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!)