Under Construction

I'm currenly working on resurrecting my old blog, just polishing everything up and finally posting some last posts.
I'm also working on bringing the pictures back up.

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Starting today, we'll have a full 6 days holidays! Tomorrow Nao, a few other Kasuko students and me will drive to a hot spring located 3 hours to the north of Tokyo!

I don't really have any plans for the rest of the holidays, however I do have tons of homework from Australia to catch up on... gee come to think of it, i only have 2 weeks left in Japan!


Japanese Archer

On Friday last week, I was invited to go to a session of Japanese Archery (kyudo) which is club activity that the school offers here.

Japanese Archery is quite, I had just never known it existed. The Shooting-range is behind the swimming pool and handball court, which is behind the soccer oval, which is behind the gym and judo building so it's not surprising that I hadn't noticed it before.

Before the start of the session, students put on kyudo uniforms. The uniform consists of a keiko-gi (like a short kimono) which is held in place by a belt called obi, traditional divided pants or skirt called a hakama and split-toed socks known as tabi.

We then entered the matoba - the shooting house - where we meditated for about 10 minutes, then shouted a loud onegaishimasu and bowed to the teacher. After watching other students practice for a while (and they are damned good too!), I was led behind the matoba and began my introductory course :)

There are eight positions which an archer goes through before shooting an arrow and I practiced those for a good one and a half hours. First, I immitated my tutor, Mario - who had been to Melbourne High last year - and then practiced with a bow but without arrow. It is quite tricky to get everything right. Mario kept telling me to relax my right hand more when pulling back the arrow. Anyway, the club ended, we meditated a bit and then shouted a loud sayonara at the teacher. I stayed for a bit longer though and got to shoot a few arrows at a makiwara - a straw practice target that is shot at from a bow's length away. I did alright and was invited to try my luck on the shooting range.

I shot from about 15 meters away. My first arrow struck the target (about 25cm in diameter) on the outer ring! My second arrow didn't do so well. At this point it is important to know that it was so cold that my hand was partially frozen, I swear I was at the beginning of hypothermia! So yea that's my excuse. My third and fourth shots went better though. One hit the target in the centre, the other one was a little short and embedded itself in the wall of sand that the targets reside on.

Anyway, the day was a lot of fun! I hope that I'll get the opportunity to try my luck once more!


TV and baseball

Nao watches this weird Japanese TV show every night.

The series is about this student who is a really good baseball player but always has an injury of some sort (a different one in every episode of course). However, since there is always a very important game is coming up, he decides to play regardless of his injuries. His girlfriend comes to the game and is worrying/sobbing the whole time.

It always comes down to the last pitch. If the hero gets the batter out, his team wins. Then just as he is about to throw his killer ball, his arm/leg/ankle/wrist/finger gives him a spasm. The camera goes into superslow motion, zooming in on the guys face and arm/leg/ankle/wrist/finger. A minute of slowmotion later, the batter is out, the guy's team won the game but the hero lies on the field contorted in agony. That's the story-line for almost every episode...

The only reason i watched it was that Nao displays a very stange behaviour whenever he watches it: he gets out his old baseball glove and ball, puts on the glove and sits there watching TV. When the show is over he throws the ball onto his bed a couple of times and then puts the glove and the ball back into his closet.

And then he tells me that he doesn't like baseball. Hmmm...



We had to get to Tokyo station by 7am. The train ride from Kasukabe to Tokyo station takes about one and a half hours so the wake-up call (naoki putting an alarm next to my head) came at 5 am.

Once at Tokyo station, we waited for the uncle and cousin #2 (Daisuke) to arrive. We waited 5 minutes... 10 minutes... 20 minutes... By this time, Nao and I were getting a little worried and Nao had the bright idea to give them a ring. It turns out we were waiting at the wrong Shinkansen check-in! No harm done, we still had 15 minutes left.

I sat next to the uncle on the train. We talked a bit about Kyoto and the world for a while. Later, I slept a bit (making up for lost time...) while listening to some music. An hour later or so, i was awoken by Nao.

"Mt. Fuji! Over there!"

I looked out the window and there it was, just like in the pictures. We were really lucky because there were no clouds around so we had a great view. Unfortunately, at 280km/h the Shinkansen didn't leave us a lot of time to admire the dormant volcano half covered in snow and we disappeared inside a tunnel 20 seconds later.

When i woke again, we were approaching Kyoto station. Once out the train we went to get a daily public transport pass, proceeded to the bus terminal and took a bus to Shinkaku-ji, The golden pavilion - our first stop.

It's really amazing. The whole building is made out of gold! The pavilion is located on the other side of a small lake when you enter the temple grounds. We spend around 20 minutes taking picture after picture. I also bought a happiness charm... You can never have enough luck huh?

Next stop, or 'target' as the uncle would put it, was Ryoan-ji, the temple renown for their rock garden.

We ate Souba in a small restaurant across the street from Ninna-ji. Souba is a noodle soup with all kinds of different meat, vegetables or seafood available as toppings. I had mine with fried chicken. The soup tasted great, the only problem being that it was so hot my tastebuds got fried after the first mouthful. Also the steam from the sauce made me choke. But it was good nevertheless.

After lunch we took the bus to Nijo Castle, one of the biggest and most impressive castles i have ever seen. The castle grounds cover about 250,000 square meters in central Kyoto. First, we went into the Ninomaru Palace - the main palace inside the castle walls where the Shogun lived and worked. The whole palace is made out of Tatami rooms and is one storey high. After the palace, we wandered around the grounds for a bit, walking from one end to the other and back.

We visited temple after temple for the rest of the day before we went back to Kyoto station in the evening. Naoki and me both bought some souvenirs and got some dinner (sushi for me) and then went to wait for our sinkansen to arrive.

Whilst waiting for the train, there was a Shinkansen to Tokyo every 10 minutes! And all of them full! That's a lot of people taking the train. Public transport is obviously a lot more efficient and popular in Japan than in Australia.

We got home by 11 pm - it had been a long yet fun and interesting day.

Deep sleep

We had another earthquake today, at around 4 am. I woke up to feel the ground shaking but was so tired that I went back to sleep straight away.

Today, a few people asked me about the quake and whether I had been nervous.

Now I am sitting in front of a computer, looking at the USGS website. This morning's quake was registered at 5.2 on the Richter scale with the epicenter just 30 km from Kasukabe! A magnitude 5 earthquake makes windows rattle and stuff fall out of shelves (a few CD's lay on the floor this morning) and I slept through it!

I'm so sad right now.

Japanese Valentines Day

There is one fundamental difference between the Australian and the Japanese Valentines Day.

In Japan, the girls give the guys chocolate instead of the guys giving presents to the girls.

I got chocolate too! From on of Nao's sister's friends. They even make the chocolate at school. There are special valentine's day cooking sessions at school - or so I've been told.


Where are the garbage bins damn-it!

How can a country like Japan, one of the most hygiene obsessed ones in the world have so few garbage bins?

There are just no garbage bins anywhere. Not in down town Tokyo, not in Kasukabe. It's so frustrating! There are only cigarette bins or can bins but no normal bins! The only place where one can find normal bins is at 7Elevens. It's so annoying when you have to carry around your garbage for kilometers! I want rubbish bins!


Back from Kyoto

I just got back from Kyoto. It was great! We went with naoki's uncle and cusin #2 (daisuke). we went to see a grand total of 6 temples and 1 castle.

i'll write a longer post tomorrow. i'm too tired now. good night!


Eel anyone?

We had eel for dinner today. I had never had eel before. The fish was served on top of rice with a brown sauce, all in one bowl.

Tentatively, I took a small bite. It tasted fishy and didn't have a lot of flavor. The skin (you eat that too) had a very bitter taste (tasted a bit like soap). The eel was cut in two and cut again vertically, along the spine. I was just taking another bite when my eyes moved to the end of one of the pieces of eel when suddenly.. What's that? It's a HEAD! The eel's head! It was lying there, mouth gaping open, eyes empty. the head like the rest of the eel was cut in two so i got a great view of all the insides of an eel's head.

I felt kind of nauseous. I beheaded the eel using my chopsticks and proceeded to eat the rest of the eel. However, I had really lost all appetite.