Friday, March 15, 2019

Mostly Spring in Northern Japan part 1

I don't  have any idea what is going on but for the second
time this whole blog entry has disappeared! We need a
miracle to get it back!

If you remember when the last post ended Florrie's sister
Joanne and her husband Alan were visiting from the states.
We had all just watched the Yabusame practice. We're going
to share some of our adventures but not try to put them in any
particular order.

On the map below you can see the Aomori Prefecture which is
where we live. Misawa is the dark bit on the map.

Image result for misawa aomori map

One day we decided we would take a drive all around what
looks like a hatchet head but is actually the Shimokita Peninsula
Our hope (especially Joanne's) was that we would see some of the
wild monkeys that live on the Sea of Japan side (Tsugaru Strait, on the
map) side of the peninsula. We were driving along when all of a
sudden Alan exclaimed, "Monkeys!" and there they were! We
stopped in the middle of the road and took pictures. There were
babies but as soon as we stopped the adults gathered them up
and took off so we didn't get pictures. Still, it was quite exciting.
I always enjoy seeing any type of creature.

We continued our trip as we wanted to show Joanne and Alan the
cliffs of Hotokegaura. This is an eerie but beautiful place along
what would be the blade of the hatchet if this area was really a
hatchet. You can read a little about the place here.

Do you see the octopus? Joanne took that picture, we
hung out and watched it for a while.

These pictures are actually from a different visit to the
cliffs but I wanted to show the little shrine in a cave we 
passed on the way down and the other one inside a building 
down among the cliffs.                                  

 Pretty much anywhere you go in Japan you see rocks
with messages engraved on one or two sides. Chris and 
Florrie never know what they say and I'm a quiet fellow 
so I never tell. 

Alan was determined to at least put his toes in the Sea of Japan!

More places we saw on the trip around the hatchet.

The fish and fist are a sculpture in the town of Oma 
which is at the very tip of the hatchet, and the northernmost 
point of Honshu Island. The fat naked creature is a tanuki 
who is very important in Japanese folklore; if you are 
interested in learning more about them check out this link

We also saw these boats, one still in use and one retired. 
Can you read the writing on the bottom boat? Florrie, Chris, 
Nemo and I were all here during the earthquake/tsunami/
nuclear disaster. Florrie and I both posted blogs about our
experiences. If you'd like to read them you can check out 
this old post and this one.

Another day we drove south and checked out the Tanesashi
Coast, as you can see it is another beautiful place. I 
understand why Florrie wants to live on the coast when 
she retires. I don't like to brag but isn't the world an 
amazing place! The Tanesashi Coast is a beautiful area
south of Hachinohe; there is a five km trail which we did not 
walk because we had a busy day planned. Florrie has walked
it before and hopes to walk it again..

In Hachinohe we had a sake tasting and brewery tour. You are 
warned not to eat natto before going on one of these tours. 
For many people, especially non Japanese, that is not a problem. 
Natto is ferment soybeans. It is very sticky and has a taste many
people find troubling. In fact, if you want to see a reenactment
of Tom Hanks eating caviar in Big just give natto to someone
who has never had it before. The reason you don't eat natto
before the tour is because the kojikin (koji mold) used in 
the steamed rice that is goes into making sake is very delicate 
bacteria and the bacteria in natto overpowers it.

A cedar ball, or sugidama, is how you identify a sake brewery. A fresh sugidama is put outside the brewery when new sake is brewed. As the leaves gradually brown they show the age of the sake.

The top floor was a little sake making museum. Below are the women who helped with our tasting and tour. When we decided it would be fun to add a drop of the water the sake was made with to the sake (like you do with whiskey) they joined in on the tasting.

We also took an overnight trip to Aomori which is
a city north of Misawa. On the way we stopped at
the big Buddha.

He is the Great Showa Buddha of Seiryuji. This statute is actually the tallest bronze seated statue of the Buddha in Japan. We were able to go inside the Buddha and the Seiryu-ji Temple to see some exhibits and to explore the grounds,  which were lovely and tranquil.

Working on this disappearing blog makes Florrie
wish she could go back to the Zen garden at on the 
temple grounds. 

Because there was no miracle, and this post has 
been so troublesome, and this is the last picture 
posted the second time the whole blog disappeared,
I am going to post now even though we are still 
in the middle of our adventures with Joanne and 
Alan. I'll try to finish later today or next weekend 
but this is not a promise. Until then 
じゃあまたね (Ja matane or see you later)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mostly Winter in Northern Japan

As promised we are back to let you know how the bento box full of good luck food worked; we did not fulfill the part about doing it by the end of March. It's a good thing I'm only a bobble head Jesus and not the real thing. or there would be a lot of disappointed people in the world. The good luck bento box mentioned in our last post was delicious and so far we have had pretty good luck this year.

Because we are in Northern Japan our year started out with snow and cold. My friend Florrie was able to enjoy the cold and cross-country ski again.

One cold day this bird offered the perfect photo opportunity.

2018 started out with some fun music opportunities.

We watched our friend Wada perform in both January and February. In January he proudly wore the Route 66 shirt Chris sent him after we left Japan in 2011. In February he played at some crazy bar in Misawa. We also saw a jazz musician at Wada's restaurant and at the Misawa International Center we were treated to a performance of Koto.

Speaking of the International Center we also had a lesson in making Mochi; a pounded rice ball traditionally eaten in a soup at New Year's. It is very chewy!

There is always good food to be had in Japan and it's especially nice when you share it with friends. There was a bouillabaisse festival in Hachinohe; our friends Yasu, Yuri and Mana invited us to check out the special menu at one of the local restaurants. It was very good, but Florrie and Chris think Japanese food is better.

We also checked out this restaurant that looked kind of dumpy on the outside but had a marvelous view and ok food.

We increased the food related fun when we invited our friends over for a special dinner. Mana asked permission to bring a friend so there were four guests.
Here we are preparing the foods for the finger sandwich contest. Yesu made the Elvis sandwiches, the girls prepared the peanut butter and banana, peanut butter and pickles, and another sandwich with peanut butter, apricot jelly and something else. The rest of the adults made the cream cheese and salmon, Italian cream cheese, and ranch cream cheese sandwiches. It was great fun; one of the cream cheese sandwiches was the winner. After eating we played a rousing game of Yahtzee which easily translates into Japanese as Yahtzee!

Later we decided to spend a weekend in Morioka where we wanted to see the 500 Buddhas at the Hoonji Temple and check out the handicraft village. Above are some of the sights along the way. Nemo is always happy when we go to the ocean and I was looking forward to meeting fellow holy people. Here is a small sampling of the many Buddha's and other interesting spots at the Temple.

The handicraft village was also fun. Nemo and I met some fans, we played with toys and we all learned to make homemade ramen and traditional Japanese cookies.

I was not surprised that there was no Gideon's bible in our hotel room. Here is what we found instead.

The end of March ( and supposedly the beginning of spring) was an exciting time here. Florrie's sister Joanne and her husband Allen came to visit! This is the second time they have visited us, they also came when we lived in Italy the first time. We were all so excited to see them! We couldn't wait to introduce them to real ramen.
Their first night here Florrie and Joanne took a walk around the block to see a few local sights.

We also all went to a bigger shine a few towns away. Here are the guys properly praying at the shrine. First you purify yourself, that is what Chris is doing then you can follow the steps to pray which is what Allen is doing. The big guy is enjoying the sake left for him.
Do you see the fat happy guy, he reminds us of Bacchus who Florrie thinks of as the party god.
There was a museum at the shrine; we all enjoyed this Ninja Star Wars scene!

Every October and April an event called Yabusame takes place in this region. Florrie and Chris love this event and wanted to share it with Joanne and Allen but they there were here at the wrong time. Florrie and Chris were determined and undaunted and were able to find out where they practice. The first day we drove up to the farm unannounced and happened to run into the owner. She was thrilled that we were all interested in this exciting sport; and when she found out that Joanne and Allen were visiting from American she had to give Joanne a gift; a purse she had made out of an old kimono. Florrie's brother, who recently moved to Georgia, will be happy to hear that the reason Ayuko (the owner) wanted to give Joanne a gift is because she had just returned from giving a Yabusame exhibition in Georgia and had been treated wonderfully by the American's she'd met there. Of course, I do always say that you can find more good people then bad everywhere in the world. Sometimes it can be a job to find them but they are there. Here are Joanne and Ayuko.
 The next day when we went for practice we brought Ayuko and her crew gifts; cakes. Most Japanese houses either don't have ovens or have small fish ovens. If you think about Japanese food there is not a lot of baking or roasting going on. Cakes are a real treat for the Japanese, but not with that disgustingly sweet frosting many people like. Everyone enjoyed the cakes and we enjoyed the practice. Not only did we get to watch stance and shooting practice; we got to meet the master Yabusame teacher of the Tohoku region! It was an exciting and fun time for all!

When they have the exhibition they all wear elaborate outfits, you will see those later. For now I am going to say good-bye. There will be another post (hopefully soon) so I can catch you all up on the rest of Joanne and Allen's visit and the rest of our spring. There is a chance you will actually see the post before next winter. Until then sayonara from Northern Japan.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Jesus and Nemo move again!

Hello friends, that's right, we have moved again, we are back in Misawa, Japan! We even brought our friends Chris and Florrie with us, they have been hoping to make it back here.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Japan Misawa is in the Aomori prefecture on the northern end of Honshu Island which is the biggest Japanese Island.

We have actually been here since the end of August and are all settled in now. We have gone on some adventures with Chris and Florrie since arriving. The last few days of August were spent recovering from a very hectic summer that involved leaving Italy to visit the states, going back to Italy to pack out, and then flying to Japan.

September involved visiting many of our old haunts and introducing them to friends from Sicily who also transferred here this school year. We took them to Hachinohe so that we could show them around our favorite fish market. On the way we stopped at this crazy eclectic place called Slow Base.

 Here is the fish market.

As you can see there are many kinds of seafood
at the market. Chris had some uni which is one of his favorite things. Nemo is always a little
stressed when we go to the fish market. He thinks the world should go vegetarian. A vegetarian, does not eat fish, that would be a pescetarian.

We also introduced our friends to one of our favorite shrines in Hachinohe. Florrie always prays for world peace at any religious place in whatever the religion may be. She figures even if it doesn't help it probably doesn't hurt. I think world peace would be a good thing too, but it will take more than prayers to get it.


In October we decided to drive around the "axe head" of Japan in hopes of seeing the snow monkeys that live there.
On the way we saw seaweed and rice drying.

We also got to watch the rice straw being fed through the thresher.

As we continued around the axe head we came
across some beautiful views and a monkey trap!
Nemo and I checked it out but we were a little
leery of Chris and Florrie; we have been jailed
in assorted locations from Guantanamo Bay to
Europe and now Asia.

And, yes! We did see monkeys! Nemo and I really wanted to hang with them but Chris and Florrie were worried about having to chase monkeys through the woods to get us back.  

As we continued driving we were delighted at some of the views.

We saw this place and just had to stop and check it out.

It was long way to the bottom but we couldn't
resist going down. That was the easy part,
coming back up was not fun.

There was a shrine in a little cave on the way down.
The area reminded us all of Cappadocia in Turkey,
except there was no water in Cappadocia.

We all wished we could have had a ride on that boat.

In October we got to revisit one of our favorite
activities from when we were here before,
Yabusame, or shooting arrows from horses.

This man was practicing before his turn.

 And, this is the parade between rounds.

Here we are hoping to get an autograph.

One of the competitors.

You can see the arrow speeding towards the target.

 We ended October with Japanese friends that
we have known since our first time in Misawa.
This is Mana, when she was five she was
Chris's sous chef, now she is 13 and has stepped
back into that role.

November found us enjoying the Salmon Festival, where we got to watch our ramen being made from start to finish. 

We tried two different kinds and couldn't decide which we liked better, they were both so good. We gave thanks for our food by saying itadakimasu.

There was also the excitement of watching crowds of people trying to catch salmon in a giant wading pool. It was not catch and release, it was catch and take home for dinner.

We enjoyed our day at the port; as some of you may know I have an affinity for fishermen and Nemo is always happy to be at the ocean

Those of you who were with us when we last lived here may remember the giant creations we enjoyed visiting. This seems to be some guy who just enjoys making these creatures in his driveway.

Over Thanksgiving break we took a trip with our friends from Sicily,
We spent our first night in a town called
We spent the next nights in Aizuwakamutsu (Florrie just loves this name) where we had lots of fun
playing cards,


 and checking out this thatched roof village from the Edo period.
Hopefully there will be a more detailed post about this later.

 In December our household goods arrived from Sicily. This is the best view from our house here. No Mt. Etna, palm trees  quaint fishing villages, or Med but there is a palm frond from our front yard in Sicily on our fence. There are also oars, demijohns from Gaeta, and fish floats from Japan.

On December 31, 2017 our friends Yasu, Yuri, and Mana came over to help us celebrate the New Year. This is a bento box full of special New Year's food. Each one has a special significance.

We will let you know how well the bento box of special
New Year's food went; we'll catch you up at the end of March.
Florrie's sister and brother in law will be visiting us the end of March,
we expect to have a fun Spring Break with them.

Sayonara and Peace to all.