Friday, May 30, 2008

Latest oshie project

Hello, hello. No, I haven't disappeared. I am still in Japan. :-) I have been crafting away these days. Yesterday I went to my second washi paper class, where we're learning how to cover cardboard boxes with beautiful Japanese washi paper. I finally finished my projects yesterday, but I don't have a picture to show you yet. I left them at the base to dry. However, I do have a picture of my latest oshie project. This one is of a boy dressed in a kimono. And today I am contemplating a trip to Yuzawaya to buy washi paper because my washi paper instructor told us that they have a 30-percent off sale from now until the 5th. Whoohoo!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bridge near the town of Nikko

Cute firetruck

Five-story pagoda

Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil.

I just loved the carved dragons on this building. Some of them really made me laugh!

Erica---this photo is for you!

Beginning of the procession. They do the procession twice---once in the morning going down the hill, and later in the afternoon they come back up the hill and return to the shrine.

More procession participants

Carrying the Mikoshi, the sacred portable shrine

Zach fell in love with this chicken in Nikko.

I'm standing next to the main road that the procession goes along, and we're waiting for the people to start coming back up the hill.

Returning to the shrine

These portable shrines weigh a ton---for real!

This guy made me smile.

Hello! I hope everyone is well. We're drying out after almost 8 inches of rainfall last night! Our street was a river this morning.

I wanted to share with you a bunch of pictures that I took on Sunday on another tour. This time we headed north of Tokyo to the town of Nikko, where they reenact a procession that transferred the remains of the famous shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa to the Toshogu Shrine. Over 1,000 people are in the procession. There are several shrines in the area, and we visited most of them. I got kind of "shrined" out by the end, but it was all very interesting. I thought the area was beautiful, and it was such a nice change from the city.

Monday, May 12, 2008

So I was at Yuzawaya (the amazing craft store) yesterday, and I found myself trying to resist this HUGE urge to buy a felt food kit. They had an impressive display of several completed kits, and I just stared and stared and stared at them. My mind kept going back and forth between "They serve no purpose" and "Oh my god. I would lose hours of my life making one." to "But they are amazing" and "I've never seen anything like it." I unfortunately did not have my camera with me or I would have tried to take a picture. I found a pretty decent photo online that I posted above so you can get an idea of what I was looking at. I pulled myself away from the display case and put the "strawberry cake with whipped cream" kit back on the hanger, but will I be able to be that strong the next time I go there?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Name of the Japanese restaurant

Seiko getting ready to grill!

Mixing the "batter"

Oil on the grill

Frying batter

Flipped okonomiyaki

Seiko put dried fish flakes and seaweed on hers

My attempt at frying yakisoba

Hello! Things have been pretty quiet around here this past week (if you don't count the two rather large but very short earthquakes I felt the other day and freaked out and started to dive for cover but couldn't make it underneath the table before they were over), so I haven't had much to post. But today I had lunch with Seiko, and she took me to a really cool Japanese restaurant called Dohton Bori that serves okonomiyaki. The closest thing I can compare it to is an omelette that you make yourself on a grill at your table. They also serve yakisoba, which is basically fried noodles with vegetables and meat. The menu had a huge selection of different combinations of raw ingredients. Our okonomiyaki "batter" had corn, mayonnaise, little sausages, green onions, an egg, carrots, and probably something else I forgot. You mix everything together in the bowl it comes in, and then you pour it onto the grill and flip it after a while so that it browns on both sides. After it's done cooking, you can add a tasty sauce, dried fish flakes, and seaweed flakes. I went for the sauce (which was really good) but just said no to the fish flakes and seaweed. Seiko made the okonomiyaki, and I tried cooking yakisoba. She helped me with that too. Everything was so yummy! Fun with food and friends--now that's a great afternoon!

Friday, May 2, 2008

My first attempt at Japanese shodo calligraphy. The large characters mean "daffodil," and the small characters to the left are my name.

Aren't my slipper socks cute?

Hello, hello! If you haven't done it yet, check out the links that Jen posted on the comments page for my April 23rd entry. They will make you laugh, laugh, laugh!

On Wednesday this week I walked up to the army base, Camp Zama, and took a Japanese shodo calligraphy class at their arts and crafts center. It was great! My Japanese instructor has been a calligrapher for about 30 years, and I learned so much from him in just a couple of hours. I have a much greater appreciation for the art form now. I enjoy doing Western-style calligraphy and I took a course in it during my college days, but I found the Japanese style so different and much more in tune with how you feel as you are writing or painting the characters. My instructor explained that your feelings and your strength are reflected in your brush strokes, and the simple act of breathing and how you hold your body are important parts of the process.

During the class, he had me practice several different brushstrokes, and then he let me pick a set of two characters to write that together mean "daffodil." I also learned to write my name---the first character means a wide river, and the second one means love. I'm not sure how he determined that these two things mean "Ellen," but I'll just go with it. I've posted a picture of what I thought was the best sample I did. It is not even remotely close to being perfect, but it was my first attempt and I thought you might enjoy seeing it.

And the strange strawberry slipper socks? I just threw a picture of those in because I'm wearing them today and I think they are cute. I found them for 300 yen, or about $3. :-)