Saturday, 23 February 2013

Meeting New People and the Cat Cafe

So Wes and I had been in Japan for a few weeks and we hadn't met anyone besides teachers and the other student (and a woman who's car I hit with my bike but I don't think that counts). So in order to get more Japanese practice in and just to meet people I set up an account with a site I found called My Language Exchange where you can type in what city you're in and find people who want to study in your language. So basically it puts you in contact with people that you can meet face to face and do a language exchange. A couple of people then e-mailed me and I was finally able to set up a meeting with a guy call Eiji and his friend. So on Sunday 10th Feb Wes and I headed into Tenjin and met Eiji and Erika for the first time.

They were really nice people who were very eager to first take us for lunch at a cat cafe! Now I'd mentioned before (on fb) that I had wanted to go to a cat cafe and had been looking up prospective ones in Fukuoka. Lo and behold the one they take us to is the one I'd wanted to go to! I'd never been to a cat cafe so this was a first and I was super excited to see all of the cats! The cafe we went to was a clean cool well lit place on the 5th floor of a building. There were cats everywhere sleeping, running around. Thinking about it it was pretty quiet too! It's as if cats in Japan just don't meow. When we sat down there was even a cat sitting on Wes' chair. The waitress comes over picks the little guy up and plonks him on Wes' lap. The cat bairly blinks before moving to Erika's chair and falling asleep again. He was asleep the whole time we were there, not bothered at all that we were taking up half of his seat. 

(The kitty that rejected Wes and went to sleep on Erika's lap)

So we order some stupidly expensive drinks and sweets (at this point I'm so hungry I don't care) and while waiting for our orders go and play with the cats. They aren't really interested in you most of the time and just ignore you while you pet them. At least they do until you have some kind of food. Once my sweet had arrived there was this one cat that kept batting at it trying to steal some >< The waitress had to take him away so I could eat in peace. 

(Kitty trying to steal my dessert)

So after the cat cafe we decided to wander over to a park in the middle of the City where the ruins of Fukuoka Castle were. I'd seen pictures of this place on maps cos it has a huge lake with an island in the middle. We didn't go onto the island but wandering around the castle grounds was fun. We saw lots of pretty trees and plum blossoms and got to get to know Erika and Eiji pretty well. 

 We were so knackard by the end of the day. We did think of having dinner out but I realised I had no money so we put that off.I pretty much slept the whole way back on the train and then we both died at about 9pm. It was a good day ^__^

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Setsubun (the bean throwing festival)

Setsubun on the old Japanese calender used to be the day before every season, but now it just refers to the last day of winter before spring, which in Japan is always the 3rd February. Because it's a time when the weather's changing it also means a lot of people getting sick (like me, yay colds!), so to get rid of ill health they chase out the demons (oni 鬼) and bring in good luck/health (fuku-san 福 )
Then after the "mamemaki" (bean throwing) you have to eat the number of beans that match how old you are to ensure another year of good health. I forgot what number I was on which is probably why I have a cold now and Wes doesn't (boo)

(Above is Hirose-sensei and the one other student)

So of course when Sunday 3rd rolled around Wes and I headed into Tenjin back to the shrine with the giant Fuku face (the big white one from the previous post). Well after stopping in a few book shops we went to the shrine and it was packed! So many people going there to pray and get street food and every 15mins one of the priests and a load of committee members would throw beans and sweets and balls into the crowd which shouting "oni wa soto! fuku wa uch!" because it's equally good luck to have things thrown at you (especially for children). We were too far to get any sweets or beans sadly but Wes and I caught a ball that had "protection for the household" (家内安全) written across it so I guess getting blessed by temple is good luck ^^

We then went to the huge mall next to the shrine called Canal City, which I hadn't been to since I came to Fukuoka in my gap year. It was kinda nostalgic ^^ The mall was mostly clothes but we found some gems like a music shop, a figurine store, and a ghibli store and other similar toy novelty shops. Sadly the pokemon centre I remembered being there was gone. Also because we were starving we found a ramen plaza with restaurants that sold different kinds of ramen from all across the country. It was gooooood~

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Class Activity to Hakata

Last Wednesday (30th Jan 2013) one of our teachers was ill with a cold so the others teachers decided we'd go with Gaku-san (one of the school administrators) out to one of the older areas in Fukuoka which is called Hakata 博多. It seems to be a pretty famous area for its sweets and dolls, old crafts and traditional festivals. There are also a number of old shrines in the area which is where we went to.

So after getting the train and bus into Tenjin and across to Hirakata we first stopped off at the Hakata Folk Museum which had lots of random pictures drawn by local people upstairs. They also had a crafts section that had glass blowing, Hakata dolls, spinning tops, fabric, all made in the area. There was one girl painting some of the spinning tops.

Downstairs it was mostly information about a huge festival in July called the mans festival which goes on for 15days and involves men running around Hakata carrying 1ton floats and shouting a lot. The picture above is one of the floats that was on display in Hakata (not the museum) but the ones the men carry around are less than half this size. There are also different districts which compete with their floats and how fast they can carry them. Here's a video of what it's like It's just a shame that Wes and I will be leaving literally a few days before they have the part of the festival where they run around the city.

Next to the main part of the museum was another folk crafts section and I got to have a go at weaving fabric! It was kinda cool. The girl doing it said it took her an hour to do 1 foot of fabric!

We then headed over to a shrine where they're famous for their Setsubun celebration because each year they put giant faces of the goddess Fuku who brings good fortune and health on their entrances. It's supposed to be good to walk through her mouth into the shrine. Every temple and shrine seems to be doing setsubun celebration stuff, this one's just famous in particular. (I'll put up what Setsubun is in another post)


These rocks are so heavy that only a sumo wrestler can pick them up. If he can he gets his name engraved in it. These two are of the current Yokozuna's (top sumo wrestlers) who came to the shrine and were able to lift the rocks by themselves.

The last place we headed to was a Buddhist temple down the road from the shrine. I'd completely forgotten until I was inside that I'd been there before. Inside they have a giant Buddha made out of wood, which you can go underneath and see the different kinds of hell. Then you go through a long pitch black tunnel and at the end is a single light with a picture of the Buddha. It was cool. Gaku-san was so scared though (I mentioned it to another teacher at school and she said she'd never done it she was so scared). Hehehe.

Saturday, 2 February 2013


I can't exactly remember how I survived in Japan last time I was here in terms of food. I think I mostly made weird western/Japanese stuffs that tasted strange and lived off that for a year...mostly tomato based stews with various vegetables in them.

But this time I swore I would learn how to cook Japanese food properly! And so far Wes and myself have been working pretty good at balancing the labour for cooking and have been working on a number of Japanese foods. It does mean we have to go food shopping everyday to get fresh meat but we have enough time to do that and means we get a lot of discount stuff that needs to be used right away.

Our breakfast has probably been the hardest to work out because dairy and wheat products are more expensive then what I'm used to, and we just don't have time to prepare rice and stuff every morning before class. So breakfast consists of bread, jam, yoghurt, a fried egg and a cup of tea. We've started taking bananas to school too cos we both get the munchies.

Classes finish at about 12:30 so we're often both starving and have to resort to either onigiri or pot noodles for lunch. I'm liking the pot noodles cos they're only 50yen (30p) which saves a fair amount of money during the week.

Dinners are the big ones and here's what we've made so far (and what it starting to turn into our weekly food stuffs)

Salmon and carrots with miso and salad (we didn't have any rice the first 2 days)

Fried chicken with mushrooms, rice, miso and salad

Udon in miso with broccoli and mushrooms, and rice with chicken

Curry with salad (Curry is so amazingly cheap to make here, out of half a pack we get enough curry for 2 meals each! Curry is now a weekly thing)

Katsudon (Pork fried in bread crumbs, cooked in soy sauce and onions and egg over a big bowl of rice.)

Salmon with rice, miso and salad (this is a pretty cheap and healthy meal so will probably be added to the weekly menu)

Yakisoba (stir fried chicken and noodles)

Nikujyaga (literally meat potatoes, a meat and potatoes and veg stew, very nommy)

Wes and I have both slowly been learning how to improve all these recipes and fingers crossed by the end we'll know how to make even more nomable Japanese food than this.