Friday, 25 November 2011

First snow

No, not here in town, but on the top of nearby Mount Daisen. Last night we had a tremendous storm with howling wind, lashing rain and deafening thunder, said to herald snow. Sure enough, the mountain was white this morning.

Temperatures have dropped too; after an unseasonably warm autumn, I put the heating on for the first time this evening. I can't complain though, not when Vicky in Hokkaido reported their first 24-hours-below-freezing the other day, with a high of -1.9 and a low of -7 degrees...

The cold weather and sudden drop in humidity is playing predictable havoc with my skin. My hands have overnight turned into those of an elderly washerwoman, complete with gaping splits on the knuckles. Ever since K was born, my hands have been so painfully dry and chapped in the winter. Last year H bought me some clear, plasticky stuff to paint over the cut bits; it looks and smells rather like clear nail varnish and feels like it too when you apply it...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Musical Saturday

On Saturday we all went to the city-run Children's Culture Centre to a little concert for kids. A pianist, violinist and trumpet player introduced their instruments and played for about an hour. As well as singing along and clapping to the music, all the children were invited onstage to have a go at the trumpet. I was surprised at how many of them managed to get a note out of it, but not that K didn't. He still struggles to blow out a candle...

Later the trumpet player brought round a wind chime for all the children to have a go at. In theory they were accompanying the violinist, who gamely kept on repeating the song until all the children had had a chance to try it.

In the evening we went along to a little party to celebrate Tim, Zac and Vivian all racking up 20 years in Japan. Tim and Zac had a little jam/performance session, with K on drums...

By the way, did you notice the appropriate T-shirt?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The New Car

Our new car is a Nissan Serena. Apparently that is basically what Dad's van is, which is rather embarrassing, but we're pleased with it nonetheless. Apart from the fact that H had had the old car for more than 12 years, the main reason for changing cars now was one of space. The Pajero Io (known as the Shogun Pinin in Europe) was great for H as a single guy and for us as a couple; it was OK for a family of 3 too but it just wasn't cutting it for 4 people, a pushchair, shopping...

So now we've gone to the other extreme and got a car that will seat 8. It'll be useful to be able to take H's parents (or mine) out with us sometimes, or give a friend a ride without having to take out a carseat and leave a small child at home. Most of the time though, those back seats will be folded up, leaving a lovely big boot. There's a lot of head-room and, unlike the Pajero, the floor is low too, making it very spacious and easy to get in and out of. The floor of the car is completely flat throughout, and the seats can move in interesting ways :-)

The area between the 2 front seats (where you might expect to find a gearstick and handbrake) is completely empty, so you can easily walk through to the back. Or, you can fold down and slide the middle part of the back seat forward into that space, and walk through to the boot/extra seats. Then, you can also slide one half of the back seat sideways into that space, making it easy to get into the third row of from the doorway. Phew.

K's favourite feature is the automatic rear sliding door at the passenger side. Just press the button and it will open. He also likes the fitted sun blinds. H's favourite things are the way the seats move and the amount of space there is; we can even fit the pushchair in the footwell of the back seats if we need to. I must admit, I like the geeky data available on the fancy digital dashboard...

On the left is the rev counter and the big '0' is the speedometer. So far, so ordinary. But the main dial on the right measures fuel economy. It lights up to show your current km/litre at any given moment, encouraging you to drive in a more efficient way. This is further supported by the 'Idling Stop' feature, which cuts out the engine anytime you are stopped in traffic. As soon as you take your foot off the brake or move the steering wheel the engine starts again, virtually instantly. It's fun at traffic lights to watch the 'Idling Stop' data in real time, seeing the millilitres of petrol saved gradually creep up. Thanks to the all-knowing dashboard, here are the vital statistics after one week, consisting entirely of pootling around town...

Distance travelled: 186 km

Time the engine has been running: 10 hours 6 minutes

Average speed: 18 km/hr (I did say we'd just been pootling round town, right?)

Average fuel economy: 9.3 km/litre

Time spent in Idling Stop mode: 54 minutes 8 seconds

Petrol saved thereby: 591 millilitres

*** If you came here looking for photos of cute little boys, or stories about life in Japan, or fabric/sewing/crafty goodness, worry not; normal service will soon be resumed :-) ***

Friday, 11 November 2011


Just to let you know that I added a few photos to this post about what we did last week, if you're interested. It's mainly pictures of K of course...

Monday, 7 November 2011

A busy week

*** Now with photos! ***

Last week I had no classes at all and there was a public holiday but despite that (because of that?), it was A Very Busy Week. Everything of note was photographically documented of course, and I had great intentions of writing in detail about each event. But a whole week has now passed and my complete failure to write about our summer in the UK is haunting me, so here's the brief version.

Last Sunday was the annual festival at the kominkan, our local parish hall equivalent. There were displays of bonsai and matched vegetables, handicrafts and photography, children's calligraphy and paintings. We watched the children's paper aeroplane contest, had some free food and tea and biscuits, won a mini Christmas tree and a box of tissues and had our photos printed onto comical postcards by the Computing for Seniors club. Truly something for everyone! K had a sit in a fire engine and then we came home again, in time for a visit from Yukari and her daughter Yurara, featuring more tea and biscuits and a couple of rounds of Greedy Gorilla.

On Monday K went to school and, for once, I had nothing scheduled while he was out. Somehow though, just looking after T took up most of the day and before I knew it it was time to collect him again. The token non-busy day.

Tuesday started with a walk to the (regular, Japanese) kindergarten to enroll K for next year. Can you believe a year has passed since I was last wondering whether to enroll him or not? The international preschool has been just what we needed this past year but I think that K is ready for kindergarten now; he's keen to go to school for more than two days a week and he's interested in speaking Japanese now too. So we wandered over, signed him up and then played in the playground for a while. In the afternoon H came home early and we all bid a fond farewell to our old car.

After more than 12 years of loyal service, the Pajero Io has gone... And after all that, Vivian came to visit!

Wednesday was another school day since it was their Sports Day. We all met at the park and the children enjoyed various races and games while we Mums photographed madly ;-) It was pretty laid back, not like the Japanese-style Sports Days which are rehearsed to within an inch of their lives and unfold with military precision. K took part in an obstacle race, a running race and a sack race. Oh, and I did that last one too... Then it was time for packed lunches followed by playing in the playground until the Mums had had enough.

We got back in time for Visit From Vivian Part 2 (this time with Noboru too), since K complained that she didn't stay long enough to play with him the day before. In other words, more Greedy Gorilla.

Thursday was Culture Day, a public holiday. We didn't do anything particularly cultural, but we did take K to the local shrine for his 7-5-3 ceremony. It's traditional to take children to be blessed at the ages 3, 5 and 7, usually around the middle of November. We looked into renting a kimono for K for the day but were quoted 30,000 yen! Photographers will let you use one for free if you're having portraits taken afterwards but that can get very expensive too, so in the end we went to Jusco and went the 'modern' (ie practical and cheap) route, buying a suit set for 7,000 yen. As well as a jacket and short trousers it also included a shirt and tie and even braces!

So after our visit to the shrine we went out for lunch (conveyor-belt sushi, K's choice) with H's parents and then it was time to go and pick up the new car! It was the first time I've had a *new* new car and it was all very exciting. We took it for a little spin up to Sakaiminato and had dinner out too.

On Friday I took the boys into town for a 'mini-concert' for preschoolers, which K enjoyed a lot. We joined some other Mums and kids for lunch afterwards and then hit the supermarket.

Saturday brought the end of the lovely weather we'd been having; it's been rainy ever since. In the morning we all went to the library for the annual giving-away-of-old-books free-for-all. We came home with bags and bags of books: picture books, travel guides, craft and sewing books, a few English language novels, some history books and more. There was also story-telling and colouring for the children and bag-making from old book covers. After that it was lunch out and a bit of shopping before coming home to a visit from Hide.

Which brings us round to Sunday. There aren't many places around here to take children to play when the weather's bad. In fact, we could only think of one, so we went there - the Children's Culture Centre. They have a little planetarium so H and K went there first, and then we all watched a little puppet show for a while before heading off for all-you-can-eat pizza. Later in the day I helped out at a Hallowe'en party for a few hours while H had the unenviable task of staying at home with The Boys Who Want Mummy. Still, no-one was screaming when I came home...

Wow, did you really read all that? To think, this was the abridged version! I'd like to add a few photos later but I wouldn't hold your breath... I did it! I actually added some photos! And I finally got around to looking up how to cross things out in Blogger, yeah...