Thursday, September 27, 2007

...just a random shot from the boardwalk area over in front of Fukuoka Tower...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nakamura Biyoshi

A couple of months back, desperate for a decent hair cut and more natural color, I went to this place recommended to me in Fukuoka. Yasu, the owner, is the first Japanese man I've met who actually has curly hair, so I trusted that he'd set things straight - well, you know what I mean. He worked in NYC for about 8 years, and so his English was really good, and his shop was filled with antique-y things like I used to have in my places back home. They even serve me tea and have funky 40's music or jazz. So if you're ever stuck in Kyushu in need of a trim, kochira wa watashi no osusume desu, yo

Friday, September 21, 2007

holding auditions for a new roommate

For about a month I've been trying to put together a little container water garden to I can enjoy a few plants and maybe even some fish thrown in for bonus entertainment. Considering my restriction in transportation and the lack of Home Depot stores around here, garden progress has been a little slow. I did finally find and get a big pot, but of course I picked one that needed repair because it was neat looking and significantly cheaper. Still not sure what the Japanese is for "epoxy", but I think I fixed the "hibi" in my "toki" (sp?) so now it won't keep "moremasu"-ing.

So, since I was impatient for my real garden to begin, I started holding auditions for the role of my new tenant. So far this little guy is doing alright. He's even finally figured out that he's allowed to eat the plants there.

And yes, of course that's a pasta jar :)

Thursday, September 20, 2007


This past weekend my town celebrated the annual "Nonnoko Matsuri." I have yet to get any straight answers: Who/what/where is a nonnoko? Why do we do the nonnoko dance? It's apparently a mystery to the Japanese as well.
These are the people from the city hall here on stage with the taiko drummers in front there that were keeping the beat.

I thought the lady was a lovely dancer, but I'm not sure why she was accompanied by - what are those guys, PowerRangers?

Dancingu wo shimashou!

So, ok. They're known for having beautiful women in gorgeous kimonos dancing around here in Japan, but I should warn you they also sometimes have other random creatures, such as tarako (which I believe is a character having something to do with fish eggs - like caviar) sharing the stage, too. One thing I've learned here is simply smiling and waving. Even after a year I still usually don't REally know what's going on, but I strive to maintain an attitude where I can just take a deep, contamplative breath and think..."hmmm...yes..well, THIS is interesting, now isn't?"

I am apparently a Japanese dancing fiend. Actually, they'll use any excuse to dress up the foreigner and make her dance around. One of my friends from school roped me into dancing with the inakajin (country folks) in her town for the "Keiro no hi" (Respect for the Aged Day) party they were having. After about 1.2 practices, I donned my yukatta and set foot on stage and did my best not to drop the sticks or boink someone over the head with them (I have NO idea what they symbolize - or are supposed to MATCH for that matter!).
Miraculously, I did quite well...but I'm definitely not quitting the day job. After the "beautiful" ladies danced, we held up paper "onigiri" (rice balls) while the "tarako" fish egg people danced a silly dance. You can see all of us at the end of the dance holding up a sign that basically says "Happy Old People's Day". The organizers even gave each of us a box of cookies to thank us for our efforts. I gave mine to the boys here - they're always hungry.

The other photo here is of me with my students as we prepared to dance in the parade for the Nonnoko Festival here in Isahaya. Kyoto sensei roped me into doing this one. Lovely lavander "happi" coats, obi, and kakkoii matching bandanas. Somehow the look really works for Japanese people, but despite my best efforts to make my hair play nicely, it just kept escaping. The kids told me the headband thingy was "a good match" for me however...that's just another one of those phrases that kinda gets lost in the translation. I once again had almost no practice, but the kids had fun teaching me the dance as we went along. (and yes, those are little white ceramic plates - think along the lines of Japanese castanets)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Kujukushima Matsuri (99 Islands Summer Festival)

Sorry for the absence, but I just got my heart started again after hearing about Dad's surgery last week. If everyone's telling me everything, then it sounds like he'll be OK, but we'll just say it brought up scary memories of what we went through this time last this blog was the least of my worries the past week. Thanks for the prayers, everyone :)

So - even though I had to miss the fireworks on the 4th of July, I must say all the summer festivals and their "hanabi" shows have been worthwhile. Here's a bit of the show at the Saikai Pearl Sea Resort's 99 Island Festival. I am continually delighted to see all the young ladies dressed up in yukatta, since I thought that many girls that age would think such traditional dress was outdated. Apparently not! Whenever I see them at the festivals, they remind me of bright little flowers.

Here's a photo I took from an overlook of some of the 99 you can see, Sam's appetite is never satisfied, and the Japansese tourists were even game for a little improv. And here's photographic evidence that I got to the bridge on my bike. After I took a nap underneath the cherry trees at the park by the bridge, I went down to the water to get a better look. The water here is aMAZing. The Saikai Bridge area is famous for its whirlpools caused by the extreme tidal currents.

Sam's Summer Holiday

I think that my わに ("wani" - alligator) friend Sam here was sulking for several months because I've moved him to a place that is REALLY cold for a REALLY long time. He came out of hiding, though, when I mentioned the trip up to Sasebo for なつやすみ ("natsuyasumi" - summer holiday). We were away only 2 days ("summer vacation" being a bit of an oxymoron here at Kanko!), but you can see Sam had a blast.

As you can see, he made fast friends with the locals! (yes, that IS the famous Totoro!)

I took my bike on the train to Sasebo and rode around (photos to follow), then went to Huis Ten Bosch eki (station) and rode my bike from there to the Saikai Bridge shown here. Afterwards, Sam told me, "Onaka ga suita!" (I'm hungry!) So I treated him to one of the world-famous (?) Sasebo burgers.

English Camp

Mmmm...what's cookin'? I need to go visit the States soon, as I'm beginning to forget what is "foreign" to this foreigner. Here's my breakfast at the Siebold University English Intensive that I did last month. Note I had to cook my own "bacon" and eggs, but it was fun. I also had miso, tofu, cabbage (and shrimp?), salted fish, tsukemono (pickled veggies - they're really big on that here), rice (of course), various kinds of nori (seaweed). The intensive was for university students to practice their English communication skills. They not only interacted with several foreigners like me, but they also went to the Nagasaki Peace Park and did interviews with visitors to discuss various aspects of peace.

It wasn't all serious, though. This other photo shows us in one of the rooms the second night playing "Bippity Bop" - a game that I think one of the guys was making up as we went along. I think in this photo the Trinibagonian had to become a tree and the people on either side had to be monkeys. Ah, no, wait - that looks more like "airplane" - where the Trini was the pilot and the folks on either side were wings. Internationalism at its best, yo.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fukuoka Tower

The last time I was in Fukuoka (just before I went to Korea), I finally got to the top of the Fukuoka Tower. Took myself out for a little cocktail up there and this was the view at sunset. Afterwards I went down and borrowed a random kid for the photo op. Her family got quite a charge out of it! (ps - can you find the big ferris wheel in the sunset photo?)