Monday, June 23, 2008

Zach and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary a few weeks ago, and we were kind of stumped when it came to figuring out what to get each other. Apparently someone, somewhere, decided that the traditional first gift is paper. Paper? "Hey honey, thanks for the---Kleenex? You shouldn't have. No, really, you shouldn't have."

We finally came up with an idea to buy an art print of something we both liked. We found the one shown above, and we're very happy with it. It is a reproduction of a famous woodblock print by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. It shows men at sea in boats and Mt. Fuji in the background, and it is called "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another oshie project. Since it is June and the start of the rainy season in Japan, I thought this little guy was very appropriate to make.

This is a remote-control holder and my first washi-paper project. I made it from old milk cartons and glued washi paper over it with rice glue.

My second washi project

Box with lid

I'm still trying to get over the jitters from a pretty good shake we had a few minutes ago. This one actually got me under the table. Even though we have earthquakes here quite frequently, I can't say that I've gotten used to them, and I don't like them at all.

So I've been crafting again. I was able to bring my projects home from my washi paper class, and I also took another oshie class on Thursday this week. Enjoy the photos!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ume, or Japanese plums, that are not ripe yet. You can use them to make plum wine, which I did.

Bottle of fruit liquor that you use to make the wine. And yes, that says 35%!

You can make several different kinds of wine according to the carton.

The last one shows a picture of garlic. Garlic wine? Hmmm. Not sure about that.

Bag of rock sugar

Ume and sugar assembled in layers in jar

Addition of the liquor. Now it must sit for at least three months.

Hello. How is everyone? Good, I hope. We're having another rainy day here in Japan, but I can't complain too much because it's been nice most of the week. On Tuesday, I visited Seiko and spent a fun day with her. While I was there, our friend Makiko called and said that she had a bunch of ume, or Japanese plums, that we could have from the tree in her yard. We hopped in Seiko's car and drove to her house, and when we got there, Makiko showed me her bottles of ume wine that she has made. She gave me some to try and it was awesome! Both her and Seiko said that I should try to make it too, and since I'm in Japan, I should do what the Japanese do, right? Right. They gave me the instructions on how to make it and told me what I needed to buy, and Makiko gave me a big bag of ume. By the way, the ume aren't ripe this time of year but you have to use unripe ume to make the wine.

The next day, I walked to the grocery store and bought my supplies, which consisted of a large glass jar with a lid, a bag of rock sugar, and a carton of fruit liquor that doesn't have much flavor until you add your own fruit and sugar. I made the cashier at the grocery store laugh pretty good. I'm sure she doesn't see Americans buying the supplies to make Japanese plum wine every day. Now that I made the stuff, we have to wait for at least three months to drink it. The longer it sits the better. Apparently Makiko has one jar that is seven years old!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo

Sumo wrestlers in their ceremonial aprons

Workers would come out and sweep the ring.

Stamping to squash the bad spirits

Little sumo wrestlers and one big one---so funny!

Another ceremonial part of the tournament

The wrestler in the darker cloth is from Bulgaria, and he is very popular here.

Winner of this year's tournament

Finally! I know I've been kind of slow with posting these days, and I do apologize. I wasn't feeling well last week, and it put me out of commission for a while. I'm much better now---yay!---and back to normal---as normal as Ellen gets, right? Right. By the way, thank you so much for the sweet anniversary wishes! Yes, one whole year of married life! Whoohoo! I really can't believe it. It seems like it went by so fast. Zach took a few days off from work, and we had a wonderful weekend together.

Our latest military-related news is that we've decided to extend our stay here for a year, so we'll be here through February 2010. So, a whole extra year of Hello Kitty and Yuzawaya! Yes! However, I do miss being back in the U.S. with my friends and family, and I'm hoping that we'll be able to come back for a visit sometime soon.

Our last big excursion was to a sumo tournament in Tokyo, and I've posted a bunch of pictures. It was a day-long tournament, about 5 hours of wrestling, and by the end we were kind of "sumoed" out. However, I'm glad we went because it was interesting to see it in person and learn some of the rules of the game. There are many ceremonial aspects of the sport that I didn't know about. Here are some sumo facts:
  • The ring they wrestle in is called a "dohyo." It is formed using 20 straw rice bags.
  • At the beginning of each bout, the wrestlers throw salt to purify the ring as a sacred place. They also stamp the ring to squash the bad spirits and sip water to purify their bodies.
  • The fancy ceremonial aprons that they wear cost around 2 million yen, which is around $20,000.
I think the highlight of the tournament was during a break when they brought out these little kids who were taking a class in sumo and had them wrestle against the professionals. It was hilarious, and the kids were so determined to knock the big guys out of the ring.

I think we're entering the rainy season here now. The rice fields along my walk are now planted and flooded with water. It's interesting to see how rice is grown because I've never seen it done from beginning to end. I will try to remember to bring my camera along the next time I go on my walk so you can see it for yourself.

Okay, that's it for today. I hope everyone is well.