"Yell Party"

Tsuneyama (Mount Tsune) rose in the middle of what used to be Kojima island.  The Seto sea near Okayama city sports a number of very large islands.  While Kojima may not be the most profitable and interesting of places, especially during the era of warring states, it served as a sort of buffer between the sea and Okayama castle.  The Ueno clan decided to take it over in 1486 and spent a few years building a castle there.

The way the mountain raises straight up from the flat land below with a view from the top that includes both ends of the small mountain range and all the way across to Okayama city makes it understandable why it would be the perfect place to build a castle.

Now, however, the sea has been filled in with reclaimed land.  Kojima is no longer an island, the canals of Kurashiki no longer can carry goods all the way to the sea, and Tsuneyama castle has been left to rot away under the weight of trees and ivy.

I live at the bottom of this mountain, where the land would have made a sandy beach.  According to the "Hazard Map" they gave me when I moved here, I'm in danger of being flooded out if a giant tsunami ever breaches the sea wall.  However I think I'm just high enough, and just far away enough from the wall, that I'd have lots of time to run up the mountain before the water got to my house as the rest of the land around me returned to the ocean.

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"I'm home because of during the adjustment" (On a ticket machine)

Subject is a mistranslation of, "Now this machine is under repairs."  If you know the Japanese, it's pretty hilarious that they translated "Now" as "I'm Home."

So last time I mentioned I hosted an event at my school.  Let me go in to more detail and introduce to you the city of Kurashiki.

Kurashiki sits upriver from the Seto inland sea.  The sea is protected by islands and the land is peaceful so you'd expect a bustling port along the coast.  However this flat land west of Okayama city was never ideal.  Tides came up the coastal plain, making the land salty and unfit for crops.  It wasn't until a sea wall was eventually built that thought was put in to what the land could be used for.  Finally, the area was turned in to cotton fields, as cotton can handle a harsher soil than rice can.  A cotton mill was established and storehouses were built around it.  Kurashiki means "Storehouse village" and became a place for commerce where goods, mostly cotton and rice, could be stored.

Why do I know all this?

Well I was asked to take a group of students to Kurashiki and teach them how to speak English outside of the classroom in a realistic situation.  The downside was that I wasn't allowed to spend any money.  I was a bit nervous so I decided to do some research and take a trip down there myself.

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"Okayama, the Land of Sunshine"

Subject is from an advertising poster.

Starting off with some pictures:

I wake up at 7am every day and the first thing I do is look out the window at what's going on.  The fruit on the persimmon tree is orange and succulent.  Most of the rice has been cut, but there is that one lingering field over there that hasn't.  Will today be the day?  The sparrows living in our air vent see me and fly off.  Is there any other wildlife today?  An egret looking for fish in the drain.  They're hard to spot, they stand so still.

I learn a lot of things from this window.  There's a machine that they ride on to cut the rice.  It reminds me of the machine that clears the ice on a hockey rink.  The machine will break up the straw and keep the grains but I'm not sure how it works exactly.  In the past, the straw was kept for various things, to make ropes and sandals, for the roof, mixed with mud to make walls for homes, to fill pillows and dolls, tied up to make brooms, and so on and so on.  Some people still lay out the straw to dry in triangular sculptures out in the fields.  It makes me happy to see them somehow.

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"Food Communication Every, Tiente."

Dear all,

I just wanted to share some photos from my new city, Tamano.

My old address was God's Door City, Long Field Ward, West Ass Lake.

My new address means Treasure field City, Cosmic Wisteria Tree

An old man waiting for the train with his dirty feet up on the bench explained to me with eager, outstretched hands, that this whole area used to be part of the sea.  Then they built a wall to keep the saltwater back and were able to make low-lying rice fields.  He said no houses were here before, and the mountains were islands.  I wasn't sure if this was the ramblings of an old man, or if it was true, but at City Hall they gave me a map of potential areas for natural disasters and yeah, it looks like the only thing preventing my area from being the sea really is this wall holding it back.  Don't worry, if a tsunami comes, the path up the mountain is almost directly in front of my house.



Metal Police

Almost every day I was in Hiroshima, it rained.

There were some days when it didn't rain, when I went back to Kobe to take care of house things.  It didn't always rain all day.  Sometimes just for a few hours at night.  But I knew they weren't going to open any of the hiking trails with the threat of rain still hanging.  Yossi and I went to a neighboring city and we drove up what looked like a fairly tame mountain, but even so there were boulders that had been moved aside and trees that looked precariously ready to fall down over the path in the next storm.  So hiking locally was out of the question.

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"Forest Sophisticated by Rainbow"

Hello everyone!

This time I just wanted to share some pictures.

So this is where I'm living temporarily:

I looked on a map and saw a lake and a mountain, so on my day off I tried and failed to visit both.  Here's why:

And finally, IT STOPPED RAINING for a day and I was able to take some pictures with the morning light of the area directly around my apartment:



"Go grab a stick sweets and take 'em wherevermore!"

I'm writing from my tiny apartment in Higashi Hiroshima City.

The apartment has a "walk-in-closet" and a "bed."

Basically, they put a box in the room with a door, and the box is the closet, and the top of the box is the bed.  I prefer not to have to climb up there every day or bend down to use the hobbit box door, so I don't use half the space in the room.

If you open the door to go out, you're greeted by bamboo trees rustling in the wind.  Little birds hop over the trees day and night.  When the lights go on after dark, insects come out to play.  I brought a flashlight on a whim, and I'm so glad - every night I explore what kind of wildlife the lamps have brought in.  The flashlight is useful for another reason, too.  There are very little street lights, and the walk from the bus stop to my place is 30 minutes.  The bus comes only once an hour.

I'm not used to the Country Lifestyle yet.  I walked 30 minutes to the bus stop on my first day, to learn the latest bus had just gone by 5 minutes ago, and I had the choice to wait an hour for the next one.  I'm not good at waiting, so I just walked to work.  It took the full hour.  I was wearing sandals and they were making blisters on my toes by the time I reached the shopping center.  On one side of the street they were selling bikes, and on the other side was a shoe store.  I debated in my head for a minute, then decided crossing the street was too much trouble and I bought a pair of nice running shoes.

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Is soda in one star strawberry soda. Melon Soda. The World.

Hello all.

The subject was written on a little girl's shirt.  Profound.

So I have some news for everyone.  Let's go with the fun stuff first.

Yossi and I went house hunting.  The last time we were house hunting was when we'd just gotten engaged.  He'd told me he didn't care at all what kind of place, so I could make up the conditions for the realtor.  After finding a couple places I liked, Yossi became concerned that none of them were close enough to the station, or near any restaurants.  It turns out I care about the inside, and he cares about the outside.  We ended up having to compromise.

This time, we both went in with our conditions. Yossi's were - it needs a parking space, and to be near a station.  Mine was - It needs large windows that let in the sun, a balcony big enough to put chairs out, and next to a mountain.

The realtor gave me an odd look, went to go through his files of apartments, then came back a bit hesitantly and did that Japanese beating-around-the-bush way of bringing up his burning question.  "So uh... you said... next to a mountain..?  And that would be because.. well..."

"I like hiking!" I said.

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"A thing necessary for the good life is a mind"

Hello all.

Subject is from a little boy's T-shirt.

Two stories today.
This first one I wrote in February but couldn't bring myself to look at it again until now:
Today a little boy broke my heart.

I've been going to a certain school once a week because no one else was
willing to take a 2.5 hour commute at 7am on a Saturday.  At first it was
going to be a temporary thing, but a replacement was never found.  Then I
became the manager and realized how hard it is to get a replacement for
that area.  I ended up going there for 2 years.

Very suddenly, last week, a replacement was found and I had the hard task
of breaking the news to my students.

I told this little boy I wouldn't be able to be his teacher anymore.  I
told him I had to go back to Kobe where I live.  He rolled his eyes and
didn't seem to care.  After the lesson started, though, he kept looking at
the clock and saying things under his breath like - 30 minutes left.. Only
20 minutes...  10 more minutes...  Was he that eager to leave?

After the class finished, his Dad came to pick him up.  I gave them both a
card.  I asked the boy if I could hug him and he seemed embarrassed so I
didn't.  Dad bowed and thanked me.  Then he forced his kid to say some
embarrassing goodbye words.  Finally they left the building and got in to
their car....

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