Killing Time, Botanic Garden and Snow Sports
Well, it's the Year of the Tiger - as you can see from this; one of several New Year's cards I got with super cute tigers on them!
So to celebrate please listen to this as a cool soundtrack while you read this entry :-)
I've actually had e-mail complaints that I haven't blogged anything for a while!! Well, I'm sorry - but after blogging like a maniac over Christmas and New Year I finally caught up on all the back-log of things I had to blog and I was all up to date :-)
The downside of that is that now it's pretty cold and wet I'm not going out and doing as many things. So my blogging will slow down a bit over the winter months I guess; meanwhile I'll catch up on the backlog of movies I haven't watched yet (saw 'Avatar' and the amazing 'Where the wild things are' in the cinema recently) and also play a few games (currently going through 'Batman: Arkham Asylum'). I've also started taking regular lessons in Japanese language and calligraphy on week day evenings; finally, it took me a long time to find a teacher.
After new year I was back at work quite soon. However for the first three days of term the teachers were there, but the students were still on holiday (except for a few club activities). This meant that there really wasn't much to do. I prepared a few teaching aids, I studied Japanese, I started to design creatures that combined both the astrological sign and Chinese birth year of people I knew....
Yes, I really had that little to do! Luckily, several other teachers were at similar loose ends so I asked them to teach me how to play 'Shogi'; which can be very oughly described as Japanese 'Chess'. Though having played it there are significant differences, most significantly it's very difficult to move pieces backwards, slow advance is better and any pieces you capture can be replayed anywhere on the board as part of your army!!
Outside most days the weather was grey and cold now, with heavy wet snow falling and turning to mush around Imazu; though apparently not in other local places! So in the interests of getting out of the cold we decided a trip to the Botanic Gardens was in order.
Obviously in this weather the external parts were a bit colourless and bare -
but we went to see the (warm) greenhouses - and it's nice and colourful inside them :-)
It's actually a good sized garden so I think I'll be going back in a few times to see it in all seasons. One good thing about this weather is that I've finally had a chance to try my hand at snowboarding (which I wanted to try in Slovakia, but somehow never got around to doing). Well my first year students had 2-days of snowsports, so I asked if I could tag along and got permission to join for one day and got free gear and lessons all day :-)
I have to say it's much easier to pick up than skiiing (which I did try in Slovakia, and would never try again!!!), and I did manage a few runs all the way down the slope without falling over (and several more with lots of falling over of course!). Haru was very happy about this as she really likes snowboarding and has been doing it for several years, so the following week I was at it again with Haru teaching me a few more techniques (like how to turn the board around, rather than just zigging and zagging on one side like I had done before).
The little orange freak in the top right is the mascot of the ski slope; Hako-chan. It's kind of a bad pun, as the slope is on Mt.Hakodate and in Japanese Hako means 'box'; so an orange box with snow on it is their mascot! I'd really like to do more boarding this winter for sure, it is fun and a nice challenge.
After boarding we drove over to Kutsuki (a small place on top of another mountain in the woods) and visited the pool there to soak away the aches from my numerous falls. Luckily, I don't have any huge Yakuza tatoos as most pools in Japan won't let anybody in if they have visible tatoos.
For some reason this particular Onsen also has an association with the Japanese Yokai called Tengu.
Having read about half of that Yokai book Haru bought for me now, I'm getting very interested in Yokai myths and legends and I really want to visit some places connected with with the various legends. Several temples display what are supposed to be Yokai remians which I'd love to go and see;
but, again, that's in the long list of 'Things to do when the weather is better'. Still I do have a few things in mind for the winter; I want to go to see the Snow Monkeys in Nagano Ken.
I'd like to go to Osaka again and see the tent city there; Osaka has the biggest homeless population in Japan (somewhere between 7'000 and 10'000 people); many living in one park and farming food with the aid of a 'Homeless people's association'.
And if I can find out the dates of their upcoming events I really, REALLY, want to go to one of the 'Tokyo Decadance' events - a couple of these people were involved in the Halloween party I went to in Osaka, but a real 'Tokyo Decadance' event blends performance art, music, Gothic horror, circus skills and burlesque into a tip-top A1 club night that actually looks like the kind of clubs you only ever see in Hollywood movies normally.
Still, it might be a couple of weeks before I blog again - but there are a few things to look forward to. Take care, meanwhile.