Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Happy Hot Dogs at Home

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I have so many things I want to say about moving but life has suddenly become crazy busy again and they all have to wait. In the meantime, here are a bunch of pictures!

Goodbye, castle heron
Good bye, city sky
Good bye, old dog walking route
Goodbye, random encounters with crabs in the park
Good bye, playing in the fountain with friends

We're ready to go

Hello, new neigbourhood

Hello, new adventures waiting

Hello, life in the sticks
Hello, our new favourite place!

Hello, our own back yard

Too hot >.<
Less than a week and the house is covered in fur >:/

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Saturday, 7 July 2012

Tanabata: Star Festival 七夕


In Japan, things tend to be ordered from large to small; general to specific. You give your name family name first then given name. You write your address from prefecture to street number. In Australia we do the opposite: Street number to state, given name then family. Likewise Australian dates are the exact reverse of Japanese dates. Australians write day/month/year and Japanese write year/month/day. There’s a consistency in the thought processes that leads to these ways of writing dates. Why on earth Americans write month/day/year I have no idea. But then, I also have no idea why they say “I could care less” not “I COULDN’T case less.” Anyway, this does have something to do with Tanabata, I promise. Tanabata is celebrated on July seventh, which is 7/7 no matter which system one uses to write dates. Tanabata is not a public holiday, but we do get “star jelly” in school lunch to celebrate it. 

Tanabata Desert

 The Story of Tanabata

According to wikipedia
Orihime (織姫 Weaving Princess), daughter of the Tentei (天帝 Sky King, or the universe itself), wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa (天の川 Milky Way, lit. "heavenly river"). Her father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every day to weave it. However, Orihime was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi (彦星 Cow Herder Star) (also referred to as Kengyuu (牽牛)) who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa. When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and married shortly thereafter. However, once married, Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa and forbade them to meet. Orihime became despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them meet again. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if she worked hard and finished her weaving. The first time they tried to meet, however, they found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.
Long long ago, when we first came to Kyushu my husband worked in a highly academic English language pre-school (yes, there are academic pre-schools). He was tasked with writing the script for a Tanabata play, using concepts and vocabulary appropriate for children as young as three. The preschool version has Tentei getting cross because Orihime and Hikoboshi kept sneaking off to have picnics together instead of doing their chores (^_^)


Read the manga, watch the anime, listen to the tribute CDs... but stay away from the live action movie

Tanabata is deeply intertwined in my brain with Yazawa Ai’s manga “NANA”, about two girls named Nana (which is also the pronunciation of the number seven in Japanese: the part of 七夕) who meet on the train to Tokyo and end up sharing an apartment (number 707) together. Tanabata (7/7) has a special significance that becomes increasingly tragic throughout the manga.

Tree of Wishes

Wish Tree
For Tanabata, the tradition is to set up a leafy bamboo branch and decorate it using long pieces of paper with wishes written on them. Traditionally at the end of the celebrations the branch is thrown into a stream to carry the wishes away… but these days the whole thing usually goes in the burnable garbage. Don’t worry though, the smoke probably rises up to the stars (and gives Orihime asthma).
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Sunday, 1 July 2012


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I turned 28 recently. This move will by my 21st. My 22nd if my exchange year counts. I have had a life time worth of moving, and I am absolutely over it; especially here in Japan, where it costs a fortune. Not a small fortune; a dragon’s hoard of a fortune.
Girl holding lots of money
THIS MUCH money. More, actually, this was just the cash portion

We found a house online that had a garden and said pets negotiable. We called the agency, thinking that even if our foreignness wasn’t a deal breaker that our two (in Japanese terms of reference) medium sized dogs would definitely rule us out. The agency was unconcerned by either, and without really having had time to consider it fully we’d signed up; giving us less than a month to organise a move and all that entails, which includes doubling our commute times to our respective jobs. We’re moving from the center of the city to a remote suburb surrounded by mountains. The dogs will love it. It has a garden. It’s a real house, not an apartment. It’s going to be great… but all I can think about right now is how much I don’t want to move and how much I will miss our neighborhood. I love living in our building. We know our neighbors. The dogs have doggie friends to play with whenever we walk them. We can’t walk three steps at a time without someone sticking their head out of a shop doorway or apartment window and saying hello. We’ll be moving away from our little friend across the street, who is very nearly SIX YEARS OLD and likes to help us walk the dogs (who are called, according to her, Guri and Hayachiiii).
Cat sheltering from the rain in a Japanese temple bell
Our morning route looks like this

Japanese castle gardens at night
and our evening walks look like this

We’ll no longer be in walking distance of our gentle and kind vet who examines Hayate on the floor because being put on a table terrifies him. We won’t be able to take weekend walks down by the river or wander to our regular dog-friendly café for a coffee while the puppies play with enamored passers-by.
Dogs relaxing at outdoor cafe
The shiba love this cafe

Our friends won’t be able to drop by for a chat on the way home from work, because we won’t be on the way to anywhere or anything. I know it is for the best, but I am taking it hard.
It makes me feel like this:

Crying girl
Sad face

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"But we didn't DO it"

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“It wasn’t us…” is not a convincing argument for most teachers. The other day something happened that made me really appreciate how well the teachers I work with know their students and understand what is going on between them. It’s actually kind of creepy sometimes; I remember one morning meeting when a teacher reported to the school that two students ( who up until that point had been best friends) had got into the text message fight the night before, were no longer speaking, and that the class was likely to be tense and divided. How on earth had he heard about it by 8 am the next morning?! Anyway, back to the story. Three boys had been studying and eating at MacDonald's. They were there for about three hours wearing their school basketball club uniforms. Sometime after they left, staff found three names graffitied where the boys had been sitting. The restaurant manager called the school, and the school confirmed that the three names were the names of boys from our basketball club. This is where it gets good. 
The basketball coach asked the boys about it. They reported that they had been at the McDonald’s but said that they hadn’t done the graffiti. The coach believed them. Here’s how he reported it at the staff meeting: “Not only do I believe that they wouldn’t lie to me, I also don’t believe that they would be stupid enough to write their full names somewhere they had been sitting for three hours in their uniforms.” So what do you think happened next? It turns out that the boys in question had recently had a falling out with some other boys. After a bit of investigation, it turned out that these boys had gone into the McDonald’s, waited for the basketball players to leave and done the graffiti to get them into trouble. An ingenious evil plot, foiled only by a teacher willing to believe his students when they said “we didn't do it”.
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