Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chanko restaurant

Today the VanderHaak's invited me for lunch to this restaurant that is owned by former sumo wrestlers, apparently they call them chanko restaurants.  This type of restaurant serves food typically eaten by sumo wrestlers.  There is actually a decent variety of choices and the food was quite good.  The seats in the waiting area were quite cute!  Chris did some modeling.  :)
The cow seat.
The pig seat.
Each table is in a little room. On the tables are gas burners which you can use for cooking, depending on what you order. 
The tables.
There's the pot cooking the food.
This was my plate, some deep fried fish and shrimp and well, not sure what the two things on the right were, but they were good.  The two sauces were ketchup and a mayonnaise based sauce.
The pot on the right with the lid was a broth/soup.
The food tasted good.  I appreciated the atmosphere they created.  The music was the typical music you hear when you attend sumo wrestling.  I'd recommend it, but remember that the table is low, so you do have to find a comfortable way to sit on the floor.  It was a great experience!  Thanks VanderHaak's, for inviting me!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I am thankful for breaks.  Christmas break gives us an opportunity to remember Christ's first coming, a wonderful gift, whose purpose was to die on the cross and rise again so we can be saved!  Truthfully, I also appreciate Christmas break because it does give a chance to rejuvenate, regain some energy to begin again in January. 
Today was one of those days where I started out with nothing really on the agenda, but it still ended up being a nice day with some surprise activities. 
 This first activity was something I wasn't even thinking about.  You see, when I moved into Matsukawa Place, the curtains were already set up in the apartment.  I just left them hanging.  I had noticed that the curtains in the bedroom were just barely wide enough to cover the window.  Fortunately, there are also blinds, so not really a problem.  I got it into my head to see if any of the curtains I bought at Thrift Shop a couple of years ago would fit better.  Lo and behold, yup, there was a set.  Unfortunately the set was VERY WRINKLY!  So, I put them through the delicate cycle in the washing machine and then ironed them.  They were still damp when I hung them up, but should dry soon. 
Yes, they are still a bit damp on the bottom. 
While I was in the process of hanging the curtains, Bette V. texted me, and asked if I wanted to watch them do some horse hair pottery.  It is very interesting to watch how that all comes together.  Bette, David and Chris had already made pots, glazed and ready for the horse hair.  What Bette did was heat up the kiln with the ready made pots in it, to about 900℃.  Once the pots were hot enough, they took them out, and then put horse hair on the pot.  The hair burns and leaves a mark on the pot.  It was quite interesting to watch.  The horse hair isn't all that easy to control, so trying to create something specific is difficult.  After you are satisfied with how the pot looks, it needs to be cooled, washed or brushed clean, and then put some lotion on. I thought their pots turned out quite nice! 
See the smoke?  That's from the horse hair burning.  It isn't a great smell, if you've ever burned hair.

See the hair? 
One of David's pots.
Back in November, Bette offered the Middle School students an extra art class during Parent/Teacher conferences.  I asked if there was room yet for me to participate in one of the sessions, which there was.  She had planned to have the students work on the wheel.  It has been a very, very long time since I worked on the wheel, like way back to my undergrad Dordt days.  It was great to make those pots with help from Bette!  Today I finally was able to put the glaze on!
Yeah, I know, not very straight, but it was my first.
My second pot, looks better, but is thick.  I wasn't fully finished glazing yet.
It was a fun day, with a few surprises along the way.  I am blessed to be able to have these great experiences, planned or not.  God is good!  All the time!  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Just a few things I've seen the last few weeks.

There has been a lot of activity over the last couple of weeks.  I have not been taking a lot of pictures, but here are a few. 
Hana relaxing on the chair in the cabin.
Rest Area on our way back to Tokyo from Tak.
Riding the train back from church.
Not very full train.
Apple Crisp
Every year the seniors raise money for their service trip to Thailand in the spring.  One of the fundraisers is selling apples from Nagano.  The price is very reasonable, ¥500 for 13 apples.  They are great apples to eat, and to make a variety of apple recipes, such as the apple crisp. 

Grade 2 class singing carols in the Academic Office at CAJ.
As a part of the grade 6 Bible curriculum, they have Passover.  It's very fitting to have this right around Christmas, the time we remember to celebrate Christ's first coming and look forward to his second coming.  There are a lot of symbols in the Passover that tie in with Christ's life, death and resurrection.  One can imagine Jesus' disciples sitting with him in the Upper Room sharing that meal together. 
Grade 6 class getting ready to start Passover.
Seder plate

My little tree
Two cards, giraffe, elephant and a shell.
I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to decorating at Christmas.  Most times I don't even decorate.  Two years ago when I had my first Christmas in Japan, the grade 1 and 2 classes at Washington Christian Academy sent me a little Christmas tree with ornaments from the students.  It's kind of cute. 

The night before we left Tak, I took a video of the night sounds.  You can hear the sound of the waves at the beach.  Enjoy. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Black Friday wasn't so black.

Our school isn't really, fully 100% American, but we do follow a western style of education and we follow the US/Canada school calendar.  We do not necessarily follow all the American holidays, but do adhere to some, such as Christmas and Easter.  We sort of follow Canadian Thanksgiving, the second Monday in October.  It falls at the same time as our Fall break... a coincidence?  Maybe not so much.  We also sort of follow American Thanksgiving, although we do have classes for 1/2 day on the Thanksgiving day, and then have the Friday off.  That's where we are right now.
This year, I have been invited by the VanderHaak's to come up to Tak for the American Thanksgiving weekend.  It is up north by Shichigahama.  It is a great place to relax and well, do some homework too.
Here you can see some of the colours on the trees.
Some mountains in the background also.
This morning after I got up, I took a walk/run down to the beach.  The sun had risen some already and it was a beautiful day.
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When I went to the other beach, I saw that things had changed quite a bit since the last time I was here.  There was a lot of construction on a berm along the beach.
Working on the berm
 The path made for pedestrians and vehicles on the left.
I love the "Sorry!" 
I understand that the piece of land between the berm and the road is going to be made into a park.  I saw this at the entrance to the construction site.   
Isn't that an interesting bell?
As you walk towards the fishing village, you can still see some of the foundations of where the houses were before the 3/11 tsunami.  
Foundation is still there.
 Now there is a lot of construction and the roads have changed some. 
A new road to the fishing village
This bird/chicken was checking me out as I walked by
 There are a lot of weeds that have grown in places where houses stood before. 
Looking towards the beach
Weeds among the foundations
One of the great things about being here, is when you're sitting on the couch or laying in bed in the cabin, you can still hear the sound of the ocean.  I find it relaxing.  Yup.  Enjoy this little video...

I am glad for breaks as they give me time to re-energize.  I hope you will have the opportunity to experience a change of pace during this season as we head towards celebrating Christ's birth and look forward to his second coming.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hodge Podge of Events

It has been a while since my last entry.  I think it was just busy with a variety of things.  Here are some things I've been doing.
Class is called Collaborative Leadership
I have been busy with online courses I've been taking from Dordt College.  Every other week we have had online sessions.  We finished the first major project at the end of October, and I've been looking at completing the second major project, which will be due in December.  We also have a group collaboration assignment along with readings to complete.
Kindergarten class with Mrs. Matsuoka
Class with Mrs. Turner
I had the privilege of reading to the Kindergarten class on Friday, November 14th.  I chose to read the book, Percival Pig Finds His Manners, written by a friend, Bobbie Gilbert Kogok.  The class had just completed a unit on manners, so it was fun to read it to them.
Lots of hand motions at this table.
Another table.
Two of the chaperones and the tour guide along with a couple of the students.

Most of the group from ACS.
On the evening of November 14th, I took the train to Aomono-Yokocho station and met up with some students and teachers from Abbotsford Christian School (ACS). They had been at Kanazawa visiting with their sister school.  I knew a couple of them, so I made arrangements to have dinner with the whole group.  It was fun to see them and get to meet some new people. 
The auditorium where the ballet performance was being held.
On November 15th, I went to watch one of our students perform at a ballet event.  The performers were from about kindergarten age all the way to high school and older.  The first part was more traditional ballet.  After the intermission, there was a live orchestra on the stage.  Many of the music pieces and characters were from Disney productions and there were a couple of Mario and Luigi characters.  It was fun and quite enjoyable.
An interesting building in the shape of a triangle
Interesting posters, eh?
As I walk to church in Harajuku, (fashion district) I find some interesting stores and signs.  At this intersection, there is this tiny triangular store, it's called Condomania.  Guess what they sell?  Yup, condoms.  Their posters say, "Preserve the love, wear a condom."  Enough said.
View out of the 2nd floor window where I had a seat to eat lunch.

Looks just like the ones in the US and Canada!
One of the food items I tend to crave are good hamburgers.  They do have McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy's.  Out of the three, Wendy's is my preference.  There aren't too many Wendy's restaurants in Japan, but I did find one in Roppongi.  It's not terribly far from where I go to church.  I haven't gone there yet, but this past Sunday, I thought I'd make train trip.
Cutting the cake
Well done, Kim. (and Michael :)
Passing the cake to the real cutter of the cake...
Yup, Jeannie knows how to cut cake!
Michael and Kim Essenburg are Christian Reformed World Missionaries that will be making a move to Okinawa to work at the Christian School there.  The Christian Reformed Japan Missions met on Friday evening, November 21st for a farewell event.
Map of our bicycle route
Starbucks stop before returning on our bicycle run. 
My first gingerbread latte this season
Lots of daikon hanging there. 
Tea fields forever...oh those were strawberry not tea...  :) 
More tea
Isn't this a "cute," little railroad crossing?
A bamboo forest beside a construction site.
Today, Saturday, November 22nd, Ruth and I went on a 53 km bicycle ride.   It was a beautiful sunshiny day.  The air was a little chilly at the start, but before too long, I had taken off my sweatshirt and was bicycling in a t-shirt.
That brings us to today.  I guess a lot of different things were going on the last few weeks.  Next week is American Thanksgiving, so a short week at school and then up to Tak, to the cabin by the ocean.  I am looking forward to sometime at the beach.  What have you been doing?  How will you spend American Thanksgiving?