Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Flight home

Ahhh, so finally, after a long journey and two days of catching up on sleep, I sit in my nice warm bedroom at my parents house, contemplating the first five amazing months of a fantastic experience. The travel home was long, but was always going to be worth it to see family and friends! I managed to stay a couple of days with my good friend Dan and his gf between Nagano and my departure from Narita airport. Thanks dude, it was great to see you!

The flight home was, as a lover of great scenary and the sky, brilliant. I got some great shots of Russia and Scandanavia with my new cam, pics I wouldn't have with my point-n-shoot. It was very unexpected to find the UK gripped in snow, a white christmas is most definitely welcome! On the plane I surprised myself by helping out a Japanese girl with her landing card details and having a basic conversation with her, all in (if not broken) Japanese. Yay for mah skillz. Or something like that.

Anyone alive down there?

Endless beauty.


You know you're home when you see your clouds...

Kent as I've never seen it before.

A beautiful sunset to welcome me back.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

December in J-land

Yikes! It's been almost three weeks since my last post! Tempus fugit, and all that jazz! Right, so what's been going on?

Saturday 5th we headed down south to Toki to a western-style outlet mall. To see so many recognisable names was great, as at this point I think all of us first years were getting a bit homesick. We all managed to come away with a bag or two of gifts for ourselves or others.

The next day I headed north to Matsumoto for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. I probably opted to take it too early in my studying, but I decided to go for it anyway. The test was in three parts, the entire thing drawn out to cover most of a morning and early afternoon. I think I managed to nail the kanji and vocab parts, but the listening part was pretty tough. Ah well, if I fail level 4 this year I'll take level 3 in a years time. I can only hope my skills are much more impressive, which I'm sure they will be!

A couple of weeks ago, finally, after much thought and deliberation, I shelled out for a truly wonderful and shiny new Digital SLR! The joy of living in Japan meant it was so much cheaper than in the UK, almost by half, and arrived in two days! I've already taken an array of fantastic shots (including the ones on this post) which have fully justified the expenditure. Merry Christmas me!

In the same week JET's congregated in Ina for the Oshiba Tour. We tried on kimonos, had a fantastic meal at a posh ryouken, and took a wander around the surrounding site. When we were given the option of using the onsen facilities I took the time to get out, buy a nice blueberry bun, and sit by the lake taking pictures.

Oshiba ryouken room.

Amazing meal.

On the same weekend a couple of us headed to Nagoya, the nearest metropolis to us. It was my first visit there, and reminded me very much of what it was, a big city. Nonetheless, Ben, Bryce and me had some amazing Mexican food, a meal at the Outback Steakhouse (wow!), did some shopping, and found the international store, which obviously sells lots of lovely international food! Hello Cadburys! Hello Heinz! Hello Lea & Perrins!

Er... Bien Venido a Los Tacos!

Lovely light display on Nagoya station.

Amaaaaaaazing deep-fried onion thing at Outback Steakhouse.

The last week in Japan saw my Taiko and Karate bon enkai's (end of year parties), both of which were tasty and good fun!

Oh and I also got my tyres changed a couple of weeks back. The summer ones are no good for handling winter ice and snow, and as it happened I was right on time, as since then it's been really icy and snowy! When I left Nagano on Friday the snow was coming down hard and fast, thanking those tyres!

How I left Nagano. I wonder if it's waiting for my return...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Early winter sunset

Thanks for the great silhouettes, Japan.

Judgemental bin

I'm not sure I like being judged by items in the supermarket housewares section...

Omiyage from my eikaiwa members

The 7 lucky gods (七福神 Shichi Fukujin)

One member of my eikaiwa is a supervisor for a Chinese toy company, and brought these back for me from a recent trip to China.

Mid Year Conference

As quick as that, the JET Mid Year Conference came around, and last week all Nagano JETs congregated at Shiojiri for two days of lectures and focus groups. We stayed in an absolutely amazing Ryouken near the conference centre. The food was great, then the drinking, then the onsen, then, er, more drinking. A great two days!


My contribution to the 'illustrate your favourite lesson' competition. The yellow stickers are votes from other JETs, not part of the design.


Last week was Thanksgiving for my American chums, so on the weekend we congregated with our various dishes to eat our weight in food. We had soup, beef roast, veg, mash, rice dishes, and for afters, pecan pie, pumpkin pie and poached apples, all washed down with wine and beer. Wonderful! I'm looking forward to my next Thanksgiving.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Supermarket shenanigans

An entire dried squid. In a packet. Of course. Had to be. The packet says "surume." Surume (鯣烏賊) is a medium size squid that weighs around eight ounces.

Crazy adverts are amusing in your own language, but hilarious in others. Cocoa No1!!!


The other night a few of Iida block went out for okinomiyaki (お好み焼き). Essentially you order a bowl of uncooked veg, meat and egg. You mix it yourself, cook it on a hotplate in the middle of your table, and coat it with a choice of toppings. It's sort of like a really chunky omelette, with Japanese ingredients. I love omelette, I love okinomiyaki.

Gohei Mochi

This week I was fortunate enough to have gohei mochi for lunch at my Junior High. Gohei mochi is a speciality from Ina, Nagano, just over an hour north of me. It consists of flattened rice surround sticks (like paddles), and you cover it with a sweetened miso paste. It's damn tasty!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Komagane tour

Yesterday me and some fellow JETs took a tour around Komagane to see Kozenji temple, take a walk around the heights and river, and of course, visit the local (famous) brewery, Minami Shinshu. It was my first 'proper' jaunt to Komagane, the weather was fine and the company great.

Wow. Just, wow.

In we go.

Want long life? Drink here. (Or someone kills you on the way out?)

Green, yellow and red! And Erin!

Beware the ghost dog.

Me in the eye of a giant metal beetle.

Super bento! The dark red in the top right is horse. It was surprisingly tasty (and beat the cow tongue I tried on Saturday night! Sheesh, that was the only meal that's ever licked my a$$ on the way out!)

No tour would be complete without a visit to a brewery.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Keitei snaps III

Every class got a personalised mural.

Tree outside my JH school as Autumn was rolling in.

Trees outside my elementary school, again, as Autumn was rolling in.

This maple is so bright it actually distorted the photo! Insane.

The heights and depths of Iijima.

Hike with Ike

Yesterday Ike and me went for jaunt through the back woods/mountains of Iijima. We managed to get fairly high up to where low clouds were rolling through the trees around us. Saturday saw a lot of rain, so the river and streams cutting through the mountains were fast and full! At one point we had to barefoot through a small stream that threatened to obstruct our path. Great fun, but bloody cold! The trees packing the mountains were a really bright rust colour too. Amazing.