Friday, November 30, 2012

Lined up

This post is about lines.  Or lined up.

We have been blessed this week with fruit!!!  Someone gave us kiwi.  And someone gave us apples.  And someone gave us persimmons.  And someone gave us a giant pear.  We could start a fruit store.

A sparkling bowl of persimmons!

What in the world is this?  I took this picture when I was trying to find man-made symmetry but it works for a "lines" post too.  This is a bamboo pole that has been readied for carrying to the shrine.  It was at the preschool and the children were going to drag the pole to the top of the hill and offer it at the shrine.  I thought it interesting how the rope was tied...

At the other end (this is a LONG~~~ pole!) was a fluffy bunch of wood shavings.  Don't ask me what this all means but the festival is a lively one. 

Tetsu and I love the taiyaki which are waffles of a sort with different fillings in them.  These were vegetable filled.  Tetsu likes the sweet bean past taiyaki the best.

How about a line up of cars?  Because the leaves are all in full autumn colors, the Nikko city and mountain is flocked by tourists.  Going one direction is easy... it is coming back home that takes a bit of time!

Vel is not a good representation of lined up? He's sleeping on striped slippers...

And he is also in a line-up of cats.  Three of the cats are keeping their bottoms warm on the heated carpet... all four of them (Chip is on the sofa) are trying to get as close to the kerosene stove as possible!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Yesterday after teaching at the kindergarten, Mrs. Furui asked me to pop in upstairs at the church to give a mini-pronunciation lesson to the Mother's Choir.  They hardly needed my help.

Mrs. Furui and Mrs. Takagishi have led the Mother's Choir for the past 16 years.  Sometimes they are practicing children's songs for performing at the kindergarten, sometimes they lend harmony to the children's programs..  This year they will be singing O Holy Night (in English) at the kindergarten Christmas program and at the church Christmas Eve service.

As local churches go (outside of Tokyo), this is a fairly large church... I'm not sure how so in membership, but the physical room is quite large.  By the way, every church I've ever attended in Japan has the narrow desk space attached to the pews.  Japanese Christians (the less than 1% of the population) are very studious, taking notes and keeping the weekly bulletins for years past. The cushions in this church were all hand made (I think I helped with that project) and the pews get pushed around for easy church cleaning (and to make play area space for the children in the Mother's Choir.)

No pipe organ in this church (I think the only pipe organ in the city is at the Catholic church) but there is a small foot pedal organ that gets played on Sundays.  The Mother's Choir sings with the piano.

Psst~~  Some of my long time visitors may remember my posts about our Least Confident Member in our patchwork group.  Referred to LCM.  Please visit this blog post to see what I'm talking about....

Our LCM is actually the MOST EXCELLENT PIANIST!  MEP!  She is amazing!!!  An extremely valuable part of the kindergarten music program from any standpoint... teaching piano to the kindergarten teachers, teaching rhythm and chime instruments to the children, co-directing the Mother's Choir, planning music programs throughout the kindergarten year. Ah!!  Listening to her accompany makes me want to sing!!  And I'm not much of a singer!

Isn't it grand that God gives us all different talents?!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


It is Wednesday.  Let's see if I can get to the next city without forgetting something today.  (I don't think I've ever NOT forgotten SOMETHING!)  Today I need my guitar, my computer, my books, my dictionary, my cell phone, my handbag, my storybooks, my flash cards...some extra clothing (to practice "Put on your boots, hat, scarf, coat." in the kindergarten classes.)  Oh, and Mrs. Furui asked me to bring my camera... but I always bring that.

So wordless Wednesday, which is hardly ever wordless on my blog... is a picture of the finished Star Within A Star.  You've all seen this many, many times, but it does finally have it's binding on.  Multicolored!  I took it over to an area that had a gate... and draped my new quilt over the dirty gate!  The things I will do to get a nice picture!  But the quilt needs washing once before we use it anyway.  I think some cat peed on it once during the long months of quilting...

And now that that's done I can work on Tetsu's Christmas vest.  I've started knitting with some beautiful multicolored yarn that my friend sent me.  It looks like I'm getting things done! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

At the shrine

Are you getting tired of kimonos? One more post.

At the end of November is Seven-Five-Three Day.  This is a blessing ceremony for children ages 7,5, and 3.  Three year old and seven year old girls will get dressed up in kimono.  For boys the age is five years old.  Most families will have professional photographs taken and then go to a shrine for a blessing ceremony or at least to pray at the altar.  The day Tetsu and I were in Ashikaga, we walked through the shrine grounds and came across lots and lots of families bringing their children.  So the following pictures are of little girls all formally dressed up for the special day.  This is a different type of kimono from what I showed yesterday.  These are fancily embroidered.

The shrine was beautiful with the ginkgo trees all golden.

We noticed that the father in this family was a foreigner.

 It is difficult to maneuver those steps in all the finery.

Is this little girl happy to be the center of attention?

The leaves really made the shrine grounds sparkle!

The maple trees were not to be outdone.

The parents were having trouble getting these cute twins to smile at the same time.  The one little girl is too absorbed in the ginkgo leaf!

I remember doing all this with Leiya.  We didn't visit the shrine but we did all the dress up and hair styling.  It was very pricey to do too!  But I am very glad we splurged on that special day.

Tetsu's pride and joy.  Both have sure changed in 17 years, haven't they?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kimono day

Our little car's GPS next took us to a town called Ashikaga that was having a "festival" on Saturday.  A kimono wearing festival!

Ashikaga is famous for its silk weaving industry.  According to the newspaper, selected citizens (I suppose those who owned Ashikaga kimono) were asked to wear kimono and walk around the town while they did their shopping or visited temples and museums that were open to the public.

Often when I am off and about with my camera I come across cute children or lovely ladies in their kimono, but it is not like you can just point and snap away...  It seems a little rude to just photograph... but stopping the person and getting permission seems awkward also.  This day, the understanding was that everyone wearing kimono was a photo opportunity so I took pictures to my heart's content.

Young girls stopping to sample and buy large rice crackers.

Quite a few foreigners were out enjoying the chance to wear kimono.

Even the men were dressed up in their kimono and wooden geta sandals.  This man with his muffler and hat looked like a picture out of a history book.

Speaking of history, Ashikaga has the oldest school in Japan so Tetsu and I enjoyed the "campus" and a look at the old, purely Japanese style school.  The front gate.

Ginkgo leaves carpeted the grounds.

The thatch roof school.

Okay...  back to kimono.  I caught this family as they were coming out of a temple and I did ask if I could take their picture.  Look at those children!!  Aren't they the dearest things?!  You won't see many little boys who would even be willing to get dressed up in this old style kimono... 

I took this shot just so you could see the individual fashion sense of the kimono wearers.  On the right is a woman wearing traditional foot wear with her kimono.  On the left, the lady is wearing the kimono in the traditional way but she has combined the kimono with fashionable boots.  And the lady in the middle has her classy boots and is wearing her kimono pulled way up in a flippant, modern style!

With these girls, anything goes!  A knitted beret, a crocheted muffler and head band.  But actually all the boots and hats really set off the kimono quite well I thought.  A new fashion boom in the making!


And this was my favorite photo.  Four young children all dressed up in traditional wear waiting for something... and peering at the one child's cell phone!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

GPS treasure hunting

I've got pictures galore today...  This may turn into two posts.

My private sightseeing director (Tetsu) announced at 10:00 yesterday morning (after reading the "Interests" page in the newspaper) that we were going to head south for the day.  We've determined that having a GPS in the car is sort of like going on a treasure hunt.  "Can we really find the place we are looking for?"

First stop was at a very out of the way, traditional house that has been turned into a restaurant and gallery.

Inside were two or three somewhat dark but beautifully renovated rooms.  One room had a traditional Irori (hibachi) in the floor.

We didn't stop for tea however, and instead started oohing and ahhing over the pretty little craft show that was being held that day.  Three ladies with different talents had combined to show and sell their Japanese crafts.  And they were all at the gallery and all very happy to have their artwork photographed.

One lady's passion is using old kimono and obi to make small decorations and accessories and interior goods.  It made me think that if I had just been a little more ingenious with all the old obi that fell into my hands last year I could have started a business!  (I don't think so...  I'll never give up my love for patchwork.)

Tetsu, who feels that we should support the craftspeople (especially when they are so nice to let us take pictures) bought a little bobble for Leiya.  I must remember to send it to her before I lose it...

Maneki Neko (Welcoming cats) pins...

This is actually an often seen decoration in Japan.  These are made of dried lotus pods with bits of Japanese fabric stuffed and glued into the pod holes.  I've always wanted to make one but my cats turned the pods I bought into cat toys before I ever got one stuffed.

Another lady had made many, many different types of New Year's decorations using preserved flowers and pods and Japanese knotting.

In recent years, Japanese housewives are being a bit more elaborate with New Year's decorations.  It used to be that one could buy a simple rope and paper decoration from an outdoor booth at the supermarket but certainly nothing like these lovely creations.

The third lady expressed her talents in paper making Japanese paper figures.

The emperor and empress?

The ladies were quite tickled that I would be showing my overseas friends there "simple" works.

A very enjoyable hour at the gallery....

Punch a few buttons in the GPS and Tetsu and I were on our way to the next point of interest...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving at the convalescent home

Although Japanese don't celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey and family get-togethers, yesterday was also "Thanksgiving Day" in Japan.  It is actually a "thank-the-laborers-day" but it is a holiday and gives everyone a three day weekend.

However, Tetsu had to go to the convalescent home in the morning to help with a small bazaar and resident festival.  He asked me to attend, be supportive and buy some little things.

There was a special booth of bead work which was done by some of the staff of a mentally challenged group home that is associated with the convalescent home.

These are not cherries... These are a pair of Japanese geta... wooden sandals.

The residents were participating in ring toss games...

Eating noodles and crackers...

And were enjoying buying little things for under a dollar.  I picked up a box of detergent, a toilet cover and an apron.

An apron!  A pretty little feminine thing that I would never wear and the tag said it was made of Liberty fabric.  I checked and it sure looked like a Liberty print and it was 100% cotton... still in a fancy brand name department store box.... and being sold for a whole 25 cents.

"I'm not going to wear this... but I might get some good patches from it if I cut it up."

I happily bought the apron.  And then went directly to Mrs. Furui's to return some books I'd borrowed.

"Come in, come in!  I'll make tea." said Mrs. Furui taking off her apron.

Apron?  Mrs. Furui wears an apron!  I went back out to the car and brought in the apron box.

"Mrs. Furui, I have a very EXPENSIVE gift for you.  From so-and-so Department store!"

"Oh my!  It is too pretty to wear.  And a Liberty print!"

"And a whole 25 cents so if you don't want to wear it you can cut it up for patchwork."

Mrs. Furui will probably wear the apron for awhile.  Sorry, I forgot to take a picture.  I'll try to get one before the apron turns into patchwork pieces.

And these little paper ornaments of Japanese boat rowers were made by one of the over 80 residents at the convalescent home.  Cute!!

The table was overflowing with paper boaters!