1 Dec 2017

Ika-Senbei

The parcel from my mother arrived. There were traditional and regional snacks 'ika-sembei' in it. They are biscuits with squid flavour:) This cookie itself is called Nambu Senbei, a regional snacs in Aomori and Iwate prefectures (northern Japan), specifically where they originated from the old clan area of Nambu. It was a Japanese samurai clan who ruled most of northeastern Japan for over 700 years from the Kamakura period (c.1185-1333) through the Meiji restoration of 1868.

This is squid flavoured, but the most common Senbeis are sesame seeds and have peanuts in them. They have a slightly sweet and also a slightly salty taste. This reminded me of our travelling to Hirosaki, Aomori last year. Because when we visited there, we tasted this snack freshly baked with peanuts. 

12 Nov 2017

The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered In

Japanese people are short and have black hair - that's an image from the past. Economic growth has boosted Japanese quality of life and changed their diet. Japanese diet is fully of variety. Due to dietary changes, there is a big difference in the physical builds between children more than fifty years ago and children today. Also, in an increasingly globalised world,  the number of mixed race children has increased as well.

Well..., I am not tall. It was my complex when I was young. I had thought if I was tall, I could breathe fresh air... and become equal to Western people. What a shallow idea, but it was a serious one at that time for me.   

I read the news article that Japanese teen sued her local government due to her school making her repeatedly dye her naturally brown hair to black in keeping with the institute's ban on hair colouring.

It reminded me of my schooldays. Japanese school has a policy prohibiting students from dyeing or perming their hair. My hair is black colour but natural curly and wavy. If I braided my hair, tips of my hair twisted and became like a rose bud. When I was a student, I needed to submit to the school a letter from my parents proving it's my natural hair. If a paper settles the matter, I didn't care about it. Though I really had thought it's a silly and stupid rule. In fact, there were some students who got a perm and insist that their hair is natural. But it was about 30 years ago. As I mentioned, the world has changed, and I had thought their rules are relaxed a bit now. So I'm very surprised that this kind of matter has still became news.

Not only schools but also companies have a tendency to judge people by hair colour. Usually Japanese CV requires a photo of you, so if you are Japanese and have blond hair, you are probably going to find it hard to get a job. Japanese schools attach weight to harmony rather than individuality. School rules are important, but the school is going too far to demanded that student dye her naturally brown hair black, or foreign-born students to dye their hair too. What's the point of banning the colouring? Isn't enough to wear the same uniform? Teachers get heated to correct students morals, but I feel that students are more calm and don't judge others by their hair colour. I praise the girl for her courage to sue the contradiction today.

10 Nov 2017

Today's Sky


"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
 
- Albert Einstein

26 Oct 2017

Pin Mill Walk

We got off a bus at Chelmondiston and walked towards Pin Mill, Suffolk. On the way, we popped in the church. Opened the door and colourful kneelers caught my eye. They looked so lovely.


We were supposed to walk in the woodlands where the National Trust owns, instead, we walked towards the opposite way, because we thought the view might be nicer than inside the wood.


The pub in Pin Mill is popular and was busy with people enjoying beer and food. We had a lunch but not at the pub, at the picnic table near the pub. We always carry a lunch for walking, because it's quick, easy and convenient. 



We started to walk along the river. We could see a lot of yachts on the river.


We crossed the field and could see Woolverstone Hall School in a distance. It used to be a large country house, now in use as a school.


And we reached the church which has a very welcome atmosphere, and there were self drink services. There was a garden table in the churchyard, so we appeased our thirst and rested our feet.


On the church entrance, it was a unique wooden panel floor.


We started to walk towards a small village, Freston. There is a Freston tower, which is a six-storey red brick folly building, and was built probably in 1578 by a wealthy Ipswich merchant. You can't go inside to have a look, but it's nice to see the tower on a way of walking.


We also visited a church in Freston. I don't know why but I felt the church had a bit strange atmosphere.


The bus stop in Freston was so pathos, because it was surrounded by abandoned buildings... I was glad to be able to catch a bus, otherwise I'd have felt miserable at there...

15 Sep 2017

Doomsday!?

The world situation has been messed up. Many people have been killed and injuried in a series of terror attacks everywhere, and North Korea has now been doing whatever they like. They are so narrow-minded. They can only ever think about things that benefit them and can't see any further than the end of their nose. Every country has a black history. Japan is no exception. What we learn at school is that the most important thing is to learn from the past and do not repeat it. People forgot about this simple common sense.

I think humans seek easy and comfort in their lives. It is known as 'development'. Eventually we have also dug our own graves. My life is along with the contradiction. I want to have a simple life, but yield to temptation. At my most basic, the Amish-like life might be ideal, but I can't have such life. It's a sort of addiction, once we know the comfortable life, it's so hard to go back to the classical ways. Rather, the only solution is to seek another way to coexistence of humans in harmony with the Earth. But it may be too late to seek. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said we have 100 years left before doomsday, and I feel that what he says perhaps has some truth in it. Thanks to whom can we live under this beautiful sky?

11 Sep 2017

Fear

Before my grandmothers died, they both had dementia. The symptoms of my paternal grandmother were serious, and my uncle and aunt had trouble keeping their eyes on her, because she disappeared once and was found in the woods. On the other hand, my maternal grandmother was sometimes normal. She was a very modest, humble and patient person. I think she was a typical good wife in the past. I spent a lot of times with her, when I was a child. She rarely scolded us, and was very kind.

She broke her leg twice in her old age and had operations. It seemed like that an anaesthesia caused and accelerated her confusion, and created a false sense of an illusion. Strictly speaking, she might not have had dementia. Just she might not have been able to escape from such illusion and dreams. Her recuperative powers of leg was phenomenon on her age. A doctor was also surprised. She wanted to go home as soon as possible to look after her son (in her mind), and it became her motivation to be recovered.

She had an auditory hallucination, and she often mentioned about 'a baby'. After she got a big blood transfusion for an operation, I felt her character was a bit changed. In short, she became naughty and selfish when she wasn't in her right mind. Or was it her real self? The last time I met her, she was normal even though she talked about 'a baby'. She was the grandmother I knew. I thought it might be the last time to see her, and I helped her change into pyjamas. She was really thin and skinny.

After I lost her, I became not sure which was her real self. Did she really become naughty? Or had she bottled up her feelings and emotions, and just became honest to her own feelings? Dementia is what many people fear most. I didn't mind seriously about health when I was in 20's and 30's, but about my parents and myself, now the fear is coming close to reality. I don't want to have dementia and to lose myself, and cause people trouble saying something I am not sure of.

30 Aug 2017

Car Societies

The phenomenon in which local shops have closed down in town/city centres isn't anything new. Some reasons are that people use internet shopping, go to big chain shops in the outskirts by car and so on. Now, it's a car society. People use a car, so the services of public transport are decreased. And also people don't use public transport very much because of few services.

After I moved to the UK, I was surprised that there is no bus service on Sunday (not in every town/city). Having a car itself is not bad, but one household having several cars is not uncommon even if they don't have enough car parking space.

I often use the public transport, because we don't have a car (driver's license itself). I am a self-styled eco-friendly person. Once you get used to it, you don't feel inconvenience very much. But it depends on where you live.

Recently, I've enjoyed travelling and walking with my friend by making full use of the public transport. Seems it's rare in this country, many people use their car. It is not unusual that we are the only customers who are riding on the bus at the end, like a chartered bus.

The other day, we explored the possibility of full use of the train and bus service, and made perfect plan to visit a lovely town Eye and a small village Hoxne in Suffolk. It was quite a tight schedule due to the bus running 3 per day from Eye to Hoxne. After we strolled around the castle, church and town in Eye, we were supposed to get on a bus to Hoxne. Since we still had a time till the bus, we'd been walking around. And suddenly we saw a bus passed by and confirmed the bus number from the back. It was THE bus we were suppose to get on. It was 10 minutes earlier but it didn't stop to adjust the time. Consequently we missed the bus and couldn't visit Hoxne.


On another day, we asked a bus driver if we got a return ticket and we could get on another number's bus on a way back (same bus company, a departure and an arrival point is the same, but the route is  different). But seemed the driver didn't know. He said '...well... I would say, why not?' Ha? Did he say 'why not'? What the hell of  the answer 'why not'??? Even though the bus services are few, sometimes driver's inconsiderate action makes me disappointed...

6 Aug 2017

I Love Summer!

I love summer. I love blue sky and hot weather. We had a wonderful summer holiday in Crete, and now enjoy the life in the UK under the grey-ish sky. Summer events in Japan were my birthday, fire display and the Star Festival.

I received some pictures of Sendai Star Festival from my mother. It started from 6th August, today. There is a jinx that 'there is rain during the festival'. As of the jinx, it seemed rainy... According the weather record of last 16 years, there was rain with more than 55% possibility. It's quite high, isn't it? If there is rain, some decorations become covered by vinyl like the picture below with no roof, because the decoration is made of paper. But you can enjoy the festival whatever the weather is like, because there are shopping arcades. 


Different from other festivals, this festival is calm rather than active. Because you just walk through under the colourful decorations. In other words, you can enjoy seeing and touching this festival at your own pace. Local festivals are likely to become an ordinary event for local people, but I think they are always beautiful.


These consist of thousands of origami cranes to wish world peace. I joined this project when I was a student and made some cranes. I taught origami to children locally during this month. They are so quick to master them!


My mother sends me pictures of the festival every year, and I think I miss it very much. This is the moment that I realise I am from Sendai. These are some other decorations of this year.



5 Aug 2017

Farm-phobia

I often go for a walk with my friend. At the beginning, there was no problem. We were just excited and enjoyed walking. But as our experience becomes broader, we started to have a fear against dogs at farms. Originally I am scared of dogs, because of bad childhood experiences, but I've coped with it somehow.

We've already had a few bad experiences with dogs, by barking and chasing. WE also saw a scary dog with evil eyes and sharp canines. It was inside a low fence, and barked at us while we passed by. We thought it might jump over the fence and felt scared. It's ok if they are inside the gate, but some farms leave the gate open and their dogs walk around freely without leads. I can understand that they are guard dogs to keep farmer's property and livestock, but why do they leave them freely on a public footpath? Different from other pet dogs, they are so aggressive, because they are trained to guard the farm.

Since then, we feel scared every time we approach the farm or hear dog's barking...We sometimes made a detour to avoid scary 'DOGS'!! 

The other day, we found this. I don't know who wrote this. It was hanging on the gate on a public footpath. Landowner or whoever wrote this, it causes walkers to feel completely unpleasant and gives a bad image! I love walking but how can I treat my farm-phobia???

24 Jul 2017

23 Jul 2017

My project - Roller Blind

In our kitchen, the old roller blind was hanging by the window, which seems it had been there for a long time perhaps before the big mouse moved in. It was a yellow colour, but I wanted to change it to green-ish since our kitchen theme colour is green. I had 2 minds; to change a fabric for the roller or to hang a newly café-curtain.

before
Since I got a nice curtain sample (again!), I decided to remake it into a roller blind. I didn't know the roller blind structure, I referred the magazine 'Handmade Interiors' which introduces how to make cushions, blinds and soft furnishings. When I dismantled the old roller blind, I realised it's a quite simple structure, but this magazine was helpful and tells some techniques.


First, I undid a seam. It's extra work, but I don't mind. The sample curtain was only 1 pound anyway. And I just measured, cut, sewed and attached the pole. The sample curtain was longer than its width, but I used the fabric with the longer side at the top. The design is not too assertive, and it suits our kitchen. At last, our kitchen curtain is upgraded. I am very satisfied with this. I still have a lot of home projects:) I will do them bit by bit.

After

17 Jul 2017

Bear Stamps

On the parcel from my Japanese friend, there were lovely bears' stamps. :)


14 Jul 2017

Ocean

We came back from a holiday. It was the first proper summer holiday since we got married. Our destination was Crete, Greece. It was the first visit for us. Soon after we arrived at Heraklion airport and got a taxi, I was quite excited in the taxi. Speaking of Greece, I only had images vaguely of the Parthenon in Athens, clear contrast of blue ocean and white buildings, yogurt and so on. But as for Crete, I had nothing, apart from a blue sea and historic places. Travelling abroad is very common nowadays, but for some Japanese people, Greece is still far away country compared with the USA or other European countries. My first impression of Crete was 'rocky'. I knew it's Mediterranean climate, but I didn't imagine such steep, rocky and craggy mountains are there. I looked up and felt very strong natural power from them. Another surprise was the number of cicadas. It's a familiar insect for Japanese people, and if you go to around Osaka or Nagoya cities, you will notice their noises. But they are a different kind of cicadas and different sounds. I thought, at first, it was birds or something.


Why is the ocean so blue? The ocean near my hometown is always dark green. It is perhaps because of limestone or reflects the colour of the sky. Whatever the colour is, the sounds of waves beating the shore makes you always feel relaxed. Just sit near the land meets sea and listen the sounds. It takes all the worries away from your busy head and gives you a sense of peace. It also shows the greatness of nature and how trifling people's existence are.



Our holiday was great. One day we joined a bus tour to Knossos and Iraklion, but apart from that, we spent most of the time in a small resort village Sissi, exploring around, enjoying beach and pool and relaxing in the hotel garden. This time, I learnt how European people spend their holidays. When it comes to travel to abroad, Japanese people tend to move around busily as much as they can, try not take their eyes off from everything, since they've come all the way to a far away country. I was one of them. I don't deny that way, but this time I found it's nice to know narrow but deep rather than shallow and wide. It helps to treasure your memories clearly. It's perhaps a sort of privilege of living in Europe, because European countries are close together.

Sky in Crete


1 Jul 2017

Sewing Project - Fish

I got a free gift from a magazine and tried to make it. It is called Hamish the Herring. It reminded me of a saury fish because of its long shape and being a very familiar fish for Japanese people. We usually eat it salted and grilled, garnished with grated mooli (radish) and a wedge of lemon. Anyway, I sewed this by sewing machine and used lovely blue shell buttons. It was easy to make for a beginner. It might be nice to make a couple and hang them together. I am going to hang this in the kitchen or bathroom. :)

30 Jun 2017

Ready To Go

We celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. And we are ready to go on a long holiday. It's the fifth year honeymoon. :)


18 Jun 2017

The Secret Under The Sink

Life in the UK sometimes drives me mad and makes me frustrated. The solution for this might be by being a handy man/woman or DIY man/woman or skilled man/woman. Even for small work, it's rare for it go on smoothly, especially in an old house... We've just solved the sink problem in the bathroom after the terrible fuss, but now another problem happened.

The other day, our washing machine was broken. It's quite old and it was already fixed a couple times, so we decided to renew it. In my idea, it was very simple. Buy a new one, remove an old one, install new one and take an old one away. That's it. But actually it wasn't simple. We paid for a new machine including delivery and installation. But we needed to uninstall it by ourselves because uninstallation is excluded. I had thought it would be done by a person who will install a new machine, because it's common way in my country. We googled how to disconnect and tried it. It looked simple, and we thought we can do it. But actually the old equipment is hard to move because of deterioration, rust, scale and so on... But this time, there was another idiot problem.

Our kitchen seemed like it was installed after the washing machine. There was a hole on the panel wall where the plug cord ran through under the sink, but we realised that plug head doesn't go through the hole. The hole is too small for plug head. How idiotic. How could you work like that??? Eventually the plug cord of old machine was cut. But the problem is how to run through a new plug cord??? We need to make a hole bigger before the installation. We have no tools and no skill, but the delivery day is due.  I've never expected that this kind of idiot problem was hidden under the sink. Why doesn't everything work smoothly in this country?

As a result, the unskilled big mouse successfully cut the hole bigger . Now the hole looks like a tooth-mark, but without proper tool and with from awkward position, that was the best for us. Well, the big mouse looks he awoke a bit to do DIY job. The best way to make a DIY husband, let him do it and give him self-confidence. I wish he would learn the skill.

10 Jun 2017

Sewing Project - A Summer Bag

I sewed a bag for summer season. Again, I used a curtain sample fabric. That means I got a lovely striped fabric and a liner at once. :) I also used a vinyl leather fabric for the bottom. It looks effective.


1 Jun 2017

Hasekura-yaki

In the UK, the more you go to remote areas, the more you can find a lot of local and unique shops. But I feel there are not so many local souvenirs of confectioneries compared with Japan. Perhaps it's because of a cultural difference. Japanese people love to buy souvenirs to family, co-workers or friends. When they travel to somewhere, even if it's on a business trip, they often enjoy buying souvenirs. Actually, there are a lot of local unique food, confectioneries, snacks and bento boxes, because of competition for sales to travellers. If you travel to different cities or towns, you can find  different products, which normally you can't buy at other places.

In the UK, some family-run companies - like jams from Wilkin & Sons Ltd of Tiptree or clotted cream from Rodda's - have succeeded in their business and have experienced large-scale expansion. That's really wonderful. But, consequently, you can see their products all over the UK. When I think about more uniqueness and local-based specialisation, I think there might be still more potential for Japanese-style local products and sales in the UK. Something like 'if you visit here, you can't miss to buy or to eat' things.

As for Sendai, my hometown, the popular sweet 'hagi-no-tsuki' is the most famous. It is a lovely sweet. The original custard cream is wrapped by a soft sponge cake. There are similar products, but this is one of the most famous souvenirs in Sendai.


haginotsuki
Source; http://www.sanzen.co.jp/english/index.html
However, my favourite confectionery in Sendai is 'Hasekura-yaki', which is sold by the company Fujiya Senshu. I've loved this yummy sweet since I was young. Sweet and white azuki-beans paste with chestnuts are wrapped in soft skin of sable. They are still handmade one by one. On the skin there is a Kanji letter 'hasekura-yaki'. The name Hasekura-yaki came from the person Hasekura Stunenaga (1571-1622), who was a Japanese samurai and the first diplomat from Sendai, Japan to visit Spain, France, Italy and the Vatican.

Unfortunately, these confectioneries don’t keep long... so I can't bring this back home. Every time I go back to Sendai, my mother buys this for us, so I can enjoy this confectionery. Ah, I really miss it,  just only thinking about it.

Source;http://www.s-pal.jp.e.yf.hp.transer.com