Thursday, June 30, 2005


I just came back from a nearby shrine and now I'm writing this up with a can of low-malt beer and corn on the cob right next to me. There was a local festival called “wanuke-sama” at the shrine tonight.

I’m no anthropologist, but I guess the ancient Japanese were not the only people who associated rings/circles with some mysterious power. Anyway this wanuke-sama is a local religious festival associated with such a power of the circle.

Wa” means circle or hoop and “nukeru” means to go through, “sama” is the suffix used when addressing someone who is superior to you. Thus, Wanuke-sama is, I suppose, the name of the god who is in charge of the magical hoop.

At Wanuke-sama festivfal, you are supposed to go through this big hoop made from chigaya (Imperata cylindrica) 3 times in total. First, you pass through it, then immediately turn left and come back around the side of the hoop to be in front of the hoop again. You then go through the hoop again, and this time immediately turn right and come back to the original position. On the third time, you go through the hoop and again turn left and come back.

It is said that doing that ritual will take away all of your bad lucks you had or bad things you did in the first half of the year, and keep you safe and healthy for the rest of the year. I wonder if the ritual symbolizes a “re-birth” process or something, and I assume there is some good reason for doing it “3 times” and in order of left--> right--> left, not the other way around. They also say that going through this green hoop, you can get the fresh power to stay healthy throughout the hot and humid summer. They even have a “drive-through”wanuke-sama at a shrine in Kochi (Scroll down to see the pictuer) :D

The shrine was already crowded with many people, including kids in yukata (Japanese light kimono for summer season) at around 6:30pm.

After finishing that rigual at the entrance, you are supposed to wash your hands and mouth with water here before you proceed to the altar for the prayer.

I thought these dragon-shaped faucets were rather unusual.

At the altar, you throw some coins into the big collection box, ring the large bell and pray.

Also you can buy one of these ornaments to take home. I guess this is supposed to give you part of the magical power of the big hoop.

Kingyo sukui (scooping goldfish?)
I really loved catching goldfish like this when I was a kid, though the gold fish I caught never lived long.

Well, am I ready to make a fresh start of the 2nd half of the year...??

posted by obachan, 6/30/2005 11:18:00 PM | link | 2 comments |

Sunday, June 26, 2005


I used to hate karaoke so much when I was in my early twenties. At that time it was available only at drinking places and mostly used by office workers after five. You had to clap to the beat when your boss kept singing his favorite songs quite off key, and when it was your turn, you had to sing in front of your colleagues and bosses whether you liked it or not. (I found another site that gives a very good explanation of karaoke, but I cannot fully agree with the second paragraph of THE BACKGROUND OF KARAOKE’S POPULARITY. At least, I 'm definitely an exception.)

I experienced it about twice, and that was more than enough for me. The second time was really terrible… I was with an old college professor and some of his students. The professor loved the special kind of karaoke entries… the ones that came with very erotic video scenes on the screen which had absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics. It was disgusting. (I wonder if they still have that kind of “erotic versions” these days. At least I haven’t seen anything like that recently. ) Since then, I tried so hard to avoid being in such a situation as much as possible, though politely .

Then there came the era of “karaoke box” which allows you to be in a small private compartment only with the people you like and really enjoy singing. But I was still too disgusted with the previous karaoke experiences, so I didn’t feel like going to such new karaoke places, either. And more than anything, I'm not a good singer, anyway.

It was only recently that I started going to Karaoke and actually enjoying singing. Now they have nice, cozy rooms and nice drinks/foods that you can order from the private room you’re in, and so many English songs, too. I couldn’t resist the temptation to sing English pop songs that I loved when I was in high school and university. Also many of such songs always remind me of the parties I had in the U.S. with people from so many different countries. So I finally gave in.

So, if you’d come to Kochi and saw a middle-aged Japanese woman in a karaoke room, with bunch of non-Japanese karaoke lovers, dancing on the sofa in bare feet singing Love Shack, that’d probably be me ;)
(Actually that's exactly what I did last night.)

posted by obachan, 6/26/2005 06:20:00 PM | link | 2 comments |

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Saturday morning is the worst time to watch TV if you live in Kochi and don’t have a cable TV. All you can get is only 5 channels. All you can see is something educational or infomercials!! Sure you have a choice ---- of either the amazing effect of a concealer on bunch of blond ladies or interviews with some Japanese elders who tried glucosamine capsules. …I ended up meddling with the template again.

Well, better quit whining and start looking for something to amuse myself with :)

I’d rather brainstorm and try out things than to keep asking people, “I can’t enjoy anything. Nothing is interesting. I don’t know what to do. What should I do?”Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m a simple-minded person and small, inexpensive things can easily amuse me… things like walking in the woods and having lunch at a bench in the park.

So, I spent most of the afternoon outside today.

Magnolia tree at the prefectural office

There is a reason why this flower is very special to me. This is the state flower of Mississippi and I saw many of them while I was there. Whenever I see Magnolia flowers around here, I instantly recall the humidity and heat of that southern state… and the food stands I saw along the highway. They had big handwritten signs saying “watermelon” or “boiled peanuts” or “catfish.” I miss them.

Yamamomo (Myrica rubra or Japanese bayberry)

Yamamomo’s blossom is the symbolic flower of our prefecture. Unfortunately not many of us know what the flowers look like, because most of us do not pay attention to them as much as we do to the berries. I like eating fresh berries, but more tempting is home-made yamamomo cordial. My parents have a couple of yamamomo trees in dad’s orchard, and mom makes cordial almost every year. This tree in the photo looked nice with berries, but I had to put up with a little unpleasant smell while taking the photo. The yamamomo berries fell on the pavement rot and smelled quite a bit.

I went to the library to return and check out some books, then had lunch at the park near Kochi castle. It was cloudy and not many people were at the park… only some elders. I sat on a bench and enjoyed reading and eating at the same time. A couple of pigeons walked around my bench, obviously trying to put pressure on me to feed them.

These are the hydrangeas I saw on my way back from the park. On the blue one, I sprinkled a little water to make it look happier.

One thing is certain. If asked “Do you want to watch an infomercial for 15 minutes or see trees and flowers for 15 minutes?” I’d definitely go for trees and flowers. They never exhaust me.

posted by obachan, 6/18/2005 01:27:00 PM | link | 6 comments |

Sunday, June 12, 2005


It’s the time of the year that my basal metabolism goes up!
Preparations for our crazy summer dance festival, “Yosakoi” have started, not only in this prefecture but almost all over Japan. I would say “all over Japan” because recently more and more people come from other prefectures to join this festival and dance in the street under the hot summer sun here in Kochi. And now it’s time that many participating dance teams recruit dancers and start dance practices.

This year I’m in a unique team that consists of participants from all over Japan. Instead of having scheduled practices at certain places (gym, parking lot, park, etc.) like regular teams, this team sends participants videos/CDs for self-practice at home. The participants get together on the day before the main festival day and practice altogether just once, then join the festival. That’s why I chose this team.

Because my work schedule is an irregular combination of daytime and night-time shifts, it’s always difficult for me to attend scheduled practices of most regular teams. When I danced with one of the local teams a few years back, my lack of practice attendance really ruined the fun of the festival. The choreographer kept changing the dance while I was absent, and I ended up getting reprimanded for making mistakes in the middle of the dance at the festival.

Anyway, yesterday I received the practice video from the team I’m in this year. Since then, these have been (and will be till the end of the festival in August) my must-haves: A towel, isotonic drink and Naruko. Naruko are wooden clappers all the dancers must use in the dance at the festival. I have rubber-bands on them for now so that they don’t make noise while practicing in my room.

Those who have some idea of how humid it is in Japan in June, imagine what it’s like to dance for an hour in a room with all the windows shut (so that the music won’t bother the neighbors). And imagine how much damage the dance practice can do to tatami floor. ;P But for me dancing is an absolute joy, so I don't mind. I’m not good at it, but I just love it. I also believe this dance practice is definitely making me healthier… Because of this practice, I sweat a lot, have a good appetite and sleep better. My 5HT level must be elevated, too. I just need to be careful and eat/drink healthy stuff afterwards…not things like Crab Rangoon with ice-cold beer ;P

BTW, have you seen the film, “Dancer in the dark?” I thought it was a great movie and Bjork was a hell of a singer, but it had the most UN-exhilarating ending I’d ever seen.

posted by obachan, 6/12/2005 02:15:00 PM | link | 3 comments |

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Today is my complete day off and the weather is so fine --- pretty hot but not very humid, with occasional refreshing breeze. I got up at 8:00am this morning and decided to make today a good domestic day. Before breakfast, I prepared a “things to do” list and put a quick grocery shopping and 100-yen goods hunting on top of it. Those were the things I wanted to do before it got too hot outside. Fridge/Freezer cleaning was another thing I definitely wanted to do today. Making chicken stock was the #3 on the list.

Now it’s around noon. I’m taking a break, sitting in front of my laptop, smelling a nice aroma from the chicken stock simmering in the kitchen and eating the ice cream that has to be consumed for the purpose of freezer cleaning. I left the window to the balcony and the kitchen door open to let the nice breeze in. The electric fan is also helping. Some of the groceries I bought this morning are sitting on the kitchen table and some are stored in the fridge. My futon is drying outside in the balcony. All these small things are so healing…

Looking back now, I have been a little absent-minded for the last couple of weeks. It was the time that some complicated issues were brought up at my daytime work and my colleague asked me to cover for her for 2 days at the izakaya. It did not necessarily make me too busy or too stressed, but somehow, I got so disorganized. In the past 10 days, I lost (or misplaced) my hat, my umbrella, my favorite ball-point pen, my 5 ml measuring spoon and what was worst, a folder of files that I had on my laptop. This last one really annoyed me, because I have no idea how and when I deleted it. Anyway, losing that many things in a row was quite discouraging. It was just enough to tell myself, “OK, I need to take a break and get a hold of myself.”

Maybe taking a long vacation and going abroad could work best for this kind of symptoms ;) but for now, I’ll be satisfied with this least expensive remedy: Cooking/eating some dishes that bring me back some fond memories, and thinking about the clean fridge and freezer with no mystery-packs to feel great satisfaction.

OK. Time to go back to the kitchen ;)

posted by obachan, 6/09/2005 12:37:00 PM | link | 3 comments |

Saturday, June 04, 2005


It started raining before noon and I heard thunder several times in the afternoon. I had been procrastinating cleaning the electric fan, but this afternoon I finally had to do that. This weather reminded me of a song I heard over and over when I was helping with a musical this spring. The song was: “It’s Raining Men.”

What would I do if it really started raining men? Oh I wouldn't mind. I'd definitely ask one of them to clean my air conditioner filter… ;P
posted by obachan, 6/04/2005 11:38:00 PM | link | 4 comments |