Monday, July 30, 2007

Style Spotlight

Here is a photo of one of the guys at the party.
He was still in his work clothes.
Can you guess what his profession is?
(A) house painter
(B) 'house' music and hip-hop dj
(C) house boy
(D) house construction worker

Post your guesses in the comment section! (and I'll post the answer there in a few days!)
100-yen Shoppe Gift Certificate awarded to the most creative write-in response!

Boxing Party

Here's another photo from the after party I went to with Jared and Colin last week. Apparently Colin is involved with this boxing gym, and they had a party for members after the Kawamatsuri. I think it's really cute how sometimes I'm really welcomed into some places, and I'm immediately given some random gift. This time it was a huge selection of fire crackers/sparklers (they're propped up against the fridge in the back on the left there). It felt really good to be so welcomed into a group :) And thank goodness they weren't drunk enough to put my boxing moves to the test...

Friday, July 27, 2007

きんぎょすくい Kingyo-sukui

Have you ever been to a fair and seen people walking around with a bag of lively little goldfish? I'm not sure how you catch them in the States, but in Japan they have an interesting system. At the kawamatsuri they had several "kingyo-sukui" booths where children armed with thin paper ladles tried to scoop up the fish to put them in a bowl. One must work quickly, because the game ends when your paper ladle breaks. In this photo you see the (now broken) ladle in the girl's right hand, and her bowl in the left as she gives the man her fish to bag.

I stayed for a while watching these tiny little girls in candy bright yukatta, hair all pinned up (I know it's cliche, but they really DO look like dolls!) darting here and there, squealing with excitement, coaching each other on how to best net the next slippery fish.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Fifty years ago the river in Isahaya flooded, causing great damage and over 600 casualties. Each year on July 25 Isahayans (?) celebrate the "Kawamatsuri" or "River Festival" to remember those who perished. If you look at the photo with the "50" on it, you see a representation of the original "meganebashi" (literally, "Spectacles Bridge" because when the bridge reflects in the water it looks like a pair of glasses) which is now actually located in the park near Kanko, and not across the river anymore. I know the river hardly looks capable of flooding now, but trust me - in rainy season I've seen it almost cover those stone walkways on the side banks there. This festival includes lighting candles all along the river, and ends with a big fireworks show. Here's a photo of some of the food vendors' stalls along the river. Japanese "fair fare" is becoming too familiar to me; I forget it's really different from that in the US. I'll take better pictures of them at the next matsuri. I just liked seeing the moon above, the stalls and the girls in their festive yukatta.

I even crashed an after party at a boxing gym on the way home (more on that story to follow).
I think Jared has a better photo, but here's one to give you an's a terrible photo, yet looks a little like it felt...I really think almost everyone in Japan smokes! And, not to worry, the strongest stuff I drank was Aquarius! You can't even drink and ride a bike here, and besides, it was a school night!

(ps - don't forget to click on the photos to enlarge! It works with all the ones from my camera. Sorry - the ones from the cell phone are as big as they get - )

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Soji Sweethearts

Friday, July 20 was the last day of school before summer break. that means NOW we're on "summer vacation"...that explains why all the students are at school, of course. People keep asking me what I'm doing over my "summer holiday" and since all the students are here for "supplemental classes", it didn't really occur to me that I'd have a vacation (meaning, I wouldn't have to come into the office or school). However, the principal told my supervisor to tell me to "feel free to take time off and travel around" during this time. Hmmm, still need clarification if that means to take some of the 20 days of annual leave I have, or if these are "free" days. We'll see. At least if I have to be in the office that means free air con :)

Here's another photo from my phone - sorry! It doesn't get any bigger. The kids were just too cute. The last day of each term we have an 'o-souji' (big cleaning) and here are some students working on the girls' locker room in the gym. Since I ride my bike everyday, I would shower and change in here, so I was helping the girls clean and we put little decorations on the mirrors there. However, today, after a series of slightly embarrassingly humorous or (humorously embarrassing) events, which included a sweaty, barefoot Tracey sensei turning up in the staff room, I've secured a daily hot shower in the men's changing room (the women's room doesn't have one, and I'm told the men don't use theirs). Not that I mind trading my freezing cold shower for a warm one, but somehow, I think I might have some funny stories to tell of this new arrangement...

ps - that is not to say that I can't have a hot shower at home; I DID finally figure out how THAT contraption works - I'll have to post a photo of it - you'll get the idea. So, yeah, for the record, I DO still shower everyday, yo! I'm not THAT far out in the country :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Maneki Neko Truck and Co.

You've all seen this cat - she beckons you to come into restaurants and stores...she is a "manekineko" which is translated as a "lucky cat" or literally, "invitation-cat". But you probably HAVEN'T seen such a large one next to a Pepto-Bismol P***Mobile such as this. On a day trip around Shimabara hanto (peninsula), I saw these - ah - indulgent rides. It's not Top Gear (in fact, I don't even think there were functional wheels on the pinkmobile!), but I hope you enjoy!

...can you find me in this picture below? Just look for the really crazy hair...

*** that stands for PINK, of course - my godson will be reading this, I'm sure! (~,^) v

flowers in the window

I know most of the posts make it seem like I'm always genki and have one adventure after another (fairly true, but a conscious, continuous effort on my part, to be sure), but please know that sometimes I'm quite solitary in my little apartment. This opportunity to be quiet and away from distractions is one of the reasons I came to Japan, and I do cherish the fact that most of the time the only sounds I hear are those of crickets and semi (cicadas). However, the losses this past year (and now again, with several friends - including my American neighbor - leaving Japan) sometimes make just getting through the day really, really difficult. I endeavor to seek out The Lesson and The Beauty in my life in so much around me, but at times I just sit at my window and let the sadness rain down and wash over me. I know the storms and the drizzles don't come to stay, I know that they're washing away what's necessary and helping that inner garden to flourish, but sometimes I just wish I had someone to hold an umbrella for me.
But, the sun does always eventually find its way out, now, doesn't it -
Well, now that we're out of rainy season it does :)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Semi Attack

This should be interesting. I guess the internet gods have discovered I've not been studying Japanese as dutifully as I should, so now I can't access this site in English. It's all Japanese. So hopefully this works!
Here is a photo of a cicada..."semi" I found some of my students playing with it, and walked over, since I thought it was a small bird. It was about the size of my palm, and this apparently was a small one! Later, the semi got revenge, though and looked like it was going to attack those mischievious boys...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lunch in Ghana, Blue Skies, and a Ride on the Neko Bus

I just want to let you know that I survived all the disasters we've apparently been having! Fortunately, the typhoon wasn't very bad near me (in fact, the weather was much better than it has been! Just a bit windy, but no dramas), and the earthquakes are way up around Tokyo. So Sunday I met the girls for lunch in Nagasaki at a lovely little international restaurant that serves a different nation's food each day. You can see our cook there in the middle; I think she might be studying at Nagasaki University. I tried to show off the delicious stew on the plate there, but it got cut off.

Here's a shot of the view off my back porch looking off towards the mountains where I went firefly hunting. (hey, you CO peeps, pipe down there - they're mountains to ME, anyway - just let me live with that fantasy :) ). I can't believe I actually took pictures of the blue sky, but, I kinda forgot what it looks like! You can also make out the clay "path" that runs along the green hill there - I usually take that shortcut to the konbini or bus stop. Gets to be exciting in some parts since it's only about as wide as one of my feet!
The other picture is from a little Totoro store up off of Hollander's Slope in Nag. Apparently there's also some kind of a big cat bus in the Totoro movie, and this store had a life-sized model! Maybe I should just get this Totoro movie and have my bar eikaiwa students explain it to me. But then again, some things are more fun when they're a mystery.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Typhoon Man-Yi

For those of you who haven't heard, there's a typhoon headed in my direction. More alarming than this, however, is the utter lack of concern amongst my colleagues...However, the school is actually closed tomorrow (though there was a juicy rumor circulated amongst the students that while the 1st & 2nd year students could stay home, the sannensei would have to go to school!). What? Kanko closed? Maybe this IS serious...
No, no, not to worry, I think at most it'll be akin to a cat 1 hurricane, and I've heard that though it may hit Kyushu, our prefecture should (just) get a lot of rain. Whew! - thank goodness - more rain. I was afraid I might actually see the sun again this summer -

Inside the Fun Room

As I said in the other post about the Kyushu National Musuem, I have a hard time keeping my hands off of all the exhibits. But how great is this?! On the ground floor of the museum, there was a whole room devoted to giving the museum visitors a hands-on experience with a variety of artifacts. It DID make me miss being an art teacher, though! Unfortunately, I didn't find this room until almost closing time, so I didn't get to see/understand everything, but I still enjoyed the visit. In fact, in my "search" for figuring out exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life, I find places like this particularly inspiring. I just keep praying for guidance...anybody out there have any ideas? Preferably in a locale in the mountains near the sea? (^,^)

Great dragon, yo! Look at those eyes!

Here's a side view of the room from the outside.
In this picture, you see a Japanese painting on a screen on the right, and a several plaques hanging on a tree on the left. Each plaque had a section of the painting on one side, and the other had information about that particular part of the painting. For this activity, you take one of the plaques hanging on the tree there and find the matching section on the screen to learn about it.

In this activity, I think you try to put the missing pieces in the quilt so they match the one above. In my teaching (kids AND adults), I find that any type of manipulative makes the lesson so much more interesting!

And after playing with costumes and masks, discovering distant painted lands, and fighting dragons, one can always use a spot o tea before one heads for home...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"Totoro-san, umegaemochi wo tabemasenka?"

This Totoro character is still a bit of a mystery to me, but he still cracks me up. I watched the beginning of the movie, "Tonari no Totoro" when I was in the Japanese class in Fukuoka. The Japanese isn't too difficult, but it's a little fast. I saw this furry guy on my way to the National Museum in Dazaifu, and he just looked so I offered him some of my umegaemochi...

(click on the post title for a link to the Wikipedia site that talks about the movie) Since the other ALT here is moving back to Colorado next week, I think I need a neighbor like Totoro :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kyushu National Museum

The last time I was in Fukuoka, I visited the new Kyushu National Museum (click on the title of this post to get more info). The Aussie gave it big thumbs up, and he never thinks ANYthing is cool, so I figured I'd go see for myself. I had been to Dazaifu before, but hadn't seen this supposedly massive building (and the town's not that big!). Well, I finally found the escalator that went up the mountain to get to it - wow! I felt like I was queing up for a ride at Disney. The museum is such an odd, enormous shape, that it first seemed like a mirage in the sky (?). But I really like how it was tucked into the landscape and reflected the trees all around - it was as if it very politely said (just like the Japanese people) - "Sumimasen, ah - excuse me - can I just sort of settle myself down in here? Do you mind?" instead of being like the kind of building that has the audacity to wipe everything out first, then looking like a pile of discarded boxes stacked up here and there in a parking lot.
And all that was just the outside! It proved to be cavernous, yet alive on the inside; I walked in as a concert in the main floor was just starting. I headed up to the historical exhibits upstairs, the music accompanying me as a went. I got a free English headset to understand some of the highlighted exhibits, and, though I'm not a huge fan of history, I must admit, I thought it was really neat. Afterwards, I went into a fantastic hands-on exhibit downstairs. I'm forever in trouble at the museums because I want to touch everything - and in this room, you could! More photos of it later, but here's a funny one with some borrowed locals :)
I also thought you'd like to see what a little bit of the town looks like - here's a photo of the view outside the eki (station) immediately after you come out of the turnstiles from the train. I asked several Japanese people what that white statue thing is there, but none gave me anything more than something to decorate the "welcome to our town" area. Notice the cars and how low the clouds are, and if you click on the photo to enlarge it, see if you can find "konbini" called "Lawson's" (you wouldn't believe how many times I've gotten directions to someplace that somehow involved a Lawson's - "yeah, you can't miss the place - it's right next to the Lawson's...")
Can you guess where I was standing to take this picture? Don't forget to click on the "eki" photo to enlarge it...)

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I honestly think it has been raining or at the very least, dripping, for - well - I can't even remember the last time it wasn't. Since so many other parts of the world are missing rain, I feel so selfish to have so much here! Ah, well, I guess it wouldn't be "rainy season" without the RAIN. The rice fields need it anyway, desho?
We had a bbq at a waterfall scheduled for last night, but, well, you can guess that didn't happen. The party was moved indoors to "Espace" which is a cafe owned by the same people who own the bar where we do our eikaiwa (English conversation) class on Wednesday nights. After we had a FEAST (thank you, Tanaka-san!), we chatted, played with the Wii, and in between raindrops, had fun with some sparklers/fireworks. Neat pic of Makiko-chan, ne! I got lucky with the timing on that one. Afterwards the gaijins headed to the video arcade by "Satiwan" (that would be katakana for "31" as in Baskin Robbins 31 flavors..) for a little "purikura" (my guess is that it's katakana for "print club"), and games. I honestly got a bit sick being cooped up in the smoky, blaring environment, but I was able to stand it long enough to do a couple of pics with the Isahaya crowd. For those of you who don't know what purikura is, picture a big photo booth where you cram in, pose in different positions (ours even had a jungle gym you could climb on inside!), decorate the photos, and print them out as tiny stickers. Tons of fun for only 450yen!