Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Hakuho performing yokozuna ceremony
Next it was time for the makuuchi division matches. The rules are simple. The aim is to get your opponent either outside of the ring OR to touch any of the body parts (except for feet obviously) onto the floor inside the ring. The build up lasts longer than the actual battle but its just great!
....and the guy with the black mawashi wins!
Didn't have a clue where the scoring board was until we saw this tiny ancient looking hung up in the corner, yep this is the score board. The red dots are who won the match. Yep it took us a while especially nursing a hangover when everything takes just that little bit longer ; )
We did wonder how those mawashi stay on the wrestlers. The knot doesn't even look that tight at the back and sometimes they have so much front bottom fat hanging out that its amazing nothing else escapes...Oh and the non Japanese wrestlers were so hairy! Hairy backs, hair chests, hairy legs, yuk. Here is my fave wrestler, Baruto who is in the third highest rank, towering over the other wrestlers. He doesn't look like he belongs does he?
For anyone who has no idea what a capsule hotel is, its basically a type of hotel in Japan with extremely small rooms (aka capsules). They're usually men only but some have a ladies floor. They were initially designed for men too inebriated to travel home or to embarrassed to face their spouses. The best thing is that they're super cheap, like around £20 per night. Some people in Japan even rent them on a monthly basis as they're so cheap.
Once we entered our capsule (http://www.asahiplaza.co.jp/) we put our "outdoor" shoes into lockers and checked in no probs. I had initially expected some kind of unmanned reception with vending machines that spit out your keys (this is the case for some capsules) but there were actually humans there to check us in, wow! Locker keys in hand we went down to our ladies floor which we accessed via a key. Once inside, we went to find our capsules, all very exciting!
Mine was at the top so I had a little ladder to help me get in.Once I crawled inside it really wasn't that small, I could sit up easily and mine had a built in TV inside, pretty darn cosy if you ask me! No doors of course, just a screen that you pull down for privacy.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
So on Saturday morning at 6.50am we took the gruelling but cheap 5 hour bus bound for Osaka from Kanazawa (its the old age, I used to be able to handle long bus trips!) In fact it ended up being 7 hours as the traffic was so bad going into Osaka. From Osaka we caught the train and thought it was odd that the scenerey wasn't getting any more mountainous and pretty. It took us over an hour to realise that in fact we were en route to Kansai aiport, DOH! Mild panic setting in as the temple was serving dinner at 5.30pm and they wouldn't wait for anyone, it was now 4pm....
About 4 more train changes, a ropeway tram (see above) and a final bus we ended up in Koyasan, 11 1/2 hours later. Yep, we could have flown to London in that time!
The minute the bus entered the towering entrance gates and this huge stone Buddha appeared from nowhere in the trees we knew it was going to be worth the effort. Just some quick history for you about Koyasan, in 806 a monk named Kukai had travelled to China to study Buddhism. Some years later he returned and established a Shingon monastery on Koyasan, which then grew over the centuries. Kukai has become one of Japan's most famous religious figures and is revered as a Bodhisaattva, scholar and inventor of the Japanese kana.
Nowadays, the Shingon school of Buddhism has 10 million members and presides over nearly 4000 temples all over Japan. Today Koyasan enables tourists to stay alongside monks, eat their characteristic vegetarian cuisine (shojin-ryori), observe their prayer ceremonies and learn meditation techniques. We were to do all but the last.
Reception room at Shojosh-in temple, our home for a night
They gave Raquel our list of "rules", meal times, morning prayers time 6.30 and bath times (only between certain times in the evening and not available in the morning).
With no time to settle we went straight down for dinner (luckily they had agreed to still serve us despite being late) The food was so tasty. I honestly thought that we might go hungry what with the monks eating simple diet but no, we had 3 trays of food each! The monk who had been manning reception was now our waiter and was scurrying in and out with the food and hot green tea.
For the next hour we gorged on tempura veggies, pickles, fried tofu, daikon radish, rice, rolled omlette, ginger soup, miso, pickled chinese cabbage, fruit, it went on and on.... see above.
After dinner we drank a few glasses of wine in our room under the kotatsu (heated blanket surrounding a table) had a good ol chin wag and eventually passed out wondering what was in store for the next morning's service.
6.15am on the dot, a loud bell was rung a few times indicidating it was time to get up. We headed down to the prayer room a bit dreary eyed. Well, what an enchanting experience. Listening to the monks chant rythmically almost puts you into a trance like state and certainly took me back to my zazen experience in November.
After morning prayer which finished by 7am we had a huge breakfast and headed out to see Oku-No-In, a cemetary where Kukai rests in eternal meditation and the most sacred site at Koysan. Anyone who is anyone in Japan is buried here including former feudal lords, politicians and soldiers who served in WW2 are all buried in this huge cemetary (200,000 graves to be exact).
I'm no fan of graveyards here but there isn't a creepy tombstone in sight, just a quaint path that leads you through the cedar forest over quaint bridges, past monuments and towards Toro-Do (Lantern Hall) and Kukai's mausoleum.
En route we passed so many people cladded in white jackets and holding walking sticks. I initially thought they were tour guides (big faux pas jessie!) They were in fact "spiritual tourists" starting or ending their pilgrimages to the "88 sacred places of Shikoku", an impressive 1,100km trail.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Running out of time and there's still so much I want to do whilst living in Kanazawa. The longer I'm here the less daunting it all seems to be (i.e I'm even calling people up and speaking in my broken Japanese, something I never thought possible when I arrived a year ago!)
You then carefully mould the edges of the outer layer around the inner and make a ball. Then you roll it in your hands until it forms an egg shape. To finish it you make two cross marks across the top with your wagashi utensils, see my video!
It looked near impossible to make but was actually not too hard. The secret was in getting a damp handkerchief, wrapping the wagashi inside, twisting it hard and then finaly pinching it with 2 fingertips....
The last looked like something I used to produce from my mop top hair shop when I was young (god remember those?) This time the wagashi mix goes through the sieve provided, watch us doing it in video below!
After, you must pick up the wagashi shreds using only chopsticks and cover the inner ball of azuki. OK this was a bit tough as I have zero patience and it just doesn't stick that well.
Once you've picked every shred of wagashi mix your'e done! The waitresses then give you a cute little box (recycled I hope) for your 3 pieces of art form (and they include an extra wrapped one in there) Here are my final masterpieces ; )
I might even try to make my own daifuku (a type of wagashi which I just LOVE!) if I have time this weekend (a nice leaving present for my teachers)
At the Ishikawa Gifts and Souvenir centre you can also decorate traditional Japanese dolls as well as paint on glass.
The sweet making cost ¥1200 and is available from 10am to 1pm on weekends and national holidays only.
*To be honest I'm not sure a reservation is really needed as there weren't that many people there. Turn up and I'm sure they can fit you in.
Map is at http://www.hot-ishikawa.jp/f-lang/english/kanazawa-area/shopping-detail.html (third picture down, there's also a map in English of how to get there)
Warning, don't scoff all your wagashi sweets in one. I did....
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Either use questions (how old are you?, when is your birthday? etc) or flashcards. Flashcards make the game go much quicker, increasing the level of energy.
I play with all students standing up. I either ask a question or flash a card. The first student to raise his hand and say the English word for the picture card or answer the question can choose to either have the pupils standing in his/her horizontal row or vertical column to sit down (technically "saving" their friends). Keep going until one student or a row/column is left standing. I sometimes feel bad having only one student left standing so usually ask the last few people standing a question they can answer together.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
We played a fun mystery box game suggested by Eigo Note for the first lesson. We also played a Silhouette Quiz which they enjoyed. I showed them some famous optical illusion pictures (like the vase or two faces, see http://www.blakjak.demon.co.uk/gex_opti.htm) on the projector and they had to tell me what they saw. I would say "What is it?" each time.
Anyway a short post for a short section! Feel free to download my two lesson plans below
Grade 5 Lesson Eigo Note Lesson 7- (5.28) What's this? part 1
Grade 5 Lesson Eigo Note Lesson 7- (5.29)- What's this? part 2
Hmmm...this is a difficult one. The target language is "what do you want?" but I tried to explain that a waiter is more likely to ask "What would you like?" as its more polite than "what do you want?". I then thought that people do ask "what do you want" but its generally kept to friends and family members otherwise it comes across as a bit curt.
So for the first lesson we just practiced foreign words and I had the kids work in groups to think of foreign words in a few categories (i.e classroom, games, food/drink etc) Hilarious when I asked one group they came up with "Pocket monster next generation"! Well I guess they are foreign words..I also had Mr Donut..ok fair enough. Second lesson it was Christmas so I had them work in groups asking each other "What do you want for Christmas?" (although I still don't quite agree with them saying "I want an ipod"- not polite! but I let it pass)
Then I decided to do something totally different than Eigo Note since the rest of the lesson seemed to be based on ordering parfaits and I just didn't think it was an effective way of learning "I want...." (Also it seems that in Eigo Note they only really practice the question but not the answer- i.e "What do you want?" and then the response is just "peach, pineapple and melon please")
So I found a fantastic learning English website though a teacher run by NHK, a TV station in Japan. It's basically a robot called Gabby and a family. They produce short video clips that concentrate on a specific language per clip and my kids find them really funny (especially 5th and 6th graders- the 10/11/12 year olds who can be so difficult sometimes) See http://www.nhk.or.jp/gabby/ja/frame.html (wait for Gabby to load and then hit "watch" button at the bottom)
One of the scenes (episode 09-1 is "I want") features a character called Jack who eats loads (I want pizza! I want chicken! I want....I want.....) but he then gets a bit chubby and has to exercise. So I had the kids watch it and then they had to act it out as a drama in groups. They really loved it. I've posted a video above of one of the performances.
Download my lesson plans below for more detail (if you want):
Grade 5 Lesson Eigo Note Lesson 6- (5.26)- What do you want? part 3
Grade 5 Lesson Eigo Note Lesson 6- (5.27)- What do you want? part 4
Hope your 5th graders enjoy making the dramas as much as mine did. Thanks NHK and Gabby the robot!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
When mum and I decided to take a last minute trip to Shirakawago last summer we weren't expecting such a beautiful spot, see my other post about Shirakawago in the summer. The only thing we weren't able to do back then was to stay in one of the farmhouses aka "minshuku" (they get fully booked early in the summer) so I was so excited that I had the chance this weekend to return for a winter wonderland scene and to stay in a real minshuku! So we set off on the bus from Kanazawa on Saturday, an easy 1 1/2 hr trip (￥3010 rtn) and the heavy dumps of snow started to re-appear as we climbed up the mountains through the mile long tunnels.
Got to Shirakawago, well Ogimachi in fact, and found our thatched minshuku (Japanese farmhouse style B&B) stayed called Yoshiro, a bit spit and sawdust but ran by an old Japanese couple who turned out to be so sweet that it just made it a "real Japanese experience" that you could simply never get staying in an impersonal hotel. More to that later.
In Shirakawago there are about 3 or 4 gassho style houses converted into small museums. We went to Nagaske (since I visited the others on my last trip) Each one charges a small entry fee of ￥300 and you get a translated leaflet with a bit of history. The house belonged to the Nagaske family wgh were doctors for the Maeda Lords in Ishikawa Pref.
Met Raquel and Ayako at Yoshiro and had a good catch up under the cosy kotatsu (thats the table not a bed!) until it was time for din dins. As soon as we walked into the small tatami mat restaurant the old lady had us get to work stoking up the irori fire!
Middle right: Silk tofu sprinkled with katsuobushi shavings (鰹節) which are dried fermented & smoked tuna flakes!
The food was soooo yummy and after stuffing our faces we were just about to retire to our room when the little old lady (fairly mute up until now) comes out with her shamisen! You couldn't get more of a real Japanese experience. She played and sang some traditional Japanese songs and then asked us where we all from (2 Americans, me British and 1 Japanese) She then started playing again.
It took a while to figure out she what she was playing (kind of 'out of tune' sound) but then realised she was playing the Beatles' Hey Jude! (ironically Ayako, my native Japanese friend was the first to figure that one out..) and we all sang along. She then started belting out the American national anthem. Classic! We then had a try at playing but it's so difficult because unlike a guitar a shamisen doesn't have frets so its amazing that they know where to put their finger.
After a sing along we went back to our rooms and as always in a ryokan the little bed fairies had been busy. Our beds were all out ready on the floor but weirdly each one had a huge bulge at the bottom. We all had no idea what the bulges were (including Ayako) and they turned out to be mini plug in kotatsu heaters to heat the beds! I guess like our equivalent of a heated blanket except these things are wooden boxes (see photo below on left side). Hmmm fire hazard?
They obviously get in the way a bit but very cosy to have your feet next to.
The next day we were woken up at 6.34am by our neighbours in the next door room playing music. Don't expect peace and quiet staying in Japanese ryokans/minshukus, the rooms are only separated by thin wooden screens.
After another wonderful breakfast we had a stroll around the village, tried out one of Japan's infamous rice burgers, (yep packed rice instead of a bread bun- great for those on a yeast free diet like I'm supposed to be!) and then headed home.
Shirakawago is one of my favourite places so far in the Ishikawa/Gifu area. For anyone in Kanazawa wondering where to go, don't hesitate. GO! It can be easily done as a day trip (the village is actually really small) or if you want to stay a night make it a gassho farmhouse like Yoshiro for an authentic experience (Cost for 1 night dinner B&B was ￥8000 including a heating charge of ￥300, about £55) I reserved through the tourist info office in Shirakawago. Some of them speak English or send them an email email@example.com