Wednesday, January 14, 2015

30 Days of Yoga

One of my new friends, in this not-so-new place (it's almost been a year since I moved, can you believe it?) is a yoga teacher. The thing with spending time with a yogi is that they make you want to be a yogi too. Not in a "join our cult" kind of a way (well, if they're doing it right) but in a "look how happy and healthy I am and you could be too, with a bot of yoga in your life" kind of a way. So, in short, I've taken up yoga. Of course my new friend teaches me from time to time, but I'm cheap and she likes to be paid for doing her job (remind me to tell you how infuriating it is when people want me to teach them English for free, even though it's my job, and I'm, like, all professional and things, thus requiring a salary) so sometimes I learn with her and sometimes I learn with a video on You Tube.

There are many yoga videos on You Tube and one of the first things I noticed is that they are not all created equal. Some are so boring I fall asleep half way through, which I suppose means I'm relaxed, but that's not quite what I'm looking for. Some yoga teachers have really annoying "yoga voices" where they use a really soft voice and make every syllable reaaallllly lllloooonnnggggg, as if they're trying to lull you into a hypnotic state. I don't really want to be hypnotised, especially as it always makes me worry I'm going to quack like a duck every time someone claps their hands.

Eventually, I came across Yoga With Adrienne. She doesn't have an annoying yoga voice, she cracks jokes and she even suggests different ways to do things depending on your level. At the moment, she is doing 30 days of Yoga, with a different video every day for 30 days. So far, I have finished 12. For me, the Queen of the land of starting things you'll never finish, that's not bad going. 

Getting up early to get it in before work is never fun when it's dark in the morning. I find I do glide to work on a cloud of smug when I've done it though, so there's that. I also have been finding that I'm more productive during the day, although that might just be that I have a lot to do at the moment so I have no choice. I'm saying yoga because that sounds better....

So, anyway, Adrienne is not paying me for this, although she is welcome to is she would like. I accept payment in Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Doughnuts. I just didn't want to bore you with my work schedule and as that is all that I have going on this fine Wednesday evening, I thought I'd tell you about yoga.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ozu, Ehime

The river running through Ozu

Over the break, I went back to Matsuyama for a very quick visit. I wanted to catch up with some friends and have a natter.

On my last day, I went to a place called Ozu, in the West of Ehime. We were headed for a hot spring up in the mountains. It was perfect, beautiful scenery, warm water, almost nobody there. Sadly, I can't remember the name of the place for the life of me, but, then again, I wouldn't want it to be crowded the next time I go there, so maybe that's for the best.

We spent a few hours wandering around Ozu. It's a pretty old town, and it still has lots of old shops.

With it being the beginning of the new year holidays, the museum was closed, which was a shame. But, we carried on wandering and came across Garyu Sanso, which my friend described as the summer house of some rich guy.

She was right, The pamphlet they gave me tells me that it was built by a trading merchant, Torajiro Kochi who lived in Kobe. It took ten years to build it, and it is really lovely. You'll have to trust me on that, because you can't take pictures in the main building. 

You can take pictures in the garden and the tea house at the end of the garden. As I grew up with a greenhouse and a compost heap at the end of the garden, this part impressed me a lot.

The garden gate

The view of the house from the garden

The teahouse had this outside the entrance

Standard lamp picture
It was a lovely little house, much nicer than my apartment. I wouldn't be allowed to live there now, though. What I really need is a time machine to go back to the time he house was used and make friends in high places so I'd get invited. Realistic dreams there, then.

The last couple of posts have been travel type posts, because I went to some places during the break. I'm back at work now, so I won't be travelling anywhere, so they'll be no travel posts for a while, unless I dig back in my phone and find some photos from when I went AWOL. I'll have to find something else to tell you about. That may take some time....

Monday, January 5, 2015

Suizenji Park

The new year holidays in Japan are usually celebrated over the first three days of the year. People spend time with family, go to the temple or shrine and eat delicious food. During the new year period, Suizenji Park was free to visitors. Being the type of person who likes a freebie, I wandered down to have a potter.

According to the sign outside, Suizenji park is a good example of a Momoyama era garden, which doesn't mean much to me, but I thought it sounded fancy and you guys might know more about these things than me. It was built in 1636 as a tea house garden, and it's now a lovely bit of peace and quiet in the centre of Kumamoto city. There's a shrine and a lake, and lots of souvenir shops, which I'm sure you agree is key in a tourist spot.



See, I'm not kidding, it's a really lovely place for a walk. Even on a holiday, and packed with people, it was still really peaceful.

Most people were there for "Hatsumode", the first temple or shrine visit of the year. It's kind of a big deal in Japan. People go with their families, buy new lucky charms, pick up a fortune and pray for good fortune for the year.

One thing I'd forgotten about was last year's lucky charms. After a year, they lose their effect, and you have to by new ones to keep the good luck going. Of course, you can't just throw these things in the bin, that wouldn't be good. So, people bring them back to the temple or shrine during the new year period, where they are collected and, as far as I know, are burned by the priests,  There's something a little sad about a pile of unwanted lucky charms.


I heartily recommend a wander around Suizenji Park if you're ever in Kumamoto. Unless it's raining or really, really hot or cold. Then, I'd say the museums would be a better bet.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year 2015

Hmmm, it's been a long while since I updated this here blog, hasn't it? I sort of got out of the habit and time went by. Suddenly, 6 months had passed by and, well, here we are. As it's a new year and all that, I thought I would have a bash at getting this thing up and running again. 'm not sure how long this new burst of energy would last, but you never know if you don't try.

With it being New Year's Day, I decided to go up to the top of the big hill nearby to watch the sunrise this morning. Sadly, it was pretty cloudy, which meant that the sun was hidden. So, technically, I didn't see the sunrise.
The sun is there, just behind all the cloud.
There's a temple on the way up the hill. This is the gate to the temple. I'd quite like this for my flat.

I did see the snow though. That was pretty cool, literally! It stopped fairly early and didn't settle, so just the snow made getting up in the dark well worth it.

I spent New Year's Eve in Fukuoka, visiting a couple of cafes.First, we went to the Moomin cafe, and had honey toast accompanied by this guy. We got lucky and arrived just before the line got crazy long. We walked right in, but the line snaked through the shop and out into the shopping centre by the time we left. If you ever decide to go to the Moomin cafe, it's better to get there not long after it opens at 10am.
To be honest, I'm not really up on my Moomin characters. but I like his evil grin.

The honey toast turned out to be a huge chunk of white bread, toasted, with whipped cream, ice cream, honey and custard. I went with my friend, and both of us have pretty good appetites, but sharing one serving between us was plenty. As much as I hate to be defeated, a whole honey toast to myself might have been the end of me. 

Then we went to the owl cafe, I was a bit taken aback when we got there and realised that it wasn't just a cafe with owl decor.There were actual owls you could have sit on your hand. Clearly, I need to pay more attention when people suggest going places.
Excuse the wooly hat, my hair was a mess and covering it up was the only option left to me.
You can't see inside the cafe from outside so I was inside before I realised there were real owls. I don't know how interested I would have been if I had known there would be real owls. It seems cruel to keep them inside for the entertainment of tourists. The staff come out and give you an appointment time. Each appointment starts on the hour, and when it is your turn, the staff bring you in and take you up to the cafe upstairs. You pay 1000 yen, which includes a drink and a chance to meet the owls. They give you some instructions and warn you that the birds may poop on you, they are living beings after all. The owls seemed very well cared for and the staff prioritised them over customers, which made me feel a bit better about it. After about 45 minutes, your time is up. It was a strange experience and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, cat cafes are huge business in Japan, an owl cafe is the same idea. On the other hand, owls are not usually pets and it felt a little wrong somehow. I also have no idea what a happy owl looks like, so have no way of judging their condition.

I can't say I'll go back to the owl cafe but I will happily go back to the Moomin cafe.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Fried Brain Friday

Um, where did that week just go? I could've sworn it was just Friday yesterday. Anyway, as it seems I'm not so good at posting anything else, the least I can do is give you a little Fried Brain Friday fun, right?

  • Last Saturday, some colleagues and I went into town to see a talk by a South African musician, sadly I've forgotten her exact name, but she's quite a big deal in South Africa. We had checked where it was, and arranged to meet in plenty of time. Unfortunately, none of us thought to check the date, having assumed it was going to magically be held when we decided it would be. Turned out that we were about 3 days late. Whoops. So we went for lunch instead. 

  • The last Monday in every month is Quiz night at a local wine bar. It's the place to be in Kumamoto, as long  as you speak English. The highlight for me was the guess the moustache round, in which I correctly identified Hulk Hogan's moustache. Considering I've never watched WWF in my life, that's quite impressive. Or a sign that I read too much trash on the internet, one or the other.

  • I went for a run the other day with a friend. It's our new, once a week, thing. She's a stronger runner than me, although we're a similar speed (she may well be slowing down on my account, to be fair). so she pushes me a bit, which is good. It's also a good chance to have a good old chinwag, which, if we're honest, is the main reason we're doing it at all.

  • As we're now in rainy season proper, even if the humidity is low, I've had to become familiar with the local laundrette. I'm not a fan of laundrettes as a general rule, they smell funny in my experience, but you can't argue with clean, dry towels. I realised I need to pay more attention when I threw 20 minutes' worth of money in a dryer, only to reason it was the one above mine. Of course, it wouldn't come out, and when the man whose clothes were in there came back to claim them, he kept looking at his watch in a very confused manner. I didn't like to tell him what I'd done, in case something in there was burned from being in the dryer for so long. So, I slopped off outside, and went for a quick walk around the block in the pouring rain, probably looking very shifty indeed. 

  • And for no other reason than it made me smile

So, that was random. How was your  Friday?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fried Brain Friday!

It's been a while since I did one of these. I can't think why I ever got out of the habit, it's a great thing to do on a Friday. In case you didn't realise, the name was suggested by Kathryn. I should remember to mention that every time, but I don't.

  • England lost another World Cup game this morning. I didn't bother with the early start and just asked the guys at work when I got there. To be honest, I was surprised to learn Frank Lampard was playing, I thought he'd retired a while back... I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not a very good football fan.

  • I drew Nigeria in our department sweepstake. I'm never getting that 500yen back. At least I knew that from the start, the guy who drew Spain had a terrible shock.

  • I bought some flaxseed the other day. I'm not 100% sure what to do with it, so if you have some suggestions, let me know, won't you? I could Google but, well, it's easier to ask you.

  • I've been watching Life on Mars a lot lately. It's a good few years old, but it is such a good show. I didn't know there was an American version, though. Why do they do that? Why not just show the English one that has already been made? Wouldn't that be cheaper, which is better business (I obviously know nothing about business)? 

  • The rainy season is taking a while to get started this year, which is nice. I even needed a blanket the other night. As anyone in Japan will tell you, blankets in June are not normal. 

  • Thanks to the rain, I slipped on a grate in the road the other day. I think I managed to keep it fairly elegant, but I landed on one knee and now I have 2 bruises where I hit the metal.  It's very attractive, but I'll spare you the photographic evidence. My re-enactment when I wanted to explain the meaning "embarrassing" to my students was a work of genius though.
So what's swimming around your brain this rainy Friday? Do share!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Photos, as promised!

I happened across this really cool temple one day. This is just the entrance. It's actually more impressive than the actual temple.
Rainy season in Japan means hydrangeas. I love their pastel shades.
I went to an art exhibition, because I'm all cultured and stuff. It was by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Her stuff is utterly bonkers. These two statures were outside the museum, I love that the angle makes it look like the dog is biting the lady's hand.

More beautiful flowers. This was last month, but the nice bright red seemed like an excellent way to end this stream of photos.