Tuesday, May 31, 2005

garden work hoi-hoi!

garden work hoi-hoi!

Grade five kids getting their class garden ready for planting. If I heard right, one thing they will plant is kabu (turnips).

Shogakko Shell-Shock

(shogakkou = elementary school)

Here I am, on a Wednesday afternoon, finished my teaching of elementary classes, and I am about ready to pass out. This is normal.

The heat is getting more intense now, average 26-28 degrees in daytime, and that rainy season is well overdue to cool things off. Or make it hot AND humid.

I teach at the elementary every Wednesday afternoon. Alternating, one week I teach K123, and the other week 456 with maybe a Nursery school class. The school has been kind to me in that they give me one full period in the morning to prep and wake up before the insanity begins. Then they hit me with the most energy consuming class: the Kindergarten or Nursery class in second period. If I wasn't awake before, twelve (nursery) to twenty-eight (kindergarten) kids climbing all over me and running around screaming and jumping is sure to do the trick. Somehow, even though I pour tonnes of energy into conducting those classes, doing games like What Time Is it Mr. Wolf?, the touch-colour game, the isu-tori game, alphabet karuta, and the ever-effective all purpose "warm-up game", I usually come out of the classes ready to take on the world.

Then I have two more periods of warm up game, teach some stuff, use said stuff in a game, and I often come out of the classes thinking "That wasn't so bad at all!" Then there is lunch and after lunch I sit down at my desk and inevitably fall asleep. My body nearly always commandeers 45 minutes of nap-time during lunch.

I don't know what it is about elementary that does this to me. I have played six games of soccer in a day and not fallen asleep right after dinner. I have walked up mountains all morning and not fallen alseep at the top. I have done various physical activities and honestly pushed myself, and nothing wears me out as quickly as a group of increadibly excited children who are fun to play with. And teach...

They do learn stuff from the classes I do, really. But even if they didn't I'm not sure it matters. The terms they give to the classes are things like "English activities" or the class fits in to some more general group of activities. They never call it English Class at the elementary. Which is good. I'm not the type to teach a proper class, at least not to elementary kids.

I just get my eight to twelve words, my song on CD by Genki English, and my basic question and answer and my games, and mash it all together with a lot of standing up and doing actions between, and that passes well enough for a class. Everybody seems to think it's great enough for elementary. So I'm happy too. And inevitably tired.

I wake up after my nap to walk to the fifth period class. Or some of the students from that class come to the office (all the teachers have one big office, no lounge) and wake me up.

After the last class I have one more period to do any prep I deem neccessary, or to do things like typing on my blog or chatting with teachers or finishing my nap. Add another 30 mins or so and it's four o'clock, home time.

Back when I first came to Japan, shogakkou was really stressful. It's hard when your Japanese is still minimal and the teachers' English is minimal. Somehow it works, but every class I felt like I had somehow screwed up big-time and was just not fit for teaching. For all the ways that I differ from my predecessor, the one thing I thank God for about him was that he left me a basic curriculum outline for elementary. It's loose, which suits my style, but it's something to follow. Of course i have modified it and personalised it, but setting up a basic foundation like that would have been very frustrating for me.

I used to dread wednesdays, wishing I could just do more junior high classes instead, but now I really value the change. Perhaps a big part was seeing how what I teach at elementary helps the grade sixers when they become first year junior high students. (In their first year they learn stuff like is/am/are, plural s, that/this, how much, basic pronouns, -ing, can, some basic phrases like "would you like", and only a little bit of past tense by the end of the year.) Teaching phonics in elementary six helped a bunch I think.

Anyway, accustomed though I am to what I need to do to teach successfully here, and accustomed though I am to the amount of energy output I will give (I make sure to have a GOOD nights when I go to bed on tuesdays), I still am dog-tired after a day of shogakko classes.
Today I only had 123, no K, which is perhaps why I've had enough energy to actually type something. Of course, that lunchtime nap always helps.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Wants to hang w/ the big boys

Wants to hang w/ the big boys

I've tried to explain how small my car is, but to uncertain result. I think this photo is worth at least a few hundred words.

Dion and Ayumi

Dion and Ayumi

Back from Canada and visiting Japan for two months! It's great being able to hang out with them again. I met up with them a lot last year in spring and summer. They were my Settlers connection. (^-^)b

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Jishin ga aru?

So last night I got to bed really late, after watching "The Abyss" and a little bit of an anime about the end of the world. So naturally my dreams were a little affected. I was also kinda hungry. At one point I kinda felt a little nauseous like I was rocking a little, and in a mode of half consciousness was like "Is this an earthquake?" Then my consciousness returned back to sleeping and I didn't make any note of it. But then a moment ago I was reading the blog of another Shikoku-dweller where last night's earthquake was mentioned. So it would seem that there was in fact an earthquake and that I should maybe learn to pay more attention to these things than just going back to sleep. Then again, it's hard NOT to fall back asleep when the earthquake is so gently rocking your bed for you.

Mini Japanese lesson:
The verb "aru" expresses the idea of existance for inanimate things. "Iru" is for animate things. Often posession of an object is stated simply by saying it exists.
So "cola ga aru?" could mean "is there cola?" or "do you have cola?"
Japanese is also full of homonyms.
For example:
自信 jishin: confidence
地震 jishin: earthquake

So then, when I say "Jishin ga aru?" I could be asking either "Is there an earthquake?" or "Are you sure?"

Looks like it's "sho mo nai" after all.

The Critters and I

Simon came and went, another spider of like size came and then decided to spend the night in my shower room, so I kicked him out, and now I have a third little friend spider crashing my pad. He's not as big as the other two were, (which makes me suspect the others might have been female. Simone?) and he's a lot more energetic. Maybe he's just younger. Anyways, being that extra half inch or so smaller makes all the difference: he's more appropriate to the size of my apartment. And he really gets around. When I woke up yesterday he was clinging to the corner of the wall near the foot of my bed. Last night while I was watching a movie he came out of my room, ran accross the wall one way, back accross the floor and into my room againg, out and all the way over to under the couch, off into the kitchen, and then spent the remainder of the night scampering around the storage room.

They say of good roommates, "Muri shinakutte mo ii." Which is like saying "It's good if there's nothing you need to put up with." The personalities of the last two spiders were a bit grating, I guess. And the way Simon just floated along silently was at times disconcerting. The spider who followed Simon liked to just sit on the wall and stare at me. Now, I'm all for being the center of attention, but I like conversation. Just staring is kinda boring.

So I think I'll let this latest spider hang around if he feels so inclined. The thing is, I haven't thought of a name for him yet. If you had a spider roommate to name, what would you call him?

Hey there, fella! Last words?

Hey there, fella! Last words?

This's thd first time I've seen a mukade in daylight. Yoshioka-kocho kindly let me take a photo before he curb-stomped this guy. But like the principal, would YOU stomp him with only sandals on?!

Monday, May 23, 2005


Originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

It's interesting to me how I often find spiders in my bedroom though the mukade wisely shy away and stick to the other three rooms. Of course I like it that way. Send spiders out, murder mukade.

judo testing grounds

judo testing grounds
Originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

Words I may or may not use in this post:

judo- the way of gentleness
budokan- martial arts building (not grape building)
shodan- 1st level black belt
nidan- 2nd level black belt
sandan- 3rd level black belt
shinban- judo judge/referee
bouzu- buddhist monk/bonze
ippon- one point
wazari- half point
yukoh- third of a point
hikiwake- draw

So we had the judo test on Sunday.

Having learned my lesson about heavy meals before activity last year when I was on the verge of vomiting for a whole 10 km run, I started my day with a light breakfast and was on time getting to the budokan, just a little after my classmate, Tom.

Last year it was weird walking in and having everyone stare at me, but this year it was nice, because I was one of the few black belts present. If you recall, I had come to the January grading and though I couldn't participate then, I did get to watch the black belts a bunch. So this time there were few surprises.

Best of all, I was in a good state of mind. I had prayed and given all the stress over to Christ and was free to just have fun. Warming up was cool, especially when all 50 participants were doing ukemi (falling) on the bouncy floor. This was cool because 1.) there were 50 participants: my class in Katsuura ranges from one to four students plus teacher; and 2.) because the floor was bouncy. The budokan has a proper judo floor where the tatami (straw mats, but these were more padded than your average household flooring) are supported on a slightly springy floor. So when 50 people drop and hit it all at once it makes a great noise and feels awesome: it psyches you up. Last year we came 30 minutes too late and missed the whole warm up because we were registering.

First up are the white and brown belts who are shooting for their shodan. If they get three points all in one day, they pass. If it takes them two test days (a couple months apart) they need four points. They are separated into groups of five to seven or so, and each person fights about four matches. The people shooting for higher level black belts start after all the shodan applicants are done.

For those who are unfamiliar with judo, a quick explanation of how its played:
A match is three minutes long (four minutes in national and olympic levels, two minutes for elementary kids).
A match is won by earning one point. A full point is given for a perfect or clean throw where the uke (thrown person) lands on their back or in a totally vulnerable position. Half and third points are given for less well executed throws. Aside from throwing, there are also holds which earn a point if they are maintained for thirty seconds, or half a point if they are held for twenty. If they already have a half point, they are granted the win at twenty seconds. Lastly there are submission holds, which mostly end in a tap-out, but can end with a pass-out in the case of an untapped-out of choke hold.

We watched all the fights, taking note of a few of the more frightening guys, one of whom Tom dubbed "the car-crusher" because he was fat and tall, and his fat was the kind which suggested a lot of muscle beneath. Another we both agreed was "the monster" because he was significantly tall and posessed more muscle than I can ever hope for, and was a junior high school student. They never hold kids back in this country, either.

The saddest match to watch was the tiny little junior high school kid against the car-crusher. At least the crusher was kind enough to not finish the fight in the first move and let the kid dance around a bit first. The monster had no such compassion and finished all his fights in one move or so. Two of the most interesting fights were the car-crusher against another sumo-sized guy in his group. they had to fight eachother twice, and each got one victory.

Black belts present at the grading: four: Tom, myself, Endo the monk, and the old guy.

The monk had to be in his late twenties, and the old guy was in his thirties. I call him the old guy because he looked tough and was always yelling stuff at the younger guys who were from the same club. Endo the monk and the old guy were both going for their san-dan. Tom and I, the only two going for our ni-dan were in a little trepidation at the thought of maybe having to fight these two.

Endo. Bouzu. He was an interesting character. I got to talking with him while we were watching the white belts fight. I asked him what his work was, and he was like "I'm a monk." (except in Japanese)
"No, really, what do you do?"
"I'm a monk. Buddhism. A monk."
"No, really."
"Yeah, really." (digs through his cell phone to show me a pic of his friend in full monk form, shaved head and all)
"...And you like Judo."
"Did you like, do it in high school?"
"Yeah, straight through. I've also studied boxing, jujitsu, aikido, karate..."
"Really. You really like martial arts. Do monks DO martial arts?"
"Sure, and I like Marylin Manson."
"Marylin Manson?"
"And Korn and slipknot and..." He listed a bunch of bands which I don't clearly recall. All metal bands. He proceeded to show me photos related to these various bands and WWE wrestlers on his cell phone.
"Do you understand the words in the songs?"
"Yeah. Vaguely." Pause. "Well, not really but sort of."
"Huh." Pause. "So why not the shaved head?"
"That's not necessary in the [sect?] of Buddhism I subscribe to. It's the heart that matters."
"I see. I'm a Christian."
"Oh yeah? I've gone to church. Catholic, you know. Sunday and all that. My wife's a Christian."
"Really, were you like that, a Buddhist and a Christian, when you got married?"
"Sure. But we both believe in the same God, anyway. Different religions but they are still pointing in the same direction."
"I cannot believe in that."
He was about to go on; the conversation could have gotten really heated maybe, but my judo teacher at that moment summoned me away. It was time to fight.

It was like something out of a comic book. What we were told, Tom and I, was approximately this:
"Well, there aren't enough black belts, and we won't have you fight eachother, so what we're going to do is make you fight five of the shodans who just passed today, and you have to fight them back-to-back with no rest. If you can drop three of them, we'll award you a second level black belt."

Poor Tom was called to go first. They lined up against him five new shodans, one of whom was the car-crusher, and made them bow to eachother. One of the judges called out a name and that guy stepped up and the rest stood back, standing just at the edge of the square. It was really intimidating.

I was lucky to go second. Watching Tom fight, I could see that if he would just hurry a little less he would have an easier time throwing his opponent. Tom won his first fight, but it was a long fight, and in the course of the next three fights, won one, was annihilated by the car-crusher, and lost another. They didn't make/let him fight the fifth. Tom figured it was out of pity.

They didn't make me line up against five guys, I just bowed to each challenger. If you have ever done fencing, you know that a left-handed person sometimes has an advantage because most people are stronger on their right. So as I am strong on the left I try for that first. I threw my first opponent really quickly. I got him with a ko-uchi-gari: a small inner reaping: I hooked his right leg with my left and pushed him down. It was smooth. IPPON! The next guy felt like he was super tall, but in reality was probably an inch or two shorter than me. He took a little longer, tried some stuff on me, but I got him in the end with a tai-otoshi, I think. Tai-otoshi means "body drop" and is kind of like a trip with pull. IPPON! If it hadn't been a full point, it landed perfectly for a timed hold, and I would have got the point anyhow.

I guess the next guy learned from watching the others. He was biggish, kinda muscley-chubby (which they say is the ideal judo body), but he had shortish legs and looked throwable. He stuffed me in my first couple of chances and pulled out a surprise move I had never even seen before: he dropped his hips, grabbed both my legs by the cloth from behind, and lifted me. I tried to get a leg down, or to position myself to land standing. I tried to read his motions to know which way I was to be thrown. I had no clue. I guess when I hit the ground I must have hit my back, because it was to the sound of IPPON! If that ever happens again I'll think more about my hands and choking, and about twisting to land on my stomache. And I want to learn that move!

Seeing as how they only gave Tom four fights after all, I wondered if the next could be my last. I saw the monster standing at hand. The judge called a name, and it wasn't Azuma. (meaning east: the monster's name) That was a relief.

The guy I DID fight next was really good. He was small, but his muscle was dense and he knew what he was doing. He was well prepared for me to use my left hand, and I didn't get anything. He evaded one of my attempts at a throw, and turned around the wresling on the ground into a collar hold. I had a hand on his collar as well, and tried to apply a strangle hold to get him to release, but his chest was placed too well and I didn't have good leverage. I tried to flip him, but it was too little too late; my time was up. IPPON!

They didn't let me have a fifth fight either. One of the judges said something like, "If you could drop them BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM, we'd give it to you, but they are a level lower and giving you too much trouble." He also said something about fighting spirit, I think. I guess I was just too relaxed.

Anyway, watching the old guy and then the monk go to work was a privilege. Endo the monk was especially smooth, and watching him annihilate the car-crusher was so so so satisfying.

Somewhere in the last fight's struggle against pressure and time I hurt my left hand. That's been really frustrating for the last day or so, and all this typing kinda hurts. Ah well, it ought to be okay by the time we start class again a week from tomorrow.

One of the most satisfying sounds I have heard in the last while is when standing in the middle of a judo ring with the ref shouting IPPON!

I don't feel like I am at a 2-dan black belt level yet, so I'm glad I didn't pass: it restores faith in the system. But come July, and the next test, I plan on dropping all five guys.

"mai buumu"*

"My boom"
Originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

I buy this "chiizu kuriimu pesutorii"** a lot recently. Its packed full of sugar and synthetic goodness. Why don't you try it?

*"My boom"
**cheese cream pastry

"noichigo" = wild strawberry = raspberry?

"noichigo" = wild strawberry = rasberry?
Originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

Guess what I found on my way to school today? Wild strawberries! I think they taste & feel like raspberries, but they are strawberries to the Japanese. I wouldnt have known what they were, or more importantly whether they were edible, but for two of my students with whom I was walking.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

road down & away from school

road down & away from school

The rainy season is coming soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Super Great

Super Great



Not shingles, but tiles: the neighbors are having their roof done. It's kind of interesting.

Monday, May 16, 2005

the minstrels

the minstrels

drums, bells, flute, bamboo log. that's what we have so far. i doubt we'll get a shamisen. we didnt have one last year either.

the three teens in the back are my students, too.

awa odori practice begins!

awa odori practice begins!

some of my second year students getting their form correct after a year's rest. (2nd yr JHS = Grade 8) it takes a good deal of effort to keep your arms above your shoulders for 30min or more.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Should have tried that sooner!

On the last day of the Golden Week holiday there was a minor fire at the house at the bottom of the hill I live on. Their bathtub has a fire beneath it to keep the water warm, and apparently this got out of control: They saw smoke pouring out from somwhere under the tub, and that's not supposed to happen. Everyone in the neighborhood and all the volunteer firement from the five or so areas in town showed up to help in their five or so little firetrucks. Mr Yokohata, owner of the house, is one of the leaders of the fire crew in our area, so naturally he was at the front of the hose. Afterwards the firemen, nieghbors and everyone around made a big line and passed all the stuff from the surrounding rooms (the affected bathroom was in an addition) into the garage. Two of my students live in that house, and they were both okay. Their only complaint was that they wouldn't be having a bath before bed that night.

When the firemen and most everyone else was leaving I walked back with Murakami-sensei and his wife (the newlyweds who live in the apartment below mine). We talked about the first mukade coming out. We had each encountered one so far in our respective flats. Speaking of the devil, there he appeared! A massive monkeyfeather of a mukade right there in our parking lot. Quick as a flash our intrepid math teacher grabbed his barbecue tongs and grabbed the sucker. Meanwhile his wife rushed inside and heated some water. We waited, watching the little melonfarmer squirm, trying to bite his way out of those metal tongs. Wouldn't want to try to hold that guy with your fingers! Your arm could get swollen up to your elbow from finger bite and it would not be fun. Anyhow, out comes Mrs Murakami with a bowl full of water that couldn't have been hotter than 50°C. She poured the hot water over the mukade and he squirmed and writhed and thrashed in a way that was very satisfying to watch. Not having quite kicked the bucket yet, he was forced to wait between the tongs for the second bowl of water which spelled his doom.

I have a machine in my apartment which until now I have considered quite useless. It keeps water at 98 degrees. I don't drink nearly enough tea to ever justify keeping it plugged in, but now I have a great reason. You're not meant to crush or squash mukade because the scent of their carcass beckons their mate to come and wreak unholy vengance. I have a poison spray which I have been using to kill the little monkeyfeathers, but I don't like to spray poison in my living space. Also, you don't want to ruin your tatami floors by pouring water on them. Conclusion: I need to get myself some barbeque tongs.

But what in the world are they doing out and about weeks before Tsuyu (the heavy rain season) begins? They have no reason to be driven out of the ground so soon!

3.5 inch long mukade poisoned this season: 2
5.5 inch long monster mukade slain this season: 2
Total mukade deathcount: 4
Escapees: 0

Let's shoot for a perfect season.

Goruden Uiiku

So Golden Week is now over and it's back to regular life again.

Golden Week, by the way, is what they call the chunk of three national holidays that land all back to back in the middle of a week and have yet another in the preceeding week. On that first holiday, April 29th: みどりの日 (Green Day), I found myself way out in the west of Tokushima in the Iya Valley for some white water rafting.

White water rafting is always a fun event, even when the water is mega-dangerous, which this water certainly was not. The top of the Yoshino river is actually some of the best rapids in Japan (rumor has it, #1 best), but this was the first day of the season. "Tsuyu", the season of massive massive heavy rain has yet to come, so the water was still very tame. So tame, in fact, that we had to start a kilometer downriver from the normal place just to save ourselves on some paddling. There were times when the water was so slow that if we stopped paddling, the headwind would push us a little upstream. That being said there were more than enough spots with fun rapids to keep us happy, and there were more than enough of us to have several great splashing and pulling-people-off-of-the-other-boat fights.

Who were we? (This is the best part) We were the participants of an All-Shikoku ALT rafting event! What that means is that one infamous tokker (tokushima-dweller) planned the event and another with some great connections got the word out to people from the other three prefectures on this island. All told, there were about twenty-eight of us on four boats plus guides and a Japanese crew on a fifth boat that joined up with us a couple hours into it. Small numbers for an all-Shikoku event it's true, but after all it WAS at the time when most ALTs flee the country to get some travelling done. It was just fun to hang out and dunk our fellow Shikoku-jin who so rarely do stuff with.

Other highlights of the rafting were the the bagels w/cream cheese, luncheon meat, veggies etc that they provided at lunch (and I must concede, they really were good bagels!), the 20~30 foot high cliff we jumped off of (not quite as high as the highest board at Sargent Park pool in Winnipeg), and the onsen afterwards. We started suiting up in our wetsuits at about 9:30am and we were crawling back out of them 6 or 7 hours later. The weather had been a balmy 25 degrees Celcius, and had it not been for the sunscreen I would have come back with more than just a tan! Sadly, no pics because I was not about to chance having my cell phone drowned!

After all that, we set up tents on the site just below Happy Raft and got a yakiniku barbeque happening. Though various people who had been a-rafting with us all day started to make their way home instead of camping out, there was a crew from Hyogo prefecture (where Kobe is) who were camping out to go rafting the next day. For a social butterfly like yours truly, it was all that could be desired. Not to mention that my friend Greg scored us some AAA beef to yaki! (^_^)

I got myself all into vacation mode and then on monday we had a half-day of school. It was rough. Even just that half day. Knowing you are just out of three days of vacation and going into three more makes even as few as four periods seem like FOREVER. None of the staff or students were 'genki' that day.

Then it was three days of vacation! Yes! But I had ABSOLUTELY no plans and my apartment was a mess. No! Solution: invite a few of the local girls over for dinner on the Wednesday. You don't need to clean your apartment as clean for guys as you do for girls. So my apartment got clean and I actually made a proper meal for once (curry) which the three of us ate while watching "Out of Sight" (Steven Soderbergh is a fantastic director!).

Thursday was the 高丸山祭り (takamaru yama matsuri = Mt Takamaru Festival). You can see the pictures below. The gist of it is you drive your car a good way up the mountain, walk some more, buy tasty seasonal foods like mountain veggie tempura, trout zosui, or salt-broiled trout on a spit. Drool! Trust me, that shio-yaki trout is so good you WANT to eat the head. And you can! You eat everything but the already-removed innards! And you love it, you really do. After a while you hear the conche shell trumpet blowing and make your way to the bottom of the hill that the guys will carry the mikoshi down. Anyone can participate (well, any male can) but as I worship the true God, I didn't. I just watched. They carry it down the hill and then walk around with it and have a kind of pushing fight with it. They have this fight until it gets to a predetermined location where it is set down and a 山伏 (yamabushi: mountain priest) does a prayer ritual in front of it. At the same time, various people put offerings of various things like crackers and mochi and sake in front of it and say prayers. Afterwards it is picked up again and the fight resumes to bring it back up the mountain. On the last slope they attached a rope and people at the top helped to haul it up. Then the priest prayed again, took something out of it and put that something in the proper shrine and did more ritual stuff infront of the shrine. Other people rather casually disassembled the mikoshi and put it in storage for next year.

Most of the gathered crowd started to make their way home after that. At some point a tarp was laid out on the ground back by the food and a picnic was begun. Everyone still around sat down and set about the business of having a massive picnic. When the sun started to set a litte and it started to get cool, we packed everything up and toted it downhill on funny little machines. Then we made our way to a community center to continue chillaxin'. They called this the 二次会 (nijikai: second party) At some point there was a little official stuff about "how can we make the festival better next year?" but mostly it was just sitting and eating and many people doing a LOT of drinking. When the food and drink ran out, the party was over.

Then friday was school again. And, believe it or not, so was Saturday. And I was tired for that Saturday. Knowing full well that the next day was school I went out Friday to my friend Angie's goodbye party. Actually, it wasn't her goodbye party per se, but she had four friends up from Canada to help her do a jam camp for japanese kids during golden week, and they put on a couple shows at a couple local clubs while they were here. Angie dislikes goodbye parties, and is leaving Japan for good this week, so it was the last chance to say "Sayonara." And the music was fun too. DJ, bongos, jimbae (sp?), Chinese koto, Indian tabla (sp?), and violin. Not a mix we see too often here. Good dancing music at that. Couldn't pull myself away until 2430, which meant home at 0130, and bed sometime later. So I was quite tired the next day.

Saturday was PTA day, the day when the parents come in to watch classes. Moreover, because the previous sunday's softball game had been rained out, 1/4 of our small school was playing at a baseball game that day. It was not an easy day to be at school. Then in the evening there was the PTA's welcome-the-new-teachers party, which was good this year because they combined the elementary and junior high together. The ceremonies were kept to a mere 30 minutes as well, and that's admirable. It was actually an okay enkai, which is rare for the PTA ones. Maybe it helps that my Japanese is a lot better than it used to be and I can actually talk to the parents now.

As I was walking home with Murakami-sensei (the math teacher who lives below me) and Furuta-sensei (the elementary gr 4 teacher who lives in the house near my apartment), we passed the only ryokan (traditional japanese inn) in my part of town. We were surprised to see that this was the location of the nijikai. We weren't planning to go, but somehow Murakami got roped in, and Furuta and myself went in on the pretense of saving him (and at the great urging of the hilarious Mr Takaishi, a former student's dad). In the end I was glad I went. The atmosphere was as relaxed as far as nijikai go, and I actually had some good conversations. Instead of feeling worn out when I got home (as I have in past after PTA enkai) I felt relaxed and even a little energised. Somehow I think I even felt better for not having had a single drop of alcohol the whole night. (Not what you might expect when it's such a cultural pressure here.)

I slept almost all of Sunday, excepting a couple hours where i went to Colin and Jenny's place for dinner and a chat to feel like I actually had done something. In return for working on Saturday we had Monday off, and Monday was much the same as Sunday. I feel refreshed.

I was doubtful in the beginning about this whole Golden Week thing because all my close friends were taking off and I had no plans. Now I've got more plans than I know what to do with. Awa Odori practice starts this week and will be all my Mondays and Wednesdays until August. Judo has my Tuesdays and Fridays, and I have a test coming up in two weeks. Thursdays are my English conversation class (eikaiwa). Sometime in June I'm writing a Japanese test ("The J-Test" by name), so that means studying.

I'm looking forward to the madness. Bring it on!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Simon's gone.

I don't mind if a roommate wants to move in with me, but sharing a bed is where I draw the line. Simon got just a little to pretentious in his first week in my apartment, so I showed him to the window and sent him on his way. He's welcome to come back if he can learn some manners.



Rain clouds rising off of the mountains at sunset.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Isaiah 46 verses three & four:

Isaiah 46 verses three & four:

Then God says, "I have carried scince your birth. Even to your old age I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." (shortened)

Isaiah 46 verses one and two:

Isaiah 46 verses one and two:

"... images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary. They stoop and bow together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity."



Coming downhill


amego shio-yaki

amego shio-yaki

salt-broiled trout



a rice soup.

the path

the path

This is what they'll carry it down...

takamaru mountain festival

takamaru mountain festival

Later today they're gonna carry this thing down a hill and then fight over it. This little mobile shrine is called a mikoshi. In Kamikatsu they do this every year on the last during Golden Week (three consecutive nat'l holidays).



He's camera-shy but he held still for a moment.

He's big, he's fast...

He's big, he's fast...

...and he's my new roommate. Everyone, say hello to Simon. He cleans bugs out of the corners I can't reach. I wonder if he'd eat a mukade or a roach if one tried to come in?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005



Poisonous centipede. The third deadliest pest in japan, after the mamushi snake and the swarms of giant bees. the rainy season is on the way and this 3.5" critter wont be the last i see.

Monday, May 02, 2005

a few tsutsuji

a few tsutsuji

sadly they weren't in full awazing bloom yet, but there were some.