Date: April 14th - May 1st
I'm happy to report that my blog, www.travellingangus.blogspot.com, is still very much alive and kicking. I have managed to post a new entry every day so far. Very proud of myself, very proud indeed. Though, I'm slightly annoyed that I seem to be able to commit so easily to something related to the computer but can I get myself to go for regular runs?... hell no! Does this mean I'm a computer geek at heart I wonder?... Hmm... may use this thought as good motivation to get myself racing round the rice fields later today.
To be honest, not too much has happened since my last update (last Friday's poker night was the first time I had drunk in a month!!). However, I have a little to write about and I really wanted to try and align the updates so they fall at the start of a new month.
Spring well and truly arrived this past week in the humid fashion I was expecting. Literally overnight it has gone from putting on the heater at night to now having the fan buzz away. Jumpers are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and trousers... well lets just say the locals are going to have to get used to seeing my skinny white legs again.
School is well and truly underway in the new academic year. I now have more classes than ever and am very grateful. All three of my schools are brilliant in their own unique ways. My latest addition, Saga Nogyo, an agricultural school, is very nice and even has ponies, cows, rabbits, goats and roosters on the school grounds.
Last Thursday, I went for lunch in Arita with a teacher, Kinu-sensei. She is completely insane and consequentially a total crack up. We went to Arita Gallery, which is a famous pottery café. The cool thing about this place is you get to choose your own cup and saucer, from the hundreds on offer, for your coffee. It may sound rather average, but I can assure you it is actually quite fun. I hunted high and low over the massive selection before I found a colourful, and rather "un-Japanese" style set. The food was amazing, and coffee has never tasted so good. Must have been the great cup I chose.
Continuing with the pottery trend, this weekend happened to mark the start of the weeklong Arita Ceramics Fair. Arita is a sleepy small pottery town. However, the ceramics from its immediate region are the most famous in Japan. The town is literally packed with ceramic shops and over the next week more that a million people will visit. Yesterday I went to Arita to soak up the atmosphere, snap a zillion photos and simply get outdoors to enjoy the sunshine.
The main attraction of the Ceramic Fair is the main strip of road that stretches over 4kms and is lined with pottery shops and stalls meaning there are literally tens of thousands of cups/plates/vases on offer. Between the immense array of pottery one can also find the typical festival style stalls selling various foods, or offering different games for kids to waste their money on. Oh, and it goes without saying that there is a ton of vending machines to choose from, and of course, this being Japan, not a single bin to put your rubbish afterwards.
In the middle of the day Jamie, Maurice and I even managed to take in a couple of temples. One of which provided me with my first experience in a Japanese Zen temple. I got to see my first Zen garden. In order to enhance the Japanese ness of it all we partook in a semi-formal green ceremony while over looking the raked, simple, garden. Now, while it's a huge cliché to say so, the only way to describe it is to harp on about how unbelievable peaceful and relaxing a Zen garden is. It's definitely something I'm going to do again.
It's funny, but as we were arriving in Arita, Rumi and Emi pointed to a man and commented on his hat, backpack, long sleeves and gloves saying, "that's typical ceramic fair style clothing..." I kind of laughed at this, but not more than a minute later I could see they weren't joking. Probably a good 7 out of 10 people seemed to be dressed in the exact same style as Rumi had predicted. Obviously, most of the people were of the older variety, but there was the occasional young geezer rocking out the gloves etc too. I, myself, did have a cap and backpack on, but I broke the norm and "forgot" my gloves. I also wore short sleeves, which I'm told during springtime is not the done thing here. Short sleeves are for summer only. That is just not going to happen for me, if today and its humidity is anything to go by.
Speaking of today... it just happens to be the start of a new month and with it the first day I am legally able to drive my first ever car!!! (well, actually Karen and I jointly own it with Lisa in order to save money... but it's still partly mine, right?). "Battleaxe" does be the name I have bestowed upon my beast of a machine. She is a gray Mitsubishi Mirage and she will eat up anything in her path, especially stray dogs... I am predicting a lot of good times ahead over the summer months. I'm actually breaking her in this week, being golden week (public holidays on Wed, Thur & Fri!), with a two-day road trip south. I look forward to updating you on that little adventure, and probably a couple of breakdowns too, next time.
Until then, Ka kite.