Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How could I not buy this garlic?

Monday, May 29, 2006

More shopping and birthdays

On Sunday we (Marissa, Alison, myself and our matching Coaches) hit Rinku Town's Premium Shopping Outlet. Very much like Porto Bazar but a lot more high end brands. We didn't do that much damage but managed to get a few good buys.

After school on Monday, I headed to Umeda for Cindy's birthday dinner. We headed to some American bar place then karaoke, although Sue Yen and I didn't stay out that late because we both had work the next day.

Happy Birthday girl! Was glad to share it with you in J-pan!


Cindy scored a free birthday cocktail from the MC waiter dude who did birthday interviews

Jumbo Karaoke

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Alison's Birthday - Part 2

After my road trip to Sasayama, I headed out to Sanners to meet up with the others for Alison's second birthday celebration.

Dinner was at Sapna and Kana brought a strawberry sponge roll cake.

Happy Birthday sweetie! Hope you had a good one!

Road trip to Sasayama

Today I went on a drive to Sasayama and Sanda with Makoto and Kiyoko in their new car. It was nice to be surrounded by a different landscape and get out into the country.

We stopped by this little house-turned-into-soba-shop for some freshly made sara-soba and wild duck rice. Very tasty.

Drying onions

The view outside while sitting seiza-style, waiting for our lunch

Steamed wild duck rice

Sara-soba and soba tea

Makoto enjoying his soba

Then it was off to see the Sasayama Castle Ruins.

Then we went to the sake brewery museum and another museum which had an awesome katana display.

Then it was on our way for a nice relaxing onsen followed by a stop off at Koyama, a famous cake shop which had a 20 minute wait and a line leading right out the door into the garden.

The lush green mountains and clouds reflected in the rice fields - simply stunning.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dining out

I met up with Katie for dinner in Tarumi for the first time on Thursday night.

We both live in Tarumi but have never met up or bumped into each other in Tarumi, even though we shop at the same places and are always using the JR line.

Thanks for meeting up sweets! I had a lovely evening and it was great to catch up, especially hearing your unsavoury train encounters and adventures.

Friday night dinner was in Sanno with the English teachers. It was a little welcome dinner for the 3 new English teachers.

Pumpkin, sweet potato and apple gratin

Cold sake with 'service'

After that I headed to Starbucks to meet up with the Awaji girls and bumped into Sam, Miwako and Chris. The West Japan recontracting conference was held that week so the gaijins were out in full force. We headed to Second Chance for the Drunk Dragon deal - all you can drink. It was good to see some familiar faces and have a bit of a dance but it reminded me of some cliche American frat house party. I was well and truly ready to go home by 11pm.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cheeky Punks

1st Years
I was doing a 'Directions' lesson and the worksheet required them to listen to my instructions and using the map, write down where I was.

For the next part, they had to write me instructions on how to get from the Train Station to the Fish Market, using the vocabulary and useful expressions we learnt before.

This was what I got from one of the boys. So cheeky yet so funny.

At least his spelling is correct.

2nd Years
They were doing self introductions speeches and had to memorize 9 sentences which included their name, age, address, occupation, hobbies and so on. The last point was "I chose to be in the English Oral Communication class because..."

Most kids had things like "...I want to live in a foreign country." "...I want to speak English well." "...I want to travel abroad." "...English is useful for my future." "...I like English."

One of the boys got up and delivered his self intro confidently, from memory and with a clear, loud voice. Then he got to the last point.

"I chose to be in the English Oral Communication class because..."
(He looks up to me with a cheeky grin and all his mates are saying "Do it! Do it!")
"...because...because...because I like Eng..Chris."
(The class erupts into laughter and his mates think he's a hero)

He's also the same boy that looked up 'Chris' in his electronic dictionary. It came up with 'Christopher' and 'Christine'. So he asked me what it meant and I told him that 'Chris' is short for a boys name and a girls name. Alas, now he calls me 'Christopher'.

3rd Years
One of my boys (the guy that said to Brendon, "You, look like me!" and the Winter holiday report that ended with "and you said...nothing.") has learnt how to wink. He constantly winks at me during class and when I see him around the school. It was pretty funny at first and I just laugh and shake my head, but it does get annoying when I'm trying to teach the class and he's just sitting, staring and constantly winking at me with a cheeky grin on his face, trying to make me crack up in front of the class.

After school one day, he was sitting in the staffroom with his homeroom teacher talking about his future and after graduation plans (kind of like an interview with the students to see if they're doing okay). I walked behind them to get to the ice machine and when I looked up to see who the teacher was interviewing, he winked at me right in front of his homeroom teacher. I shot back with a "Pay attention!" look.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Toji Temple Market

On the 21st of every month, Toji Temple in Kyoto holds a huge market within the temple grounds. It is crowded, colourful and quite interesting, even if you're there just to have a look.

This month the 21st fell on a weekend and it was my last chance to see the market before I leave Japan. I met up with Alison, Marissa and Leigh, then trained it to Kyoto where we met up with Sue Yen.

The weather was nice and hot. Perhaps a day better spent at the beach than being squashed up in the markets with the crowds. But it was a good experience and I ended up getting some Japanese cloth coasters and a Japanese hair tie (only because it was so hot and I needed something to tie my hair up).

If you're looking for unique gifts, this is definitely the place to go to. They had old kimonos, pottery, Japanese calligraphy tools, tea ceremony equipment, handmade goods, jewellery and heaps of random junk. They also had all the tasty yatai food stalls.

From Kyoto JR station, head south-west and you'll eventually see the temple's pagoda.

Then it was back to the station for a rest at Cafe Beret. We headed back to Sanners, said goodbye to Sue Yen who was meeting friends in Osaka, and chilled out at Starbucks before Marissa and I headed to the much loved and raved about 'Baan Thai.'

It's a small Thai restaurant tucked away in the streets of Sanners and you really need a reservation if you don't want to be disappointed. It was fully booked out with reservation after reservation and that's a real testament to the food. It was freakin' awesome.

We had the green curry with prawns and the chicken vegetable stir-fry thing with cashews. We were both so very impressed. Must go again...soon!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Time for some culture

Today I headed to the Kobe City Museum to see 'The Allure of Edo' exhibition.

Kawatobi-sensei had invited me to see it on Sunday with her but unfortunately I already had plans. Our school has two 'teacher' passes that allows a teacher and a friend free entry to the exhibitions held at that museum. So she showed me how I could borrow one.

So after my usual laundry and ironing routine, I met up with Chris in Sanners because his soccer game was cancelled. (Good to catch up with you Chris!) I took him to Robinson Cafe, looking forward to their awesome lunch sets and tabehoudai breads but we were too late for lunch and ended up just having coffee and cake.

The exhibition was so crowded and it took ages to see everything. But it was definitely worth it. The ukiyoe paintings on scrolls and paper screens were amazing. So detailed and beautiful. The colours were so vibrant, surely they must have been restored. In my future house I plan to have a Japanese room with tatami mats, sliding doors and exquisite Japanese prints where I can practise my tea ceremony and zen out.

Me & Chris

After the exhibition I said goodbye to Chris and headed straight to Takarazuka. Chieko picked Sue Yen and myself up from the station and drove us to Ragshack - an interesting restaurant with old western american decor. It was nice to sit back in the car listening to Bennie K with memories flooding back as we drove around familiar surroundings - the train station where we used to hang out at, my first Mister Donuts shop, the stairs near the station where we took photos with the biker guys and skateboarder boys, the golden pheonix statue outside the Osamu Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy, Kimba the white lion & Black Jack) museum and the river near the city office.

Chieko ringing up our order at Ragshack

Tacos, guacamole and nasi goreng

Then we headed to Round 1 for karaoke and icecream, singing Japanese and English songs that were popular 9 years ago ~ Spice girls, V6, Chara, Kinki Kids, SMAP, Backstreet boys and some random newer songs thrown in just to mix things up.

Chi-chan ~ Arigatou gozaimasu *\(^-^)/* Itsumo mecha tanoshikata! Soshite itsumo onaka yabai ne. (^0^;) Demo daijyobu da yo, natsukashii to atarashikute tanoshii omoide. Kondo aimasho! Tanoshimi!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A spoonful of randomness helps reality go down

When Leigh, Alison, Marissa and I were in that turkish restaurant the other weekend, we were enjoying our food with turkish(?) music playing in the background. I didn't pay much attention to the music except that it added to the authentic atmosphere.

However, somewhere in between my lahmacun (turkish pizza) and hummus dip, the music did make me sit up. Actually, it made all of us raise our eyebrows. They were playing the Mortal Kombat theme song. What the? Don't get me wrong, I love Mortal Kombat and even have the cassingle of it (ancient, I know) but it was just so random and hilarious. Then it went back to the normal turkish music as if it was the most normal turkish restaurant mega mix CD ever made.

Flawless victory

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Another familiar face in Kobe

Happy Mother's Day.

I called my mum today and Brendon went over and delivered flowers (actually it was a pot plant).

Today was a beautiful day and after hanging up my washing, I wasn't looking forward to spending the day stuck indoors ironing away. Lucky for me, Sue Yen's message saved the day.

We met up in Sanners to see Cindy, who has just moved over to Japan for work. Her Japanese is amazing (1 kyuu baby!) and she blends in quite well in the Kobe crowd.

After a bit of shopping I took them to Lois Cafe. I had the Viking Rice which was quite tasty. Cindy's noodles had century egg in it! and Sue Yen's noodles made me miss eating good, oily, roast duck noodles.

After another bout of shopping, we parted ways and I headed to my hairdressers. As always, very accommodating, friendly and relaxing. I'm going to miss the team at du:c (dream unlimited collaboration).

Never have I given a hairdresser total control of my hair (Nandemoii - Anything is okay) and I always enjoy my visits. That night especially, I walked out feeling like a million bucks, too bad it was just for picking up groceries.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sannomiya = Eating, drinking & shopping

Today I met up with Gouhei, Chieko and Jun. Jun-chan has been Chieko’s best friend since junior high school. She’s a lovely and friendly girl who works as a nurse and loves holidaying in Okinawa. She took us to Robinson Café, a very trendy (oshare) café with stylish décor and Moet & Chandon bottles everywhere.

We had the pasta lunch set (only 1000 yen) which included a drink, salad, a very filling serve of pasta and all-you-can-eat bread. Very similar to Tooth Tooth but the variety of breads here were much better. We had cranberry bread, matcha bread, maple syrup bread, nut bread, soba wheat bread, basil and tomato bread. They were all so tasty. Definitely another cafe to add to the 'must-go-again' list.

The weather was rainy and the Kobe Matsuri (festival) was on. I felt sorry for the people who had to sing, dance, march and play instruments in the rain. But there were lots of people with umbrellas watching the parade so that was good. We watched the parade for a little bit then decided to head to Round 1.

I guess there isn’t much to do in the city but to eat and drink and shop. That’s basically all I do in Sanners. So we played air hockey and this ball-throwing-videogame, then went up to the karaoke rooms. As I’ve said many-a-times before, I’m not a fan of karaoke but it was fun to add my own tambourine and maraca beats. I guess it also helps your Japanese reading ability and kanji recognition too. They made me sing Avril Lavigne’s ‘Sk8ter Boi’ and do all the random English rap bits in the other songs. Needless to say, I was crap. But we had fun.

That evening I met up with a bunch of Kobe City JETs to celebrate Alison’s birthday. We went to an izakaya and ate a lot of good food. Then we wandered over to Polo Dog for some drinks then called it a night. Hope you had a good one, Alison ~ Happy Birthday!

Adam and his gay 'Homo-dachi' candy. Tomodachi means friend, but on this packet of 'Homodachi' candy it had a picture of 2 guys getting friendly with 2 angry looking ladies in the background. Classic.

Adam: "Yeah I must say, it does taste pretty gay."

Alison with her tofu toys from me and Marissa. We discovered that we had both got her the same yaki-tofu one. Gomen!

Toiger shot

Blue steel shot - rather.. Blue eyes VS Red eyes

Lady & the tramp

"Hey you guuuuuys" a la The Goonies

The awesome rockers at Polo Dog - the guy on the very right was on fire - at one stage going nuts and playing with his teeth! Hardcore.