Monday, September 26, 2011

Towada Koma Festa 2011

Towada Koma Festa 2011 第18回十和田駒フェスタ
Website (Japanese) | Flyer (Japanese)
Date: October 15-16, 2011
Time: 10:00*-15:00
Location: Towada Chuo Koen (Central Park)
Admission: Free
Events & Activities: yabusame (horseback archery) competition; show jumping competition; children's horseback performances; horse-drawn cart rides; horseback riding experiences; leather craft making, etc. 

You can view pictures of last year's event on the Towada Horseback Riding Club's Facebook page.

*The flyer says it starts at 10:00 but the schedule for competitors says that the opening ceremony starts at 9:00 and the competition starts at 9:30, so...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Towada Fall Festival on TV!

Some TV specials about this year's Towada Aki Matsuri (Fall Festival) will be airing on Aomori TV stations this weekend:

【RAB青森放送】「空に響け 十和田市秋まつり2011」平成23年9月23日(金・祝)10:55~11:25
RAB Fri. Sep. 23 10:55-11:25

ATV Sat. Sep. 24 13:00-13:54

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Takko-Machi Garlic & Beef Festival

Takko-Machi Ninniku To Bego Matsuri  (Garlic & Beef Festival) 田子町にんにくとべごまつり
Date: October 1-2, 2011
Time: 10:30-15:00
Location: Ookuromori 229 Dome (Tapukopu Souyu-Mura)
Admission: Free
Events: "Country Dance" and Yosakoi performances; large grills are available to barbecue your own meat/veggies,etc.
"BBQ Set": Pay 2000yen to get 250g of  Takko beef, plus veggies (presumably including garlic), tare sauce, a plate and chopsticks; tickets must be purchased *in advance* from select shops in Takko, Aomori City (Shinmachi Narita Honten), Hachinohe (Lapia, Miharuya, etc.)  Oirase Town (Shimoda Jusco) and Misawa (on base)--see flyer below (Japanese) for details; takko beef will be sold on site, but the 2000yen set will not be sold at the festival

BBQ Set (from 2007)
We brought our own yakisoba noodles (from 2007)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Support literacy!

Growing up, I was always encouraged by my parents to read. I have many fond memories of cuddling up on their big bed while they read me story books I'd borrowed from the class library.

Although I had an allowance that I was supposed to use to buy things I wanted for myself, books were always an exception. Pretty much every time the Scholastic book catalogue/order forms came from the school, I could count on getting at least a book or two. They also gave me extra pocket money to buy books from the school library book fairs.

Most recently, last year, they gave me a Kobo eReader for a Christmas present.

Not only did my parents support my reading habits, but I was also lucky to go to schools close by public libraries. In junior high school and the years in high school before my brother and I got a car, I often spent the couple of hours after school waiting for my father to come pick me up at the library.

Since reading has been and continues to be a big part of my life, I strongly believe in the importance of encouraging reading and literacy, particularly in children.

So here are some great and easy ways that I've come across to support literacy in your local community and around the world:

Indigo Adopt a School (Sept 11-Oct 1, 2011)

Did you know that most of our school budgets don't allow for one book per child?
The Indigo Adopt a School program helps puts more books in the hands of children by partnering with the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation. Its power is in the grassroots outreach between Indigo stores and a school in their community they raise money for. To date, we have raised over $533,000 to put more than 46,000 books into the hands of children at 305 schools across Canada. 

1. Choose a local school to support.
We’ve identified over 150 schools across Canada that need your help. For every 100 supporters of your school, Indigo will give a book to its library.

2. Give books by donating, or buying an Indigo e-gift card. 
For every $25 gift card purchased, Indigo will donate one book to your school - you can redeem the full value in any Indigo Chapters Coles store or at You can also make a direct donation - every $12 will give a book.

3. Become a top fundraiser by spreading the word.
Tell your family & friends and get credit for every person that gives a book. The top fundraiser for each school gets a $25 Indigo gift card. Top three fundraisers in Canada will receive a Kobo eReader!

We Give Books

Sign up to read children's books online for FREE. One book will be donated to a campaign of your choice for each book you finishing reading online. Read classics such as "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," "Madeline" and "The Snowy Day," or new titles such as "You Can't Go to School Naked" and "Goodnight Goon."

Better World Books

Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than 8 million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.

All books are available with free shipping worldwide. And in case you're concerned about your eco-footprint, every order shipped from Mishawaka is carbon balanced with Green-e Climate certified offsets from 3Degrees, a leading green power and carbon balancing services firm.

Here’s the best part: In addition to selling new titles, Better World Books supports book drives and collects used books and textbooks through a network of over 1,800 college campuses and partnerships with over 2,000 libraries nationwide. So far, the company has converted more than 53 million books into over $8.6 million in funding for literacy and education. In the process, we’ve also diverted more than 26,000 tons of books from landfills.

Because we believe that most every book has lasting value and the potential to help change the world, we see our job as helping to find new homes for unwanted books. Thus far, we’ve donated 3.3 million books to partner programs around the world. Our five primary literacy partners are Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, the National Center for Family Literacy, and Invisible Children. Good company, no doubt.

Every book purchased from Better World Books contributes to individual literacy throughout the world and the promise of a better life. Clearly, we can’t do this work without our customers. That's why we’re so passionate about trying to offer the best price, selection, customer service, and overall shopping experience.

[For a true story about Better World Books' superior customer service check out my blog post from July 11, 2009:]

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cozy night in

I ended up skipping taiko practice tonight in favour of spending a quiet night at home. I went grocery shopping and--for the first time in ages--cooked dinner for myself rather than eating out or buying a pre-made meal from a convenience store/supermarket.

Since the weather has gotten cooler lately and I just happened to get eggplants and tomatoes today from the Kirita vegetable patch, I decided to make tofu lasagna. I also had some dashi in the fridge (made using the super easy Just Bento method) so I made miso soup (with tofu and wakame) as well. To round out the meal (and to use up the veggies before they went bad), I also threw together a salad with apple dressing and baby leaf greens (from within Aomori), and cucumber, yellow peppers and mini tomatoes (all from local Towada farms). 

All in all, it was a very nice, comforting meal for a rainy night at home. ^_^

I also made banana chocolate chunk bread (the recipe was actually for banana chocolate chip bread, but chocolate chips are relatively expensive here so I usually just substitute them with cut up chocolate bar chunks ) using hot cake mix and my rice cooker.

Yes, my rice cooker.
affectionately nicknamed "Jiro"

One of the main reasons I decided to buy a new rice cooker with only a year and a half left in Japan was so that I could try out the "rice cooker hot cake mix bread" recipes from a magazine I'd bought not realizing that it was only meant for IH (induction heating) cookers.

I've tried out other recipes from the magazine (potato & bacon bread; kiwi steamed bread; sweet potato sesame honey bread) but the banana chocolate bread has definitely been the easiest and tastiest one I've made so far. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vote smarter

Let's start thinking about the bigger, long term picture and vote smarter. Quick-fix cost-cutting mostly just leads to higher costs later. If we cut back on our efforts for clean energy now, we will be paying for it later with our health and future (the Earth can only take so much damage).

Dear friends: It ain’t always easy being green, but it’s damn important.

Ontario’s election is beginning, and the future of our clean energy economy is at stake. Thanks to Ontario’s world-class Green Energy Act, thousands of people across our province have new, well-paying jobs creating clean energy for our economy, our communities and our future.

Yet, just as this landmark legislation is building economic momentum for Ontario, some candidates are threatening to rip up the Green Energy Act if they get elected. Gutting the Green Energy Act would kill thousands of clean energy jobs and halt billions of dollars of investments. Worse yet, it would make Ontario more dependent on dirty, expensive and unjust energy sources that pollute our air and heat up our climate. It’s actually a life and death issue: air pollution from dirty power in Ontario contributes to thousands of premature deaths, alarming asthma rates, and lung disease, especially among children.

In this election, we can do something about it. The bottom-line is simple: the candidates want our votes, and that gives us a lot of power if we act together.

I just signed the Power Your pledge by telling my provincial candidates that I will vote for clean energy, new jobs, and healthy communities. I’m joining with people from all accross Ontario to ask my candidates to show us their best plan to build on the success of the Green Energy Act. You can find the pledge, sign it and send it to your candidates here:

In only two years, the Green Energy Act has spurred the private sector to invest more than $20 billion in green power projects in Ontario. This investment has created tens of thousands of new well-paying jobs for people like engineers, electricians, carpenters and forward-thinking entrepreneurs. People who used to build cars are now building turbines. This is today, and this is our future.

I want Ontario to continue to be an international leader in the race to build a clean energy economy that protects our environment; I don’t want to stop clean energy investment, kill jobs, or fall behind the rest of the world because of shortsighted political gamesmanship.

The fate of Ontario’s clean energy future depends on the choice we make today. If we work together, we can build on the success of the Green Energy Act and make Ontario a world-leader in the trillion dollar clean energy revolution that is sweeping the globe and giving us hope for a safe climate for all generations.

By working together we can build on the success of the Green Energy Act and make Ontario a world-leader in the trillion dollar clean energy revolution that is sweeping the globe, and inspiring hope that we can ensure a safe climate for all generations.

Will you join me in telling our candidates that we support the clean energy economy, and we will back up our words with our votes? Here’s the link again:

Thank you.


Ontario urged not to scrap renewable energy policy (Globe and Mail)
Populism beats good policy: the Ontario Progressive Conservative platform (David Suzuki Foundation)

Hudak urged to support green energy law - Program spurs job creation, say local businesses (Ottawa Citizen)

Clean Energy Toolkit (Climate Action Network)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Towada 2011 Aki Matsuri

Towada 2011 Aki Matsuri (Fall Festival) 
(PDF Flyer - Japanese) 
Date: September 9-11, 2011
Location: Central Towada (various)
September 9 (Friday)
[三本木大通り Sanbongi Odori, 旧国道4号 Old Rte. 4]
Mikoshi, Yosakoi, Hip-Hop Dance, etc.
[Kanchogai Dori (Komakaido) 官庁街通り(駒街道)]
September 10 (Saturday)
Geinou Matsuri (Performing Arts Festival)
[Bunka (Culture) Center 文化センター]
Opening Ceremonies 
[Intersection in front of the new City Hall building 市役所新館前交差点]
Hayashi (Festival Music) Competition 
[Sumo Dohyo 相撲所]
Kids' Performances
[Intersection in front of the new City Hall building 市役所新館前交差点]
Twilight Dashi (Float) Parade 
[Kanchogai Dori (Komakaido) 官庁街通り(駒街道)]
Night Dashi (Float) Parade
[Kanchogai Dori (Komakaido) 官庁街通り(駒街道)]
September 11 (Sunday)
Mikoshi, Parade, Ofukanai JHS Koma Odori 
[三本木大通り Sanbongi Odori, 旧国道4号 Old Rte. 4]
Hula Dance, Popular Song Show, Impersonation Show
[People's Square (Horseshoe Statue/Fountain Area) 人口広場(駒っこ広場)]

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Small joys

Lately there's been a lot of stuff going on and it's been taking a lot of energy just to get through the day. I feel like I'm getting by on fumes.

But this week I've had some reminders of why I need to really cherish all of my remaining time at schools:

On Monday I went to a junior high school (that isn't my base school) and taught the third years. To get back to the teachers' room, I passed by the second year classrooms and got a number of cheerful "Hello's". And in the midst of the "hellos," I heard one boy saying "Poo. Poo." At first I didn't realize that he was talking to me, but then I heard him say (in Japanese) to some friends, "Do you know what "poo" means in Japanese?"

And I realized it was a student I had taught when he was in the fourth grade of elementary school!! At that time, he asked me how to say "unko" in English and I told him without even thinking. After that he didn't even say "hello" to me, but always just said "poo" whenever I saw him. The ALT who visited that elementary school fairly regularly the following year (my second year in Towada) told me that the student continued the tradition with him.

So back to Monday.

When I realized what he was saying and who he was, I turned around (there were a bunch of boys so I couldn't pick him out) and called out (in Japanese): "You still remember that?!" The guys all laughed and I continued on to the teachers' room. Then at the end of the day the same boy passed me and again he greeted me with "Poo! Poo!" rather than the standard "hello."

I should probably feel guilty for teaching him the word, but, well, I find it pretty funny and almost touching that he still remembers something that I unthinkingly taught him so long ago. ^_^

(I've got to admit that even after that experience, I still--even up to now--tell students almost whatever word they ask me to teach them in English. I've taught "diarrhea" and "pawn shop" among many other words.Obviously I don't teach them anything completely inappropriate, however.)

Then another nice moment came today, when a former student of mine and sister of a current student at Kirita came into the school to wait for her mother to finish having a discussion with one of the teachers. Since I was free, I hung out with her in the multi-purpose room and helped her with her (high school) English homework.

It wasn't anything special--mostly I was just reading out the textbook sentences that she needed to write in her notebook--but it was really great to be able to spend time with a former student.

Oh, and I guess another "small joy"--although not school related--is that the July JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) results finally arrived today and somehow I managed to pass the N2. (The test has five levels, with N5 being the lowest level and N1 being the highest. So N2 is the second most difficult level.)

Actually, I'm not all that happy about it because I truly believe it was pure fluke that I passed. (Just look at my scores!) I didn't study at all for the test and I had signed up for it with the idea that by spectacularly failing this time around I would become motivated to study properly for the December test.

(And when I say I didn't study, I mean it quite literally. Not counting stuff like reading manga and watching dramas/movies in Japanese, I'd say I probably spent maybe 5-10 hours--and that's a generous estimate--specifically studying for the test from the time I registered til the day I wrote it. I've probably spent more time studying Japanese in the past week or two than I did before the test!)

So I really didn't actually deserve to pass. All the result tells me is that I'm a pretty decent guesser. Well, that and my listening is fine--that was the only section that I had confidence in, and I aced that part.

And it actually leaves me with a dilemma since I had never even considered that I would actually pass and so I bought the test application form planning on taking the N2 again in December. But since I did manage to pass, I now need to decide whether I will attempt the N1 or if I'll just try to sell my form to someone else.

Given that I barely passed the N2 (20/60 for the Vocabulary/Grammar section!), it would really be a waste of money to try the N1, particularly given that I'm going to be super busy until about the beginning of November and won't have time to do the hardcore studying that would be required if I seriously wanted to pass.

And given that my contract will end (and I'll have to go back to Canada) at the beginning of August, I don't think that failing the N1 in December would particularly motivate me to try to pass it in July because I know that I'll be way to busy with my departure preparations around that time.

But it seems like kind of a waste to not at least give it a shot while I'm still in Japan. Plus writing the test is a great excuse for taking a road trip to Morioka with everyone. (And since December is so busy, I don't think I'd go on the road trip if I wasn't writing the test.)

So yeah, I don't really know what I want to do. And I still don't actually feel particularly happy about passing the test since it wasn't something I accomplished by my own efforts/skill but simply through dumb luck/fluke. If it wouldn't be a waste of money, I'd almost like to write the test again (even though I've already passed once).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A good thing?

A friend of mine always says that being busy is a good thing. But I think this might be too much of "a good thing:"

Friday's schedule:
- elementary school 1: periods 2-4 (6th gr. classes) & lunch
- elementary school 2: periods 5-6 (2/3/4 & 5/6 split classes)
- junior high school: after school speech coaching (~30min)
- Japanese dance practice (~1hr)
- Towada Fall Festival Kirita taiko practice (1.5~2hr)

AND it's forecast to go up to 29 degrees tomorrow. @_@ Thank goodness I don't have any particular plans for Saturday, otherwise I think I just might die.