Sunday, 23 June 2013

AFWJ Convention 2013

Last autumn I finally joined the Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese. I had known about it for years but didn't feel that the membership fee was really a justifiable expense, considering that there are no other members around here and most of the events tend to be held in the more urban areas of Japan. But after reading about their annual conventions on Vicky's blog, I decided that the convention alone would make joining worthwhile. And I was right!

This year's convention was held in Kyoto, a 4 hour bus journey from here. I got there at lunchtime, ate at the station and then went straight to the hotel. It was too early to check-in, so I spent the afternoon in the hospitality room, chatting with other convention-goers. Of the 120+ attendees, I had only ever met one in person before, but I 'knew' many others online. It was great to finally get to meet those familiar names, and to get to know lots of other fantastic women too.

Since the convention was held in Kyoto, the chosen theme was Shichimi (a blend of 7 spices) and there was an emphasis on traditional Japanese culture. On Friday night there was a buffet dinner, complete with a performance by a geiko-san (geisha) and a maiko-san (trainee geiko-san). While their performances were beautiful, the most interesting part was the Q&A afterwards. They were surprisingly frank and honest in their replies to our questions and I felt that I'd been privy to a rare experience.

Throughout Saturday there were various tours and workshops on offer. I joined a walk along Kamo river on Saturday morning, made a quick visit to the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine flea market and then, after lunch at an Egyptian restaurant, had an insiders tour of Nishi Hongan-ji temple. I didn't take many photos, but here are a couple...

Crossing the Kamo river

At Nishi-Hongan-ji with Vicky
On Saturday night we had a big gala dinner, with cabaret and (a few minutes of) dancing. The work put in by the organisers was incredible. Each table had a table centre made up of strings of handsewn chili peppers, enough for everyone to take one home at the end of the night:

Did I mention that there had been completely different handmade table centres the night before?
I sat with 2 lovely blogging ladies who I finally met in person at the convention. Janine blogs at Crafty Tokyo Mama, and makes beautiful bags which she sells on Etsy. She has recently moved from Awajishima to Kyoto. Vicky lives in Hokkaido and blogs at Hyotenka. I already felt as if I knew them so well, and it was wonderful to chat with them in real life!

Janine, me and Vicky
For the gala dinner the theme was Japanese textiles, and many women wore kimonos or yukatas. Janine made herself a dress from a lovely traditional design fabric, Vicky made an intricate stole using kimono fabric with a crochet edging, and I made a simple skirt. Aren't we the crafty trio?

During the dinner, a professional photographer took photos for us at no charge. Despite having to deal with a long line of women waiting for portraits and having a hotel corridor as a studio, he took some wonderful pictures. If you're in the Kansai area and in need of a photographer, check out Janne's website. Here's the picture he took of me:

On Sunday morning we were treated to a performance of rakugo ('sit-down comedy') in English by Diane Kichijitsu, another British women living in Japan. And then it was, sadly, time to say goodbye! I really had such a great time - whatever one's situation in life it's wonderful to have friends who have had similar experiences and truly understand. While I enjoyed all the activities over the weekend, my favourite had to be simply chatting! For weeks after the convention, most of my stories started 'When I was in Kyoto...', and I'm sure poor H (who of course was left holding down the fort while I was away) is sick of it all. Next year's convention will be held in Nagano in June and I'm already thinking about the best way to get there...

Friday, 21 June 2013

Still here

The longer I stay away from here, the harder it is to know what to write when I come back.

All is well here, but I have been suffering from a long bout of can't-be-bothered-itis. Now that T has stopped napping and the boys have both started getting up earlier each morning, my blogging opportunities have dwindled. At night I can't seem to muster the required energy and often fall asleep on the sofa watching TV, or with K when I put him to bed. Why am I more tired nowadays then when I had a newborn in the house?

I don't want to give up on the blog though. Recently I looked back at what was going on when K was the age that T is now, and I felt quite guilty that I haven't been keeping a similar record of T. So, for today, a very brief and photo-less summary of what's been going on since (eek!) Golden Week...

  • The Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese convention in Kyoto. I had a truly wonderful time which deserves a post of its own really...
  • Our neighbourhood Sports Day, and a mini Sports Day at K's kindergarten, held in a local gym due to rain.
  • K started group piano lessons, for kindergarten children and their parents. It's pretty slow going regarding actually Learning To Play The Piano, but they also sing songs, play rhythm games and so on. He's enjoying it and can identify notes by ear really well. I, meanwhile, used to notes with letter names, am still struggling to remember which 'do, re, mi' note is which...
  • Birthday party at Yukiko's house, with K.
  • 2 games nights with the usual gang :-)
  • Beer festival with Lisa - beer, entertainment, good company (sometimes providing the entertainment...) and mild sunburn.
  • Father's Day - some simple crafts, lunch out and home-cooked dinner, presents of Coke and snacks.
  • Kindergarten Mothers' Association lunch, with T also in attendance. At the risk of tempting fate, I do think it's getting slightly easier to take him out and about. I also took him to an event at K's kindergarten for pre-pre-schoolers, and he was remarkably quiet and well-behaved. Literally 'remarkably', as several mothers commented that he was 'different from usual' that day...
  • Festival at our local temple to commemorate the introduction of sweet potatoes into the area in a time of poor rice harvests, and the man responsible.
Looking at the list, and at the Golden Week post below, many of these are annual things which have popped up on the blog before. Hope I'm not boring you too much...