Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Rice harvesting

On Sunday the Iida crew headed south to Anan to harvest Ine (rice) at one of Kasumi's father's fields. The weather was fantastic, the views amazing, the rice harvesting not as easy as it may look, but still a lot of fun. We were all given hand scythes and set about lopping the rice, binding them into bunches, and bundling them into the wagon. Our reward (probably undeserved!) was a massive and amazing homemade feast! Heaven!

A quick drinky before we start.

I never pass up the opportunity to look ridiculous.

Don't disturb the locals.

Our rice drying on racks in the sun.

Our reward: an amazing homemade feast.

There be chickens on the farm, doncha know!

Mehicano a la Iijima Ike

This Saturday Marion and me (Iida block) and Stephen, Molly, Rich (Suwa-Ina block) headed up/down to visit Ike, a 2nd year JET ALT in Iijima town. The plan was Mexican food, and it has to be said Ike's cooking is somewhat awesome. Yours truly took care of the slicing and dicing of a great many vegetables (see bottom of pic below) and we had ourselves a lot of fun making - but more importantly, eating - the food. After a nice relaxing evening blasting out music and watching various crap on the net we called it a night.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Shoji reparations

My pred didn't get round to repairing the shoji before she left, so today I started reparations with help from my supervisor and another colleague from my yakuba.

I still have another couple of screens to do, but don't they look great?!

Kids say the darndest things

Fridays are my weekly stint in my two elementary schools, and I'm therefore graced with an extra half hour in bed. This morning was no exception and I woke alive and refreshed.

Today my morning classes were at my dai-ni shogakko, and by some miracle I managed to sneak in undetected by my students. This of course generated a lot more excitement, and when I finally presented myself to my first class the kids went wild - it's as though they store their energy up and release it on command... maybe that's where the creator of Pokemon got his idea from?

As usual the kids were as genki as genki can be, and the morning went quickly. I did however, have a wonderful moment with my go-nensei (5th graders) class. Their teacher and I were holding up action cards and asking the students what actions were what. Upon raising a card that showed someone cooking, one student accidently-but-obviously-on-purpose pronounced 'cook' as 'cock'. The class immediately erupted with laughter! The teacher, bless him, stood there with no clue to the reference - it's nice to see some things don't change between countries.

Now admittedly I was trying to hide a smirk, but I didn't want to 'lose' the class to this one word of slang, so held in my sniggers and stuck a blank expression to my face. The teacher, now interested, turned to me and said infront of the class "Poru-sensei, what is cock?" I let out a bark of laughter before grappling to compose myself. Thinking furiously I immediately picked up a piece of chalk and drew a chicken on the blackboard. I pointed to it and said "man chicken." The kids, thinking they'd got the naughty word wrong, immediately stopped laughing and then listened to the teacher explain what a male chicken was while I bit the inside of my lip to stop myself chortling. Brilliant.

After a delicious lunch I headed across the village to my second elementary school of the day, dai-ichi. I wasn't even through the school gate before kids were calling "Poru-sensei!" at the top of theirs lungs and I heard the patter of small feet coming my way.

After the mandatory hugs, high-fives, grins and "ohayo gozaimasu!"'s I got to the teachers room, where I was swiftly told of a change in the days plan. Having spent an hour or so the previous evening preparing lessons I was naturally a little disappointed, but nonetheless I knew I was guaranteed a lively and enjoyable day with dai-ichi's go-nensei.

Today their teacher and I were teaching them about languages, and that of other countries. One particular exercise was for me to say the numbers 1-10 in another language (guided by katakana) and the kids call out what language they think it is. At the end of this exercise I ad-libbed, and the following exchange had me near-dying with laughter:

Me: Eins, zwei, drei, vier, funf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, sehn (German, 1-10).
Kid 1: German!
Me: Ok, try this... yksi, kaksi, kolme, nelja, viisi, kuusi, seitseman, kahdeksan, yhdeksan, kymmenen (Finnish, 1-10).
Kid 2: Canada!

Oh man, I couldn't stop laughing!

Silver Week

This week has been Silver Week in Japan, and although I didn't travel in Japan like a lot of people do, I still managed to pack in some excellent stuff - it's not really possible to have an unfulfilling day here, unless you have your eyes and ears shut!

On Sunday afternoon I headed out towards the Southern Japanese Alps that stretch along the east border of my village to find a lake I'd seen on a map. I discovered the lake was part of a campsite/country park, and as such it was populated by campers and fisherman. It was so relaxing to just sit by the water and listen to the sploshing of the lone canoeist paddling around. The setting sun gave the trees a striped appearance, although my camera couldn't really pick the trees out with the strong sun bearing down.

Matsukawa dam

On Wednesday, after stuffing ourselves with Japanese curry, Marion and I headed up through her town to take a wander around the dam there. After a short drive we came out into a big valley blanketed by trees and dominated by the fairly large dam. We stopped for some pics and to take in the beauty of our surroundings.

We headed further up the mountain and after rounding a corner suddenly spotted a prehistoric beast lurching its way across the road. We got out and approached it...

... it was a huge mountain toad! The light rain had obviously brought it out of the undergrowth, but it didn't mind posing for a few pics before it crawled away. Toads in the UK are big, but not like this. It was quite the experience.

On the way down we stopped briefly at the shrine at the base of the mountain, before heading to the onsen at Matsukawa. Bliss!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Taiko show and performance


Today it was my turn to Taiko! We performed three songs, all of which went really well. I managed to get through the first two without missing a beat (first time ever, and it was live!) but missed a beat on the third. Ah well, I've only been doing it a few weeks. Here are some pics.


Tools of the trade.


Last night I went to watch my Taiko sensei perform with his group at a theatre in Iida. I took a recording of it with the mic function on my camera but it was evidently a lot louder than I remember, as the recording is mainly fuzz. Such is life. Enjoy some pics instead.

Beat that!

Print on the stage curtain. I think it said かさこし姫となかまたち (Princess Kasakoshi and Nakamatachi). I've no idea who they are.

My sensei Art Lee gets to work!

Monday, 14 September 2009

A stomp around Yasuoka

Yesterday Dan, Emma, Marion and me went for a stomp around Dan and Emma's village. The sun was hot, the views impressive. And we ended the evening in Anan onsen. Bliss!

A railway station. In the middle of a dense forest.

Giant, hand-sized moth.

View through the trees to the Tenryu river.

Magical Kingdom this way.

The old ones.

Bamboo forest. Each was about 6-8 inches in diameter.

The Tenryu from a nice bridge.


...and fauna.

Ina field.

Fire in the sky

Anyone who knows me well will know I'm fascinated by the sky. A few nights ago I was fortunate to be at home with my camera to hand as the most liquid sunset poured over the mountains.

The sun falls...

...and the display begins...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Keitei snaps II

Takagi fields.

Views from my JHS.

Common spider.

A view of Iida on my way down the mountain.

Sushi restaurant decor.

Pimp my goldfish.

Student art projects at school presentation.