Sorry for the lack of recent updates… I’ve started school and been extremely busy!
The weekend before we left for the US was our city’s annual festival, affectionately called Fujimatsu, a mashing of Fujioka Matsuri. Once again, Kenji and I were signed up to help carry the mikoshi for the Board of Education. I was looking forward to another year of riding around on top of it, but this year the weather had other plans!
The day started brightly enough, though, as we drove on over pretty early to get ready, eat, and watch the parade.
The parade. The ladies in blue are Fujioka ambassadors; basically the prettiest young women they could find!
I also insisted on getting a jacket. Usually the girls don’t wear them, but I noticed last year as well as in pictures of previous years that, well, often the girls DO get them! So like last year I insisted, only unlike last year the girls were stark and traditional this year and didn’t go for the jackets. I was glad I did however!
By the time night started to fall, fat raindrops were starting to fall as well. We got as far into the festival as we could, covering the mikoshi, lanterns, and fans with plastic bags, but the weather proved too much.
At one point, it started POURING in a way I haven’t seen since one summer in Texas where we got some serious rain and everything flooded. It is a rain I have never experienced in Japan before. This wasn’t any wimpy rain, oh no. This was a storm determined to end things. We tried, but eventually gave up and gathered under an awning as best we could. I had ridden on the mikoshi for a bit in the rain, so I was absolutely soaked, and glad for the double layers. At once point, I went back into the maelstrom to grab plastic bags for the cameras, and found the majority of Fujioka holed up in the Piago grocery store. Dodging students and acquaintances and shedding water all over, I grabbed a few bags and went back out.
We tried to wait it out, but eventually authorities decided to cancel the rest of the night, so we took the mikoshi back. I got another chance to ride, but was disappointed it didn’t continue. Damn you Gunma weather!
Oh well, next year will be nice I hope! We cleaned up and went off for the night and prepared for the next morning.
The next day was the dashi, and at first we were not going to pull for icchome like last year. For one, we no longer lived in icchome, and two, hadn’t been asked. I wore my brand new yukata, and we camped out at Kenji’s barber’s store again to watch the crowds go by, then at once point walked around and passed the icchome station… whereby Oyaji caught sight of us and asked us to help pull again this year. Well… alright! We were planning on leaving a bit early, as the next day we were flying to the US, but we helped for a little while, then left. The clouds threatened, but luckily didn’t pour like the previous day.
Clouds and crowds. My, it looks threatening doesn’t it?
So that was Fujimatsu. A bit different than last year, but still really fun, and one of my favorite activities to look forward to in summer!
Also that weekend was the Onish Matsuri, which we also went to last year. This year I wore yukata, as did Kenji. There were a ton of students there, and overall it was really fun!
We didn’t stay super long. We walked the food stalls (of course), watched the dashi for awhile, saw the short fireworks, and then left to beat the crowds. It was short but sweet!
Wow, long time no post! The problem with waiting so long is I forget what I wanted to talk about, and what happened… but I have to post SOMETHING, so I guess I’ll just make it up as I go along! Luckily the pictures help…
Anyway, June towards the end was busy with packing and moving, and July hectic with new house stuff, but before I post pictures of the house I want to catch up on all the random stuff I have pictures of, so here we go!
Karaoke! Okay, that is not karaoke, that is a Costco hot dog. These are coveted guys, and Brandt and Mizuki were nice enough to get Kenji and I ones when they went to costco that day. They were cold, but we didn’t care!
So as me and Mizuki returned from getting food and drinks (courtesy of our BOE and Kawata-sensei, how awesome was that?!), we saw a newly-opened 7/11 with Yuuma-chan. So of course we had to get stuff from 7/11 as an excuse for a picture!
That was a fun, if tiring, day.
Before I started packing, I took pictures of my apartment as it was, so I’ll share those here. I liked my apartment… I’m going to miss it!
Entrance way and entrance hallway. I have onigawara (the demon roof tile) and shisa from okinawa displayed here, plus a Fujioka map just in case I need to check where to go. The tenugui on the walls change when I feel bored with them!
This is my closet room. It was originally the bedroom, but I spent three hours there my very first night in this apartment tossing and turning in the heat before getting up and moving my futon into the air-conditioned living room. I never looked back. Also, wow I have a lot of stuff!
The kitchen, looking back toward the balcony, front toward the front door of the apartment, and coming out of the living room at my kitchen table, which is usually covered with papers. That giant dog is Kenji’s.
And I wont post many pics of the new house until we are all moved in, but I do have to share the Wallpaper Fiasco with everyone.
When we first went to see the house, the wallpaper looked like this:
I mean, it isn’t bad, it just looks old, and like it would go perfectly with shag carpeting. I like brown, but I didn’t like the pattern, and it was covering everything that wasn’t a room, since the rooms all had different paper. (Literally; every one was different!) So we asked if it would be possible to change the wallpaper when we moved in. “Sure!” they said, so we also asked for white, off-white, beige, something like that. Just a plain color to brighten the space.
This is what we got:
I think I physically recoiled from it. The wallpaper… isn’t THAT ugly. It is actually nice quality, and as an accent somewhere (Versailles?) it might be okay. But covering EVERY wall in every hallway and overhang, all the way up the stairs? God no. It was terrible.
We were a little upset with it, since we had specifically said we wanted, you know, white, so they agreed to change the wallpaper again. Actually, we chose the new one together, since they didn’t want something “plain” and we didn’t want something “not-plain”. We managed to compromise, and now it looks SO MUCH BETTER!
Ahhhhhh. See, now that is what a hallway should look like! Anyway, the house looks pretty good now, and we move in this weekend (t-minus 3 days!) so I’m really excited.
And one more random picture from the first day we looked at the house:
This room also recieved the new white wallpaper, and will become my room!
This past month or so has been a tight one financially, what with the trip plus a plane ticket home, so we haven’t traveled anywhere or done a ton of activities. At the same time, it has been fun to relax and only have a few things to look forward to on the calendar… it seems more fun that way, since you get to wait for them and be excited when the day finally comes. Here are a few things we have been doing:
A Jazz concert on the 21st of May in Maebashi. One of Kenji’s and my old students, Aizaki-san, invited us along. The club was tiny and cozy, and we were right up with the band, who was very good. It was great to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the jazz with a bottle of wine!
That same weekend, Kenji and I started our pottery again, this time on the electric wheel. I like this much better than making it by hand to be honest… I can’t wait to see what they look like when they’re finished!
June is the rainy season, and there is something kinda nice about walking to school in the rain! I loved this spider web and the raindrops. If you look close at the last picture, there are some cute kittens hiding in the bushes. I didn’t see them on the rainy day, so their mom probably found them better shelter.
The very next day we went to a wedding Nijikai in Tokyo’s Odaiba. The groom is one of Kenji’s old middle school friends from Seattle, and I was able to meet 4 of his old friends from that time. I really liked everybody, and the nijikai was fun! I also happened to win Bingo… the one person in the room who didn’t know ANYBODY. I got tequila, so I gave it to Kenji! I hope we can meet up with those friends again!
So, we’re moving. I’ll explain in the next post about it, but we wanted to visit our little izakaya around the corner before we moved out of the apartment. This glass (box?) of sake is what gets me in trouble, you can’t tell how much you are drinking, and they overfill into the plate as “service”! There is an izakaya across the street from our new house, but I’m going to miss this one!
Finally, another kitten picture, taken on my way to work this past week. They all popped their heads up and looked at me as I walked by, and I couldn’t resist grabbing my camera. Thanks for holding still, guys!
This month has gone by pretty quickly; we’ve been busy packing and moving. This weekend is the big one!
This year has been a cold one. Winter seemed to linger through April and May, which meant that the wisteria came a bit later this year than last. This worked out, however, as we were in Thailand for the usual season. This was my first year to see them in all their glory!
When we got back I had taken an extra day off of work to recover, and besides cleaning and relaxing, I went out to take a look at the Fuji in the part near the apartment:
The next weekend was not too late, so Kenji and I went up to where the Fuji Festival is held every year. The festival itself was over, but since the blossoms lingered so did a lot of the food stands. Festival-style food is my favorite!
Then we went to Tsuchi-to-Hi-no-Sato park, where we do our pottery stuff. We actually hadn’t had a chance to go in almost 5 months, and we were able to pick up some things we had made, and for Kenji to finally finish a bowl he had done before we stopped going. We decided to keep doing the pottery, this time the electric wheels, but not that day.
Driving back, more Fuji, then we stopped in at Scott and Naomi’s to check in on Ibuki-chan. She just keeps getting cuter!
Spring is creeping North, a bit too slowly for my liking. The plums are blooming, we’re finally getting buds on the sakura, and… wait, what’s with this snow?!? Ahhh, March.
A couple from our Friday night basketball group finally got married, and though they didn’t have a ceremony, we had a nice party for them anyway! Since the weather is getting warmer, we are getting more motivation to actually play!
We turn down a road this tree was on… and mistake a field for a road (hey, snow covered everything and it was hard to see!) We sorta got, er, stuck. Some nice man finally came around and helped pull us out, but yeah. That wasn’t very fun.
The next mrning, it had finally stopped, but not before covering everything. The stairs were scary that morning! I decided not to risk biking and walked instead, giving me lots of chances to snap pictures!
Almost sakura season…
One Saturday, the weather was nice but we didn’t have anything to do and didn’t feel like snowboarding, so we just took a drive around Fujioka to look at the kofun, or burial mounds in the area.
First stop was a small museum on the archaeological items found in Fujioka and their history. A lot of recreations here, including some Haniwa like we saw one trip to the Gunma museum.
Circling back towards Fujioka we stopped at Hiraijou, the remains of a small castle that was the administrative center of the area. Nothing is there now except some raised land and a field, but they still have festivals there and stuff.
On the way back, we stop at a combini. Products in Japan sometimes come with little toys or something as a promotion, and Kenji’s coffee that day had a little wind up horse and guy in the theme of the famous samurai of old, which actually fit pretty well into the historical theme of the day. So we did what any 24 and 25 year olds would do: went in, bought another, and FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT! For the record, I won:
Videos. The first is just the one horse, the second one I’m making fun of Kenji for going back inside and buying another one, and the third is the battle. Please note, this entire 20 minutes was spent sitting in the parking lot at 7/11. I don’t want to know what the other patrons thought!
Not content with one baby, we also visited Scott, Naomi, and Saya-chan. Brandt poses Saya with Scott’s hat, awww! We played games for awhile. Scott has this zombie game that he plays while Saya looks on… glad to know she’ll be prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse!
That Monday was an important day. It was February 22nd in the year 22 Heisei according to the Japanese calender. We decided to be silly and hit the combini for a receipt, but then I thought of getting a ticket at the train station! So we did, with about 10 seconds to spare after waiting for some old guy who took forever. So this is our ticket! Heisei 22 February 22nd at 22:22pm. That is a lot of 2s!
The next Friday I didn’t have my kimono class since one of my teachers was on vacation, so instead I tried my hand at putting on my new kimono by myself! Yeah, I need more practice! It’s HARD! This blue kimono my sensei’s bought for me for 500 yen (around 5 bucks) at an estate sale. I love the bold colors and pattern!
I didn’t bother taking a picture of the back, it was pretty bad lol! Anyway, so that was some of the random happenings in February.
… haha. Okay, sorry about that. Here’s the rest of the Christmas pictures!
I got off school early to do a little cooking, cleaning, and wrapping, and then when it hit 5pm, we headed out to get our Christmas Cake and KFC for a “traditional” Japanese Christmas! Kenji made mashed potatoes, I took care of the salad, and voila! We had a great Christmas eve dinner! Exchanged presents… then went to bed early for work in the morning (awwww). Still, it was really nice!
KFC is ridiculous over Christmas, they really play it up. SO many people had pre-ordered their chicken. We grabbed our small box and got outta there… (I’m thinking “…no comment” I’m pretty sure!)
So that was Christmas eve. The weekend following, Kenji and I decided to go see Avatar. But not at just any theater. We figured if we were going to pay the ridiculous rates Japanese theaters charge, we might as well make the best of it and go see it at the 3D IMAX… in Saitama. Faaaarrr away in Saitama. 2 hours driving, to be exact. But it ended up being TOTALLY COMPLETELY WORTH IT OMG. I don’t care what they say about Avatar’s plot, it is a gorgeous movie and I’d see it again in a heartbeat. The mall it was in was HUUUUUGE so we did some shopping, saw the movie, then took juuust a few pictures on the way out with the Where The Wild Things Are posters!
Lastly, pressies! Thanks mom and dad! Of course I had to arrange them nicely!
Dad’s including all the food he sent…
Thank you guys!