Saturday, November 5, 2011

Oita Prefecture

It's time for Carolyn to post another entry about the serious side of Japan. Week 3 of the GSE has been spent in Oita Prefecture. The Rotarians have been so generous and friendly and they have arranged many great experiences for the team to enjoy.

Our first outing in Beppu city was a trip to the Onsen. We were able relax naked in hotspring baths. Don't worry, we were separated by sex. There were even instructions on how to take an Onsen bath in Japan.

We also experienced a sand bath . A sand bath doesn't sound that appealing but it was relaxing. While wearing a robe and plastic disposal underwear, hot sand was placed on top of you just like when you are buried in sand at a beach.

We rode the Beppu ropeway (i.e cable car) to the top of Mount Tsurimi and we were treated with beautiful views of the mountains and the city of Beppu.

 Futago temple was a stunning place to visit as the temple was located in the mountains.

Usa Shinto shrine was a delight to view as the buildings were a bright orange colour. It made for a nice contrasting colour against the green trees and plants.

I had a great vocational day as I visited the Beppu Mizobe Gakuen education complex. In the complex, there were 3 kindergarten schools, a high school and a college and a technical college. I had the chance to tour all the facilities and observe a few classes. The pictures below show part of the college. I observed classes in the nursing program, the personal support care worker program and the nutrition program.

We experienced the Hells tour of Beppu. We saw sights of the geothermal interest such as pools of bubbling mud, a geyser and coloured hotspring pools.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Good everyone blog followers, it is Jeff again, with some more funny pictures of life driving on the wrong side of the road.......and, honestly, it's a lot of fun.  When you're sick in Japan, you wear masks to avoid contanminating everyone else around, as demonstrated above, but you all hang out naked in a communal hot spring pool and share atheletes's all about priorities!
The toilets have higher technology than the starship Enterprise, and all the instructions are in Japanese, so it's kinda trial and error.  You can see how worried I am in the above pic, and did I mention the seats go up and down automatically? So try and avoid errors!

The cars almost all have built in GPS, which also serves as TV set/DVD player/Entertainment Centre/weather station and a bunch of other things that you should NOT be looking at while you are driving.  Ask Erin, she almost had to get to a chiropractor to relieve the tension headache from our drive to Mt Aso, when our driver was looking at everything on the screen and nothing on the road.....I think he was texting at the same time too. Danger!!!! and white knuckles!

Fashion also seems to be A Very Big Deal, and as these three fashionistas are busy demonstrating with much gusto that the pink duck hat never goes out of style.  This was at the Suizen-ji garden, where it's all about seeing and being seen.
And as fashion goes, no one has more fun than the Japanese on Hallowe'en. These two tykes were at the shopping arcade in downtown Kumamoto with their mom when I asked for their picture.  The were looking at me thinking, where did you come from, why are you so beeeeg and why you want my picture?? So cute. They were about 3 and 5.

Thanks again, blog to you soon.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Good morning all again,
Now that I know how to blog, you're all going to be sorry......mwhahahahaha! One thing that you will see in Kumamoto, and rarely anywhere else, is an old style Japanese castle.  Kumamoto-jo (jo means castle) is right in the centre of the city, and it's awesome. 

The castle is located on top of slanted stone walls between 60 and 80ft tall, making it one of the most well protected in feudal Japan.  Most of the castle burnt in the 1960s and was rebuilt to look exactly the same.  Really cool spot. 

This is what the poor little samurai (who were barely 5ft tall) had to climb to get to the castle, all while people were shooting at them with arrows, guns and pouring boiling water on their poor little heads......yikes!
Lots of turrets around the outer walls were very heavily fortified, and steep.  The area the castle covered at it's greatest was 3.5 sq km and was founded in 1467!
The only defense the castle needs now is defense against mice apparently, since the castle cat was spotted lounging by the moat........more pictures to come!  Thanks!

Good morning all,
Jeff again, with a post about one of the most famous attractions of Kumamoto.....Suizen-ji Park, one of the top three public gardens in all of Japan.  Cool spot.  Lotsa stuff to see.....please allow me to give you a brief tour

The park was started in 1636 and the design is supposed to mimic scenery along the road between Tokyo and Kyoto.
The trees are mostly evergreen, and rigorously pruned.  This style is called cloud-pruning, niwaki, in japanese.  Everything that could hold still long enough was pruned in this style--except the cherry trees.  Cherries are always allowed to grow just however they want.

This little hill is no accident, it's supposed to represent Mount Fuji, just outside of Tokyo.  Erin wondered how they cut the grass....I suggested goats (yagi) but it seems a lawn mower was used.....hmm.  The hill is about 25ft tall, and really has a cool feel about it.

The pond is really big (beeeg) and has lots of koi in it.  They are big fat happy koi, and the gold ones represent money, so the more gold ones you have is better.
The little boy, all of 3, and his grandmother were feeding the fish.  My japanese is limited, but he cleared asked them "oshi-des-ka?"------was that delicious? Adorable.

Fun day, cool garden.
Good day all blog readers.  Welcome to Japan, this is Jeff, not Carolyn.  I will be posting the lighter of Japan, without all the kaizen and kimonos.  Since we are definitely not indigenous to the archipelago, we have been having a blast with all the funny things we've been seeing.
Erin has serious concerns about her accent being corrupted into some canadian hybrid american accent with lots "hai! hai! hai!" and lots of bowing.
Some of the words I've been enjoying are "zo zo zo zo zo zo zo zo" which means "don't worry/it's okay/never mind" and "to-To-TO?" which means "is this taken?" it's lotsa fun. 
One of our universal dislikes was served a couple days ago, this darling little harvest gold cup that looked liked a golf ball and had grassy like stuff with white stuff on the other stuff, and tasted like yak, dirty dirty even beat out the egg-goo that has been terrorizing us in these little lided cups.
The above picture is not a meal that had golf balls, but in the upper left hand corner, in the adorable little cream coloured UFO shaped piece of pottery, is the egg-goo of doom.  Consider yourself warned.
Every chance I've got, I've collaborated with the others to great scene of hilarity, and the locals love it.  It gives them another reason to stare!  Below are some of the highlights........
Stacy considered these for a purchase, but then turned them down....

The choices for Indian in Japan are very interesting.........

This is me, riding on top of the Kumamoto-jo mascot, enjoying my visit to the most famous landmark in the city of Kumamoto. The locals thought I'd escaped from the Special Olympics....if I bump my head one more time, I will be eligible for the Special Olympics.  Being your run of the mill farmboy, I am a freakin' GIANT and have hit my head everyday, at least once, on something and the comment "beeeeg!" is usually illicited from the locals when they see my shoes or boots. 

Stacy and Erin were fighting over who could turn this frog into a Samruai Prince, no winners.  Lucky frog.  We did decide that the next one who gets a dog, should name it Kermit, as in "Kermit the Dog."
Stacy met her true love, Colonel Sanders, in a Santa suit no less.  You can tell from her million dollar smile, that she's in love.  He was kinda rigid at first, but I'm sure he'll warm up.

Not all the monkeys are in Beppu, at least not the big ones.

Some of the statues were interesting, and suggestive..........this was a fertility shrine.

This collection was just the start, there are tons and tons more pictures that are lively and fun.......I will be sure to post them.  Have a pleasant day.

Amakusa: The beautiful

We left the city of Kumamoto to visit area of Kyushu known as Amakusa. The region is stunning as we travel around this coastal region. We had a glorious day of sight seeing. We went dolphin watching, shucked an oyster to reveal a pearl, soaked out feet in an hot spring, tour a pottery factory and visite an old church.

We have been quite adventurous and have tried many unusual foods while in Japan. We are discovering that most items are delicious and a few not so good items.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Update from Japan

It has been quite difficult to find access to the Internet in Japan. Free WiFi is non existent and most Japanese families don't have Internet access or even a computer at home. As a result, we might not be able to make many blog entries while on the GSE trip in Japan. 

We have spent the first 5 days of the trip in Kumamoto city. We have attended 3 Rotary club meetings and we have had numerous meals with Rotarians. Everyone is so generous and friendly. We were dressed in Kimonos and we walked around the city all dressed up. What an amazing experience!!!

I (Carolyn) visited two high schools in Kumamoto city. The class sizes were much larger than Canada up to 40 students per class. The students were very friendly saying "Hello" or Kon-ni-chi-wa to everyone in the halls. The classrooms didn't have any technology for the teachers to use in their lessons. The teacher used the blackboard only.

At the public high school, the students performed a traditional Japanese drumming for me. The school club has been ranked 1st in all of Japan for the last 2 years in a row. 

On the 6th day, we went on a day trip to Yatsushiro city. We attend a Rotary meeting, had Japanese tea with the mayor, toured the police station and visited YKK Plant. The YKK plant makes aluminum door frames and window frames. 

We experienced many more great activities in Kumamoto city during day 8th and 9th. Some highlights were visiting Kumamoto castle and the Botanical gardens. 

All of us have enjoyed staying with the host families. It is amazing that you can make such great connections with them despite the language barrier. Many of us had to get use to sitting and sleeping on the floor on a mat rather than a bed. We have eaten many great meals with the families and had many laughs around the dinner table or on the floor. The picture below is Carolyn's first host family.