Monday, November 19, 2007

Easy there Scooter.

Images of another thoroughly enjoyed weekend, spent in excellent company:

1. Jeff swings by.

Jeff, conveniently back in Nagoya for some work training, hung out with us for the weekend. As usual we had fun playing around with his sweet camera. We also had plans with a couple of Tara's students (who are sisters) and their younger sister, and all of their boyfriends.

2. Le Gang en Fuzz

Jeff's new lens (he buys a new camera lens every time he comes to Nagoya) does not auto-focus.


4. The Guys Were Too Skillful...

5. And Too Cool For US

Nonetheless, we had a fun time. But the first two games were fairly embarassing as Jeff and I averaged 100, and the other guys were all scoring around 160. It wasn't until I switched to ...

6. Let's Go! Bowling!

One of these things is not like the of these things is filled with luck, and the others are all broken. In the final game I managed to save face with a respectable score. Can you tell which ball is mine?

7. Scoot! Safety First.

Before everyone warns me to be careful, at least know I bought the best helmet I could find, and I have been practicing with short errands before I take it on any longer drives.

8. Scoot! Now Who's Cool?

To answer the "What's it like?" question: it feels like a rocket-powered bicycle.
Other details: There's under-seat storage that fits the helmet (while I'm in a store), or about 1 grocery bag worth of groceries (before things get squished. Brakes are handle-brakes just like a bicycle. Accelerator is in the right handle. Speedometer goes up to 60km/h, but I'll mostly be using it on the small local streets here, where the speed limit is 30km/h.

9. Brunch Done Right

This weekends greatest accomplishment was proposed by our friend Ryan (see "guy in cow suit at Halloween party" previously posted); a good ol' fashioned full-on Sunday brunch buffet. With a solid group effort we produced a meal of scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes (with real maple syrup, courtesy of Ryan's parents), toast, sausages, coffee, and orange juice, the likes of which Japan has never dreamed of. This was a deeply satisfying experience for all. Despite there being a "Denny's" just 10 minutes away from our house, you just can't find this kind of meal in Japan.

And that sums up a smashingly successful weekend.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Blogger is taking way to long to load so I am going to do this post in 2 parts. These are some wonderful shots of our Halloween party! Despite Halloween not being widely celebrated here, all of our friends got in the spirit and we had an event filled evening!

Ian, not suprisingly, dressed up as Superman!! He even watched the new movie a few days before, to help him get into character! And I have to tell you, he made the costume entirely from scratch!! Definitely the winnner for best dressed, though Ryan (Ushi-san) came in a close second with the full on cow suit!!

Here is an 'almost' group shot. A few of our guests had work early the next day and missed out on the madness. It was a great turnout though - both of our upstairs neighbors came (good thing cause we were mighty loud!), as well as a whole lot of students-turned-friends. Even some of my old Nova students/co-workers came!

Naoto (an ex-nova student of mine) came with a bag full of costume pieces and throughout the night was seen wearing a variety of items...some which we were not too sure about!

Yoshi!! (One of our neighbors). He's not actually wearing a costume, since he is a doctor, but we'll give him props for the hat.

Now, I was a ninja, but as the night wore on the mask/shirt got a bit to warm and it eventually had to go. So this is the only picture of me in full costume unfortunately!

Yukiko also showed up with a bag full of things and after much coaxing got Minami (an old coworker of mine from Nova) to put on this one.....

Miho's costume rocked!! She was the coolest witch around. I especially loved the feathers!

The School Girl and the Cow. Or Yukiko and Ryan. Whichever you prefer.

Ok more to come!! Sleep time!

Love Tara

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Hello all!!
I realized I hadn't really posted much from my school, so here are a few shots from Halloween week!
They don't really celebrate Halloween here, so for most of these kids it was their first sort of Halloween experience. Let me tell you - trying to teach Japanese children how to SAY "trick-or-treat", let alone teach them the concept, is not an easy task!!
It was a long and busy week, but we all had fun!

I made green icing for the cake, in the spirit of Halloween, and while some kids found it hilarious, most were just disgusted and didn't want it....guess they didn't quite understand that Halloween is SUPPOSED to be gross and scary.

My two favourite Pirates -(besides Johnny Depp!!)

Hugh keeping a watch on the horizon

Anyways, in non-Halloween related news, you may all remember Ian's last message about NOVA's troubles? Well it seems they have finally gotten what was coming to them. Last Friday all schools were closed until further notice (they have about 900). The president of the company has been MIA for months, and teachers and staff have not been paid for almost 2 months now. Most likely this week they will declare bankrupcy. Its been quite a big deal over here, since the company employs almost 5000 foreigners, and 2000 Japanese staff, as well as having 50% of the English market. Looks like Ian and I were very fortunate to get out when we did.

Well, that's about all from me for now. Keep posted - We are having a halloween party on Wednesday which means more pictures!!

I miss everyone!!

Love Tara

ps- only 48 days til we return for Christmas!!!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

From Across the Sea

Hey, remember that company "Nova" that Tara and I came over to Japan with? Well at the time we signed on for our year in Japan, we had done a great deal of research online, finding that the company had it's problems - there were endless reports of people who simply didn't like working there - but generally was easy to work for. The same Google search of "Nova Japan" today produces these top two results:
1. Nova's official company website - the one through which Tara and I applied for our first jobs in Japan, and that by quick perusal appears to be unchanged from that time.
2. An online discussion forum stating "NOVA UNABLE TO PAY IT'S EMPLOYEES". This is, unfortunately, nothing but the truth. I really feel for my ex-coworkers and students, who are being dragged into their own financial conundrums by the crashing company. Nova failed to pay it's teachers last September 15th (the regular monthly pay date), and a recent letter issued to staff informs them that they will not be payed on October 15th either. Meanwhile, students who have put down large sums in tuition, are almost definitely out of luck.
Once again, although I'm car-less and hence biking 1-3 hours/day, I can't help but feel very fortunate to have jumped ship when I did.

Speaking of good fortune, let's have a look at THE BIGGEST BUDDHA IN JAPAAAAAANNNN!!!

Ah, but first... THE BIGGEST KEVIN IN JAPAN!!! (perhaps)

The very big Buddha has a very big house (a.k.a. Todaiji in Japan).

Or at least the type of house to which people become increasingly smaller as they approach it. You can see Kevin and Dad in the midst of becoming relatively smaller here.
In fact, this 1692 reconstruction of the original is only 2/3rds the original size, but still blew us all away.

Now I will give you a list of numbers which will not do justice to this picture. Though we purchased postcards, we all agreed that the picture just could not convey the absolute grandeur of this behemoth.
The dimensions of the Daibutsu --
Height : 14.98 meters
Face : 5.33 meters
Eyes : 1.02 meters
Nose : 0.5 meters
Ears : 2.54 meters
Weight : 500 metric tonnes
In other words, he's a biggie, and if he didn't want you in his house, could swat you like a fly.
For me, this was one of the highlight sights so far, out of everything I've seen in Japan. Anyway, it really is hard to give an impression of the size, so I would like to ask the many engineers who read this page to recreate the Daibutsu in South-Western Ontario, so that you all might enjoy the experience.

This fellow, in the back corner of the big house, was my personal favourite. Decked out in complete traditional armour, but holding a brush and scroll, he seemed to epitomize the adage "The pen is mightier than the sword"... Which some of you may know better through the parody "I'll take penis mightiers for 200, Trebek."

Leading up to the Big Buddha's house, Tara - queen of the forest - gathered a following of woodland friends. There are hundreds of deer living in Nara park, and they can sense a rice cake from miles away. They look nice but get quite agressive when food is up for grabs.

This is one of my favourite pictures from the trip, although when I look at it now, I realize that if Dad had stood a bit more to his right, it would have looked like they were both wearing very tall and silly hats. Ahh well, you'll have to make due with this nice picture of them, and imagine them in silly hats on your own time, or edit in silly hats using Photoshop, or draw in pictures of Arlene in the background. Really, do as you please now, my work here is done for now...


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend Itinerary

Saturday Morning: Tara and Ian caught an early train to Osaka

Saturday Afternoon: Tara and Ian wander Osaka's trendiest shopping area

Saturday Night: Tara and Ian check into a hotel with a room containing a private swimming pool, karaoke, movies, videogames, and a Jacuzzi

Sunday Morning: Ian takes one last dip in their private pool, and they both check out

Sunday Afternoon: Tara and Ian wander through what are possibly some of Osaka's most expensive shops
*Sidenote* Shopkeeper tries to sell Ian Tom Cruise's leather jacket from War of the Worlds. Ian tries on that as well as a 100000 yen ($1000) lambskin jacket but decides they are not quite up to his standards.
In thanks for purchasing a pair of pants, Ian and Tara recieved a coupon for the suprisingly affordable in store restaurant. After entering the restaurant they were asked for their preferance between sitting at a table OR, on a bed. Naturally they enjoyed dinner and ice cream on the large cushioned surface surrounding the restaurant.

Sunday Evening: Tara and Ian make their way back to Ichinomiya

Monday: Renound hair model, Tara, is picked up by her driver and whisked off to Nagoya for an intensive evening long photoshoot.

Tara and Ian hope that everyone had a lovely and fashionable Thanksgiving Weekend


Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I missed chicken


Came Blowing In

On the second day in Kyoto, we headed out to nearby Nara, stopping at Fushimi Inari Shrine en route. Fushimi Inari Shrine is well-known for it's roughly 2 million red torii gates, recently made famous in the film "Memoires of a Geisha". This is definitely one of the nicest and most impressive shrines I've seen in Japan. It manages to be big and impressive, while maintaining the peacefulness you'd hope to find in such a place.

Kevin in the midst.

Old man, young boy.
Come on, this is poetry in motion! They're making it too easy here.

Well framed Tara.

Here Dad is caught becoming not-the-first pilgrim to unexpectedly happen upon enlightment only to stop and think "... how the hell did I get here?"

After much walking through gates we moved on to Nara, home to many deer and one really indescribably enormous Buddha...


Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Summer Wind

It seems the one year mark has snuck by us quite stealthily and I guess we must have enjoyed it because we've signed on for one more year. Of course we miss home, the things there, and sometimes even some of the people... but this run has been given a great boost of endurance from our many guests over the course of the summer.

Last YOU (our faithful fans) saw, we were singing karaoke with Meaghan, then she left and we were wearing yukata (summer kimonos). Hmm.... well, that does skip one little sub-plot we call CLIMBING MOUNT FUJI!!! We still owe you a healthy dose of pictures from that excursion, and I promise they WILL come eventually!

Just a few weeks after Meaghan left, a little group known as "my family" popped in for a visit! Understandably, they are very eager to be featured here on the blog (Fictional magazine recently rated appearance on this blog 8.7 points Cooler - using the standard international system - than appearing on Saturday Night Live), so I'll use this space to introduce them:

Meet (from left): KEVIN - sporting a jinbe top for maximum summer comfort, DAD, MOM, myself and Tara, and my older sister YOUSHINA SHIMASHITA.
This is atop Kyoto station on just their 3rd night in Japan!

HEY LOOK!!! It's the GUPPY; my long-told-of-yet-never-shown-vehicle! Well, sadly this first time will also be the last that the Guppy is shown, as he met an unfortunate end (specifically the end of a blue car) a couple weeks ago when I missed a stop sign. I'm fine, and nobody was hurt badly, but Guppy is damaged beyond the point that he's worth repairing. For the time being I'm back to doing my job entirely by bicycle!

Back to the family visit... I had 10 days off work for summer holidays, during which we did a whirlwind tour of Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo. Much of the rest of the time was spent enjoying the casual lifestyle in our little town, Ichinomiya.

Here are mom and I outside a coffee shop where we tried "morning service", which is a breakfast free with the purchase of any drink. breakfast.
We later tried a few other cafes but this one (just down the street from our house) proved to have the BEST free breakfast around. The "Canadian Coffee House" may have been the skimpiest breakfast, or maybe we were just disappointed because we expected special Canadian treatment.

Kevin had a chance to enjoy these stylish Japanese floor chairs. He enjoyed them so much that he decided to buy one and take it back to Canada.
He was also a big fan of the jinbe, which he wore for most of his time in Japan, at least until he found organic cotton hippy pants in Tokyo.

Everyone found Kyoto beautiful, and it was also unanimously agreed to be HOT. The heat combined with the huge crowds (during Japan's biggest summer holiday) meant that we couldn't walk far without seeking shade and drinks.
Despite the intense humidity, we managed to make our way around to some great spots.
Of course, the ever-convenient vendors of ice-cold drinks, proved to be one of the most popular sites with everyone.

Maybe it was partly due to the heat, but the summer feels like a blur! It was great to have so much family time this summer and now that the end of September is nearing it feels like not long at all before we will be coming back to Canada to celebrate Christmas and New Year's at home. We will be both be home for a little under one month, hopefully arriving in Canada in mid-December.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hi Dad!

Hello to all. As you may have read, I have been visiting with my family for the past 3 weeks. My dad headed back to Canada last Friday (he is already safely back at home), and my mom and brother will begin their trip home tomorrow. Needless to say, it has been a very busy summer, and there will be many more pictures to show of trips to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara, as well as adventures in daily life here in Ichinomiya, and a special trip to a Buddhist temple in the mountains.

As many of you already know. Tara ALSO headed back to Canada last Friday for a special 1 week visit, in order to celebrate her grandparents` 50th anniversary!
~~ Congratulations!!! ~~

Tara took her computer back to Canada, so I`m using the internet at a *manga cafe* at the moment -- I:ll explain about those another time. Unfortunately I haven:t been able to figure out how to SEND email on here. Even using my hotmail account, I seem to run into problems sending, but the error message is in Japanese, and I have no idea what it means. SO, SORRY TO THOSE WHO HAVE TRIED TO CONTACT ME!!

Dad, and Justin, I got your messages. Might not be able to respond for awhile, but thanks!
Ok, well that:s all for today. Just didn:t want anyone to feel neglected.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

He's looking more and more like them....

The summer months are quite festive in Japan, with Tanabata - a star festival - occuring July 7th, a myriad of fireworks shows in every city (as well as more private shows like in the parking lot of our apartment), and Obon - one of the biggest festival/holiday times of the year - happening in August. These festivals, like many things in Japan, incorporate eons of tradition of which we understand probably only the most superficial layers. Most observably, a great number of people wear 'funny clothes' which they like to call "yukata" (a kind of summer kimono). This past weekend Tara and I, with a little (lot of) help, had the opportunity to don the traditional summer garb and venture out into public.

Key members of our team included Hime and her daughter Yumeka, both ex-students of mine from Nova. We had been invited over for a delicious lunch on Saturday, but lunch turned into yukata-shopping, which lead to a long and complicated session of yukata-dressing (the young Yumeka fortunately quite talented in the extremely complicated methods of obi-tying), and finally to a feeling of "Now that we're all standing around wearing yukata, we might as well go to a festival!"

And so we headed to Nagoya, making it just in time to catch the absolutely spectacular finale of the fireworks display. We probably only managed to catch the last 10 or 15 minutes of the show, but everyone knows that they save the best for last! When we showed up, most people were already heading home, tired from standing around for over an hour.

My yukata has TIGERS!!! COOL!!! And Tara looks pretty, but hers has flowers and not TIGERS!!!

I admit I felt a little nervous walking through the station wearing yukata. Particularly in the main train station where we were the only ones wearing traditional clothing. On the subway line, closer to the festival, many people were dressed for the festival, and we felt more in place.

Yukata pros:
- See Tara's big wide sleeves! Those are sewn at the bottom and you can keep your wallet, keys, cell phone, etc. in them. No need for cargo pockets!
- Hot weather? Light material, and that refreshing up-yukata draft keep things cool even on the most packed subway cars.
- They look cool!

Yukata cons:
- That thin material sure provides a thin boundary between you and the guy behind you on the cramped train car.
- The proper method to tie an obi (sash across your waist) is a skill requiring serious training (they really do have lessons, and people who do this professionally).

Down at the fireworks show we met up with the lovely Yuki. Her mother happens to be a professional kimono dresser.

Come on Charles! Wear yukata! Everyone else is doing it!!!

Hmm... unlike the fireworks show, I save my least impressive comments for last.


There... Finished.