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.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Meaghan in Japan!

Hello again!
Well, this year is more than half over already and we are rapidly nearing our one year mark in Japan (WOW), and there has been alot of questions concerning what our plans actually are. So far I must say that this year feels more like 5 years crammed into 6 months. There is always too much to do and I often feel like I don't even have time to breathe. I anticipate things for months and then they fly by in seconds leaving me standing around wondering if they even occurred. Looking back on when we first came, it seems like lifetimes ago, and I really can't even imagine how I ever thought a year would be enough. Of course getting to see my family really gave new vitality to that feeling....had you asked me 3 months ago my thoughts may have been different. My point is that right now we are feeling quite settled and though we have plans to be home for Christmas, our next extended return may not be until sometime in the later half of 2008. If this next year flys by half as quickly I am sure you won't even notice the extended absence!
Don't fret though...I can safely say that no one is being forgotten! In fact, I think the only reason I am able to securely live this far from most of the people whom I love and care about is because I know I have all of your support. I guess I owe you all thanks for making me feel safe no matter where I am. I am a very lucky girl and would not be here if it were not for all of you.
Anyways, getting too sentimental now...
Meaghan will be leaving me next week to go back home and I think its making me miss everyone!
So to give you a little summary of the part month I have posted some pictures. Here are just some of the things we got up to in June!

Some of you may remember the pictures of Yuki I posted months ago (an old Nova student). Well Ian and Meaghan and I were invited to their home and taken for a 'Japanese Microbiotic Meal'. Not exactly sure what that IS, but it was delicous!! Plus getting to see Yuki again is always a plus!

After this...let's see....
Oh! The Karaoke binges....
Why we weren't doing this before I don't know, but boy did we learn our lesson!! Cheap private rooms where we can make complete fools of ourselves???!! We were missing out....

This past weekend we actually experienced a 'real' night out in Japan...Karaoke til 6am!!! Fun at the time, though our Canada day celebration the next evening was a little bit less than festive! Sorry no pics from this particular outing, but I am sure if there were they would be along the same lines as the ones from above!

Ok, next up we have.....Meaghan's birthday in Japan! Happy 22nd!

In accordance with Rafferty Family tradition Meaghan woke up to find this message and lovely artwork skillfully applied to the mirror! That's Kuromi-Chan in the corner. She is an unfortunate soul, and we love her. We also kinda like the other girl in the picture...:P Oh and Meaghan wore those Kuromi ears allllllllllllllll day long.

What birthday would be complete without a lazy Panda!!??

Unfortunatly the lazy panda met a sad fate soon after this picture was taken..

We still aren't sure if Kuromi-Chan did it, or if Charles was the real perpetrator, but boy was he delicous!!

And what birthday would be complete without bowling!! Meaghan like it soooooo much that the excitement distracted her and made her forget to return her shoes. :P

Oh and they guy above in blue is Charles!

OH and Jeff visited!!!

This actually happened before Meaghan's birthday but its ok. That weekend also involved bowling!

We sure love riding bikes. Especially coooool pink ones!

And what could top Meaghan's birthday you might ask??

(that was us preparing to take on the mountain!) She was a formidable opponent and thus deserves a post all to herself, but I will leave you with this photo of the beginning of our journey
Stay tuned for more!!!
(including the ever-popular "EGG IN A BAG!!!!!")

Anyways...good bye for now!