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A New Year

January 20, 2010

Hello everyone,

We are well into the New Year, and many things have happened here since my break, when Kayci came to visit. We visited Shimonoseki and Beppu, then took trains to Hiroshima, Mijayima, and Himeji on the way to Tokyo, where we shopped for used manga in Akihabara. Kayci flew home, and I stopped overnight in Osaka on my 23-hour ride on various trains back to Fukuoka. I spent New Year’s Eve at the house of my Japanese tutor, Naoki, where I met his brother, and had a great time. On New Year’s Day we ate traditional foods in the morning, like fish eggs, black beans, and fluffy cake, and went to visit Miyajidake Shrine in Munakata, owner of Japan’s largest shimenawa rope.

Miyajidake shrine, in the suburbs of Fukuoka.

It’s usually deserted, but on New Year’s Day it’s visited by thousands of hatsumode pilgrims. Lots of street vendors were serving food, so I ate a hot mochi cake powdered with green tea and filled with sweet red beans. We also shared some okonomiyaki, and Naoki’s brother bought me some octopus on a stick.

I am now teaching English on Saturdays, at the ACROS building.

I took a photo in Tenjin from the Mitsukoshi dept. store:

Tenjin, Fukuoka, near Mitsukoshi and the Nishitetsu Station.

And another photo three days later, of Nakasu. I walk across this river every time I visit Tenjin.

Near Nakasu, Tenjin, Fukuoka.

In class we had our first tea ceremony, on a first class back after the break. We struggled to remember the form.

Sweets for the ceremony.

Preparing the tea.

Elaine receiving tea.

Guests conversing merrily.

Cross-sensei serving sweets.

Bowing to give and receive sweets.


Receiving the tea.

Amazingly, and unseasonably, it snowed on Jan. 13.

It snowed!

Outside the Culture Café, Hakozaki Campus, Kyushu University, Fukuoka.

I met with my host family again! They’re a wonderful young couple who took me on a trip to the beach last weekend. Before that, my host mom and I checked out Fukuoka’s Akarenga Cultural Center, which is a very European 1909 copper and brick building in the middle of Fukuoka’s glass and steel monstrosities. We perused the exhibition of childrens’ art on the first floor of Inter Media Station, in Tenjin, and then sat for tea at a café on an upper floor and talked in Japanese. My host mom really wants to visit Morocco; we talked a little about my trip. She gave me a gift! The next day I opened the cute little box, untied the gold ribbon from around the bright green bag, and got out my iTouch (dictionary) to read the Japanese directions on a tiny folded piece of paper. I poured all 25 grams of kudzu starch powder into a cup, mixed it with boiling water, and came up with a viscous, milky substance. I took a sip, and it was delicious!

A healthy drink made from kudzu starch powder.


On Jan. 17 my host parents picked me up from Tenjin, and we went on a day trip to lots of places, including Yusentei Garden and the beach at Itoshima. The trip was so much fun! First, we saw the garden, and had tea in the tea pavilion, and fed the carp.

Yusentei Garden, Fukuoka. Main pavilion.

Carp at Yusentei Garden.

Feeding the fish!

We drove to Itoshima to see the beach. On the way we stopped for taiyaki, which are fish-shaped pastries: pancake on the outside, with sweet filling. Mine was white bean, and definitely the best taiyaki I’ve ever had. At Itoshima we walked a deserted beach to visit a salt factory made entirely of wood.


Afternoon sun on the beach at Itoshima, near Fukuoka.

The beach.

Distant shoreline of Kyushu.

Approaching the salt factory.

The view on Itoshima beach.

Wooden salt factory.

A wooden person relaxing by the sea.

The sunset, Itoshima.

As the sun set we sat in a warm café where I had caramel milk tea and talked more. We drove back to Fukuoka, listening to Bob Dylan, and had sushi for dinner in Hakozaki, at a kaitenzushi restaurant (revolving sushi, i.e. conveyor belt). I tried new delicious kinds of fish that I’d never heard of before. We sat by some chefs whom we could watch roll maki, cook eel and fish with a blow torch, and mold various kinds of nigiri. They dropped me off at my dorm, and that was a night.

Yesterday I didn’t do any homework, because it was warm! In the morning I saw that this building is underway near my dormitory:

Construction work on a new building in Kashii.

I got sidetracked walking home, because I wanted to visit a far away building I’d seen every day. I walked through a small tunnel, under some railroad tracks, and across more rails, and discovered that the river I cross every day has a beautiful section masked by the railroad platform.

The other side of the tracks.

The river, between Hakozaki and Najima.

I wasn't the only photographer enjoying the sun.

Today the warm weather continued, so I rode my bike to school and back, but now it’s raining. It was a short-lived reprieve! I can’t wait for spring.

Until next time,

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Katherine Maynard permalink
    January 21, 2010 5:03 am

    I love your posts. They bring your experiences this year alive for those of us left behind. And your Aunt Susan said it well, that you will be happy later to have this record of your time in Japan.

    • January 21, 2010 7:57 am

      Thanks mom! I’m going to add a lot more, and fix the photos at the top of the post that won’t enlarge.


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