Festival

Land of the blazing sun: Summer in Japan

How have I not made more puns like this?

My brain must have melted in the heat of summer.

It’s hot here. A heat I’ve never experienced before. The temperature itself isn’t so bad, averaging about 35, but the HUMIDITY wraps you in in its arms and hugs you until you feel like you’ll never breathe fresh air again. I’m being dramatic, but I’ve never seen so many sweated-through shirts than here. And yet, I still see men in full suits. Women with pants and long sleeves.

I went to a baseball game and and spent three hours in the open sun and subsequently spent the following week with a burn and potentially a minor case of heat stroke. Now I have a farmer’s tan that I’m weirdly proud of.

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Troopers, these Brass Band members and Baseball players. I don’t know how no one fainted.

The staff room at work is not so bad. The air conditioning is usually on and there’s always several fans going. It’s a good thing classes have now ended, because the full wall of windows and close proximity of forty students turn the classrooms into incubators. Students arms stick to their worksheets and they roll up the legs of their uniforms. I can’t imagine how hard it would be for them to concentrate all day.

But still, all of these heat and humidity brings out so much life around us. The rice fields are so green and lush looking!

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I went to an English camp and spent two days with some of the most enthusiastic students I’ve ever met! They were so eager to participate and I had a lot of fun. My little workshop was about Art, so we talked about different types periods of Art History. Students could pick their favourite painting from a set of images and write a story or their opinion.

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Interestingly enough, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (the one in the middle) was the most popular one chosen!

The summer means it’s almost time for the new teachers to arrive! It’s been a few weeks of goodbye events and dinners. It’s sad to say goodbye, particularly because many of the friends I’ve made here are from many different countries making the chances of reunions a little less likely. We’ve spent some time in arcades, taking classic Purikura  photos.IMG_8226

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My new little friend.

One of the best parts of summer is all the festivals! It seems like every weekend there are one or more festivals around the prefecture. They’re always fun, tons of food, entertainment, and families! Last weekend I went to the festival in Namerikawa that had a great fireworks show at the end!

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Festival ice!

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Fire dancers!

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Some creative firework shapes: upside down heart!

Tulip Mania: Endless Tulips at Tonami’s Annual Festival!

There’s no shortage of festivals in Japan, and one of my favourites so far was the Tonami Tulip Festival that I went to yesterday, made possible by a civic holiday! The ride out by train took almost two hours, but like always the journey there is part of the fun. I was amazed at how large the park is, filled with plenty of photo opportunities, souvenirs, and performances.
There was a small river running through the park, and we passed by groups of people playing in the river blowing bubbles and swirling petals around in the water.

Later in the afternoon the park was full of several hundred dancers- and they performed to music over the speaker system. One of the ladies noticed us trying to follow along and pulled us into the group- which was a little embarrassing but incredibly fun! I chatted with one of the ladies who told me there was a total of 21 different groups from different areas of Tonami, and each had a different Yukata. It was really beautiful to see the dance through the sea of tulips, and cute to see little kids participating too.

Amen for Ramen! Nyuzen Ramen Matsuri 2014

Yesterday I took the train to the town of Nyuzen, in the East of Toyama Prefecture for “The 14th Nyuzen Ramen Matsuri 2014”. It was the perfect day for a food festival, with the already not-so-cold winter feeling like it was coming to a definite close. The main street was lined with Ramen vendors from different areas of Japan (although many were from Toyama prefecture) averaging around 800 Yen a bowl. Ramen sounds pretty straightforward in theory, but this festival was evidence enough just how much variation is possible. My first was a miso ramen from Ishikawa, and it was super oily and a little spicy- amazing! My second was a Soy Ramen from Hokkaido which was a little lighter and more sweet.

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Miso Ramen from Ishikawa Prefecture – Smokey and Oily, my favourite one!

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Sea Urchin Ramen from Toyama

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Spinach Ramen – perhaps the “healthiest” of all the options!

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Soy Ramen from Hokkaido! Clear and a little sweet.

I managed just over one and a half bowls all together (with plenty of taste-tests from my friend’s picks), which left me in a slight food coma for the rest of the day. It was a great way to spend an afternoon, you really can’t go wrong with good food, weather, and company. They also happened to play pretty great music, including some Barry White which was an excellent soundtrack for noodle slurping. We also ran into the official Nyuzen mascot- a giant watermelon! Or, watermelon King to be precise.

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