A Travellerspoint blog

November 2009

Yabusame やぶさめ

(Horseback Archery)

The 3rd of November was ANOTHER public hoiliday! I have no idea why - I've stopped asking - I'm just thankful for them all.

This one was very useful though as it presented the chance to do two things I really wanted to do. Firstly, there was a Yabusame display at Oomijingo which is something I've wanted to see for a while now (Yabusame is the art of horse back archery). Secondly, it gave me a good reason to ask Harumi out again, and despite being Japanese she'd never seen Yabusame before and was really up for joining me.

Riding the train down to Oomijingo station it was such a cool, crisp morning - for the first time there was snow on the mountain tops as the train slid past.

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We met at the station and made our way out to the temple grounds where the Yabusame was taking place - as it is such a specific and highly skilled talent very few people can actually do it. So at this display there were only four Yabusame masters, though there were also several traditionally dressed judges and attendants carefully organising everything.

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Things were still being set up when we arrived so we went to meet the horses -

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Once everything was arranged there was a brief parade on the archery course -

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Then the actual archery began - three targets were set up along the left side of the course and the spectators lined the right side as the archers thundered along the course firing at each target - and they go fast as well. It's a wonder they have time to prepare another arrow between targets; I soon realised they ride too fast for photography too.

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Luckily, they did several passes of the course, the targets getting smaller after every second or third run and between passes they rode back at a much slower pace.

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So on another pass I did get a chance to capture a bit of archery on video - as you'll see here, the action is very short and sharp. The first rider hits his target then almost a minute passes (during which time a new target is put up) before the next rider flashes by.

The good things about this is that it gave Harumi and I a lot of time to chat and have fun - and it was quickly becoming clear that we really clicked together :-)

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We were both really impressed by the archers skill as well and when it was all over I wanted to get some pictures of them - and Haru also took my picture with some of the judges and attendants too.

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And then, as we were there already, we took a walk around the temple grounds as well.

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The most interesting feature there was this 'fire clock' -

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after a bit of puzzling over it we figured out that it works by having some kind of controlled slow burn. That would burn through the ties holding up the weights at specific intervals, letting then drop into the metal tray below, and sounding out the time. Pretty cool.

So, that was about it for photos that day. The rest of the day we spent just getting to know each other better - and it was.. well, just really easy and comfortable. We both really wanted to spend more time together, so we agreed on going to Osaka for a whole weekend a couple of weeks later; and that was that, we were 'officially' together. It was so sweet and simple and straight forward, I wish everything was like that :-)

Posted by DKJM74 01:34 Comments (1)

Halloween in Osaka

Part 1

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This is one I've really been looking forward to writing about, my second big trip to Osaka was more fun than a bag full of Kittens :-) I've never really done a proper Halloween big night out, but this year I knew Club Neo (the Goth Club) was having a Halloween night with a strict Halloween dress code. So in Mid-October I began to think about what I wanted to wear and do tests - in the end I went for 'recently turned Vampire' bite marks on my neck and blood running from my mouth. Vampire costumes let you do something very Halloween, but also keep it quite hot :-) At this point I was still 'officially' single and knew there were going to be a lot of cute girls there - so time to play up to those vampire fantasies a lot of girls have; there's a reason why the 'Twilight' films are so popular you know!

So here are some of the costume tests I ran -

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I was pretty pleased with the look I came up with - thanks to Kyoto Sensei who gave me a stack of second hand shirts to shred and splatter with 'blood' and experiment on :-)

A lot of the other JETs were going to a JET Halloween party in Kyoto, but I really wasn't interested in that, so on the weekend of Halloween I took the train into Osaka early in the morning all on my own, checked into a hotel next to the club and went out exploring a bit - but we'll briefly skip over that part of the day because we want to get to the madness that Osaka seems to throw up everytime I go there!!!

This time it was random street wrestling!

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I really have no idea why this was happening, and it was so fake it was hilarious (bouncing off ropes that were basically just bits of string between stacks of milk crates :-) for example!), it was however very entertaining and I guess they were just trying to promote their bigger wrestling events.

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After that I crashed in the hotel for a couple of hours to get up the energy for an all-nighter, by the time I went out to get something to eat there were already a lot of people in good costumes on the streets so I hurried back got myself into my costume (complete with new trousers bought in a nice Goth shop that afternoon!) and I hit the streets.

I have to say doing Halloween in a big place like Osaka is fantastic - I was really impressed with some of the costumes and, as any of you who really know me already know, I have a bit of a cos-play fetish anyway so I was a very happy man! Check some of these out! You can see the Vampire effect was working - these girls were asking to have their photo taken with me - not me asking them - that was a first :-)

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Well that was just early evening on the streets - then I went to the Club Neo; a lot busier than last time and some of the costumes there were just incredible -

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The winners for devotion to costume though have to be these two -

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That zombie make-up is professional standard! I'm sooo impressed!

The vibe in the club was great and I danced and danced - there was even a guest DJ from Italy; DJ blade!

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The most bizzare part of the night went unphotographed though - suddenly the music changed to a warped Operatic howling sound and all the dancers faultered and slowly moved off the dance floor the lighting went down and in came four girls in medeaval looking fetish clothes; two handmaidens a mistress and a slave. The maids disrobed the mistress and then together they stripped and bound the slave girl. Huge gothic candles were brought out and they dripped the wax all over her body, not just on her breasts - but her face and tongue as well. Then she was whipped. The costumes were amazing again, and there was such a theatrical air about the way in which it was done that everybody just croutched down where they were standing and watched in silence - it felt like being part of the congregation at a black mass or ritual. Essentially it was a sub/dom, S/M and bondage perfomance - but it was so beautifully realized that it did feel 'artistic'.

Not something you see everyday in 'RockCity', and not something I think I'd want to see everyday - but to see it once was a real experience. When it was over everybody seemed a bit shell shocked, but the dance floor soon filled up again - only there really seemed to be a bit more of an exciting tension in the room, like anything could happen. It ended up being a really interesting, fun and sexy night - and I'm very glad I went on my own instead of going to the JET party.

The next day I slept in late then went out to do some more sight seeing before heading home again. I went to the sky building, which is one of the tallest buildings in Japan and has some wonderful panoramic views over the city.

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+ Another badly concieved jibbered commentary from yours truly :-)

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I was planning on exploring a little more, but it was getting grey and rainy. Also I was aching and tired from the night before - so I got the next train home which gave me a nice two hour trip to muse over everything I'd seen and done in the past 48 hours. Damn, good trip! So, that was my Halloween adventure :-)

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Posted by DKJM74 16:44 Comments (0)

Inter-School Sports Day

And Autumn Photography

So as time passes the days get shorter and the evenings get darker.

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The birds are gethering in greater numbers on the lake

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and the leaves are turning from green to yellow and red.

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In short, Autum is here - which is good because I like Autum (when it's dry)! Luckily through most of October the weather was still gloriously clear and warm. Which was good for the inter school day. This was a bit different from the last sports event as various competitions were being held all around the area each local school hosting one or more sports and teams from each school travelling to compete. I was given free choice where I went and what I saw - so first I took the train to Adogawa and watched a bit of volley ball and table tennis. Volley ball because I promised my supervisor (who coaches the team) I would, and table tennis because I sometimes play with the students :-)

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After I'd seen enough of that I decided to go to get the train to Shinasahi and watch the Kendo which was more interesting to me. I took a short cut across a field on the way to the train station

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and came across a ditch just packed with frogs of several different types - so that ended up being a big distraction and I just stayed there for about half an hour :-)

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When I eventually got myself to Shinasahi I found out that there was also a softball match there, so I stayed there for a bit and cheered our team and took some photos that came out realy well. I really like these.

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By the time I went inside the sports hall the Kendo contest was over - though I was in time to see our team be awarded with a trophy - so I guess they didn't need my support :-)

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I also got to see a training session where the Kendo instructors worked with the kids in the contest - which basically seemed to involve letting themselves get wacked over the head a great many times!

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After it was all over I was offered a ride back to the school, but it was such a nice day I decided to walk it and I'm glad I did as I saw some really nice and quite random things along the way. So here's a collection of autumnal oddments from a walk in Takashima.

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So, there you are - fragments of beauty everywhere :-)

By the way, I noticed that my entry about the Goth club in Osaka was very popular (lots of views!) so you're all in for a treat next time. The next entry will be from my Halloween night in Osaka, so expect street wrestling, hot costume cuties and pure Gothic horror soon :-)

Posted by DKJM74 04:23 Comments (1)

October Scrapbook

Kyoto, Speech Contest Round 2 and Otsu Matsuri

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Now I’m getting more used to living here and travelling up and down on the trains Kyoto feels more and more like a ‘local’ place than some distant city – OK it’s over an hour away on the train, but it’s still very easy to go there whenever you feel like it. So I’ve started just going to Kyoto sometimes if I have nothing to do – walking around taking photos is always nice. You can always find strange things if you look - like this small chinese herbal medicine shop.

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Kyoto is more relaxed than Osaka (It seems impossible to go to Osaka without seeing something really random and totally insane happening on the streets!) but exploring can be very rewarding. So here are a few things I’ve seem just wandering around Kyoto.

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There are large areas of Kyoto that still have these old style houses - which look nice at any time of day...

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or night!

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This lantern, made from a blow fish, was hanging outside a resturant on a backstreet.

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I love this shot - it's so public and private at the same time. You can easily see them, but not who they are.

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Kyoto tower by night - personally I'm still not impressed by it! The sky building in Osaka is much nicer (You'll see that later!)

October 9th was also the second round of the speech contest. This time it was held on the other side of the lake and we had a much longer ride to get there. Kyoto Sensei drove the minibus with all of the Takashima students that had got through to the second round. It was less lively this time as before I had four girls entering the contest, but now only Sayaka was entering.

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It was a long day, with many speeches and I think she was much more nervous than last time – she gave a good recital which I was very pleased with but didn’t win any prizes; to be honest I don’t think she cared and was just happy to have it over with!

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The day after that was a Saturday and I went down to Otsu for the local Matsuri (まつり) - or Japanese festival. Japanese people love festivals (matsuri) and they are spread out around the year so you could visit one festival or another almost every weekend throughout the year. You wouldn't even need to travel too far as every town and city has them. Some are more famous than others (like Takayama festival, which I visited with Nik a couple of years before) but they all attract quite a lot of people. Visitors line the streets and locals get good spots on the roof tops!

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The morning of the festival I met Connie who was heading somewhere else on the same train, so I finally took a picture of her – she deserves credit as a huge part of this blog was posted via her computer when I didn’t have an internet connection! So – thank you Connie; you’re a star!

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Otsu matsuri is a classic Japanese festival; large, heavy, old style decorated floats pulled around the city by teams dressed in traditional clothes.

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The floats themselves have artists on them playing music, or operating puppets to perform short shows.

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They also throw goodies out to the crowd below and are ornately decorated - this one had old tapestries made in Belgium on it!

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Another part of the festival is a fair with food and game stalls

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– remember the game at my school culture festival fishing things out of a pool with a paper scoop?? Well here is the same game being played to win baby turtles!

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By evening time the smaller children on the floats were getting very tired and some were sleeping despite all the noise -

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I didn’t take that many pictures of the festival as I was a little ‘distracted’ :-) This was the day I met Harumi for the first time. After the festival parade was over we had dinner together in a resturant overlooking the lake and took a walk along an illuminated pier over the water. So, this is Harumi.

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She’s holding one of the goodies thrown off the festival floats here (Mochi - a rice based sweet wrapped in leaves to keep it fresh!) and it’s the only picture I took of her that day; but there will be more as we’ve been out together a few times now and will certainly be going out together more in the future too :-)

Posted by DKJM74 00:16 Comments (1)

Hiking in Takashima

The Waterfall Hike

October 4th.

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The Gulliver village camp outside Takashima city is the starting point of the 8 waterfall hike.
This hike had originally been planned as a JET group hike, but on the chosen weekend many JETs were busy so it was ‘cancelled’ – but as I was more interested in doing the hike than spending time with other JETs, I called Leila and we went anyway.

Gulliver village itself is a strange place, basically a big adventure playground with come holiday cottages and camping facilities as well. We messed around there for a while, but there were a few kids and parents there so we couldn’t really have too much fun on the playground equipment.

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The hiking trail leads off into the woods behind the camp and basically follows the river upstream;

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the water was pretty high and fast as there had been a lot of rain the last few days. Though today the weather was great and we several lizards out basking in the sun, including the world’s smallest lizard (maybe) that looks very cute sitting on your finger!

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The river valley was beautiful and the hike got steeper and trickier as you went on, later there were chains and ladders set into the rock to help you (it reminded me of Slovensky Raj).

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(Leila sounds fantastically Australian in her soundbite here!)

As you can see it didn’t seem that difficult to me, but I knew that only a month before a teenage girl had fallen and died here (the day of the Kayaking trip on Lake Biwa) so better to be careful; and I guess she wasn’t the only person to have died here as we saw a memorial plaque as near the top as well.

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Once we reached the top of the main fall we had lunch

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then we began the descent. As we were basically following the same route back again I took a little more time taking pictures and tried to get a few more artistic shots instead of just snaps of the waterfall. I was quite pleased with some of the results too.

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Posted by DKJM74 04:03 Comments (1)

Bunkasai

School Culture Festival

October began with a special school event, the 2nd and 3rd were our Bunkasai.

Bunkasai, when directly translated means 'culture festival and every school has one around this time - though I guess in English terms it was a kind of a combinations of School Fair, School Play and Concert and an Open Day all together. So there was a mix of games to play, food on sale and performances from the kids of various types in and around the school.

The enterance and courtyard were all decorated for the day, including some nice illuminations that looked very pretty in the evening.

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For quite some time now students had been doing preparation for this event after school - this meant singing practice and rehersals for the plays; most classes also had some kind of project they worked on (making a mosaic, or stained glass, or posters, etc etc). I really wanted to help with the preparation, and I was given a very important special job that only I could do -

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Well - they told me that it was very important that I stand very still with that duck on my head and touch nothing anyway.... I'm still not sure why?? And they all left the room??? :-) Actually, I helped out painting the backdrop for the first years play and sorting items out for the bazzar. Here you can see someof the kids pre-bunkasai perparation and art work.

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The first thing I noticed on the actual day though was nothing to do with the festival, but the new uniforms some students were wearing. October marks the official begining of the Autum period and students can choose to stay in Summer uniforms or change to Autum Uniforms - I got a couple of comparison photos.

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Much more interesting were some of the costumes students were wearing - including the obligatory bit of cross dressing :-)

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These were mostly for the kids running the games stalls - which were typical school fair things like ten pin bowling (with plastic bottles full of grit for pins), hoop tossing and an interesting Japanese varient on hook-a-duck where you have a paper scoop and have to scoop small prizes out of the water before the paper breaks - at the school festival the prizes were small plastic toys - but I saw the same thing with little fish and even baby turtles at the Otsu Matsuri.

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These stall were only running on the second day of the festival though - the first day was dominated with staged events in the hall. There was a Taiko performance, a Harry Potter look-a-like contest and each year performed a play.

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OK That wasn't really a Harry Potter look-a-like contest - but it could have been!!!

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This was the second years play - about a troubled student and domestic violence!

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The first years play was about a deaf student joining a baseball team.

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And the third years did a play about refugees in Okinawa hiding from soilders in the caves there (I was the voice of the American soilder calling them to come out!) . So very light topics for all of the plays then!

The second day had way too much chior singing as EVERY class had to sing two songs -

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To be honest I got bored and wandered off around the school and took a photo of a Japanese toilet for this blog as I thought that might be interesting for you all -

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Most places have western style toilets now - but you can still find a lot of these Japanese squat and drop ones too; the Japanese say they are more hygienic because no part of the body touches the seat, which has some logic... but I'd prefer a supportive seat anyday still!

After the choir singing the program was more mixed however - there was brass band music, student volunteers did various routines, the teachers sang (I joined the PTA choir and sang a Japanese song and 'We are the world' as well) and some teachers also did a so-bad-it-was-funny dance routine. Plus there were all the stalls and games I mentioned before.

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I got the full 'dance' on video too - watch the guy in the centre with the head scarf; he missed the couple of rehersals they had and has no idea what is coming next - also love the bit where they should form two lines but most of them go into the same line :-)

All this time students were free to wander around and see which things they wanted in the various classrooms (there was tea ceremony, video presentations and handicrafts for example) or just sit outside eating and chatting.

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The whole thing went on all day until it got dark when there was a closing ceremony outside and a few prizes were given out - then lit by the illuminations and a full moon we packed up and went home.

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Posted by DKJM74 19:41 Comments (0)

September Scrapbook (Part 3)

OK - this one really is going to be a scrapbook. I'm so far behind on posting events on this blog that if I don't finish off September today I have no idea how I'll catch up!

So - everything else from September will be reported here in brief -

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Let's begin with some pretty, pretty pictures :-)

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I love this Dragon Cloud !

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Autum is coming now, but in September it was still wonderfully warm and I was still cycling around in my T-shirt. The only sign that it was really autum was the harvesting of the crops and the changing flowers - these red flowers appeared and disappeared in a few days all around the town. Birds are beginning to gather in greater numbers on the lake as well.

The weekend of the 26th I was invited to join Kurumi Sensei and Muro Sensei for a fishing trip on the lake, now I'm not really interested in fishing - messing about in boats is always fun so I accepted.

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Kurumi Sensei

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Muro Sensei

So I learnt 3 things -

1) Drift fishing is easy, you just leave the rod and don't have to do anything!

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2) They make fishing boots with my middle name on them.

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3) It's not very comfortable trying to sleep on a small fishing boat.

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There's some video from the trip too - but to be honest it's not that exciting :-) No big catches - in fact, this was all we caught -

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One little fishy!

Anyway, if you want to watch the videos here they are -


When we got back from fishing we went directly to the boat house as the teachers had to coach students for the rowing club - which the hadn't warned me about so I was wearing a T-shirt that says 'Pervert' on it - oops! Luckily I got a spare T-shirt at the boat house and had a go at rowing with one of the students.

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That day was also Kitty's birthday - so it was back to Mr. Karaoke! in the evening (My singing has not improved!).

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The following day I was invited to a barbeque party by my friend Kaori - so I go to meet some of her friends and another English teacher called Justin. The food was really nice and it was a really nice relaxed get together - I even gotto try my hand at Kendo. The father is very good at Kendo and he showed us some basic moves - so I got to see girls fight with (bamboo) swords - cool :-)

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I've also been taking the time to explore around Imazu a bit more as well on my bike and finding a few interesting spots - one thing I'm getting very interested in is はいきょう (Haikyou) which means 'abandoned places'. Japan is full of them, like the big wheel I took pictures o in Katata, and I've bought a guide book of the 200 best はいきょう in Japan - so I hope to go explore some of them. Even Imazu has mini-はいきょう. I discovered some abandoned apartment blocks -

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Of course this means more interesting bugs :-)

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I've also found a nice shrine in Imazu (right next to a Japanese defence force compund!) So I took a few pictures there and made a 'tour' video - though I really should try and plan what I'm going to say on these videos a bit more, because I'm talking complete rubbish here - as I'm trying to show things that I have very little idea about myself :-)

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And I'm getting better at making worksheets - here are some of my creations for the lesson where we had to teach 'How many... ' - I thought drawing aliens was the obvious approach :-)

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And just to close this collection of random things - let's finish with a frog!!

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I'll see you all for October's blog updates - I'll do at least one this weekend! In October I have the school culture festival, more speech contest, inter-school sports, a waterfall hike, a Japanese street festival and Halloween to report - so keep tuned!!

P.S. Travellerspoint have made it much easier to add pictures to the blog now, and in bigger sizes too, so I hope the page looks better now - any comments?

Posted by DKJM74 01:07 Comments (1)

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