29 June 2007

How Cute!

This week, the Junior High School students were having their exams, so I spent most of the week (from Tuesday to Friday) at the Elementary Schools (Primary Schools). One of the elementary schools, Itohiki Elementary School, is probably my favourite one out of the three that I go to. The kids are so cute and nice. Anyway, they all got really excited that I was spending an extra day with them and so all the kids from all the classes I taught with made me a present out of origami. I was so impressed with how good they were at folding paper and I don’t think that I could ever be as good as they are.

Two little girls in the fourth grade made me a box full of an assortment of paper cakes. Some were chocolate, vanilla, blueberry cheesecake and they all had strawberries and cream on the top (all made out of paper, of course!).

One small boy from the fourth grade made me a really cool swan out of tiny pieces of folded paper all put together.

The sixth grade class that I ate lunch with that day made me a tower of paper cranes and they also sang me a song after we ate lunch. They sounded really good!

Another girl from the fourth grade drew me this amazing picture of me. She included heaps of detail and drew the shirt I was wearing that day that had puffy sleeves and another top underneath it and she even drew the earrings I was wearing that day too! It was so good that I now have it stuck on my fridge at home. I told her the next day that I had stuck it on my fridge and she kept on saying thank you and she was so happy!

So I had a really good week this week with the kids and I got so many cute presents from them! They also enjoyed having me there too and wanted to keep on asking me lots of questions!

Himeji Yukata Festival

This weekend was the Himeji Yukata Festival. It is probably the biggest Yukata Festival in Japan and would be the biggest festival in the year for Himeji. The amount of people who attend this festival is just phenomenal! It was like the Royal Adelaide Show, but ten times busier!

In this festival, it gives everyone an excuse to walk around and look pretty wearing their colourful yukatas (a yukata is a summer kimono). Almost everyone who went to the festival was dressed in a yukata (including me!). My yukata was purple and had a pink obi (belt). I wore getta (traditional Japanese slippers) on the Friday night when I went, but decided that they were too painful to wear again on the Saturday, so I cheated and just wore my good old Spendless thongs from Adelaide!

It was so crowded that you just had to move with the crowd and you were pretty much pushed into position. I loved the atmosphere and the fact that everyone was dressed up so nicely. There were many food stalls that covered the footpath on both sides of the entire main street. I ate fried chicken and it was DELICIOUS!

We even went to the Himeji Castle to take photos with the castle in the background and they turned out really well. We went photo crazy this weekend!

We went to the pub afterwards, and then decided to walk home from the pub. It was about a forty minute walk, but we were all up for it, so Tina, Lauren, Chelsea and I all walked home together. On our way home, we saw a big, scary gang of high school boys wearing colourful outfits. They were either yakuza (the Japanese mafia) or bousozoku (the motorbike gang). Anyway, either way, we were scared because there were about twenty of them and only four of us! So we got out of their way so they could pass us and I was ready to make a dash for it in case anything bad happened, but all they said when they walked passed us was, “hello!” in really friendly voices. We said hello back and that was it! So I was packing my dacks for nothing! They weren’t so scary after all! Thank goodness! It was funny when we all looked back on the situation though!

So that was my first yukata experience. I must say it was a very exciting and fun one and it was especially fun when we all went to Tina’s house before going to the festival to get ready. Tina’s Japanese friends from the university she teaches at came over to help us put them on.

Then Lauren became a professional obi putter-on-erer so she did everyone’s obi for them! We all looked pretty flash! Almost everyone in our apartment building wore a yukata for the festival and we all got together and took photos of ourselves before hand. It was lots of fun!

Lucky Me!

I just wanted to write a short entry about how lucky I am to be here just so that you know that I am appreciating every single day that I am in Japan. All you have to do is take a look at these beautiful photos to see what an amazing view I get to look at every time I ride to and from school each day. These shots are within the castle walls and I get to see this every morning and every afternoon as I ride past it. If I were you, I would be green with envy right about now!

This is the view I get as I ride within the castle walls on the way to school. You can see the moat of the castle in the background if you look closely.

This is still within the castle walls. Everything is so green because it is summer now which is the rainy season in Japan and it rains almost everyday! It makes all the trees and plants look so alive and vibrant!

This is the river that I ride past just before I reach the castle. It is so cool riding along the river in the morning on a hot and sticky day and it reminds me a lot of Linear Park in Adelaide.

21 June 2007

Shiraishi Island

I had the BEST weekend last weekend! Well it feels like every weekend is the best weekend, but this one was pretty up there with one of my favourites.

I went to Shiraishi Island which is this tiny, remote island that you can only get to by ferry and spent Saturday and Sunday there. I went with a group of Australians and Americans who live in our building. Two of the Americans – Taube and Julian organised the entire weekend and booked the villas for us. These villas were so cool! We got the best view of the beach and pretty much the entire island!

The villas are only allowed to be booked by foreigners as a strategy to encourage tourists to travel to remote islands in Japan that they would otherwise be unaware of. In fact, when I told the teachers at school where I was going, not one of them knew about this island as it is so small and remote! There are only 700 people who live on this island and there is a small school that enables students from grade 1-9 to attend. There is a total of around thirty students who go to the Shiraishi Island School.

We spent the weekend swimming in the ocean, exploring small islands close to the main island by swimming and kayaking to them.

Tina, Julian, Jono and I even swam to this tiny island that was about 200metres away from Shiraishi Island and there was a small shrine on it.

We saw a beautiful shrine as we were hiking through the dense foliage of the mountains that was tucked away in a small section of the mountain. We got an amazing view of the island from the observatory when we got to the top of the mountain.

While we were paddling in the ocean, this young Japanese guy came up to us and asked us if we wanted to go for a ride in his traditional Japanese boat. So we all went in and he took us around for about fifteen minutes. I even got to try steering the boat. It was really hard and tiring! I only did it for about two minutes and then I was too tired to continue!

Aside from hiking, riding in Japanese boats, swimming and kayaking, we spent the weekend relaxing by the beach, getting to know the locals and on Saturday night we had this delicious barbeque whilst sitting around a fire, talking and having fun!

We also got a beautiful sunset view on Saturday evening and we went a bit photo crazy and spent a good forty minutes admiring the beautiful shades of pink and red change as the sun sunk into the sea.

After our barbeque, we decided to go back to the villa and play card games. Taube and Julian had bought Jenga so we got it out and started playing. It started off as being a fun, casual game and as the Jenga blocks got higher and higher, we began to get more and more serious about it as nobody wanted to be the person who knocked it over! Karen (one of the Americans) was known as being the person who always knocked the Jenga over, so nobody wanted to be the new Karen!

Well this time, Karen didn’t knock it over, but Jess did! I took the BEST photo of Jess knocking the Jenga blocks over – it would have to go down as being the best photo of all time in the history of photo-taking! Check out this masterpiece of a photo! It captures the essence of the moment!

Just before we left, I thought I would buy a tank top as a memento of the beautiful and remote island just off of the mainland of Japan that they call Shiraishi.

I went to the Moo Bar (which is a bar that is set up on the beach where you can buy drinks and souvenirs) and bought a Moo Bar tank top and took a photo in front of the bar, just so that I can say that I’ve been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and took the photo!

Shiraishi Island was so beautiful. I would love to go back there sometime this year and spend a little more time exploring the island and going on different hiking tracks. When it was time to leave, I felt really sad as all I wanted to do was to stay another day…or two!

First Grade Teacher’s Party

I went to another teacher’s party the other night. It seems like they can't get enough of them and pretty much any excuse for a party is a good one! There were five student teachers at our school for the last three weeks and they decided to have a farewell party for them when they left. So I took advantage of the situation because like the teachers, any excuse for a party is fine with me!

We went to the Beer Garden again for an all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink night. You should have seen the view of the sunset behind the castle! It was so cool that I had to take a photo of it!

I stuck to the lime chu-hai (my favourite Japanese drink) and then toward the end of the night I got stuck into the grape chuhai (another one of my favourite drinks!) I made all the teachers get in a group so that I could take a group photo of everyone at the end of the night. It was a much more hassle than it should have been because the guy who was taking the photo couldn’t figure out how to use my camera, so I had to give him a five minute lesson.

Meanwhile, all the teachers were still sitting still as statues in their pose for the camera while all this was going on! It was mayhem! Anyway, he finally figured out how to use the camera, but the photo didn’t really turn out that well. Seeming as so much effort went into taking the photo, I thought I should stick it on my blog! At least you know the history now!

Steve’s Birthday

It was Steve’s (my sister’s husband’s) birthday last week. We celebrated by having cake at Tina and Steve’s place. It was really cool because mum and dad and Steve’s mum were talking to us on the computer (using Skype) and we could see them through the web cam while we sang happy birthday to Steve, so it was like they were there with us. Mum and Dad and Steve’s mum even organised to buy a cake for Steve so that they could feel more included in the celebration! It was more of a tease than anything else because they bought a giant custard tart cake and you can’t get them here in Japan, so I was dying to have a piece! Unfortunately, mum and dad couldn’t pass a piece of cake through the computer for me, but who knows what they will think of next with all this cool technology!

Tina bought a yummy cake for us to try from the local cake shop down the road. It was a fun night and Steve enjoyed opening his presents!

12 June 2007

Climbing Mt Rokko

Tina and I met Paul at Kobe and we were ready to go for a hike. Paul is an Aussie who met and married a Japanese lady and he lives with her in Japan. He is really into being active and loves hiking and doing outdoor stuff, so Tina and I tag along and join him in all the expeditions he organises!

So Tina and I were feeling a little worse for ware because of our massive Saturday night, but we soldiered on and climbed the mountain! There was a beautiful herb garden at the top of the mountain that we explored and took pictures of.

When we got to the herb garden, it started bucketing down with rain, so we decided to have a coffee at the cafĂ© and wait for the rain to stop. Well it didn't, so we trekked down the mountain on the rope way (we cheated a little bit, but it couldn’t be helped!) and met Paul’s friend at the bottom of the mountain and had a bento lunch together. It was a great day and we got to see a beautiful waterfall and a pretty herb garden and we ate a yummy bento lunch at the end!

Aside from the fact that I was absolutely buggered from a long and active night the night before, I was glad that I went up the mountain. It was a great experience and I saw some beautiful scenery.

Crazy Saturday night!

I had so much fun on Saturday night after the Chilis concert.

It was Jodi’s birthday so she invited everyone to go to the Beer Garden to celebrate. This beer garden is the best value for money. You pay 3000yen ($30) and you get all you can drink and all you can eat for four and a half hours!

Pretty good deal! So it turned out to be a really cheap and fun night. I met so many people on Saturday night. I went to the toilet towards the end of the night and met this cute little Japanese girl.

All she could say in English was that she was so happy to meet me in the toilet and she continued to say that for the rest of the night. Then I went over to where her group of friends were and they picked me up and lifted me in the air three times! It was fun, but I was a bit sceptical about the situation because they were all a little tipsy! Anyway, I made friends with them and we all left the beer garden together (a group of about twenty people) and went to karaoke. We sang for two hours all the classic songs that you should sing in karaoke (Brittney Spears, Abba, Beach Boys, etc!).

We hired out a little room and there ended up being about eleven of us in total singing and dancing in our little room. It was lots of fun! We got home at around 2:30 in the morning and Tina and I had to get up at 7am the next day to climb a mountain! I tell you what, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be!

Red Hot Chili Peppers Concert

A few entries back, you might have recalled me saying how excited I was about going to the Red Hot Chili Peppers Concert.

Well The concert was supposed to be in March, but it got cancelled due to Anthony Keitis getting bronchial pneumonia. Well they rescheduled the concert to Friday 8th June and I went on Friday night. I had so much fun at the concert! Most of the songs they played were on Stadium Arcadium, but they also played some other classics such as Soul to Squeeze, Californication and Scar Tissue. I danced crazily the entire night. Unfortunately, Steve (Tina’s husband) couldn’t make it to the concert because he was sick, but he gave his ticket to Julian instead. Julian is an American guy who lives in our apartment building. I had lots of fun dancing with Julian during the concert because he dances like a crazy lunatic just like me, so we complimented each other. Maybe other people looked at us and thought we both looked stupid, but I was having fun, so I didn't care! It was amazing! I tried to call out to Anthony (the lead singer) during the concert and tell him to come back to my house in Himeji, but I don’t think he heard me. I think that if he did hear me, he would have been there in a flash! haha

Well I have wishful thinking and there is nothing wrong with that! I couldn’t get a good photo of them because we were so far away from the stage, but I did get a blurred, distant photo of the Chilis playing so I thought it was worth putting on my blog!