31 Dec 2011

Happy New Year!!

Source; Canon Creative Park


The End of the Year

How was your year this year? Considering the record of the past year, it was a really tough and rewarding year for me. And also I made some big decisions and had some new challenges.

No matter how you look at it, the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March was one of the really scary experiences of my life. I was in Sendai city centre, so I was safe from the tsunami, but I was reminded of death in a tall building for a brief while. After that, our lives were kind of hand-to-mouth. Nobody knew when we could buy food, heating oil or get water. It was really scary. I remember people's faces who bear hardships. I couldn't take a bath and use the subway to go to work from my nearest station about for a month. Effect of invisible radiation are still threatening the lives of Japanese.

Under these circumstances, it was hard decision to go to the UK. I felt I had lived by my own selfish rules. Indeed I think I was, yet the sun rises and people should step forward. For this reason, I needed to understand who I am and what should I do for my own future. I am going to live in the UK. I will be 40 years old next year and will start the next chapter of my life. I'd be lying if I said I was not apprehensive about living abroad because everything is new. But if the Japanese average lifespan exceeds 80 years, I am nearly at a turning point. It would be a waste not to enjoy your life. You should cherish your one chance at life, value meeting people and it's important to experience as many things as you can.

Wish everyone good luck for the coming year. See you soon!

30 Dec 2011

Preparation for the New Year

A Christmas in Japan is always hectic, because many Christmas decorations at shopping centres are taken out at the midnight of the 25th, or the morning of the 26th, and decorations for New Year's are displayed instead. When I went to see the Sendai Pageant of Starlight on 26th December, there were already Kadomatsu at the entrances of department stores. Kadomatsu are a pair of pine decorations for New Year, which are to assist the gods descending to earth. You can see it in front of buildings, department stores and huge houses.

I already posted New Year's cards (Nengajou) to my friends and relatives. Honestly, I debated whether or not to send New Year's cards, because most of my friends and relatives live in the Tohoku region and they suffered from the earthquake and tsunami this year. But the cards are a very convenient way to show them that , though you do not see them often, you still remember them. In addition, I needed to say thank you to them. And also, it's one of the pleasures of the New Year holiday to receive greeting cards.

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. Dragons are believed to prevent evil and bring good fortune. Best wishes for the coming year.

Source; Canon Creative Park

27 Dec 2011

Seasonal Tradition in Sendai

I went to see the Sendai Pageant of Starlight with my family and nieces this evening. It was cold and a bit snowy because of a cold wave. I always see it with my family, friends, co-workers, exes, but last year I saw it alone after finishing work late. The event holds good memories for me. Especially this year, the event is designed to give people 'hope' to reconstruct their damaged cities. The orange coloured lights make you feel warm, even if it's cold outside. The Christmas events like a parade were finished, but there has been a special outdoor skating rink "Sendai Winter Park" until 28 December. My nieces enjoy skating there, and I was happy to spend a wonderful time together with them.




24 Dec 2011

Christmas 2011

May the miracle of Christmas fill your heart with love and warmth.


22 Dec 2011

Challenge

I took Pearson Test of English Academic, which is an international computer-based English language test. The UK Border Agency, universities and other organizations accept it as a measure of English language proficiency of applicants. The greatest benefits of PTE Academic are that it's available any time of the year, you can get a score report quickly (within 5 business days), and you can understand your weak points.

I've never taken IELTS nor TOEFL tests, which means I've never taken Speaking and Writing tests. So I can't say what the differences between them are, but I felt it was difficult, harder than TOEIC at least, because you can't go back to a question and to change your answer, and also the test focuses on academic subjects in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.

It's only natural to feel anxiety when you take a new challenge. I think I did well for the first time, even though I am not good under pressure. I am very happy with the result, as at the same time that I passed the entrance exam for high school that I really wanted to do. I can spend the remainder of the year with an easy mind.

14 Dec 2011

Christmas Hamper

I love getting gifts, don't you?

I received a Harrods hamper today. My bf sent it for me and my family. We have a good memory of Harrods hampers. Last Christmas season, we received a big Harrods hamper from my bf. It was the first time for us to get a parcel from Harrods Department Store. It was a really huge parcel. At first, we were surprised at the size of box, and then surprised at the volume of stuff. At that time we felt like kids opening a treasure box, with excitement, confusion and amazement. It was like the inexhaustible box, many chocolates, biscuits, teas, et cetera, many things came out from the box. Surprisingly, a big teddy bear appeared as well. We yelped with delight.

I realized that habituation is a frightening thing. We got used to get a big parcel from Harrods... We weren't surprised, but yet we were excited opening it. It was a really nice Christmas hamper, that makes us always happy and smile. We are truly grateful to him. Thank you very much.


12 Dec 2011

Danshari

In the last couple of years, the idea of 'Danshari' is popular in Japan. What is Danshari? In short, it's the concept of a simple and comfortable life, the basic idea coming from Yoga. This words consist of three kanji characters, 'Dan' means to cut out unnecessary stuff, 'Sha' means to throw away junk in your house, and 'Ri' means to step away from your obsessions. Danshari suggests we get rid of mental as well as physical junk.

I think it's a new idea, because Japanese have the sense that it's wasteful to throw away things. Japan was a poor country and still depends largely on importation. I've grown up in such an environment, I had always taken that for granted. But this idea reversed the thinking of "wasteful". If you keep things for 'just in case', and you never use them, that's what is really a wasteful practice! It's not easy to throw away stuff, but I must, and I started to dispose of my personal belongings, which makes me feel lighter spiritually.

11 Dec 2011

Lunar Eclipse

The lunar eclipse was observed in Japan last night. It occurs when the Moon passes behind the Earth, and the Sun, Earth, and Moon are lined up exactly. We were lucky to have a clear sky to see it. Ancient people thought it was an ominous phenomenon. They might be intimidated by the waning moon and it was very mysterious. I like to look in the night sky, because I feel a burst of power.

9 Dec 2011

Hairdressing

Finally I went to hairdressing shop today to get my hair cut. Honestly I got an urge to have my hair cut and dyed red, when I was in the UK! But I didn't. This time my hair style didn't change dramatically, but I feel very refreshed. I trust my hairdresser, I've known him 15 years or more! He is the first hairdresser who understands my difficult natural curly-wavy hair. He always meets my selfish order. And also he is cool and very stylish. He explained to me a little about techniques of Vidal Sassoon and Mod's Hair, and also about water, shampoo and so on. This information is helpful. Well, I should go there again.

4 Dec 2011

Food Safety

We received a package of apples from my uncle. His family lives in the interior of Fukushima, and they send fruits us every year. The apples are made in Fukushima. In the box, there were certificates for radiation test from a laboratory and a message from the prefectural governor. We ate one of them today. It was really sweet and juicy. After the nuclear accident, it appears to be a reality that food from Fukushima Prefecture is not sold well. Some people makes such a fuss when you just mention the words "Fukushima" or "Japan," but I trust these certificates.

3 Dec 2011

December

♪ Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way ♪
December is the most exciting time for me, because it's the Christmas season and also the new year will come soon. Thinking about Christmas presents and designs of cards is fun. During this month, I usually walk along the illuminated street, and have a Christmas party with my family and nieces; it's my tradition. But I have had a lot to do before the party and I have been busy since I came back to Japan. What would a typical December be like for you?


1 Dec 2011

Sendai Pageant of Starlight

I can't believe how quickly the time goes! It's already December, the last month of the year. 2011 is a special year for me in many ways.

Sendai is proud to have the Pageant of Starlight in Winter. Last year, all lamps were changed into LED lamps. But, they were completely lost because of the Tsunami, because they were kept in storage near the sea. Sendai recently bought 4 hundred thousand lamps and also borrowed sixty thousand lamps from Tokyo (Omotesando-Illumination). The Pageant of Starlight will start tomorrow, earlier than usual, which is filled with many feelings, emotions and souls this year. I think I'll go to see it as usual.


Implementation period: 2-31 December 2011
Place: Jozenji-Street
Time: 17:30-22:00 (17:30-23:00 on 31 December)

30 Nov 2011

Torchiere

4 metres high, the Baccarat crystal torchiere made its third appearance on 28 November, at Sendai Mitsukoshi Department Store. It is said to be a custom design for the last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II, and reproduced by Baccarat. The picture below is taken 2 years ago, but it's really gorgeous and splendid. 

25 Nov 2011

Communication: Visualizing the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer

I went to the Miyagi Museum of Art to see the special exhibit "Communication: Visualizing the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer." Johannes Vermeer is my favourite painter. Last year, I went to see a similar Vermeer exhibit in Tokyo. This time, some Dutch artists' paintings and three of Vermeer's famous paintings were displayed: "Girl Reading a Letter", "A Lady Writing", "Woman Writing a Letter with Her Maid". It was crowded with people in spite of it being a weekday morning. I also saw the material colour of lapis lazuli. It was quite bright and brilliant blue, and it was so beautiful. I had never seen a real one.
 

After admiring paintings, I visited the open space in the museum site, which is called Alice's Garden. It's my favourite space and I used to visit often. The garden contains many sculptures. There are gigantic half-mirrors which invite people into a fantastic world.

23 Nov 2011

Look Up at the Sky

When I looked up at the sky today, it was beautiful with cold and crisp air. It is the riches of the mind only that make you rich and happy.

22 Nov 2011

I'm home!

I came back home safety via Hong Kong! My flight was fine. I watched four films in the airplane like mad: Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher, Black Swan and the King's Speech. The first two films are crazy comedies. Black Swan was heavy, but Natalie Portman was really good. I also enjoyed watching the King's Speech. In a cathedral scene, it reminded me of our Ely trip.

The sunrise glow from the airplane window was really beautiful. The early morning in Hong Kong was misty, the high mountains and tall buildings were mystic and beautiful. Eventually, I hadn't slept pretty much until I got home. I had an addled brain. As you might expect, having a connecting flight and going straight back to Sendai in the same day was somewhat hard trip.
 
It's cold weather in Sendai. The damaged wall of the nearest station was fixed. My house has been repaired. The kitchen was completely changed. The floors are new. In the inside, our house looks a bit disjointed, like a patchwork, but I liked it and think it's interesting. The broken wallpapers were still there, because of shortage of materials and higher prices. We will wait to repair them until next spring. Amazingly, there are still small earthquakes everyday, not only in the Tohoku area. I saw a news story about conducting evacuation drills near other nuclear power plants in Japan. In my neighbourhood, some houses were demolished and now they are vacant lots. A heavy damaged road is still closed, but I can see reconstruction efforts step by step.

Everyone, thank you for supporting me when I was in the UK!

18 Nov 2011

Flight Back

Nearly four months has passed since I came to the UK. We travelled to many places by train and had a carefree time. I already miss the UK, and it's hard to part from my bf. Today I move to London and then go back home. It's a long way, but see you soon! Next time, I will post an article on my blog from Sendai, Japan. xxx

17 Nov 2011

Hatfield Peverel

On our way back home from Chelmsford, we got off at Hatfield Peverel to have a lunch. It's a large urban village, 10km northeast of Chelmsford. Hatfield means "Heathery space in the forest", and Peverel refers to William Peverel, the Norman knight granted lands in the area by William I, the first Norman King of England from 1066. There is the train station, but not so convenient because many trains pass by without stopping. But there is a quite famous restaurant "The Blue Strawberry Bistrot" in Hatfield Peverel. A couple months ago, we tried to make a phone call to book a table for dinner, but the line was busy for a while and we gave up. The restaurant atmosphere was cozy and really comfortable. The staff and meals were excellent. We enjoyed having a lunch there. This time we didn't book a table for a lunch. It was OK, because we got there when it opened. But I'd highly recommend you to book a table, because when we went out, it already started to get busy.



★ i-ADNES recommendation ★

The Blue Strawberry Bistrot
http://www.bluestrawberrybistro.co.uk/
The Street, Hatfield Peverel
Essex CM3 2DW
Tel: 01245 381333

16 Nov 2011

Marks Tey

On our way back home from Colchester, we got off a train at Marks Tey and went to see a parish church, St. Andrew's. Actually I had been interested in this church, because always I could see the wooden church out of the train window, and it had been on my mind. Marks Tey is a large village. It's one of a group of villages called the Teys, also including Great Tey and Little Tey. But honestly, there is nothing specially highlighted in this village. From the station to the church, we just passed a busy traffic main road.

The church has a small Norman structure, so that considered to be the effect of Vikings. The tower has a bell, and it crowned by a wooden spire. When viewed at close range, it seemed like underwent a refurbishment, but wooden part was old. It was a short explore around the church in Marks Tey, but it was nice to see church building for me.



15 Nov 2011

Local Pub

We walked along the river walk this morning. I haven't been walking there for a while, because I was busy going out to other places and also the weather was not good. Autumn sure is here. A squirrel looked busy to get ready for the winter. There were yellow fallen leaves on the path like a yellow carpet, but now it has turned brown and flied around. We went to one of the local pubs to have a breakfast. It was the third time to pop in this pub for me. It's quite huge inside more than you expect. But it's a really nice pub. We had typical full English breakfasts and relaxed. I have enjoyed rest of my staying in the UK to the full.

14 Nov 2011

The British Museum

After so long, we went to the British Museum today. The building of the museum is magnificent and leaves you with a powerful impression any time it is seen. I used to visit galleries of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, the most popular galleries. But today we saw mainly Africa, Americas and Asia. Some school groups visited there, but it was not so crowded because it was Monday morning.

It's interesting to know that there are many cultures and histories have existed on the same planet, on the earth. They are different, but the conception of the basic needs such as clothes, weapons, eating and sleeping habits are the same, though they are far apart. I really feel it's one of the mysteries of the world. That's why I like visiting museums.






13 Nov 2011

Puzzle

I had been hooked on playing "Draughtboard Puzzle" for pleasure in the evening for a while. This classical box design is nice, isn't it? It's a simple puzzle to arrange the pieces to make a standard 8 by 8 checkerboard. It really looked easy, but it's difficult. I had struggled with it, and my bf couldn't watch me any longer, and we cheated... Oops. It was nearly completed, but I am a jellyfish (means I came close but didn't complete it!)...

12 Nov 2011

Mysterious Misty Mistley

We went to Mistley to have a lunch. It's a really mysterious town for us. There are a few people and a few shops, cafes and restaurants on High Street, but there is a nice restaurant. Mistley is in a bit of an inconvenient location, because the number of train service is not many.

At first, we needed to change a train at Manningtree. Connection was not good, so we had coffee at the station cafe. It's a really nice cafe actually, and seems like a pub as well.

 


Last time we visited Mistley, we didn't notice there is a nice restaurant. In fact, this town seems like a industrial area. I smelled malts, because there are malt houses near there. Even on High Street, it's quiet. You don't see many people. It was a bit misty day, mist covered the town slightly, that makes a more mysterious atmosphere. We went to The Mistley Thorn. They have  arestaurant and a ccommodation as well. The staff are very kind, and food is quite good. Also I liked the interior. We had a starter and main. I bet you would like it very much.

 

On our way back home, we tried to get on a bus to Colchester, because it seemed good timing. A bus came, but it was the bus to Ipswich. And while we preoccupied with the bus, a bus to Colchester was approaching. We were rushing to stop it, but the bus driver focused on a car to takeover the first bus and didn't see us. He ignored us! Terrible! Consequently we missed the bus. We got on a train though....

★ i-ADNES Recommendation ★

THE MISTLEY THORN
High Street, Mistley, Essex,  CO11 1HE
Tel; 01206 392821
http://www.mistleythorn.co.uk/

11 Nov 2011

Remembrance Poppy

It's Remembrance Day/Armistice Day today. There was an announcement, and everybody kept silence for a minute at 11:00. We passed by the war memorial park after that, seemed like there was an event, there were some people and the mayor as well.

Toys

Time passes very quickly and Christmas season comes along! When you were a child, what did you request Santa Claus? Honestly I didn't expect him very much, because Christmas in our family was not like the one in a story or most European people have. Also Christmas is not a holiday in Japan. We had the dinner and cake, and received a present from parents though... My sister is crazy about Christmas for her kids, she always makes a big plan for children involving our family, maybe because we long for real Christmas.

According to a magazine, not only for Christmas, but Britain is Europe's biggest toy market. British parents buy an average of 41 toys per year, which is almost a toy per week! I think I had many toys when I was youg, but most of them were hand-me-downs from my sister and parents' friends. My dolls (a kind of Barbie) had a terrible bad hair like after being caught in a explosion. Also something was broken or missing.

I had a friend who had wealthy parents. They had a housemaid, and she had many toys which most girls admired. I'm not sure but her father was a board member of a toy company or something like that. She had everything, I enjoyed resting in the hammock in her house and playing with toys. On her birthday, we gave her notebooks and pencils, Hello Kitty goods or something nice as age-appropriate, but we received a big paper bag in return, which included Minnie Mouse soft toy, play cards and many other things. Small presents always came back in multiples!

I gave all my toys to my cousins or someone. Only the doll is left which my grandfather bought for me. But now, the toy I really want to get back is very simple egg-shaped mouse with wheels. I always put it in my bag and carried when I was really young. I lost it or don't remember who I gave it to.

10 Nov 2011

Tintin

We saw the 3D film "The Adventures of Tintin" today. It's from the popular series of classic comic books, which is created by the Belgian artist Hergé (it's the pen name) . I only knew the name of Tintin and didn't know much about him. Consequently I had thought Tintin was a younger boy until I read a comic book in the UK. Honestly it was the second time to see a 3D film. At the first time seeing Avatar in a cinema, I felt sick, maybe because I saw it in the front row. Acually only the front row seats were left. This time, it was ok, and the film was awesome and interesting! I recommend you try to see this film, if you like adventures.

9 Nov 2011

Godalming

It was a drizzly rainy day yesterday, but we enjoyed a train trip to the southern England, and visited Godalming, Surrey. It's an attractive small town which lies alongside the River Wey. My bf used to live there, but moved because of the flooding . There are many hills in southern England, and sometimes they are the reason to cause flooding near the river. The meaning of Godalming is "of the family or clan of Godhelm". Godalming was the first town in the world to have a Public Electricity Supply in 1881. The lamp post in the right side of following picture is a replica of those used. And also you can see the Parish Church in the middle.




I saw some timber frame houses in the town. There are lovely shops along the high street, and I enjoyed walking around very much.



This pink building is Godalming's former town hall, known as The Pepperpot due to its unique design, dome-like top. Vegetables were displayed and sold inside. 



We went to the restaurant named "Bel and the Dragon". This building was formerly a church and building which stood unused for over twenty years. After renovated to the restaurant, seems like they have succeeded as the restaurant. Unfortunately it was closed for refurbishment... that was a shame. Instead, we went to a pub inside the Kings Arms and Royal Hotel to have a lunch. The pub was much more modern, but it was nice. Peter the Great of Russia visited Godalming and stayed at the Kings Arms.

On our way back home, soft lights were on in the Godalming Station.

7 Nov 2011

The Poppy Appeal

It's the Poppy Appeal season. At supermarkets, shopping centres, on the street corner, you can see people who are standing with a donation box and poppies. It's for The Royal British Legion's charity work to support Armed Forces veterans. Though belatedly, I gave a donation to it.

Retry

We went to Chelmsford today. He went to a hairdressing shop and I followed him. In the shop, I was just sitting on a chair, browsing what the hairdressing is in the UK like and waiting for him. I wanted to have my hair cut, but I haven't had the heart to try it in other country... maybe next time.

Anyway, we went to Doctor Fish shop to treat feet today:) It was a 10 minutes course, but we had about 20 minutes maybe because there was only us in the shop at that time. The fishes make your skin condition improve by munching and nibbling the dead skin cells allowing new healthy skin cells to regenerate. It was an interesting experience, a bit ticklish and felt something like mild electric shocks. Thanks to Doctor Fishes, my feet are smooth and  refreshed very much.



After that, we went to have a lunch at the bar & bistro "The Wine Cellar". The third time lucky, it was opened. As the name suggests, it's in the basement. You can order a light meal for lunch, it was big though... It was a really nice bar & bistro.



The table we sat at was under the road. Can you see the light above? We could see the shadow of pedestrians and hear the sounds of heels.

6 Nov 2011

Guy Fawkes Day

It was Guy Fawkes Day yesterday. We went to see "Witham Round Table Charity Fireworks Display". We bought tickets at the entrance, but the funny thing was that they were collected again several steps away... Bonfire Night and Firework Night is an annual commemoration. The bonfire reminded me of the annual Donto Festival in Sendai, which takes place on 14th January. People burn the New Year's decorations to pray for business prosperity and the well-being of their families.


But here, burning effigies of Guy Fawkes is the tradition. After the countdown, fire went into the air and the sparks flew off. It was funny, some little boys shouted "Kill them!". I also saw a piece of small ash was burning on a man's head, he hastily shaked it off...

There was a shower, but the event itself was nice, people had good manners, nobody raised a terrible racket. They had enjoyed it, talking, gathering, doing fireworks etc. There were hotdog stands, cotton candy stands and a few amusements as well. On a stage, there was a music event, and also the town mayor and the mascot of the Children in Need, Pudsey Bear arrived this event.


Fireworks started at 7:30pm, we enjoyed watching the display. Fireworks always brings me in a bit melancholy mood, because it's something like the sign of the end of season. I enjoyed the event very much though. On our way back home, we could see about 20 fireworks here and there in various directions.