Category Archives: Hobbies

The Halloween Party @ Miro in 2014: You can come here naked!

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10599324_10152783291912356_2190151069188427448_n     Everyone was surprised when I answered, “A bakery nearby.” Do you know what they asked?

     “Will you take part in a Halloween party this year?”Screenshot_2014-11-06-14-45-24
     “Yeah.”
     “Where are you going?”
     “Miro.”
     “What is it? A restaurant?”
     “No, a bakery nearby.”
     “A Halloween party at a bakery?!”

     Actually, Miro, the bakery holds a Halloween party every year, and I have attended them without fail so far. I was a witch last year. And this year I disguised myself as Maleficent! But I am not as slim as Angelina Jolie. So I had to wear thick shadow on my cheeks! Anyway, I went to the bakery in my hand-made costume this year, too. I look forward to meeting old friends and new people there every year. 1010118_386691044826667_3445927870504971979_n

     However, Kon-chan, a friend of mine, LINEd me with a sticker, which was a crying man: I might not be able to come this year! I was sad because I had expected to meet him. When I told other participants about Kon-chan’s absence, they were also sorry. We wanted to hear from him what had happened with his girl friend afterwards… What a shame!10712932_10152783291082356_1687141319878098156_n

     Enjoying food with my friends, I suddenly noticed that Girasol had not come to the party yet. He is also a regular participant. He performed with his light saber last year…It was a few minutes past eight. I texted him with a photo I had taken at the party.1507919_386690168160088_107494918271858174_n

“Hello! Aren’t you coming this year?”
“What?! Is the party on now?!
“You didn’t know? OMG!”
“I didn’t know that! Or I should say I didn’t notice that, maybe…”
“Can you come?”
“Well…I’ll arrive there around 9:30…I don’t know whether I can stay there for an hour if I come…What shall I do?”10462975_10152783291167356_907277443039235109_n
“Does it take you 90 minutes to come here?”
“It’ll take an hour, but I’ve just started taking a shower…”
“Finish having a shower right now! You can come here naked!”
“Oh, no! I can’t do that!”
“Don’t answer me! Leave home soon!”
“RGR!”10387397_10152783296997356_2977014414126460750_n

     After a while, the baker came to the counter with a big pot, shouting “Donabe cake!” Donabe means earthen pots, which are not used for baking cake usually…How big! I asked her if they still had some food, mentioning Girasol was coming soon, “He didn’t know about this party.” She was very surprised and assured me, “Okay, I’ll prepare some food for him, then!”1012923_10152783291557356_7221395947877148033_n

     While we were enjoying the cake, Girasol showed up. Soon the baker appeared with some food and a “Snoopy” cap. She put many dishes on the table before him and the cap on his head, saying “Welcome!” with a big smile. What a wonderful reunion! Last time I met most of the participants was one year ago. But it was very easy for us to close the gap. I was very happy to talk with many people over delicious food this year, too!

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The Tai Chi Training Camp in Toyohashi 2014: Congratulations, Satchan!

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1926730_599608880160996_25541487563107799_n-a     “Satchan!” I called out my friend’s name when I found her in the hotel’s lobby. She was sitting with her teacher. Where was I? I was in a hotel in Toyohashi to attend a Tai Chi training camp, which was held on October 4 and 5. Satchan was there to take a test for becoming a shihan( Tai Chi master.)

     The Tai Chi training camp is held every October. I’ve joined it since I was a beginner and this was probably the seventh time for me. The participants practice Tai Chi together and learn theory with some actual movements. In addition, there is an examination for becoming a Tai Chi master. Actually, not everyone can take the test. Test-takers have to fulfill all the conditions: having already the pre-master certification and five years further after taking it, a membership of Tokyo head office and a recommendation letter from their teachers. It takes at least ten years to qualify for taking the test after starting to do Tai Chi. DSCF0741-a

     Satchan met all the conditions. That was great! Actually, there were more than 80 people who were going to take the test this time! Wow! Mr. Kawamura was also included. He and I are learning from the same teacher. So, I came to the place not only to practice Tai Chi and meet my friends but also to cheer him at the test this time. DSCF0746

     Actually, I did not know that Satchan was going to take the test there until I found her at the hotel. I had thought she would take it at another opportunity in Tokyo because she had not mentioned anything about her participation. It might be because she and I are not “Tai Chi” friends. We are “English” friends. I mean, we got to know each other through English classes. I did not even know she was also doing Tai Chi when I started. That is why, we seldom talk about Tai Chi when we meet. Interestingly it was the first time for us to see each other in uniform, which is originally for karate but is our school’s (Yang Ming-Shi Simplified 24-Form Tai Chi) official costume. DSCF0771

     The test-takers were divided into two groups. Satchan and Mr. Kawamura were in the  latter group. Besides they were standing next to each other. So It was lucky for me because I was able to take photos of them once. All the examinees looked nervous before their names were called, but once the test started, interestingly the audience seemed to be more nervous than the performers. Fortunately, all of the candidates passed the test. Congratulations!

The 66th Mainichi Shodo Exhibition Tokai: You have to calculate to make something look beautiful…

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IMG_0001     Are you interested in calligraphy? Actually, I am not so much either writing or appreciating letters. But I like the atmosphere of its exhibitions. This might sound contradictory but calligraphy exhibitions have both energetic and calm airs. It was the end of last month when a friend of mine and I went to see the Mainichi Shodo Exhibition at Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art. My friend’s sister showed one of her calligraphies at the exhibition, too. IMG_0002

     It was the 66th Mainichi Shodo Exhibition. They began in 1948 three years after the end of World War II. I think they decided, despite many difficulties to hold the exhibition in the chaos of the post-war period, when people were still struggling for their lives. They also struggled to hand over the torch of Japan’s calligraphy culture to the post-war generation. 毎日

     There are many kinds of calligraphy in Japan. In fact, the Mainichi Shodo Exhibition has nine categories: Chinese Character I (more than 21 letters), Chinese Character II (3 to 20 letters), Japanese kana Character I (more than 3 Japanese waka poems or more than 5 haiku poems), Japanese kana Character II (1 or 2 Japanese waka poems or 1 to 4 haiku poems), modern poetic calligraphy, large character calligraphy, seal engraving, wood carving, and avant-garde calligraphy (they are not “letters” anymore…) The exhibition had 8 rooms and more than 1200 works this year.

     To tell the truth, I cannot understand them when I look at calligraphies. I cannot tell a big difference between one which has received a prize and another one which has not. They look almost the same for me as letters written in black ink on the white paper…So, I usually walk around the big exhibition place, looking up at calligraphies with my mouth open, and then get tired and become a zombie two hours later. But the situation was different this year. I joined a guided tour. 2毎日

     Some judges picked up some exhibits and explained them. Especially, Mr. Tosen Sato’s lecture was interesting. According to him, the most important thing is to think about the composition carefully. In his case, it takes him nearly half a year to decide the structural outline for showing a work at an exhibition. Then he writes letters on the paper only two or three times. He said, “You don’t need to waste much paper,” and showed some classic works by an ancient calligrapher. There were many lines on the examples like engineering drawings. He studies many things, such as angles, from those classics. I was very surprised at his lecture because I had thought that they must have written letters from their hearts…It seems that you have to “calculate” to make something look beautiful…Some calligraphy works looked different after the guided tour!

The Tai Chi Workshop: These 88-year-old ladies would be able to deflate their age to 70!

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20140816_104129     Now Japan is the one of the top countries for long life expectancy. The average life span of Japanese people is about 84 and of Japanese women reaches over 87. But I’m wondering how many people over the age of 70 are healthy and live satisfying lives in this country…20140816_112514

     I attended a big meeting of Tai Chi during the Obon holidays. It was held at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium on August 16. About 600 people gathered at the event and most of them were over the age of 65. The participants were divided into 10 groups and studied some actions of Tai Chi. I was able to study many things through the workshop.米

     At the beginning of the event, there was a ceremony in which two 88-year-old ladies received the kotobuki prize. Kotobuki means offering congratulations or longevity in Japanese. The ceremony was to celebrate their 88th birthday. The age of 88 is special in Japan. The Chinese character representing rice looks like the number 88 written in Chinese. You know, rice is the diet and the symbol of life in Japan. 20140816_134624

      The recipients looked much younger than their real age of 88. Their posture and expressions were beautiful. They would be able to deflate their age to 70. As you know, Tai Chi is effective for improving the functions of your heart and lungs and muscular strength. If I keep on doing Tai Chi, I might turn 88 healthily like them.

     By the way, I used the word Obon above, but do you know it? Many people take a kind of summer vacation in mid-August in Japan. It is called Obon holidays. Obon is August 15 and most companies give their employees some holidays including the day. Obon is not a national holiday, but interestingly is dealt with as a holiday. That is why the public transportation schedule is Sunday’s one around the day and most public offices and hospitals are closed. 20140816_150452

     This Obon day is believed by Japanese Buddhists to be the day that the spirits of the dead return to their family. So, basically Japanese people go back to their hometown and spend the holidays with their family including the ones who have already passed away. But young people have tended to spend the holidays for themselves not to meet their family recently. That is why many elderly people were able to attend the meeting…But they did not look sad at all. They looked energetic and were enjoying doing Tai Chi!

The Bangladeshi Curry Class @ Aichi Summer Seminar 2014 : Will I be able to greet the summer next year?

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CAM00359-a     Oh, no! Hold this class next summer, too! Please!

     I was in the kitchen of Takakura High School of Economics Nagoya University on July 20. It was a cooking class of Aichi Summer Seminar, which is an annual event held by private schools in Aichi Prefecture. Aichi Summer Seminar is also known as “The Dream School” because anyone can become teachers and students freely. You can choose and take any classes basically for free from more than 3,000 classes. It was held at some schools near Nagoya City Museum in Mizuho-ku from July 19 to 21 this year. The places change every year, but I’ve joined the same cooking class for five years. I like the Bangladeshi chicken curry in the class! CAM00363-a

     It was a very hot day when I attended the class. But the kitchen was very comfortable because of the air-conditioner. There were 20 people in the room. The participants were separated into some groups, each of which had about half a dozen people. I used “cooking” above, but there are not so many things to do in the class. You fry onions. That’s all. Oh, one more thing. You check the other teams’ progress. The room was cool, but we soon became hot and started perspiring a lot. All the teams began frying onions… CAM00364-a

     Actually I’ve already introduced the recipe in my past article. (Aichi Summer Seminar 2011) But I tell you how to cook the Bangladeshi chicken curry again here:

Bangladesh Chicken Curry Recipe   

Serves: 6

Ingredients: 750g           chicken drumsticks
                         2              onions
                    1 1/2tbs       ground ginger
                    1 1/2tbs       ground garlic
                      6tbs           salad oil
                    1 1/2tbs      curry powder
                    1 1/2tbs      salt
                                         some water CAM00368-a

1) Rinse the chicken, chop the onions, and grind the ginger and garlic.
2) Heat oil in a pan, fry the onions until brown.
3) Add the ground ginger and garlic, curry powder and salt.
4) Pour water, cover the pan, and cook it for about 30 minutes. CAM00369

     How easy! No.2 is the most important! You need to fry onions patiently! I was able to eat delicious curry and rice this year, too! Thanks! Teachers served Bangladeshi spiced tea and snacks. I had a really good time! But one of the teachers said to me, “We might not have this class any more…” What?! I really like this class! So, I asked her to have the class next year too. Summer will never arrive for me untill I take the class! Will I be able to greet the summer next year?

The Handcraft Fair in Nagoya 2014: No one would recognize it as a UNIQLO product!

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CAM00233     “You buy a cheap hoodie at a UNIQLO store and then add something like Tyrolean trims or something, or change the cord to a fancy one. You see, you can get an original item easily! No one would recognize it as a UNIQLO product! ” Mr. Tomoyuki Tanaka, a fashion designer, explained how to modify old or plain clothing items, showing many examples: T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, hats, bags, shoes…CAM00212

     I was in Fukiage Hall last Friday with two of my friends. There was an annual event called “Handcraft Fair in Nagoya.” I attend the event every year. (The previous articles about the event: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008) My main purpose is to buy bags from a bag designer called Yukako. She makes bags from used clothes. I like her taste. The two bags in the photo were the ones I bought this year. They are lovely, aren’t they? CAM00214

     That morning, I had an English class, and my friends had a Chinese medicine class. We met at a restaurant for lunch around 1p.m. All of us were tired and sleepy when we arrived at the place at about 3. We bought some coffee and slumped on to chairs in front of the stage. We did not have stamina for walking around. Then, the talk show began. I was able to get many ideas for modifying clothing.

     After the show, we went to the bag designer’s booth. It was difficult to choose one from her works. Every bag was appealing. I bought a big tote for Tai Chi and drum practice. I often need to bring a pair of shoes and extra clothing for Tai Chi and drum sticks and musical scores for playing the drums. The other one is for my usual outings. I met the bag maker with the one I had bought from her last year. She was very pleased to see it, as if she had met her child who was living far away from her. CAM00215

     My friends each bought some automatic needle threaders made in Italy and wooden clogs. All of us were happy to get what we had wanted. Whenever I come to the event, I am surprised and impressed by many fancywork devotees. I have not made anything by myself for a long time, but the event gave me many hints about modifying this year. According to Mr. Tanaka, you can get many items for modifying at 100 yen shops or hobby stores. I cannot make a bag from old clothes like Yukako, but I might be able to decorate my old bags and to perk them up!

The Alphorns in Nagoya: Why don’t you join us? You have a talent!

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SN3T0055     On a Sunday I suddenly wanted to eat ice cream. My husband and I were on our way home from a home improvement store. We dropped by a convenience store and bought ice cream. It was too hot to eat them in our car, which had no air – conditioner. So we went to a park nearby.

     When we were looking for a nice and cool place, we heard something. Some deep sounds. We found out the source when we were looking around. Three men were playing unfamiliar musical instruments. They were wooden horns, more than two meters long. SN3T0056

     I got interested in the instruments, but decided to finish my ice cream first since it began melting. Although it was hot that day, the wind was cool in the park. It was quite nice listening to the music, licking ice cream in the shade. When my husband and I finished our ice cream, the three men just stopped playing the horns. We walked up to them.

     “Hello,” one of the three men greeted us.
     “Hi! What’s this?” I asked him pointing to his horn.
     “It’s an alphorn.”
     “Alp? Does it have something to do with the Alps?”
     “Oh, yes!” He began explaining about the instrument enthusiastically as if he had been waiting to be asked. Actually, he was not the only person talking about the horn passionately, the other two men were also enthusing about the horns. SN3T0058

     They met the instruments first in Nagano Prefecture, not in Switzerland. There is a village which has a workshop for making alphorns by hand there. They heard about the instruments and the village, and went to the place several years ago. Then they fell in love with the horns. So, the three men went to the village for three months running to make their own ones. Each horn had a painting of beautiful flowers. They painted them by themselves. They were talking about their favorite musical instruments with starry eyes. SN3T0059

     “Why don’t you try?” one of them asked us with a smile.
     “Oh, really?”

     First, my husband tried. Amazingly, he made sounds after a few tries. The men’s eyes gleamed. They gathered around him, nodding, and said, “Why don’t you join us? You have a talent!” Next, I did. I tried hard. My face turned red, but no sound came from the horn. It seems that I have no talent for musical instruments…

     My husband and I are lucky because we stumbled across such an interesting instrument and people! According to them, they have more people in their group and are going to have a concert next March in Midori-ku. Why don’t you go to the concert if you can make it?