Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Design Festa!

Last Sunday I went to the largest design festival in all of Asia - Design Festa. It was held in Tokyo at a huge exhibition center called 'Tokyo Big Sight". There was every kind of art you could imagine - fashion, painting, music, food, crafts, and a giant red robot! There must have been thousands of artists there. It took me about 5 hours to get even a glimpse of all the art being displayed. Here are some pics I took of all the wonderful madness.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Just on a walk

Here are some pics I took when I went on a walk near my apartment.
Yamanashi produces the most wine of any prefecture in Japan. Here in Kofu, the harvest season for grapes is just ending. Near my apartment you can see the leaves on the grape vines slowly withering and dying.
Oh look, I found some grapes still left on the vines!
Because Yamanashi-ken is such a mountainous prefecture (i.e. so there is a limited amount of agriculturally suitable land) you'll find, even in the capital city, many green spaces nestled in wherever space is available.
birds-eye view over Kofu (my apartment is just a little bit to the left of this picture)

Oh and here's a little Japanese trivia for you.

Q: Why is this house (and many others in Japan) surrounded by plastic bottles full of water?

A: To keep away cats! Yes, really. It is said that cats don't like to look at their reflection (maybe because they associate it with puddles and other such bodies of water which they hate). So, when they see their reflection in these bottles of water they turn away.

Why such the concern about keeping the cats away? Well, because in Japan there are MANY stray cats. Unfortunately, there is no humane societies to help find homes for such cats. There are only a few grass-routes efforts made by small groups of citizens to care for and house strays (a friend of mine in Kyoto became heavily involved in such a group after she found 6 stray cats abandoned under a bridge. She took all these cats into her home and then realized how hard it is to find homes for strays.)

In other random Japanese trivia.

Q: How much do Japanese people like rice?


In evidence I bring you....

the baga raisu (rice burger) Look closely at the "bun" it is actually just a pressed rice paddy. mmm...oishi! (delicious!)

Oh and in related news, in Japan you have to be careful about how you order your haburgers.

If you ask for a ham baga

you will get a traditional burger that you would expect.


if you ask for a ham bagu

you will get a burger paddy but no pan (bun).No, this is not an off-shoot of the Atkins diet craze. Many people in Japan just prefer there baga sans pan (but maybe with rice bun :)

As a final note, I leave you with some friendly graffiti near Kofu station.

yes, yes I do. :)

Koyo (Autumn Leaves)

Last Tuesday I was at Shizen Gakuen- a Christian, Private High school that I teach at (see previous post for pictures of this school). It is located in a very beautiful, mountainous area of Yamanashi-ken called Hokto (about 1 hour from Kofu). In the taxi on my journey to Hokto, my breath was taken away by all the beautiful Koyo (Autumn leaves). The mountains were a virtual rainbow of orange, red, yellow, and green. So, after I finished teaching my classes I wandered around near the school and took some pictures to share with you all (please click on the photos to get a larger, clearer view).

path leading to the schoolleaves on the pathway

bright red Japanese maple trees in front of the school

more bright red bushes
a lovely flame-coloured tree

maple leaves in a puddle

...then the taxi came to take me back to Kofu. But, on my way back I captured a few pictures of the mountains through my window.

I love how the mountains slowly disappear into the misty distance.
beautiful koyo-covered mountains
sorry this picture is fuzzy, but it just gives you sense of how there are some
farm houses nestled at the base of the mountains.
this truly is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Design Tide!

Yesterday I went to a design exhibition in Tokyo known as "Design Tide". It is like a huge playground for creatively-minded adults. Designer's work from around the world - in the fields of interior, products, graphics, fashion & art - are displayed in an interactive exhibit.

If you click on this link you can see some photos from the event.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Well, last weekend I jumped on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and headed to Osaka. A bunch of my friends and I met up for some good times. Various costumes were adorned (in particular by me), good Thai food was eaten, and fun was had on the dance floor.

Me in my circa 1890 costume (the hat was loaned by my friend Shara)
My friend Amy (aka Pixie) in hand made/destroyed pinstripe jacket. Pixie is an ALT, like myself, currently living in Kyoto (but from Australia).
my friend Pixie with Shara (who works in the American Navy and is currently in port near Tokyo).A shot of my full outfit in the hotel lobby (I'm surprised how classy the lobby looks in this photo, because really the hotel was the cheapest one in all of Osaka)another great shot of Shara in her fedora.
After going out for Thai food, we ran back to our hotel & I changed into my little rainbow fairy costume.

Shot of me inside a club in Osaka (kawaii!)I love snoopy!

Christmas-themed "love hotel" in Osaka (Santa looks a little confused, doesn't he? - as though he is thinking "How did I end up here?" :)me in my fairy costume

A bit of my Birthday

Well on October 21st I turned 27 (good feelings all around about that). To mark the occasion I and some friends had a BBQ off the Tama river in Tokyo. Good friends, good food, and good times. Unfortunately, my camera battery died shortly after people started arriving. So, I was only able to capture a few pics. Here they are -

My friends Chu (Japanese) & Jackie (Canadian - from Vancouver, like myself) hanging out.


My friend Hitomi (Japanese/American) poses with a pretty pink wig.
Jackie shows what being a laid-back Vancouverite is all about
Helen (British) looks all coy.This was my friend Liz's "Oh really" face. I had just "announced" I would be "beginning to take candid shots". I am so hopeless when it comes to being subtle. (Liz is a lovely Australian if your wondering)
awww...and yes we sure did have fun putting makeup on my sock...

Then, sadly, my camera died.

What you missed: me running around in a fairy costume on the beach, a neighboring group of Japanese guys flirting with us (they gave us a bag of raw meat), and some beautiful fireworks going off.

Good times.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yamanashi Gakuin

I teach every Friday at Yamanashi Gakuin Chugako (Junior High). It's one of the most elite private schools in Yamanashi-ken. The school actually has it's own preschool, elementary school, junior & senior highschool, and university. So, students could conceivably spend all their school years at this one institution. The standard of English instruction is very high (as are the students' abilities). I teach ichi & ni nensei (first & second year;12-13 year-old) students here. I have complete freedom to create my own English activities for these classes. I really enjoy working at this school.
the front of the campus

Student uniforms and award cabinets at the front entrance (& me in the reflection :)
Rows of student lockers (to store their shoes).
Note how everything is spotlessly clean.
Me playing "Spelling Baseball" with my studentsMe looking wonderfully surprised at a student's efforts to spell.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nippon Koku Koko (Japanese Aviation Academy)

Here are some pics of the school Nippon Koku Koko (JAA) where I teach English.
Here is the view of the school from across the airstrip where students learn about flying planes, aircraft mechanics, general auto mechanics, being a flight attendant, and many other such things (there is even a dance school here!).

Viewing tower from which to watch the planes take off and land

Me in front of the school (with some of my students clowning behind me:)

A Neko (cat) Bus!! For those of you who have seen the Japanese anime movie "My Neighbour Totoro" by the director Hayao Miyazaki this little cat bus will be very familiar to you. Well at the JAA they have created a REAL neko bus. Remember your childhood misadventures with papermache? Well, this is a papermache masterpiece over a real, working van. During the school festival you can go for a ride within this adorable neko bus. Kawaii!! (cute)

I really know nothing about old planes. But, for those who are interested, here are some pictures of some old Japanese planes that are displayed throughout the school campus.

I like how all the school buildings are painted up in the school colours - bright red and blue.

Between my classes I sometimes like to wander behind the school and walk across and old, rusted metal bridge...
To look out over the rice fields, stretching out into the distance.

Well, that's a little tour of the Japanese Aviation Academy. I hope you enjoyed peeking into my life into Japan. I will post some more pics from the other schools I teach at later.