Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Trying to describe something unusual

yamamomo, originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

I have a very hard time trying to describe something simple like a fruit. What brings this up, of course is that I want to describe to you the yamamomo. The name is deceiving: it means “mountain peach.” As the rhyme will tell you, “Sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi.” Plums (sour peaches or vinegar peaches) and peaches are kinds of peaches. I think that if we were to make a new line for the tongue twister, it might go like this: “Sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi, yaken, yamamomo ga momo no soto.” I guess you could argue it both ways. They are vaguely similar in the way that when you bite into them, they do have a slightly plum-ish flavour and you can see that the flesh does indeed grow outward from the pit in a similar way to a plums’ or peach’s does. However, there are things that would make it difficult for you to put them in the same group. For one, similar to the way a raspberry is one berry made up of many “fruit chunks” a yamamomo (aka mirika) is made up of hundreds of almost fibrous fruit threads that give its skin a lizard skin-like pattern. The mirika when ripe ranges in size from about the size of a blackberry to the size of a very small strawberry or average cherry. The pit is about as big as a cherry-pit, but the flesh sticks to it with the same resilience as a peach’s. So you with a largish pit and the way that the flesh on it grows, you are denied most of the satisfying feeling of biting into a juicy fruit. And when they are sweet, they are indeed quite sweet, but in a slightly sour kind of way. They also have a kind of dryness about them, in the same way that one calls choke-cherries dry. But not that dry. Just a little dry. And then the flavour. So I have said it tastes a little plum-ish, and is a little dry like choke-cherries, but it also has a kind of red-grape-ishness to it as well as some of the falvour one might equate with a blackberry. One way or the other, it has an undeniable wildness of flavour to it, and that is a large part of the appeal.

Guess who's a happy boy?

So although it was looking to be a very sad kinda day, what with Dion and Ayumi returning to Winnipeg today, there was one thing to brighten my mood: the arrival of my very own 12" powerbook!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Hiding behind the sunflowers

Sunday, June 26, 2005


Miku, originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

Settlers Bonanza

On Saturday night seven of us got together to play a bunch of games of settlers. In the previous four to six weeks of gaming, I had won only a single game, so my hopes were quite low, especially when it came to facing Dion and Brian, who win a lot. In the first game I felt like I was struggling to keep up, and when I mentioned that on my turn, someone was like "but you have the longest road!" and I was like, "Really? Oh yeah!" and flipping over a victory point I said, "Then I guess I win." Which shocked me about as much as anyone else. I wasn't even thinking about that as part of a strategy for winning. Talk about tunnel-vision. You'd think I'd learn, but in the second game I played, I once again forgot I had longest road, and won suddenly and to my own surprise in exactly the same way again. In the final of the three I played, the desert was in the middle, and it was a four player game.

Too bad Battur was moving... Me in yellow, Jonny Lawless to the left of me, Joe with his back turned, Dion accross from Christine, Brian taking the photo.

It was a very long game, and good placement and not getting screwed in the initial placement helped. But the fact that Battur was being a total jerk to Jon took away all the hatred from me, which was nice. It was close, because Battur's cold plotting almost enabled a win for him, and Joe was so so close to winning, but then I got like three rolls of the dice I needed and no thief, and was just able to win. I think the last one was a two and a half to three hour long game. Shocking. More shocking though was the fact that I won. Three times. In the same night! I'm STILL flabbergasted. I gotta say, though, credit's gotta go to God, because the rolls of the dice went amazingly my way in all three games. I really couldn't have asked for better. You know what it says, "The lot is cast into the lap, but it's every decision is from the Lord." So thanks God!

Phat Metabo-lie-zayshun!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Everyone and their mascot...

A cookie with our town mascot in the middle. what looks like his hair is three crescent moons which legend says you can see in one of the valleys here in Kamikatsu if you get really drunk.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Warren the Kabuto Mushi

Once in a while something happens to make you do the opposit of your standard behavior. Tonight I brought a gigantic bug into my house. I found him on a bush where I paused in a three-point turn.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Surprisingly well, I think

Is how I intend to answer the people who ask me how I did on the J-test today.

What is the J-test?
It's meant to be a practical test of your Japanese, an alternative to the government run JapaneseLanguageProficiencyTest, which is the more respected test, though it may not really show how communicative your japanese really is. The j-test is also cheaper and more frequent. four times a year versus once a year.

There are only two tests, and different from a pass or a fail, you get graded based on your ability to answer questions, and how well you answer (given that some of the questions have more than one right answer).

I had a late night friday at open mic, then an early morning saturday for PTA day, then out for dinner with Tsubaki, the rocker guy from my local Lawson's (think 7-11) and his friend. Then it was Ingrid's birthday party, and i had to show my face, how could I not? but I left at 11-ish and was home and in bed before one. Up this morning at 7:30 and I was actuall alright. I didn't feel drowsy in the test and the 2 hours weren't really a problem.

I even anwered most of the questions. There were some things I just really didn't know, but those were far fewer than I expected. I think the test will show that I am at the level I think I am. There's a lot of stuff I still dont know in the language, but I am far from lost when it comes to japanese. I feel like I was able to do my best and wasn't overwhelmed, so I am happy with how I did.

And for those of you who don't live in Tokushima, Ingrid is the owner of a little bar in the clud district that is frequented by more foreigners than probably any other bar in town. She seems to know everyone, and everyone seems to know her. Her birthday party was a swanky-ish formal dress affair at a largish club (by tokushima standards). LOTS of people were there. I was glad I turned up for my two little hours, and a little sorry that I couldn't have stayed longer. Oh yeah, and there was food which included chicken wings and tacos. Now, that was to my mind weird food for an event that asked for formal clothing, but when you consider how rare chicken wings and tacos are in Japan, or at least our corner of it, I guess that makes it swanky-ish food after all.

I feel like I could dye.

Bento Lunch, originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

This here is a typical bento (box lunch), or at least typical for us Kamikatsu teachers when we are provided it on a non kyushoku (school lunch) day. The students bring their own lunch on days when there is no kyushoku. But what days would there be no school lunch on, you ask. Saturdays, like yesterday.

I was dead tired yesterday, having been out late at the open mic event the night before, so I learned the word "karoujite" which means barely. That way when the students asked me "How are you?" in my morning classes and I responded "barely alive," I could say it a couple times and then tell them in japanese that barely alive means karoujite ikiteiru.

It was our second PTA visit day this year, the more relaxed of the two. This time there was no English class while the parents were at the school, which meant I could sit in on a class too, if I so desired. And I so desired to sit in on the kokugo class (national language class = Japanese class). It was the grade 8 class, and the stuff they were learning seemed really obvious to me, but we use spaces in English and they don't in Japanese. They were learning how to separate clauses and words. I think I learned only two little new things.
1. each clause can be separated with the word ne. which means that "Mashuu wa egao de harii pottaa wo yonde imasu." could be said "Mashuu wa ne, egao de ne, harii pottaa wo ne, yondeimasu ne."
2. the way of marking clause and word separations in japanese.

After that all the teachers and parents and students participated in activities. We could choose between a simple woodworking activity, basket making, and hankerchief dying.
My hanky turned out okay, I guess, but I really don't know what I'm going to do with it now. Anyone want a pink white and yellow tye-dye hanky?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

This Week's Entertainment


The Japanese language version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The kanji there is read ho-no-o, with the last O being an O and not a U.

It's like 1000+ pages altogether in this Japanese edition. Moreover, because the copy I have is a school library copy, like the one above it's split into two halves. I guess that way more people can be reading it all at once. Or it weighs less in your bag. Given that a lot of Japanese language books are printed very small, maybe there is just a national preference against physically large novels. Anyhow, I am currently about 150 pages into it, and it feels like easy reading. The fact that there are loads of furigana and I have an electronic dictionary certainly doesn't hurt. It feels like reading shonen manga. I figure I average about 10 pages an hour, but I must speed up when there's a lot of dialogue, because I don't think I've spent 15 hours reading it since monday. Then again, it's certainly been no less than ten.

It's just as entertaining in the Japanese, and there are places where they can do jokes in the Japanese that aren't doable in english, such as with セールス魔ン (salesman with the first kanji for magic 魔法 "mahou" replacing the 'ma'). They keep some of the words the same, like Omunokuraaz (omnoculars) but the kanji they put beside those gives the meaning. I could try to claim that this is helping my Japanese ability, but really it's just entertainment. It'll help me to build up confidence for reading a whole real book in Japanese. And by 'real' I mean one with very few furigana.

If this goes well, I'll attempt book 5 in Japanese as well, which i have not read in English yet. What got me in the mood to do this was watching the first two harry potter movies (which I had never seen before). I rented the first one out of a desire for some light watching, and it was awflul, I hope to never see it again. But it got me in the mood and I watched the second one two. Likewise terrible. Cris Columbus is a hack director, and should be banned from movie making. He knows nothing about how to pace a movie, and nothing about how to maximise his shots. Very very very cliche methods, poor movie-making. Anyway, watching that crap made me want to read the oh-so-well written stories again, but at the same time not really. On monday one of the students was reading the first half of The Order of the Phoenix at lunch and the other half was at the back of the class. I picked it up and tried the first few pages to see how it was. It looked doable.

After classes were out, and after the cleaning time, I prowled up to scope out the school library and see what they had. The only one in there was Goblet of Fire, which is coincidentally the only harry potter book which I have read only once. Nice. As I was paging through it and a BlackJack manga, two students happened past, and stopped to see what i was doing. They were curious, because having been here two years, I have almost never been in the library. (Which is strange for me if you know me).

We chatted for a while, and when at the end i asked how to take the book out, it turned out that one of the two boys there was the volunteer librarian, and he filled it out for me. I wrote my name on the card in kanji 瀬戸良真秀 which was fun. One of the two isn't really the book reading type, nor the type to be all that interested in imaginary stuff, but it was fun talking. They were both second year students, and they don't know enough to talk in English about the stuff we were talking about, so it was nice for me to try out my Japanese abilities.

I think they have ceased to be impressed with my Japanese. Only last year's grads and the grads from the year before that (JH grads, that is) really remember how minimal my Japanese was when I first came.

It will be good for this years ninensei (second years) when I have to change a year from August. They are an unusually clever class when it comes to English, and when I change out they will have just learned their past participle (have been, have done, etc) and will be ready to make a big jump with the arrival of a new ALT who speaks (I hope) only minimal Japanese.

Speaking of which, I wonder what it will take for me to make my next jump in Japanese ability? More effort than magic, I suppose.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Not a Myth

Not a Myth, originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

You saw it here first folks. Well, those not viewing from japan, at least.

Thats right, a vending machine hawking Asahi and Sapporo beer right next to a coca-cola machine. They exist, and are common.

Cards about discrimination etc

Because its a competition, a teacher sits next to each pair to judge.

In english class we sometimes play karuta as a warm-up game using identical flash card sets. We use groups of three to five kids.

Douwa issue karuta competition

douwa="same japan": the issue remaining regarding the caste system

karuta: game where you slap/touch the said card fastest to get it. most cards wins.

cards are read out by a person at the front.

Death Toll Update

This guy was hiding in a sandal just outside my front door. The 98 degree water finished him off well. After being doused with two cups he could still move like lightning. Four cups to kill him, it took.

This brings our mukade body count up to 5.

Let there be no escape.

My kingdom for a pair of hip waders!

Last night as I was driving to judo class I noticed that there were cars parked all along the stretch of prefectural road along the river where no houses are located. A lot of cars. And many of them were SUVs. Moreover, there were people partying (well, sitting eating and drinking and lots of beer cans visible) in various spots between cars. I figured whatever was going on would be gone by the time I got back from judo. How little I knew. Not only were they still there later that night, they were all still there this morning when I was driving to the elementary. Well, the cars were. All the people were in their hip waders in the river below. Having emailed my friend Natsuko the night before asking what was going on, I found the response waiting on my cell when i got to the school. Today is the first day when people are allowed to fish in our town. A ton of town officials and people from all over took today off to fish. Moreover, most stayed up all night so as to secure the spot they wanted.

I guess it was foolish of me to think that this would be limited to the upriver areas near my house and not so far from the fisheries, but such is not the case. Even farther downstream, and on little streams like the one next to the elementary (pictured above) there are people out fishing. The two guys in the picture above have been there all day. Right beside the elementary. Fishing. It makes a lot of the kids want to be fishing.

I remember this season from last year, there will be people in the river in their hip waders for the next two or three weeks.

I'll try to get a nice shot from the river closer to my place if i can.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Befriend your notebook.

This is the cover of a students b-notebook (the one they do extra practice in).

Friday, June 10, 2005

Rice Fields Near Mt.Tsurugi

gyoza (pot stickers)

Some of the best gyoza in the country, ordered from Miyazaki-ken on Kyushu. Fried by me. o(^-^)o

Gyoza are a variety of chinese dumpling. They contain cabbage, minced pork, and spices.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What is it?

What is it?, originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

I dont know what it is, but it tastes good!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Rainy Season Begins!

(Tsuyu ga hajimaru!)

"Tsuyu" (aka "baiu") is the rainy season. It's not like the monsoon season that happens farther south in Asia, but more like a low pressure system that rests over Japan for a month and a half giving us drizzling rain a lot of the time. It does pour, and it certainly did on Saturday but that's not the way it always is. Some years, apparrently, they have had rainy seasons that are all talk and no action: The clouds sit over the country for a month, but there is little to no rain. They call it an "empty" rainy season.

The rain is welcome now, too. As one of the third year students wrote in her journal last week, "Recently, there is no rainy, so the valley is whither."

The kanji for "tsuyu" are plumb and rain put together. Why? It's the season when the plums ripen.

Pictured above: The view from my window. From Saturday's rain, the Katsuura river now has twice as much water as it has had for the last month.