Saturday, December 29, 2007
A note on gifts
During my vacation in Kyoto, I picked up a bunch of gifts to send to everyone. Below are pics of some things I sent out. Everyone should have received their package by now. I hope you liked them! Just wanted to say that if there is anything in particular you want that I can get for you here, please just let me know and I'll see about getting it for you. Knowing what you want makes getting things so much easier! Examples of previously requested items include stamps, spoons, and key chains.






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Thursday, December 27, 2007
Enkai: Round Two
I was invited to another enkai by my base school. This time is was the end of the semester, start of winter break enkai otherwise known as the bonenkai. Pretty much the same deal as the first enkai. It was even held at an an onsen in Isawa just like last time. This time I skipped the onsen bit though and just went for the food and drink. Once again, I partook in my fair share of sake and ate what seemed to be a never ending array of various traditional Japanese dishes. Also, as it was so near Christmas, we did a secret Santa exchange. I brought a blue plaid patterned scarf as my gift and received a bottle of wine.
















One special note about this enkai. Somehow, I ended up sitting next to my principle! Plus, Ryoko, my JTE, was on the opposite side of the room. Thus, I had quite an interesting evening of gesturing and trying to keep the principle's beer glass full. Also, this time, rather than sports festival games, we did a few eating based games and some, 'guess who' types games based off of personality profiles we filled out prior to attending. I was no good at the guess who games as all the hints were in Japanese, but the food games were pretty fun. The first was one where everyone on a team had to eat a piece of sushi. The catch was that one of them was loaded up with wasabi. The game was for the rest of the group to figure out who had the one with the wasabi. I had a normal piece, thank goodness, as I rather dislike wasabi. The next game though was with tomato sauce and hot sauce. And guess who ended up with the hot sauce? Funny thing was that I almost didn't realize it was even hot sauce. At first I thought it might have just been funny tasting tomato sauce or some crazy Japanese version of tomato sauce. But, nope, it was the hot sauce. No one ended up guessing that I was the one who drank the hot sauce so I got an extra prize! And, in all truth and honesty, the hot sauce didn't taste all that bad. I told everyone this and, after they tried a bit themselves, decided I was crazy for liking it!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Christmas Trees
All through December my 1st-5th graders got to have Christmas lessons. Yeah, only 1st-5th. 6th grade doesn't get any holiday lessons per my lesson plan guide book. But, they did get to make hot dogs, so, hopefully they'll get over it. Anyway, my 2nd graders made Christmas ornaments and then decorated the paper trees that I made for them. Here are some pics of their trees!






Some of the kids got pretty creative with their ornament making. There is a penguin, snow mittens, some 3-D presents, and even 2 of me! Resemblance is uncanny isn't it?


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Sunday, December 23, 2007
Yeti Winter Party
Immediately following the International Center Christmas party, I went to the Yeti Winter party that was also being held in Kofu at the Italian restaurant I ate at for the Group A welcome party when I first arrive in Yamanashi. Well, not immediately after, as I would have been an hour or two early. I just wondered around Kofu and looked around some stores during that time. I ran across a band playing in this outdoor shopping district area and sat around listening to them for a bit as well. Still got to the party a bit early, but I had a nice chart with some of the older JETs who were in charge of the event.

The party was nomihodai (aka. all you can drink) and we had several courses of food including salad, rice balls, spaghetti, pizza, and ice cream. The older Yeti members also did a little gag degree awards ceremony which was pretty amusing. After the Italian place, we went over to the Vault to for some after party drinks, but they had a band playing, which meant a hefty cover charge, so we all went over to the Rink. Didn't really have much fun there and I probably should have headed home on the last train, but I didn't. It was just really crowded with all of us there and I started to feel a little claustrophobic. As for getting home, my ride into Kofu was drinking that night, so we ended up using this service where someone drives your car to wherever you want to go for you and another guy follows to bring the guy driving guy back. This is a service that's offered by a few companies in Denver, but it's really expensive. Makes sense as its like taking a taxi, but with two drivers helping you instead of just one. Here, though, it was actually cheaper than taking a taxi. And the taxi guys were wearing these great, super shinny, coats that amused me to no end!




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International Center Christmas Party
In Kofu there is an International Center. They hold various international events throughout the year, and of course, as Christmas draws near, they have a big international Christmas bash and donate the proceeds to various local and international charities. They have a bunch of performers and also holiday crafts and food vendors from various countries and Fred, a JET who works in my city, dressed up as Santa to pass out candy to all the kids. I did my part as well and volunteered to be part of the Christmas carol choir.









After the singing and eating, there was a raffle. I didn't win anything, but the guy who bought his tickets right after I did ended up winning two things! But, I did go home with some goodies as they held a charity auction right after the raffle. I bid on and won a fold-able bike and an electric space heater. Both are things I was planing on buying anyway, in particular the folding bike as you can take them onto trains with you, which you can't do with a regular bike. While the heater was about the same price I could get it at the store, I got the bike for about $40 cheaper than I was expecting to have to pay! Plus I got to help out well deserving charities as well. I also bid on a printer, as I don't have one at home, but the bidding went to high and I can always print things for free at school.


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Saturday, December 22, 2007
Kyoto Vacation: Day 3
We stated off day 3 much early. First stop: Himeji Castle. It's actually about an hour away from Kyoto, but it's one of the four World Heritage castles in Japan and Janet had been before and really recommended that we go, so we went. And I'm glad we did as visiting the castle was my favorite part of the vacation. We got a free English guide to show us around and while the tour stated with just Janet and myself, by the end we had a group of 8 or so people. They obviously must have missed the giant 'please ask for an English tour' signs.
























I ran across a few interesting tidbits while touring around the castle. One, it seems they have problems with people writing on the castle as everywhere you go, there are these 'no scribbles' signs. Also, this castle is where they filled part of the Last Samurai! And, remember the film The Ring? Well, the well pictured below is part of the legendary story that the movie was based on.



One the way back to the train station, we ran across a rather interesting display of cakes. There was apparently some sort of cake competition going one, so I took a few pictures in honor of some ex roommates of mine who are addicted to the food network and I thought would appreciate the cake artistry. And that last pic is of a crazy multi colored train that went through the station. Way more exciting looking than the plain, boring looking trains, in my part of Japan! Even Tokyo doesn't have anything like it!







After Himeji, we stopped in Osaka on our way back to Kyoto and went to see Osaka castle. Didn't get to go in the castle as it was closed, but it was still quite nice and I got some really nice night pics of the castle.












When we finally made it back to Kyoto, we had enough time to stop by Second House for dinner (yes, we went twice, it was really that good!), pick up some omiyage (basically, vacation gifs) at this huge omiyage store, and then met up with my JTE Ryoko, who was also visiting Kyoto, to catch the bus back to Kofu. I'm really glad we had Ryoko with us too, as the bus ended up being about 1.5 hours late due to a bad traffic accident. I doubt without here me and Janet would have been able to figure that out! Bus back home was about the same as before. Slightly uncomfortable, but not bad for being a bus. Got back into Kofu at about 8ish and then went back to home sweet home for a nap. And thus ends my Kyoto vacation.

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