Friday, December 3, 2010

Must resist...

I first learned about Shinzi Katoh in the spring of my first year in Japan. My parents, Brenda & Ceci were spending a couple of days in Tokyo and there happened to be a mini Shinzi Katoh fair going on in the Ginza Mitsukoshi.

There was so much stuff that I wanted, but I limited myself to a bag, an aluminum water bottle, and two "clear" files:
My friend lives next door. A boy has a black rabbit. A girl has a white rabbit.

I went shopping with my neighbor.

We bought black&white rabbits, a big-eared monkey and three pigs.

I got a hairstyle like a mouton when I went to the hair salon today.
I've also seen a variety of Shinzi Katoh mugs, teapots, etc. in various stores but have always managed to resist the temptation to purchase any for myself...

But then recently I had the urge to check out the Shinzi Katoh Collection Online Shop (there's also an English site). Probably not the smartest idea since Christmas is around the corner and I have ZERO presents purchased so far, but now all I can think about is how much I want to get a mug for myself (or two or three or...) !!

The only thing saving me from spending a ridiculous amount of money ironically is that there's such a huge selection available that I can't decide what to buy! =P I know that I want a cafe mug (it has a small dish for candy, etc. that stacks on top), but there are three different types to choose from--"upside down" "ボミ(bomi)" and "ワイド(wide)"--not to mention the "ダンダンマグ(Dan Dan Mug)" which is pretty much the same thing except the dish stacks on the bottom rather than the top. And of course within each category of mug there's a variety of designs to choose from as well.

The "upside down" mug seems the most practical, since it has a small cup that can be used as either a cup or a candy, etc. dish.

In particular, I like the "murmur" design.

But the "bomi" style has a really cute set of  bunny characters - "Oui."

But the "wide" style has some fairy tale themed mugs which of course call to the book lover in me. I particularly like the "Snow White(白雪姫) - poison apple" one.

In terms of overall cuteness, though, the Dan Dan mugs really call to me with their bright colours and super cute animals. I love the giraffe and monkey and pig and...

Apart from the cafe mugs, there are also a bunch of different mugs with lids. It'd be perfect to use during the summer at Kirita when tons of flies are around... There's the basic "ノンラップ(non-wrap)" type with the plastic(?) snap on lid, and the slightly funkier "Facile" style.

Then too there's the Paint Club Mug Set which is just a regular set of mugs, but has really cute characters and gives you 5 mugs for the price of ~3 of any of the other ones I've mentioned so far...

And finally there's the "Tea for Two" series which is a stackable set of two mugs plus a teapot! Again, super super cute!! I like the "ソラベア (Sora Bear)" one--and I also happen to have ordered the picture book (illustrated by Shinzi Katoh, of course!) recently, so...

Wah! Too many choices and not enough money!! Oh well. I'm definitely not going to order anything (for myself at any rate) until the new year because, as I said earlier, Christmas is coming up and I need to "save" my money for buying presents!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Maybe it's time...?

Recently I've been wondering if I should finally learn how to use make-up properly.

For one thing it's rather embarrassing that at my age I still have to ask someone to do my make-up for me for Nihonbuyo performances.

But really the main reason is that I'm starting to think that it would be the best way to make myself look older...

At the Kaminari Daiko nijikai (the after party--lit. second party--following the wedding of one of the group members) a member who hasn't really been around since I joined the group was shocked when I answered his question re: my age. He told me that he thought I looked like a high school student! @_@ (A step up from being mistaken for a junior high school student--which happened in October--I suppose, but still...)

And earlier this month, a regular taiko member made a comment about how he would leave re-tying the taiko strings to us "young people"--even though I'm actually 6 years older than him! (Since he's only 21 he must have thought I was 20 or younger?)

It's flattering if people think I still look like I'm in my early rather than late 20s, but somehow it doesn't really make me happy to be mistaken for a teenager...

I was used to people getting my age wrong back in Canada because Chinese/Japanese/Korean people generally look a lot younger than their actual age. But I rather figured that in Japan people would be able to guess my age fairly accurately... So I'm thinking it's the fact that I don't use any make-up that throws people off.

But the thing with make-up is that it's expensive and it takes time to apply. Since I'm really not a morning person, finding even an extra two minutes in the morning is really really difficult for me. Plus I get the impression that make-up is one of those things that you have to keep using once you start using it routinely--meaning it'll become a regular expense. And quite frankly I'd rather spend the money on books/manga/eating out, etc.

Guess I'll just have to put up with being mistaken for a student until I (naturally) start looking more like my actual age.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More "fun" with English

Here are some other recent gems from English class:

From a third year dialogue activity. There are two pictures: 1) Ken is reading a comic book with his notebook open in front of him and his English textbook on the desk; 2) his mother comes in with cake; the comic book is peeking out from his now closed notebook and Ken is holding his English textbook upside down.

Students had to choose from a selection of responses to fill in [correct answers here]. Then students had to write original sentences to finish the skit:

Ken: Just a minute.
Mother: Here's some cake. Are you studying hard?
Ken: [Yes, of course.]
Mother: Really? What subject are you studying?
Ken: [I'm studying Japanese... I mean, English.]
Mother: What's that in your notebook?

Ken: Oh my god!
Mother: You are [a] bad boy and fool!

Ken: This is my friend.
Mother: I'm sad to hear that.

=D I was particularly impressed with the originality of the latter ("I'm sad to hear that").

Then, today the second grade students got their Unit 5 tests back. For one of the questions they had to write original sentences using the pattern: "I think that [friend's name] likes [something]." I'm not sure if these answers (emphases are mine) are so much funny as mildly disturbing....

I think that [friend's name] likes little boys.
I think that [friend's name] likes little girls.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That was unexpected...

Students never cease to surprise/amuse me. Two original sentences from today's classes at Kirita:

"My favorite place was the [hotel] bathroom."

The second years went on a school trip to Tokyo last week. In today's English class they wrote about the experience using a fill-in-the-blank style worksheet. The student originally only had "bathroom" written, but made it more specific at my prompting.^_~  (The student did eventually replace "bathroom" with the more appropriate "Gekidanshikigekijo," a.k.a. Shiki Theatre.)

"Tuesday, November sixteenth, cloudy
You nooooooob!!"

Before class each day, a different student is in charge or writing the day, date and weather on the board (in English, of course). The third year students often draw pictures nearby (Doraemon, poop, etc.) but today "You noooooob!!" was written in very small writing under the weather. It turned out that the student had picked it up while playing an online game. =P

I was pleased that the student was able to understand when I explained the term using English appropriate for a third-year--something along the lines of: "A noob is a new person. It usually means a new person who doesn't understand the rules or can't play the game well."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday outing

Today was a rare solo Sunday outing to Hachinohe. (I'm a homebody and--with the exception of major trips, like to Hiroshima, Osaka, etc.--rarely go to places outside of Towada by myself.)

It started with a trip to Sweet Peach Salon スウィートピーチサロン for lunch. I was a little nervous about getting lost, but I only had to pull over once twice to check the map and regain my bearings. ^_^

Even though the Salon location is a little further out there than the main shop (which is right in downtown Hachinohe), I picked that location because it has free parking and I figured the roads would be less busy and thus less stressful to navigate for someone unfamiliar with the area.

Anyway, back to Sweet Peach Salon! It's a pretty little shop (seats about 18 people total, with 3 tables for 2 and 3 tables for 4) with a nice atmosphere.

The lunch menu is limited to one set that you can choose to have by itself (680yen), with cake (880yen), or with a parfait (1100yen), but within that one set, you get a good variety of smaller dishes: some bread, a waffle, a small salad, some fruit, and curry, plus a hot drink (coffee, tea, etc.).  

Being the glutton that I am, I went for the lunch plus parfait. =P It was pretty simple, but I liked it because instead of the usual corn flake or whipped cream fillers, it was pretty much all fruit plus a bit of ice cream: pear, pineapple, persimmon, strawberry, kiwi on top, plus banana mixed in with the ice cream, to be precise. The proportion of fruit to ice cream made me feel much less guilty about indulging myself. ^_~

Following lunch I headed to the Hachinohe Koukaidou (公会堂 public hall/civic auditorium) to watch my Nihonbuyo teacher, Rika-sensei perform. Thankfully I didn't get lost at all (hooray for signs leading to City Hall, which is next to the Koukaidou!) and made it just in time for her performance. (I entered partway through the performance before hers, in fact.)

I didn't get the story 100%, but it was still a really impressive dance--she played 3-4 roles (indicated by the changing of headpieces) all by herself! She was a baby (or little kid), an old man, and a husband and wife couple, too, I believe. I was really in awe of her skill, and that of the guy who was helping her with all the headpiece changes.

The guy had to sit in a kneeling position unobtrusively in the back for most of the dance and only moved forward a bit when it was time to change the headpiece or to take a prop from Rika-sensei. The timing was impeccable and super impressive! With all the different props I imagine it must have taken a fair bit of practice to ensure that he had the correct headpiece ready for her to take at precisely the right time and in precisely the right location (on the stage).

After the performance I went backstage to give my compliments to Rika-sensei.

It was pretty crazy because she had to remove all of the makeup from her face, arms and legs AND change into a regular kimono while accepting presents and congratulations from various visitors. She also had to make sure that each visitor received a small gift (sandwiches and tea) as okaeshi (お返し a sort of return gift/answering gesture of thanks).

Once again I was struck by just how expensive it is to do Nihonbuyo. I mean, on top of paying for kimono/wig rentals and dressing (and possibly a make-up artist as well), you have to think about preparing/buying sufficient okaeshi for people who come to watch you perform. @_@ Though I get the sense that at least it's only something you have to do for major performances (i.e. where there's an actual admission fee), since I only remember seeing all the お返し being given out during last year's big Hanasuzukai performance and not for the annual Shimin Bunkaisai. Or maybe it's for all performances and I just wasn't really paying attention last weekend...

Anyway, after the performance I headed back home--again miraculously managing to avoid getting lost on the return trip! ^_^ And that was my Sunday out in Hach!

スウィートピーチサロン (Sweet Peach Salon)

5-2-5 Kitahakusandai, Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture

To-o Nippo Press Co. Hachinohe, 2nd Fl.
Parking available
Hours: 11:00-18:00, Mon., Wed.-Sun.
(Lunch Served 11:30-14:00)
Closed: Tuesdays (except National Holidays, in which case it will close on the Wed. following the holiday Tuesday)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jam-packed weekend

Saturday morning (Oct. 30) I got up super early (4:30am!) and headed down to Oirase Gorge to check out the autumn foliage. Waking up so early I was super slow getting ready, so I didn't head out until about 5:45am (15min behind schedule!) and didn't reach the Gorge until about 6:30am. But I still managed to get a good hour and a half of walking and taking photos in before I headed back (~8:00am). The leaves weren't nearly as pretty as last year (apparently due to the unusually long and hot summer?), but it was still nice just to be walking around and enjoying nature--listening to birds singing, breathing in the crisp autumn air, etc.

I arrived back home shortly before I was scheduled to meet a friend at 9:00am to drive around to various historical sites around Towada/Shichinohe.

Oh, but before we went on our drive, we stopped at the Towada Aeon so I could get an electric nabe (re: Oct. 25 "Gadgets" post). Since it was the 30th of the month, I got a 5% discount when I paid using WAON, plus it was a Saturday, meaning I also got a pink receipt (get 1 stamp for every 2000yen worth of pink receipts and get a 500yen coupon after 15 stamps)! On top of that, the model I chose (a no-frills older Tiger model, just the right size for 1-2 people) was the display model, so I got an additional 5% off. ^_^

Anyway, while driving around Towada/Shichinohe, we saw the sign for Namiki, a hand-made gelato shop in Shichinohe!! One of my co-workers from the Shidoka recommended it to me a while ago, but I had almost completely forgotten about it until recently. I went for Kabocha (pumpkin) and Cookies & Cream, while my friend had the Jersey Milk and Cheese flavours. The other flavours that day (they do change seasonally) were: blueberry, matcha (green tea), coffee, goma (sesame), caramel, and strawberry.

It's open daily from 10:00-17:00, although they'll close once they sell out (which I've heard is highly probable on summer weekends). The shop has a nice, casual-chic atmosphere and the gelato is both delicious and cheap--300yen for a double!! It's so awesome, I suspect I'll be making a trip out every month or two! =P (If it was open later and located closer to my house, I'd probably stop going to Baskin Robbins and just go there instead!)

Anyway, some of the historical sites we visited were pretty interesting (to us, at any rate).

For example, there was this rice field that was said to have been owned/worked on by a famous local Buddhist monk (priest?). And right by the rice field there was a tree where the monk was said to have hung his clothing while he worked the fields. There's a stone monument (visible in the photo just left of centre) and everything explaining the tree's historical significance. It's pretty much in the middle of nowhere (along the road from Towada/Shich) so I was pretty impressed that my friend 1) knew about it; and 2) was able to find it!

Similarly, there's a big ginkgo (大銀杏 oicho) tree in Shichinohe where the monk/priest guy was said to have played as a child. There are signs marking the way to this tree, though. ^_~

On the way back to Towada from Shich, we also stopped by a...shrine? temple? near Fukamochi elementary school. It was cool because it had these giant human-shaped straw dolls which I'd seen before in the Aomori Kenritsu Kyodokan (Aomori Prefectural Culture Musuem 青森県立郷土館) and had heard were from Towada, but I'd never seen them in Towada before!
Aomori Kyodokan Display
The real deal (in Towada)
After getting dropped off back home, I took a long nap. Then I went to the rehearsal for my dance performance at the Towada Shimin Bunkasai (Towada People's Culture Festival 十和田市民文化祭). And following that I went to a party with the taiko group to celebrate the pending wedding (at the end of the month, November) of one of the group members.

Since the taiko group also had a performance scheduled for the next day (which I obviously couldn't go to, unfortunately), we were supposed to finish no later than 11pm, but I didn't leave until around 11:30pm and I suspect that others were probably there until close to 12am! @_@;;

The next day was another early start since I had a 7:20am appointment to get my hair done for the performance. Then I went to my dance sensei's practice studio to get my make-up done before moving to the Bunka Center to get dressed in the kimono. Since it was a real deal (apparently geisha-style) kimono and there were 7 of us in total who needed to be dressed in them, it took around two hours to get everyone dressed! I was the first one to be dressed, so it was a long wait--you can't use the bathroom when you wear a kimono!

Our group's performance was between 11:00-11:30. The performance was actually worse than most of our rehearsals! For some reason we were totally out of sync--with each other and the music--and we all made a bunch of small (and some not so small) mistakes. ^^;; But anyway, we got through it and hopefully the audience didn't catch on to all the mess ups. =P

My supervisor and AJ, as well as an assistant teacher (AT) I work with at an elementary school were able to come watch the performance and they came backstage afterward to say hello, which I was thankful for. My supervisor also gave me flowers (Halloween-themed!), and I got Halloween cookies from the AT (made with/by her daughter, I believe). It was super nice of them!

After the performance, we took group pictures before we had to get changed and clean up the room we were using as a dressing room (so another group could have it for the afternoon).

I had volunteered to help man a reception table from 14:00-16:00 so I just removed the make-up and changed clothes, but left my hair. I had just enough time between cleaning up and my reception duty to go out for lunch. I had the "C Lunch" at Sheep's which was curry + salad + dessert + soft drink (the "A Lunch" included all-you-can eat bread for only 100yen more, but I was craving curry, so I went with the "C Lunch") and a Belgian Chocolate soft serve cone from Mini-Stop for dessert.
Sheep's "C Lunch"
When I finally got home (close to 17:00!) I was finally able to take down my hair and to take a shower! I did laundry and hand-washed three pairs of tabi (the "socks" I usually wear for practice, the pair I wore for the dress rehearsal, and the pair for the performance).
Halloween pose after taking down my hair...
I was too tired to bother with cooking so I went to Isshin for dinner. Even though I often go to Isshin, it was an unusual night for me in that I ordered Japanese (rather than Western style) food--saba fish fried with sesame サバのゴマ揚げ--and that I didn't linger to study/read (even though I brought materials) but left shortly after finishing my meal; I was just too tired to stay longer. 

And that was my jam-packed weekend!

On a related note, I made use of my electric nabe tonight and had da bin lo as it's known in Chinese (basically the same idea as Japanese nabe--a.k.a. "hot pot" or "steamboat" in English). I'm used to eating with friends (BSGE!!), so I prepped way too much for just myself and seriously overate.

It was pure gluttony! ^^;;

But it was SOOOOOOO good! I have a feeling this winter is going to be one of my happiest (and that I'll actually be eating fairly balanced dinners with veggies and meat instead of just convenience store breads) thanks to my new handy dandy electric nabe! (Plus my new electric kettle! It boils 1L of water in about 5min, which really cuts down on the waiting time!)