Life in Seika, Japan

Howdy there! My name is Kai and I am the Coordinator for International Relations in Seika Town, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. Hopefully by reading this blog you all will get a good picture of what life is like in Seika town, and all the great things that happen down here.

Monday, February 04, 2008

冬の気分 It Feels Like Winter



This past Saturday night it was raining all night long so when I woke up and looked out the window to see snow covering everything on Sunday morning I was really surprised. This is the second winter that I have lived in Seika Town but this was the first time I have seen snow covering the ground. There was only about 5cm of snow covering cars and in the rice fields, but I thought it looked really beautiful.

So with that feeling of winter, my friends and I went to the ice skating rink in Nishi Kyogoku, Kyoto City. Somehow I have made it this far in my life without ever once having ice skated, so this was my first time. When I first stepped onto the ice it was really scary and I didn’t even see how I would start. But we were there for about 3 hours so by the end I was able to skate fairly well. Of course I fell down, but all in all it was a fun experience.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

スノボード Snowboarding

Even though I have lived in Japan for a total of two and a half years now I had never gone skiing or snowboarding until recently. I used to snowboard a lot when I was a teenager and then less frequently when I got into college so I am decent at snowboarding and I do really like it. I guess the reason why I had never gone until now was mostly due to the fact that I wear size 31cm shoe (US 13) and I just assumed they would never have my size boots for rental at the ski shops since I can never find my shoe size at any shoe store in Japan. That and the fact that I don’t have a board or any other gear of my own with me here in Japan so I knew it would be expensive to rent everything and pay for the lift ticket and transportation.

Well, it turns out I was wrong about the first assumption but dead on with the second. They do have size 31 cm boots for rental at Takasu Snow Park where I went, and yes it was really expensive for everything. Three friends and I rented a car and drove about 5 hours to Gifu Prefecture in the middle of the night to get there the next day and start boarding at 9am. I guess its been about 2 years since the last time I boarded so it was really fun to feel the sensation of gliding down a snowy mountain again. But by the end of the day my legs and knees were so sore from the unfamiliar exercise.

I don’t know if all Japanese ski slopes are the same but the one I went to was really different from ones I’m used to back home in one particular way: At home my favorite part of boarding is to leave the groomed course and weave in and out of the trees on the relatively untouched and softer snow. The trees on the mountain here were much denser and had a lot more low branches so it wasn’t really possible to cut a path through them. Plus the rules seemed a lot more strict here as there was almost always fencing put up right on the side of the groomed slopes so that you couldn’t go off the beaten path. That was a let down, but all in all it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately it was really pricey for one day of fun so it doesn’t look like I will be going too often.

I only got these two pictures of the mountains from the parking lot in the morning because I didn’t want to risk breaking my camera when I took an inevitable crash on the slopes.


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いごもり祭 Igomori Festival

For those of you who are faithful readers of this blog you will remember my post from last year about the Igomori Festival (see January 2007 archive). Well, this year I went again to the festival and it was just as firey as last year. This is the festival that began more than 1,000 years ago to scare off an evil spirit that was haunting the local Hahasono woods.

What they do is light a huge bamboo torch on fire and haul it around the neighborhood to scare off the spirit and thus insure a good crop for the year. The torch is about 3-4 meters (12 ft) in height, really big in girth and weighs a lot. They light a big fire inside of the shrine building with flames licking the ceiling yet somehow not burning down the whole thing. Then they stick the torch on the fire and get one end burning real good. After it is sufficiently on fire about 6 men haul the torch about 3 km around the neighborhood in the dark.

It is pretty amazing to watch. This year I followed the torch around the neighborhood for a while. It was pretty funny because they would get to a stop light and wait for it to turn green. Since the festival isn’t very well known I can only image the shock of the people in cars that happened to see 6 men in all white robes carrying a humongous burning torch down the street in the middle of winter. This year I just brought my little digital camera so the photos I got might not be such great quality. I don’t like to use the flash as it just ruins the night time eerie feel, but no flash often comes out blurry. Here are the best photos I could get.



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弓始式 Gentlemen, start your bows!

I’ve been pretty busy doing elementary school visits for work lately so its been a while since I had a chance to update the blog. I do however have some things to write about so here I go with the catch-up posts.

A couple weeks ago I went to a secluded Shinto shrine for a small traditional festival. I don’t think there is a good way to translate the name of the ceremony into English so here is the Japanese; 弓始式 (bow as in bow and arrow, start, ceremony). Anyways, name aside it was a curious little ceremony where the Shinto priests dressed all in white and shot arrows at a target in this year’s lucky direction. I assume that the lucky direction is determined in some ancient book of Chinese mysticism, or some other such almanac.

Apparently the ceremony is supposed to insure good crops for the year. They also cooked a fish over a little fire. I am not sure if that was part of the ceremony or if one of the old men in attendance just had a fish that needed cooking. Anyways, I got some nice photos of the bow and arrow shooting so I thought I would post them.



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