Monday, April 30, 2007


Fear not, other than making ready for me departure to Koriyama, I was reading lots and writing lots (plus I may have snuck in two great dinners) hence the shabby posting. A note on the weather, driving into Obihiro yesterday one could notice droves of people on the streets, washing cars, hanging laundry, walking, sitting. Everyone taking advanced of the four days of spring sunshine. You really couldn't ask for nicer weather for a long weekend. Until this weekend my memories of spring seemed buried. However, this weather helped me forget winter. One really doesn't need an excuse to be outside when it's so nice but I did; running. Friday, (before I met some teachers for dinner) I retreated into the Sports Center to run because the evenings are still dark. Friday and Saturday I ran about 1h 15mins (well, I think anyway, I'm measuring by iPod playlist method) at a polite relaxed pace. On Sunday, I knew I would be doing an uber-hard run the next day so I pulled back to about 40min, actually 43min I think. I couldn't have been happier with my run today putting everything into an 1h 40m run. Lately I have surprised myself by running over 1h inside but the next day feeling just fine, not sore or anything. I surmise this is because I am not running hard enough. Today, my goal was to run long and hard but progressing toward what I don't know. My feeling is that at the end of a good challenging run one should be dead tired and sore. Starting off I was a little worried I might have to turn back because I got crams in my abdomen twice while normally this is never a problem. I'm glad I didn't turn back because after about 30min I got into my groove and just ran and ran and ran. It felt really good. But, needless to say, it always feels better to stop. I developed nasty blister on the inside of my left foot, new socks I guess. No one ever died from a blister so I just run through it. The biggest problem with blisters actually is that it can cause one to change their footfalls slightly and put strange pressures on the joints and muscles. I barely felt it while running. I think I'll be alright. I will probably feel sore all over tomorrow but only the good soreness that I feel is normal after a challenging run. If it was ever a sharp pain in the joint I would worry. Of course, it goes without saying I have given myself several days to recover because I doubt I will be able to run before until after I get back from Koriyama on Sunday night. Another great thing about living at the foot of mountains is that I never fear taking in great lung fulls of air. It's always pure and fresh. I can't say the same for many places in Canada. A simple thing that makes me very happy about living in Shikaoi is that in the morning when I go to my car to go to school I can take great glups of air and it always wakes me up. I'm so very very tired. Time for bed I think.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Starting a three day weekend.

Yeah to me as I am done the laundry and dishes before 10:00 AM on the first day of my three day weekend. This will give me ample freedom to attack waiting projects or waste time as I see fit. The first order however is to post about yesterday's new found knowledge that Shikaoi is a hot bed of ostrich breeding. This was well proven to me as the principal set out to make a largest omelet I have ever seen to accompany the school lunch. I have provided pictures of the process and the locally sourced egg dropped off by a caring parent. There is secret program afoot at the school to use the large egg in English class next week (though I will absent) in the Easter unit where all the kids will make (more normally sized) Easter eggs. I feel I must see the absurdly large egg when finished. The last picture was taken as I left work Friday. It fails to capture how windy it truly was.

Free Image Hosting at

To add:

I nearly forgot, I wanted to add that early this morning at 1:37 AM local time we had a huge earthquake that woke me up rather quickly. It woke me up with a start and in the fog of just waking up it was hard to process what was happening. Lying in bed, it was the type of quake that makes you wonder if, at some point, it wouldn't better to head for cover under a table. I remember it seemed so loud but it being the dead of night had to be a factor in that. It also started with a violence shake that I have talked about on these pages before and that makes it unusual. I thought I was falling out of bed. Even though this time it woke the whole town up, I'm still the only person talking about it today. According to the data it was pretty close. Shikaoi is red in the attached picture; the 5.4 earthquare is represented by the star.


Wow. The wind is really strong here today, overwise it would be a very nice day. It's deceptively sunny but the wind feels like its coming direct from the arctic. Anyway, I have some interesting pictures from school today but I forgot my camera gear and I don't think I will have time to upload it tonight. I will post it tomorrow however. Happy Friday everyone.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


It has been kind of miserable all day with wind and rain which is predicable because I left the house wearing my good shoes this morning. The day pretty much stayed that way with my classes being switched on me once I got to school and having no umbrella for the duration for the day. I have badminton tonight but if today's luck holds, I could be dead. I'm starting to get busy again because I leave for Fukushima next week. That will be a nice break but the Sakura are already finished in Tohoku and I risk missing them in Shikaoi if I am away. That would be tragic if I didn't get to see cherry blossoms this year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I feel so crushingly tired at the moment I think it would take a fight with a lion to the death for me to wake up at all, but I digress. I dropped but the local kindergarten today and to my surprised was informed that there would be no 5 year olds joining us, only 2 four year olds, 8 three years olds, and 2 two year olds. This proved a problem for me because even though I carry around an incalculable number of games in my head at any one time, none were tailored for that particular demographic blend. In fact, I was clueless. In anycase, doing the "Hokey Pokey" became particularly funny because it was honestly out of control. Those kids really dance to their own drummer. The idea that it might have been easier to teach monkeys the steps occured to me. I couldn't stop laughing for most it and could barely breath at the end; they just really wanted to dance. The two teacher's agreed, it couldn't be denied, those kids had fun.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hong Kong Round-up

When I was unlocking my car at the station it seemed like only the day before I had been locking it. Needless to say my trip went by very fast and while I felt I was in a state of shock for most of it I managed to have a very good time. During the whole trip I couldn't stop comparing Hong Kong and Tokyo. While Tokyo is cleaner and safer, Hong Kong has many charms like it's history and location on the harbour. Hong Kong has a sleek modern feel that was as unexpected as it was interesting, but it's probably trumped by Tokyo's uber-coolness. I certianly have a preference for Aisan cities because I have left any desire to visit London and New York behind me. The side streets of Hong Kong didn't differ much from how one would imagine, with large signs of Chinese characters perch over the streets in a very intense way. This is in constrast to Japan where they simply plaster the sides of buildings with ads.

Free Image Hosting at

As an architecture-love I think the highlight of the trip was abosbing the Hong Kong cityscape from above, on historical Victoria Peak, and from below, on a boat tour of the harbour (or from any point along the harbour front for that matter). Amazing amazing people watching in Hong Kong too.

Free Image Hosting at

The above image was taken on the cable tram up to Victoria peak. It attempts to show how steep the incline is but the mind will remember it as steeper. Diffinately worth every penny. Directly below is a picture taken from the harbour crusie. Note that these apartments back right onto Victoria harbour. In the two following pictures I tried to capture interesting patterns. Visual patterns that stimulate the eye have always been a favorite of mine.

Free Image Hosting at
Free Image Hosting at

I did feel I had some culture shock. It's the truth when I say that it felt very strange to speak English to everyone I might meet. There is an extra step for everything in Japan that was absent in Hong Kong. Instead of - as one would assume - feeling relived, I think it felt more like a stumble. On reflection, I don't know why this was the case. Something to ponder.

Image Hosted by
Image Hosted by
Image Hosted by

Arriving back in Japan I was happy to see the visual clutter that accompanies the far east as the image below suggests. Furthermore, Japanese service is now more appricated then ever.

Image Hosted by

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Shiakoi News: Monday Edition

Today's first news fit to print is the winner of Shikaoi's town election: Incumbent Yoshida-san has held on for another term. I have no details or gossip about the election but am elated about the fact that the speaker-vans will be dismantled now. Still to come today a long post about Hong Kong.

The strange thing about arriving in Sapporo yesterday was that everyone on the flight was searched and questioned about counterfeit goods. I am glad to see Japan doing their part to stop the trade of counterfeit goods as China doesn't seem to be making a dent or, for that matter, making much of an effort. Regardless, suspiousion was immedicately cast on me because my bag was so heavy. They found the book I bought about George Washington and the CDs I bought. I'm glad I had the foresight to keep the receipts right with me. The large container of Canadian peanut butter took longer to explain.

Home and Homeward Bound

I just got in the door a couple of minutes ago after a long day traveling. I was happy to have time to hop in the shower and start some laundry before updating my blog. I could see the stars brightly while driving home from the train station - something that wasn't easy in Hong Kong - so I think tomorrow will be sunny with blue skies - also a rarity in Hong Kong. Tomorrow I will give a complete roundup of my trip including some final images and also give the results of Shikaoi's election that was held today and of which I am still ignorant of the winner. In reference to a past post about weird Pringles potato chip flavors and Hokkaido as a test bed for new products I saw at 7-11 these new potato chip flavors today; marinara pizza, salt-seafood, and cheese-baked potato.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Victoria Harbour

Free Image Hosting at
Free Image Hosting at

The heart of Hong Kong seems to be the harbour and whereas the first day we satisfied ourselves with seeing the harbour from on high, today's highlight was seeing the cityscape from the water. The weather was actually better then the pictures seems to indicate. Also we had pizza for lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen and I spent the rest of my Hong Kong currency at HMV. Both of these were special because I have no opportunity to do anything like this in Tokachi. Plus we had a luxurious buffet dinner on the Island. My parents were interested in what CDs I picked up, so I will list them for everyone below.

  • The new Kings of Leon, "Because of the Times"

  • Bartok: String Quartets 1-6 by the Alban Berg Quartett

  • Mahler: Symphony No. 7 by Berlin Philharmonic (DG)

  • "Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives" by Prefuse 73

  • Twisted Disco compilation by Head Kandi

  • Afterhours Vol. 3 compilation on Global Underground

  • Tomorrow we are up early so I can get to the airport but my parents have one more night in Hong Kong.

    Friday, April 20, 2007

    Some Hong Kong Pics

    Free Image Hosting at

    These pictures were taken our first day in Hong Kong at Victoria Peak. Very historic and a great view. I was in awe that one could see most of Hong Kong in a single glance. And for the record it has been hazy there even on the most sunny days for decades now.

    Free Image Hosting at

    Free Image Hosting at

    Yesterday we went to the Hong Kong flower market and the bird market. Very cool places. I can highly recommend them.

    Free Image Hosting at

    Hong Kong Day Three

    Not too much time to blog before dinner. Everything has been wonderful, especially the weather which has cooperated beautifully. I can check chinese food off my list of things I wanted to do after a lovely meal last night at a hotel up the road that was fit for an emperor. I went into HMV today and after seeing how many CDs I want promptly walked back out again. I need to get dressed right now because a famous steak grill up the road caught my eye. Victoria Peak yesterday was amazing and now I'm just enjoying my parents' company and fending off pushy shopkeepers. Tonight a laser show over Victoria harbour and then the temple street night market.

    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    Wow! Together!

    Image Hosted by


    OMGoodness! I'm watching Lettermen! Life's simple pleasures.

    Edit: I was so suprsied because someone like him completely slipped my mind for all these years.

    Some early pics

    Some late pics actually because I have been travelling all day. The first is of me trying to get the internet in the hotel working. The second is the view out of my 9th floor window across Victoria Harbor to Hong Kong proper. I can also see (but not in the picture) the lights of The Peak, The streets of Kowloon look just like the movies would have you believe. Many languages too are spoken on the streets of Kowloon. Now time for bed because tomorrow my parents arrive. The dock is only a block away.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007


    This is probably my last post before I get to Hong Kong. My parents' ship won't be getting in until early tomorrow morning but I have most of today in transit so I don't mind. The weather finally turned for the better today and most of the snow seems to have disappeared over night. Maybe I will see some green when I get back. I have everything packed and sitting on the table and hope to post again once I get settled in the hotel tonite. I am a bit disappointed I haven't had any time to learn any "travel Chinese" before I left. It might be handy. It's yet another language I would love to study but I am content with my limited Japanese ability. I'll arrive at the hotel late and then watch satellite TV - in english! - before I fall asleep. Strange what I consider a highlight of the trip when living overseas. (And my parents!)

    A sad first.

    EEEK! My nightmare was realized today. There have been accidents and injuries in English class before but never caused by me. In a moment I wish I could forget I nearly bowled over one of the new grade ones today in class. I work hard to stay preciously aware of where all my students are around me at any given moment. I have become disciplined in considering my movements - limiting myself to careful motions only, never anything spastic or rushed - and suppressing my reflexes. Today my dedication failed me. During the activity the students were spread out in the classroom and I was calling out words. For emphasis raised my hands and in what I would characterize as a very normal hand gusture I hit the little guy above the eye on the brow. He had somehow gotten behind me without me knowing and kept very quiet, eerily so, like a hobbit or something, and then sprang forward at the wrong moment. He was barely touched and really more shocked than anything, but I still felt horrible. I wanted to go home, crawl into a hole and die I felt so bad. But by lunch all was forgiven, such is the healing power of smilies, hugs, school lunch, and sincere apologies.

    Monday, April 16, 2007

    A True Story

    I love these types of stories because they keep my life interesting. About 10 minutes before work ended I was informed that we were all expected in the Yakuba (town office)... like... "this moment". I have not explained yet that working in Japan is much like still being in school in that our lives are still ruled by bells. In the morning a bell rings and all the teachers bow and say "good-morning". This is repeated again at the end of the day but we say "thank-you" and by this time I am in the office. This daily routine blends seamlessly into the background of my life, but is, in fact, quite exotic to Westerners. Today there was an exaggerated ceremonial town staff wide good-bye at 5:30PM to honour the current mayor because he is taking the rest of the week off to campian full time. I thought it was a nice touch and appricated the fact he kept his speech short and to the point. I think he was very classy in *not* using the chance to campaign while we are all captive, but he did encourage us to vote (though I will be in Hong Kong). After that leftovers for dinner and fretting about my trip and all that is all my plate.

    Sunday, April 15, 2007

    My Lucky Monday

    Other than that fact it's (slightly) sunny out at the moment, I had the most delicious curry-and-rice for school lunch today. I mean, normally the school lunch curry-and-rice is good, but they really out did themselves this time. And to top it off, there was enough for seconds. That's my defination of luck and I am rolling in it. Other than that, I had my first English class with the grade ones today which had been delayed because there is lots to do the first week for new students. Man, were they ever confused, but cute too. "Cho-kawai" ("Super-cute") as another teacher called them.

    Warm White Sunday Night

    Sorry for the long delay. We are going to cover a smattering of topics in this post.

    It finally stopped snowing after a good 36 hours and now the ground is covered again. Will Spring ever come? I stayed confined indoors yesterday and got lots done but today did my rounds and went for a transcendental run at the Sports Center. I don't think I will be able to run again until next week so I went in knowing I should run long and hard. After 1h 40m I think my body will be paying for it tomorrow but I don't care because I have lots of time to recover.

    There is a small factory that processes local vegetables most of the year that has been a hive of activity lately and I couldn't guess why. Today a large clue presented itself. One of Japan's famous speaker vans, with four loudspeakers wired to the top, was parked out front getting decked out in banners. I assume part of the building has been commandeered as use as a mayoral candidate's headquarters as we gear up for the last week of the campaign. I'm happy to be leaving Shikaoi on Wednesday for Hong Kong so I miss the speaker van's main mission of blaring the candidate's message.

    Speaking of Hong Kong, the logistics are in place and now it's my turn to put into action all the details I have considered. The humidity was 85% today which reminds me of why I have vowed never to visit tokyo again in the summer. Thunderstorms are predicted for Tuesday, the day before I arrive, which makes me think it will cool down things on Wednesday. I was surprised how much rain Hong Kong gets in April: about 188mm. Which is nothing compared to its rainy season in August which tops out at 444mm. (Thanks Wikipedia!)

    Lastly, a 5.4 earthquake hit Mie prefecture (just South of Osaka) today around lunch time. This means as the energy radiated out from the epicenter it was felt by some of the most densely populated areas of Japan (plus it was lunch time). It has thus monopolized most of the news today since millions and millions felt it.

    No pictures of the snow. It's just depressing anyway.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    Thursday at Urimaku

    Had a lovely first day at Urimaku Junior High School but because I am so busy I won't be back there for a long time. The grade sevens, the majority of whom I teached last year as grade sixes, looked gangly in their oversized uniforms that are suppose to last them until grade nine. Everything went incredibility smoothly but I give the credit to small class sizes (4 teachers for 11 students). Went for a great run too last night, maybe that is why I am in such high spirits today. 1h and 5 minutes at a fast pace. I was stressed beforehand but not when I woke up this morning. Not even the snow/rain/whatever could keep me down. The school lunch was delicious too and I scored an extra piece of fish. Sometimes I feel down that nothing is going my way but I even solved the mystery of the disappearing electric pencil sharpener yesterday. Yes, this week is mine! Tomorrow: Friday.

    This will teach me....

    hahahahhahahaahha.... After two days of looking I found the pencil sharpener. It had been moved to the other side of the office in plain sight. Now I can go back to studying Kanji.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Good Morning Light

    Free Image Hosting at

    I woke up this morning to a sunny day. Since the beginning of April it has been rainy and cold. I was ready for the change. It has been so long without bright sun I think the light had a golden tint to it. It was sunny but it didn't feel very warm. Below are some pictures of the fields around Shikaoi. Farmers are getting ready to coax the earth's rich bounty out of the fields.

    Free Image Hosting at
    Free Image Hosting at

    And then I as I was leaving school for the office in the afternoon this:

    Free Image Hosting at

    Bah. Slush - and for good measure - wind.

    The stapler has not returned. It was very good to be in class today. We had a new english teacher but everything went smoothly. He is a male for a change. Normally I don't mind being surrounded by girls all the time but sometimes the estrogen gets a bit much.

    Monday, April 09, 2007

    Okay, So yesterday.

    The local elections council threw me a curve yesterday; while there were elections held none were for Mayor. Which is kind of distressing because it means two more weeks of flyers and people coming to my house. The worst though is these vans outfitted with loudspeakers that drive around at odd hours rallying support for their candidate. I don't clearly understand what they are saying due to the very polite non-daily Japanese used compounded by the poor quality speakers ripped off from M.A.S.H. Should be an interesting race (if I cared to pay attention) because from what I know there is no love lost between some of the candidates. However, being Japan, everything stays civil and respectful at all times. Nothing can get out of hand with it being such a small town. Things like that could reverberate for a long time.

    Also, school started today for the kids. All the kids seem to have quickly transitioned into their new grades. Luckily, what was going to be a huge grade six class was split at the last second into two smaller classes. Because drugging them is out of the question, spliting the class will make things much more manageable and I think the kids will repond well. It was a smart choice to split the class. It was nice to see the new grade ones, many of which I knew from my oft visits to kindergarten. Everything they do is cute at this stage and it's hard for me to put up a stern face when disciplining them (for juggling knifes, copying something off TV, fire-eating, violating copyrights, demonstrating jump-kicks, etc.).

    Oh, and imagine looking out your window and it looking like the a Scotish Isle in early Spring; grey, damp, cold, miserable. Yup, that's spring in Shikaoi. But I must admit, walking around outside it does feel like the trees and grass are waiting for just one sunny day to all turn green.

    Oh, and my parents will be entering China this morning via cruise ship. They will need some luck if they want to clear customs quickly.

    The good pencil sharper was still missing as I left the office today. I stay hopeful for its quiet return tomorrow. Will update.

    While Studying Japanese...

    Blast! Someone removed the electric pencil sharpener from the office! Should be I surprised when I was the only person to have ever used it?

    Sunday, April 08, 2007

    Election Day in Japan

    Today is Sunday and I am just about to pack it in for the night. Yes today was election day in Japan which I really had nothing to do with but yesterday it was quite funny. I was phone three times while I was in (and I expect again when I was out) by candidate representatives. No idea whom or for what level of government. I haven't checked to see who won but I will ask tomorrow to see who Shikaoi's mayor is tomorrow. It is the only thing that could possibly change overnight. A miserible rainy day today. Tomorrow, the school year starts so I will be busy meeting the new teachers and cheering on my students.

    Friday, April 06, 2007

    Saturday, Nagasaki and Twitter.

    I have received word that my parents are comfortably on-board their cruise ship from Osaka to Hong Kong (where I will meet them 11 days). As they are in Nagasaki this morning it seems very strange that we are in the same country and yet so far. They also mentioned they saw the cherry blossoms down south which I think is rather unfair because we still have some snow on the ground here. I'm going to go for a run outside anyway.

    As for the world's twitter-haters who hyprocritically text all the time but distain attaching that functionally to the internet. I enjoy the website's simple idea supported by an even easier interface. I think it enhances much of what I enjoy about the internet so I use it. Mini-blogging is here to stay.

    If readers are wondering about my absence. No one reads my blog on Fridays (my time) so I feel less inclined to update. Plus I feel as if today would be better spend working on other projects. Have a good weekend everyone.

    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    News Flash about new building in Shikaoi

    So we had a little party last night - very unofficial - for the opening of Shikaoi's new tourist/commerce center. It only opened this week with the start of the Japanese financial year but won't officially open until summer - whenever they finish paving the parking lot. There were only seven people but I was invited because I helped with the mural painted on the upper story. The phrase, "Celebrating Stony Plain and Shikaoi's continuing friendship since 1985." That's mine. It was great fun getting it just right from the Japanese. I was glad to help lest they just run the thing through an internet translator and paint it up there for the rest of eternity.

    Free Image Hosting at

    I probably should have mentioned the party earlier but I go to so many work related dinners that they all start to blend togather after a while. All the people I had dinner with had been to Stony Plain before at one time or another so that was nice. I'm also surprised how raukus Japanese can party even when it ends at 9 o'clock. I am feeling about guility about my diet. Everything but two of the courses were fried. The salad was good. What is the best of a chicken? The skin of course, and that was the part that we had, so one doesn't save any calories there. I also learned for the first time it isn't chicken skin but skin taken from a cute baby chick. After seeing my shock they tried to convince me that the chick survived and was released after this process which was nice of them. Two of the courses were tempura, two others simply pan-fried, the rest were breaded and deep fired. It's interesting to ponder where Japanese food's reputation for being healthy comes from.

    Monday, April 02, 2007

    I am Tuesday.

    So yes. I caught some very strange weather as I was driving to work this morning. The cloud ceiling must of only been around 60-70 metres. Behind those trees normally one can see a very steep hill/mountain, but not today. It has been cloudy and wet since April began in contrast to March, which was sunny.

    My desk at work and also my prison until next week when school starts. Yes, boredom is setting in. Note: My desk is too small.

    My parents are getting on a cruise ship soon and I will be meeting them in Hong Kong. I wonder if they will be reading this on the ship?


    Well. I've had my interesting spontaneous laugh for the day not to mention my concentration is kind of shot now. We had the fire alarm just go off. False alarm of course. Predictably no one told me what's going on. At work we have a system in the building that's tied directly into the fire station, so they came, saw my friends, asked what's new, they reset the system before leaving. Interestingly, the fire alarm was not pulled by anyone of the hundreds of bored students out of school this week but by a senior on the second floor looking for a light switch. **rabble rabble**

    Sunday, April 01, 2007


    I'm doing other writing today but I promise to post something super-amazing tomorrow. In the mean time, if you haven't already, watch the video provide below or read


    Went for a run before dinner. I probably felt about 85% and did an 85% run. So nothing lost, nothing gained. Between work obligations and badminton I won't have time to run until next weekend so an onsen will be a good way to start off a slow week. **Blair's body cheers!**