Hisashiburini…it’s been a long time since my last post…

You know it’s been a while since you last logged on when you can’t remember your username or password…

First off, we are alive and well despite my 4 month hiatus from blogging.  It’s been a very busy 4 months:

  • Early March is when the school year started to wind down.  We began counting the first “lasts” of 2nd grade and pre-K. 
  • March 26th was Zachary’s last day of school.  It was weird mentally because we don’t normally associate March with endings, so we didn’t quite feel the nostalgia and rush that one tends to experience at the end of the school year.  The other odd thing was that the final week consisted of: Monday-regular day; Tuesday-1/2 day, Wednesday & Thursday-no school due to pre-graduation events and graduation, which only the 5th and 6th graders attend; Friday- 2.5 hours of school
  • March 27- April 7 was spring break. 

JR500We took a shinkansen ride to Hiroshima.

hiro.okonomiyakiAte Hiroshima style okonomiyaki.

uncle.sculptureAdmired Uncle Satoru’s artwork in the lobby of the Hiroshima prefectural office.

hiro.sushiAte the most amazing sushi (mini-hamburger sushi and deep fried eggplant sushi)

hiro.castle(Happily) Explored Hiroshima Castle.  

swim

Came back to Osaka and took some swim lessons at our local pool, which, as always, was so different than the U.S.

sakura

sakura.1

And got to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom at Osaka Castle.

  • April 8th was Zachary’s first day as a THIRD GRADER (yikes!) and Jack’s first day as a KINDERGARTNER (oh boy!).  In Japan, kindergarten is the last grade of pre-school, so the boys don’t attend the same school yet.  But that doesn’t stop them from dreaming of the day next April when they will walk to and from school together and attend Wednesday “gakudō” or after-school activities.
  • April 12th was my 1st day teaching at the vocational college (専門学校).  This semester, I’ve been assigned to an animal college, which is the cutest, yet craziest place ever!  More on that in another post.
  • April 27 – May 6 was 10 days (including weekends) of Japanese holidays strung together.  Typically there are 4 holidays in that time frame: Showa Day, Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day and Children’s Day (go kids!).  This year, with Emperor Akihito abdicating the throne, and the beginning of Emperor Naruhito’s reighn, there were celebrations honoring the new era of Reiwa (令和) in between those set holidays.  Although we were out of the country for most of the activities and celebrations, we did get to see a Children’s Day festival with the carp streamers hanging across a river in a nearby town.

koinobori2

  • May 13th was “家庭訪問” or home visits by the elementary school teachers.  It forced us to do some much needed deep cleaning knowing that Zachary’s teacher would be coming in to discuss 3rd grade expectations with us.  Plus, since we’ve never started a new school year in Japan, we had so many questions for him.  It’s definitely an extra chore on a teacher’s plate, but I completely see the benefits of it.  The teacher can see the state of the home and the dynamics of the parent/child relationship.  I wonder if there’s a way to implement this back in the States….

Things are going well and we are getting into the swing of things.  Both boys went on their first field trips of the new school year: Zachary to the Tempozan Harbor area where he took a ferry ride and went the the Osaka Aquarium and Jack to Itami sky park, where you can view the planes taking off and landing at Itami Airport.  Both boys took public transportation with their classes and staff: both places are about an hour away.  I give much credit to their brave and fearless teachers!

Now that I’ve somewhat gotten used to my new work schedule, I’ll be blogging more often, I hope (with retroactive posts).  Tata for now.  Life is good!

Job Hunting

Can it be really be late February and nary a post from either of us in weeks…months?  Rest assured, we are alive and well and over our bouts of homesickness 🙂

It’s been a busy 2019 so far with Michael’s schedule changing to 10 hour days and my scrambling to find a job before the end of January so Jack can stay at his assigned daycare.  When I went to the Ward Office to register Jack for daycare back in October, I was told once he starts in, I would have 3 months to find a job to retain his spot in the daycare.  Little did I know that the 3 months was actually 1.5 months since he started December 1st and the form declaring my employment status needed to be turned in by January 31st and with no schools operating the last week of December and the first few weeks of January, it shortened what little time I had to find a job.

Most English language schools are looking for 2 things: full-time employees or evening and weekend employees, both of which I am unable to do due to the work visa I hold and the fact that Michael works Saturdays, so I need to be home with the kids.  My time constraints proved to be a challenge finding a company that was looking for weekday morning/early afternoon availability only.  One company asked for a Skype interview in the middle of January.  During the interview they explained they were looking to hire for the new school year starting in April, so they wouldn’t make a decision until the end of February, which was too late for my January 31st deadline.

I had one, in-person interview lined up January 22nd, which only gave 9 days for them to hire me…it looked like I wouldn’t make the deadline after all.  Regardless, I did my best on the written “test”, my demonstration lesson and during the group and individual interview.   To my surprise, they gave me a verbal offer at the end of the interview (thanks Starosky!).  After waiting 2 days for the official offer letter, I approached HR to ask if they could fill out the necessary forms for me to show to the Child Welfare Department to prove I have a job so that Jack can retain his spot at his daycare.  They graciously agreed, but the HR manager’s earliest availability was at noon on January 31st.  No problem, I thought since I could simply turn in the form after the meeting with HR.

The morning of the 31st, I made sure to bring everything: passport, residency card, driver’s license, health insurance card (you never know over here!), Michael’s official hanko seal, and my Osaka City number card (yes, I have been reduced a 23 digit number🤔).  I got there 15 minutes early knowing I needed everything to run on time.  But the extra 15 minutes didn’t help because it took about 2 hours to fill out the paperwork and sign the contract!  By law, the employer has to read aloud the Labor Standards Act (11 two-sided pages in 8 point font!!)  I got the needed documents and looked at the clock: 1:50 p.m.?!?!?  I ran to the metro station, got Z from school and we biked over to the Ward office.

We made it there in record time, ran in, went to the 3rd floor and turned in the paperwork.  We waited as the clerk made sure everything was filled out correctly.  She then brought over the pink guidelines paper and highlighted 45 hours.  I need to have 45 hours of work per month to qualify.  My 28 hour per month contract I signed did not meet the minimum number of hours.  She explained it was possible that Jack would lose his spot at daycare.  She asked if we had family who could care for Jack, perhaps grandparents nearby?  (Any plans to relocate here Gigi and Grandpa?😁)

Fast forward to today–I’ve visited the ward office twice this month for various reasons and I made sure to stop by the Child Welfare Department to check the status of Jack’s daycare situation.  They haven’t given official word that he will lose his spot, at the same time he hasn’t been officially confirmed. I’d like to think they are putting things on pause in hopes of me securing more work soon.  I received many brochures on different types of care settings not subsidized by the government, but that I should check out as well as other kindergartens that are a few kilometers away (am I thinking in the metric system now?!?!), but do have openings.

February has been busy with classroom observations. lesson planning and training, which has kept me quite busy.  I had a 3rd interview on Monday and, fingers crossed, I get the job and this whole dilemma will be behind us soon.  And if not, it will work out the way it’s supposed to.  Life is full of lessons and since moving here, I’m learning to just go with the flow.  Living abroad can be challenging, but it is so worth it.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is on the fence!

Chocolate Run

No, I’m not disclosing my digestive issues here.  I saw an ad back in November about a 10 km run scheduled for mid-January.  I wondered if it was anything like the Hot Chocolate run Karen, Pat and I did last year where, after you cross the finish line, you get a plastic container/mug with a section of melted chocolate, a huge marshmallow and a banana.  After running that 15k on a cold Seattle day, it was the best reward to bite into the warm, chocolate dipped banana.  So when I saw this poster for the SportsOne Chocolate 10k run, I figured I might as well see what this was all about.

The day of the race, I took the subway to Ryokuchikoen (try saying that 3 times fast!) station and walked to the start line from there.  I assumed there would be signs or other runners making their way to the starting line, so I didn’t pay too much attention to the website indicating the specific details of the event.  As I got out of the station, it seemed as though I was the only participant since the park was pretty empty.  Perhaps I got the wrong day, I wondered as I kept searching for any signs of a race.  Finally, toward the other side of the park, I saw a homemade sign pointing runners to a building that had yellow caution tape partway around it.  I imagined it was some sort of trap to capture wayward runners, but the man standing by the building ushering people inside had a “chocorun” shirt on and it looked kind of official.

Before I go any further, if this were back in the States, my spidey sense would have told me to turn around and run in the opposite direction of that guy, but this being Japan, I knew he was legit to point racers in the right direction.  He showed me to an official looking registration table and I could see banners for the 2019 Chocolate Run beside it.  “Onamae wa?” asked the old man behind the table.  He had a small box of racing bibs in front of him.  He found my name, handed me my bib and a bag of meito chocolates.chokorun

Hold on here.  I get the prize at the beginning of the race?  What’s the incentive to actually run now?  And really, just that small bag of chocolates is all I get?  This is nothing like the Hot Chocolate Run back at home.  Here’s what it looked like 5 minutes before the race:

Maybe 40 people total running?  Before the race began, the MC had us do the traditional Japanese thing done before any group competition:  Rajio Taiso.  See Blythe and Mary, there’s a reason I taught my students those exercises! 😂

After rajio taiso stretching, we were asked to get in lines depending on which drink you’d like: coffee, tea, cafe au lait or hot chocolate.  I thought it weird to be drinking a cup just before running, but it was a tad chilly, so I got in the cafe au lait line and when I got to the front, I was given…

a drink ticket to be redeemed on the course at a hot drink station.  Ok, now where to put this ticket while I run?

Finally, the MC asked the 40 of us to head to the start line and we counted down from 10 and off we went when the officiant yelled, “sutaato!” (start!).  I followed the cones out of the stadium to the park, which is massive.  There is a horse riding area, a farmhouse museum, many play structures, bbq pits, gardens, a sports complex and bamboo forest to name a few areas.

I ran about 2k when I turned a corner and came across booths and tents with the chocorun logo on it.  I stopped to look and oh my…forget running!

Each booth had cookies, cakes and chocolate.  I asked if this was the only booth area and the attendant replied in the affirmative, so I took in some snacks and redeemed my voucher for a cafe au lait.  I was a little perplexed as to why they placed the booth at kilometer 2 and not closer to the finish line, but oh well, when in Rome…err Osaka!

I was finally able to tear myself away from all the yummy treats and continue running.  The course rounded a corner and led us back to…the stadium?  It was a bit confusing at first and then it hit me.  We are to run the course 4 times!  Now it made sense why there was only 1 booth area.  But that meant I would pass it 3 more times.  Would I stop each time to grab more chocolate?  Or did I want to make good time, which means passing it up?  Decisions, decisions.  I ended up passing it up twice and on the last lap, I grabbed a cookie and headed for the stadium entrance one last time.  As I approached the finish line, I couldn’t decide if this was something I’d want to run again.  It seemed poorly planned and not well attended.  It definitely was different.  But as I headed for the home stretch, I saw the MC with something in his hand to meet me at the finish line.  A small medal? A charm?  Money?  It was a brownie square on a toothpick.  Sold!  I’m running this again next year.

chocorun7

Cheers to 2019!

It’s hard to believe that it’s 2019.  We’ve been living in Osaka for 4 months now, which is also hard to believe!  As you may have noticed, we haven’t blogged for a few weeks now.  It’s partly due to Michael starting his new work schedule this month, but it’s also partly due to a tinge of homesickness that we’ve been feeling.  I think it has to do with the holidays and feeling so far away from family and friends.  It also stems from minor frustrations that creep up on us, like:

  1. Since Michael is the head of household, all accounts need to be under his name, with his official seal on all documents.  Not a big deal except for when…
    1. I need to make a new account at the co-op for Z’s school–only the head of household can do that during normal business hours when Michael is at work, which means, no account can be made and I need to pay in cash at the office.
    2. We need to transfer money to a bank account back in the States.  There are a few extra forms for Michael to approve before I can send money on his behalf.
  2. When we got our cell phones, we had to sign with the understanding that international calls would be prohibited for 4 months.  Apparently some visitor before us got a cell phone, made tons of international calls, skipped out on the bill and returned back to their country.  Because of that inconsiderate, shifty being, we get penalized.  Now you know why we haven’t called you 🙂
  3. Technically, Michael shouldn’t leave work before his boss leaves.  It’s a seniority and respect thing.  I’m glad his boss is British and overlooks that technicality.
  4. The constant smell of smoke.  Japan has gotten better about creating non-smoking spaces since I last lived here in the mid 90’s, but there is definitely room for improvement.  Even while walking down the street with no smokers in sight, there is that faint smell coming from somewhere.

These minor frustrations coupled with the fact that I can’t get a good burrito anywhere leads us to being a little homesick.  But whenever I see something familiar, it lifts my spirits immediately.  For example:

My mother-in-law is Linda and the boys call her Gigi 🙂

Some family members (Stellar is close enough to Stellan, right?)

Friends

A random montage of things from home.

grocery

I’m not even sure if Mt. RAINIER coffee actually exists back home, but it makes me smile thinking of our former hometown.

I know we’ll keep finding sights that put a smile on our faces.  I’ll be sure to post more as we come across them.  I find gratitude puts things in perspective. I’m truly grateful for our new home, our family and our friends.  Oh, and the amazing food here.  I know for certain that one day I will find that burrito!

Jack’s First Day

The first day of a new school is an emotional roller coaster for not just the student, but for the entire family.  I received a call from the Child Welfare Department (it sounds like  CPS, but it’s not–daycare centers are government run, so that department handles enrollment) at the Ward Office in November stating that Jack cleared the waitlist for the daycare by our home.  Phone calls are so hard for me: I can’t rely on the non-verbal cues from the speaker (gestures, facial expressions, etc.).  Not to mention there are phone formalities that I’m not too well versed in, which led to an awkward first few minutes because the caller tried to confirm a few times that he had reached the correct party.  As he’s relaying the news that Jack could start the following month, and giving me procedural details, I repeat my understanding to him so that we are on the same page.  What I didn’t realize is that Jack was listening and as soon as I hung up, he exclaims, “Mommy!! I can start school!!  Is tomorrow my first day?!?”  The excitement on his face was priceless–he was so ready to start, but I, on the other hand, had mixed emotions.

Getting set up in a new country with 2 young kids in tow, was extremely challenging.  So when Zachary started school, it was easier to manage visits to the Ward Office and department stores with just Jack.  But there were days when Jack didn’t want to go with me and when I convinced him he had no choice, he would persistently ask when he too, could start school.  I felt bad that circumstances were preventing this very social and curious boy from activities and friends that a preschool/daycare setting would provide.  But, after getting the call, I yearned for more “Mommy and Jack” time with the little guy.

Here are some funnies that he alone could come up with.  We call them Jackisms:

  • After doing something kind for me: “Mommy, did that fill up your bucket….with slime?” 
  • “Why is it called ‘vacant’ when no one is inside?  It should be ‘vacan’ since you CAN go in there.” 
  • As I open the lid to my salad that I bought for our picnic lunch in the park: “I hope you like prison food, mama.”
  • While searching for his Optimus Prime transformer, I say, “Go check the spare room. You know the extra room across from your room.”  “Mommy, do you mean the security workroom?  That’s what it’s called, you know.”  

At looking at this sign:

J.daycare3
“Oh, that means no playing catch the food with the kitty.”

Recognizing it would be an adjustment for us as well as the daycare, they asked him to stay for a few hours each day the first week, which was fine by me!  That first day, we walked there and I snapped a photo in front of the building.

He looks a little unsure of his new school.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
His outdoor shoe cubby.
J.daycare2
I had to label each item; labeling the individual crayons was tricky!**

It was hard for me to leave him there, but he was so ready and immediately joined a group of kids playing Legos.  He found his peeps.  I turned, and slowly walked away realizing it is the beginning of a new chapter.

**for those keen folks who noticed his name is written in katakana and hiragana, the correct way is in katakana since his name is not Japanese.  But the school is teaching the kids hiragana letters, so halfway through labeling, the school asked me to switch to hiragana for learning purposes.

Winter-izing

That was fast: the fall-like weather was short lived and it is definitely winter in Japan.  The temperatures have fallen to the SINGLE digits–BRR!  Well, single digits in Celsius, which I guess is like the mid-high forties in Fahrenheit.  But still, it’s frigid and it seems colder than the temperature reading.  Time to pull out the heated blankets, the winter jackets, hats and gloves.  Last week, my sister had a layover in Tokyo, so she sent us our last duffle bag of winter coats, which arrived just before this sudden changing of seasons.  Thank you Ven!

I’m not sure if I’ve turned into a wimp or what, but I recall 48º F in Seattle meant I could probably get by with a sweater or hoodie (unlike my neighbor who is known for wearing her winter coat in June!).  But for some reason, 48º F here feels like 32º F (0º C).  I think it has to do with humidity…or something?  Or it could be because we live in a concrete structure with no insulation?  Or maybe I’m just getting old?

Even Z needed to alter his school uniform look.  The school uniform requires boys wear shorts–all year long, no matter how cold it gets.  So, I went out and got Z some heat-tech leggings and undershirt to go with his blazer.  Here’s his updated look compared to the hot summer:

There are plenty of heating option in Japan for thin-skinned individuals like me.  There’s a hot carpet (a heated rug), gas stove (portable gas heater) and a kotatsu table (a low table with a heating element underneath) to name a few.  Our first thought when the temperature took a dive was none of the above, but also essential: a new toilet seat.  Not the first thing to come to mind for those living in the States, but the washlet toilet seats here are oh so heavenly.  I remember when Michael’s friend James brought one back from Japan.  We totally got why, but most other friends in Seattle were quite perplexed by his decision.

Here’s what our bathroom (although I guess technically it’s a toilet room?) looked like when we moved in:

35,34,335,349.777985Just kidding!  I guess we don’t have any pictures of the before.  But here’s what it looks like now:

The feature we felt necessary in the winter is the seat warmer function.  It may sound strange and is off-putting the first time since it feels like someone was just sitting on the seat before you, but once you’ve experienced it, you’ll never go back to the plain old, non-heated kind.

We also got our washitsu (Japanese tatami room) updated with the winter necessity.  Floor pad and thick, comfy blanket that slides underneath the tabletop to keep your feet nice and warm.  Putting your feet under this cozy table is a sign that winter has arrived in Japan!  I wonder how long the winters last here?

 

Kyoto Railway Museum

I work a normal 5x8hr days a week and in January I’ll go to “shift” work, with means four 10hr days.  I say “shift” because to me it seems like a normal day, spending about 9 hours a day at work; so I’m thrilled to spend one more hour and get three days off.  A couple weeks ago I got a brief taste of it, when we had a national holiday on a Friday, as it’s called here “Labor Thanks Giving day” and it was so nice to hang out with Lori and the kids and have a little more time on our hands.

This last week, in keeping with our tradition of going out and exploring every chance we get, I dragged Lori and the kids to the Kyoto Railway Museum.

We started off with a great walk to the train station, and Jack, being so enamored with trains, was naming all the ones we see on the way.  We had a picnic lunch at a great park and regretted not bringing our frisbees (though we’re not sure if we packed them anyway).

The kids didn’t know we were going to the train museum, they were just told we’re were going to Kyoto and will do ‘something’.  It was neat that every few minutes we’d here a loud steam train whistle and they’d stop what they were doing and look around.

Once we were all done, I packed up the trash, and went (to no avail) to find a trash can; no where in sight.  So, we venture off toward the museum, and come across (of course) a playground!  It was really great to see all these families and kids out playing, I’m sure it was helped by it being a gorgeous day:

After we pried the kids away from the playground, we keep venturing toward the museum.  Across the tracks, and the kids start to piece together what’s happening. Oh yeah, but first we come across this, posted in almost every place outside we see:

20181202_130453

Oh great!  A poisonous spider alert! Well, let’s not worry too much about that.. Got trains to see:

There are some trains outside to view, going from chronological order from an old steamy (Hiro, from Thomas as our kids were keenly aware) to the first generation Shinkansen, more on that one..

The steam engine inside was the same model, but hooked up to some cars and you could see inside the cockpit.  Similar to US steam engines, the amount of valves and knobs and the fact that you’re driving a bomb is pretty incredible.  The cars it pulled were based on the Pullman coaches, so they had sleepers and dining cars, all pretty posh.

Next was the 1967 Shinkansen – You can clearly see the airplane fuselage styling, and very uhh. narrow door to get in.  What was cool about this is there were obviously a lot of batteries and generators and engines on board, but look at the driver’s console.  It’s pretty much the ‘go fast’ and ‘slow down’ stick.  Also, Z&J’s next album cover..

Then it was Jack’s favorite, the JR500, though unfortunately not open.. I’d imagine it has more than one stick for driving, perhaps two.

Then on to some older trains, the Raicho, with some really cool styling, looking like it’s out of the Thunderbirds:

 

Then there were some neat exhibits on how they controlled the railways, including something I need to translate regarding tokens, and how that apparently kept them from crashing in to each other.

 

Then it was on to some really nice scale models of several trains:

 

And then some more “Computers” that would handle ticketing, seat reservations, and I have no idea what else – except that last one looks like it’s from Fallout:

 

After that it was outside to see the other “Steamies” in “Tidmouth sheds”:

After a quick ride on a steam engine, we go explore the sheds – warning – old timey steam train porn approaching:

OK, so that last one isn’t a steam engine, but it is cute, and I totally want it.

So after that was our normal post adventure dinner out, and kids begging for ice cream.  We did cave, but we didn’t cave for GOZIPA:

20181202_172658

They got their (smaller) ice cream, and I got my 100% beer:

20181202_175159

 

The end:

20181202_144123

P.S. meep meep:

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like…Autumn!

It’s finally here.  The chill is in the air and it feels crisp in the morning.  Yes, fall is finally here.  Well, I should back up a little.  Over the past few weeks, it’s gotten cooler, for sure, but not to the degree of what late November/early December is like back at home.

In the Pacific Northwest, October is when autumn is at it’s peak.  The leaves change colors, the jackets come out and the rain starts falling….and falling, until about April, when it starts to warm up again.  So when October came, I put away my summer clothes, brought out the long sleeves and jackets and promptly regretted the fall attire I chose for the day since it was still quite warm during the day, especially when the sun was out.  It was hard to comprehend that mild temperatures exist in October and for most of November!

2 weeks ago, we heard that the 紅葉 (autumn leaves) were at its peak.  We headed to Kobe and saw some beautiful sights from the Herb Garden.

Yesterday, we went to the Kyoto Railway Museum.  It was a gorgeous day for a picnic and walk.

We thought the 紅葉 had finished, but we were in luck.

20181202_161232Autumn820181202_161302

I’m still in disbelief that the weather is so mild in December.  If the peak of autumn just passed, I wonder when the peak of winter hits?  The weather app on my phone says it will be 74 degrees(?!?) tomorrow.  Looks like I’ll need to unpack those summer clothes??

Imo Party

Yesterday, Zachary’s 2nd grade class had an “imo party”.  When I told Michael about it 2 weeks ago, he felt it was much too young for the kids to turn “imo”, and wouldn’t these kids reject a party that celebrates being “imo”?  Zachary explained that an “imo” is a potato, much to Michael’s relief.

Earlier this month, the students dug potatoes out of the school garden.  The students planted various potatoes in their individual planters last spring and once those sprouted, they were transferred to the school garden.  The 41 kids unearthed about 4 buckets worth of potatoes–not too shabby.  It reminds me of when Zachary’s class planted strawberries in the garden at Spiritridge Elementary and then harvested them before school got out.  I love that both his former and current schools have this curriculum, but his current school takes that concept many steps further.

I let Zachary’s teacher know I’d like to attend the party with Jack in tow.  My experience with school parties up until now has been: bring food or a game, set up, play for an hour and then clean up.  We were not prepared for this imo party at all.

First, we arrived at the designated time of 9:25, but no one was in sight.  There were signs telling us where to go, but since I didn’t see or hear anyone, I began to fear I had the wrong date or time.  We reached the 2nd floor homemaking classroom to find 8 volunteers already there and the coordinator giving instructions.  Oh right, arriving at the designated time is actually considered late in Japan.  I’ve got to remind myself to set all the clocks ahead.  All the volunteers have aprons, hairnets and masks (not the scary Halloween ones, but the cloth ones that go over your mouth).  Jack and I walk in quietly to which the coordinator stops her instructions and says, “You must be Zachary’s mom.  Did you bring an apron?”  “Um, no. Sorry…” I reply feeling a little out of place.  “No worries, I have an extra set.  Here, let me help you put it on.”  “I can manage,” I stammer, sensing all eyes on me.  But I’m glad she helped because it was the most complicated apron, I’ve ever come across.  The head kerchief was not the easiest thing either.

A few minutes later, the kids start filing in, bowing and saying, “お願い致します”.  This is one of those hard to translate phrases: “Please take good care of me,” “Please teach me,” “Please assist me”.  It’s a common greeting basically letting one know they are putting their lives in your hands. 👀

The room in set up with 8 tables.  Each table has 2 leaves at either end.  One reveals a sink when removed and the other reveals a stove.  The coordinator requests that the kids do everything, except handle knives.  The kids peeled the sweet potatoes, while we cut the potatoes into 2 cm slices.  I asked the other assistant at my table if my slice was 2 cm.  She chucked and said smilingly, “Please, we can try harder.” Apparently she doesn’t know my inability to judge measurement and how I was looking for direct instruction.  Oh well..

The kids poured water in the pot, added the potatoes, turned on the stove, washed and dried the utensils and cutting boards.

img_3645They waited for the potatoes to boil and then the volunteers scooped the hot potatoes into mixing bowls.  They took turns mashing and pouring the ingredients.  It was very impressive to see.

img_3648

Jack, of course couldn’t wait for his turn to wield the masher and unleash his skills on the sweet potatoes.

img_36461They then poured the ingredients, mixed it and then put it back in the pot.  The 4 kids under my watch were so skilled at using the utensils that I had to ask the “real” volunteer  at our station how often they cook at school.  About once every other month for 2nd graders is the response I got.  I noticed the room also housed sewing machines and a washer and dryer.  The frequency of homemaking class increases, with every year, which are incredible life skills that American schools lack.  Education here prepares the students for not only future academics and prospective jobs, but for life.

As I sat pondering ways that Zachary can help in the kitchen at home, a ding! from the toaster brought me back to the party.  Jack saw the sweet potato balls fresh out of the toaster and immediately wanted to gobble it.  I didn’t realize that 1.5 hours had already passed.  The coordinator then requested the students go back to their classrooms, put away their cooking aprons and hats, wash hands and then meet in the 4th floor multi-purpose room.  She asked the volunteers to wait for the student from each group to return and carry the sweet potato treats.  It was torture for Jack to see all those yummy treats, but not be able to taste one.

When it was finally time to assemble in the multi-purpose room just before noon, Jack thought his time had come, but as with most events in Japan, there is a bit of ceremony to attend to first.  3 kids stood on the stage to announce the start of the party.  Jack looked at me with the “can I eat one now?” look, to which I shook my head.  Then the stage kids took turns talking about potatoes.  Jack looked at me again.  Then they had a trivia session about potatoes.  Here’s what Jack thinks about the wait time.

img_3651

Sorry, no photos of the kids enjoying the potato treats–they disappeared in an instant!  I’m so glad the boys will gain homemaking skills at school.  They have also gained extensive knowledge in all things potato.

Mission: Get a Hanshin Tigers hat

So, Lori and the kids are in Seattle, and I am on my own.  Time for an adventure!  Since we moved here without bringing a lot of stuff (just two suitcases each), we have more winter clothes in bins at the old house in Seattle – Lori and the boys made the trek back to Seattle to retrieve them.    Zachary and Jack also loved the chance to see their cousin Ellie, and the all the friends they have in Seattle, that they’ll have time to see.

However, since I am alone, it’s a rare opportunity to do some exploring that the kids don’t have the time or patience for.

The last time we visited Japan, we went to Hiroshima, and went to a Carp’s game. Hiroshima has a special place in my heart that I can’t quite place.  A city that is vibrant and fun but knew such pain.  Going to a baseball game there was a very special experience, it was an amazing time, and distinctly Japanese with the organized revelry. Especially after living here for a bit, I understand it more, the Japanese spirit – they work so hard and play hard too.

When we moved to Osaka, I knew that I’d have to now support the local team, the Hanshin Tigers.  As in my previous post, I knew first hand that my new home team, the Tigers would be the team I’d like, with their curse and interesting relationship to the KFC Colonel.  I’ve been looking for some Tiger’s merchandise casually since we arrived, but like in Seattle, there’s only certain places that sell it, and I’ve not had the chance to find it yet.  Since now I’ve got some time on my hands, it was time to set out and find it; so this Saturday I had three goals:

  1. Find a Tigers hat
  2. Go to “Book off”, a used book store that also sells old DVDs, Games, and consoles.
  3. Take some pictures and explore

The day starts off with my normal walk to the train station at Higashimikuni, as I walk through the parking lot, I see a very cherry Toyota Soarer, a classic car that I’d love to bring back!

I take the train to Umeda, meander through the crowd and get to the Hanshin department store, figuring they’d have Hanshin Tiger stuff.  This store, like Hanku, is quite upscale, I feel a little out of place in tshirt and jeans.  I see a clothing line called “Pearly Gates”, not my time though:

20181117_102218

I get to the floor for golf and men’s things, but no hats – Asking a store employee, she directs me to 8th floor (despite my clumsy Japanese), “Tigers corner”

20181117_102514

A magical place where you can even get Hanshin Tiger’s chair socks.  If you don’t know what these are, it’s socks, but for chairs.

20181117_102824

I get a few things, and on my way to Book Off!

20181117_104553

I look up Book Off, the next place, and it’s actually in Nanba, a station that’s about 40 minute walk.  The weather is incredible, so I start walkin’.

I see a shrine –

Gentsuki Genchan – Someday I’ll translate it and see what the origin is.  No time for that now, things to do, places to see!

It’s a long walk to Nanba, and there’s a lot of very cool buildings on the way, so here’s a array of photos:

Really cool architecture, and the river that runs through the city is beautiful.

Oh, a McLaren store – Lori can I get one?  I’d prefer red though –

I turn the corner, and a huge Arcade is there, the place I’m looking for is down there somewhere!

A very cool Arcade with lots of shops, and a Daiso that’s huge!

I get finally to Book Off!

Look at this amazing place – Super Famicom games, PS2’s and PS3’s – Oh man I was so close to buying a PS3 for some old timey games and a bluray player. Look at the “Old Soft” pic, quite a few classics!

The DVD’s there are a good collection, including some marvelous classics:

Chuck Norris!  Steven Segal!  Starship Troopers 3!  Wait there was a Star Ship Troopers 2?

So after that it’s time for my second most favorite shop in Japan, Tokyu Hands

20181117_140116

It’s a neat ‘creative lifestyle’ store, as they bill themselves.  Some great stickers for my laptop and other things:

And that was it!  A wonderful day (though quiet without Lori and the kids) but a great adventure, get home after a few mis-steps and having to ask for directions (poorly) and examine the loot!  And at least, I got my hat! So I am ready for a game.

line_1542437439309