Friday, October 30, 2009


A couple of weekends ago Gareth and I went on a bike ride to nearby Izumi Park Town to investigate the ubiquitous outlet mall, and with the small hope of discovering a Finnish Cafe we had seen advertised on television.

Oh so happy!
Not only did we find the cafe, but we stumbled upon a small (yet mighty) Moomin display!
There was a large variety of moomin wares for sale, including imported Finnish biscuit cutters, cake tin and Hattifattener tongs (now all safely in my possession). Numerous small and large model moomins everywhere -- and a delightful moominhouse with hiding creatures. Look how delighted Gareth is.

There were moomin biscuits, lollies and even sugar cubes. sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet
And as the Japanese never miss a photo opportunity -- a large painted backdrop with 3D Snufkin, Moomin and My. Chiizu!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ready go, let's go Sendai!

We went and checked out a bit of J-soccer on Sunday. Our local side Vegalta Sendai's home stadium is only 10 minutes' walk from our place, and the team is well known for having super-supportive fans. Vegalta were playing Consadole Sapporo, from Hokkaido, and after a Sapporo team beat Sendai's baseball team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, the night before, the crowd were hungry for a little payback.

In fact, the crowd were very nearly the best thing about the experience. The wall of yellow-shirted fans sang, chanted, waved giant flags and whirled their scarves around non-stop for 90 minutes, singing altered versions of "Take Me Home, Country Roads", "Blitzkrieg Bop", "I Was Made For Loving You" and "We're Not Gonna Take It", complete with chroeographed hand actions. Brilliant.

Vegalta won 1-0 thanks to a nice touch from super substitute Yakahara Takayuki, although both teams blew several great opportunities to score. Still, lots of chances means an exciting game, and we won, so we were pretty happy.

Highlights are on Youtube! (Is there nothing the internet can't do?)

Vegalta are sitting in second place on the J-League second division table, with the top three teams to be promoted to div one automatically at the end of the season (with only four games still to play). With West Ham currently wallowing in the depths of the English Premiership table, at least I'm supporting one successful team...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Another festival, another tasty creature barbecued on a stick. This time, a fish, whole!

Delicious! (Did not eat the face.)

This was at the Miyagi Produce Festival, which was a festival in name but basically just a glorified farmers' market. We got some sweet deals on a few vegetables, which are generally pretty expensive in the supermarket, so it was worthwhile. The festival also promised a dairy section, which was temporarily exciting, however the only cheeses on offer were the same processed slices you get at the supermarket, and camembert. For some reason camembert is really popular in Japan while other cheeses are shunned completely. Weird, right?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Homestay in Rifu -- part two

After the stadium we were rushed off to a lovely Rifu orchard to pick nashi pears. The Japanese are all about different places being "famous" for things, and apparently Rifu is famous for its pears. They were indeed delicious, and although we were only allowed to pick two each...

... my mad peeling skills earned third place in a pear-peeling competition and we got an additional two pears to take home as a prize.

We put them to good use too, baking a pear pie in our friend and neighbour Jill's oven (we don't have one, you may recall) for an Izumi picnic a few days later.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. At the orchard we met our host family for the weekend, who apparently do this sort of thing a lot. They had another couple staying with them at the same time, Chong from Singapore and Kimuchi from Japan, who they met through the homestay program years earlier. They had a very cute toddler called Mimi chan.

Our host family were a lovely Japanese couple who insisted we call them Mama and Papa Endo. They threw a really nice dinner party for us and invited some of their friends. Mama Endo spoke really good English, which she learned from listening to American radio stations, and Papa Endo was very patient with our inept fumblings with the Japanese language. Communication was made though, many beers were drunk, and I ate some raw octopus. It was so fun we forgot to take any pictures.

The next day we went to a festival, where we rode the bullet train.

Haha fooled you! That's not the real bullet train! The poor kid behind me copped an elbow to the head just before this photo was taken. I didn't see him get in, and the seats are clearly not meant for tall, oafish foreigners. He seemed okay but I felt pretty bad about it.

After the train we took Mimi to see the Anpanman stage show. Anpanman is a very popular children's cartoon character. He is made of bread, and from what I could tell, fights mildly-evil-doers and dances around a lot. The black and purple thing had some kind of laser gun that turned people into flowers, but Anpanman stopped him. Luckily.

The mayor of Rifu himself guided us to some special seats at the front, and after the show he introduced us to the audience, who clapped politely but ambivalently. We sheepishly escaped as fast as we could.

This is some of the gang. Mama Endo is fourth from the left, next to Mirabel. Papa Endo had to work over the weekend, so, in lieu of a proper portrait, we snapped a picture of a picture. He likes to fish.

They were a very sweet couple and they invited us back sometime. They were so nice!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Homestay in Rifu -- part one

A couple of weekends ago Gareth and I headed north to the delightfully named Rifu Town to take part in a homestay. We chose to be placed in Rifu for two reasons -- firstly it reminded us of sweet sweet summer times in Reefton; secondly it is the home of nashi pears and we were promised picking time.

It takes about an hour to get to Rifu and on the way we were treated to a tour of Miyagi Stadium, famous for its employment in the 2002 Football World Cup.

It smelled like a new sportswear shop. It was immaculate and beautiful, decisive and primary bright colour exciting.

We were not allowed to touch the grass,

but we could run on the track,

and be part of the team! rah!

To be continued...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Holy crap, a huge toad!

So apparently I'm now on a quest to hold every amphibious life form in Japan.

This little giant was hanging out in the middle of the road near our apartment when Mirabel spotted him. We took a couple of photos, then watched in horror as a car emerged out of a driveway and sped straight over the top of him.

Luckily there was no wheel-toad contact, but despite his brush with death, the guy wasn't budging, and we became concerned for his ongoing well-being. So I took it upon myself to relocate him, which unfortunately meant picking him up, since a nudge with the toe of my shoe wasn't cutting it in terms of his motivation.

Toads are gross! Totally warty, cold, slimy and squishy. He looks about as unimpressed as me though. Still, Mirabel and I were heartened upon our return a few hours later to find no traces of "toadkill", so I guess mission accomplished.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

in the window

from a coloured height
drop small festivities
for you, my confection

let's have a parade!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ride around shining

crochet countdown

With two days to go I am only 2 squares behind myself.
Here are the completed 30 that don't quite make up a blanket, but maybe a small human coaster or knee warmer.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

autmn clear

Last week we invited some friends over for pancakes which meant tidy-up time. Happily we can now show you some photos of our briefly spotless apartment.

This is our tiny kitchen, built for one short person.
Gareth smacks his head on the extractor fan above the one gas element weekly.

Take two steps forward and you are in the living room/bedroom. Built for one but cosy for two.

The photo below was taken from the ladder leading up to our loft, which is a romantic name for storage space. Still fun though! If someone comes to visit there is definitely room for a futon.

The weather is getting a bit nippy now so the farmers around us have been harvesting their crops and now the fields lie bare.

Halloween is apparently big in Japan. We appreciate being in the right hemisphere when harvesting is going on and giant pumpkins are in season. The shops are glorious in decorations, and the lollies - oh the lollies.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

tuesday's all tied up

oh woops, only 2! Tomorrow my fingers will fly

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

monday's crochet

only 4 a day? I have to kick it up a notch

Monday, October 5, 2009

meanwhile on the sidelines...

there's always time for a bit of a knit.

Football dreams

On Saturday I played in a Sendai English teachers' friendly, mixed, five-a-side football tournament. Despite my side's middling record of one win, one loss and two draws in group play, we still managed to come second, losing the final to the one team with actual football players in it, which was fair enough. Our team, in phlegm-green kit, was the Japanese Influenza (tank top not author's own, borrowed from team captain Stacey).

Today my legs still ache. "Excercise".

Coffee boss coffee boss coffee boss coffee boss coffee boss coffee boss get off my back

The vending machine, noble distributor of cold drinks, vigilant watchman of the Japanese street corner, great steel monolith of refreshment, eater of yen, destroyer of worlds.

There are vending machines almost literally on every street in Japan, and though I'm yet to see one of the used-panty machines of urban legend (perhaps I'm not hanging out in the right areas of Sendai?), I have gotten to know the drinks kind pretty well. I'm particularly taken by the Suntory Coffee Boss.

Look at the strong jawline, the stern brow, the world-weary creases of his face, the jaunty angle of his pipe. Like a wonderful splice of Ernest Hemingway and Cary Grant, the Coffee Boss exudes a classic manliness from his shiny, cobalt, caffeinated pores. Truly, he is the boss of them all.

One quite interesting thing is that companies like Suntory and Asahi makes all sorts of drinks, not just the alcoholic kind. Suntory, for example, does whisky, beer, RTDs, soft drinks, juice, coffee, tea, water and other stuff too. Although thinking about it, Coca Cola probably does the same thing, just under different names, so maybe it's not that interesting. Maybe it's interesting that the corporations don't feel they have to hide their expansiveness here?

Anyway, the Coffee Boss seems to be promoting the "Rainbow Mountain Blend" (or, in Japanese, "reinboo maunten burendo") right now, with none other than Mr Tommy Lee Jones as spokesman!

He has a certain ruggedness which I now associate with the masculine flavour of a smooth Coffee Boss coffee. Actually, Beyonce is plastered on a brand of water at the moment too. I like that celebrities will endorse any old thing over here because they figure that no one will ever see them selling out as hard as they do -- eh, Mr Beckham?

Anyway, I've tried a few flavours of the Boss and they're all remarkably similar so far: cold, sweet, milky and uh... coffeeish. Pretty good though. I could be an iced coffee convert.

This particular golden-canned variation, the "zeitaku dorippo", or "Luxury Drip", is even embossed with the logo.

EmBOSSED. Genius.


Can I crochet a blanket in 10 days, in time for a picnic? All signs point to impossible - yet I remain hopelessly optimistic!