Sunday, 16 December 2007

PostHeaderIcon Ailen who live in Japan bought bike.

Good evening again. I've been feeling the desire to blog a lot recently and a relatively quite weekend has given me the opportunity to do so.

I forgot to mention in my last update that I got to make mochi at the kindergarten last Friday morning. If you were too apathetic to click on the wonderful wikipedia link I provided then I will explain what making mochi consists of. It 's basically the process of smashing the hell out of rice with a big mallet until it turns to goo (the scientific word for it). It was a lot of fun but I was quite nervous I'd miss the rice and crack the stone bowl or worse... smash the hand of the person turning it over after each whack. Apparently it is a very nostalgic event for Japanese people and old women and kids go absolutely crazy for the stuff. Indeed, apparently after New Year (when it is eaten in excess) there are news reports that count up the number of old folk who choked to death gorging on it as it sadly gets stuck in their throats. I got lots given to me for free (with sweet red bean paste in the middle) and gorged on it myself that afternoon. Last Friday morning I went back to the kindergarten again as they had a クリスマス/Christmas show going on. I was quite impressed by the level of choreography/wardrobe/stage management by a bunch of 4 year olds in a backwater Japanese town.

I went to my junior high enkai on Friday night and my predictions about the conversations were spot on. I'm not trying to make fun of them and is merely an observation of what happens. Each side is terrible at the other one's language so all conversation dilutes into the simplest of pleasantries. I did manage to get a bit of banter going with some of the teachers and even talk a little bit about history... in Japanese!. Mainly about the Dutch and Portuguese traders impact on Japan and why Japan is called Japan and not Nihon in English. Also, all foreign people tend to get insulted when Japanese people compliment them on their chopstick skills. Some snap back and say things like "Oh, can you use a knife and fork?" but not old Hanta. He genuinely accepts the praise whilst stuffing his face with fried shrimp. I always enjoy these events in retrospect but it can really exhaust your brain trying to process everything. Plus, everyone wants to keep drinking sake with me. There is a drinking custom distinct in Kochi called 'Hempai' which is when two people share a whole jug of sake whilst pouring for each other and drinking out the opposite ends of the cup. Everyone else maybe has one or two but everyone wants to do with the foreigner so you spend an hour drinking shot after shot. All the while making sure you don't do something to insult somebody. It was still a fun night to talk to all the teachers when they were being relaxed and opening up.

I then caught the train up to Nankoku for an 80's themed joint birthday for Erin and Hank. There's five female ALTs that all live next door to each other up there so there was numerous rooms going on at once. There was a voting thing going on too and I won 'Class Clown' and got some comedy glasses that I love. My costume consisted of a blond curly wig and a red bandanna... I think I got away with it. I'll steal some pictures off facebook sometimes to show you how it looked. Anyway, a massive crowd of us hit the karaoke later that night for two hours with an endless supply of alcohol (all you can drink affair). It was the best karaoke experience I've been too and we had a massive room to ourselves where we belted out song after song. I crashed on another floor before heading back east with Andrew and Matt that morning. I stood outside on the train for the first time all the way back which was fun. The tunnels were bloody freezing though. I've spent the rest of the weekend doing little but cleaning, washing and mainly sitting on my backside. However, today I went to buy a new bike because I miss cycling around Tano. I decided to take my camera and document my experience.

This is the view as I leave my apartment.

Turning right onto the stairs.
Turning left onto the street. That's my car!

At the bottom of the stairs. That little black thing was my friend the spider. He was living there for a few weeks. At first I destroyed some of his web as it used to get in my face. However, I watched him rebuild everything and let him live. I used to glance up every morning before work to see how he was doing. He's been dead for a week though, that's his corpse. This story has no happy ending.
That is the Board of Education in the distance. It takes me about a minute to get there.
I have no connection with this particular spawn of Satan.

When I walk about my town I usually hear "HAAANTA" shouted at me by all the kids. This was the first of many during the day. It's quite nice actually and it shows they don't hate me. I wish I could understand what they were asking me though.

This is the entrance to the 'Fureai Centre' where I work and sometimes teach.

One of the 'main' roads in town. On the left is the supermarket, on the right is the drugstore and hospital. Straight ahead is where my car broke down last week.

The supermarket has a number of these outside on the walls. As everyone knows, this one represents the famous delicacy of whale meat in a hollowed out watermelon.

The Nahari-Gomen train line is fairly recent and the Tano station is in the background. Each stop has a designated character drawn by a famous artist. Tano has by far the coolest one. I've seen people on 'station tours' taking pictures of every single one.

"For your safetly and comfort. If you are ailen who live in Japan. Please ask someone who understand this manual to make detailed explanation to you." Sold.

Recycling... joy.

The edge of town.

I started messing about with some picture editing stuff.

Whenever I cycle through Tano I always find someone new that I haven't noticed before. I used to cycle up the road to the left all the time to get to the beach and never spotted this. She's a beauty.

I thought I recognied one of the kanji but I don't. Failure.

We actually have a temple/shrine (I forget which ssssh) that I always forget about.

Too many people spend far too long playing pachinko in this town. The noise inside is what I imagine hell sounds like. 100 points if you can spot my reflection.

One of my favourite captures of the day. It seems all very traditional and sums up my town. There's even some rice still growing in the middle of December.

I can't even to begin to explain how symbolic this vending machine is. They are absolutely everywhere and I've become accustomed to seeing one every 50-100 metres. I might even start a collection of photographs of them. This is your standard Coca Cola variety but there's a rare one I've got my eye on just outside Aki on Route 55. A green Sapporo one... oh yes indeed baby.

A mystery drink? I don't think I've ever wanted to buy something so badly in my life.
(I'm also interested why katakana was used to write 'yen')

What a let down. A cold can of crappy coffee.

I left it in the machine as a gift.

They have these drainage channels everywhere. I fell in one of them once.

I made an omlette for lunch. It was quite nice.


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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.