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


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.