Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Going to School in Japan is sometimes a little dangerous and often funny!

Well I have two stories of things that happened on the way to school. Everyday I ride and then catch a train and then ride again to get to my Junior High School. This particular day I was riding with a teacher from school and she was ahead of me. Suddenly I heard her say a Japanese “what!?!” – “e---!!” and swerve almost off the footpath as they are so narrow and there are drains either side! Well I was close behind and suddenly did the same as there was a snake on the path which was close to 50cm long! There are only 2 poisonous snakes in Japan and this wasn’t one! But it was raising it’s head and wasn’t pretty!

The thin roads near school.

The other story is when I was going to my new primary school. Somehow I had lost my map and thought I would just go as it was close to my apartment. Well I got lost! In Japan primary school students walk to school in a kind of human bus! There is a leader with a flag and all the students follow. Well while I am lost I see a line of students and wonder that maybe they are going to the school that I need to be at. So I ask them in my basic Japanese what school they go to but they go to another primary school that I work at! Well one student thought she would try to help so she starts reaching into her bag and telling me to wait in Japanese. I am thinking she is going to draw me a map but she pulls out a world atlas! She finds a map of Japan and says in Japanese that it is difficult! It was so cute! Well I continue on my way and decide to ask junior high school students this time, well they answered in Japanese but I only understood the word right. So there I was turning down every street on the right only to come back to the main road and see the students again waving me on and saying “right” in Japanese! Well I eventually found it! It was on the main road on the right hand side!! After all that I still made it on time too!

Students walking to school.

ゆかた まつり!!

23rd and 22nd June

Last Friday and Saturday night was the Himeji Yukata Matsuri. It is a festival which consists of many food and game stalls lining the main street and filling the park and nearly everyone wears yukata (summer cotton kimono). We all decided to join in the festivities and buy a yukata of our own! Women wear a kimono style outfit which consists of the yukata and an obi (a beautiful piece of fabric which is tied into a bow) while the men can wear a similar yukata but with a smaller obi or an outfit which consists of shorts and a top which wraps around and ties up. Some younger girls also wear this style with cute prints of Hello Kitty and other characters.

First time in my yukata!

On Friday night some of Tina’s students came around to help dress us and then we all headed into town for the festival. We got our bus fare half price as we were wearing yukata! We looked around the stalls and then all went to have Okonomiyaki for dinner. As we were looking around the stalls afterwards we saw a gang that is sometimes seen around Himeji and all the members wear black, red or white outfits with Japanese embroidery and badges on them. Someone pointed them out and I said don’t look at them as they cause trouble and well the next thing you knew there was a huge commotion which we luckily escaped! (Tina thought I had been trampled as I disappeared so quickly!) The police had arrested one or two of them and immediately there were video cameras there! This is the first time I have seen anything like this in Japan!

On Saturday we had a party at our residence to help dress each other in our yukata! I was determined to be able to tie an obi so I had bought a book which came with a dvd on various ways to tie an obi! I worked it out and tried doing my own (which you do at the front and then turn around!). it worked really well and I was so proud I went up to Tina’s so she could take a photo! I managed to tie 4 obi’s and help to tie 2 others!

Trial run!

My work!

Nearly everyone from my apartment block in Yukata!

Marie, Tina and I.

Jono, Steve and Liam.

Jodi, Tina, Taube and I.

Julian and Steve.

Me and my new favourite drink! (I got this at the vending machine across the road for about $3.50 – that’s too convenient!)

Cute girl and boy waiting at the bus stop!

Yoko’s shoes! Tina and I couldn’t fit into women’s geta (thongs) so we had to get flat men’s ones!

When we were ready we went into town and took many photos at the castle! What a fantastic backdrop!

We then wandered some more looking at stalls and doing a lot of people watching before deciding where to eat dinner. I had a kebab (hmm not so Japanese but it was delicious!) and I had a chicken skewer and of course a beer!

The guys looked so cool!

We think she is someone famous as many people were taking her photo!

This stall had toys floating in water that you had to catch to win something.

There was this interesting stall also which had a tank with eels in it! You had to try and catch them with a fishing line! I’m not sure what you do with them then!

We then wandered some more before going to an American style bar called Mr B’s. Most people there were in Yukata which was great to see!

Kyosuke, Makoto and I at Mr B’s.

After a great night Tina, Marie, Chelsea and I decided to walk home as it was such a nice night. On the way home we saw members of the gang from the previous night heading towards us – about 20 of them! It wasn’t possible to cross the road so we sort of got off the footpath and hoped for the best only to be amazed that all they did was say “Hello!” to us! It could only be in Japan that a gang which causes trouble just wants to speak English to foreigners!!

Monday, 18 June 2007

Shiraishi Island!

16-17th June

This weekend was one of the best yet in Japan! Tina, Marie, Chelsea, Taube , Julian, Jodi, Jono, Jess, Liam, Karen and I went to Shiraishi Island which is about 3 hours from Himeji. We caught a train to Okayama and then another train to Kasaoka before catching the ferry to Shiraishi Island.

The view from the ferry!

It was a beautiful day on Saturday and was perfect for the beach! We arrived and Taube and Julian (Americans from our apartment who organised the trip) met us and walked with us to our villa. It is an international villa which only foreigners in Japan can hire. There are 5 twin rooms which we had booked out and there is a shared living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and toilet.

The villa.

We then headed down to the beach. We had a nice lunch (and beer!) at the café on the beach and were entertained by a local magician who happened to be number 6 in Japan! He had some amazing card tricks! It was time for a swim so we braved the cold water but it wasn't so bad and it was so good to finally go to the beach! I don’t think I have been for about a year and a half!

Marie took this cool picture of us all heading to the beach!

The Restaurant and chef!

The Japanese Copperfield!

The beautiful beach!

Marie just had to take this photo for who is in the background rather than what is in the background!

Marie, Tina and I enjoying the beach!
(P.S. i bought my bathers here and think they are very "Japanese" - very かわいい!!(cute!!)

We met some very cute Japanese boys who I think had been swimming in their underwear!

We had booked kayaks for the afternoon and we had a great time going around the coast and to a small island with a shrine on it. Earlier Tina, Marie, Julian and Jono had actually swum to it! Chelsea and I made a great team considering we hadn’t really done it before!

Island with the shrine on it.

We relaxed for a little while after kayaking and then two guys came up to us and offered a ride on their traditional Japanese boat. It was all wood and you sat on top and one person stood at the back sort of rotating the rudder to move the boat along and around. It was a really cool experience and was also so nice of them to offer to take us. The guy that took us on the boat was called Sho and was 25 years old and had lived all his life on the island.

Jono doing a scene from Titanic!

There was an amazing sunset that we watched from the villa. I couldn't resist taking lots of photos as it just kept changing and was so beautiful!

We then got ready for dinner as Taube and Julian had organised a beach party BBQ! We arrived at the beach and there were tables set up and 2 BBQ’s with a huge amount of food which only cost 2000 yen each (about $20). We got to cook our own food and a guy, Yoshihiro that we had met earlier helped us too. There were a group of junior high school students on a school trip and they were having a party further down the beach so we just stayed at the beach having drinks, watching their fireworks and enjoying our bonfire! It was a fantastic night!

The next day I woke up so early as the sun seemed to rise even earlier! We got ourselves organised and cooked a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast. We then headed up to the lookout which gave us a great view of the island and coast.

Tina, Marie, Taube and Julian then continued to hike up the mountain and the rest of us decided to go for a bike ride and the beach. Jono, Jodi and I tested out the villa’s bikes which were very average but we went for a ride around the marina. We then met the others for a drink at the “Moo Bar”! An American lady that has lived on the island for 5 years opens the bar during summer and it’s right on the beach. We had a fantastic banana daiquiri and pizza!

The marina.

The Moo Bar!

Then sadly it was time to pack up and catch the ferry back to Himeji. I had a fantastic time with a great group of people and I am looking forward to visiting the island again!

Jodi’s Birthday Party!

9th June
On Saturday night we went out for Jodi’s early birthday party! We went for the first time to the Egret Centre beer garden. I wrote about this building before when we took photos of the castle. The beer garden is on top of this building and has fantastic views of the castle. We got there around 6pm and for three hours it is as much as you can eat and drink! All for only 3000 yen! (about $30) The food was ok – a buffet of finger food and as always the beer was great – Asahi! You could also choose chu-hi (Japanese spirit) mixed or orange juice. It was a great night with only a spot of rain and everyone in the beer garden seemed to know each other by the end of the night and we all left together and headed for karaoke! I am not usually a huge fan of karaoke (I’d rather just listen than sing!) but I had the best time this night and found my calling as a DJ! I choose most songs and took requests – I didn’t sing them all though! You don’t realise how hard some songs are to sing even with the words! I thought MC Hammer’s “you can’t touch this” would be a classic but we soon found out the only words we knew were “you can’t touch this”!!! After leaving karaoke we headed to a new American style bar where the bartender made great drinks! It was a fantastic night and I hope to go back to the beer garden soon!

All the girls plus a random guy at Jodi's birthday! ( He turned out to be really funny and came to karaoke with us!)

Marie, Tina and I being silly but with a great view of the castle in the background!

Karaoke - me being serious about choosing songs while the guys sang!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Chili Peppers! In Osaka!

8th June 2007

Well the Chili Peppers finally made it to Osaka! We had kept our tickets from earlier in the year and left school early to make our way to Osaka in time. We arrived just before they started as there was no supporting band. The stadium is huge as it is usually a baseball stadium and it is very space like! The general admission tickets had sold out so we had very high seats which gave us a fantastic view. The general admission area was also seated but as soon as they started playing everyone stood up. They played for about an hour and a half and did some old and new songs – "soul to squeeze", "scar tissue", "by the way" and they also did a cover of Abba’s "SOS"! It was a little different here as not everyone sang along but Marie more than made up for it! It was a fantastic night and I am so glad I got to see them – and it makes it even better that it was in Japan!

The Osaka dome.

One of the few photos I took without being caught! They had huge screens behind the stage and a great backdrop which changed all the time.

All the people in seated general admission!

Marie, Tina and I outside the stadium.