Narita drum festival


Narita drum festival, a set on Flickr.

These picture posts are easier, as I will let the pictures speak for themselves 🙂

Sunday 14th April I made my way out to Narita, to go to the Narita Drum Festival. It is actually a 2-day event, but my friend and I had decided to hang around in Tokyo on the Saturday.

It was a bit of an effort to get to – about an hour, and a few changes, we were there. It was reasonably well marked, and a short walk from the train station – although the roads were quite crowded, and when you walked to the farthest stage, it was a fair way? Although that may have just been the crowds making it seem so.

There were a fair few stages, and we basically wandered along listening to each. And the range of performers! There were school groups, there were small groups, large groups, groups with Korean dragons, and an island group as well. What (most) of them had in common was the sheer passion and the energy. It was… It was just amazing. I felt like dancing, and jumping, and learning Taiko drums right then and there. There is beauty and grace in the moves that the more formal groups do, and unlimited energy in the more punk/rock Taiko groups. ARGH IT WAS JUST AMAZING OK.

So after having my heart put through the wringer, I raise my hands, and prepare to raise my voice in appreciation of these performances… only to realise the rest of the audience is golf clapping. Golf Clapping. I kid you not. Polite, gentle, quiet appreciation of Pure Energy. Argh!

Upshot? I will go again next year. I will spend the whole day there and see if there are any more active audience members.

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I didn’t mean to neglect this blog. I have just been doing so much! And it takes ages for photos to upload to flickr, which is also a bad reason.

anyway. I have a series of posts with photos and without photos planned.

these include

– the sumo
– narita drum festival
– holiday in kyushu
– my birthday (no photos)
– settling in (no photos)
– toddling round tokyo
– tokyo aquarium
– ueno zoo
– a few more cherry blossoms
– more haikus

and there are more too,
I will just work through them in that rough order above, unless someone has a preference, in case just comment here and let me know what you would like to see first.

My aim is for at least one 2 updates per week, at least until I get through all the backlog.

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A charming talk to charming young men

I am here in Japan for two years on a research fellowship. I get opportunities to do things – like attend inductions (where I made a friend – oh yeah!), and to give a talk at a local highschool.


I was given the opportunity to give a talk, and I took it. I wasn’t going to, but I thought it was probably worth while. So I organised one of my workmates to be my translator (no way can I give a talk in Japanese) and spent aaaaages getting a cute presentation together.


It was actually really hard knowing how to write the presentation. I did not know their English level, I didn’t understand that an information sheet would be given to them (if I sent the info along), and I wasn’t quite sure what the talk was supposed to be about. About my country, my research? About what?? I ended up calling it “What’s Down Under” which I thought was incredibly witty and hilarious, but if you don’t know English very well, it probably wasn’t funny at all (explanation: Australia is often referred to as Down Under, and I am also a soil scientist, so….. see how explaining a joke makes it unfunny? no one at work laughs at my jokes either…)


Now, notice the word cute a couple of paragraphs back? A “cute” presentation? The first 10 slides or so were me asking the students what animal this was and then showing a second picture with the name. Let it be said I found some of the most ADORABLE pictures you can imagine! Of platypuses (platypi?), and echidnas, sugargliders and more. It was super cute. Then I found out my class was 15-17 year old boys. At an all boys school. I found this out after I got there. Still, the reponses to ‘what animal is this?!’ got the third biggest of reaction I got out of them.


The second most was when I said at the end “I hope you could understand through my accent” (and they all laughed) and then said “I hope I didn’t speak too quickly” (and they laughed again). In actuality, I did speak too quickly – I was very uncertain what level the science was! It is hard when you become an “expert” in something – you kinda forget what is simple… oh!


The biggest reaction was a chemical reaction! I was explaining sequential extractions, where you have a single soil sample, and then add (in a sequence) different chemicals to dissolve different minerals. So I… doctored some soil… and then got them to add water (little reaction), HCl (moderate reaction, as I doped the soil with some potassium carbonate), and peroxide (BIG reaction). You see, I didn’t check the soil first, and so the peroxide reacted with the organic matter in the soil and bubbled over every desk in the classroom. They were noisy then. So I was glad I did that!


For the rest of the time they were dead quiet, and I even saw some of them fall asleep. A well aimed teacher elbow woke a few up. I don’t think I can call it a resounding success!


After that, the head… something teacher? (I know, I know – the fine detail in my blog posts!) took us on a tour of the school. Another research fellow was giving a talk, coincidentally someone I had met in December the year before!  We got to look at the different class rooms (they were a super science school, so they had their home rooms (which were so messy!! Oh my gosh, teenage boys!!) I am sure that get tidied every afternoon), separate labs for chem., physics, geology, a calligraphy room, judo and karate dojos, as well as a million sports fields.


My workmate and I were looking at some rocks in their local geology collection, and she is like it is a liber stone.. a liber stone. I just looked at her unknowing. She rolls her eyes – kawa. Oh!!! River Stone. So there you are, one word I know.


I was really glad for the opportunity to see a High School, and it looks like I might have the opportunity to see one down south next month. It will be interesting to see if these kids are just as quiet as the ones I gave a talk to!

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cycling to Tsuchira


cycling to Tsuchira, a set on Flickr.

I made some friends – have I mentioned that? I mean I still need more (Note to people reading this blog: I am friendly, I like karaoke, and dogs. I speak not much Japanese and my English is of the Australian variety. But my mum says I’m cool!) Anyway, I met a Dutch girl in my cooking class, and we went.. yeah… lets go out. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but we went on that cycle to the supermall. Then she said she had a cycle to Tsuchira planned (a city about 5km away) and after some jiggering, and rejiggering, me, her and another girl headed out.

First of all: miserable day! Miserable! It was cold and rainy. I almost put my thermals on that morning, but something stopped me. Stupidity? Who can say, but despite a very long cycle, I was cold. And I wasn’t the only one! I guess I expected spring to be warmer than it has been… damn it! Ostensibly it was to see the sakura blooming. But it wasn’t the best time for it. I got a couple of sad pictures (I swear I had more, but I never organise my photos, so *ahem* who knows where they are?) but there are many beautiful pictures of cherry blossoms out there (and I will post more later anyway 🙂

*ahem* anyway, setting off at 1pm I figured we would be back by three. But it wasn’t to be. We went passed the german bread shop (which I head heard so much about! And yes, the bread was very tasty) then we got horrendously lost getting there (like the round trip was in the 36km range, rather than the 10-12 I was expecting). That wouldn’t have been so bad, except my tires were almost flat, my chain kept falling off, and I got stuck in second gear. (I went and brought a new bike a couple of days later, and discovered that a spoke coming loose and lodging itself in my gears explained an awful lot.

So it was a hard cycle, and it was cold and miserable (have I mentioned that enough?). We made it though. We sat on the side of the river and ate salad and bread and peanut butter cups, and just had a lovely time. This old man stopped and asked us where we were from. Tsukuba! We replied happily. He laughed and moved on.

There is a cycle path on the way home lined with sakura trees – but these were quite young. I think in 10 or 20 years it will be delightful! It was still really busy – familes, and groups of friends out cycling and rollerblading. I love the penny farthings worked into the wrought iron along the way! They came in all sorts of primary colours (see pics). I also loved the flower beds. Flowers are so important here, and it makes me happy that I can see them everywhere.

That evening I went to a friends place where she cooked delicious Czech dumplings and goulash. Despite me terrible faux pas over dinner (note to self: don’t ask a German if they have invaded anywhere…), and all in all, it was a really wonderful day. I am looking forward to cycling to Tsuchira more often. Not least because I can more easily access other places in Ibaraki

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6. bear buns

This bun is shaped like
A bear. I am glad it was
Not filled with bean paste

4. tokyo beers

Beer number four at
Least I think that is the count
Good night in Tokyo



3. bikes

Every day I
Ride past these bikes and their bright
Colours make me smile

I especially like it as it seems like they are parked in the middle of nowhere.

8. setps

I tried to book the
Tickets, there were none. Now I
Sit upon the steps

It is weird. No one sits on the steps here. A few people are crouched on the floor, and I stood long enough to let others if they wanted. But it ain’t the Japanese thing. The European thing either. I remember getting trains in Switzerland that were packed peak hour trains, so I sat on the steps. After that I first two hour trip, I don’t want to stand another 70min.


9. moutnatins

A weekend in the
Country – how exciting and
So very lovely

1. dust mask
Today I wear a
Dust mask – no more particles
Will I breath in. Yay!

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Fun with haikus

0. greenhouse shoes
The greenhouse really
Is another world. Please leave
Your shoes at the door



0. reare cchhese

Oh! Japan never
Do you fail to with the range
Of flavours to try


0. otter

The sea otter of
Russia ignored its surrounds
Instead choosing sleep

0. hair

Sitting under a
Heat lamp waiting to see how
My hair will turn out

Note: it turned out awesome! I went with a very natural pink and orange (after much discussion, as my original red and blue was rejected outright, although I must say part of the reason I asked for these was because I knew the words…), although I thought we had agreed on pink and purple. anyway! I love it, and before my birthday in a few weeks I am going to get it the same, but with some spots of Very Bright pink and orange


10, sake

Sipping on sake
After a long soak in the
Onsen – this is bliss



2. seeds

no long weekend for
a Salirian who works
really very hard

5. tokyo beers
Random street in
Tokyo houses a good place
To drink and to eat

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More Haikus!

0. anteater

Their stripes were long but
Their noses were longer still
They were so divine!

I also have a zoo post coming up. So many mixed feelings…

0. peanut

Peanut satay with
Rice seems incredibly hard
To make for dinner

0. bike

It is so hard to
Show the quiet elegance
That is the new bike

I had a bike mishap – somehow a spoke came out and lodged itself in my wheel. Thus I needed a new one. I love the colours! If she was a person she would be from the 20s, wearing pearls and gloves

0. nigh sakura

Night Sakura in
Kyoto is a thing of
Extreme loveliness

0. tea0. paris set

In Japan at an
Italian restaurant
This, the Paris set

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