We went there for a piano concert but...

It turned into a bit of a photo shoot...

We only started piano in July so it was a bit premature to be performing already but the teacher asked if they wanted to go in the annual concert and both said yes, even if it meant they'd have to work really hard at their pieces, and they did work really hard and they played really well.  Amy got her finger stuck in the wrong place and played a misnote and Meg was nervous and played fast at the end (I was told- I am a musical ignoramous and they sounded just fine to me!) but they were both thrilled to have performed so that's the main thing, right?

The biggest shock for me were the outfits.  

I think the girls looked cute in their dresses (matching...again... I know...)

But I swear we might as well have turned up in jeans and t-shirts.  In their age group (elementary school kids) three girls could have doubled as flower girls and the other one was wearing a suit like something out of Legally Blonde.

And two had hair salon hairstyles...

Oh well.  

The girls were happy with their outfits so that was ok.

Predictably Amy would like her hair professionally styled next time.

She also told her teacher which piece she would like to play next time.

I have a feeling the hands-running-up-and-down-the-keyboard-like-a-shinkansen piece she liked is not 12 months away from our just-mastered-playing-with-two-hands current level.

Oh well.

So after the concert (and before we headed to a neighbour's wake, it was one of those weekends..) the girls wanted some pictures outside the concert hall.  
I haven't had my proper camera out for ages.  
Too easy to use the (far inferior) phone camera.

So we took some pictures:

They're both complete monkeys but aren't they cute monkeys?


nice try honey

Got a call from the school today.

After my initial panic that one of them had been gravely injured I realised Amy was at piano and Meg was sitting next to me so it was probably not that...

It was Meg's teacher.

She wanted to talk about Meg's homework.

I was kind of confused as after a shaky start to Grade 3 and its increased level of kanji intensity where Meg took 'free writing practice' to mean 'you are free to do it or not as is your want' rather than 'you are free to choose what characters to practice' we have been smooth sailing with the old homework.

I check that it's done every morning and we got a whole new series of notebooks as motivation to do our best writing rather than practicing our doctor's scrawl and it has been working a treat.

So what could the teacher be calling about??

Well, seems that yes Meg is handing in homework every day.

And yes, her handwriting is 100% better than it was.

Very impressive.

But, in order to hand in beautiful penmanship Meg has been fudging her homework.

Instead of writing out a line each of the kanji the teacher selects for that day's study she has been substituting easy kanji for any she finds difficult to write.

The teacher called her on this today.

The teacher was very impressed that Meg was so honest and told her exactly what she was doing and why.

She told me as much.

She asked me not to scold Meg but just to please check the content of her homework each morning as well as the fact that it has been done.

I asked Meg and she said ahhh yeahhhhh, the teacher did mention that....

She was distinctly unfazed by it all.

I told K when he got home and he was right chuffed.

Very smart kid.


Thinks outside the box.

Gonna go far.

I pointed out that literacy tends to be a definite advantage in going far.

K was already off on some daydream about his innovative daughter's future.

I will be the one checking her homework tomorrow morning....

*that* mum 26 October

Ever seen that kid wearing grossly inappropriate clothing at a public event and passed judgement on what kind of mother would let their kid out of the house looking like that? 

I have. Many times.

Ever been the mother of that kid and absolutely sure that all the mothers are gonna be judging you?

I have. 

And it was the whole school concert.
And of course she was standing dead centre of the very front row...

I swear she WAS wearing shorts under there...

And they looked much longer before she hitched them up to give the illusion that she wasn't wearing shorts as she thinks she looks cuter that way.

And she eats lots of vegetables and goes to bed at a decent hour.

Just in case you were wondering...

Yup.  My commitment to Amy having sartorial freedom was sorely tested today.  Not only was she the only kid in grade 1 wearing shorts on a chilly late October morning but she was wearing shorts so short and so hitched up her bum that they were invisible.  This was her intention as she is convinced that the red frilly bit on her shirt is a built in skirt.  My insistence that bum-skimming pant-revealing skirts are not usually built into 7 year olds' clothing are falling on deaf ears.  As are my entreaties that it is a much classier look to be able to see your shorts.  Preferably quite a lot of your shorts.

Anyway, other than widespread public condemnation and humiliation it went quite well.

Both girls did really well with their pieces playing pianica and singing.  Amy had lines as well and hit her cue bang on.  Go Amy!

Meg performed first and I hadn't got the settings right on my camera yet so her pic is a bit dark:

And Amy played really well despite what must have been a very uncomfortable wedgie.


the "fun" run... October 21

Every year in Azusagawa there's a fun run.

This year was the last year as since we amalgamated Matsumoto doesn't want to support it anymore.

Ironically, the problem was that the event is too popular and takes too much work to put on.

A couple of years ago K ran the 21k half marathon and Meg and Amy and I went to watch him.

Ever since Meg has been saying that one day she was going to run.

I'm sure the whole school getting in a bit of a funrun frenzy every October doesn't hurt either, hey?

So, it being the last chance and all we registered.

Not in the half marathon.

We're not that crazy fit- or crazy!

We entered the incredibly tame 2km run.

And despite Meg falling over a kid who fell over when his shoe came off and Amy our little sprinter having had enough already at the 800m mark we did really well.

Yeah!  We finished!

Finish line picture with our automatically generated ultra hightech certificate.  It was really cool.  I had a plastic chip thingy on my bib and it beeped as we went through the finish line and by the time we walked the 5m to the tent they were printing out our personalised certificate.

After the run K and Amy lined up for a bowl of rice with a raw egg on top.

Mmmm, mmmmm.

I did not.

I did line up for apple juice and pork and veggie soup though.

Everything was all you can eat/ drink and all of it was free.

There was more action at the food tents than on the track!

Amy had a bowl of soup, a bowl of egg and rice, two glasses of apple juice and a bottle of ultra-creamy milk.  The perfect post-run pick-me-up, right?

Meg at the egg and rice stall.

It was a lot of fun and I'm kicking myself we didn't run before.

And that Matsumoto city wasn't petitioned into keeping it!


Naughty people

There have been some naughty people around town this last week.

A car ran a red light and hit a kid.

Thankfully the kid will be fine.

After two months in hospital waiting for his pelvis to get better anyway.

All parents got a letter asking us to please stop at red lights.

I rather object to these letters.

Not because I think we don't need telling not to run lights.

In this town people seem to take a red light to mean 'only six more cars can go through so hurry up!' so I think a bit of a reminder is great.

My objection to the letters though is because every time something horrible happens to a kid from the school we get a letter.

Nine hundred odd copies of a knee-jerk reaction flying off the photocopier.

Why do we have to wait for an accident to happen before we take more care driving?  Or get kids to wear their helmets? Or remind kids to not run out on the roads on their way to school?

And then yesterday after school two boys who looked to be in grade three were playing with BB guns at the park next to the kinder and somehow a girl from the kinder wound up getting shot more than once.  She is Ok but a police report was made and the school was informed and all the Grade 3s had a meeting about how dangerous it is to shoot people with BBguns.

Putting aside the question of how a kinder kid was able to pinpoint the age of her assailants so specifically and if it wasn't her say so then how were the boys not apprehended right then and there I thought this news was just shocking.  Two 8-9 year olds thinking it would be a lark to see what happened if you shot a preschooler???  After I heard this in the car I went into my own mean-mummy-monologue about how very-very-very dangerous guns are and how we would never-ever-ever do anything like that.  Meg said they were just kids and maybe they didn't know better.

Amy piped up that adults point guns at people too.  And they kill bears and crows and wild boars.

I had to agree that yes these things do happen but it is never-ever-right to use guns at people and that hunting animals is something some people around here do because they feel they have to but that they do it very carefully and as little as possible. (At least I hope so anyway.)

There was much grave nodding and then Amy piped up:

"And I am not going to go to the village sport's day next year as they used a gun lots and lots and there were ten thousand people there (there weren't but that is Amy's favourite big number) and everyone could of got killed and died and there aren't enough ambulances and if everyone died who would go to the funeral???"


And when I explained that the starter pistol is not a real gun we came back to 'neither is a BB gun but you said it's very very dangerous still.'

And we had made it home and I was tired and the conversation was getting draining so I took the easy road out and said we'd just have to ask daddy.

The naughty route out of any conversation but sometimes a sanity saver!

Yup.  Naughty people everywhere this week.


the pumpkin patch

This year I brought some seeds home from Australia and was a bit worried that they wouldn't grow in such a wildly different climate so I planted them all.  Even after giving some away to the neigbours we ended up with this:


The biggest ones are called Queensland Blue and are from the tropics so I was most worried about them.  I guess in Summer even Nagano is tropical enough!  The small orange ones are really cool as they grow more like zucchini as the plant is very compact and doesn't really send out tendrils.  It's called a Gold Nugget.  Incredibly tough skin but yummy pumpkin!  The bullet shaped green one on the right is a monkey-proof variety.  I'm not sure if it is supposed to work by not looking like a pumpkin and confusing the monkeys that way or whether they just all don't like the flavour...

And continuing the tradition of a chook shade/ self-sewn pumpkin we have:

A Japanese Botchan pumpkin that grew all over one side and the top of the chook cage.

So I think we have enough pumpkins for this time!


Thanks, I think?

Once a month I join a group of retired women and one lone man in a senior citizen's centre attached to an elderly care day centre and we spend an hour and a half painting etegami postcards with water colour and ink.

I am under no misperception that I am any kind of artist.

I just like to play with the pretty colours and hear the stories and it's like completely stepping out of my real life once a month for a couple of hours.

And over the couple of years I've been attending I have been learning tips and picking up tricks and if I'm still not happy with my work I'm at least a lot less frustrated with it.

Etegami are postcards and so we have to take along a stamp and send them each month.

I usually send mine to my mother in law but any I want to keep I send to K.

Lucky K!

I sent one each to Meg and Amy but Meg lost hers and Amy 'embellished' hers with texta and glitter so she is waayyyyyy off my postcard list now!

Anyway, this month mine was chosen for discussion at the end of class.  This isn't all compliments as some of it is criticism but still it is an honour to be chosen as usually the best one or two are chosen each time.

So I was quite chuffed to be chosen and have been rather eagerly waiting for my little etegami to be delivered here so I could show it off to the family.

And today it arrived:

K was suitably impressed.

"Great colours!"
"The fine strokes look really confident now."

I was getting really pleased.

"You've really captured the hydrangea!"

Say what????

Poor K.

He was only being nice but seriously, a hydrangea????

So, if this doesn't look like a hydrangea to you please let me know!


Rice harvest 2012 day 1- October 20

Ready to go- got the poles, got the weather, got the ripe and ready rice:

and we're off!  We did the first quarter or there about as mochi (glutenous) rice and hung this separately so we don't lose track.  The stalks are longer, the heads spikier and the grains infantessimally bigger when you compare them but I don't trust my ability to tell them apart after we shuck them! 
After weeks and weeks of no rain and a summer that was the driest in more than 10 years and the hottest in 30 odd years of course it absolutely bucketted rain two days before we set our harvest date so the ground was boggy and soggy but hey, what doesn't suck your boot off makes you stronger muscled right? So we ended up doing a rice harvest in strips avoiding the boggy bits till day two to try and dry them out again.

Neighbour and cofarmer W in the green, Meg and WWOOFER child holding hands and WWOOFER mum and Amy on the right.  The girls had a grand old time of it and were (again) a real asset to the process.  If child labour laws didn't prohibit it I would tell you that these guys are worth their weight in rice as farmers.  So proud of them all!

K adjusting the binder machine.  It's kind of extravagant to have bought a machine that we only use 1 1/2 days a year but the reason it is only 1 1/2 days and not a week or more is because we have the machine so I still call that a good investment!

A 4yo peaking out above the rice.

Amy with a sheaf of rice.  The binder bunches, ties, and drops the rice as it goes.  The girls were fantastic ast carrying the sheaves to the side of the paddy for the rest of us to hang on the drying racks.

Getting there....

A three person rice relay in the muddy bits.  One on the binder, one catching as the rice sheaves are spat out- but before they have a chance to land in the mud- and one carrying them all.  One of my students brought her two kids out to help and you have never seen such eager farm labourers.  Wow!  Welcome back anytime! (That's big sister in the blue)

My friend J and her family came and helped out too but I don't seem to have caught it on camera. Sorry J!  You'll just have to come next year too so I can take a picture!


Whales don't get tired!

That'S what this sign from my local supermarket says:

It goes on to implore you to put some whale power on your dinner table.

The whole issue of whale eating/ hunting/ research/ conservation is one that I get asked about every so often as an Australian in Japan.

I have to be honest and say yes, I've eaten whale.
In school lunch.
And again at a set course meal while on an end-of-year trip.
Did I feel particularly barbaric?
I've also eaten horse and deer and I eat a lot of chicken and I like all those animals too.
And it's not like I have anything against sheep or cows that makes them easier for me to eat.

But this post isn't really to convince you to eat whale.
Personally I wasn't that taken with the flavour and would prefer chicken.
Nope- I wanted to show my Japanese friends who read these blogs (poor people, trying to decipher my ramblings!) that whale is not some archaic storybook food.
It's not resigned to 'after the war' or 'when we were kids' as so many people tell me.
Right now at a supermarket near you you too can buy some whale power for your dining table:

But I think you'd be wasting your money- surely if you want to be strong like a whale you'd need to eat plankton?

October 18- simple things....

Amuse simple minds:


I know I lack enough excitement here when I spend the morning sorting and washing and topping and tailing green chillis and then balancing them precariously on my way too little scale to see if I can make a perfectly 500 gram pyramid.

I know that.

But it still makes me super happy when I succeed!

Almost as happy as when I taste the resulting tobasco sauce.


I'm bacccckkkk!

Hmmmm, well, I was going to give up blogging.

Just too many creeps and snarks and horrible people out there and I stumbled on a vicious site of women pulling apart and criticising and generally being totally awful about other women's blogs and it made me feel very vulnerable.  (There wasn't anything there about me and with blogger statistics page thing I can see if there's a sudden spike in traffic here and from where so I guess I'd know if I did make the radar but still...) anyway, it was all a bit unsettling as the mean women were able to dig up so much stuff about the bloggers on the internet and repost and publicise it and it was all seen as fair fodder for snarking at.

So, I went quiet here and was thinking of just not bothering any more.

Then it got to rice harvest season and we were trying to remember when we harvested the rice last year and I just click, click, clicked and there was the date and pictures and memories right there.

And I thought hmmmm, not blogging because you're afraid of what might happen between people you don't know seems pretty stupid.

And then I thought well I use facebook and have had some articles published online in various places so it's not like I couldn't be traced anyway, right?

And I was thinking FB would be a good blog alternative in the scrapbook/ diary of our lives kind of way but they keep changing it on me and I can hardly find stuff there at all anymore so maybe blogging afterall....

And I like this as a record of our life here as maybe one day I'll get it al printed into a book.

Yeah right.

Maybe one day!

Anyway.  All that is to say that I was gone and now I'm back. :)

Narcissistic blog post over.


Village Sports Day in pictures

Another year, another Village Sports Day.

Bit of excitement this year with an ambulance carrying away one of the competitors.

In the 65 yo and over take-the-bread-from-the-clothesline-with-your-teeth race.

Seriously.  Neighbourhood pride on the line and all that.

Meg and Amy went in the primary school kids version of the event.  Amy killed it in the running, tunnelled through the ladder like she was greased, and was a dead cert to win until she got to the bread laden clothesline and...

stopped to carefully choose what bread product that she'd like...

Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!  Poor kid.  I don't think we properly explained the race to her before it started.

Oh well.  She was very happy with her sweet bean bread roll anyway.

There was ball-in-the-ring races:

and intra-neighbourhood tug-of-war:

Lunch break and it was time for some yummy Brazilian potato, cauliflower and sausage salad with tomato onion and apple dressing.  It was fabulous!!!

The true false game.  Is the primary school sports ground higher than Tokyo sky tree?

(yes, just!)

If you head directly East from Azusagawa will you end up in Mexico?

(no, USA- just!)

Then there was the shoe kick.  This is a big deal.  The women who are first and second record holder (yes, really) both have kids in Meg's class and boy are they competitive!  Meg and Amy entered but without training (seriously) they didn't make it out of their round.  They had fun hopping around looking for their shoes though.

and the 'love game'  This was a crackup!  Seriously- you can hear me chuckling while videoing.  The participants had to be husband and wife, parent and child or siblings.  They ran holding hands to a table, took a balloon and blew it up, ran the next section with the ballon wedged between them (no hands allowed), popped their balloon (no hands) and then ran to the finish line holding hands.

Well, that was what was supposed to happen but in reality a lot of people took shortcuts on blowing up their balloons and got a headstart there but then had squishy under-inflated balloons that




They squished and squeezed and hugged and bodyslammed and nothing.

Remembering that this is a country with verrrry little PDA.  Especially in the country here.  I don't think I've ever seen a couple over 20 or so even holding hands.

So keep that in mind as you watch this: 

This is terrible quality but this couple took soooo long that a kid came onto the track with a chopstick to lend to them.

And of course we ended up back in the 'hood with fried food, beer, lollies and chips and karaoke.


hubble bubble toil and trouble

Yup, we're at it again.

Another weekend, another vat of tomato sauce.

How big is that pot?

Here's a picture with my hand in it for perspective:

Yup, a lot of sauce.