So...a few minutes ago, I was quietly reading the Spring's blog when I heard the sound of the oven/microwave turning on, then off, then being opened...nothing revolutionary here. Then I heard the sound that I can only describe as flesh sizzling on a very hot element, followed immediately by Kelly going into full panic mode, running out of the kitchen and across the living room. I immediately assumed that she had burned herself very badly on the oven and jumped up to find out what had happened.

Turns out that sound of sizzling flesh was actually the cockroach flying out of the utensil drawer. The rest of the story remains the same.

A note about cockroaches...

Those little [bad word] are really fast and very hard to kill. If they find something behind which to hide, they will and it will be next to impossible to get them out.

With this one, we were fortunate that it landed on the kitchen floor and felt that it was hidden up against the wall under the cupboard. The trick then became how to catch and kill the little [bad word] without sending it under the fridge or behind our cupboards. It takes two people.

Kelly armed herself with a couple of books, I had our fly-swatter (kinda like bear-hunting with a .22) and a can of insecticide. We had all the exits blocked and I fired the first volley of [bad word] killer at the little tank. It panicked. Kelly panicked. It disappeared.

Then I noticed it at my feet. I managed to get a beer mug over it. It had taken a direct hit from the insecticide and it was still very much alive. At this point, I flooded the beer mug with the juice and let it stew for a while. It soon stopped twitching. So did Kelly.


Osaka Festival


After supper it was time to go to the festival. We headed to the main centre of town where there were the typical food booths set up with horrendously overpriced and over-caloried food choices. たこやき (takoyaki) or little grilled octopus balls are very popular at most Japanese festivals. They are about as ubiquitous as "Those Little Donuts". But they taste different. They are about the size of a TimBit (again, different taste) and are made of batter with vegetables and a little piece of tako (octopus). They are grilled on a grilled on a grill that kinda looks like a big ice cube tray. They don't taste very good.

You can also often find a booth that sells crepes or waffles served with fruit and whipped cream...very tasty.

These people are lined up to buy a plate of yakisoba for 300 yen or so.

Shortly after we arrived at the main square in the town, a big float carrying a taiko group showed up, then a whole bunch of mostly naked, very sweaty men carrying two shrines representing some sort of local deity.

After they arrived and ran around and yelled a whole bunch, people started throwing goodies at the crowd from an adjacent building.

Mixon caught one!

They were ち(mochi) a Japanese treat made from pounded rice.

After that craziness, it was time to head down to the bridge to watch the fireworks. It is difficult to take good pictures of fireworks. I have learned that you need a fairly long f-stop and large aperture, leading to a significant need for a tripod. You can tell from my pics that I do not have a tripod. Here are some of my favourites.

After the fireworks, we went to Chiemi's Aunt and Uncle's home in Takayama for the night...more on that later.



Long overdue update

If you read findingminime you will know that this last week was Obon in Japan. It is not a national holiday because it is a religious festival but most people take time off work to return to their hometowns and pay respects to their ancestors.

We were fortunate enough to be invited to the town of Osaka (not the city, the little tiny town in the Hida River Valley) to stay with the family of one of Kelly's students for a couple of days.

Chiemi told us that Osaka is about 125 km from Ogaki and to plan to arrive there at about 5 pm, then join them for supper at 6. We left our house at 3, stopped to buy goodies for the trip and omiyage for our hosts. We forgot to remember that driving in Japan is different from driving back home. Back home, you can count on a trip of 125 km taking a little over an hour at highway speeds. Here, 'highway speeds' are often about 50 km/h, especially through the mountains. So our planned trip of a little over an hour took 3 hours through traffic and very bendy roads. The landscape on the way there reminded me of driving through the Fraser Canyon, except bendier.

Once we arrived, we were treated to a Japanese dinner of epic deliciousness...

Here are the soba noodles with nori (dried seaweed), served on a sushi press...

Japanese fish-sticks. These River Fish were caught that day, gutted, lightly salted, 'stuck', and roasted over a burner. They were very tasty. Even Kelly liked them.

Next to show up at the table were these ebiエビ (shrimp) dipped in tempura and then fried. The green leaves are also dipped into tempura and fried. I can't remember what kind of leaves they are, but they have the word 'beef' in their name. The little round things are Lotus root, again with tempura.

We were also fed chicken, Aussie beef, unagi うなぎ (eel) and, of course, rice. The eel was a first for Kelly and I. We will not be cooking eel on our own, but we ate what we were served. The meat was palatable but the skin was very oily.

After dinner, it was off to the matsuri 祭りor festival.

Selah with Chiemi and Chiemi's childhood friend Shiho.

I will post more about the festival and the rest of our stay later. Cheers.


Mixon's Podcast

Click here to hear Mixon talk about karate.



Taiko or Japanese drumming is very cool.

Click here for some cool video.




I (Kelly) had the opportunity to help new JET ALT's arrive in Tokyo last week. My position was Tokyo Orientation Assistant (TOA) and I learned recently, that about 1000 JETs apply every year and only 125 or so, get the job! That was good for the self-esteem. But, being here with a family, automatically puts me in a "specialized demographic", so they practically jumped at my application for helping out with the Family JETs workshop in Tokyo.
I arrived on Saturday, and the TOA's all stuffed packages for the conference and went on to stay at Narita (Tokyo Airport) Hospitality Inn for one night. Sunday was spent receiving new JETs off planes and leading them through customs and several check points to waiting buses. 1000 new JETs arrived that day! From there we all went to the Keio Plaza Hotel (5 star) for the rest of the time. It is in Shinjuku, Tokyo and right next to the hotel that "Lost in Translation" was shot at. The conference was Monday and Tuesday - full of workshops and ceremonies and exhibitions etc. Wednesday we took the newbies home that were going to our own prefecture. Being from Gifu, we took the bullet train (Shinkansen).
Tuesday evening was Embassy Night. Most countries invited the new JETs to a reception held at their own countries embassy (Except for the Americans...there's too many of them!). Last year I didn't get to go because of a typhoon. All embassy nights were cancelled. So, this year I got to go!

Me, the Canadian Flag and the Tokyo Skyline

Canadian Flag with Tokyo Tower in the background. (Same colours :-) )

The "JET Box". JETs can order this for 2 weeks from the Embassy to teach their classes about Canada.

Etienne, the 2nd Secretary to the Consul-General (or something close to that), at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, welcoming us to Japan.
(later, another official got up to the podium and basically told us that their job was to help us if we got sent to prison here...so be carefull when smoking marijuana! Not even a "don't do drugs". I couldn't believe it!)

"The Wave"
A beautiful sculpture at the embassy.

Another Canadian Flag moment with a wider angle of the Tokyo skyline.

An inukshuk at the Canadian Embassy. (maybe pointing the way to Canada?). The trees behind belong to the grounds of the Imperial Palace where the Emporer lives. Location, location, location! I learned last week that Canada once had an opportunity to sell this building and pay off the national debt 10 times over! Of course, it wouldn't do to slight the Emperor of Japan like that. ;-) Apparently, New Zealand has a good location as well. They sold their tennis court and paid off their national debt!

Tokyo Metropolitin Government Building

These 2 pictures are the top and bottom of the same building. This was the view outside my hotel window at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

After the Embassy Night, some fellow TOA's and I found a little Irish Pub in Shinjuku called "The Dubliners". What a hoot. I listened to a Brit and a Scot hurl insults at one another (good-naturedly, of course) till the wee hours of the morning.
The girl on the left was in the Royal Navy and drove a frigate before coming to Japan.
Laura, salutes to you for cleavin' a yacht in two! Unbelievable! :-)

Word of the day

af-flu-en-za n.
1. An epidemic of stress, overwork, shopping and debt caused by dogged pursuit of the American (Canadian?) Dream.

2. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from one's efforts to keep up with the Joneses.

3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth


Bikes that haul...

Here is an Xtracycle loaded with $250 worth of groceries from Costco.

On the way to a weekend festival...

This one has three 50 lb bags of thinset concrete and 5 gallons of mortar mix.

On coming home...

I know it is a year away, but it seems that Kelly and I often find ourselves thinking about what we want our lives to look like when we return to Canada.

The current plan is to set up our life in Kamloops. We do not want to return to the craziness of Calgary (too big, too expensive, too busy...). Kamloops seems like a good-sized city with a reasonable amount of amenities and services available, it is close to Clearwater, where my folks will be setting up their retirement plans...all in all, it seems like a good place to live.

One of the things we want to do is reduce our reliance on cars for transportation. I have heard that Kamloops isn't ideally set up for cycling, but that is our plan right now. The big hurdle has been how to manage the transition from driving just about everywhere to riding just about everywhere.

Well, today I found the coolest bike company that just may have the answer to our needs.

Check out www.xtracycle.com.

Make sure you look at the photo album with pictures of people carrying ridiculously huge loads on their bikes (like hay bales, lumber, a monthly Costco shopping trip, cinder blocks, 2 55 gallon rain barrels...)




Family Podcasts

I have created a site to host some podcasts. The first one is posted now. You can find it here.

This particular message is directed at Grammas and Grampas, but is fairly generic. Hopefully we will be able to post more...



Hanabi 花火= Fireworks

This is Selah's friend/classmate/next-door neighbor, Sara and her mom in their yukatas. They are heading out to see the fireworks...

'Hana' is "Flower" and 'Bi' is "Fire".
Every summer in Japan is Fireworks time. On Saturday evening we went to the local Fireworks show. They use the riverbed as it is the largest open space for gathering a ton of people. The river also has a system of dykes and there are roads that run along the top. So they closed the road to cars and we all brought picnic tarps and lined the road along the river to watch. The display lasted about an hour. I think if one gets close to the action there is a story &/or music to go along with them. A friend of ours actually got burnt by a piece of falling debris!
The Hanabi no Nagaragawa is a night to see and be seen. The Japanese come out in Yukatas (summer kimonos). Last year, one of the first events we attended was the Nagara River Fireworks. It was right in Gifu city below the castle on mount Kinka. The crowd was way different. More single young people. Saturday past, we went to a smaller version on the Ibi river and it seemed to be mostly families and definitely less crowded.

All the camera handiwork is Selah's...

All I Want for Christmas is My 2 Front Teeth

The other one is out! Isn't she cute? The Tooth Fairy seems to know how to get to Japan now. She made it the first night this time!