Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rice Harvesting Trip: Day One!

Last weekend we went on another study trip.  This was our first experience with harvesting rice, and it was great!  We stayed at a hotel overnight and took in some sights the next day, but I have about a bazillion photos so I will split this into two posts. 

I also just got home from a day long festival at a local elementary school, so I need to get moving and get these posts up.  Too many photos, so little time!

To begin the trip we were whisked away to a rice paddy that was among many of the terraced fields in the countryside.  The view was stunning!


This is a photo of the rice fields before being harvested. 


This was one of our wonderful hosts.  Here he is giving us a demonstration on how to use the sickle to properly harvest the rice.  Rice holds great importance in Japan so the technique to harvest it was quite specific.  The way you hold the stalks and cut them specific.  You are not supposed to saw the stalks but make a quick cut across the bases. 


The stalks then had to be placed in piles.  This was to prepare for putting them through the machine that would separate the grains from the stalks.

Here are some pro rice harvesters in action.


This rice in this paddy was planted in spring by the JTW class from last year.  We will return here in June and plant new rice for next year’s students to harvest.


A close up of the top of the stalks.  You can see the small rice grains still encased in the husk.  They will be husked and cleaned elsewhere.


Yes, I really did harvest rice.  Tash and I decided to get matching rice harvesting hats.  Not only were we “super fashionable” but it was quite handy for the blaring sun.


Below, our field almost completely harvested.  I was asked by one of the farmers to walk around and pick up every single stray stalk.  No rice is to be wasted.  It took a while, but we finally had every one!


This young fellow was out playing near our field.


His partner in crime, inspecting his catch.


This little guy was found wandering around the rice paddy.  We came across quite a few squiggly things while down there. 


Joel waiting to place his rice bundle into the separating machine.  He was a great rice harvester!


The bags of separated rice grains we collected.  We harvested quite a lot!


The completely finished paddy.  Looks great!  The machine to the right was what separated the grains from stalks.


After our hard work the farmers treated us to an unbelievable meal.  Beginning with a toast!


We ate some of the most delicious meats and veggies, all grilled by our group.  Well, mostly by Maylene (in the ASU sweater), the super grill expert.  It was amazing!!!  Definitely the best (and biggest) meal I have had since coming to Japan!


After the meat came the yakisoba.  They fried the noodles right over the barbecue as well.


I thought you might enjoy a shot of the neat footwear the farmers wore.  I wish we got to try them out!  Might have made walking around in the mud a bit easier.


Another friendly creature we came across.  Yikes!


Stomachs full and bodies tired, our next stop on the trip was a ceramics park.  The architecture here was really interesting.  For a few hours I really didn’t feel like I was in Japan.  It was also eerily empty…so somewhat strange to wander around. 


This building was beautiful!



We then got to make some handmade pottery of our own!  Apparently it will arrive glazed and fired in about three weeks time.  Let’s hope it turned out well.  Mine is the ugly one on the far right.  Yeah, not pretty.  Tash definitely won the prize for best pottery with her curvy bowl!


Wandering around the deserted park…



I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this little guy.  Everything, I mean EVERYTHING, has a cute face in Japan.  Everything.


After crafting some pottery we were then taken to our hotel.  It was a traditional Japanese style hotel.  This is my room, shared with another student.  While out for dinner this table was moved by the staff and two futon beds were placed on the tatami floors.  I’m such a wimp and have a hard time sleeping on them, but it was a great time nonetheless! 


We actually didn’t have these toilet slippers, they were in a different room, but too cute so I had to steal a photo.  The kitty in the middle is my favourite.


I also had to show you the tiniest and cutest TV remote in the entire universe.  Behold its cuteness!


We then had dinner in the main dining area.  Another amazing meal! 


Unfortunately I took this photo before the rest of the dishes came out.  The space is missing a big bowl of veggie and shrimp tempura and a bowl of rice.  This meal was fantastic!


We cooked the meat and veggies over this.  So yummy!


This was probably the most interesting part.  I admit I did not try the fish eggs, but I sampled the purple cube.  It tasted sort of like sweet potato!  I honestly have no clue what it was, if anyone knows please let me know.


Finally, it was time to relax…with another onsen (hot spring)!  I was able to sneak a photo of the inside onsen and shower area, but there was also an onsen outside through the sliding doors.  The outside onsen was really lovely, and all stone, but holy cow it was hot!


And these are the nice yukatas we were given to wear around.  Traditionally yukatas were also worn to sleep, but lazing around before and after onsen in these was most popular!


Of course I had to end with me in pj’s, how could I resist. 

This trip will continue in another blog post but I don’t want to overwhelm you with too many more photos at once!  I will try my best to catch up this week, but the school workload has jumped up with the start of Japanese classes so my free time is usually spent passing out in bed. 

Hope everyone is doing well at home, and keep in touch!



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nom, nom, nom…Part Two

The next update in the food series.  I have been low on funds so my options have been somewhat limited lately, so hopefully I will have better food photos to show off when I have more money to spend on it!

The following intrigued me one day at the grocery store, so I had to buy one just to see how good (or bad) they were.  It’s your very own soft-serve swirl cone to eat at home!

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As you can see it is even placed atop a traditional style cone.    But not just any traditional cone, it’s a Deluxe Cupcake Sunny Cone.

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First impressions…the vanilla half was very airy and really not satisfying.  The chocolate half was actually good and had a fairly rich chocolate flavour, and wasn’t nearly as air-filled as the vanilla.  But, the cone.  Oh the cone.  It was a bummer, too soggy.  But in fairness, I guess it would be difficult to maintain it’s crunchiness while sitting in a freezer for who knows how long.

Next we have my first trip to McDonald’s.  I feel some sort of sick guilt going into a McDonald’s here, but I did it anyway.  I really wanted to see how it compared to home.  And as you may guess, it was almost identical!  I had a double cheeseburger and small fry.  The cheeseburger was almost exactly the same, but the burger patties had a bit more pepper on them.  Fries, identical.  Although, they did come with this handy ketchup packet that I’ve never seen before.  Apparently they have these in the UK and elsewhere, so perhaps Canada is just behind the times.

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I also decided to try the McFlurry.  As some of you may or may not know, I am somewhat of a McFlurry connoisseur.  That’s probably not something to be proud of, and most definitely had something to do with the extra pants size happening before I left, but gosh darn they are just too good, I can’t help myself.  So saying goodbye to my self control once more, I decided to partake here in Japan.

First impressions…they come in one size and one flavour.  Perhaps this is different at other locations?  I took this shot to give you some perspective of the cup size.  This is next to a “medium” Japanese McDonald’s drink, which is actually just a teeeensy bit taller than the “small” size in Canada. 


The cup was short and stubby (as was the mixing spoon), fairly wide, and there was about one to one and a half inches of space at the top that wasn’t even filled with ice cream.  Stingy server or normal style?  I suppose I will have to sample more to find that answer out.  Oh darn.  But on to the taste…the cookies were the same, but the soft-serve was definitely not.  I can only liken it to something like Cool Whip…you know that oil-based producty taste?  Believe it or not, the Canadian soft-serve actually tastes more like real cream-based ice cream whereas the Japanese one tasted quite synthetic.  One positive is the price, only 190yen.  And I suppose another positive for my waistline is that it wasn’t amazing so I won’t be running back anytime soon.  Phew.

Next a couple randoms. 

First, this was the dessert selection at the buffet we went to for the Welcome Party.  They had self serve soft-serve, which was probably my favourite.  You could decorate it with fruit sauces and sprinkles, it doesn’t get much better than that.  And those tiny cakes were tasty!  The bottom right one had Oreos on top, mmmm.  All around it was a great meal, I really should have taken photos of the main course dishes.  Go figure, Carey only taking pictures of desserts.  Surprised?

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And finally, this is more to suffice anyone worrying about my illness (mom, I’m looking at you).  I am actually attempting to get a decent intake of vitamin C by eating tiny oranges daily and drinking this lovely beverage!  It is carbonated… but really tasty.  Unfortunately because my camera decided to focus on the corkboard behind, you can’t see that is contains 50 lemons worth of vitamin C in every can!  Although, I’m sure it’s packed with sugar, but luckily I can’t read the Japanese nutritional contents very well, so I’ll just pretend it’s not bad for me.


That’s all I have for now in the way of food!  We are going on a rice harvesting trip this weekend and have been told this includes some delicious barbeque, so I hope to get some photos of more wonderful things!  Apparently I am also going to attempt to make pottery on this trip, so let’s hope all that practice as a child pays off.  And we have to bring shoes that we don’t mind getting muddy for wading around in the rice paddies.  I don’t deal well with nature or mud so this will be veeeery interesting.  I’m going to hit up my local discount cheapy cheap store Box Town to try and find a cheapo pair of mud-friendly shoes.  Wish me luck!

Until next time, toodles!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Uminonakamichi Koen

(You are warned, this is very long, lots of photos!)

Today was fantastic!!  Some of the Japanese tutors took us to Uminonaka Koen.  It was an amaaaaazing park surrounded by the ocean.  I stole this photo from the Internet (don’t kill me) as you have to see how gorgeous this area is.  Wow!  Please click this photo so you can see the original size.  Notice the ferris wheel on the left side, this will come up later, but I’m pointing it out now to give some perspective.

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This is the map of the park grounds.  You can also get an idea of the layout of the peninsula. 

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Tash and Mayu being sheepish.  Very charming.

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So…Fukuoka has the biggest spiders ever!  Ok, maybe not ever, but bigger than I’m used to.  And they are everywhere!  YUCK.  This sucker was about 2 inches long from leg to leg.  /shudder

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We first went to the zoo section of the park.  Technically it was called the Zoological Garden on the map.  It was filled with amazing animals, and you could walk around with a lot of them.  Very zoological.  As opposed to zoo-illogical…?  Hm…

This handsome fellow was less than thrilled.  Also, all the animals had their own name tags, very cute.

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This was one of the three monkey islands in the Zoological Garden area.  Three!  They were truly amazing and disgustingly cute.  I could have stayed and watched the monkeys all day.

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Ugh, look at that curly tail!  So cute it just makes me want to jfkjdflsdakdfj@#@!?.

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We then came upon the “petting zoo” area.  The kids could ride these ponies, but only if sporting a cowboy hat and scarf.  Very western, and cute, of course.

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This little boy was definitely enjoying giving this piggy a tummy rub.  Well it was more a tummy smack, but I’m sure his tiny hands didn’t do much harm.  Very cute.

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Now you may be wondering, what are there adorable children waiting for in their bright orange aprons?

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Guinea Pigs!!  The littlest girl in the pink hat eventually started crying.  She wasn’t too thrilled with her guinea pig.  He didn’t seem to mind though.

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Then we came upon monkey island number two.  This was my favourite of the monkey islands.  CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW CUTE THESE ARE?!  Seriously.  I almost died of cute overload at this point.  After today, I am fully convinced that all things cute originate and cluster in Japan.  This whole country is unbelievably cute. 

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They were drinking water with their little hands.  SO CUTE.

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And on to the goats.  I couldn’t tell if this guy was sleepy or giving me the winky winky eye.  I liked his loner style though.

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Check out their sweet beards.  Very beardy.

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These guys were very neat!  What are they??  They looked like a cross between a rabbit and a dear.  A dabbit?  A rabear?

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He was definitely striking a pose.

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And then the kangaroos.  Can you believe this guy?  Just laying around…awww he thinks he’s people.

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Is it me or do they appear permanently annoyed?

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This one is for Hugh.  Sorry, I couldn’t get the camera to focus properly due to the cage.  Silly point-and-shoots. 

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And these photos are for me!  Yes, I love tiny dogs.  Go on, hate me.  But look at how cute they are!  Also please note the ruffled blue and white striped dress cute puppy on the far right is sporting.  We were able to enjoy sitting near these dogs while we had our lunch.  I really wanted to steal one.

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The tiny black guy on the right was my favourite.  The one on the left I called Scrappy.  He was really into putting on a show by kicking up dirt with his hind paws.

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And now for a bathroom shot.  I just got a kick out of this child seat.  It was in the stall with the toilet I used.  I thought it was pretty clever.  Perhaps I just don’t get out much.

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And now onto the flower garden.  Another wow.  This was breathtaking!  I couldn’t choose which photos to post therefore you are stuck with quite a few.  This was one of my favourite parts of the park.

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These were very cool.

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So you can see how gianormous they were.

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Yay for flowers!

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Now on to the amusement area.  These giant inflatable rolly-on-water thingers looked very fun!  They had multiple children inside for extra excitement.

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And the amazing ferris wheel!  It went super slow so they could continuously load new passengers on as the cars passed underneath.  Clever.

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Proof that I actually went on this ride.  It was extremely tall, and a bit scary actually.  But the view was incredible!

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I was trying to get a good shot of the surrounding ocean, but it’s hard to see in the photos.

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The other half of our group.  Hello!

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View of another flower park.  See the rabbit?

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New addition to my family….Sheepy-chan.  I couldn’t resist her, so she came home with me, and is now watching my while I type up this blog.  I suppose that could sound creepy if she wasn’t just do darn cute!  I would like to note that the tag she came with just had the word CUTE on it in rainbow letters.  Seriously.

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And now for the highlight of the day.  NARUTO.  These cosplayers were doing a photo shoot in the park and were kind enough to let us wacky gaijin (foreigners) take photos with them.  Can you tell how excited I was?  Oh yeah, super dorky.

*EDIT* Being reminded that these folks didn’t want photos posted, I have just altered it so you can’t tell who it is.  Sorry!  If you want to see the real one you’ll have to come visit me.  Or wait until I’m back home.

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And this concludes an amazing day!  Thank you to all the wonderful tutors that treated us to an unforgettable time.  I hope to go back again sometime and explore the rest of the park that we didn’t see.  Admission was free today, but apparently it’s only 400yen normally, and it’s not far to ride our bikes there from the dormitory.  And then you can bike around the park!  It’s huge so that idea sounds pretty good.

Speaking of bikes…I guess I should show you my sweet ride.

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And since almost all the students have purchased the same bike, I have decorated mine to distinguish it from the others.  With polka-dot cupcake stickers, of course. :3

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And as it seems every time I post these blog entries, it’s now dinner time!  So that’s it for now, folks.  I have a couple food photos I want to post, but will wait until I collect a few more interesting food items to share.

Until then….