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. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

If the hat fits.

So last night I was fitted and it fit.  So I will be marching in Myouenji Mairi.  There are about 40 of us marching on Saturday and we all met up last night from 8 - 9. The guys who are in charge are pretty strict and basically treat this as if we are soldiers and in training.  However, it is a little more than that.

1.  We practice proper walking technique with all of our stuff for an hour a night for the next four nights.  This includes carrying the iron armoured helmet on your right hand a foot above your shoulder.  Practicing last night just carrying my hand like that for half an hour was pretty painful.  Tonight we get the helmets.

2.  During the parade we are not supposed to look left or right.  We are supposed to be just like samurai.  They say it really enhances the effect for the people watching the ceremony/parade. 

3.  There is a proper way to sit and stand.  We practice that too.  They mention that sitting stock still for 20 minutes, not quite cross legged, may put your legs to sleep.  This means it may be challenging to stand up properly when the time comes.  There was no mention of forgiveness for messing this up.

4.  I have to memorize a song that we will all have to sing while we march in the required manor.

5.  It turns out this is the song that Kiyomi was working on in school for about 3 months.  She managed to get to stanza 8.  There are 22.  There may be a lot of lips moving but no sound coming out from one large samurai in the back of the pack. 

The family here are all pretty excited so I am sure there will be pictures taken and probably some video.  So everyone is sure to get a taste.

Love out.

Sunny Sunday.

 This is the view from the top of what we climbed on Sunday.  It was majestic.  I tried to find an option for creating a panoramic picture or movie but with my Japanese language OS it just didn't seem to be easy.  So here is the view one at a time.

 So yeah we were at the top of the look out tower at Kenko no Mori Park.  We played Frisbee as a family for the first time and it was awesome.  The two older kids are throwing and catching.  It is the beginning of an era my friends.  Mark my words.
You can see Sakurajima (the volcano) just over the bill of my cap.  Sunday was an awesome day. After playing Frisbee, hiking up to the tower and a little walk around the park it was time for the playground.  When that was done we played a little soccer with Kazi and then had fun at the hill.

Yup it was a pretty good weekend.  Next weekend is the Miyoenji Mairi festival.  I am going for a fitting tonight.  If they can find a samurai outfit big enough I may be marching in the parade.  Keep you fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Because its there.

 Monday past was Sports day in Japan.  It is a national holiday and comes at the end of the Sports day season.  With the whole day off and nothing in particular to do we decided to climb a mountain.  This is the top of Moromasa Dahke. 
 The hike up took about 15 minutes when I did it on my own.  However, with Kaz wanting to walk where ever it was flat it took us about 40 minutes on the way up.  The trail starts by going through a farmers yard and passing his piles of cow manure.  It then proceeds as a cement road running through a bamboo grove.  After the cement ends it becomes a dirt road and the forest changes to cedar.  This first part is not very steep.  After the road makes a big left turn it becomes more of a dirt track and becomes quite steep.  There is no scrambling but if it had been rainy the muddiness and fallen leaves might have made it quite treacherous.  There is a small lookout about 2 minutes from the top but the trees have grown so much you cannot see anything but sky.  The top is covered in long grass but there is one larger rocky outcrop to sit on and enjoy the view.  We forgot our mosquito spray and the youngest is looking rather splotchy as a result.  While at the top another group of climbers came up but they carried on down the back side.  I hadn't tried this on my own so we didn't follow.  We ate our onigiri and mikan and then headed back down.  The return trip, carrying the baby the whole way, took about 20 minutes.  In total we were on the mountain for about an hour and a half.  A perfect start to our Japanese mountain climbing.
I am kind of hoping that this can become a habit for us.  If we do end up making a habit of it I think I might do an English language blog about going hiking with kids in Kagoshima. It might actually be of use to someone.

In other news the daughter got a drastic hair cut last night.  I had to intervene after the first few snips were made as there was  a bit of hysteria in the bathroom.  However, by the time Mom was done slicing Kiyomi was pretty darn happy about the effect and was really excited to go to school today and have everyone be surprised.  I had to break the news that some people would not notice her hair cut.  I mean 8 year old boys.  Its a long shot.

 Common sentiment is that she looks a bit like Amuro Namie.
I think she just looks great. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Post Partum Post

So Chach and the gang left yesterday at about 6:30 for Kyoto.  It was a little bitter sweet.  We had a great time while they were here.  It was crowded and noisy and busy.  But it was great.  So nice to have my relatives hanging out together.  There were two or three nights where we sat around after dinner chatting.  With Sachon and I translating there was some interesting conversation and some good laughs.  The pictures are all from the week that was.

Over all I feel really good about how the week went.  Between taking Kohei to school or picking him up and Gus napping or feeding it was tougher than I expected to get out and about.  But we still managed to see the volcano, have an onsen, go to the seaside, get in a round of golf (just the boys), watch Kiyomi's sports day and eat every possible dish Allison could have wanted.  Junko made yaki niku, okonomiyaki, and tempura.  Yoshiteru managed to bring home fresh fish for Sashimi at least three of the nights.  We went out for nagashi somen. Ours swirled around in a whirpool in the center of the table but it was still fun.  We even got all cultural and made a stop at a shrine.  This of course will pale in comparison to their next stop in Kyoto but it was a little taste of the Kagoshima style.  There was a lot of beer consumed during their seven day stay and I definitely need to get my mojo back as far as eating properly and running are concerned. 

In other news the weather has finally changed and it was a little under 15 degrees this morning.  Thank goodness.  I am hoping for an extended fall, maybe it can last till February. 

As for the kids Kiyomi enjoyed her sports day and has a field trip coming up this week.  She is still a little anxious about school but for the most part is getting braver everyday.  Kohei continues to love going to school.  He had a practice session today for the Ijuin Town Sports day coming up this weekend.  All the kindergartners in the area take part in a giant dance in the middle of the track and field stadium infield.  Definitely some video will be taken that day.  It turns out I am also anchoring the four by 100 team of the 1st neighbourhood softball team on that day.  (there are 9 neighbourhoods in Myouenji where we live and we live in the first neighbourhood, in Japanese it is called Ikku (first is ichi, neighbourhood is Kuu, together ikku).  Hopefully I don't pull a hamstring or tear an achilles. 

Big plans to get into some hiking this fall with the kids.  Saturdays look to be the day of choice.  Working on some targets in the nearby area.  If they go well then we will start to search further a field.

Well time for lunch. 

Love out.