Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Our Wintery White Christmas

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We certainly did!

As I said in my last post, we went away for a 3 day snowboarding trip. Late on Saturday night, we hopped onto the overnight bus from Nagoya to Tsukaieke, in Nagano. After some sleep, we woke up on Sunday morning at the foot of some impressive mountains topped with snow.

The house we stayed in was huge and fabulous! There were five bedrooms and a total of eleven beds. There was also room for futons (and a large supply of them). The house spanned over three levels. On the bottom was our own private onsen (hot spring)! It was just devine after a day of crashing in the snow. Usually Wayne can't go into the public onsens due to his very large tattoo, so it was an added bonus for him and I must say, nice and romantic for the two of us to be sitting in a large stone bath together in a room thick with steam.

The house also had a traditional hearth, known in Japanese as an "Irori". It was used in the past for cooking, be we just sat around it for warmth and the atmosphere. The food was amazing. We had our Christmas dinner on Christmas eve. It included roast chicken and salmon sashimi and was finished off with some delicious Japanese Christmas cake. Christmas cake here is actually a strawberry shortcake, which I must say, is far more delicious than the Aussie fruitcake that we have every year.

Our first day there, I attempted snowboarding. I was so bad at it! I spent more time lying in the snow, on my back like a half-dead cockroach unable to get back up! It was the first time for Wayne and my cousin Danielle, and I must say, they did much better than I did.

We woke up on Christmas morning to the most glorious weather. There was snow everywhere, under a clear blue sky. I had decided to give snowboarding a miss, so instead hired some skiis and we then all headed up to the top of the mountain where the snow was better. I worked out that that was either the 4th or 5th time that I've skiied since I was 16 years old, so I don't think I did too badly with only a couple of falls. One of those falls was incredibly embarrassing however. On my first lift trip up, I was so busy concentrating on the girl in front of me who was taking ages to get off the slope, that I forgot to get off the lift myself. By the time I realised, I had to jump into a pile of snow, where I got my skiis all tangled and did another half-dead cockroach impression. I couldn't face anyone working on that lift again, so used another one for the rest of the day.

We went to KFC of all places, for lunch that day - it was on the mountain! I was treated with some good news. My cousin Ben (Danielle's brother) had proposed to his girlfriend, Yuko, the night, before and she'd said yes! Congratulations guys! I'm going to have a new Japanese cousin! While we waited for lunch to settle, Wayne, Danielle and I made our little Christmas snowman. Don't you love my new beanie that he's wearing! Hehehe... it's actually a kids one - none of the adult ones fit my head - and has a little "L" on one side and "R" on the other in case I forget my left and right (which I do all the time by the way).

That night after we had a good soak in the bath, we were treated to a delicious meal of "nabe" and fell asleep quickly after that. We warmed up our aching bodies by another bath in the morning and followed it with a traditional breakfast of salmon. The weather that day was awful. There had been no new snow fall on the slopes and the day was cold and rainy, so we gave skiing/snowboarding a miss. Sadly we had to say goodbye to Yuko's delightful family and that afternoon, hopped back on the bus for our long trip back.

We've been home for a couple of days now and are getting ready for my brother and his wife, Carl and Leigh, to arrive to visit for a few days. They're are doing a few days on their own in Tokyo, and I'm sure they'll have a blast.

It's snowing outside my window while I'm typing this. I just love watching the big, fat, lazy snowflakes drift to the ground, especially while I'm all warm and cosy inside.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Where did that one go???

I know it's a cliche', but where on earth did that year go?

It has been such a big year. I can't believe that in the beginning of the year I was living in Australia, preparing for the wedding and for the move over here!

We're now fully settled into our lives here. Of course there are some stresses that come from living in a foreign country, especially when your language level isn't great, but mostly, all is good. We both like our jobs. I'm getting a little over a couple of my private classes and we might look at doing something about them next year. Wayne's loving Iaido and on January 14th next year has his first grading. Please send him good vibes that day ;)

I do get homesick some days. Mostly its missing my dear friends back home. I miss just being able to catch up for some hot chocolate and yummy cake at the Three Monkeys and having a good, girls chat.

One not-so-good consequence of me living here though is my weight. I was kind of hoping it would just melt off living here and eating all the delicious, healthy Japanese food. I even bought the book "Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat" before I came here. Well, it hasn't worked that way! I find that I'm eating more comfort food than ever. I'm even eating KFC and McDonalds on a semi-regular basis, which I never did back home! Stopping eating the comfort food has been hard, so I'm now looking at reducing the need for comfort - which for me I think means cutting down on my private classes, studying more Japanese and getting to the gym more.....

This Christmas should be a great one. Wayne and I head off for the snow in Hakuba late on Saturday night. We'll wake up surrounded by the white stuff on Sunday morning. We're both trying snowboarding for the first time. I'm a bit nervous about it, but excited at the same time. We're meeting up there with two of my cousins (one is flying in from Australia, the other lives in Tokyo). We've hired a big house with eight beds, a traditional Japanese hearth and a private hot spring!

After we get back, my brother and his wife arrive after spending Christmas with my parents in England. We're doing the traditional Japanese thing of welcoming the New Year at the temple. We've also been invited to a traditional New Year lunch at a friend's place.

I hope everyone out there has a wonderful Christmas filled with love and laughter and hope to see you again soon!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Does my bum look big in this?

Ahh... just blogging away... I haven't blogged for a while. I sometimes feel like I have to have something so very interesting, so very Japanese to write about before I can blog. It's funny though how sometimes life is just so normal over here. I go to work. I live in the suburbs. I catch up with friends. I go to the occassional movie in English. It's just really quite normal somedays. I was laughing with a friend just recently about how people back home might think "Wow, they're living in Japan, how exciting", yet the reality is I often go home on a Friday night after work and the gym, put on a pair of tracksuit pants and settle into some takeaway and a DVD with Wayne. And I love it!

One exciting thing that did happen this week though, was I got an email from the Japanzine to tell me that two of my photos had made it into the finals of the "Gaijin Eye" photo competition! One of them was a picture that I took when I went photograph training in a Sumo Beya (stable). You can see it above. The other was a Geisha picture I took in Kyoto while we were on our honeymoon in March. The issue will be coming out soon (also available on-line) so keep an eye out for it!

Wayne finished work for the year yesterday. His final week was at an elementary school. As usual, he was used as a climbing gym by the younger kids. He was pretty happy that after the week was over, he had only been patted on the balls once (by a girl I might add) and only had one "half-hearted" attempt at the "koncho".

Mmm.. the "koncho" I found someone else who can explain it better than me. He writes:

Roughly translated, koncho means "illigitimate enema." That is probably the
worst translation of all time. The kids make a fake gun with their fingers, and
shove it up my butt! If I could translate the word Koncho, and I think I can, I
would call it a "Foul proud that invokes immediate anger." Its lightyears beyond
what I was used to as a kid, the "purple nurple." A short squeeze of the nipple
was always sure to get a chuckle. Let me tell you, there ain't no one having a
laugh after a koncho.
Actually, the guy does a whole rant about the koncho, which is pretty funny. You can find it at:

I think Wayne was actually warned in his teacher training over here about them.

So, Wayne's now on holidays. I have four more days left. We will be spending Christmas up in Nagano, skiing with a couple of my cousins and some of their friends. My brother and his wife will then come to visit for a few days and after that, one of my cousins will come to stay with me. Our little apartment will be cramped for a while, but it will be great to have visitors.

This weekend, I'm trying to get all my Christmas presents bought, all my Christmas cards written and sent and my "nengajo" - new years cards, designed.

So that's what's going on in the suburbs of Japan lately..... Until next time, watch out for those Koncho!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

How many bad thoughts do you have?

Have you ever sat down to count how many bad thoughts you have? Well apparently someone in the Buddhist religion did and it came to 108.

I was eating lunch with a friend of mine the other day, discussing my plans for the upcoming New Years Eve. My brother and sister-in-law will be visiting then so we thought we’d do something quite traditional and go to a temple for the bell ringing.

My friend asked me if I knew how many times the bell was rung. From memory I thought it was 188 (it seems I have more bad thoughts than most), but was corrected and told that it is 108.

The number is not arbitrary, but instead represents the 108 bonno (mortal desires) that plagues humankind. The reverberation of each bell toll is believed by Buddhists to wipe away all the bad luck and ill deeds of the previous year. The 108th bell is rung in the first few seconds of the new year.

So that’s how I’ll be starting out 2007, with a clean slate and a year ahead of me to do 108 bad things in time for the next cleansing…..