Saturday, June 30, 2007

Happy Haruna and the Yogo School Festival

Isn't she lovely? She has an excellent memory, too.
Last night my neighbor invited me to go to his special ed school's festival. I had been planning to head to the onsen at Ioujima, but try not to pass up opportunities to go to the little local festivals here. This charming girl's name is Haruna, and she graduated from this school in the Spring. I met her (only once!) last December when I went with Murphy-sensei (my neighbor) to give my "jiko shokai" (self intro) to his classes. She was excited when she heard I was an art teacher, because she loved art and even had a painting hanging in the front entrance of the school. So, all these months later, she sees me and remembers me!
So here she is singing karaoke on the stage - she, like all of the other kids I saw, exuded such joy. It's so addicting. Below is a photo of some of the junior high teachers doing the Billy workout (?) I'm not absolutely sure, but it sounded like it was in English, and reminded me of my Tae-Bo/kickboxing days. Which came in handy, beause suddenly, two yellow-gloved hands grabbed me and Murphy, and the crowd apparently expected an impromptu gaijin performance, too! So we got right in there (me in a long skirt, Murphy after doing some heavy lifting at practice just prior to the festival - we were a sight!) and followed the crazy man in yellow gloves and camo pants. What better way to spend a Friday night than this?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More on how you GO in Japan

I think I've mentioned before that my favorite godson, Berns, is really into anything related to transportation. Considering I don't have a car here, I am afforded many opportunities to take all kinds of vehicles to get me where I want to go. As I was at the Fukuoka station waiting for my train (which is the Kamome, the slick white one that runs between Nagasaki and Fukuoka), I saw this one, a Midori, going to Sasebo. I used the explanation of taking a photo for my godson to start a conversation with the lady behind me in line (I've decided to just start talking to people in my broken Japanese - I figure, hey! law of averages - someone's bound to talk back eventually!). She seemed very amused, and, so encouraged, I proceeded to show her my purchases from the day. Apparently I wasn't too boring or incomprehensible, since she wanted to sit next to me on the train, too.
The other photo is of some good-natured しゃしょう "shasho" (train conductors) on the nishitestu train I took out to Dazaifu. The man inside the little booth is announcing that this is the Nishitetsu train heading for Omuta, and that the next stop is Shimo-ori. They of course said this in Japanese...
I can't believe how the Japanese is 'changing'...if I pay attention, more and more comprehensible words and concepts are filtering through what used to be all background white noise! :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Flying Body Attack and Donkey-Hote

This weekend I was requiring some social interaction, so Saturday I went up to Fukuoka again. I'd planned on meeting up with Kate on Sunday, but when she emailed me with the message, "Hey, going to see '300' - wanna come?" Hmmm...let's see, that's a tough one...300+ ripped, mostly naked men running around brandishing swords, fighting for honor and freedom against all odds, swirling around in scarlet red I have a pulse? So of course I met the girls. We went to Hard Rock Cafe first - sounds so cheesy, but it was a nice departure from the occasionally monotonous predictability of Japanese fare. And I wanted MEAT. I ended up with fajitas, but I could still identify a few slices of beef in there. Ooo - they even had real, life-sized napkins that weren't waterproof! (spend some time in inaka Japan and you'll know what I mean).
We enjoyed the movie, of course; though the story wasn't strong, the visuals more than made up for what the story was lacking :)
Before heading back to Tenjin, we stopped at "Donkey-Hote" (another one of those clever names like the piano bar 'Hugh Jorgens') since they have a little of everything. Baby shirts with wrestlers surfing (?), toys next to the "toys" (wink wink), next aisle you find dartboards and skateboards, you can also grab a new lamp, stock up on cheap candy, and pick up some motor oil on your way to the check out line. Hyaku-en shop on acid. But I at least got some photos to amuse myself :)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

仮面ライダー (Kamen Rider)

(if you don't see the Japanese on these pages, then look for the "text encoding" in your browser menu and select "Japanese" - it looks much cooler than the random symbols that are probably coming up if you haven't enabled that feature) SO - what do you think of my new bike and outfit? The only drawback is that at this time of year it's a little warm.

But すごいかっこいい、ね!(but really cool-looking, isn't it!)
This week my students are doing little skits about famous characters/people. I just had to post a picture of this one - you've got to love mutant superheroes. They sound so ridiculous when you're not familiar with their story. Kamen Rider, too, seems to have the formulaic story of fighting against another mutant gone mad who's prime objective is - you guessed it - total world domination. You must go to the wikipedia link (click the title of this post) and check out the episode the very least you'll get to learn a few new Japanese vocabulary words! I can't decide which is my favorite: Strangeness! Bee Woman (怪異! 蜂女 Kaii! Hachi Onna) or Cockroach Man!! The Terrifying Bacterial Ad-Balloon (ゴキブリ男!! 恐怖の細菌アドバルーン Gokiburi Otoko!! Kyōfu no Saikin Adobarūn) or

Friday, June 15, 2007


Here's the jazz bar we went to in Kobe.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Kobe conference

At the end of May I went to the Kobe conference for recontracting JETs. So for those of you who didn't get the previous memo - yes, I'll be here till at least Aug 2008. The conference had some really good bits, and I'm glad I went. I was really excited to hang out with some GIRLS for once (we're sadly lacking them in Isahaya!), and I met some really nice people from Fukuoka ken. I went to a great ws on using AV aids to make my experience more fun and engaging, and I attended a discussion about eikaiwa (English conversation) since I seem to keep getting invited back to the bar to teach. I'll have to take some photos of the bar eikaiwa peeps - they're really cool. I also went to a presentation by MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology) about meeting challenges in ALT-JTE (basically "foreigner" vs Japanese) communication. Wow - it was very enlightening - things getting "lost in the translation" is only the tip of the iceberg! Tatoeba (for example), one major difference: "Western" style for meetings - discussing and deciding; "Japanese" style - announcing and agreeing (the deciding goes on before the meeting apparently). !!! Anyway - I mentioned neat people from Fukuoka (remember that sounds like "who-coo-OH!-ka"), and we found a fantastic Greek restaurant downtown. Good thing there weren't more of us - we wouldn't have all fit in the restaurant. Afterwards we went to a great jazz bar, and much to the dismay of the snooty host, my Isahaya mates met up with us, too, so there was quite the gaijin contingent. The musicians didn't seems to mind, and the piano player's American English was spot on!
Unfortunately, we never got the renowned Kobe beef, so I really hope someone reading this (with some extra money to spend) will come visit and take me out for dinner :)

Train tram

While I was having a tea waiting for my plane in Kobe, I realized the airport trams looked more like little trains and less like monorail cars. So, here you go, Berns (and anyothers of you who are interested in transportation)! Have I posted any pics of the trolleys in Nag yet?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Apato souji

Here's my little neighbourhood! One Saturday the people who live in my apt (mostly teachers) all turned out to do some intensive weeding and general outside maintenance (yet, that same day I was asked to pay a maintenance fee???). Working together was actually a lot of fun! The weeds could have been swiftly annihilated with a power edger thingy, but using the big scythes (sp?) was a lot more fun. I even brought out some of my American music... My nihonglish is improving by leaps and bounds...
By the way, the very un-Japanese looking guy is my upstairs neighbour, Colin the Strong (there's another one who's Colin the Tall), from Colorado. His contract ends in July, and then he's going to Tokyo to study Japanese (or the J-girls, not quite sure). He's the one who keeps me updated on what's happening via The Colbert Report and The Daily Show. :)

Oh, no! Gotta run - going to English Camp with Dawn's kids this week - be back later!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Taiko lessons and Dad bonding

So my dad is a drummer. He just can't help it; it's in him and you just can't stop his constant beat. But I wouldn't want to kinda helps make Dad, well, Dad. He plays all sorts of other instruments, as well - some he's even made, but, sadly the music making genes did not get passed on to me. He's given me many other things, like my love for photography, my need for my own (power) tools (because he taught me everything I know :) ), my thirst for adventure, my insatiable curiosity, and though I have a deep appreciation for a variety of music genres thanks to him, I've really been wanting to be able to create something musical, too. Sometimes, when I'm in the "zone" as a visual artist, I feel the energy of other artists - it's like a common electrical current. Somehow with the drumming, I hope to maybe tap into my dad's "beat" - even though I'm on the other side of the world in his tomorrow.
So, I've decided to study taiko drumming. I've been able to attend two workshops at a nearby university, but we're hoping to find a right proper, more regular practice space. These are my teachers giving a performance at the end of one practice, and here I am in a most difficult playing position (of course it's much easier when you're looking at the drum and not mugging for the camera). I just realized I've not been putting up a lot of photos of me - sorry - I'm just usually the photographer, and I've also been vain and mourning the loss of my long hair - it's really best not to have things "get lost in the translation" at the hair dressers...ah, well, shikatta ga nai, yo!
So, tonight I faked enough Japanese to get myself an old motorcycle tire from the Suzuki guy down the street...and now all I need is a couple of decent dowels/drum sticks and I'm in business with my practice instrument.
I can already see Mom now, looking down, grinning and shaking her head -
(well, Mom, since singing counts twice as much as praying, ask The Boss there how much does drumming count for?)


Sunday, June 10, 2007


Yesterday I rode my bike up to Omura City because I'd heard that the irises "ayame" (アヤメ)were blooming. At the base of the castle in Omura Park are thousands of irises - probably hundreds of varieties. I left Isahaya in the mid afternoon and got to the park just as the light lost its glare...everything was more golden...the perfect moment for viewing the flowers. While I was there I saw a couple in traditional dress (kimono, etc) having their pictures done in the garden. There were also many people out on blankets enjoying picnics around the park, reminding me of summer barbeques we have back home (menus vary slightly, though). Of course there were the usual festival food booths - yakisoba, yakiniku (バラ蓋が大好きです、よ!), fried corn, frozen pineapple, ice cream (including green tea flavor), beer/sake, fried squid (ika), mochi. Sometimes with these guys you can get an extra serving if you beat them in a game of janken (their version of RockPaperScissors). I'm just going to give a friendly suggestion to steer clear of yakiniku guys who wear a ridiculous amount of costume jewelry - especially if they say your nihongo wa jouzu desu, and all you've said is "konnichiwa". (At least I'm bigger than they are -)

Anyway - I love how the Japanese celebrate such natural events - I've been to hanami (cherry blossom parties), ume (plum) blossom viewings, azalea matsuri, and just last night I joined (or they joined me) my neighbors in visiting with the fireflies "hotaru" (ホタル) in the "mountains" behind my house. I feel like I fell in to "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and there were little sparks of magic all around...