Well I know I shouldn’t be complaining (what with half the UK underwater at the moment), but I’m bored of snow. We’ve had it here for 3 months now, there was a wonderful moment when it almost went away a few weeks ago but it’s STILL HERE! I love snow, but this is just ridiculous…Tokyo had snow the other day, for the first time in years, and it just ground to a halt – very reminiscent of the UK. It also happens to be cold, very cold. However, I can’t complain too much – it’s National Foundation Day here in Japan, so I get a loverly day off (^^)
Now, the main point of this entry, apart from bemoaning the cold, was to talk about the festival (I know, another one) that I went to at the weekend. This one was called the ‘Namahage Sedo Matsuri’ (yes, our old friends the Namahage) and was to take place up in Oga – in the North of the prefecture where we went to see the original Namahage performance.
The idea of the festival is that the Namahage come down from the mountain (flaming torches in hand), do some dancing/drumming, grant some wishes, scare some kids and then go back up into the mountain.
All the while, it was snowing (annoying for taking pictures and general warm-ness) and we hung around a huge fire (nice and toasty). So it was a combination of hair freezing and ashes, but definitely fun!
The bit I wanted to see the most was the Namahage dance, I only got a side view but it was still pretty cool. We had to kneel down in the snow (since we were in the first few rows), so we had cold knees by then end of it, but I felt most sorry for the Namahage. They only had straw shoes on (no socks)!
Since the festival took place right next to the Namahage museum, we got to see a number of different costumes that came from different areas and eras:
I think this video of the procession covers the mood of the festival best!
While I thaw out, you can enjoy this 🙂 next weekend I’m heading off to the Yokote Kamakura Festival – what’s that, you ask? Well, it’s lots of these:
So until then, またね！
So my experience literally was fire and ice, both in the same week!
First off, we had a trip to see the Hi-buri Kamakura Festival (this is literally the Kamakura fire-swinging festival) and yes, we were definitely allowed to participate. Imagine, me + fire…..a fantastic combination! It was happening only about a half an hour from the university and as soon as we got there, you could smell that wonderful bonfire smell (which permeated EVERYTHING I was wearing).
The festival itself is to bring good luck for the new year, so it started with a Shinto priest saying some blessings over an alter filled with offerings. It seemed very sombre (and bloody freezing) and was only offset slightly by the fact that, under that traditional costume, the priest was wearing welly boots!
As soon as he was done praying, they moved the altar away and set fire to the pyre behind it – it was spectacular! People threw all their old fortunes and new year things onto the fire (to send away the bad luck) and then bales of straw, attached to a rope, were lit from it. You took the straw and swung it around your head for good luck. It’s a lot harder than it looks (I totally didn’t almost set my arm on fire!).
When we were done, we all had a nice cup of local sake to keep us warm (and get a little merry). Then it was back home to stick everything into the wash….seriously, it stunk of bonfire smoke!
The following weekend, while fighting a cold, I had another outing – this time to go ice-skating with some high-schoolers from Akita city. We were supposed to be practicing English with them, but as I seem to be finding, none of them seem very inclined to talk much – we got some conversation done, but it was minimalistic. The more fun part was the ice-skating bit. The prefectural ice rink is HUGE – literally a rugby stadium size of huge!
We all got our boots when we got there – I had to change mine several times to get the right size and even then it was tricky. The boots are not rigid like the ones I’ve worn before…so it was hard on the ankles. However once I was on the ice it all came back to me! We were there for two and a half hours and I didn’t fall over at all! I even managed to pick up some speed!
(I’m holding up the girl behind me at this point!)
Tired and with sore feet, we made our way back to AIU where, an impromptu snow battle began – nobody was spared. Even Dr Ashmore (who happened to be at the bus stop) joined in! I ended up in a dog-pile face down in snow at one point! It was brilliant fun!
(by the way, us lot on the back row are standing on about a foot of snow)
Oh…and this happened:
So until next time: またね！
It’s finally over! I have survived Hell week (parts 1 and 2) and have now finished my first term at Akita International University! Although it’s been a hellish last few weeks, the last classes have also been good’uns.
There was Japanese class:
Manga mania (and no, I’m not one of them – before you ask):
Bible Study Christmas Party:
This is the wonderful food that Bonnie cooked for us:
(And my Mince Pies)
And then? Then THIS happened….
It started off slowly, just a couple of centimetres….and then it just didn’t stop. I woke up to a thunderstorm last Friday and opened my curtains to the sight of this:
It was at this point, I could justify packing my gaiters 🙂 (until they cleared all the paths and I looked a little foolish). Surprisingly, nobody panicked. There were a few wonderstruck people who’d never seen so much snow before, there were a lot of Japanese women who still decided it would be a good idea to wear heels (seriously?), but there was no one freaking out about how it might stop trains or flights….if there was even half this amount in the UK (well….England), there would be mass hysteria! It was a welcome break….and this is only the beginning! After about a week, it’s starting to melt away, but it’ll be back.
What has annoyed me a little is that, while they’ve been very efficient in clearing the roads, none of the adjoining paths have been cleared….This lead to a little adventure on Monday that possibly wasn’t the best of ideas…
I decided it would be a good day to walk to Wada (about 50 mins normally) to see if I could get some good pictures of the mountains….I didn’t bet on over half way not being cleared, so I had to push through up to a foot of snow! It was a good leg workout, but the number of “stupid gaijin” looks I got from people driving past was priceless!
On another day I went out to get some pictures of the mountains and got some stunning results!
Well, that’s it for now, I’ll have a few Christmas posts in the next few days 🙂
Until then, またね！
This week was fantastic fun (especially for letting my creative juices flow). It was ‘school spirit week’ with a different theme to dress up in each day – admittedly not a lot of people dressed up, but those of us who did had a LOT of fun!
Monday was crazy hat/hair week.
Tuesday was back to front and inside out day (lots of inside out clothes that day)
Wednesday was cross-dressing – a lot of gaijin guys dressing up in dresses with a couple of traps hanging about in there!
Aren’t they beautiful?
Thursday was heroes and villains – Elena and I decided (last minute) to make some avengers costumes because they would be showing the Avengers in the evening. Thanks to Daiso and Uniclo, this what all 3 of us came up with:
Friday was school colours (green and white) and then in the evening there was a ‘decades’ themed disco. It started out like a normal school disco – nobody really dancing and not many people there – but as we got through the 60s and into the 70s more people turned up and we were jamming to Abba, then Queen, Tina Turner, Gloria Gaynor, the Spice Girls, Fresh Prince of BelAir, Survivor, Green Day….you name a nostalgic song, we were there singing and dancing along to it!
I’ve also been having a creative nails week – starting off with some Scottish flags, then some snowflakes (due to the fact that we got more snow on Thursday) and then some patriotic Union flags today:
Oh, and it’s the 1st of DECEMBER!!!! First door of the advent calendar opened today 🙂 It also meant that I had a go at making mincemeat today – it should be ready before Christmas…..
Well, until then またね！
I’m sorry to inform you that winter is no longer coming…..it’s here!!!! The first snow (hatsuyuki) has fallen….and gone again. Literally within the last few days it has rained torrentially, snowed, snowed again, melted (in a rainstorm) and it was both eerily misty and autumn-like sunshine today….you explain that one!
Apart from the snow, I’m sad to say that not many interesting things have been happening lately. Our attempts to celebrate bonfire night ended up being 5 Brits and 1 American sitting in a bar, playing blackjack and drinking hot sake. We also had a Hello Kitty burning on a fake bonfire:
Not bad for being made at a bus stop!
We also had a bit of a cultural experience at the shopping centre nearby. They were celebrating their 10th anniversary and so had a wonderful Namahage performance by a group from Oga (where we went for the other Namahage performance).
All the parents and kids gathered around to see it and we had to laugh when several were dragged away in tears because of the scary Namahage. They are an interesting local deity, part-demon, part-god who are supposed to be good luck. These Namahage actually went around the crowd and shook many hands…
I think I’ll leave you guys with a lovely image that I was faced with this week – a good omen? I’ll let you decide, またね！
Days to go: 28
This final part of my ‘what to pack’ posts is mostly just bits and pieces that didn’t fit into the other categories. However a lot of them aren’t useless!
My little haul includes:
– A little taste of home in the form of my tin whistle and tunes book
– A very useful mini umbrella
– Travel Washing Line (because you don’t always wanna fork out out the dryer)
– Wind-up torch (a useful part of your ‘earthquake pack’ – I’ll do a post on this)
– Gaiters (very handy for when the snows appear)
– Pencil case with combinations of pens/pencils/sharpener (don’t forget this can’t go in hand-luggage)
– Travel Journal (for all those adventure memories you don’t want to forget)
– Condensed textbooks (yup, that’s Genki 1 and 2; Basic Kanji Book 1 and 2 in a notebook each)
– Mini Japanese Dictionary (not my favourite one, but it’s one I’d be able to leave behind if needs be)
On a side note, after all this is weighed up (including the previously mentioned items), I have a grand total of 16.3kg. My limit is 23kg, cue the little ‘happy dance’! Mum says I need to get a bigger suitcase since this fits in with only a little space left…..I’m protesting because my current suitcase is decorated with loads of Studio Ghibli characters…..guess I’m gonna have to start again 😦