Wednesday, August 30, 2006


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With the departure of the Stony Plain delegation last month (which as I am writing this seems like just yesterday) I was left in possession of a good recipe for perogies. I am in constant need of recipes - not for my own narrow cravings - but because I like to repay the kindness I have received with originality. Pasta has been a good stand-by in the past, but ingredients of which can be hard to find; good flavorful tomatoes, decent noodles, pesto, mushrooms. I have also tried the route of casseroles; the ingredients for which are easier to find. However, there is a complete lack of large ovens in Japan (like we have in Canada) that makes cooking a casserole all but impossible. Now I have turned to preogies. The main ingredients of which - potatoes and flour - are widely available. Sour cream is a bit scarce in Shikaoi but is carried in all the large supermarkets in Obihiro. Now it seems the only scarcity I am facing is one of counter-space. I spent the better of two hours last night making just the handful you seen in the image. The dough will need improvement before my perogies make their Shikaoi debut but I nailed the stuffing if I do say so.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Good-Bye Kevin.

Kevin left Shikaoi for good this morning and as I write this should be boarding a plane to Tokyo where he and Jessica will be staying during the next couple of weeks while touring southern Japan. He has also planned an extensive China and Korea trip; which one might as well do since you are in the area. He won't be fully back in the States until mid-October.

Had a little bit of a song train wreak today. In the course of studying basic shapes with the grade one's we attempted a new song. The words - though repeated many times - were too hard to hear and sung too fast. Even I had trouble with words just teaching it to them. So that song was abandoned for today. I don't know if we'll come back to it. I can see the benefit if we stick with it but I don't know if it's worth the effort. It's a really tough song. It doesn't really flow at all. It was probably never easy to begin with to write a children's ESL song about triangles and rectangles and whatnot.

I am also working on a creaky body after trying to bend my knee in an unnatural fashion while running backwards in the gym. It was a play related accident so no one is really to blame, but I do wish my mom or grandma were around to nurse me back to health. I think my best course of action is to have ice cream for dinner.

I have had a good reception of last week's post about Japanese news and received several emails. While the uproar over paper shredders has yet to subsided - still taking a sizable chunk of the evening news discussing what should be done - I would like to this opportunity to expand on my comments about writer Masako Bando's habit of throwing unwanted kittens off a cliff.

I have not seen a link to a full English translation but several pieces of it have appeared in English on various internet news sites frequented by foreigners. Bando is an extremely popular novelist in Japan. So popular, in fact - that in a long tradition of other writers - has moved away from Japan to escape from Japan's sometimes predatory media. Currently she lives somewhere in Tahiti, which is governed under French law. It should also be established before moving on that she loves cats and owns several. In the essay, published last week in one of Japan's main national newspapers (Asahi Shinbun), she illustrates some very bad logic even if you don't morally judge her actions. If you happen to love animals and morally judge her, you will probably think she uses extremely twisted logic.

The crux of her article begins by stating that she feels it is her social/moral/spiritual responsibility to let her female cats procreate when in heat - which she considers essential to life - thus she has left them unsterilized. Following this route, of course, one ends up with a lot of kittens. She writes that because she has such a strong sense of social responsibility as a pet owner - she knows that she can't have extreme numbers of cats around - she has decided to take steps that are quite depraved in my opinion to remedy the problem. Now, besides the fact that if one thinks letting female cats procreate is essential to their nature, it has to follow that one consider motherhood also essential to the female cat's nature. Using her own logic, if you feel a social responsibility toward pets this would naturally lead you to have them sterilized in the first place. Her essay has ignited a normally passive and apathetic demographic to endlessly discuss the matter on blogs and forums which is why I bring it to your attention here.


Yesterday was beautiful and I felt I just had to do something outside. I went to Memuro and watched Shikaoi Sho Gakko's baseball game. Very seriously, Shikaoi Sho won. Afterward there was time to have a picnic with the players in the shade.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Week that Has Been:

While all the news I present today is true; it is not meant to reflect poorly on Japanese society as a whole. Actually I meant it to mean opposite; the mere lack of crime - let alone the lack violent crime - means that, in my opinion, the only crime that does in fact bubble to the surface is extremely strange in nature. It is a great comfort to me in this respect. Lastly, it maybe helpful to remember that all this news is generated from a country much smaller than Alberta but with many many times the population.

The lead story for last night's evening news that keeps going:
Paper shredders! Yes, injuries from paper shredders are on the rise in Japan. Almost seven injuries in a decade. Society grinds to a halt. Government panels convene. Politicians make speeches. Opinion polls studied. New policies made. Paper shredders blamed for any and everything.

Other news stories:
- Junior high school student confesses he torched home because he didn't want to study.
- Poacher gets shot.
- Award winning writer states in essay that she throws unwanted kittens off cliff-tops. (This happened outside of Japan, but it's still one of Japan's own.)
- Wild man on river bank injures two with knife.
- Red light runners as usual.
- Another wrong suspect jailed for too long.
- Precisely 4,200 pears stolen from Oita prefecture.

And the classic:
All the elements are as present; A good girl, a bad girl who may have been good but went bad, J-cop detectives covering the tips from all angles, some oxygen, a mask, a department store, and - lastly - an umbrella. In a bizarre story from Shinjuku (in Tokyo). A customer recently tried an oxygen machine at a department store's health equipment section. 20 minutes later she returned to the salesperson asking to see the manager saying she did not feel good, only to turn around and stab said salesperson in the eye with the tip of her umbrella before fleeing the scene.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Bob Dylan says modern music is worthless"

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Just look at that headline. That is the same headline I read yesterday on I was a bit taken a back because I really like Bob Dylan's music. I was surprised that someone of his caliber would be slagging modern music, especially considering there's so much good music in the world at the moment. One need not look far for quality music considering the availability of live shows and the possibility of making professional sounding albums on a laptop. I am glad I clicked the link and read the story because the headline is somewhat misleading. Upon reading the article it becomes clear that Dylan's real gruff is with the sound quality, not the performances. He states that his album sounds better played in the studio. From the article:

"You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them... There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like ... static."

I take an interest in this topic because, one, I think there's plenty of great music in the world. You'd have to live under a rock not to be hit with the stuff while simply walking down the street. Two, I have had a long time interest in high-end stereo equipment. One of the most fascinating aspects to the hobby, in my opinion, is that year after year technology closes the gap been the ultimate high-end of high-end gear and what I can actually afford. With surprisingly little knowledge of the industry great bargains can easily be found. Dylan has been an artist that has consistently supported high-resolution formats (with re-releases of his albums). My own theory of this is that because of Dylan's particular vocal style, it not clearly legible on, for example, cd's played on a car stereo or on an iPod through cheap headphones. I am aware that a large portion of the modern music we hear is compressed, which can mean any number of things; generally it's accepted that modern EQ's are completely whacked (instead of perfectly flat) and the extreme high and low frequencies are truncated. I guess what Dylan is saying is that if you aren't hearing the whole sonic performance - you're not hearing him either.

Live music will always rein supreme. Sitting outside, under the sky, listening to tunes will always be magical. But what if the artist dies, will those performances just be lost to history? Furthermore, I have found great attraction in the ability to hear a song in its utmost natural state on demand. There will always be a demend for the ability to hear the whole sonic picture in it's purest form and with it a demand for high performance equippment - even in the face of the popularity of the iPod - because such characteristics do not result from the education of the listener but from the same roots that make listening to live music so engrossing and magical. I hate change as much as the next person, but I have become adverse to all statements regarding the decline of civilization - even sonic civilizations - as we know it.


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Some technical difficulties kept this post from being put up earlier. Last night, playing for the Town Office team softball, I took some picture of us at bat. It was good weather; a bit cooler, but definitely not the rain we are getting at the moment. The play for this tournament is slightly more serious (though, it should be well noted, not serious enough to stop a keg of draft beer from being brought into our dugout). I am on what is unflatteringly, but truthfully, called the "B-team," which means if things are starting to get close, I get kicked off the field. This is exactly what happened last night when I was removed from left field. Yes, I couldn't even handle that historically slack position. This is what you get when you grow up in a hockey obsessed country; one's softball skills never develop. I wasn't too upset though, seeing as how well our team dugout was equipped. Our next game, the final, rained out today, has been re-scheduled for Monday night. I don't know who we are playing, last night, however, it was the Mayor's team. I also had the good fortune yesterday to again have supper with the Usui's outside under their homemade yoking gazebo. Kazeteru and I had a very interesting discussion about Yokohama, a city of several million, part of Tokyo's metropolitan sprawl. Often overlooked by everyone as just more Tokyo (but with a huge industrial port and navy base), I have had the opposite experience recently, hearing nothing but good things about what Yokohama has to offer. Class today was very good, with my students again displaying their boundless creativity.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Elaboration of Yesterday's Image.

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The image I posted yesterday of me riding a miniature train at Matsumoto-san's struck me as - in general - representitive of my time here. Here's me, all dressed up, looking cool, riding a miniature train around a garden. Perhaps I really like contradictions raised by the image. Japan, on any giving day, is full of both deep philosophical contradictions, such as squaring away Japan's traditional past and ultra-modern future, and just plain logical contradictions that don't compute in my head but work well and naturally within the Japanese psyche. Secondly, it strongly represents the environs of Shikaoi. If one does end up dressing up in Shikaoi, it can be normally assumed, unlike Tokyo or Osaka, that you will be doing something exciting and unexpected, not simply ordering a shrimp cocktail at a restaurant. To bring this point further, there is rarely a reason to ever get dressed up in Shikaoi (my kids lurk everywhere). Lastly, it should become clear from looking at the photo that I do really bizarre things on a daily basis - with gusto! I normally attribute this to teaching kids, which, if done successfully, causes one check their self-respect and sanity at the door.

First Day Back in Front of the Students

This morning was my first day back in front of my students after Summer vacation's end. Many students were in school last week but there were no English classes because of certain other pre-established commiments. I had my grade one's and two's today. Nothing particularly special happened except I think most of the kids seemed to have forgotten all their English words - but I am not concerned. I explained my trip to Sapporo, Fukushima-ken, and Tokyo to them and showed them the kendama I bought at Tokyu Hands in Shibuya. I asked them if they had any questions about my trip but they all seemed more interested in my Kendama; where did I learn to use it? Can I do such-and-such a trick? I wasn't expecting the lesson to go that direction but it was still funny. We were learning jobs with the grade two's and I had flashcard of a guy behind a desk. The kids had a lot of trouble figuring out what the card represented. ("Office worker" was written on the card but that is far above for their level.) Their answers (in Japanese) ranged from student to librarian to professor, a couple of students became fixated on the idea that he was just studying and repeated that several times to the teacher's amusement. I wasn't sure where this brainstorming session was going so I had to put them back on track.

Also, this is my final baseball update; Hokkaido lost 4-3. They gave a Herculean effort in the second last inning but Tokyo's pitching was just too solid. I only watched the last three innings. All of the office watched in silence. There is a very interesting tradition that goes back some fifty years that the losing team's players always return with a little of Hanshin stadium's "hallowed" dirt. I had read about it before but seeing the tradition in practice this week, I must say, the students take a lot of dirt. I thought maybe it was just a pocketful or something but they all had large specially made velvet dirt bags with fancy embroidery. No kidding. Just let that image sink in for a bit.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Epic Baseball

I haven't put up too many pictures lately so in an attempt to rectify this I offer some silly pictures from today. On Friday, the prospects to do anything on Saturday night looked slim. Normally I would have been fine with that, especially during the winter months. But this is summer and I had really wanted to do something while the weather was still warm. Shikaoi is much like New York in that something always bubbles to the top. I was invited to one of the Usui's legendary yakiniku parties last night. Kazeteru was home from Fukoka university for summer vacation. At the party, I promised Matsumoto-san that Kazeteru and I would go and see his big-boy toy hobby Sunday morning. Matsumoto is a carpenter by trade and simply looking around his house and garden one can quickly see he's quite handy. He loves trains too. Together he has created a battery-powered rideable train in his (small Japanese) yard. I felt the whole thing was a bit surreal but fun. I especially enjoyed driving the train by myself, being careful not to take Matsumoto-san's (very precious) train off the track around a bend. I have included images of Matsumoto-san's ingenious turning wheel and also the view from the train going over a bridge in the garden.

The big news today was the history making baseball played between Hokkaido and Tokyo at the Koushien, the National High School Baseball Championship. After 3 hours and 45 minutes - in a final game that stretched 15 innings - the two teams battled to a 1-1 tie. I had arranged to watch the game at the Usui's house and we were all desperate for Hokkaido to win. Both teams were perfectly matched. The pitching was epic with both young pitchers embodying was the Japanese call "the fighting spirit". The players looked exhausted and the crowd started to looked droopy but some of the fastest pitches of the game came in the very last inning. When the Tokyo pitcher threw a 147 km/h strike I could hear on the TV the crowd's stunned amazement. The game ended after a 15 inning maximum rule was invoked. The officials announced a rematch for tomorrow at 1:00 PM. The worry of not being able to stand another entire game like today's without my heart giving out is tempered slightly by the fact that tomorrow is Monday and I have work. However, I'm certain it will be on every TV within reach. If it is another game like today's, it should be a great game.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Thunder and Lightning

Shikaoi experienced a long thunderstorm today of which the rain has yet to end. With rain now predicated for the rest of the day, I'll be sure to take my umbrella with me where ever I go. I thought it was noteworthy because the storm was different in many respects from the thunderstorms that normally cross Stony Plain in the Summer. This storm rumbled on for hours, from just before 5 AM to around 7 AM. Yes, that's right, it was a very early morning thunderstorm. Some of the worst thunderstorms I have ever seen happened in the morning. However, this thunderstorm was far less frantic than I expected. I only saw one flash of lightning and most of the thunder was very far away, sort of just rolling in and out. There were only a couple of booms that were anywhere close to Shikaoi. I think everyone in town heard the downpour and thunder because the weather is still warm here, around 22C, which means everyone's windows are open. Thunderstorms are a bit of a rarity in Shikaoi because of our proximity to the mountains which has a randomizing effect on our weather. The exact conditions for thunderstorms are never quite reached. Rain, however, is another thing, which we have no shortage of today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

News Blog

Studying Japanese has gotten a bit monotonous so I'm posting my reactions to some recent current events.

First of all, I would like to take the time to thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his love of the Arctic. Asked to be a keynote speaker at this week's international AIDS conference in Toronto. He declined, citing a previous engagement. The previous engagement happen to be a tour of Canada's far North in the hope of rallying Canadians to its protection. Make no mistake, this is important stuff, no one more than me wants to see Canada's tundra and ice better protected. Left coyly unsaid by Harper himself is the oil factor, however, everyone else seemed to be up on it. My point is this; whatever he is arguing, whatever he is advocating, and leaving the climate change issue aside for the moment, that land is not going anywhere anytime soon. Being the Prime Minister, I expect alternate arrangements could have been made for his visit. (And if someone caused it to be so completely impossible for alternate arrangements to be made: Shame on them. Show our Prime Minister some respect. If he wants to do two things in a week, so be it.)

However hard I try to imagine otherwise, I have to believe the international AIDS conference had been planned for quite awhile, maybe years, seeing as it was the biggest ever AIDS conference to date. They don't spring these on people the week before. A decision was made to instead send Health Minister Tony Clement. Lovely chap, to be sure. But, being as shocked as I about the absence of Prime Minister Harper, they interrupted his speech by yelling "Where's Harper?!?" throughout it. Rude, to be sure, and slightly funny, but the point was made, and deservingly so. I have never been there, but is the Arctic in August really worth the poor image he's projecting?

I choose my words carefully here for the next section. Why the whole thing looked bad to me was becuase the whole world's attention was on Canada, with many internationally distinguished scientists in attendance. By comparing the aims of the conference and where he was - kicking the snow tires so-to-speak - it trivialized the plight of 40 million people. (And I would like to again state I partly agree with Prime Minister Harper.) The incident also reminds me of comments from his base, or more accurately, extreme elements in his base. While I generally acknowledge the compassionate side of the average conservative vote. I have read enough to know that somewhere out there are so-called conservatives that deeply believe AIDS is a curse from God on poor black people and homosexuals. And I really have no problem with said statements, in-so-much that it's not based in reality. "Previous engagement" can be a political code work for a lot of things. Prime Minister Stephen Harper represents all of Canada and, while normally I consider this an implicit part of his job, sometimes it would be nice to see a sign that he is trying to contribute to Canada's image abroad for everyone that he represents, not just his voters.

I also noticed a link up on Drudge and I thought I would explain how this story is playing out here. (Read the link because it could go dead at any moment.) I can't give all the details but basically a Russian Boarder Patrol boat shot and killed a Japanese fisherman. It was all over the 7 o'clock news last night and from watching it you'd think the Cold War was starting all over again. Here in Shikaoi, while being quite close to the action, nothing could be further from away from our thoughts. The Japanese are understandably pissed and consider every Russian action during the events excessive. It is interesting to note that this same thing has happened before in 1956.

It is not widely known in the West, but there are a string of disputed Russian islands very close to the Japanese mainland. (Referring to the graphic: Nemuro, the boat's home port and where all four men are from, is represented by the star on the right. Shikaoi, were I am, is the star on the left. The incident happened somewhere in the red circle. Note how close the countries truly are.) Technically speaking, Japan and Russia failed to ever sign a formal peace agreement after WWII because of the dispute over these islands. Supposedly the islands are a very eeire place. Extremely remote, they are sparsely populated with a mix of Japanese and Russians. Because of the remoteness, there are still vestiges of the Soviet Union that no one has ever bothered to pull down and thus have been left standing.

I would definitely characterize the whole issue surrounding the islands as a sensitive spot in Japan. Even now, in Chomin-hall - the building where I work - is an exhibition of an artist/activist that wants to see the islands returned to Japan. The issue also pushes itself into the mainstream. I hadn't mentioned this months ago, but at the Sapporo Snow Festival an organization advocating the return of the islands had a large, professional booth offering information about the islands and also collecting signatures. I am not sure what is to be done about the islands but it is at the root of the current incident.

In lighter news - far less politically charged - Hokkaido won its game this morning against Himeji and are now moving on to the next round of at National High School Baseball Championship. We had it on the TV over lunch (at Urimaku Junior High School) and everything just stopped, which I feel is unusually, for the last couple of innings. Hokkaido kept on getting themselves into very tense situations. This kept everyone glued to the TV but somehow Hokkaido managed to dig themselves out everytime and pulled off a narrow win. I'm no expert at baseball, but I can tell the High School students - all grade 11 and 12s - are not nearly as polished as professional baseball players. From what I can see, they make more mistakes and the hitting is far less spectacular. However, what is easy to see, and what makes watching the games so rewarding, is that they play with so much more heart than professional players. The ups and down of the game, the mistakes, the great plays, are all very dramatically portraided in their faces. It's a fun and engaging game to watch. (I pulled an image illustrating Hokkaido's cheering section.)

Extraordinary Ordinary

Nothing too much to report from Shikaoi. The office has basally been running on a skeleton crew for the last couple of days. Most of the focus has been on the National High School Baseball Championship on TV. This tournament is a very big deal for everyone in Japan. One high school represents every prefecture in Japan (with two each from Tokyo and Hokkaido) and this year Hokkaido's entry is expected to do very well. I often wonder in awe at how much pressure these young athletes must be under with the professional production values in a big stadium with the whole country, but they seem fine with it. The crowds are another matter: very loud. Amazingly loud. With complicated intricate cheers too.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Obihiro Fireworks

Last night I saw my third fireworks of the summer season. A group of foreigners had met in some friends' 8th floor Obihiro apartment. The location was perfect. Centered exactly in the middle of the display but back about ten blocks from the river and away from the multitudes of people. It was a blessing not to have to fight the crowds. The size of the crowd and size of the fireworks, in my opinion, about matched that of Sapporo's fireworks last month. The difference between Sapporo, of course, is that Sapporo has three large firework displays on three consecutive Fridays. It is futile to try to describe the fireworks in detail because I can never do them justice. At one point they had some very interesting shapes: The most common and impressive were Sakura blossoms and dandelion seeds. But one could also spot the ubiquitous happy face, squid, octopus and Japanese cartoon characters Kitty-chan and Unpaman. The types of fireworks were very diverse; at one point there was just plain, white fireworks that produced a momentarily super-bright flash that, from our high vantage point, lit up the city. I especially liked the huge fireworks that just went up and up and up and then when they exploded you could feel the boom in your chest. The finale was amazing, they must have set off hundreds, really sparkly, called "pika-pika" here, golden fireworks at all heights that gave the impression that the whole horizon was on fire. Also thrown into the mix for good measure were giant spotlights and a uber-laser that made the sky turn green over the apartment.

New Kendama Naming Contest

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During my recent trip to Tokyo I finally was able to purchase a kendama (at Tokyu Hands of course). A Japanese kendama is a game based on dexterity and hand/eye coordination. I feel strongly that I should name my new kendama and am calling for suggestions. You may offer one in the comment section or email me.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Obon Festival

Last night I attended Shikaoi's yearly Obon Festival. Held every summer, the festival's purpose is to welcome and remember departed ancestors. During this two week period most communities in Japan hold an Obon festival, the exact timing of which depends on each specific community. Each community also carries on different local traditions. Shikaoi holds a large ritual dance to call the ancestors down from heaven. The atmosphere was very celebratory. Besides having an opportunity to see many of my students and Shikaoi acquaintances, many children I did not know were present. This is because Obon season is traditionally a time for people living away from home to return. Japanese airports this time of year are filled with people making the trip home for a couple of days to participate in their on local Obon festival and also visit their ancestors grave. The weather could not have been better this year; it cooled down to a warm 24C and everyone felt comfortable and refreshed. I am so use to Albertan summers where after the sun goes down (much later than 7 PM of course) it can get very cold. Especially sitting on the hill during Folk Fest. Afterwards I couldn't help to think this was the quintessential summer event. Nothing could possibly make this season feel more like summer than this type of festival. I apologize for my scant description but it's too hot in my house this afternoon to compose a thesis. I have included many pictures to hopefully make up for this vacuum.

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The event started promptly 5:00 PM with a loud explosion of fireworks singling to the town the start of the festival. At 6:00 PM there was a sort of a children's' Obon dance before the adults began the main Obon dance at 7:00 PM. Many children were wearing beautiful summer yukatas and jinbes, making for a very colourful sight as they danced under paper lanterns.

The main dance was composed of just under 500 participants with many more watching. Many different organizations were involved, each creating elaborate costumes and a special dance especially for the festival. I have included some examples below that reflect the variety of the event.

My grade six class at Shikaoi Elementary School, along with their families, also entered a very large team.

I was also especially impressed with the live music played in the center of the large circle. They had drums up top and live singers below that increased the celebratory atmosphere of the event.

The Board of Education also entered an Obon team. I have included two pictures below. To expand them in a new window just click them. The dancing itself ended at 8:30 PM and then the whole Board of Education office went to Tori-sei. Most other teams also had there own parties to go to. It was a very busy summer night in Shikaoi.

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Friday Night

These are some pictures from Friday night. Our section at work had a welcoming party for Shikaoi's new AET Vivian combined with Kevin's good-bye party (of which there are several). I am a bit busy this weekend so you'll have to do with the explanatory power of images.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dealing with Mornings

I uncovered a slight mystery upon my return Monday: Three cryptic - to me - letters. I did not have the opportunity until this morning to bring them into work and have someone examine them. My Japanese is only good enough to give me a rough estimation of what I am looking at. I know they are letters. Two I know signify that someone had stopped by - twice - while I was out, making sure to leave a note of their intentions. But what were their intentions? The third smaller yellow card was meaningless for all I could tell.

It soon was revealed to me that all letters were from the post office. But the post office is also my bank [long story]. I thought the word she used referred to the bank part of the post office and assumed the worst, I asked my co-worker if I should worry. As this point the section chief overheard us and came over; we can't very well have one of the foreigners worrying in Shikaoi, can we? I have been here long enough to have an inkling of where this is going. Things could really snowball from this point. I can't read things all the time; but because of the loyalty and helpfulness of the Japanese, my queries can cause quite a commotion. Now, keep in mind, this is all happening before work even officially starts. Am I really ready to deal with the repercussions of my investigation? Soon, everyone that had been in the office early were eagerly studying the letters. A lively discussion ensused; what do the letters mean? how should we break it to him?

At this point it becomes clear that the letters are all connected and that they come from the post office side of the post office. In fact, in actuality, at this point, I had already deduced the true meaning of the letters; they referred to a package I had already picked up from the post office Tuesday morning. See how things can get overblown? It is decided by the section chief - my dear dear section chief - that he needs to phone the post office to straighten things out. I resisted the temptation to roll my eyes and instead simply took a deep breath and watched him phone the Shikaoi Post office. The reason I felt compelled to roll my eyes - maybe let out a long sigh - is because I knew, in general, what the reaction on the other end of the line would be. A phone call about me, by the section chief, to the post office, would cause a commotion there too. And really, I am definitely not worth the commotion, not even a small one. Satisfied I understand what's going on and that said package is in my possession, I am dismissed. This puts me in a predicament, I walk back to my desks with many "Sumimasen's" and "Arigato's". Now, with the mystery solved, feeling guilty over being the cause of so much commotion so early, I feel ready to crawl back into under the covers but must instead get to work (...on this post).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Photo Update

On the Wednesday that I was in Koriyama everyone that had free time went on a picnic. It was felt unfair to leave everyone that was working behind but it seemed like such a waste not spend the day outside in the beautiful weather. The long winters are always in the back of one's mind, aren't they? It was also important that two of Tsuchiya sensei's younger nieces got some fresh air. I tired them out playing in the water, playing soccer and playing catch. Ice cream was an necessity after the picnic.

I had to get a picture of me all dressed up at the Koriyama South Rotary meeting since formality is rare for an elementary school teacher.

I couldn't decide which version I liked most and decided to put up both. What follows are just some random pictures from Tokyo.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Uncomfortably Sitting Here

Getting my key in the door and entering the house last night I was struck by how still the house was. The air hadn't moved in weeks; which is exactly how long I had been away, traveling around Japan since the morning of the 23rd when I had set off with the Stony Plain delegation back to Sapporo. Everything was exactly as I had left it before we were picked up by Kevin to go to the good-bye breakfast. Many of the odd things displaced by my Mom's visit reminded me of her. This morning - after a long and deep sleep in my own bed - I saw there was much to do. The biggest obstacle for this post was not actually recounting my adventures, but picking music that would compliment my 36C house. What music is best listened to when the only breeze a fan can muster seems hot? Tomorrow's post will include more pictures - I promise - but I just can't peel myself of the couch to edit some pictures; it feels immoral to force my computer to chomp away at images when even I don't want to do any work. Even my neighborhood - normally crawling with kids on summer vacation - is unnaturally silence.

The Shinkansen was efficient and productive as always, getting me from the center of Koriyama to the center of Tokyo in short order. The weekend was a blur, not only because of the stifling humidity that has followed me home, but I covered a lot of ground, saw a lot of things. The streets of Shibuya and Shinjuku pulsed with life and energy over the weekend with expectant merrymakers reveling in the slight drop in temperature brought by evening. The sun reteating, no longer held in the sky, transfixed, with the task of baking pedestrians into the pavement, throngs of people appeared.

I did little shopping and ended up come home with unspent money. By far the biggest thing on my shopping list was size 28.5 cm shoes, of which the whole island of Hokkaido seems completely devoid. I was really starting to fret because some of my shoes were beginning to disintegrate. I also bought a watch. The last new watch was from six years ago also from Japan, also starting to get a bit ragged. The one I really wanted was sold out. Ask Sean to see his - which I bought for a present - it seems to be the last one.

With some easy transfers on the Tokyo subway, Keita (a friend from Shikaoi now living in Tokyo), went to the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art on Sunday. It was a great way to steal away into climate controlled comfort from the hot sun. I post two small pictures below representing our reactions to the abstractness of abstract art. (Keita's photo is great. I laughed and laughed. An appropriate title may be: And this is a Small Door.) We also ate at a really nice cafe in Omotesando in Shibuya-ku. My $15 hamburger was excellent, as was the atmosphere. Also I saw the architecturally noteworthy PRADA building in Omotesando. Even if their clothes do look like horrible, putting them in a beautiful architectural statement goes a long way toward me wanting to buy them. Before I edit pictures of Koriyama and Tokyo tomorrow, I think I will stew in my own sweat for a couple of hours. What fun? It's not my choice.