Monday, November 29, 2004

The magical mystery tour

Yesterday I went on a bus tour with the Sabae International Association. I was a little reluctant to go at first, partly because the trip clashed with a Franz Ferdinand gig in Osaka, and partly because the bus left at 6.50am, which is bloody early for a Sunday by anyone's standards.

Anyway, once underway I had a great time. We stopped off in Izushi in Hyogo prefecture and had a look at some of the fantastic old buildings they have there - check out the photos of the castle below. Lunch was interesting... Sara soba is the local speciality, which is basically lots of tiny plates of soba noodles, which you have to dip into a sauce you make yourself. I was a little worried when I discovered that the main ingredient of this sauce was raw egg - we were literally given a bowl of eggs to crack into a cup. Still, it didn't taste too bad, and I haven't died of salmonella poisoning yet so it can't be all bad.

We also visited Amanohashidate in Kyoto prefecture, which is one of the three wonders of Japan. It's a natural sand bar which separates a lake from the sea, and it looks pretty amazing, especially at sunset. However, the highlight of the trip for me was the boat. We took a tour round the bay, but when the boat arrived I was amazed to see that along with the usual seagulls which were diving for food, there was a flock of eagles! Once on the boat we could buy some fish-flavoured crisp things, then throw them off the stern and watch the eagles dive and catch them in their talons. It was probably one of the most impressive things I've seen in my whole life - these birds are huge (wingspans of over a metre) yet they swoop and dive like they're lighter than air. Awesome.

Still not sure if they should be eating crisps though.

Wade and Jesse playing silly buggers. Posted by Hello

The 37 torii (gates) which lead up to Izushi castle. Posted by Hello

Izushi castle. Posted by Hello

Isushi clock tower. Posted by Hello

A man running with a rickshaw, yesterday. Note the spontaneous peace sign from the passenger. Posted by Hello

It's a squid. Mmmmmmmmm. Posted by Hello

Possibly the highlight of the trip for me. Dried pufferfish in hats. Look at their boggly eyes! Posted by Hello

One of the around twenty eagles that were following our tour boat. They swooped so close to me that I could feel the rush of air from their wings. Posted by Hello

Eagles and seagulls wheel around the back of our tour boat, vying for tasty fish-flavoured crispy snacks. Posted by Hello

Jesse decides to chow down on the fish-flavoured crispy snacks which were meant for the eagles. Posted by Hello

This is Amanohashidate, which means "The bridge to heaven". It's a natural tree-lined sand bar which stretches all the way across this lake. Posted by Hello

The sun sets on a wonderful, but tiring, day. Posted by Hello

Oooooh, how rude

This is an ode to daikons - possibly the funniest vegetable I have yet come across. I have no idea how to cook them, but they're worth buying just to make women laugh, as can be seen in the photo below.

Laura poses with the big daikon. Posted by Hello

Meet my new mum

I went out with my host mum the other day. It's a bit difficult trying to descibe the concept of a host mum you don't actually live with... Basically I applied with Familynet to be assigned with a Japanese family so that they could introduce me to some aspects of Japan that I wouldn't normally get to see, such as eating a family meal, observing Japanese customs and so on.

Anyway, I thought I'd put up some photos of me and my host mum, Igarashi-san, on our day out together...

My new mum and I proudly show off the laquerware we painted. Posted by Hello

Here's mum sitting in the gardens we visited. Posted by Hello

The hills look spectacular at the moment thanks to the autumn colours. Posted by Hello

All these trees and bushes have been tied up to protect them from the snow. The idea is that the string will stop the branches from bending or snapping under the weight of the snow. Apparently this technique is unique to the Hokkiriku region. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

More Engrish

Genius. Absolute genius. I spotted the menu below in Nishimura cafe in Sabae. Let's all learn Engrish!

Menu: Everything for the Super Taste! Posted by Hello

The Flea Market

I went to the Flea Market in the Sabae Sundome on Sunday.

It was rubbish.

That's about all I have to say on the matter. Anyone who wishes to defend the honourable pursuit of rifling through other people's tat, please post your comments below...

The Sundome Fleamarket. Posted by Hello

The sign says "Kid's corner" in Japanese. Unfortunately this rather poorly furnished creche consists of little more than a ring of chairs, a miniature TV set and a solitary Winnie the Pooh doll. Posted by Hello

So you want me to work on a Saturday?

So Mike called me last weekend and said "Do you fancy helping out at an English seminar for Mikuni High School kids? Some students are being sent to Wales on a school exchange, so we're giving them some extra tuition and playing some games and stuff on Saturday. Wanna come?"

"Saturday?" I said.

"You get paid 4,000 yen", he said.

"Fair enough", I said, "I'll be there". It was only when I put down the phone that I realised 4,000 yen was only twenty quid. About half of which would be spent on petrol and tolls driving there in the first place.

Still, a good time was had by all, despite the fact that I only got two hours sleep the night before after accidentally going to a karaoke bar until five in the morning. But at least I stayed awake, unlike some people... Matt?

Thanks to Mike for a great day and a blinding curry afterwards - good work fella.

Students of Mikuni hard at work learning English. Posted by Hello

Two Mikuni junior high school students. These poor sods are being sent to Cardiff on school exchange. I tried to warn them, but there was nothing I could do... (sorry to any Welsh people reading this) Posted by Hello

A gaggle of rather scary English teachers. L to r: Brendan, Ben and Rich. Posted by Hello

This pencil case belonged to one of the students in Mikuni. I love the juxtaposition between the anti-establishment comments on the left and the cute kitten on the right. I asked the thirteen year old boy who owned this pencil case if he knew who the bloke to the left of Bush was. "Is it Putin?" he replied. Posted by Hello

Mike's rather funky pad. Posted by Hello