Thursday, April 29, 2010

A productive holiday

In a rare move, I spent most of my Showa Day holiday out and about (instead of holing up in my apartment).

I started my day at Uniqlo--taking advantage of the Golden Week sales. Thankfully I had received a (belated) birthday card from my parents yesterday, so I actually had money to spend there. =P

The purchase I was most pleased about was the One Piece t-shirt. When it was on sale about two weeks ago, I went to Uniqlo at night so all the One Piece shirts were gone. This morning, I was there at 10:30am and got my One Piece shirt right away. The store opened at 10:00am, I believe, and by 11:30am only about two dozen shirts One Piece shirts were left--and none of the design/colour I had. It's pretty crazy how popular One Piece is...

After spending two hours and pretty much all of my birthday money there, I went to the Towada library. There I picked up some guide books about Iwate (I may be taking a weekend trip down there at the end of May) and Kanazawa/Gifu Prefectures (I *will* be taking a long weekend trip down there in October!!).

Following that I headed to Kanchogai Dori (around the Chuo Community Center parking lot) to watch the taiko group I practice with perform and to help with setting up, etc. Since there were so few members (only 5!) and it was a very informal performance (with not so many spectators since it was cold, wet and windy) I actually got to perform a bit as well!! I only joined in the 3 pieces I've (partially) learned so far, and I made lots of mistakes, but it was fun! I definitely feel more motivated to practice now!

When the performance on Kanchogai Dori finished, we were supposed to move to Chuo Park for a night time performance, but since the sakura haven't bloomed yet, most of the food stalls were closing early, so that was canceled.

I hadn't eaten breakfast, and only had a couple of pieces of fried chicken, 1 rice ball, and 1 oinari-san (seasoned rice stuffed in a fried tofu shell) for lunch, so I was pretty hungry. Since it was a cold day, I decided to head to Padock for some yaki (baked) curry to warm me up. ^__^ It was delicious.

After dinner, I headed to Towada Jusco for ice cream at Baskin Robbins. (Double scoops are 31% off until May 5th!!) Since I was in a shopping kind of mood, I also ended up buying a brown handbag I'd been eyeing for a while, as well as a pair of white wedge heels (sorry, you can't really tell they're wedges from the photo).

All in all I felt like it was quite a productive (if expensive) day for me. ^__^

It did leave me wondering, however, when I turned into such a girl! I mean, for the longest time most of my money went to books, manga, anime and hockey, but I think that so far this year I've spent as much on clothing/accessories as I have on books/manga/DVDs/CDs combined! @_@ I guess I should probably blame it on Uniqlo! =P

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Where's spring?

Cherry blossoms were already out in Hiroshima/Osaka/Kyoto/Tokyo two weeks ago but it's currently snowing in Towada.

For the most part I'm thrilled to be living in Aomori Prefecture (and Towada in particular) but I do wish right now that spring would hurry up and make an appearance!

It sucks that I had to put on a winter jacket to go shopping for spring clothes at Uniqlo today. (I really want to be able to start wearing some of my more recent purchases!)

As I mentioned in a recent post, next weekend (Apr. 24-25) is Towada's Yosakoi Yume Matsuri and Sakura Yabusame--i.e. horseback archery under cherry blossoms. But as things stand right now, I'm pretty sure the sakura won't be out in time for the festival. (I also feel sorry for the Yosakoi dancers--they're probably going to be freezing dancing out in the streets!)

On the bright side, though, the sakura blooming later this year increases the chances that they'll still be really nice during Golden Week. (Usually they're on their last legs at the beginning of May.)

Since I don't have any particular plans (apart from covering all of the Towada eikaiwa classes while everyone else is on vacation) for GW, I was thinking I'd try to get down to Hirosaki for hanami (cherry blossom viewing). The last time I went was two year ago when my parents and Brenda and Cecilia came--and unfortunately it was raining that day (although it was still really pretty).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring break travels (part 2)

Still no time to upload photos. ^^;; But here's part 2 of "the short version":

3/31 (Wed):
- off to Nara in the morning
- we walked through Nara Park to Todaiji (東大寺), home of the world's largest wooden building (大仏殿) which houses the world's largest Buddha (大仏)
- on the way there and back we saw many deer
- 2 memorable deer incidents: 1) a woman bought some deer food but only gave a little bit to the deer; then she put the rest in her bag; the deer reared up on its hindlegs and kicked at her (luckily it struck her bag and not her body) trying to get the food--scary!; 2) Justin had a map of Nara in his pocket; a deer stuck its head in his pocket and grabbed the map; Justin noticed and rescued it, but not before the deer took a bite out of the map--hilarious! LESSON: believe everything you read in the guidebooks about Nara deer!
- we had MOS Burger for lunch and slowly wandered back to the station (stopping to shop for souvenirs, etc. along the way)
- then it was back to Osaka for some shopping!
- we hit the Uniqlo at Shinsaibashi as well as various other random shops along that arcade
- we ate dinner at an izakaya style restaurant, plus had crepes for dessert before we headed back to the hotel

4/1 (Thu)
- checked out of the Osaka hotel and took the train to Hiroshima first thing in the morning
- it was raining when we got there (around 10:30am) so we got streetcar passes
- dropped our stuff off at the hotel then went to the A-Bomb Dome (原爆ドーム) and wandered around the Peace Memorial Park (平和記念公園)before entering the Peace Memorial Museum (平和記念資料館)
- after that it was back to the hotel to check in and have a bit of a rest before heading to Sankanou (三冠王), which is probably my favourite restaurant in all of Japan!! (I will try to write more about Sankanou later!)

- we headed to Miyajima first thing in the morning
- our first stop was the world's largest rice scoop (大杓子)
- Syv and I had agemomijimanju (揚げもみじまんじゅう--deep fried maple leaf shaped buns)
- then we took pictures of the Itsukushima Shrine and Gate (厳島神社・鳥居)
- we were shrine/temple'd out from Kyoto, though, so we didn't go inside; instead we headed to Momijidani Koen 紅葉谷公園 to begin our hike to the top of Mt. Misen (弥山)
- it was a long slow hike (mostly because we had to stop fairly frequently for breaks since I'm so ridiculously out of shape), so the ice cream we bought from the observatory at the top was especially delicious...
- we took the ropeway back down and had lunch; Jen and I shared anago musubi (conger eel rice balls) and a set lunch with kaki (oysters) on rice, plus zaru soba and some Japanese pickles
- then it was souvenir shopping time! I got kaki senbei (oyster flavoured rice crackers) for my students, and momiji manju with various fillings (red bean, custard, chocolate, etc.) for the teachers at Kirita and my office
- I also gave into temptation and had not one, but TWO soft serve ice creams: one was yuzu peel flavoured, and the other was white peach served in fried bread instead of a cone!
- then it was back to Hiroshima to catch the Carps' (Hiroshima's professional baseball team) game against the Tokyo Giants (they lost, but we had a good time cheering; and the Carp Udon was delicious!)

And that was pretty much the end of the trip--for me, anyway; Syv, Justin, and Jen still had half a day in Tokyo to kill.  ^_^ The schedule was pretty hectic so I was quite tired at the end of it all. But it was totally worth all the time and money!

Towada Yosakoi Yume Matsuri & Sakura Yabusame

Yosakoi (a type of Japanese dance) Yume Matsuri  [十和田Yosakoi夢まつり]
Sat. Apr. 24th:
16:00~19:00 Towada Fire Station on Kanchogai Street (also extending approx. 1 block east)
Sun. Apr. 25th:
9:30~14:00 Kanchogai Street (~3 blocks from Tohoku Denryoku past the Art Center to approx. 1 block east of the Fire Station)
11:00~17:00 Bunka Center

Location Maps:
Detailed Schedule:
Photos from last year's event: Facebook Album 1 & Album 2

Sakura Yabusame (horseback archery) [桜流鏑馬]
Chuo Park (十和田市中央公園緑地)
Sat. Apr. 24th:
10:00~13:30 Adult Yabusame Competition (Day 1) [流鏑馬競技(初日)]
14:00~14:30 Children Yabusame Compettion (Day 1) [子供やぶさめ競技(初日)]
Sun. Apr. 25th:
10:00~13:30 Adult Yabusame Competition (Day 2) [流鏑馬競技(2日目)]
13:30~13:40 Winning Run [ウイニングラン]
13:40~14:00 Demonstration (Yabusame BINGO) [デモンストレーション(やぶさめビンゴ)]
14:00~14:30 Children Yabusame Compettion (Day 2) [子供やぶさめ競技(2日日)]
14:30~15:00 Award Ceremony [表彰式]

More info: &
Autumn yabusame (Horse Festa) photos: Facebook Album

There will also be a special exhibit about Towada's history as grounds for Japanese military horses opening on April 24th at the Kyodokan (十和田市郷土館). It is on the 2nd floor of the Towada Library which is located on the road between the park and Kanchogai Street, just west of the giant horseshoe and public rest space/restroom. It's open from 9:00~17:00 and admission is free.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

This year's goal

First day (in the new school year) back at Kirita. Kocho-sensei (principal) has requested that my JTE (Japanese teacher of English) and I work towards reaching a 50/50 split in terms of teaching (being the "main").

I really do have the "dream" placement for a JET. ^__^

(With this development, I'm tempted to start thinking about a fifth year--and my fourth hasn't even started yet!)

It's exciting, but also a little intimidating. I admit that I've developed a bad habit of using far too much Japanese with students (because it's so much faster/easier to explain in Japanese), but Kocho-sensei really wants me to do my best to use only English, particularly during extra English (自主学習). @_@;;

So my goal for this year is to revert a little to my first year self and to use 85-90% English, and only 10-15% Japanese. (100% English would be ideal, but I don't think that's realistic, so...)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring break travels (part 1)

It's going to take hours (if not days) for me to upload photos, etc. from my trip, so here's the short version (part 1):

3/20 (Sun):
- picked up Jen, Syv & Justin from Misawa station in the afternoon
- we all go to the JTB in Towada to book train tickets for the rest of the trip
- head to Shimoda Jusco to kill some time before dinner
- chanko nabe dinner at Sumo Jaya Tsukimitei (相撲茶屋月見亭

 3/21 (Mon):
- stopped off at the Towada Museum of Folklore & History(十和田湖民俗資料館)/Former Kasaishi Family Residence (heritage house)(旧笠石家住宅) on the way to...
- Oirase Gorge (奥入瀬渓流) & Lake Towada (十和田湖)
- lunch at the restaurant (千の花)at the Towada Chamber of Commerce & Industry (商工会議所)
- Towada Art Center (十和田現代美術館)
- Towada Jusco (ate taiyaki, shopped for breakfast, bought snacks, etc.)
- yakiniku dinner at Gyu Kaku牛角

3/22 (Tue):
- short visit to my base school, Kirita JHS (切田中学校); they toured the school and helped two students practice for their Canada home stay interviews
- visit to my office; they met my supervisor, Kacho, Hosa, Maita-Kyoikucho, most of the other Shidoka teachers as well as fellow BOE ALTs
- met up with M-san and we all went for super fresh and delicious kaiten sushi (八食市場寿司) at the Hachinohe Hasshoku Center (八食センター
- went to the ferry wharf to see the sea (there were a bunch of cows in trucks waiting to be transported somewhere, so it was a weird juxtaposition of sea sounds and cows mooing...)
- my (and Jen, Syv & Justin's) first onsen experience at a rotenburo (outdoor/open-air bath) at Yakeyama (野の花焼山荘); I'm still not an onsen "convert" but since it was just the three of us in the girl's side, it was nice to get some "girl time" ^_^
- horse meat nabe and sashimi dinner at Kicchou (吉兆
- last trip to Towada Jusco to pick up breakfast and train food/snacks for their 3/23 morning departure for Tokyo

3/28 (Sun):
- arrived in Osaka in the early afternoon, and after checking into our hotel, hit up the Osaka Museum of History大阪歴史博物館
- walked around Osaka Castle (大阪城) and had takoyaki from one of the vendors just outside the castle
- okonomiyaki dinner at the  BOTEJYU Dotonbori Head Restaurant (ぼてぢゅう総本店
- walked around Dotonbori (道頓堀) before heading back to the hotel

3/29 (Mon):
- headed out for Kyoto first thing in the morning
- weirdest weather ever: occasionally sunny, cloudy, rainy and snowy! 
- went to Kinkakuji aka the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺) and Kiyomizudera (清水寺) by bus 
- had a quick lunch at Kyoto Station before heading to Fushimi-Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) by JR train
- back to Kyoto Station for souvenir shopping (which turned into a bit of a tea tasting) and another quick dinner in the station before heading back to our hotel (in Osaka)

3/30 (Tue):
- headed out to Himeji Castle (姫路城) first thing in the morning; we were really lucky as the weather was gorgeous (sunny and cool) and we made it before: a) the main tower was covered by a giant tent for renovations (starting in April 2010); and b) before the masses of people arrived (when we left, it was a 30min wait to get to the admission gate, and another 90+min wait to get inside)
- bought bento lunches to eat in a nearby park
- took a bus and a cable car ride up to Mt. Shosha (書写山) to see Shoshazan Engyoji, (書寫山圓教寺) a temple complex where parts of The Last Samurai (as well as various Japanese period dramas) were filmed
- since it was on the way back to Osaka, we stopped in Kobe for dinner; Justin stopped a random guy on the street near Sannomiya Station so we (I) could ask for a recommendation for a good but not too expensive Kobe beef restaurant and he directed us to Steak Land Kobe (ステーキランド神戸)
- it was still fairly expensive (around 5000-6000 yen) but much cheaper than the starting at 8000yen place the Lonely Planet Japan guide recommended (the guy on the street also mentioned a couple of 10,000yen places before he remembered Steak Land...)
- we were all pretty much in a "meat coma" after dinner, so it was straight back to the hotel without any further sightseeing/souvenir shopping, etc. in Kobe

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Inflatable bed (a haiku)

Four in the morning
Going one by one by one
To the cold bathroom

A memory from Jen, Syv & Justin's visit to Towada. For some reason we all kept waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom... The most memorable was Monday night, when all four of us went (first it was me, then Justin, then Syv, then Jen, I think) at 4am!

I think it was the inflatable bed (or maybe the cold?) that was the culprit... The first night Syv & Jen were sleeping on the bed and both had to get up twice. Justin got up once, too, I believe. I heard everyone getting up, but didn't need to go myself.

The second night, I moved to the bed with Jen (and Syv took the couch) and even *I* had to. And of course since we were all in the same room (there's really only one in my apartment), once one person got up, everyone else did too... As a result, we were all giggling at 4am about our collective late night (early morning) bathroom break.  =P