Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Goodbye October

The weather in Japan seems to be all about extremes. From May-September I was sweating when I woke in the morning, and then for a few weeks we had the most pleasant Fall weather, and then overnight it became frigid! The air has that biting chill to it that I remember all too well. When the evenings were warmer, Justin and I took a walk through his neighborhood, which is full of kitchen gardens and children at play.

I'm not sure if anyone here knows what "palatial" means...
The town that Justin lives in is called Kokubu and is about an hour north of Kagoshima city on the north side of the bay. It's a mediumish city that feels very agricultural - you can't miss the rice paddies and grandparents gardening. It's easy to forget that everyone at home who can has a lawn when in Japan everyone who has the extra space has a garden. Speaking to my home-owning, out-of-the-city-living coworkers, the idea of turning open space into a lawn (even when Japan gets a huge amount of rain) just sounds like a waste of space to them. Gardens aren't feasible in larger cities, but even in Kagoshima city my neighbors who have tiny slivers of land have turned them into patches of garden that change seasonally. They are all so right! Who needs a lawn when you can grow eggplant, chives, lotus and burdock root?! Driving through the countryside on a weekend you are bound to see ancient looking folk bent over their plots, perhaps pulling up a fresh carrot.

That said, I am now growing broccoli on my balcony!

The Kokubu rice fields.
Every year Japanese schools have a sports festival where all of the classes and clubs compete against each other and a "culture festival," which is more like game day/skit and song day. Different classes will turn their classrooms into haunted houses, game rooms, cafes (pictured above) or themed rooms vaguely connected to trying to have fun at school.
The waitresses at this classroom's cafe.
The school band played songs in the courtyard, my favorite was "Champs Elysees" in Japanese (it's a really popular song here!).
There are always unreal looking cute dogs around.
The sado (tea ceremony) club served us tea and sweets.
We fished things out of kiddie pools with chopsticks...
The courtyard of my school.

Justin has been perfecting soup-making. Since the cold front came in we have had garlic soup, French onion, and Japanese nabes (a kind of stew that you cook on the table and serve as indvidual items are cooked).
Riding in front of my house.

A recent festival in Kagoshima city.Onigiri are balls of rice that can be wrapped in sea weed, cabbage or meat and stuffed with pickles, fish, meat, or seaweed. They are basically a Japanese sandwich that can be eaten at any time of day. You can buy them anywhere and are such a good breakfast, lunch, snack! Also my friend Taelor and I decided that they were the perfect thing to be for Halloween!
We made these giant pillow onigiri, and with one in front and one in back, I was more comfortable and warm than I have evern been on Halloween. Japanese people LOVED it. Halloween hasn't been celebrated in Kagoshima for too long, so it is still in that stage where girls just wear cute animal ears and a cute dress, so they seemed really surprised to see us in these giant pillow costumes.

In downtown Kagoshima these fortune tellers sit in their kimono and for a pretty penny you can have your fortune told. The really popular ones usually have long lines at all times of day, but this 3am hopeful was in need of some business.
It's difficult to see, but behind the buildings there is a huge cloud of smoke that is coming from Mt. Sakurajima, our resident active volcano. Last month it erupted so loudly that I heard it in the kitchen and ran to look outside. It was pretty scary... I am not sure what the protocol is if the volcano erupts and lava comes across the bay at us...
Eating at our favorite organic restaurant. I am really in love with eating each piece of a meal in a separate dish.
A few leftover pictures from our hiking trip in Shikoku. The afternoon fog rolling in on top of the mountain.
Sitting in silence in front of our cabin.
Me, down by a river we ate lunch by.