteers. He was lovely. Dad, you would have loved him!

Alex is teaching Bo how to cook her famously delicious pancakes. Bo is the main volunteer at Chiiori. She has been living at and managing Chiiori for around a year. As we were leaving (finally), Bo was whipping up a second batch of pancakes by herself to see if they would work. I hope you enjoyed those pancakes Bo!

Kochi's wonderful Sunday market

Kochi doesn't boast many tourist attractions. Two main attractions spring to mind, the castle and Sunday market. Both didn't disappoint. Great little (almost original) castle and a fabulously huge market. The market stretched for over 1.3 km and was packed with goodies. Here are a few photos to give you an idea.
The tomatoes pictured above are quite expensive. Can you see the box in the top left corner? They are priced at 25,000 yen. For those of you in Australia, that is about $300 for the box. Needless to say, I didn't try any to see if they really were delicious!
Yum! Sweet potatoes.
Yum. More potatoes. I think the ones on the right are mountain potatoes (Japanese). Different but yum.
Umeboshi... Not yum. I don't like them. Pickled plums. Pretty colours though.
Ahhhh. Japanese knives!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

From Honshu to Shikoku

The plan was to take the car across to Shikoku via ferry. The only trouble with this, is sea sickness. Mum and Jodi know what I am talking about. A trip with them was not pretty. Last Saturday, the weather couldn't have been clearer. We crossed over in 2.5 hours without a worry. The view was stunning. Alex and I knitted almost the entire way across. What a lovely, peaceful begining to our Golden Week trip.

Note : The above photo includes the front of the ferry (left) and the back of the ferry (right). Sorry, I don't know the technical names!

Note 2 : Japan is made up of four main islands; Honshu, Kyushu, Hokkaido and Shikoku. Shikoku is the smallest. Honshu is the largest (and where I live). I have now been to three of the four, having missed out on Hokkaido!