Monday, 5 July 2010

Music, mochi & moaning

Elementary Music Show

On Friday I went to one of my elementary schools to watch their school music show. Every teacher acted as conductor for their class, and it was obviously they'd been practising for some time. Each class, even the tiny first years, played a piece together on drums, xylophones, piano accordians, brass and woodwind instruments. It was quite a treat, my favourite being the excerpt of Beethovens 5th, a piece the kids had charmingly called "I like Beethoven." There was also a really nice jazz piece too.

Gohei Mochi

On Sunday (after a birthday bbq the night before) we headed down to Anan to make Gohei Mochi. To make this delightful treat you mash cooked rice into almost a dough consistency, form it into flattened cylinders (with bamboo "cake-cutters") , add them to a skewer, grill them, and lather them with a delicious miso-based sauce.

This style of mochi is said to be named after a carpenter called Gohei, who one day, when opening his lunchbox of separate miso and rice, found they had mixed, forming a delicious snack.


You can't live in a place like Nagano without hiking a mountain. There is simply no excuse for it. So last weekend we headed south to Achi village to tackle Ena-san, a mountain approximately 2,200 metres high. To say we picked the wrong weekend is an understatement.

At the moment it is the Japanese Tsuyu (rainy season), and as you might expect, it rains a lot. Last weekend was far from an exception, so we spent two days climbing a rather difficult mountain in the torrential rain. To make matters worse, I realised (very quickly) that I'd forgotten my good waterproof hiking boots, and that my "rain jacket" was more rain-resistant than rain-proof, so essentially I spent two days cold and drenched. Not the most thrilling of experiences. Our first stop on the second day when leaving the mountain was the nearest onsen, to soak our cold and aching bodies.

This week I mentioned the experience to a member of my eikaiwa, who told me Ena-san is the hardest mountain in the area to climb, not for its height but because so much of it is so incredibly steep, requiring climbing as well as hiking. Yes, I know. My legs are still not talking to me.

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