I have had a very relaxing break. Jenny, the yellow lab, has now returned back to her home and right now it's just Hana and I sitting here in the house. Only a weekend left and it is back to teaching. I have sort of begun to get into the swing of things by filling in some forms and getting a couple of things prepared. I do have some other things to fill in and papers to grade, so that is what I'll be focusing on in the next couple of days.
Before I get to that, I wanted to share a couple of things. First of all, this really neat invention they have here. Since many people take the train and not all people live near a train station, many people take their bicycles to the train station to catch the train. Back in Canada and the US there are some areas for bicycles but nothing like they have here. At the Kiyose station, they have an underground bicycle parking lot. You bring your bicycle down the stairs (the person walks down the stairs and there's a flat surface for your bicycle to ride down), walk through a gateway picking up your ticket as you go, and finding a place to park your bicycle. No matter how long you park it (within the day I believe), it costs 100¥. So, how do you get your bicycle back up? Well, you walk through a gateway again, put in the ticket, deposit the 100¥ and go up the stairs but they have a bicycle escalator to help you with your bicycle! Watch this!
Isn't that just the best invention?
The other thing is the gas truck. It comes through the neighborhood on a regular basis to sell gas for residents. It has a distinct tune so you can hear it coming. Have a listen.
I was wondering what New Year's Day would be like here. It is a very family orientated holiday. Many people travel back to visit their parents and have a special meal on New Year's Eve, usually some sort of soba is included. I think of it as our Christmas where many family members travel back to their parents to visit and share a special meal. I understand that the tradition is to clean the house thoroughly for the new year. It's a way of starting clean. They also put up some boughs or wreaths that have pine in it somewhere. This one was on the local flower shop the other day.
The following pictures are taken of the pine on the neighbor's houses.
New Year's Day, many of the Japanese travel to the temples to go and give their indulgences for the first of the year. When I was walking the dogs, I saw many multi-generational family groups walking together, carrying an arrow that they brought to the neighborhood temple. I understand they also offer money to the priests, to help them start of the year on a good foot.
Construction is different here. Just a couple of blocks from where I live, they began building, what I believe is a house. They pour the foundation and when they begin to frame and build, they put up scaffolding and then hang this covering around the house. I'm not sure for the exact reason for this, I've heard safety and I've also heard that it looks cleaner. Once the outside of the house is complete, they take down the covering and continue to work inside.
Today, January 4th I had a couple of firsts here in Japan! My first was riding a public bus! I generally use the train, bicycle or ride in a vehicle, but this time I took a bus. It looks very much like a public bus in the US or Canada, but it's all in Japanese. Trains have English translation for what the next station is, on the bus, it's all in Japanese and Japanese characters. I was traveling with friends and they knew which bus to get on and which stop. Here's my view from the back of the bus.
My second first, is I got a hair cut here! That's where I was going on the bus. For those of you who have seen pictures, my hair was getting long and hanging in my eyes. I have heard a range of prices for hair cuts. My friends found a decently priced place that cuts your hair in 11 minutes (although my hair cut took a bit longer, not sure if it has to do with my hair being different or if it was the style), the price was decent and they seemed to do a good job. We signed in with the wait being about 30 minutes and since it's located in a mall, we went walking around. With about 10 minutes left we sat down to wait and looked in hair magazines for a hair style I'd like. I also had a picture of me on my iPhone with a similar style. When my name was called, I showed the pictures (she seemed a little worried that I wanted to much cut off) and off to the chair. She did a really good job! Here's what I looked like before:
This is what I look like now:
Doesn't it look better? I know the angle isn't the same and I really didn't set up for a before picture, but I'm really happy with the shorter hair. Gotta love it that you can see without hair in your eyes!
I do wish you God's blessings in 2013. Thank you all for your support in so many various ways! This break I have been able to Skype, FaceTime, iMessage, and email with so many of you! Thank you for the Christmas cards, letters, phone calls and packages! God has blessed me with so many good friends!