Friday, December 31, 2004

2005 - Are you ready?

Not a big one but a good eventful one nonetheless.

I didn't really feel like having another huge night out and so I was left pondering what I was going to do to see 2005 roll in. Some mates were hitting Osaka for a crazy all-nighter clubbing, I was invited by another Japanese mate to go to a Sannomiya club but the whole idea of clubbing out all night to celebrate the new year didn't seem all that inviting seeing that I could just do that back home. So I decided to do it Japanese-style.

With Basement Jaxx in the background while I was getting ready, I did feel the urge to go out and party. However the strong winds and cold night made me think otherwise. It was freakin' freezing!! I made my way to the train station to try one of the new restaurants while I waited for a call. Standing outside one of the restaurants I tried to decipher the menu and there I was approached by this random old guy. I couldn't really understand him so I decided to use my heavily foreign accented Japanese so he would get the picture. Then he started asking questions like where I was from, Oh Australia? But you don't look Australian? Are you half Japanese? Where are your parents from? yadda yadda in Japanese - well that's what I could make out of it. He then said in literal translation "Shall we eat together?" pointing into the restaurant. What the?!?! My thoughts exactly as I started going into red alert mode and blurted out that I was waiting for a friend. He still persisted but then luckily a friend of his saw him and called him over. Maybe he was meant to meet him so he walked towards the train gates.

I was really hungry by this time and they were still hanging around so I decided going in the opposite direction would be best. After they walked out of my sight I quickly dashed into the restaurant. I think the manager had seen all of this from the window and politely ushered me in and gave me a well hidden seat behind a screen. The old waiter guy also spoke good english and wished me a "Happy New Year!"

After my lovely and filling 'mixed fry' dinner set, I walked to my local shrine - "Kai Jinja." Being by the ocean, it is a shrine for the sailors and water merchants. There were stalls set up selling food and charms, lanterns, pictures of roosters (it being the Year of the Rooster), side-show games and crowds of people. It being 11.50pm on a freezing cold night didn't stop the droves of families, couples and young kids visiting their local shrine or temple. There was a huge line already building up and as soon as it past midnight, the guards/security/traffic police let the people in and everyone rushed to the front of the shrine where they threw in money, rang a giant bell and said a prayer for the new year.

For a moment I was thinking "What is going on?" I looked at my keitai and counted down but when it hit 12.00am...nothing. Major anti-climax. Everyone was still just standing there lining up. Where were the shouts of 'Happy Ney Year!' or the shrieks of 'Woo Hoo!' ?? I was beginning to feel totally cheated until a gong sounded and then the madness.

It was crazy! I went along with the sea of people - definately no use trying to fight it - and ended up at the front corner. It was a whole heap of pushing and shoving and jam-packness! Then the priest guys in white robes started throwing out packets of something and everyone went insane! They were pushing to get to the front to catch what the priests were throwing out. I managed to get two *tee hee hee* one fell right into my arms and one right by my feet, and discovered they were 'mochi' -rice cakes, traditional new years food. But since they weren't cooked they were mega hard and lethal. In amongst the rush and scampering to claim one of these lucky mochi bags, one hit a girl on the forehead and she went down. There were crying, lost kids and the security guys were doing their utmost to keep things in order. I took some happy snaps then squeezed out of their before I got konked on the head with some flying rice rocks.

The line to ring the main bells snaked all the way down the street! So I went to the nearby smaller, not-so-packed bell, threw my money in, rang the bell and pretended like I knew what I was doing. I also bought some fairy floss, takoyaki, red bean paste waffle, yakitori, chocolate coated banana-on-a-stick and some presents.

On my way home I also found my local video store and it was open! So I went in, signed up and hired some videos. Called Rui to wish her a "Happy New Year" and I'm sure she was very happy now that Joel is there with her. They leave for Shanghai in a few days - ooh so lucky!

Another year gone, another year to embrace. Here's wishing all you guys a very Happy New Year! I hope your new year shinanigans and countdown antics, whatever you get up to, wherever in the world you are, are just as fun and meaninful as they can be. Have a safe holiday too!

Enjoy & Savour!

Line to ring the bell Posted by Hello

Posted by Hello

Stampede to catch the 'omochi' Posted by Hello

Market stalls Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Another year going by

I was surprised that once December 26th hit, all the Christmas wreaths around disappeared.

So just to make it feel that little bit more like back home, I'm going to keep my Christmas decorations up till new years...or as long as I can't be bothered taking them down.

It always amuses me that no matter which country you're in during Christmas, you will ALWAYS hear WHAM's 'Last Christmas' and Mariah Carey's Christmas album. I also head some really bad versions of 'Ruldoph the red-nosed reindeer' and 'I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus.' *cringe*

Thanks to everyone for your lovely Christmas wishes, messages, cards and packages! I love getting mail, not the bills, but letters, postcards or packages!

Thanks girls for the delectable Dior lip gloss, handmade funkified tank top, red Sista polo, hot Esprit summer top and cute pink lace Esprit shorts, which aren't in the photo because I was wearing them when taking the shot. Love 'em all and made my Christmas feel more Christmassy.

I also whipped up this meal when I saw squid down at my local. A pack of 8 cute bulgy-eyed mini squids looking up at me. I just had to buy it. I decided to make a garlic chilli lemon squid dish - didn't taste too bad. Australian steaks were also on special so I decided to treat myself and fry up a nice piece of aussie beef with mushrooms, garlic mash and inspired by Jeff's Christmas dinner, broccoli and carrots with a cheese roux sauce. I also had a few apples to get rid of, so what did Betty Crocker decide to do? Apple crumble baby! That's right. Surprisingly it turned out rather tasty.

My Christmas packages! Posted by Hello

Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Ahhh, holidays! Hooray! Yay!

Most people in Japan are on holidays now till the 4th or 5th of January. The new year holiday is the most important holiday in Japan. 'Ohshogatsu' is celebrated from January 1st to 3rd. People go back to their home cities to spend time with their families, visit temples, shrines and eat certain festive foods.

Then the big sales hit. *oh such glee!* Can't wait! I went into GAP again *tee hee hee* and the wool jackets I bought were now down to 2,900 yen!! Boy do they know how to have a sale. When they say sale, they really mean it! I respect that - a lot. I think there was a further 25% off everything including sale items. I'm so tempted to buy the down quilted coat - it's so cheap now! Anyway I picked up some warm tops for work, matching beanie and scarf, big warm jumper and some stuff for Brendon.

I finally got through my mountain of ironing and then met up with two teachers from school for dinner.

They wanted me to try real hardcore Japanese food. We were all really hungry and couldn't be bothered driving into the city for 'turtle soup' so we headed to this tasty sushi joint. The servings were huge and filling. The sashimi slices were fresh and super thick. We had 'nabe' (like steamboat/hotpot/shabu-shabu" with angler fish, tofu, veges and mushrooms, including the delicacy 'angler liver.' We also had this raw fish skin dish which you dunk the strips of skin into this bright yellow sour paste, uni (sea urchin) - it wasn't so much the taste but the texture that made this one hard to stomach, tempura - can't go wrong and ikura (salmon roe).

Afterwards we headed to Royal Host, this 'family restaurant' with a 'drink bar' - all you can drink teas, coffee, cappacino, softies and juice. I had this mega hot fudge sundae *simply divine* and just sat back, relaxed, chatted and re-filled until one of their students started her work shift and said 'hello' to us. We pretty much left straight after that and called it a night.

Japanese/Soccer-sensei & English/Volleyball-sensei Posted by Hello

Hot fudge sundaes Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I'm a Lean, Mean, Reading Machine

These past 2 days I have been consumed by mysterious symbols, complex characters, murder, betrayal, solving clues, history and art.

I finally read Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code.' I started on it yesterday and finished it today. I don't think I've ever read a book that fast before. Besides all the rave reviews and what not, I knew I was going to enjoy it as soon as read the first page. What I liked about it was how it delved straight into the action and then cleverly explained things throughout the book. I like a book that can make me go "Hmmm oh I see, NOW I get it!"

It was definatley written to be made into a blockbuster action movie. It has all the necessary ingredients. Action, suspense, murder, mystery, adventure, a hint of romance and comedy - all rolled into one!

I've also finally finished 'Geisha - The secret history of a vanishing world' by Lesley Downer and 'Geisha' by Liza Dalby, the only foreigner ever to become an actual geisha. It took me a while to get through both of them but I guess because it details a lot about the history and culture that my brain had to chew through, absord and understand. Whereas I easily got caught up with the action of 'The Da Vinci Code.'

Apparently 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'Memoirs of a Geisha' are to be made into movies. I think both have definite storylines that will intrigue and interest. Though I'm quite interested in how they will produce 'Memoirs of a Geisha'. I've read that it will be in English and also that Steven Spielberg was to direct it but now there might have been some changes, and some names rumoured to be in it are Li Gong, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Watanabe and Ziyi Zhang.

Well this is my 2 cents. I think it should be done in Japanese with subtitles and that they should have more Japanese actors in it, especially playing the lead. Don't get me wrong, I loved Zhang's work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and so forth but I reckon being a Japanese story, having actual Japanese actors will make it more authentic.

Nonetheless I'm looking forward to watching both on the big screens. I'm one of those people who likes to know what happens in the end of a movie.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Boxing Day

Sorry kids for not being organised enough to post everyday.

There is always something going on and I never have enough time to update my blog. Then it snowballs and I realise that I have 2 weeks worth of adventures to write up. My bad. So there are probably entries and photos in here that you think you have seen or read but have only been updated recently.

Today I went to Brendan's Christmas potluck dinner at his house. He's a 3rd year JET that I met at Zack's Thanksgiving bring-a-dish dinner. We found out that Brendan's supervisor JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) is married to my supervisor JTE. Crazy!

He is one of the few city JETs I know that actually lives in a house. His place is actually on his school's premises so it's only a 3 minute walk to work. Lucky thing. It was also a Secret Santa thing so we all had to bring a gift. I also met up with Yoshi and we headed there together.

I ended up making another chocolate cake to bring and wrapped up a scarf like a Christmas cracker. I ended up getting a "hairLABO." What we know back home as "Grassy heads". You know the head that's stuffed with grass seeds and you water it and it sprouts grass 'hair' and you can cut and style it.

It was a good night but I piked. I was quite tired from the day before and having school the next day, I wasn't wanting another late night.

My grass head Posted by Hello

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Season greetings folks!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with friends, family and loved ones, filled with the true meaning of Christmas, tasty treats, turkey, laughter, pudding, carol-singing, delightful presents, hugs and many fond memories!

I ended up taking a train to Nishiwaki to Chris' house for Christmas dinner. Chris is fellow Perth JET who lives in a house with his very own front yard and tomato bush! (With the price of tomatoes here, it is definately something to get excited about!) It was quite a far trek as he lives quite "inaka" (Aussie equivalent = whoop whoop) but sitting on the train watching the sun set behind lumpy mountains being reflected in the still blankets of water was beautiful and calming.

Chris, Jeff and Bronwyn were heading to Hokkaido for a ski trip on Boxing Day. So they had planned a Christmas Eve and Christmas Dinner eating fest! The night before Chris had made lasagne and tonight Jeff was cooking roast pork, vegetables with a cheese roux sauce, pumpkin and garlic mash. The gender roles were reversed as Bron and I chatted away while the guys were in the kitchen. I was so impressed. It was such a perfect Christmas meal that even the lack of turkey couldn't get me down and usually 'no turkey on Christmas' would!

We had bonbon crackers with paper hats and corny jokes, cranberry sauce, Christmas napkins (sent over by Chris' mum), Christmas pudding (courtesy of Bron's mum), mini Christmas pies, eggnog and mulled wine (brought over by Jeff's mum - she's a flight stewardess and had recently stopped by Osaka). I was still getting over the concept of how big a house Chris was living in. It felt more like a home as there were Christmas decorations, lights and a tree set up. We watced "The Incredibles" on Chris' laptop then called it a night as we had to get up at 7am because they had a bus, train and plane to catch the next day.

Although it wasn't a White Christmas and there were only 4 of us, I'm really glad I spent Christmas like this. Good company, good food, good conversation and plenty of laughs - a perfect way to spend Christmas away from home.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and have a safe and happy holiday whatever you get up to and wherever you get to!

love & miss you all heaps!
Christine xox

Only about a month till Brendon gets here - can't wait!
Miss you like a fat kid on a diet misses cake!

Tis the season to be jolly! Posted by Hello

Christmas dinner @ Chris' place Posted by Hello

My first Japanese Christmas dinner Posted by Hello

The jelly belly pooping reindeer Posted by Hello

The others got a star, a lobster, a foam dolphin but what is my toy suppose to be?!? Posted by Hello

Chris & Jeff's cars out front Chris' place Posted by Hello

Ice in the morning Posted by Hello

Watering the car Posted by Hello

Chris' tomato bush Posted by Hello

Jeff licking the ice off his car Posted by Hello

Morning drive in Naka-cho Posted by Hello

Friday, December 24, 2004

Twas the night before Christmas

The school term finishes today and Winter Vacation begins!

The school had a closing cermeony in the morning with all the students and teachers in the school hall. They also cranked out four industrial sized heaters for the hall. I mean these things were freakin' hugen! They whirred like an airplane engine!

This evening I met up with Noel and Miako for a Christmas Even get-together at Noel's capoeira school. We didn't have any other plans since our Nagano trip got canned. Boo!!

But it was heaps of fun nonetheless. I had made chocolate (rice cooker) cakes for my teachers and brought one to the capoeira place. It was a bring-a-dish affair and there was lots of tasty food and dessert to try. Simon, the capoeira teacher is from Sydney and it was good to hear the aussie accent again and see that the esky was a garbage bin bag full of ice placed inside a bin. True aussie style if ever I saw it! He initially came over to work at Universal Studios Japan (USJ) as a stunt/performer guy and from the photos hanging on the wall, it looked like heaps of crazy fun!

Some of the students were even practising their capoeira which was really fun to watch but we had just eaten oh-so-much! The b-boys also provided entertainment, such is my interest for b-boys as some of you already know hahaha.

At the end of the night we all got a go at this lucky dip thing where you pick a number and get a lucky fortune and a small gift. I got a red bag and bandana with the advice that if I show my face without make-up to someone who has never seen it before without make-up, more fortune will fall upon me...hmmm sounds pretty random to me but I had a really good Christmas Eve, my first in Japan.

Miako, me & the cute little Japanese kid with our spoils Posted by Hello

My friend the chocolate cake Posted by Hello

Me & Simon the Sydney-sider Posted by Hello

What a cutie! Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Dreaming of a White Christmas

All hope evaporated with one phone call and one email.

Miako had received word from the travel agent that our Christmas snow trip to Nagano was cancelled due to lack of snow.

Although I'm freezing, I have been told that this December has been unusually warm and alas hardly any snow has blanketed Nagano...yet. So we decided to head to the travel agents after school to collect our deposits and grab dinner together.

We headed to Arrow Cafe which was a nice, cosy place which had a mouthwatering selection of desserts. I had the Cabonara, followed by a delicious piece of cake topped with a mountain of fresh fruits and cream and a huge mocha served in a handle-less cup which looked more like a small soup bowl!

So much for my first White Christmas *sigh*

Phil & Miako Posted by Hello