Thursday, 29 December 2011

Neglecterinos

Sorry, sorry, hige sorry!! Blogs have been thin on the ground due to the season and a minor bout of illness. I've been in Tokyo the last few days and was unlucky to miss the snow that fell in my Japanese hometown of Podunk. It's kinda rare to see snow in my part of Aichi so it's a shame I couldn't be there to see it. The only kinda snow I've seen so far was some remnant crystals up on 高尾山Takao San, just out of Tokyo. Still, looking forward to seeing my first proper snow fall though :) Anyway, as I have the chance now, I'd just like to wish you all a happy new year! May it be productive and see you closer to accomplishing your goals. All the very best. Kappas and Kangaroos.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Nahhh, get outta here!

Na. Or rather な. I just had a mini revelation about something that is probably common knowledge amongst those with basic Japanese. If you take away the squiggly bottom right hand side from hiragana*, な (na), you get katakana** ナ (na). I mean, duhh!! I have noticed other relationships betwen hiragana and their katakana counterparts, but am surprised I didn't catch this one earlier on. Ha!

*hiragana is the normal Japanese phonetic script
**katakana is the phonetic script used for borrow words (and sometimes for other purposes such as for animal names)

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BONUS
I'll keep this blog content light, so I will end by mentioning that upon further (2 minute) research, I learnt that the hiragana are indeed, derived from chinese characters. Interesting!! There is a nifty chart showing a 3 step evolution from chinese characters to hiragana  found in the hiragana entry over at Wikipedia.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

What is a Kappa?


Ye Olde Kappa depiction

Kon nichi wa my fellow Japan junkies. I was thinking that it is high time that I talk about one of this site's mascots, the Kappa. The Kappa is a prominent character in Japanese folklore, being counted as a member of the "lesser" water deities (perhaps lesser in terms of their standing in the deity hierarchy, but certainly not in terms of prominence in both scholarly literature and Japanese pop culture). The theories of the origins, physical features and malevolence/benevolence of Kappa vary quite a bit, so let me describe the common and most interesting image and traits of the green water imp.

The beak-ed Kappa kinda looks like a cross between a human and a turtle, sporting big claws, a shell, a scaly hide and an optional modesty-protecting loincloth. They have a rather smart green complexion of which there is debate to whether or not it is granted to them from eating their beloved food, cucumbers. Illustrations depict Kappa with anywhere from little to a lot of body hair, but despite this variance, the head is always seen crowned with a circumference of hair which surrounds a central water reservoir referred to as a 'sara' which is the same word used for plate/dish in Japanese. Contained within the Kappa's sara is its liquid life force, appearing as water and presumably so, though, scholars love to point out that nobody is 100% certain that the composition of the liquid is water. Pfft... why hedge your bets mates? It's a freaking water imp, of course it's going to be water!

Probably one of the most interesting parts of Kappa folklore is that of the strategy of stopping or defeating a Kappa. You see, the Kappa are known to be both benevolent and malevolent, and one of their many nefarious penchants, is that of springing from the water and seizing upon anything from a person (particularly a child) through to a horse in order to drag it to a watery grave where it will have a feast of its victim's organs, Bleech!. What? A little imp dragging a horse into the water... oh yeah, by the way the Kappa apparently has exceptional strength; what a boss! Must be all that basashi*. So should you encounter a pesky Kappa, legend says that, although it kinda wants to bite your head, it can be stopped in its tracks by giving it a polite bow. You see, though a Kappa doesn't bat an eyelid at killing the innocent, it nevertheless feels honour-bound to at least reciprocally bow at its future meal before declaring itadakimasu. And right there is its undoing, as bowing causes it to spill its precious aqueous life force onto the ground, severely weakening it, and by some accounts, cause it to make an early exit to the, ermm, pearly cucumber fields in the sky.














Riverside Kappa warning signs, to this day, can still be seen posted about in order to ward children away by using cartoony images of scary water imps patiently awaiting a fatal misstep by little Kenichi-kun^ or Mariko-chan^. In fact, many people think that the Kappa were created purely as a tool to scare children from getting themselves into a potential drowning situation, a theory that I am a fan of.


But, let's hold up for a second, poor ol' Kappa are getting quite a bad rap here.They are known to be good too. The thing is, once a Kappa is made to make a promise to reform, it will with the utmost loyalty, hold true to its promise. There are a few situations where a Kappa will promise to come good. One such situation is when bargaining for their release from their captor. Another is when they wish the safe return of a severed limb...errr what?

Well, despite their livestock-towing strength, their limbs are prone to 'being liberated.' For example, it was (or is?) not particularly weird to see a horse running home to their owner with one or more Kappa arms lodged in their thigh. Upon the sight of this, farmer-san could, in the interests of their community, keep the arm for a future bargaining session as this presents a good opportunity to turn one or more of the local Kappas away from a life of crime. The Kappa will frantically seek out its divorced arm/s in order to reattach them within the few-day long window of time its body has the ability to do so. All of a sudden, I'm thinking that the villain, Cell, from Dragon Ball Z had some partial inspiration from Kappa folklore.

Capturing Kappas is an attractive venture because you can make them do work for you as payment for their release (and retribution for eating the local swimming squad). They are skilled healers, famed for their bone setting magics and ability to produce salves. They are also put to work in the fields and one has been known to help construct a drainage system on flood-prone farming land in old Edo, a deed offered as payment to a human that saved its life years prior. This area is in the vicinity of Kappabashi in modern Tokyo.

The word Kappa abounds in the Japanese lexicon. For example, 'Gappa' (from 'Kappa') is found in the term Gappadoki/ガッパドキ which is an old term for drowning that is apparently still used in some regions of Japan. 'O-Kappa' is a Kappa-like hairstyle, 'Kappa' refers to both the old straw-made and modern plastic poncho style raincoats and Kappa Maki is a type of sushi roll containing Kappa's favourite, cucumbers!
パー子ちゃん and カーくん



 Speaking of Kappa Maki, one of the most popular and iconic restaurants in Japan is Kappa Zushi/カッパ寿司. This chain of restaurants can be found in most Japanese cities, and of course, the flagship model of the restaurant is the cucumber sushi roll. The mascots for the restaurant, カーくん (Ka-kun) and パー子ちゃん (Pa-kochan) are a couple of cute water imps, presumably enslaved into servitude by an enterprising sushi chef.
カッパ巻き Kappa Maki

Kappa Tea, made from real Kappas!!!

Cutesy Kappa are now rife, seen in various pieces of merchandise, in manga, anime and video games, and of course, they are seen on this very website :D I have been personally assured that my Kanji-slinging sidekick is a vegetarian. Oh, the cucumber recipes he could tell you!!

Well there you are, the Kappa. If you are so inclined, there are many more legends about the Kappa to be found, such as the one of their fondness for sumo or their eternal hunt for the shirikodama (roughly translates to 'butt ball'..WTF). Yearrr, didn't want to write about that last one so much...

So to finish up, please enjoy some happy snaps of me and my friends when we found a Kappa out in 茶臼山 Chausuyama area, Aichi.




See you next time.
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basashi: horse sashimi / raw horse meat
† itadakimasu: phrase said before having a meal, literally meaning (I will humbly) receive
^ -kun and -chan are suffixes that are often and affectionately attached to children's names

Monday, 14 November 2011

Japanese Mini Lesson 5: Essential English teacher vocabulary. しんちょう vs "チンちょう". Brought to you by naughty 5年生 boys.

Foreign males teaching English in Japan at elementary and/or junior high school level, will inevitably get poked, prodded and asked a number of undoubtedly rude questions at one point or the other. One of the more clever traps devised by my little rapscallions is the "チンちょう、何センチ?" / "chinchou, nan senchi?" question.

Now, before I explain the下ネタ-ic (rude joke) device here, I will make you appreciate their strategy here. So, the most common question I get (in fact, a question I only just recently stopped getting on a clockwork daily basis) is 身長、何センチ? / shinchou, nan senchi? This means "How tall are you," with the first kanji of shinchou meaning body/self (身) and the second meaning long/length (長), and then following into nan senchi, which will roughly mean "what + centimetre(s)?"

Now it gets classy ladies and gents. With the simple change in pronunciation from 'shinchou' to 'chinchou' you get something completely different. チンチン / chinchin is a common slang term for penis. So when 身長、何センチ? becomes チン長何センチ? well, damn it, you've read this far, you know the result.

So when I first encountered this question, I was almost fooled into replying with the well-rehearsed hyaku kyuu juu (190), though, something was obviously awry. I must commend the head mischief maker as he summoned all he could to keep a perfectly straight face whilst asking me, but to his dismay a ripple of stifled and not-so stifled chortles were erupting around him. I wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but I knew that there was no way I was going to answer this. Then as the question was offered again by one of his partners in crime, it dawned on me. God damn it. I then told 'em that the jig was up! Haha, we had a laugh and I only got it asked 20 more times afterwards....orz.

So may this lesson come in handy to Japan's current and future English-teaching fellows. Also, let it be an insight into classroom culture in Japan!

This has been Daniel reporting from the frontlines.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sometimes, the simplest of teaching materials work the best....

Teaching a chant from Eigo Noto 1 text book. It involves singing about colours and clothes (cap and pants). I make the chant a kinaesthetic exercise and 2 lucky volunteers will get to become "Cap Girl" and "Pants Man" by the simple act of proudly taping my A4 print-outs of MC Hammer or Cap Girl to their chests. The volunteers must (in time with the lyrics) point at their assigned item of clothing and the colours (on flashcards that are stuck to the blackboard). Choosing a Pants Man is always an exercise in hilarity. There is so much laughter, it really gets them motivated. I also get them to do a cool pose for Cap Girl and Pants Man. The chant is one of the better ones in the Eigo Noto universe, so that also motivates them to sing along. Pants man must always be a volunteer as it can be a little embarassing for some (pants or "pantsu" is underwear in Japanese), so let the rowdier mischief makers go ahead and become English-chanting MC Hammers. Also explaining the difference between Pants and Pantsu is a good idea.

Also, in Japan Clip-it is a dolphin. The more you know ~~☆

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Searching for Japan Blogs?

Came across a great website that provides links to many great Japan blogs. So if you're a fishing for some good reading, check out the constantly updated list over at The Japan Blog List.
The Japan Blog List

The next one is good if you are searching specifically for JET bloggers
http://jet-programme.com/jet_blogs.htm

Japanese Mini Lesson 4: You can really sink your teeth into this Japanese lesson

It doesn't matter where you live, you'd be silly not to get out there and sample a variety of restaurants in your surrounding area. Going around and trying different cuisines at various restaurants makes the mandatory process of fueling your body that much more exciting after all. MASSIVELY OBVIOUS SEGUE ALERTZWORZ!!!

Soooo, should you count yourself as a bit of a restaurant-touring gourmand, perhaps this Japanese noun and it's following expression will come in handy:

食べ歩き(noun)  
たべあるき
tabearuki

食べ歩きをする (verb)
たべあるきをする
tabearuki wo suru

So we literally have eat-walk/ eat-walk do. This expression means to go out and try food at various eating establishments. So if you're a bit of a foodie and you want to attest to that fact in Japanese, well then, you are now loaded with the know how.

 例文  /  れいぶん  /  Reibun (Example Sentence):
僕は食べ歩きをすることが多いので、「ザ・グールマン」ってよんでいいですよ~
I often go out and sample various restaurants, so you may feel free to call me "The Gourmand" if you would like to.
Literally: Regarding me, walk-eat (going out to sample restaurants) do matter numerously exist therefore, "The Gourmand" call me agreeable (emphatically).
Literal translations like these are useful for you guys coming to grips with the order of verbs and objects etc. in Japanese sentences. They are often hilarious too, so that's a bonus.

But some of you beginners of Japanese might be thinking that something is up here. "Where's the る in 食べる/eat?" and "I thought walk was 歩く!" you may be asking and pondering respectively. Well, what we see here is an example of a (and I'm going to avoid technical terms for this one) "double verb sandwich." However this double verb sandwich has actually been altered to make it a noun. So there are two things funky going on with 食べ歩き. Before it gets too confusing, let's break it on down.

Funky 1. Double verb sandwiches (DVS)s are commonly formed in Japanese. When fusing two verbs together to make a DVS, you must think of the first verb in it's ーます form and proceed to rip off the ます, leaving the ます verb stem. So in the case of 飛び込む (to literally jump, leap, dive or plunge into something physical or conversely to figuratively leap, plunge into something intangible) we have taken 飛ぶ (to fly, leap etc.) put it into the polite/ます form, 飛びます, proceeded to cut off the ます (in working with my analogy, let's just imagine we're trimming off the bread crusts for our DVS) and we are left with the ます stem form, 飛び, rather than the dictionary form 飛ぶ. Place this together with 込む and you have your DVS.

Funky 2. Altering a verb to make it a noun: When you slice off the crusts of a polite/ます form verb to make a ます stem, you can "noun-ify" a verb. I am fairly confident in saying that you can't just use the ますstem as a noun for any old verb you choose because some sliced verbs may rarely or never be used in speech or writing and not be in circulation at all. With that said though, consider the very relevant 歩き. In this form, we have the noun, 'walk' as used in sentences such as "to go on a walk" or "this walk will go through the forest and take 5 minutes."

So, there you have it. 食べ歩き! Gourmands and Japanese scholars take note! Next time you are in Japan, make sure you indulge in 食べ歩き. It is indeed a very excellent part of the world to do it, thanks to the considerable regional variety.

Have fun learning Japanese! If you want to share some DVSs, drop me a comment! Cheers.
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Bonus Material

Why make DVSs in the first place? 
Well, I would say to add a dimension or flavour to a verb in order to create these cool all-in-one double verbs. The Japanese have been able to modify the first verb in DVSs with the second in order to (for example)

-modify the extremity to which a verb is done (particularly in the case of DVSs ending in ー込む- which can be used to say "do/done thoroughly")
-form a verb or noun that at once describes a process that comprises two (truly or roughly) simultaneous actions (today's 食べ歩き being a great example)
- otherwise add nuance or flavour to the leading verb
- plus (likely many) other purposes.

 Here's a fun note on DVSs
You will often see double verb sandwiches with a に filling (has the analogy gotten old yet?? :p). For example, to go out (and have a good time/play/visit etc.) 遊びに行く is the phrase of choice. Here we have the ますstem of 遊ぶ (play, enjoy oneself etc.), the delicious に particle, with a slice of 行く (to go, proceed), so literally "to go and play." Here's another: 見に来る (見る's ますstem, に, 来る) so literally to see and come, meaning "to come and see."

Thanks for staying around! Love ya!
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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Paying the national broadcaster, the NHK man.


Dear mister NHK man,

I explain to you in the politest, genial manner, using my best Japanese, that I will NOT right here and right now give you my flipping personal details and bank account number until I show your "YOU-MUST-SIGN-NOW" forms to my supervisor and colleagues who can advise me on the safety of giving said information. I am new and I wish to take my time to fill out and send this information to an address that you refuse to give me after asking 5 times. Oh what's that? After going around in circles for 25 flipping minutes, you DO have an address and an alternate form that I can send out after all? I don't have to surrender my personal information here and now as you were pushing so very hard for?? Thanks a lot for wasting my breath and confirming to me that, had you not been so stubborn and ignorant, we could have concluded our interchange in exactly a tenth of the time.

/rant over

Moral of the story: sometimes you'll find yourself in a sucky situation in Japan (Disclaimer: yeah, like anywhere else in the world). You will come across bullying tactics if you live here, but I reckon it best that you trust your instincts. You should not feel obliged to give your bank details out at your door to an unannounced man. After all, how can you expect a newbie to the country to judge the authenticity of IDs and documents?
_______________________________________________________________
SIDE NOTES - Was he for real do you think?

- I pressed him for a "send to" address five times and he understood what I wanted but kept saying that I had better register now, and continued to remind me that it was the law to pay. Furthermore, and though he didn't exactly say as much, his manner strongly suggested that something bad was going to happen if we didn't settle this now.

- He asked when I moved in and I told him "in August." He said, if I register my details now, that I would not have to pay for August and September. Hurry up and give me your details now, otherwise you'll be out 2700 yen.

Now, I will admit that I am pretty sure he was a true representative, though, the manner of the representative and the method of registering right there and then is crazy I must tell you Mr. NHK policy writer person. If it is your strategy to make the collectors be stubborn and bully residents of Japan into providing information (most particularly bank account or credit card info) in a snap, then you can shelve and file it alphabetically my good man.
________________________________________________________________
Comments appreciated.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Creatures of Japan 1: Kero Kero ケロケロ! Frog! (possibly the Kajika Frog / カジカガエル)

This is Pajero, he goes kero kero....
....he likes to climb the walls, 'cause he's a plucky fellow....
....and as he gazes to the horizon, he accomplishes his mellow.
This is possibly a male Kajika Frog (Buergeria buergeri), 河鹿蛙(カジカガエル). The kanji for Kajika mean river/stream (河) + beast or hunting (鹿)-->river hunting frog, river beast frog? Second kanji also means deer, but I don't think it applies here. If you know better, give me a shout.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

..of Kangaroos and Kickin' Tunes 1-II - Dazzle Vision LIVE


I was thrilled to recently catch a Dazzle Vision gig at the Nagoyan live house, TIGHT ROPE. The night went for about 5 hours with a lengthy line-up of bands. The supporting line-up featured an eclectic mix of bands who played punk, metal, and one, some sort of angry hip hop-screamo hybrid. Much to my amusement I experienced two firsts.


The first one was that there were children in the drinking establishment!! So, this is allowed? Yep. In Australia, kids at a licensed venue is a big no no. It was a surprise to me indeed, but later I realised that it is no big deal in Japan. Whether it be in a live house, an izakaya, or at Hanami, alcohol and children can hang out together, as long as they're just hanging out. I have since seen kids in izakayas both as customers and as staff of family-run businesses. Anyway, yeah, these kids at the live house belonged to the owners it seemed. One of the kids who I'm guessing was 4 years old, had the cutest little Slipknot shirt on. Little man, metal horns to you \.../ Amazingly, the little dude slept through the angry hip-hop performance and practically half of the Dazzle Vision performance.

The second first (?) for me was the Japanese mosh pit!!! Haha, it is a rough and tumble love-in, really. They are pretty high energy and some of the participants like to run around a little and really get a human whirlpool thing going. One of the most metal things I have ever seen was this 4ft-something woman get accidentally clotheslined, decked like the proverbial mofo (not actually a proverb), and promptly get back up, reciprocally bow twice to apology-san and resume her headbanging.


In between sets I spied a girl that I thought could of been Maiko from DV, but wasn't sure. I took a chance and went over and said hi and sure enough, it was her!! I got to have a chat with her which was awesome, such a lucky guy! I also got a photo with her too!! Winning! She was really cool. She was really excited about the band's latest album and also the reception to it. She said later on (if I understood the Japanese correctly), that they had been experiencing full capacity at their gigs in some quite respectable Tokyo clubs/live houses. Great news for them indeed, they deserve to make it big.

Their show was superb. The music was great, effects were used really well and thankfully, Maiko's voice really delivers live. All of the members really get into it too with the guitarists jumping around, standing on speakers and all that, and Maiko ritually jumping around, headbanging and also claiming some speaker-top territory of her own. I especially like the photo of her saluting the crowd. Witnessing her operatic-screamo style live is so much fun. It never ceases to amaze me how she can switch from the throat abrasion of screamo to the meliflous tones of her singing voice. The set was a good length, featuring mostly the new stuff. A great show and I can't wait to see them again!!


I really look forward to prospecting for more interesting bands in the live houses of Japan. Until next time guys, rock on :D

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Word of the day 差し込む. Brought to you by naughty 1年生

Oh brother! Those bloody junior high boys. I had a funny interchange with a little group of 1年生 boys in between classes. It went something like this (translated because I love you):

Boys: Uuwah, Danieru sensei. Haroo.
Me: Hello there. What are you up to?
Leader boy: Nothing. Oh! Come, come.
Me: Where? (suspiciously)
Leader boy: To the joseiben! (Girls' toilet)+(Probably thinking, heh heh, doubt he knows that word)
Me: No chance! Bad! Danger!
Leader boy: Haha (damn he knew it), come on! It'll be grand.
Me: No chance, mischief maker (I am fond of using the word 悪戯者・いたずらもの which can mean prankster, mischief maker--> be careful, it can also mean loose woman--> mental note to use this only to males, haha)
Me: So what's your next class?
Boys: Science!
Leader boy: Sashikomi, sashikomi!
Me: Huh? What's this sashikomi mean?
Leader boy: Mwuhaha, SASHIKOMI, SASHIKOMI!! Haha.
Me: (takes out electronic dictionary) Sashikomi, eh? Surely this is a dirty joke (下ネタ).
Boys: HahahahHAhHAhaha. He knows 下ネタ!
Me: Insertion. さすが (just as expected)
Boys: **ROFLing at my disappointed (but slightly amused) face**

So 差込 or 差し込む meaning to insert, "thrust in" etc. So to all my fellow ALTs on the frontlines, if you hear sashikomi, get ready to ask, 下ネタですか (shimoneta desu ka?). Little buggers will get a kick out of it, and so should you, seeing their reactions.

Haha, until next time!
Daniel.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

Word of the day じんじん(と)

Hey! So whenever I hear a word that is new to me at school or otherwise, I'm going to start noting it down here so that I (and you diligent learners of Japanese) can come back and reference them.

So without further ado:

じんじん A "と adverb" (an adverb that must be followed with と+verb)
Meaning: tingling sensation, painful tingle, throb etc. ALSO ringing of the ears

So today, one of the students came into the school office complaining of an injured arm. The school nurse asked her something like:
どういうふうに痛むか? --> Literally: In what style does it hurt?  --> Most naturally: What sort of pain are you feeling?
The response by the student was じんじんとする!痛いよ~

So there we go. In my formative (and shamefully, in my not so formative) clubbing years, I could certainly have used this expression to express the state of my poor ears following the many drum n bass, techno etc. parties I have been to. So, invest in ear plugs otherwise 耳がまさに、じんじんと痛むよ~

Cheers and study hard!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Nice moments in Japan

When you come to visit or live in Japan, you will enjoy many nice moments. Sure, there may be some bad moments too like any other country on the globe, but you can put big money on you having mostly nice, put-a-big-smile-on-your-face kinda moments. Let me share one I had tonight.

It stems from a simple enough gesture, but nevertheless, reminded me of my gratefulness to be here. So, I was out with my fellow Podunk JETs tonight at a yakitori izakaya/restaurant. We enjoyed our meal and were just about to leave when one of my mate's students recognised him. The student came over and we were having fun talking with him and his grandmother and brother who were on their way out when the chance meeting occurred. And here it is. The 'mama' (name for the chief hostess of an izakaya) spots the exchange taking place, and soon enough had organised 3 cups of on-the-house tea for our new friends.

Now I said it was a simple gesture, but mama had really impressed me by organising this. It is like they really approved and wanted to facilitate the interaction of us with the nice little Japanese family. So with the tea served, we indulged a bit longer in our conversation with our new friends.

Nice form mama. Nice form Japan.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Land, Sea and Sky: Torres Strait Islander art exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane


Stumbled across these photos from a couple of months ago. Enjoy the limited amount of knowledge I can pass on about some of the pieces!

For those that don't know, the Torres Strait Islanders are the indigenous peoples of the Torres Strait Isles which are situated between the North of Australia (closest to the cape of Queensland) and Papua New Guinea. The Torres Strait Islanders also lived in the cape region of Queensland, making them another indigenous people of Australia (they are genetically distinct from the Aboriginal people).

Ceremonial headdresses called Dhoeri or Dari, the most iconic and unifying symbol of TSI culture. The design  varies between tribes and between purposes. Headdresses were worn by warriors going into battle, warriors celebrating in victory ceremonies, islander dances etc.


Costumes representing the mischievous spirit, Alag. These costumes are donned during the Coming of the Light ceremony, which celebrates the arrival of Christian missionaries and the spreading of Christianity in the Darney Island region in the Torres Strait (circa 1871).
Performers dress in traditional pandanus masks and dried banana leaf capes to represent the Alag.
Depicting a Headhunter (Kuyku Garpathamai Mabaig) communicating with the spirits of his victims. Check out the bamboo beheading knife!

Feather shields worn in dances. The feathers represent the foam of the sea that radiates out from the central ocean scene.





Thanks for reading!  If you are interested, please check out these websites for some more information.

http://qag.qld.gov.au/exhibitions/current/land,_sea_and_sky_contemporary_art_of_the_torres_strait_islands
 &
http://www.creativecowboyfilms.com/

Cheers.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Aichi and Queensland. State Symbols and Prefectural Symbols. 愛知県とクイーンズランド州のシンボル。

Just in case you are interested!
興味がある方へ
Translation for Aichi's Symbols
1. Prefectural Fish: Kuruma Prawn
2. Prefectural Bird: Scops Owl
3. Prefectural Flower: Rabbit Ear Iris

Monday, 15 August 2011

G'day Japan! Part 2- ただいま (Here I am!)

With the balloons popped, the music attenuated and the goodbyes done with (excepting one), I found myself at the dawn of the day that I would be going to Japan. A good friend offered a lift to the airport and this was almost my undoing, haha. My friend had an unfortunate locking of the keys in the house incident leading up to check-in time!! A quick scramble however had me making alternate arrangements and all was peachy again.

I met up with a lot of my fellow JETs at the Brisbane domestic (we had to go to Sydney first-blehh let's travel away from our final destination first-woot!) and I got to meet boyfriends, mums, dads, friends et al. which was kinda heartwarming. I enjoyed seeing the spark of pride in the eyes of the dads and the mums of the other JETs. At check-in time I said my final goodbye :(

Before long we were descending into the metropolis of Tokyo. On descent a flood of memories 2 years past came back to me. I remember my first descent into this wonderful city. It was night and the vastness of the lights was mesmerising. The seemingly endless scale of construction was a little scary. How could they power all these cells of humanity and industry? Seeing the vast residential sprawl on my first train ride from Narita to Tokyo reinforced the scale of life in the metropolis that holds roughly the same population as that of my home country of Australia.

Anyway, I digressed didn't I? This time around, I was greeted with a hot and humid Narita morning. After we got our luggage, a good Brisbane JET friend of mine, 'Mie L', and I finally met 'Aichi P', a friend that we made through the forums. He gave us each a 扇子/sensu (Japanese folding fan), which was an awesome welcoming gift that we put to use pretty darn promptly. Mie L and I boarded the bus bound for swanky Keio Plaza. The reality of being in Japan really started to hit on this bus ride. The alien boxy cars, the architectured roadside 緑/midori, the abundant baseball fields, the unfamiliar plantlife, and of course, the signage in asian characters, all together made it sink in.

We got to the hotel and almost everywhere we went there was a smiling Tokyo Orientation Assistant pointing us in the right direction. It felt very heartening to be greeted in such a way by the cornucopia of friendly assistants. After we got settled in, a group of us went out for errands, shopping and lunch. I got a small suitcase to replace my massive carry-on eco bag which had thoroughly 'exploded' by that point in the journey. Lunch at さら福や, Shinjuku was a little bit spectacular. I had a set meal (定食) of Okhostk Mackerel (ほっけ), tofu, rice, salad, miso soup, some delicious seaweed thing and a fruit jelly. It was an awesome first meal in Japan. Later that night, we were feeling pretty tired and ended up having a few quiet ones in the hotel. I discovered Asahi Blue label, a brilliant drink.
ほっけ定食 Mackerel Set Meal
















The next day was the start of the business end of the orientation. The opening presentations were very good and the mood, despite being official, was counterbalanced with the humour and occasional anecdotes of the presenters. The same day, I met all my fellow newbie Aichi Prefecture JETs which was great; a mixture of cool people from America, America, & America. Day 3 was full of workshops. The ones that I attended were pretty well done, especially the team teaching and teaching to children with disabilities workshops. That night we got to visit the Australian Embassy in Tokyo. That was a really good time. I actually bit the bullet and talked to the big wigs during meal time. They were really friendly, it was just like talking to anyone I have ever met back home as they certainly retained their laid-back, approachable Australian-ness.

The Aichi massive
Brisbane JETs on Embassy visit night.
On the final day we packed up, said goodbyes to our fellow Brisbane JET buddies and flew or shinkansen-ed to our respective posts. I finally met my supervisor and another one of my fellow JETs from 'Podunk' (NOTE: in the interest of protecting everyone's privacy I have chosen to not use my region's proper name). The day was spent setting up house, registering for the alien card, bank account etc., and going out to eat with my fellow Podunk JETs.

And so started my Japanese life. So, what of my posting? Well, my area abounds in rice paddies (they are called 'tanbo' / 田んぼ) which to me hold a special charm of their own. I've found myself often riding home at night (if you do the JET program you will surely spend your initial few days/weeks going out to eat and drink) and as I approach my home, the wind often blows through the tanbo making the rice plants dance, and seemingly, whisper to each other. It's really nice. The novelty of the birds and plants that are alien to my Australian eyes, remains strong still. I often see what I am convinced is the same big ol' Japanese crane having a late night fish in the channel near my house. Damn thing scared the jiminy crickets out of me the first time I saw it, but now I get disappointed whenever it isn't there to say 今晩は/goodnight to, haha.

Turning the key for the first time in my new apartment
My god, the food is ridiculously good. There is no understating the sheer variety of Japanese cuisine. Just like learning Japanese (or any other language for that matter) is a lifelong practice, the same could almost be said for the discovery of all the regional Japanese cuisines and their variants. I guess I will do a brief food blog later-ish, just showing all the different dishes I have encountered so far. One theme that I really enjoy about Japanese (and pan-asian cuisine really) is the interactivity of meal time. By this I mean the options of the diner/s to cook, flavour, mould, fashion etc. their meal by themselves. From shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) through to D.I.Y. takoyaki (たこ焼き), Japanese dining is indeed a fun affair.

So now's a good time to stop this installment. There is definitely a need for a G'day Japan Part 3. Next time I will get more into the specifics of school life and the fun outings I have been indulging in.

Well until then, thanks so much for reading. Much love to friends and family back home and my continued thanks to anyone else that stumbles upon and reads my entries.

Thanks again :)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

G'day Japan! Part 1-Bye Bye for now Australia.

Damn! The month of July just flew right past. Needless to say, I have been a busy boy, taking care of (in a roughly correct order): finishing up at work, administrating my move from A->J, taking part in official functions, saying goodbyes, saying hellos, attending official functions II, going out to not so official functions, heading out to my new home, meets-greets-and-eats, SHOPPING, school etc.

Glad to say, though, that my writing やる気 is back!

So, hey! Let's start from my last few weeks in the country! June and July were composed of many JET functions and workshops. I was entirely impressed with the group of fellow Brisbane JETs, they were all cool people and after a few workshops together we were pretty good friends. Mostly composed of genki dudes and dudettes, we found a small group of us regularly going out on Fridays (after the workshops) to restaurants and on one occassion a club (Jade Buddah, woot!) The Brisbane Consulate of Japan, thanks to an amazing coordinator, ran a series of excellent, informative workshops on teaching, living, surviving etc. in Japan. Our schedule of things to do rounded out with a visit to the swanky residence of The Consul General in Hamilton. We were pretty lucky to get the privelege.

I am cool. A 7 year said so, so there!
July also saw me finishing up at work. I was sad to say goodbye to the kids at my tutoring job. Especially sad to say goodbye to a few of my little J-culture gang. I was teaching some of them to say おす/osu with a martial arts stance thing going on. It was our little thing that we had, you know? A cheesy, fun little thing. One of the girls was very impressive, making up this part martial arts, part party rock anthem shuffle thing. She called it "everyday I'm osu-ling" replete with shuffling and karate chops, my god(!) it was hilarious. You had to be there. Also loved watching one of the cutest little dudes attempting a flying kick. He managed to jump, maybe, 15 lionhearted centimetres off the ground and kick a stubby legg-ed, 30-degree-from-the-vertical 'flying' kick. Wicked cute!

JapanesePod101.com study group last day.
I was pretty bummed to have to finish one of my little initiatives, the JapanesePod101.com study group. It was a humble little group of dynamic fellow Japanese and English learners. I will especially miss the conversations that we had about our respective languages. Sometimes it was over the top (hilariously so), but I think that both my treasured Japanese participants and fellow Australians, Koreans, Malaysians, Frenchmen etc. got a lot out of the sessions. It is great to know that there exists a genuine interest in language and culture in my community. Thanks a lot guys!


 Next thing was my visit to my parents' place in the dormant volcano region of Childers, home of sugar cane, an obscene 'modern art' eyesore, country town gossip, backpackers and, of course, red dirt (don't forget the red dirt!) I spent a leisurely few just taking in the country scenery of the family farm and saying hello to my pups. I finally got a chance to show the folks the JET introduction video which was a great time. It suddenly became real once we got to see the everyday lives of a variety of participants in a variety of contexts. It really was put together very well and we all enjoyed watching that.
 


Another great experience of Childers was my final (for a long while) drinking session with gracious host, 'B', the parents and a few others at a neighbouring cane farm property. It has become tradition to go and have drinks, share dirty jokes and have some genuine belly laughs up at "B's Beer and Bullshit Bar" (alliteration fans rejoice!) whenever I get up to Childers. That was a hoot as always.


 
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On return from Childers, I hurriedly tied up loose ends and had a fun little going away party on the evening before departure day. It was a shame that a fair contingent of buddies were overseas at the time of the party, but I had an absolute blast with the rest of the great mates I have made in Brisbane over the last handful of years. We enjoyed dinner, drinks, listening to awesome tunes, doing the コマネチ and doing some 書道 calligraphy. It was a nice send off, so thanks for coming guys! 
 
KOMANECH!!




All the shodo calligraphy we did at the party.

Well that is the end of Part 1. Thanks very much for reading. Please tell your friends about this blog, +1, leave a comment etc. Look forward to Part 2 very soon :D Cheers!




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