My Christmas Tree on Iki-Shi! … it rhymes!
Although Iki does not do anything special for Christmas like other main land cities, the people on Iki like to host many parties! The winter is not as cold as Toronto and we still get rain and heat waves! On average the weather has ranged between 8 degrees and 26 degrees. This is considered a warm winter but still like fall weather to someone from Toronto. The up and down of the temperature confuses me as I decide what to wear at the office and what to wear outside. One day I could be struggling to wear mittens while walking around and another I could be back in a T-shirt with a zip-up hoodie. What also doesn’t help matters is that the buildings aren’t insulated. So even if its only 8 or 9 degrees outside, inside is the same and its hardly appropriate to dress for indoor weather when the weather is the same as outdoors. You will eventually get cold. So thats where the heat tech comes in. In Japan, many office staff and students wear a thin layer of heat insulation under their cloths. Much like out long johns in Canada, but maybe a little thinner. This way you can still dress professional and not feel the strong desire to have your coat on while teaching all day!
Thats winter on Iki folks! In a nut shell, lol.
So this December I’ve done many things before I went on my winter vacation to Okinawa! I went to Sasebo to visit the Huis Ten Bosch dutch theme park with an Iki friend! Then I went to 2 Christmas parties! Then the two schools I work at held Bonenkai’s, which roughly translates to forget the year parties. It is customary here to have a party at the end of the work year to forget all the bad things that happened and only remember the good things before the New Year starts. They had lots of good food and fun party activities like Bingo presents and dancing. Then Winter Vacations started and I spent a day in Fukuoka seeing friends off at the airport and shopping before my own holidays started!
So let’s start with Huis Ten Bosch!
WOW, so the dutch theme park is too cool! So Nagasaki is known for being the only place in Japan where international trade could take place way back when. Basically, the Japanese only liked the Dutch because they didn’t come with an army, they came to trade. So Nagasaki has become the international hub of Japan where many international foods and attractions can be found! Including people! Lol. Theres more about this stuff in other cities like Dejima town in Nagasaki city, but the theme park resembles a dutch town right down to the cobble stone laid streets! There are many events hosted here throughout the year and at this time they had a christmas light show! The Dutch theme park is located in Sasebo city.
To get to Sasebo we took a plane from Iki to Omura (30 mins) and then we took a bus to one of Rachels friends places in Sasebo. To get to Huis Ten Bosch, we took a train to a bigger train, about 45-50 mins! We spent a whole Saturday there, but there was more than all that to see! Definitely want to go back! We also got to eat awesome curry, cheese and sausage on a stick! We went to the Dino park and did the zip line in the dark! Really kowaii (scary) and then we did a dino relay up to stage 2 (find all the codes to make a dino on this device. Super hard!) Then we did a maze to find all the stamps! Man we got a work out! We saw a hologram concert of AAA and then caught the train home!
So, despite Iki not having Christmas events, I found 3 or 4 houses with lights! and Aeon, the big shopping centre in Ashibe, put up a christmas tree!!
At school I saw some pretty amazing sun sets! Yes, because I help out with English club on Thursdays and Fridays, I’m often in Gounoura at school till 6. Then I have Japanese lesson for an hour! And now I’ve signed up for Shoudou after that! So Im in Gounoura on Thursdays till about 8 or 9!! Hard to eat dinner.
Even had some parties! Went to Rachels with all the ALTs and some Japanese friends! Played Wii, had awesome child (curtesy of me!) and cookies and other awesome food! Sang christmas songs! We also went to a party held by our friend – Konako – at Chips, a restaurant near the hospital in Gounoura! (Konako is eating the gingerbread man in the picture below!)
Also went to a Christmas service at the church in Gounoura and decorated the tree! On Christmas Eve I went to the church by myself for the candle light service! Although this is the day I got my horrible cold just before I left for Okinawa, I still went and tried to sing all the Japanese hymns and Christmas songs by candle light.
I went for some beautiful walks behind my house while catching exclusive and exciting pokemon! Yes We got the Far fetch’d while at chips! And I caught a magmar and diddo behind my apartment!! Boo Yea! The first pictures are of my house, updating the google screenshots I posted in an earlier blog, lol. And my car makes a cameo now! The palm trees are next to the Aeon shopping centre in Ashibe on the port! So tropical! The shrines are Inari shrines! And I didn’t have to look that name up! I knew it from a manga called blue exorcist! Lol. Basically fox shrine gods that are for good harvest! Never anger the harvest gods or you’ll get bad crops!
Also went on a walk with my ALT friends Rachel and Becky and met a lady name Oseki! She’s a shoudou teacher! We saw a beautiful female Ginko tree and collected some pretty leaves. Becky and I explored a staircase that went into a bamboo forests! I’ve always wondered if you could get stuck in a forest because of how fast the bamboo grows. We didn’t get stuck… and we were able to walk pretty far because we think someone was starting to clear a path to a very large tree! We had lunch at Oseki san’s place and then I got to do my first Japanese Calligraphy while everyone else made a calendar of their calligraphy kanjis! Now I’m taking free lessons with her!! one Thursday a month.
All the ALTs and some friends got together and had a sukiyaki tabehodai (all you can eat) dinner in Ashibe! It was fantastic! The best Iki beef ever!!!
I also ran a couple christmas club activities with the English club! We made christmas Wreaths and watched Frosty the snowman! They said they understood maybe 75% of the english movie!! Thats fantastic!! Also made a lot… A LOT… i mean almost 80 christmas cards and baked cookies for all the teachers!
Had Ice in our water from Antarctica while at our local curry shop!
The school had a day where there were no classes before the closing ceremony! We had Class Match, so all the students in each class competed in soccer, volleyball and basketball! The winners got to face the teachers! I hear the Vice principle won the score match and Volleyball was also won by the teachers. But the basket ball game was won by the second year students despite all the fancy moves the teachers put forth! really fun to watch! I took a ton of photos with this students and learned some more names! They even gave me prints of the photos they took and wrote their names on the back! Now my making a bulletin board in my bedroom for photos like these!
Note (I have to ask permission before I post certain photos of my students)
Then we had some awesome food at the BonEnkais! The first one was with the Iki Kou Kou teachers! We went to the Island Hotel in Gounoura! Below is the food we ate and some of the entertainment! I had my first Iki shouchuu (ski brewed alcolhol from wheat) at this bonenkai and it was pretty good! I won a huge bag of instance coffee for work during the Bingo game! Note – its always too much food that I can not eat it all. I always feel very fat after work parties like this!
The second BonEnkai was with the Iki Shougyou teachers at the View hotel in Gounoura! We also had present Bingo and I brought a huge gift! This party we were supposed to bring a 1000 sen gift; thats like 10$. I bought a plant from the plant store, a Christmas Cyclamen! The funny thing is, everyone was curious as to how such a huge gift could be 1000 sen, and one teacher took it! He loved it! Then I got bingo and I picked the bag with the deer on it! Deer just sounded like a great gift! I opened it up and it was more instant coffee for work! Just my luck! Now I have a years worth of office instant coffee! Mwahahaha! After the dinner party we all went to karaoke and sang lots of music! I got home around 1:30 and had to be up the next morning at 5:30…. to catch a ferry to Fukuoka… Not fun. lol but I survived. Well, sort of. Got a bad cold for Okinawa…
In Fukuoka we caught the early ferry which was moved from Gounoura port to Ashibe port because of very windy an wavey weather. We played some word games on the boat and napped. Then we walked around a Christmas market in Tenjin. And despite popular belief and faith in my shopping abilities, I Did Not Buy Any Thing! lol. I was exacting 110% will power on this occasion! Very tough when your very tired! lol. We had super fluffy Fukuoka pancakes!! The best! I don’t think I’ll ever eat a regular pancake again! by choice. Lol. Then I bought a new purse as my zipper broke and I wanted a working purse for my winter holiday coming up! and checked out the cat cafe! We shopped at an addicting shop for stationary called the loft, then we went to a very cheap second hand shop called book off! I found some Japanese music artists which I liked and got their CDs for only 8 bucks! (thats together, not each)!!! Still no Nana Kitade!! But I found a store guy who actually knew who she was… at last! Still looking for my favourite singer. Also got handmade hand soap! Hehe, self Christmas shopping! yay! We had Mexican food for dinner, too good!
Saw some shrines!
AND that was about it before I left for Okinawa! Except on Christmas Eve my Principle from Iki Shougyou came to my door in the early hours of the morning with a bin of fish! I was still in my PJs when the door bell rung, and he’s standing there saying In Japanese, I went fishing! I caught fish! Heres some fish! Eat for lunch! So Here I am with a plate of fish – horse mackerel to be exact – that have no tails or heads and Im like,…. how do i cook this!!?? I look online, but the instructions all sucked! So after butchering one fish I took the remaining 3 to the principles house down the street and asked, in Japanese, how do I do this?!! He basically invited me in, and standing in his kitchen with my coat on, I watched him rub the fish in salt and put it in a fish oven… so easy! Then he cuts up some Aji – the Japanese for mackerel) he prepared himself into sushi slices. Set out bowls of rice, miso and other assorted Japanese food and told me to sit! So I basically had lunch with my principle on Christmas Eve! So awkward and fun! We chatted in Japanese the entire time. Him saying how he wants me to make a Canadian dish for his next dinner party and me saying I hope it tastes good and Im going to Okinawa soon!