Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kinpozan (the Mountain)

So today I took the two oldest to climb a mountain.  The Mrs. stayed home with the snotty little one (not his personality, he is just very mucusy [not to be mistaken with couscousy, a tendency to be a little dry and flavourless]).

So we three set off on a little winter adventure.  As we drove south grey clouds were skudding across the sky.  Trees bent and strained as I tried to keep the car on the road.  Perhaps I was too preoccupied with the weather as we missed our turn.  A pleasant gas station attendant was more than happy to point out the error in our ways.  "Way back there" would probably be the closest translation.  So after doubling back we found the right turn (it should have been a left) and started up the mountain.  One more double back later and we had reached the parking lot at the top.  Totally empty.  We walked up to the temple and passed this tree.
We call trees like this "mother trees".   It has never been overtly discussed but when hiking we are almost always on the lookout for Mother trees.  We really enjoy finding them.
The view from the top was really beautiful.  This is the sea of Japan side.  If you look way to the right that is where I do most of my fishing with the father in law. 
There were little shrines all over the place.  Some religious discussion but very muted.
This shrine had a big sign posted just before it.  The basic mythology is that a boy who loved fishing went out one day and drowned.  His mother climbed the mountain to pray for her son.  This cave was the place where she prayed.  Since that day, her tears have continued to drop from the roof of the cave. I wondered if they drop in during the dry season.  That is if there is a dry season.
Next we went to a cool lookout and managed to take a timed shot.  Yeah me, I got in the picture.  This is the Kinko wan bay side.  On a good day the crater of Sakurajima would be spewing ash from right between the kids heads. 

After much tramping around, we headed back down the mountain and went for noodles. 
Then as usual we found a cool park to play at before heading home.


Todays big win was bringing home some omiyage (treats from a trip) for mom.  It was a long adventure and there wasn't actually all that much hiking but we had fun.  Probably the last hike of 2010.  Hopefully 2011 will be full of adventure too.

Best wishes to all for an exciting, adventurous and fulfilling 2011.

Youii Otoshi wo Mukaete Kudasai.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The night before.

Well it is a return to the good old days here.  Last night the Mrs. and I made dinner and I actually pulled out the camera to snap some pics.  The dinner involved some home made shake and bake, (I used some cinnamon) to coat the chicken.  There is a major connection between fried chicken and Christmas here in Japan.  I think it is a marketing thing by KFC. So instead of ponying up the big cash and wondering how my body is affected by MSG we made it ourselves.  Of the forty mini drumsticks (large hot wing size) there were only 5 left after dinner.  So that was a hit.  The spaghetti was my classic meat sauce.  Also quite well received.  The Mrs. was on for the veggie platter and dipping sauce.  She also garlic-ed up the bread. 


By the time the adults sat down my Mother in law had added some dishes with a slightly more Japanese flavour.  However, by then I was lounging quietly trying to estimate what time I would be in bed by. 

The kids were all in their beds by 10:30 and I think for the most part they were asleep by 11:30.

We woke this morning to find that Santa had visited and there was much ado.  The daughter received the eraser making set.  Originally she was disappointed because it is a little difficult to do but with some dad help we have now officially made a clover eraser and she is satisfied with her santa request.  The older boy received a remote control car.  The antenna on the controller is now half the length it is supposed to be but the toy still works.  How many times can you tell a five year old to be careful.  The little guy got a block balancing game which can also just be blocks.  I didn't get his official statement but witness report that he seemed neither disappointed not overly excited.  Next year.

Well it is time to settle down with a beer and a book.  Currently watching toy story 3 in Japanese.  Good times.


Ps.  these pictures are from the community Christmas party.  Some pretty wicked cakes if you ask me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Festive Holiday Spirit.

I almost titled this post the Christmas Spirit but I didn't want to offend any of my readership.  You know how it is. 

So anyways yesterday was a pretty great day here.  We started in the morning with the neighbourhood Christmas party.  The Mrs. and I took the three kids over to the little community hall next to the park.  I didn't know what to expect as the Japanese treatment of holidays can sometimes be a little off.  However, this event was awesome.  The basic concept was to get the kids of the neighbourhood together with some of the older folks in the neighbourhood.  They started off with a cake decorating session.  There were nine groups of 2 or 3 kids and one elder.  Each group was given a roll cake, some whipped cream and an assortment of decoration candies.  Then they decorated their Christmas cake.  Christmas cake is a Japanese specialty.  A classic Japanese christmas meal is a romantic dinner of KFC and christmas cake.  Fried chicken and a white frosted cake equals santa. 

Anyways after decorating they sliced it up and everyone got to eat part of their creation.  At our table the youngest didn't do much decorating but he enjoyed his slice.  The daughter was at our table and did a major portion of our decorating.  The son was at a different table and was sent scathing looks by his father each time he snuck a decoration or took a furtive finger full of frosting (okay it was whipped cream but I loved the alliteration). 

After the feasting everything got cleaned away and I did my best at avoiding being volunteered to entertain the kids.  It was touch and go for a moment when the wife asked me to teach everyone a christmas song in English.  However, I hemmed and hawed long enough for the people from the library to arrive.  They presented two sing along songs (in Japanese but accompanied by finger puppets) two books, and one story told with picture cards.  None of these were winter or Christmas related.  Fair enough. 

To finish off they give out some gift packages and then had a kuji.  This is where the kids pick a number out of a bag and then get the present associated with the number.  Everyone got two picks so our kids were mostly satisfied.

Post party the older two had made plans to play at the park.  So after a quick walk home and some lunch they were off again.  However, they were told to be back by 3:00 as we wanted to go into town and see a movie.  I managed to get a run in and by 3:08 we were on the road, minus the baby who was having his afternoon nap.  Both parents felt a little guilty about leaving him behind.  But we dealt with it and moved on. 

The kids both napped in the car for the half hour ride to Chuo station.  Otherwise the drive was uneventful.  Upon arrival we split into two groups.  The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 group consisted of me and the kids.  The shopping and having some leisurely alone time consisted of the Mrs. 

The movie experience, aside from the $22.00 adult ticket price, was great.  The son sat in my lap for the last half (its a little scary) and the daughter felt like she was trying to rip my arm out.  We shared a big popcorn and everyone had their own drink (I know I would never choose melon soda).  We took a pee break with about half an hour to go so now I have to wait for the video to see the three minutes I missed.  The movie ended at 6:38 and I had told the Mrs. that we would meet her at McD's between 6:30 and 6:45.  Fortunately, getting their was pretty much a straight shot.  We rode the elevator ride from the sixth floor to the basement.  After a (cannot think of appropriate adjective ) dinner at McD's we got back in the car and headed back home.

All in all it was a great festive, holiday kind of Saturday.  Some quality family time together.  And when we got home the baby was pretty happy to see us.  Turns out when he woke up he wouldn't take sympathy from his grand parents or aunt.  Instead he turned to his 4 year old cousin for the soothing hug he needed.  After that he just played as usual till we got home.

Good times.

love out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sports day.

Just a quickie to say that our latest movie is up on Youtube (or should be up by the time you North American's read this).

Our movie can be found at this link.

However, I have another link of a whole day of a high school sports day compressed into two minutes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Totally Bisho Nure.

Recently I have noticed a real cultural shift in my kids.  Occasionally they will have trouble explaining something in English.  The title of this post is what the daughter said today in explanation of why she wasn't wearing he usual shoes to school, they were totally bisho nure.  I asked her to explain herself in English (in my defense I did understand her Japanese, I was just probing the incident).  She paused for a few seconds and then responded that her shoes were "wet... very wet."  I commented back that they were probably "soaking wet" and we headed off for school.

This topic actually came to mind a few days ago in the bath.  I was getting out of the bath and the son and daughter were still in.  I asked them if they wanted me to put the cover over.  If you do this then it makes kind of a cave/grotto effect and they enjoy it.  The son response was great he said, "Boku drown suru my mimi gets baikin".  Basically he was going for, "If I submerge my head then I will get another ear infection."  He didn't know the English, submerge or the Japanese Shizumu.  And his only ear infection explanation has been in Japanese from his mom when he went to the hospital last week for the ear infection he had.  The Japanese word for ear infection is something I don't remember but it is a long word that doesn't include the words ear or infection.  I can't remember it so the son had no chance.

The son pops out these mahze go (mixed language) statements all the time these days.  It is very endearing.

In other news the Mrs had her 37th Birthday on the weekend.  She baked a cake and we had te-maki sushi for dinner. 
 The next two pictures are almost the same however, the son's expression in both is just priceless.

 Finally we have the four varieties of cereal (two bags of each) that the Mrs. managed to pull in for filling out the form on the back of a cereal box and sending it in.  Fortuitously this arrived on the day she a) had just complained to the mother of one of the son's friends that she never wins anything and b) had her birthday. 
Cereal anyone.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A study in Contrasts.

So the boys are more like this

The daughter however seems to be more like this.
video

Recently the son has been (un)fortunate enough to have a friend with a DS to spare.  He is fully into gaming.  Whether it is on the DS, online with this computer, or using the play station at home he is fully integrated.  Now being entirely susceptible to the draw of gaming myself I have great sympathy.  However, as a parent I still have to ask the question, where do I draw the line between an entertainment and over use?  I have never managed to draw the line for myself.  This is a problem.

The daughter was running with all of her classmates in the yearly grade wide distance run.  We went out and practiced for this a few times.  During the practices there was lots of walking and she really played up the fact that she wasn't very good.  Then she finishes 12th out of 38.  Which was an improvement on the 19th she had managed during PE class.  Her results were great, but beyond that there was how she managed herself leading up to and during the event.   A few times she tried to get all worked up about doing something where people would be watching.  I talked her down a few times but I don't think her heart was ever really in it. Best of all, in the end everything went fine.  It is amazing how far she has come since arriving in May.  I know she still feels like everyone is watching her all the time because she is different but she is handling it way better.  I am very proud of how far she has come and how hard she has worked.  

On a different note we are looking forward to Christmas here.  The fathers group has scheduled a Kite Making with your dad session.  Christmas morning 9:00 to 12:00.  I was going to skip it out of principle but I figured that was foolish so we will be at the school making Kites on Christmas morning.  When in Japan, eh.  Of course this means we will be able to take part in kite flying competition in early January.  Kind of a New Year's thing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shichi-Go-San again.






You might remember way back in 2008 when we previously dressed up for the seven-five-three festival here in Japan.  There was much more hair work done that time.

Well I have to go and do other stuff.  Lets just call this a picture post.

Love out.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Events.

So recently we have had a couple of family events.  The first event was a family dinner with one of Sayoko's best friends, Shan Shan.  She was at our wedding and lives about 5 minutes away by car.  Shan and her husband have three kids, the oldest being in the same grade as Kiyomi.  Her name is Kanako.  The two girls get on famously.  The also enjoy excluding the boy so he enjoys trying to annoy them.  It is a nice complement.

Their youngest is four months old.   Riko chan.
It was a really nice dinner hanging out with friends and even though I had a running practice (more later) the next morning we drank quite a bit.  The really excellent part to this dinner was the fact that this week, out of the blue, they called us up on Saturday afternoon and invited us over again.  They were having another family over for a fall barbecue night and they were sorry for the last minute invite but it was all last minute.  This party topped the first one, in that for me, hanging outside as three dads roasting meat, talking about late 80's NBA (the third dad is a huge b-ball fan) and commiserating with each other about the various trying aspects of marriage was awesome.  My Japanese has really come along and it was great to just hang out with the boys.  The dinner was excellent too and I was sad I had to limit myself to three beers (I did have a fourth but that was the end.)  

The reason I limited myself is that I had a race the next day.  I was competing in the Ijuin Eki-Den with the Myouenji team(we live in Myouenji).  When I was originally approached to be on the team I declined because the race was the same day as the Bazaar at Kiyomi's school.  As part of the fathers club (Oh Zora Kai, Big sky group) I had already signed up to help make and sell french fries and cotton candy.  However, the head of sports for our community happens to also be a member of my softball team and finagled it so that I could do both.  At the first practice when asked what I wanted to run I foolishly offered to run a longer 2.46 K leg instead of running as the over 30 competitor in a 1 km leg.  Foolishly in that they ended up putting me as the anchor leg.  The coach figured as I would be late arriving from the Bazaar it was best to put me last.  Well long story short.  We came second.  After years of dominating the event the Myouenji A team (yeah we had a b team too) came second this year.  I only lost my leg by 1 second and we lost by over a minute over all so it wasn't all my fault.  But the guy who ended up running as our over thirty competitor had a record time for that leg and if he had run the last leg with me running his shorter 6th leg we would have been much closer.  I am trying to let it go.  Of course there were two different gatherings involved with the Ekiden and I consumed lots of food and drink.  At both gatherings we settled down after the students had left and continued our revelry.  Good times.

I could talk about the drinking parties that have crept up in November but I wont.  Instead I will move on to our latest kiking trip.  This time we climbed Mt Kanmuri (Nishi Dake on most maps) near Ichiki-Kushkino.


This is us at a little shrine on the way up.

 Note me holding the youngest as we hike.  He is getting to be a good work out.  Both the Mrs. and I lamented leaving the baby hiker back in Canada.  By the time we get back we won't be able to use it much. 


 The views from the top were awesome.  The pictures don't do it justice because the contrast between sea and cloud was lost due to the haziness.  Some other hikers told us that the view on that day was amazingly clear so perhaps this is the best we could get.

Instead of climbing all 541m to the top we actually drove most of it and parked at the temple and shrine that are way up the mountain.  It was about a half hour hike from the parking lot.  Pretty reasonable and we did not run into very much whiny ness at all.  On the trip back down we took a different road and at the bottom of the hill we went to see this giant statue. 

This next picture is my favourite.  Mountain, statue and kids.  It really says it all.

After the statue we went to a park and the kids played for about an hour.  It was a good park.   No I didn't take any pictures.  Everyone was asleep by the time we arrived back home (I was only a little dozy).  To tie it all back together, we got back just in time to take the late invite phone call to the second party.  We told them we would be late as I had my last ekiden practice at 5.  Good times.

Love out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Turning Points

It is a pretty amazing time here.   Things are happening.  Just yesterday Kazi started to really parrot words.  He copied his great uncle by saying "Shochu" the local potato liquor that practically everyone drinks.  He called both his sister and brother by name.  During the day he was looking at his tummy and saying "ka - ii, ka - ii."  It took an explanation from the Mrs. that he was pointing at the picture on his tummy and saying, "kawa ii" or "cute" in Japanese.  So he has the wherewithal to know that something can be cute and that it is positive and he wanted to share with me that his shirt was cute.  Honestly, this change has really taken me by surprise.  With the other two kids it really felt like I would come home one day and they would be walking or talking.  That is what happens when 60-70% of your waking time is spent thinking about work.  Being here with really nothing to think about has given me the chance to watch my son change from a baby to a toddler.  I am so excited to spend the next 5 months watching him learn to speak and to hear the different ideas he has come out.

And speaking of ideas his older brother is having some doozies these days.  Just this morning while we were driving to school we were talking about driving.  He said if he was driving he would crash into all the cars.  (Yesterday he played a version of mariocart at a friends house and I guess there was a lot of crashing)  So I replied that I wouldn't let him learn to drive if he was going to crash.  He parried with once I was dead he would be able to do what he wanted.  I said I would be watching him even when I was dead. To this he responded he was looking forward to being reunited when we were spirits (I don't think he has the word for heaven in his vocabulary currently, I know I don't use it).  I thought this was a pretty big idea.  So I got into the whole thing about lets enjoy living together, we don't know what will happen in the future, basically I was only superficially listening to what he was saying and as usual was driving my own agenda.  And this brought us to the conversation I really wanted to talk about.  Kohei asked me why we don't have little devils and angels (white angels and red angels is what he said)  on our shoulders telling us what to do.  One of the videos the kids watch here has a Donald Duck cartoon where he is lead astray by his shoulder devil.  So then we got into what those shoulder guys really mean.  I tried to explain about having choices and there may be two options and you can't decide which to do.  So in your head you will think about the reasons for doing one thing rather than the other.  I don't know if he was satisfied by this but we had arrived at school by then and he had moved on to the excitement of possibly being the first to arrive at school, which today he was.

It is so cool to see Kohei attaching meaning to life and connecting the various ideas he comes across every day with the rest of the ideas in his life.  As I write this I realise I need to do a better job of listening and asking questions in situations like this.  Hopefully I can be the same kind of teacher to my own children as I challenge myself to be with my students.  So that is what I learned today for the umpteenth time.  More questions, less answers.

All in all life continues to be great everyday, though we miss our Canadian friends and family a lot.  Everyone is well. 

Love out.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hiking for Four

 So we left the littlest gaffer asleep at home with the reli's and head off for a short hike.  Today's destination was the sister mountain to our first real hike.  It is called Yahazu Dake (302 m).  It is not a listed Yahazu Dake however so I cannot provide a link, darn it.  However, I do have pictures a plenty.
 The sign at the parking lot says it is a fifteen minute hike.  It took us about 25 minutes and both the kids, though at points whiny, never gave any hint of being ready to give up.  The parental conversation revolved around how starting off with easy hikes is good and there is no need to push it and then turn the kids off of hiking.  Like I will be able to stick to that.
 Of the two mountains we have hiked this was the one not recommended by Kohei's teacher as it is too steep.  However, it is clearly the better hike.  Trail is well marked and quite wide.  There are some rope railings set up in the steep stretches.  And the view at the top is panoramic taking in both the sea of Japan to the west and Kinko wan (kinko bay) and Sakurajima to the east.  It was a sort of hazy day so the pictures aren't the best but you get the idea.

 Also at the top were some killer big spiders.  We watched one in the process of taking in a fresh catch.  We saw it move in.  Grab the little bug with its pincers.  Then we saw it use its hind legs to pull out the silk and wrap the critter up.  It was cool and the kids were fascinated.  They actually wanted to take it home.  I had to explain that there are spiders like this everywhere near our house.  Kiyomi actually pet the spider a couple of times.  There are literally pet opportunities everywhere that child looks. 
Sorry about the spider picture but I am not experienced with manual focus on our little point and shoot and I didn't have a tripod.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is that Dinner?

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you.  It is a dinner post.  Amazing I know but true.  I am back.

Yesterday the delivery man made a stop at our house and dropped off our latest purchases from the foreign buyers club.  So we are back in the basics.  Yes, nacho chips, granola and lasagna noodles are the staples of my life.  6 bags of nachos, 8 packages of granola and 4 boxes of lasagna.  We also got some garlic powder, bay leaves, pickled jalapeno slices and olives.  Basically it is all stuff we cannot find here or we cannot find it at a reasonable price.  The chips won't last but the pasta should go a couple of months and the cereal should see us through the new year.
 So with all that handsome goodness on hand I figured it was time for me to whip up some dinner.  I am usually good for at least one dish every other night but tonight I took on the whole task.  First I made the Dunnet style guacamole.  I think I over did the yogurt but it was still good.  The avocadoness was very mild which was a small shame.  The salsa was pretty good and though it was a little spicy (very nice) the kids still  managed to eat some.  The best was when the guac and salsa were mixed together.  Freak-tastic ©.  The other finger food was the satsuma imo fries.  Satsuma imo are the purple sweet potatoes favoured in this part of Japan.  Sliced, oiled, and seasoned they were baked for about 40 minutes.  Awesome.  Next up was some Nasu Miso.  Now I know that I should have just done the nasu in the miso and been satisfied with what looked to be a glorious dish.  However, I had to go the extra yard and add some cubed fried tofu and some moyashi.  Unfortunately, I didn't scale up the sauce ingredients so though the nasu was flavourful the tofu was pretty mild.  The kids still gobbled it up.  This evenings main dish was hamburg steak.  Basically hamburgers without the buns.  Even I was impressed with the overall flavour of this evening burgers.  Minced onions and mushrooms along with pepper, salt, cumin, coriander, the previously mentioned just arrived garlic powder, three eggs and bread crumbs came together very nicely with the mixed ground pork/beef we had.  Fried in a non stick frying pan then ended with the nice crispy outsides and juicy rich insides that burgers so richly deserve.  I feasted on chips and dip and sweet potatoes before the burgers had even started frying so you can imagine how stuffed I was when all was said and done.  Haven't been on the scale this morning. 

Finally here is a shot of Yoshiteru watching some TV while I make dinner.  He enjoyed the snack food but in the end Junko had a fish dish ready to add to his dinner.  When you reach seventy you are allowed to be a little set in your ways.
Love out.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween arrives early in Japan.

Trick or Treat.

Just before lunch today the Mrs. informed me that the kids had been invited to a Halloween party this evening.  Okay... I guess we need some costumes.
(T.O:  Kaz is still coughing and sneezing) The witches costume is actually a hold over from Sachon's post college, pre-David days.  So that was easy enough to put together.  However, the boy was lacking.  My glorious wife thought maybe he could be a cowboy.  Put him in my good hiking hat and he could carry his toy gun.  I immediately nixed the idea as it required no inspiration from me and we didn't have any chaps.  Looking around the house I noticed the mostly empty box that the good beer comes in.  I quickly transferred the last of the beer to the fridge (quick thinking on my part) and got to work.  With some scissors, white paper, most of a roll of tin foil, some pencil crayons and most of a roll of tape we were done.

So after dinner and some last minute directions from the Mrs. (it is an orange house with a green roof somewhere near here on the map) we were off.  Now by this point I had managed to squeeze a few more details from my betrothed and determined it was an English Language school English party.  Originally the plan was to drop the kids off from 7:30 to 9:00 but the boy and girl were both too chicken to go it as a pair so I offered up my services.  Grudgingly.  It was everything I expected.

The teacher/owner of the school is a Chinese woman from Hong Kong who has lived in Kagoshima for the last 17 years.  She is married to a Japanese man and has some elementary age kids.  She was very nice.  As expected I was asked to say a few words of greeting at the beginning.  Then there were the usual excruciatingly painful games, "What is this picture?" (half the kids aren't listening, a quarter don't show any signs of comprehension).  A third of the way through the games the boy decided he was done.  Not fun.  Also his silver cap was a total thermal trap.  I had to open up the top like a fully popped pan of stove top popcorn.  It helped.  We made it to snack time.  After that I gave another little speech about Halloween in Canada which Kiyomi did a very game job of translating.  I answered some questions and then gave my little inspirational speech about learning English (ironically I give it in Japanese so people know what I am talking about).  The junior high girls were paying attention.  With that done we gave out some treats and called it a night.  It is a great blessing that I do not teach Eikaiwa any more. 

The costume should get some good play here for the next week or so. Oh I forgot.  Kohei's robot pose in the second picture almost made Sachon wet herself.  She went off.  It is a good pose.

Love out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Working Man.

So just a quick one today.  First a little lay out.  The washroom in our place has about 8 feet of hallway leading directly away from it.  This short hallway meets the main hallway of the house in a T.  They main hallway runs down the middle of the house and every room is reached via this main hallway.

This morning as I stepped out of the washroom after my daily ablutions, who should I be met by but the youngest son standing at the junction of the T.  To preface this he was up a lot last night coughing.  He has had the on again off again cold for the last 8 - 10 days.  Last night he threw up a little bit so we brought one of the bathing bowls (Sen Men ki) into our room just in case we had a late night accident.  Anyways, I step out of the bathroom and there is the little man standing in the hallway.  His expression is neutral, kind of blank and he is holding the senmen ki at his side.  His hair is a little tousled and his eyes are a little puffy.  He kind of has that blue collar worker heading off to work in the morning look.  So I say to him in my best morning voice, "Oh High Oh Go Zai Masu" which is good morning and give him a little nod/bow.  In return he gives me a deep bow all the while not changing his serious expression or taking his eyes off of me.  Then he continues on his way down the hall and out of site.

It is just priceless to see him growing up.  When your kids start to respond in kind, to do the appropriate thing when prompted, it is both heart warming and wrenching.  It means they are growing up.  But it also means they are growing up. Sniff.

Love out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

16th Century Chic.

So last weekend was the Myouenji Mairi.  It basically is a celebration of the battle of Seki ga Hara. In the end I didn't learn more than three of the song verses.  However, every time we got back around to those verses I sang them whole heartedly.    It turns out the people wearing armour were not expected to sing.  Dang it.
Now lets talk about the armour I was wearing.  We started off by putting on what basically felt like pajamas.  Then they do the arm coverings.  This if followed by a sort of apron which covers you from waist to almost knee (if I were a samurai 400 years ago it would have probably been below my knee).  Then they buckle you into the torso portion.  Imagine a giant garlic press.  Next they strap on the shin guards and shoulder plates.  By this point you are feeling pretty packed.
 Of course you have no idea.  Now you learn what the long white sheaf of fabric that you purchased with your tabi (one toed socks) is for.  It is called a sarashi. They basically in teams of two, seal you in with this as a belt.  They start by cinching it tight and then proceed to twist it into a sort of braid, all the while smiling and asking if its too tight.  There is nothing to be done for it so you just answer no.  I thought this might be the worst of it.  I was wrong.  Imagine someone takes an impression of your face and then fashions an iron mask of the lower half for you to wear.  Now imagine they do it for someone much smaller than you but still strap it on to your face with the straps for an iron helmet that is also too small for you.  Yeah, it was kind of like torture on a small scale.
It wasn't too bad to start with but after a 25 minutes slow march down the main street of town it was starting to be a major pain.  This inspite of my kids running along beside me trying to get me to look over and recognize them.  They were great. For the last week we were specifically instructed that the whole eyes forward serious thing was important for the spectators so I took it too heart and tried my best to play the part.  The kids took their roles pretty seriously too and at the after party (more later) every commented on them saying "Daddy, daddy" the whole way along the route.  So where was I, right 25 minutes.  I am starting to think I might not be able to take this when we start crossing a bridge and I realise we are like 200 meters from the temple we are bound for.  I feel something like relief.  Then the parade stops.  We wait ... and wait.  It gets slightly darker... we are still waiting.  I am thinking there is a traffic mix up or some other group that is parading in front of us is late and we have to wait our turn.  We wait some more ... it gets darker.  I am basically in agony and the best part is the teacher-helpers who aren't wearing armour are all walking around asking if anything hurts.  Now they know full well that we are all basically dieing and there is nothing they can do about it but they ask anyways, of course the answer has to be no.  What am I going to say, my mask is killing me and I want to take off my helmet.  The answers would be no and no.  In Japanese the word is "Gaman", it means to hold on or hold out.  So I did.  It was dark so no one could see me close my eyes and grimace in pain.  How long could we wait.  Then there was an explosion and it all became clear.  We were waiting here for the fireworks they had mentioned three days ago to start.  After a few minutes of fireworks (it felt like hours) we started marching again.  We got to the temple and after negotiating 2 sets of stairs without looking down we finally had our helmets taken off and the masks lowered to our chests.  It was like finally surfaced after being 200 m deep in the ocean with 100 m worth of air.  The ceremony in the temple which we had practiced for the last week and they had warned us would be incredibly difficult was a walk in the park after finally getting that damn helmet and mask off my face.

We drove back to the staging area/community center in a little bus.  Everyones' faces said the same thing.  Thank whatever higher power you believe in that that is over.  Back at the base we quickly changed out of our gear, wrote the date, our names and addresses on the list that came with our armour for posterity's sake, and then sat down and got ready to eat and drink.  There were some speeches and then everyone who had worn some armour got up and did a self introduction.  The basics of mine were name, thanks to guy who got me involved, man was that every tough, however sharing it together made it not so bad.  It was well received.  After that we received our completion certificate (framed), our bento, and a cup.  Finally we could relax, drink some beer and reflect on the conscious decision we had all made to participate.  Many people pledged to go again next year.  Maybe their helmets fit better.

Love out.