Showing posts with label hokkaido. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hokkaido. Show all posts

Sunny Spring

Spring has jumped on us Hokkaido folk with warm spells these past few days.



 This furry one is constantly basking in the sun.


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Hands off the Fast Forward Button!

It's been a fair while, I realise. My excuse is that I've been too busy lazy and that my Photo Blog is much easier to update since I don't have to type any "real sentences".

Well, I'm here now. Let's see how horribly rusty my writing skills have gotten.


"Time flies when you're having fun", "the years seem to pass by quicker as you get older", etcetera.
I'm not sure which of those apply to the way time is buzzing by these days.

One reason I'm probably noticing the rapid speed of the year is that we pretty much fast forwarded to summer from winter
I should be used to it after 4 years up North, it being quite common in Hokkaido to have a short spring, but I swear Mother Nature and the Horai decided they couldn't be arsed with a short-term season in between and sent us sunshine and soaring climates in the period of perhaps a week. 
Summer is bang on here now, with temperatures reaching 28°C at the highest and humidity sticking attractively to my why-did-I-wear-black-undies-under-my-white-shirt. (Lesson now learnt.)

Amazing food from a Farewell Party with my students
As with time zooming on, the days left on my current job are numbered.
I'm not the happiest, but at least somewhat content, with the fact that I have a job next month and will be moving to Sapporo. More on that in another post, I think.

Though I've cried, moaned and groaned about my work there will be some things I will be sad to leave behind.

The first is my English students.
Though teaching is not the focus of my current job, I teach a handful of morning classes to some members of the International Exchange Society of the city; mostly a bunch of charming, older ladies. 
They're all lovely, bubbly, eager to learn and look after me by giving me free food, souvenirs, and the occasional trip to the onsen. They are now my friends and I always looked forward to their classes, and it was extremely rewarding when a number of them told me that they enjoyed the lesson. One lady even said to me that since I began to teach them, her views and approach to English had changed, and that, with all due respect to the previous English teachers, I was the best! I was flattered.

I had all but 2 of my last classes with them last month, where they held Farewell parties for me and indulged me with lots and lots of amazing food. A big thank you to them all for making my job bearable when I was finding it tough in the office. I hope to keep in touch with them even when I move to the city a little further away.

Second is my Head of Department (Chief), as I mentioned in a previous post.
He still chats with me fondly and smiles when I greet him. Though other members of my department are nice too, he is by far the one I will miss. Not my Boss, Jekyll. Heh.

Third is working in translation and interpretation
It's also not the focus of my work, but I do quite a bit of it, and I find I really enjoy it. I think I enjoy it mostly because I interpret and translate in a variety of genres, and so I get to dip into a lot of things, and gain a bit of knowledge.
For example, the other day, I was asked last minute from a certain International group to translate for some guests from Thailand. I interpreted for them as we visited a number of tourist areas and wineries in my city, and at one winery, they bought wine for the guests. I was casually looking at a wine bottle *cough*, at which one nice older gentleman, whom was welcoming the guests, asked what wine I liked, and bought a bottle of rosé for me! It was referred to as my "payment" for helping with interpreting.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I enjoy interpreting because I get bottles of free wine (ahem ahem), but I enjoyed learning about the places we went to while I interpreted the questions back and forth, and being able to chat with the Thai guests and learning about them and their culture was incredibly inspiring..

My next job is to based on teaching, which I don't mind, but as it'll probably be a part time job, I hope I can find some interpretation or translation work I can do on the side.

That said, I've been to a number of interviews for other part time jobs on the side, which I really hope I'll get. Again, I'll save that for another post.

And with that, I begin probably my busiest time in the office today, where we welcome guests from our sister city in the States, a group of 14 members, of whom I will, along with the support of other staff,  act as the interpreter, tour guide, teacher, etc. It's extremely hectic and drains me but I do enjoy it. The members are mostly all sweet American teens, and I look forward to meeting them tonight.

How to get involved with Charity the easy way (in Japan)

In accordance to my last post and also my New Year's resolution, I have been thinking deeply about Charity work. My problem is, although I would like to participate in as many volunteering activities as possible, I have a life (in terms of too many hobbies), so I have been thinking about and researching into methods of getting involved with Charity the easy way i.e., in ways that can be slotted into one's busy lifestyle!

Here's what I came up with.
(Please note that, though all points can be applied to wherever in the world, it is generally focused on living in Japan)

1. Lather yourself in Body Shop goodness

A dream for most beautiholic shoppers like me, surely.
I have always been a fan of British brand The Body Shop, but it is only recently that I have really noticed their values. Slogan-ing "cruelty free beauty", they have been campaigning against animal testing for 20 years, and have successfully helped in the EU ban on animal testing on cosmetics from March 11th 2013. Still, it's not completely banned in the rest of the world; thus their campaigning continues.
Not only do they fight against animal testing, they, in their words, support community fair trade & ethical trade, activate self esteem, defend human rights, protect the planet and undergo a variety of projects through their foundation. Think about it. You buy, for example, one bottle of luscious musk-scented body cream, perhaps a little pricer than your regular one from the local market, yet you help out in about 4 divisions of charity work. Of course, I can not make a stand on how the money you spend there is used exactly, but they do state on their website that money made from their products are put towards their projects, plus ingredients in your product are likely to be from fair trade resources and it won't have been tested on animals.
Some of my faves: hair protector & paddle brush
And, if you're still uncertain, they occasionally have a box near the till/cashier where you can donate spare change to support their recent activities. Last time I went to a shop in Sapporo, they had a box for their Sakura Charity project where they're raising money for the restoration of Touhoku (donations are being taken till 30th April 2013). Lastly, they take care in their products by choosing natural ingredients, and as a user of their products and without being too biast, I can say I've been satisfied with everything. If you're a scent-hogger like me you'll love most of their creams! My personal recommendations are their scented body creams, body sprays, hair treatment spray and their cushioned hair brush. Their products also make wonderful presents as they often have pre-wrapped gifts too.

It's a new day, it's a new dawn...but not feeling so good.

First day of the fiscal year in Japan.
New employees, transfers within the office, the coming of spring (for our parts anyway, it's already half way there in the Kanto areas where the cherry blossoms were early this year), a great time to think fresh, start anew.

I'm 25 years old and I don't know what to do with my life.

Sadly, this is no April Fool's joke.

A troop of nervous Japanese youths have been scuttling in out of our office in their shiny new suits today. A bunch of workers have been transferred to other departments, as rotations within the workplace is strangely the norm in most Japanese companies. I should have tallied up the number of times I bowed in greeting.

For the Japanese in my workplace, this is it. The beginning for the freshly graduated new employees and a slight change for some of the current workers. But they will continue with this job for the rest of their lives. In Japan, once you're with a company, it's difficult, or at least, it seems frowned upon to drop it and consider a different career.

I on the other hand, in my current situation with my current contract, and also as the Western foreigner, have the freedom to do what I like with my life. 
Trouble is, I don't know what.

As I posted a while back, although I could technically stay for another year completing the maximum years of stay on my contract, I decided to leave due to being unhappy with my work conditions.

So, what to do when my contract ends in early August...

I want to stay in Japan. I can't give a solid reason why, but I feel like it's too soon to go back to the U.K.., something I will evidently do sooner or later. Though, having not gone back for even a visit for almost 4 years worries me in that I will find things too different and not want to go back after all.

COCO's Seafood Tomato Soup Spaghetti
I definitely want to go back to England if I ever have children.
Children. My gawd. The horror that thought even crossed my mind! But from what I've learnt and observed of the Japanese education system, I don't want my kids to grow up in a society where they're developed to be minimalists in what they can do and think. British education might not be the best in the world, but I enjoyed it to an extent and was able to develop an open mind; something that may have proved difficult in Japanese schools. 
Fair Trade Cocoa Chocolate cake & Herbal tea
(not a fan of chocolate cake usually, but this one was
moussey, had just over 100 calories & was fair trade)
I actually had a "talk about our futures" with my lovely American lady from the same apartment during a catch-up over dinner at our becoming-our-usual "COCO's" restaurant last night. It freaked me out even then that I talked about children, and I told myself off for verging dangerously on the traditional Japanese mindset of getting married and making babies in your twenties.

Speaking of the Japanese Education system, I've recently been watching an old-ish Japanese dorama called 'Dragon Zakura'. I'd seen the first few episodes a while back, and it was brought to my attention again as I used it in my studies for the 'Teaching Japanese as a Foreign language' course in Kanto last week. (You can view photos of some of my experiences in Kanto at my photo blog). The series covers what I think are a lot of issues within the Japanese Education system and perhaps even Japanese society, and there are some interesting approaches to teaching (the episode on teaching English made me smile). Plus, I've always liked the actor Hiroshi Abe, and his acting, plus the character himself is amazing. I haven't quite finished watching the whole series through myself, but I recommend it - I've learnt quite a bit from it, and it's provided me with a lot of food for thought.

Snowed under. Both body & soul.

Nope, I didn't take this, sadly. Click to lead to the site where I borrowed it from.
I have been pretty unhappy recently.

I'm generally a positive person all round and hardly ever get depressed, but these past few months have taken the last straw. In general, it's mostly little things which I've tried to ignore but they've built up inside me and I can longer hold it in. I think I'm starting to break down.

Of all the issues, my main problem is that I'm unhappy at work. I'm unhappy with some of the content of my job, but mostly with the workplace. I think it may have to do with me being "too British" and being unable to adapt to the Japanese work environment, but I think it also has to do with the current situation of my workplace in particular. I don't dislike my co-workers and think they are generally nice people, but when it comes to working with them, I hate it. I feel no support from them in terms of my job, and all they seem to do is pick at all the mistakes I do, which I of course understand, but they even tell me off for things I don't think I'm doing wrong. I'm not fishing for compliments, and I'm aware that they perhaps don't praise as much in Japan as they do in Western societies, but they don't even comment on the effort I put it when I'm actually quite proud of some of things I come up with. In fact, though my co-workers in my section don't say a thing, other workers in the office in different sections praise me instead! But what good is it if the people who work with you don't appreciate what you do?
This has led to my motivation to drop rapidly, which I am sure, shows in the office. And I don't give a damn, to be honest.

Spring? You mean that time of green grass & flower buds? Yeah, never heard of it.

The forecast for a few days last week consisted of: heavy snow, occasionally blizzarding. (note another one of my forced nouns-into-verbs)

Living in Hokkaido now for over two years and therefore two winters, I am accustomed to the fact that spring does not exist here.Not to say that it ever did in the U.K., where the weather lazily dipped into different atmospheric conditions so we get a general "feel" of spring, or any other of the four seasons, as it gets "mildly warmer" or we get a "small sprinkle of snow". Otherwise it's just "showers and clouds", as our friendly weather lady back home would say, all over the damn country.
Though I may have worded it unfairly to say that spring doesn't "exist". It does, it is just different to your accustomed image of spring which was foolishly hammered into our brains by our fairytale picture books at school. Of the past two winters-to-spring phenomenons that I have experienced, in March, the remaining raids of snow continue to glare at us from the pavements and around most buildings, and we begin to get peeks of our missed friend - Mister Road (or asphalt, whichever one deems fit). This year, things were looking up as we had bright spells (I'm still in weather girl mode) and wider roads thanks to the cha-lump-a-lumps that had been cleared away and I was also beginning to feel a spring in my step myself (bad joke) as I began the gradual change to a warmer wardrobe change, though my hopes were crushed as it actually snowed. SNOWED. Less sunlight and slight drops in temperature so that the snow took a little longer to melt I could have compromised for, but to actually have more of the dreaded white stuff from the sky to add the mounds that we already have? Crushed. My hopes. Of spring. { insert unsuitable word of offence to describe my disappointment and anger here }

A "Märchen" evening

I would have had no idea what "Märchen" was had it not been for the Japanese langauge's use of the word (pronounced "meruhen" in katagana). Funny what Western and foreign words Japan picks at to decide to use.

For those of you unaware of the meaning in either language, it means "fairytale". Yes, I had a very Cinderella-esque evening out in Sapporo last Friday. I met up with my mate who I learnt has a fancy for all things cute, sweet (both in terms of taste and metaphorically), and well, rather feminine, perhaps. He's male. And straight. But he's also Japanese. That could explain a lot.
The first place he took me to was this amazing bar which sold soft serve ice-cream and had over a hundred different liqueurs. You could choose up to 3 each, depending on what "set" you ordered on the menu, so we had a delicious selection of 7 liqueurs between us as they gave us an extra one free (hurrah amazing Japanese customer service). The liqueurs were brought to us in adorable tiny plastic wine cups with tiny little spoons, and you poured the liqueur over your spoonfuls of ice-cream. Then, for dessert, they brought coffee and hand-made just baked tiny cookies. Could a girl ask for more?! It was wonderful. And the shop itself was adorable with all it's décor. Most definitely will go there again. Either with my girl friends or other misleadingly gay-but-not-really guy friends.

"C'es tres froid ce matin."

I apologise profoundly in my awful use of French in this post title. It has been a tres long time since I last used it so I have big doubts on the accuracy of it.

Yes, it is le cold this morning. It always is in Hokkaido, but I especially felt it on my treacherous 5 minute walk to work. I take back my use of the word "treacherous" right there; we had a recording-breaking fall of heavy snow a few weeks ago. So much that we made it to Worldwide News. Our city even gets horribly pronounced by a BBC Weather forecaster, look! Whether it's something to be proud of is another question. Let's just say that I doubt my friends from the UK will be visiting me any time soon. However, the snow has calmed down these past few days, and we have been seeing sunlight, though we are still left with white monsters caving in at us from either side of the pavements. Sods law though that when it snows, the climate is warmer, and when it doesn't, it's colder. Either freeze to death or die in an avalanche. Take your pick.

Old Blog Entry: meeting Korean idols

{ Old Entry moved from my old Blog }

Ok. So basically I hung out with Yunho and Jaejoong of Dong ban shin ki (Touhoushinki/東方神起), had a barebecue, chilled, talked about releasing a new single together, then coming back to mine for laterz....

Yeah, in a dream.

But something very similar did happen yesterday.

I don't really know what the whole thing was about myself, but from what I gathered a unit or group of Korean popstars called 'G7' came to my humble yet tourist-y town in Hokkaido, in order to do some filming for a program they're currently airing in Korea.

Edit: I did some research on Wiki and it appears that the show itself is called "Invincible Youth", and "G7" is the name of the unit of girls put together for this show from different Korean popbands. Lookie here.

Due to my dire lack of Korean language skills I couldn't tell you what the program was called, but the plot seems to consist of skinny, flimsy girls getting their hands dirty and working in fields in order to learn about farming so they can build their own farm; though there was also a very tall and well-built sunglassed singer guy called "T-something" and a short, chubby but adorable and extremely funny comedian girl involved too. And so, they came to my town, Biei (notice the use of "my").
My mate who I love to pieces, Tina (who is Japanese but I gave her the nickname), lives on a farm with her family, and her dad is currently busy growing asparagus, potatoes and whatnot. I've actually helped with their asparagus one time, though it didn't involve any picking, just cleaning them up for them to be sent and sold. Anyway, as you can probably guess from my wave of blab, this Korean program and 'G7' were to spend a day at Tina's farm. Tina herself actually lived in Korea for about a year, and, being amazing as she is, picked up the language, which is 1 of the reasons I think the town board chose her as well as the fact that she works in the Town Hall (as do I). I didn't have anything to do with the filming at her farm which took place from the morning till the evening yesterday, but G7 held a mini concert last night near the ski-slope on a stage outside, minus the snow but including the bugs, and as Tina invited me I attended.


Oh, the concert.
Haha.
It was really bizarre.
Firstly, there were quite a bunch of people there. Funny thing is, less than half of them were people from Biei, as the majority were fans of the Korean unit; both male and female, and both from other areas of Hokkaido and Japan. If you are as aware of Japan as I am, then yes, you're right in thinking that the hardcore fans from Tokyo etc were greasy middle-aged old men with towels and fans with the idols' faces and names splattered over them, with big cameras round their necks. There was the alternative type too - the strange, in their 20s skinny boys who wear cat ears or bear suits (yesterday consisted of a cow suit...connection with the theme of the show, I assume), with long hair, oh, and grease, of course. Apparently some of them even stalked the unit and were watching outside of Tina's house during the filming of the program. Scary.
And yes, I waltzed past such a sight of people lining up, ducking straight underneath the roped barriers towards the stage that was being set up, as I was friends with the "farm girl who caused the pop-stars to get dirt under their manicured nails" and got a backstage pass. Yay me.

It meant that we got first row seats, in terms of bums on grass, for when the show started, and I sorta felt bad for the actual fans behind us when I didn't have a clue who these people are. The show itself was alright. At least some of the idols could sing (which is what I do respect about Korean popstars, in comparison to most Japanese ones!), and there were 2 members who were amazing dancers. Other than that there were a few super skinny girls who jumped around being cute in tiny shorts and with their sickengly flat stomachs out (ok, so I admit I'm jealous of their abs, pssh) without singing and doing anime-like dance moves and batting their eyelashes. Those girls bored me. Still, as much as I hate girls who try hard to be cute (called "burikko ぶりっこ" in Japanese), when they try spouting random bits of Japanese they learnt in a Korean accent, I can sorta forgive them. They were all pretty and cute, some a bit too thin for my taste, but...I dunno. That was it. They were just cute. There was nothing to them. The music was kinda funky and upbeat though, so I think I'd like their songs but otherwise, I guess idols don't interest me. Only Korean boy bands; at least they have character! (their looks and height happen to be a plus )
There was one point when one girl was singing on stage (they all did separate skits), that 1 of the idols came and sat in front of us and cooed at her with a sign of love in Korean or something, and a camera-man zoomed to her side, sorta bowed his head and held up his hand in an apologetic manner at me, then leaned straight back on top of me with his camera in order that he could film this squealing idol. I just gaped at Tina, who said, "Yeah, they're Korean". I had to stay there for about 3 minutes with this guy's weight on my legs! At this point I decided to make the most of it and leaned forward and squinted through the small camera eye piece (as he was using the larger screen) and using gestures pretended to be the camera-man myself, haha. Another funny happening was when it was the last song with all the members on stage, and they told us to stand up. I'd been politely applauding and smiling at the show until then, but when I noticed that there was a camera pointed towards Tina and I, I mischievously decided to start jumping, screaming and waving at these idols who I'd been a big fan of and supported for lyke foreverz. Tina joined in, and we had about 3 cameras pointed at us, bwaha!  It was hilarious. I might be on a frickin' Korean TV now. Better ask for my autograph now before I get too famous, kids. The show will be aired in August, apparently, and the Korean stars are officially making their debut in Japan at the end of July.

After the show, we got 'backstage passes' again to join the staff and stars for a free barbecue. I would've talked to the idols when they came by had I been able to speak Korean as it would've been interesting, however, I was experiencing the language barrier that a number of people who do my job (ALTs) should encounter in Japan. But, I found that the T-something guy could speak English, incredibly well in fact, though American, and I actually had a bit of conversation with him. Wish I could've got a handshake with the cute lil' Comedian girl though. I also spoke the the Japanese staff from Sapporo, with 1 guy who works in the TV industry and is from Tokyo, and he said that Tina and I could visit him any time and he'd show us around his parts. Another connection towards my wanting to be an Interpreter in the Media industry, maybe? Might have to brush up on my Korean though. I have wanted to learn it for a while though, due to my TVXQ/DBSK phase 3 years ago.

Today the stars all fly back to Korea, and Tina and her father are meeting them at the airport so they can film the "tearful farewell".
Then, she and a bunch of the usual lot of us are having a "Glasses-themed party". Eating and drinking whilst wearing glasses, as a matter of fact. I have about 5 awesome pairs of glasses of a rare design, it's going to be hard for me to choose.

P.S. I ironically seem to update my blog on the few days it pours with rain, when we've been having hot sunny days recently!

Old Blog entry: changes to work & 1st time camping

{ Old Entry moved from my old Blog }

Goodness, it's been a month?! Time flies way too quickly. It's even more terrifying thinking that it'll be exactly a year since I've moved here in August. It doesn't feel that long at all, yet I feel like I've lived here for a long time.

There has been quite a few changes to my work recently, though. Firstly, the supervisor for English education in my town changed as of April, and she is absolutely fantastic. Unlike the previous one, her English is practicaly native (she used to live for over 9 or 10 years in America, I think), and because of her long stay overseas, she is much more aware and open and well...easy to talk to. No offence to the previous guy (who apparently had lived abroad in South Africa for 2 years), but she actually does her job. She is technically retired and used to be a headteacher at a school, meaning that her experience is top notch as well. The best thing is, she talks to me, and asks me about my work, and asks me about any problems I have. I was able to share some worries I had at 2 of my schools since I arrived last year, and now 1 of them is solved! The other problem is still in process...it's a little akward, but I'm only happy that things are much better at 1 of the schools I go to! Basically, the problem was that the teachers didn't use me for hardly any of the lessons and I used to sit in the staffroom all day doing nothing. Then suddenly this week, on both the days I went to the school I had about 4 or 5 lessons - the most I've ever had at that school since I came! It's quite funny really. Like, "Why now?"

Summer is finally here in Hokkaido, and it is gorgeous. Ironically today it's pouring down with rain, but the past few days has seen warm sun, light breeze and fields of beautiful flowers. I do feel like I live in a postcard.

My family from England are coming to visit at the end of July, and I'm really looking forward to it  I can't wait for my dad and my other brother, who didn't come visit last summer, to see my lovely town!

This weekend will be my first experience of camping. Oh noe'z.
It's the "HAJET" [Hokkaido Association for JETs (English teachers)] summer meeting, and we're all tenting out in a place called Shinshinotsu 新篠津村, including a barbecue, drinking, onsen [hot springs], sports (if we like it :p) and a short rendition of the Musical. Yep. Just as I thought I could clear it out of my head, I find myself mumbling over my lines again, as well as lyrics and dance routines. Still, it's light-hearted in that the script has been cut down a lot, and it's ok if we don't get the lines exactly right (though the perfectionist in me says I need to keep each word exact). I don't mind though; I do enjoy it after all.
The sleeping-outside-in-a-tent business though...? We'll see. I shall cry if the heavens decide to open up on us though. Looking at the weather today, I dread to think...

Old Blog Entry: End of school year & Tokyo Jihen

{ Old Entry moved from my old Blog }

I'm so bored I think I might die.
I'm at one of the Secondary (Junior High) schools which I got to almost every Tuesday and Wednesday, and as it's almost the end of the Japanese school year, which ends in March and starts in April, the students have exams...which means they don't need me in the lessons. I had no classes the whole of yesterday and none today, as they're rehearsing for the Graduation Ceremony. Had I'd have known I'd be sitting on my arse all day I would've brought more things to do. I think I'm going a little crazy.

I went trekking round Hokkaido again at the weekend. This time, I was kindly taken to see the 'ryuhyo' (流氷)...except, there was no ryuhyo  The translation used for "ryuhyo" is "drift ice"; which is basically what it is; drifting ice across the sea. You can read more about it here. However, we had a sudden temperature rise last week and a lot of snow had started to melt, so the drift ice had well...drifted away.
Still, I'd never been to the place-near-the-sea-which-I-forgot-the-name-of, and as hotel bookings had been made and whatnot we still decided to go.
What we did manage to see, was the 'Aurora Fantasy' light show. Aurora, is when you can see natural light displays in the sky, which normally occur at night in the polar regions (see more here. Though you can't view actual aurora in Hokkaido today, it is said that many years ago it actually happened, and so representation is done through a show of electric lights and music in memory of it. It was actually pretty good, but quite cold sitting outside on the snow! And, as with all fantastic trips around Japan, there was onsen (natural spring baths, 温泉). I'm getting addicted to those.

Oh, and ZOMG GUESSWHUT11!!!111
I'm able to confess my undying love to the gorgeous, talented lady herself, Ringo Shena (椎名林檎), at her gig with Tokyo Jihen (東京事変) in April!!! sdfkjsdlfkjsdkfj After 8 years of fangirling over her and her music, my life is now complete ♥
Oh, and go buy their new album - it will rock your socks off.

I should really get round to adding photos to this blog...

Old Blog Entry: Cold & loving February

{ Old Entry moved from my old Blog }

Ahem, I'm not doing a great job at keeping up to date, am I?

February is cold.
People here in my town had warned me that the 2nd month of the year would be the coldest, but I didn't realise that temperatures would drop this much! And yet, at the same time, they say winter is "nearly over"...but apparently there's still some snow around till April. How is that "nearly over"?!
In saying that, I haven't got fed up of the snow yet. I never really loved the idea of it in the first place - I never really understood why back in England people got so excited when white stuff started to sprinkle from the sky. I used to get excited when I was younger, yes, but now, it's no big deal. It's not that I hate it; Biei is absolutely beautiful in snow, but I find myself smiling when the sun is out.
Although, that's what I do love about it here - the sun EXISTS!!! It really does lift my spirits when I wake up in the morning and golden rays are shining through the window; I go to work in a much happier mood
I think I've pretty much got used to having the snow around. But I really am looking forward to the summer. Hokkaido in the summer was gorgeous - especially where I live! And it means I get to eat my favourite SOFT WHIPPED ICE-CREAM ♥ ...not great news for my figure, however

As February is the coldest time of the year, it is also a month of "Snow Festivals" in Hokkaido. There was one in the city near me, and then there was the main, big one in Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido. I went to both, and I really did enjoy them. Basically, experts, not just from Japan, sculpt characters and figures out of snow and ice and put them up on display (more info here). Some of the work was stunning. I should get some photos up on this blog, if I can be bothered to move my arse

Another note to February; t'was the day of luuurve on the 14th.
And guess what? I'm so popular with Senior/Junior High (中学) girls. They all love me, haha
In Japan, Valentine's Day is seen as a day for girls to make their own chocolates or bake their own cakes and give them as presents to boys, thanks to the advertising of chocolate companies and their money-making techniques. It's seen as a day when the girl finally tells her crush that she fancies him along with some chocolates she spent all night making, d'aww. (-_-) Nowadays, that doesn't happen much, as there are such things as "tomo-choco (友チョコ)" where the girls give their friends including girls chocolates, and "giri-hoco (ギリチョコ)" where girls give boys they have no interest in but decided to give them something just so they don't feel left out. Japan amuses me.
Anyway, I got about...6 gifts from 2 schools I go to. It was very sweet of the students to do so. I mean, yes, they were giving gifts to other teachers, but for them to consider giving something to me, when I only work part-time at different schools and don't help out in all of their lessons, was really kind of them. I was so surprised because some students I've only ever taught once or twice even gave me things! I must make a wonderful impression in even the shortest of times. :P

Old Blog Entry: Films & Electric Blankets

{ Old Entry moved from my old Blog } 

Yesterday I went to see 'Avatar' at the cinema, in 3D.
My first 3D film, and it was awesome. The graphics were beautiful!
The story was pretty good too, but alas it doesn't come under my list of favourites.
Speaking of which, I saw the trailer for 'Alice in Wonderland' by Tim Burton with the ultra-amazing Johnny Depp ♥ Except stupid Japanese cinema dubbed over his voice  I really can not wait to see it! Tim Burton is such an artist. It amused me in a way to see that it was through Disney, though.
But before that, I want to see the film out now (in Japan as well, I think?); 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' with Depp as well as Heath Ledger, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. I mean wow, what a cast! And I'm also interested to see the beautiful Lily Cole's performance. Call me un-updated, but I never realised she was an actress; I only know her as a model for M&S alongside Twiggy! Nonetheless, the film looks weird and funky, which is what I like.

I also bought myself an electric blanket, because I desperately needed one. I've been hating the fact that I've had to resort to keeping my stove on all day and all night, just because I feel that I'd like to spend my money on better things than heating, haha! The reason for me having to do this is due to the little incident that ur, happened the weekend before (see my last post). After having the landowner and a helper (?) getting a big, strange looking machine that looked like a vacuum to heat my pipes up in order to de-frost them so that I could have running water, he said that I should keep my stove on even when I leave the house. As I gritted my teeth at the thought of oil bills (as the stoves are heated through burning oil which is kept in 2 big tanks in my hallway, which I need to get refilled by phoning a petrol station), my sub-supervisor I-san showed me a little button on my stove which sets it to run at the lowest heat, and said that if I kept it at that level during the day, it should keep my apartment at a moderate temperature.
Therefore, I decided that I'd try to keep my stove only at that small heat, and when I'm in my apartment I should try to keep warm through other ways such as hotwater bottles, layered clothing and dancing around the room (seriously). My grandparents in Tokyo reccommended an electric blanket, and as I then gritted my teeth at the thought of electricity bills, they said that it doesn't actually use that much electricty, and that the blankets themselves aren't that expensive. When I checked yesterday, they weren't that bad a price at all, so I purchased one and had a lovely sleep without having to adjust my stove or even use hotwater bottles. All is good

I need to think of a plan for my lessons at 1 of my schools (where they tell me to take over the whole lesson) and I have no ideas, eek!

Old Blog Entry: Musical Rehearsal in Tomari

{ Old Entry moved from my old Blog } 

This weekend, I went to a rehearsal for a musical I'm part of. Though, it's not really a musical, it's a pantomime. Yep. Get ready for the "Oh no you're not!"s, men in drag and awful jokes, in our production of 'Aladdin'.

I'm doing the pantomime with other ALTs (English teaching assistants i.e. the same job as me) in Hokkaido. It's only a small cast of 11 of us (including the director & staging people), and it's a multicultural cast of British, American and Canadian. And guess what? I am the hero of the show; Aladdin.
We've been rehearsing since about the beginning of November last year, and we practice every fortnight at the weekends. As we all come from different parts of Hokkaido, the rehearsal takes place in a different town each time. For example, this weekend, the rehearsal was in a town (of our Producer's) called 'Tomari' (泊村).
It's right on the coast of the North of Japan, just by the sea. I actually arrived in the town on Friday night in a horrible snow storm so I couldn't see thing, and as the blizzard continued till the morning we couldn't see anything then either. However, by the late hours of Saturday morning it cleared up, and we gaped at the stretch of sea before us. The scenery was stunning! It was bizarre to see the beach covered in snow though...I wish I'd bought my camera!

There wasn't exactly much time for sight-seeing however, as it was time to knuckle down and rehearse.
This weekend, our main chunk of the practice was the songs and dances that we are to do during the show. Due to it being a Pantomime, we're using existing pop songs that the (mostly Japanese) audience can recognise, whilst changing a few lyrics here and there.
The songs I'm taking part in is the love song between Aladdin and Jasmine - 'The Way you make me feel' by Micheal Jackson, the Genie's song - 'Hare Hare Yukai' (with changed lyrics) from 'The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya' anime, and a song with me and the Genies - 'New World' by Touhoushinki.
We've tried to include English and Japanese songs, hence the strange mix!
'The Way you make me Feel' is hilarious, as though I'm an awful dancer, as I have the most experience in all the cast in dancing I've had to choregraph a lot of the moves! Me trying to be Micheal Jackson-esque with all the hip thrusting here and there is an incredibly amusing sight to see, but it all adds to the Pantomime effect I guess!
The even more amusing sight is my learning the 'Hare Hare Yukai' dance. Anime/Manga lovers and Cosplayers will be familiar with the dance, and though I've seen friends do it, I never imagined I'd be sweating away, trying to follow cutesy moves of 2D characters on screen!!

All in all, I love being part of this Pantomime, as I've missed performing (mostly acting) a lot, and I'm honoured to be able to be the leading role - something I'd always wanted! 

...oh, and urrr, in Hokkaido, as it snows, you're meant to stop your water running if you're away from your house for at least 2 nights as the water pipes freeze up...
And I forgot to ask how to do that.
As a result, I returned home last night to turn the tap and found that the water would not run Thank goodness I had some water left in the kettle for last night and this morning! Really though, the water droplets in the bottom of my bathroom floor had turned to ice particles!!!
I've left my stove on to warm my apartment up, and I sheepishly told my supervisor who is going to check up on things at lunch time. 
D'oh...