Monday, December 26, 2011

Butterflies, toucans and blue poppies

My Christmas day began miserably. At night I had an asthma attack and then wheezed and suffered until the early hours of the morning. At 5AM I finally had enough and got up. And then my nose started to bleed. All that because the air was so bloody dry and we hadn't bought a humidifier yet. We bought one today, but it doesn't seem to work properly and I'll return to the store as soon as I'm done typing up this post.

Mister Trouble felt sorry for me and to ease my suffering decided to take me to Kachoyukan in Moka city. Kachoyukan is located at Igashira Park and it's a butterfly park of sorts. And because the only way to keep butterflies alive in the midst of winter is to house them in a warm and humid place, my dear husband thought it would be just perfect for my tired lungs and dry nose.

And let me tell you, it was. It was so humid that water occasionally dripped on our heads, and the temperature was pleasantly warm.

And the butterflies? They were there. Supposedly 4 different kinds, but we mainly saw this one:


But, to be honest, we didn't go there for my nose, or even for the butterflies.
We went there to see the strangest Christmas tree of all.


What at first glance looks like a perfectly ordinary christmas tree, upon closer inspection turns out to be a tree decorated with butterfly pupae, or chrysalises, or whatever those thingies are called.


Weird? You could say that.

My plan was to park myself in front of that tree and wait until a butterfly emerges from one of those things. Alas, after a couple of hours I had to give up. I was thirsty and hungry and I had to pee.

Later I read that after emerging from the chrysalis, the butterfly will sit on the empty shell and wait until its wings harden. Just like here:

Exciting stuff, isn't it?

Other than butterflies, there was also a bird section:


And a flower section showing flora at high elevations. I immediately noticed the Himalayan blue poppy, because it's the national flower of Bhutan. Don't ask me how I know such utterly useless trivia, because, frankly, I have no idea.


And now, if you excuse me, I have suitcases to drag out of storage and clothes to sort through.
Only 6 more days and I'm off to Palau. Yay!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Mr Emperor

Happy birthday to you!

Today His Imperial Majesty celebrates his 78th birthday. By Japanese standards that's small potatoes, nothing special. He's only 78. Mr T's grandma is 93. Or maybe 94. Sorry, I've lost count. But she's just a grandma, and Akihito is the Emperor of Japan, and there's one serious difference here. And I'm not talking about their age.

The Imperial Birthday is an official public holiday in Japan and that means that instead of getting up at 5:30AM, today I could sleep until 6. Then the cats woke me up anyway. They were hungry and didn't care much for the fact that it was my day off.

But since it was my day off (thank you so much, Your Imperial Majesty!), Mr and I went downtown to do some last minute holiday shopping. No, not really. I was shopping and he was walking around taking photos. And it wasn't holiday shopping, either. I had to use my Kinokuniya points before they expire at the end of the year. So how I ended up with Peach Body Butter from Body Shop is a total mystery to me. I did manage to get a couple of books, too.

But back to Akihito and his birthday.

We've walked on the street leading from City Hall to Parco hundreds of times. We normally park at City Hall, because the municipal lots there are free and open even during weekends and public holidays. And we've passed by the tiny Kotohira shrine tucked between some wholly unremarkable buildings hundreds of times, too. Last January we even peeked inside and took a couple of photos. Nothing special.

So what made us stop by there today? No idea. But we did. We went through the gate and looked around and we spotted this.


Today! Of all the 365 days in a year, we noticed it today. A marvelous coincidence, if you ask me.

Why? This is what it says:

Mageshi-cho (that's the district where the shrine is located)
Anniversary of the birth
Celebrating the birth of Prince
Showa 8, December 23rd

In 1933, to mark the birth of the imperial baby (and back then the imperial family was still very much "godly") Mageshi-cho presented this inscribed fountain to the shrine. And now that baby is no longer a prince, but the Emperor of Japan.

And to mark his birthday, the streets were lined with flags.


I was surprised to see that a significant number of private homes also had flags outside. I guess I wasn't paying much attention in previous years. We used to fly a flag when we lived abroad, but somehow Mr T's national pride is a lot weaker in his homeland. Or simply, he doesn't want to ruin the exterior of our new house with a flag holder that's gotta be either nailed or screwed in. Oh well... No flag for us. I'd probably forget to bring it in before sundown anyway.

So yes, Happy Birthday, Your Imperial Majesty!




Sunday, November 6, 2011

We "heart" gyoza

As can be expected, in the self-proclaimed Japanese capital of gtoza, we take our gyoza very seriously. So seriously, that every November we throw a mega dumpling party - Gyoza Matsuri.



This year, of course, was no different. Except perhaps, that unlike in previous years when the weather was quite nice, this weekend it was cloudy, cold, and today - rainy.

Yesterday, however, it didn't rain (it tried though, boy, did it try!) and together with a friend (because Mr T was otherwise occupied), we headed downtown to eat, drink and be merry. Actually, we skipped the drinking part and just focused on eating. And being merry, of course.



This year no video for you, because... Well, because I didn't feel like filming. And besides, if I had been filming, then you would have to wait probably until next November to see the clip, because I'm so slow these days. I still have tons of summer footage that is unedited and clogging up my hard drive. Yes, I've become that lazy.

 An hour wait for a serving of gyoza? Yep.

But anyway, it was supposed to be about gyoza, not about me. Though admittedly, I'd rather be talking about me, because I blog so infrequently now, that y'all must be just dying to hear what's new at Casa Trouble. Right? To be honest, nothing's new. So there was nothing to blog about.

Anyway, back to gyoza...



There were many kinds - green, yellowish, steamed, fried, oily, less oily and not oily at all, garlicky, salty and totally tasteless ones.

I actually quite liked this one - the soupy sauce (or was it a saucy soup?) was deliciously sour and tangy. I like sour.

And as always, there were other feeding options as well. Grilled meats, sausages on a stick, fish on a stick, yakisoba (which turned out to be yaki-spaghetti) and other stuff.



We mainly stuck to gyoza and I can proudly say that I consumed 48 pieces, in total. And was able to get up from the flimsy plastic table and walk to the nearest bust stop when it was time to go home. Needless to say, there was no dinner for me last night. I did have ice-cream, though. Because no matter how stuffed you are, there's always room for ice-cream, amirite?

These guys here didn't even bother with a flimsy plastic table.

What else? There was jazz. Because Utsunomiya wants to be famous for jazz. LOL. And LOL again. But in all seriousness, these guys were actually pretty good.



I especially liked their version of "Moon Over Bourbon Street". I liked it so much that suddenly my mouth just popped open and the lyrics came out. Spontaneously and terribly off key. For some very strange reason, this is the only Sting song that I know all the words to. And no, I'm not a vampire fan. Never was, never will be.


And as always, our dear Ichijo boys and girls were on cleaning duty. And seemingly ALL of them wanted to practice their English. What's happening to the junior high crowd these days? I remember them to be all shy and awkward, and here they are, talking to a random gaijin in English.


So yeah, that was our Gyoza Matsuri this year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Welcome back...

... she said to herself when after a two-month (and a little bit) break she finally logged into Blogger. Ouch!



Yes, I'm lazy. Yes, I'm THAT lazy...



It was great to take a break, and it feels awkward to be back. But I'm sure I'll get back into the swing of things in no time.

My summer was uneventful. Boring even. Odd to say that, because in reality, I was crazy busy. Doing stuff I didn't want to be doing, hence the "boring" description.

I don't know why I felt (and still feel) so depressed. I have a good job with a decent salary, I have a great husband (who should be nominated for sainthood for putting up with me), I have lovely friends, a big house (yes, we've finally moved in), two of the sweetest cats the world has known... So why am I feeling like such a failure?


Warning!!! Warning!!! - a bunch of really pitiful and intensely personal "oh, please feel sorry for me" shit is coming up. If you don't want to read it, just scroll down to the end of the post to look at the photo of a girl waving a big sword. Thank you!




The fact that earlier this year I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure (yes, that's early menopause in normal people speak, but "premature ovarian failure" sounds oh-so-much fancier, doesn't it?) certainly had something to do with it. But that I'm bothered by it is also rather odd, because it's not like we were planning to produce a litter of haafus, or anything. Quite the opposite, in fact. I never wanted to be a mother.

However, turning forty (yep, it did happen - this past July) and suddenly finding out I'm officially an old lady, in more ways than one, was hard. Then came the hormones - patches and tablets, and the mood swings. I've always been a total bitch on the best of days, so it's easy to imagine what my hormone-induced worst days look like. My poor, poor husband...

And speaking of, I've been wondering how Mister Trouble even manages to live with me lately. Yesterday we had an interesting dinner table (yes, we have a dinner table now, well, sort of, more like a counter, really) conversation. He said I'm terrible at housework (true, I despise it) and that I'm a "good cook in my own way" (translation - "I'm just saying that not to hurt your feelings, because if I tell you the truth, you'd go ballistic again and I'd like to have one day of peace this week and not deal with your bullshit"), and that generally, the only thing I'm good at is loading up the washing machine and adding soap and softener. Geez... and that's coming from my loving husband...

Now, to all that I can add a total failure, not only as a housewife, but also in general, as a woman. It's scary what the inability to bleed every month can do to a woman's ego. Ouch again...


Oh, and before I forget... Some of my coworkers and my students' parents (hi guys!!!) also found this blog. It's not like I was hiding it, quite the opposite actually, but somehow I didn't expect certain folks to read it with the help of Google Translate. So yes, I need to be really careful what and how I say on here from now on. LOL! Yeah, like that's gonna happen...

But on a more serious note, apart from all the usual Japan-themed bits and diddles, which of course, will remain, as always, you can expect this blog to be a lot more personal in the future... And if you don't like it, well, that's too bad...




And now, for the usual Japan-themed bits and diddles...

 We nicknamed her "Azumi" (yeah, not very original, I know, but that was the first thing that came to our minds); her real last name is Ms. Nozaki. This was the third year we watched her in Moka and she's gotten so much better since the first time we saw her! I'm very impressed!


Yesterday we went to one of our favoritest (yes, I know it's not a real word and I won't be teaching it to your children, don't worry) festivals - Rei Taisai at Nakamura Hachimangu in Moka.

I think last year we gave you a blow-by-blow description of the place and the event, so all I'm going to say is that this year it was pretty much the same.

There was yabusame (traditional horseback archery), daidai kagura (ritual shinto dancing), batto embu taikai (lots of sword waving) and a mikoshi procession (a portable shrine carried by a bunch of guys, some in fundoshi, but most in shorts or tights).

And, of course, I have most of the event on video (except for the mikoshi procession, because it was last and it was hot and I wasn't feeling well so I went to sit in the car with the AC on full blast). But when you will see this video is anybody's guess... As I still haven't gotten around to editing the footage from my trip to Ishinomaki this summer. Yikes!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Show Me Japan is on summer break

Show Me Japan is going on summer vacation!!!
Show Me Japanは夏休みに入ります!


We would like to thank everyone for participating every week and making this meme a success.
参加してくれる皆さんには心から感謝してます。皆さんのおかげでこんなにうまいこと行ってます。


We will be back with a new issue of Show Me Japan on August 26th, 2011.
次回のShow Me Japanは2011年8月26日になります。



Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants.
前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

As always - click on the photos to be taken to the participants' blogs.
参加者が撮影した写真をクリックすると、参加者のブログへ飛びます。


From Rurousha


From Cocomino


From Lina


From Mullenkedheim


From Japanese Castle Explorer



Have a great summer!!!
夏休み楽しんでね。


Anna and Yoshi
アンナ&ヨシ





Friday, July 1, 2011

Show Me Japan Vol 1 Issue 32

IMPORTANT: Please enter a link to a specific post on your blog, not a general link to your entire blog/website. Thank you!

(Sorry this edition is a day late! But it will stay open for entries until 11:45PM on Monday, July 4th)
一日遅れのエントリー開始ごめんなさい。けど、7月4日の月曜日午後11時45分まで受け付けます。


Welcome to the 32nd edition of Show Me Japan. 第32回 Show Me Japan へようこそ。

You can see previous editions here. 前回の”Show Me Japan” エントリーはここです。

FAQ page in English and Japanese is here. 英語と日本語のFAQはここにありますので、初めて参加される方は目を通して頂けると幸いです。

Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants. 前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

The widget to enter your links is at the end of this post – below the photos. ”Show Me Japan”にエントリーする際のリンクを貼るウィジェットはこの記事の一番下にあります。

As always - click on the photos to be taken to the participants' blogs.
参加者が撮影した写真をクリックすると、参加者のブログへ飛びます。


 from Bartman




from David LaSpina


from Rekishi no Tabi



from Spamm From Japan



from Tokyololas





If you participate in Show Me Japan, please be so kind and include a link back to this blog in your post. エントリーしたポスト中で “Show Me Japan”のリンクを貼り忘れてないか確かめて頂けると幸いです。バッジに “Show Me Japan”のリンクを加えて頂ければ至極幸いここ極まれりです。


Thank you for participating and have a wonderful weekend.
それでは参加者の皆さん、よい週末を。




And now it's your turn!!!






Hot fun in the summertime

Everybody who knows me, knows that I'm a summer matsuri freak. Not sure why... Give me a good mikoshi procession, a night of fireworks, add a chocolate covered banana on a stick, and I'm as happy as can be. See? I'm easy to please. Especially in the summer.

The festivals we normally attend as local events. Some (as the bunch of half-naked guys spinning around in a circle while being doused with water and rolling in the mud) are positively obscure.

Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order...

  • Miya Matsuri - Utsunomiya city summer fest. It has everything - mikoshis, fundoshis, shaved ice and pretty girls in yukatas.


And most of all - typical matsuri hairstyles:




  • Moka Summer Festival - the festival that brought me "that close" to being part of a major feature film directed by one of my all-time favorite directors.

But sadly, I had to be satisfied with this:


and this:


  • That obscure festival in Ichikai - the one with the mud and guys spinning around:


And after all is said and done and you find yourself face-to-face with a soaking wet participant, your face looks more or less like that (hint - those undies are really thin):



  • Reitaisai at Nakamura Hachimangu - where girls wave really big knives:


And where they ride horses and shoot arrows - a.k.a. yabusame:


  • The festival before the ritual (nighttime) Mt Nantai climb, and yep, there's them fireworks:


and drunk girls in silly outfits:




This year the summer festival season starts with Miyaichisai this Sunday (July 3rd) and you betcha that my camera batteries are charged and ready!


This is my entry to Loco's Hot Fun in the Summertime 2011 edition!!!




Have a wonderful summer, everyone!!! :-)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Delayed again

Due to a lot of work and not enough time, this weekend Show Me Japan will be open for entries from Friday evening to Monday evening (Japan time).

I apologize for any inconvenience.


急なヤボ用が入ってしまったため、今週のShow Me Japanは日本時間金曜夕方からエントリーを開始し、月曜午後に締め切ります。
突然の変更ごめんなさい。

Friday, June 24, 2011

Show Me Japan Vol 1 Issue 31

IMPORTANT: Please enter a link to a specific post on your blog, not a general link to your entire blog/website. Thank you!



Welcome to the 31st edition of Show Me Japan. 第31回 Show Me Japan へようこそ。

You can see previous editions here. 前回の”Show Me Japan” エントリーはここです。

FAQ page in English and Japanese is here. 英語と日本語のFAQはここにありますので、初めて参加される方は目を通して頂けると幸いです。

Below is a random selection of photos from last week’s participants. 前回の参加者中からランダムに選んだ写真を以下に紹介します。

The widget to enter your links is at the end of this post – below the photos. ”Show Me Japan”にエントリーする際のリンクを貼るウィジェットはこの記事の一番下にあります。

 As always - click on the photos to be taken to the participants' blogs.
参加者が撮影した写真をクリックすると、参加者のブログへ飛びます。


 From Anzu



From As I See Japan... From L.A.



From Seoul Man in Tokyo


From Lina



From Loco in Yokohama.





If you participate in Show Me Japan, please be so kind and include a link back to this blog in your post. エントリーしたポスト中で “Show Me Japan”のリンクを貼り忘れてないか確かめて頂けると幸いです。バッジに “Show Me Japan”のリンクを加えて頂ければ至極幸いここ極まれりです。


Thank you for participating and have a wonderful weekend.
それでは参加者の皆さん、よい週末を。




And now it's your turn!!!






Show Me Japan Participants

1. lina
2. TSOJ
3. misadventures with miso
4. Jon (Toshogu)
5. loco
6. kirsten
7. Mullenkedheim
8. Rekishi no Tabi
9. Haikugirl
10. bartman
11. Kyushudan
12. David
13. cocomino
14. sixmats
15. David LaSpina
16. Laura (tokyololas)
17. Jay Dee in Japan
18. Spam From Japan
19. kirsten
20. Spam From Japan
21. Fernando Ramos
22. LifeyouTV


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trip to Aizu Wakamatsu in Fukushima - part 2

Yes, better late than never. Part 1 of our Aizu Wakamatsu trip report is here.


During Golden Week we decided to visit the Aizu castle for the second time. Why? To see the cherries in full bloom. The weather was nice in Tochigi and the forecast said it was going to be nice in Fukushima as well. It wasn't. The sky was dark and gray and it looked like it was about to start raining any minute.

But that didn't matter one bit to the people who were busy hanami'ing around the castle.



I know there are foreigners living in Aizu Wakamatsu, but that day I saw only one gaijin there and he was just leaving. Therefore, yours truly was a very popular girl that day. Random people thanked me for coming to Fukushima, asked for photos with me, invited me to have drinks with them. If I had known it was going to be like that, I would have put on some makeup or something. But no, my face was paint-free and my hair was greasy, messy and unwashed (my dislike of washing my hair is legendary, "you and Kurt Cobain" as my husband usually says).

Maybe I should do what this girl did? Just a thought:



Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, Aizu Wakamatsu. I love that town. If not for this soon-to-be-moved-in-brand-new house in Tochigi, I'd pack up and settle in Fukushima in a heartbeat.



Needless to say, I'm a big fan of akabeko (Aizu red cow) and our cats love it, too. We even have an akabeko at home, though it's already missing a tail. The cats say it was delicious.


What's the deal with the red roof? Based on the records from the Edo period, that was the original color of the roof and that's how the castle people want to keep it.

Just when we were about to give up and leave, the sun suddenly came out.


The sky was blue for maybe 5 minutes before it started to rain...

We didn't go inside this time around, we visited the museum during our first visit. The ticket girl was dressed in period costume.



So was the tour guide:


I can't wait to return to Fukushima. For my next trip I'd like to take the third sector train from Kinugawa and stop at different onsen villages along the way. That's my summer vacation plan.

But in the meantime, here's a video of Aizu hanami:





And this is my very own entry for this week's Show Me Japan!