(01/03/05 - 31/03/05)


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28/02/05 - 02/03/05

2005 Conference for Returning JETs, Yokohama 
(just in case you missed the entry in February's diary)
Tick-tock tick-tock
Our time in Japan is rapidly running out.  I've got such mixed feelings about going - on the one hand I know I'm almost ready to leave, but on the other we're so comfortable here...and there's still so much we haven't done!  

Anyway, the conference was, on the whole, very good.  It certainly helped to put everything into perspective.  

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Omizuokuri Festival, Obama
The water festival.  
I am so glad I was able to go to this festival - by far my favourite in Japan so far.  A Buddhist festival, legend has it that around 750 years ago one of the Fukui priests had better things to do (namely fishing) than go to an important meeting in Nara, so he turned up rather late.  Needless to say, the other priests weren't too pleased about this, so he sent an apology in the form of some Fukui water, which he poured into the river at Obama.  Apparently, when the rocks under the temple in Nara were tapped, beautiful sweet water bubbled up, and a new well was formed.  
This festival involves around 3,000 people carrying flaming torches for about 2km along the side of the river, down from Jingu shrine to U no Se, where priests feed the flames of a massive bonfire, before performing the ritual and pouring the water into the river.  A sister festival occurs in Nara 10 days later, when the water "reaches" the temple there.
The festival really has to be experienced to get a true feel for it - there's certainly no way I can put the sights, smells and atmosphere into words.  I'm afraid my photos aren't great either, because it was dark...  Suffice to say, if you ever get the chance to go to Omizuokuri - GO!
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Harue Kogyou Koutogakkou Graduation, 2005
(Now you see why we call it "Haruko")

If you like listening to speeches in Japanese, and freezing various (rather vital) parts of your anatomy off, then you'd love graduation.  Speeches.  And bowing.  Good for the waist-line, though (the bowing, not the speeches).  

Anyway, we said a fond farewell, and "omedetou" to the 3rd grade (and their hideous uniforms - which have now been phased out in favour of smarter navy ones).  It was really good to see the ex-kocho-sensei, who'd come along for the fun.  

Probably the scariest thing is that the kids I met as first graders are now going into the third grade.  I've been here too long ;)  
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Kyogen Play by the Prefectural School for the Blind
The school put on a Kyogen play (in English) for us during the winter conference last year, but this year we're not having a conference....happily, however, the show must go on (and did go on)...and was an absolute hit!  A huge "congratulations" to Yoshinobu-kun, Haruki-kun and James-sensei (and everyone who worked so hard behind the scenes) - fab job, guys!
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The end of hibernation?
Well, the weather is improving...we even forgot to turn the heating on this morning! 

This evening comprised of a meal at Merican-ya (okonomiyaki) followed by a drink (or two...) at Bear's Bar.  The evening took a turn for the bizarre at Bears, when we made a new friend (who promptly proposed to Beth...hmmm...).  Oh, and I don't think Mary will be forgetting her engagement ring again (!)
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Say what?!

A very Japanese day...and the weather is gorgeous!  Hurray!

We went to see an ikebana exhibition, then trundled off on our bikes.  I love days like this!  

(and I didn't hallucinate the corgi with fake eyebrows...Tom saw it too...)
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Ni-ju-yon sai desu
Yup...I'm 24...

Thank you to everyone who phoned/emailed/sent me cards - it was so good to hear from you all!!


Birthday Drinks  
So much for having a quiet birthday this year..!

A group of us went out for dinner then on to Bear's Bar.  I had a really good night, so thank you to everyone who talked sense into me and persuaded me to celebrate!!!  (and who also bought me drinks...)
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Beard Extravaganza  
At the last conference for JETs in Fukui, we had a charity auction (in keeping with FJET tradition).  Matt G gallantly pledged to shave his beard off, and bidding began in earnest.  In the end, everyone was invited (for a fee), and a lot of people turned up for the event (to raise money for the Asian Tsunami Appeal).  To put things into context, Matt - famous for his mass of red chin-warming hair - has never had a shave in his life.
Congratulations, dude - I hope you're not too cold tomorrow!
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White Day  
Exactly a month after Valentine's Day is White Day.  In Japan, Valentine's Day is traditionally celebrated by women giving chocolates to men.  No cards, no flowers, no other kind of sweets.  They're very specific on this; women give chocolate to men.  Not necessarily men they find attractive - friends, colleagues...   
White Day is the day men give sweets, chocolate or biscuits (anything sweet, really) back to all the women who gave them something a month before.  (Which is why Tom spent all of Sunday making mini banoffee pies.)  
 So there I was, ready to tackle the chocolate.  What I wasn't expecting, however, was just how white White Day was going to be...
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The Plum Blossom's out...
...even though the weather's been dreadful to say the least.  Actually, today was pretty gorgeous (if a bit cold still....)
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Another trip to Bear's Bar
This time to show Flicks mate, Steph, what being a Fukui JET is all about...
...but I didn't take any photos...oops...!


Showa Preschool Graduation 

I was very privileged to be able to attend Showa preschool's graduation ceremony.  Tom teaches at this school every week, and I was very intrigued to find out what a preschool graduation would be like.  To me the idea of graduating from anywhere other than university (or maybe college) seems very strange, although having attended two Haruko graduations I'm coming round to the idea of kids graduating from high school.  But to go to the trouble to have an hour-long ceremony for 5 and 6 year olds....?!


As it was, the event was lovely - really moving (even though I don't even know the kids).  The children were so well behaved, too.  It made me remember all the stories I'd been told before I left home about how well-disciplined Japanese students are.  I wonder what happens between preschool and high school...!  (This graduation was so different - so much more formal, touching and serious - than the Haruko ceremony.)


One thing I did find slightly disturbing.  The crying.  Not so much from the kids, but from the teachers...and fathers!!!  
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National Holiday: Substitute Holiday for Spring Equinox 

Did we spend the day enjoying the (rare) sunshine?  No.  Did we go anywhere exciting?  No.  But we did pack up a few boxes, and make a dent into the mound of stuff that needs to be sorted before we leave.  Oh, and we went out for dinner...



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