Gaijin Housewife in Japan

Bringing you every day life in Japan to your part of the world.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Ikebana: not justfor women

Yesterday was our Ikebana Chapter's 60th anniversary. So some big sensei people from Kobe came to town and gave a special demonstration. Although the audience was 99% women, the display was put together 100% by men and you will see why in a second.

Your usual Ikebana that someone like myself does is the right size to be displayed in your house. Yesterday we saw a giant display being made. It was very interesting as I had wondered how they do it when I have visited other big Ikebana exhibitions.

First take a huge chunk of tree that weighs over 200 kilos and needs at least 5 people to carry it

Then stick large branches or small trees into the aforementioned tree trunk. Secure using nails and screws.

(The little old man on the right is the big sensei and was giving the orders)
For effect add another huge tree trunk - this time one that looks like octopus legs

Decorate with many kinds of flowers and branches, fruit is also ok (In this case pineapples!)

(The guy on the right is the head of the school, and he was allowed to add the colourful flowers at the end. I think he chose a good spot for them, and he got a round of applause from the audience too)
Creating a wonderful fusion of jungle and a traditional Japanese spring theme

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Got my cheesy picture!

So in my last post I said I was off to a big Ikebana do today. Well I have just come back from a most successful outing. It was a long and sometimes boring day but in the end it was all worth it as I got my cheesy picture with the head of our Ikebana school - Hiroki Ohara!
(HUGE venue for 800 people was packed out)
We had to go to the venue at 10am to check in and get our seats even though the actual ceremony didn't start till 11:30. That was an hour of watching people get certificates for their long years of hard work and listening to speeches from various important people. Then we got a half hour break so my class mate and I shot down stairs to the Baskin and Robins 31 Flavours ice cream shop and got some ice cream for "lunch". On our way down on the escalator I just happen to look up and who should I see on his way to the loo but Hiroki! I was about 10 seconds too quick and just missed him. I was terribly disappointed but consoled myself that there was plenty more time to catch him.

Then we had our "Special Demonstration" of a massive arrangement, not using branches but large chuncks of tree etc.
This was all carried out on stage and then Hiroki was asked to put the finishing touches on by adding the bright red flowers at the top left. Obviously he still isn't up to doing a huge thing like that yet so a big sensei did it instead.

Then it was time to go home so we loitered around to see if we could spot my teacher but she was busy doing something important no doubt and we didn't see her. We had just about given up and were on our way to the escalator when who should I see have a smoke in the smoking area but Hiroki. So we loitered another 2 seconds and he came out. I wasn't the only one waiting to get a photo and soon there were about 50 middle aged women all battling to get a photo with him. He was very good natured about it (as you would hope - good PR and all). I hope he didn't think he would escape any time soon as he got stuck there for ages getting his photo taken.
SO I got my precious photo and not only that I got to stand right next to him! Woo hoo!
There are actually 2 other people in this photo but I cropped them out : )
Will post more photos tomorrow!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Cherry blossom heaven

 I have just come back from cherry blossom lover's paradise.

A place called Hanamiyama in Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture.
I went with my host mother type person who I mentioned in my blog about going to see the plum blossoms. We got an early bus this morning and were at the park by 9:30ish.

Despite being so early, there were already bus loads and bus loads of people there. Lots of people must have come with a tour group as they seemed to be traveling in packs. The average age also seemed to be about 70 years old. I saw very few young people since it was a) Friday and b) young people generally prefer to get drunk under the cherry trees than walk around oggling and snapping photos like crazy.

There were a lot of walking cane toting, hunch backed (longs years in the fields) men and women who were certainly out to make the most of it. Everyone looked so happy but also had a glint that said: "don't get in my way you fool" in their eye. Even so, everyone was very polite and offered to take photos for us as soon as we even looked like we might want someone to help, lots of people waited patiently so as not to walk into our photos etc. I am still amazed by the energy that elderly people in Japan have.

The walk from the carpark to the very top takes and back takes about an hour and we stopped off here and there and spent a bit of time taking photos as best we could. We were still back at the station by 11:30 though! After over an hour of being bombarded by colour it all got a bit much for the eyes.
 (Top to bottome) October Sakura, blooms from October through winter until April. THe red one is called Boke or flowering quince and another kind of dark coloured cherry blossom.

We had lunch at a bakery as I was about to have a melt down from hunger after walking all the way up the hill. We so should have just sucked it up though as we then went across the street to a big department store that was having a special Hokkaido Food market. There were so many things to taste test, we didn't need to eat lunch at all...we were full and couldn't bring ourselves to try any of it. We did manage to come away with quite a few goodies. See photo. The big thing on the left is a squid stuffed with all kinds of seafood and rice, there are dried scallops and pepermint oil which I have been looking for for ages. You can spray it on your sore muscles and it works like deep heat, use it as breath freshner, room freshner and the most important, you can put a drop of it in your water - yum!!!
On the bus on the way home, we both snored our heads off for most of the way I'm sure! Totally fantastic day, so lucky it wasn't raining and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A little message from above at the Docs

I don't want this post to turn into a discussion on the supernatural, heaven or life after death, it's just an account of what happened to me today.

Hayley Westenra is a NZ singer who is very popular in Japan. Last time I was at the doctor's office, he mentioned to me that he was a fan of hers and had some of her CDs. I like Hayley's singing and we have 2 of her CDs at home as DH likes her voice a lot.

Today I was back there again and noticed that they had her playing on the sound system. The doctor said to me when we got to the consultation room that they had put it on for me when I came in. So that was nice of them. When I was waiting to pay the bill, Amazing Grace started playing.
I was this close to bursting into tears. Amazing Grace is the hymn that my Dad asked to be sung at his funeral, one of his favourites, and I just couldn't believe the timing. I guess I was feeling emotional and Hayley's sweet voice singing about Amazing Grace was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. And/Or, maybe my dad was trying to send me a small message that he IS looking out for me and not to give up. That's what I hope and it makes ME feel better to think that it may have been a little message from above .

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Last Week's Ikebana

For some reason I never got round to posting the photos from my last class.
This week's arrangement is one that is more wide than tall. Takes up a lot of space.
So here is what I did:

And here is what my classmate did:

And here is what we had for afternoon tea! Strawberry Teramisu! Yum.

This week we are not having a class and our city Ikebana group is celebrating its 60th anniversary on Sunday. Apparently this is a HUGE deal. So they have planned a big event with all the big wigs coming in from Kobe, including the young and handsome 家元 (head of the school) himself, Hiroki Ohara!!! My class mate and I are going along to it and my aim is to get a cheesy photo with Hiroki.... I'm hoping to be the only foreigner there so as to have a good shot at getting one : )
My teacher was explaining the event to me and the more she explained the less I wanted to go but I have a ticket now so I can't not go. But it sounds like the pecking order is: Important people from Kobe, followed by out of town members who have come by bus, followed by local members, with young members (30 is young!) at the very bottom of the food chain, who might be lucky to get a seat on the very edge near the back. Sounds fantastic. ; ) This thinking kind of goes against my natural inclination which is: local members should be the most important after the boss people, but since we are the ones putting on the bash to celebrate our local chapter's anniversary, we don't actually get to enjoy it. I feel sorry for my teacher. She is on the committee and that means one of the many jobs she has to do is go to the hotel and roll out the welcome wagon when the important people from Kobe arrive (which is quite late at night). So now I'm not feeling so sorry for myself and I'm sure the event will be interesting.

Monday, 12 April 2010


Yesterday DH, a friend of ours and I went out for lunch at an Indian restaurant. This place is right next to the ocean so it has a great view. It is in quite an out of the way place but they seemed to be doing quite reasonable business. It was the first real indian food I have eaten for about a year so I loved it. What better to follow a feed of indian than a trip to see the cherry blossoms.
So we headed to the local park and saw that they were only less than half open.

There were still quite a few people there enjoying themselves though.
Next weekend should be full bloom I think.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Housewife over does it on the electrical appliances...

Hello everyone!

Hope your day has been less stressful than my evening has just been. I was having an excellent day, even did YOGA was feeling very zen and calm. Started cooking dinner. Turned on the rice cooker, pumped up my cooking music, turned on the heater in the bathroom in an attempt to dry off some clothes that were still damp, then, I made the mistake of using the microwave. The whole house went dark as the fuse blew. Not even the little night lights in the light switches were on. Luckily I had my emergency torch.... but the batteries were flat even though the little red light was flashing to guide me to it....found cell phone, went to fuse box switched power back on. Thankfully nothing got toasted and rice cooker managed not to destroy the evening's rice by double cooking it or anything.

Then had a hernia as when the power goes, our modems go haywire and need to be reset, along with the computer and I was due to start teaching online in a very short amount of time. This meant frantic calls to my boss who is always so very understanding in these situations and to my husband to demand he come home from work and sort it out (cause me and technology and stuff that's all in Japanese don't mix well when it all goes to custard). So DH and my boss were on the phone to each other for a good hour before we got the whole system going again, but not before the modem wouldn't let us access the internet and we had to enter all kinds of passwords. So needless to say I didn't get to teach my lessons, feel v bad about disappointing my students all because I was being a little too industrious and O.D. on the electricity.
And I lost my hard earned (and hour of trying to bend over backwards etc) zen. *sigh*
Maybe I will take a bath instead.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Gaijin Housewife meets Amazon Kindle on an ipod touch

I was alone on Friday night, DH had gone to have drinks with his friend who was in town. I suddenly had this need to get hold a of a certain book. I checked on the Amazon, sure enough they had it and I could have it in my hot little hand in oh, 2-3 WEEKS.
Unfortunately, I needed that book RIGHT THEN. Seriously, I did. Then I happend to spot something on their site about their E-books being able to be read from other devices....then I also remembered that a friend had mentioned they had been reading some books on their iphone......the penny dropped...I have an ipod touch, surely I can do the same thing.
Indeed yes, I did manage to download the app for ipods to read Amazon Kindle books. It was easy peasy to register myself and my ipod touch and download my first book. THE book I just had to have right there and then and at 500 yen cheaper than buying the actual book.
Having never read a book on an ipod touch before, I was worried it would be too difficult to read. I made the text the right size for me and away I went. It was so easy to read and I could do it with one hand including turning the "pages". It remembers where I was up to so next time I open the app it is right where I left off.

So as you can see, it is the new love of my life. Even in the sticks of Japan I can get almost any book (that is available in the Asia area - according to Amazon, not all titles can be downloaded in all areas) within seconds. This service is perfect for me who has never been very good at waiting.

So you are probably also wondering, what was the book that started off this desperate need to have it right there and then?

It is a book called "A few good eggs". Recommended to me by a friend for people who are TTC and need to be cheered up, informed and razzed up to keep on trying. So far I love it. It's funny and informative and just what I needed the other night.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

This Week's Ikebana

Hello Everyone.

Today I had Ikebana again. We did a really neat arrangement today. I did a circular arrangement and my teacher and classmate did a spiral one. To the untrained eye they look remarkably similar but they are essentially different.

Here is what I did:
For some reason the top photo loaded sideways....the left side should be at the bottom.

Here is what my teacher made. See how the flowers spiral upwards.

Here is what my classmate made: