Friday, 30 December 2011

Shopping for New Years breakfast

We went to Tachikawa station and a large grocery with high quality groceries including every meat you can imagine. Hordes of people unlike any grocery I have encountered. Incredibly expensive, a day's salary for every little package of meat it appeared.

Local travel bus, train and foot

Like so many places in the world the number of cars appears to be increasing in Japan. Why, when a Suika (watermelon) cash card allows you to hop on the bus, train, frequently buy souvenirs and pay for items at many of the ubiquitous vending machines (a stable symbol of Japan)?


Yakiniku Restaurant

December 29 is the birthday of second brother's younger son and to celebrate we went out to a yakiniku restaurant. There were two charcoal burning fire pits embedded in the table. We "cooked" a variety of so called organ meats mostly beef. Two notable examples were pork intestine and beef diaphragm. The meats were quite delicious and some were somewhat chewy. Afterwards back home a cake was slapped together with pre-whipped cream and strawberries and blueberries.


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Hot Springs in Snow Country

After depositing one's clothing in a wicker basket, you take a small towel about 30cm by 100cm and enter a patio like area surrounding the hot water.
Here there are a number of shower areas where you sit on a small stool and shampoo your hair and wash your body using hot water from the tap and then rinse off residual soap with a hand held shower. Any clothing in this area is strictly forbidden. You can put the folded clean wet towel on your head when you enter the water. It must not fall into the water.
A Japanese bath is normally about 41-42'C, but I suspect that the hot spring water is at least 42'C. At 56'C protein begins to denature (cook).
Most people don't stay in the water more than a few minutes.
The hot spring can be located out in the snow as well as indoors and is natural water not the heated swimming pools encountered in Canada's Rocky Mountains.
After leaving the water you dry yourself off and leave feeling much better.
As you can well imagine it is not appropriate to publish or take photographs of the activities.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Avalanche Country

It snows as much as 20cm a day here and sometimes it seems it never stops. At night you may be woken by a crashing sound as snow falls from the upper roof to the lower roof and then to the ground.
I keep pushing the snow across the road, but as I turn my back more falls off of the roof, from the protective teepees around the trees and of course from "above".
There is a nice blue sky as I start this morning, but the snow clouds are rolling back in.


Christmas Dinner

Our family pre-ordered a huge Christmas cake and purchased large chicken legs on the 24th. Then as usual we had a huge meal kneeling at what North Americans would call a coffee table. Yayoi and I have been trying to avoid the whole Christmas present thing, but the family here gave Yayoi and I each a gift of socks. They may recognize more of the meaning of Christmas than we do with their generosity.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Sleeping in Japan

Yes, you do sleep on the floor. In Oume we placed a double pad on top of the tatami (compressed rice straw) floor. This was covered with a sheet and we slept between this and an under blanket with a futon light very fluffy blanket on top.
In Komatsu the arrangement was similar, but under the floor pads was a large electrically heated pad. The blankets on top of us are heavier than the ones in Oume. It is colder in Komatsu and the only room that is consistently kept warm during the daytime is the family room. This room is constantly being used.

YUKI (yucky) is Snow

No, it is pronounced you-key, but I am sure snow country people can appreciate the English pronunciation.
It is a very wet heavy snow. I shoveled as much water as I did snow this morning. Snow slides off elder brother's roof and as mentioned earlier street level sprinklers wash the snow away. The snow blowers here are substantially larger than Canadian ones. Windshield wipers are left in the vertical position when parked outside. The natives do not live in the teepees, but rather they are used to protect plants.


Friday, 23 December 2011


Experienced my first earthquake this morning at about 11:25am, December 24, 2011. It felt as though a giant had grabbed the house and shook it. Almost immediately NHK television announced that it was a 3.9 magnitude earthquake with the epicentre quite close to where we are. My first reaction was that snow was sliding off of the slippery metal roof again, but our relatives here knew immediately that it was an earthquake.

Old and New

Japanese people admire Fuji-san (Mount Fuji). The name is an affectionate way of naming a person.
More recently they have begun to admire the latest tower built in central Tokyo which the refer to as "Sky Tree".

Snow need clearing?

Just turn on the water and wash it off. The photos are of brother's driveway, but the same thing happens on many streets in snow country. Yes, they also have snowblowers and protect trees with boards in a teepee shape around each tree.

Christmas Story in Japan

Niece's daycare in Nagai City presented a Christmas program complete with a portrayal of the Christmas story.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas in Japan

Every trip to Japan reveals a change in Japanese society. The most notable change during this season is the heavy emphasis on "Merry Christmas". Every shopping area emphasizes Christmas and a significant number of people have begun to put up LED light displays called "illumination". Many of these displays are every bit as extravagant as those in North America.
The pictures are from a European style home more than 100 years old in Yokohama.
Have a very good Christmas!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Mountains surround people.

Almost everywhere people live mountains are visible or quite near by. Even photographs of what appear to be mountains only, usually have small villages in the valleys. Yayoi's home town Komatsu is in a prefecture (province) of Yamagata which means "mountain shape".