Enjoy the journey.

Month: October 2013

Goodness Gracious!

By Kin

T-shirt design finished!

Updated tanuki

The “client” is the rest of the JETs in Shiga; it’s a contest for the prefecture. We had to try and come up with something that really symbolised Shiga.

The figure on the right of my design is a Tanuki (or Raccoon Dog; they look nothing like this, but the figure is modeled after the common Tanuki statue you see everywhere in Japan, especially in Shiga.



A Tanuki statue has to have a few key elements:

1 – A hat, to protect against trouble or bad weather

2- Big eyes, to perceive the environment and help make good decisions

3- A sake bottle that represents virtue (HA! – Gem)

4- A big tail to provide steadiness and strength until success is achieved

5- An oversized scrotum that symbolises financial luck (no, we don’t know either)

6- A promissory note that represents trust of confidence. In this case, I made it blue to represent the pension books that Japanese workers keep; a JET’s accumulates like any other worker, but when we leave Japan, it gets paid out and it is massive.

7- A big belly that symbolises bold and calm decisiveness

8 – A friendly smile

9 – A walking stick because…. well, all the statues have one, so I included it.

And yeah, number five… believe me, compared to some of the statues I’ve seen, those balls are TINY.

The statues themselves, while they’re ubiquitous all over japan, are all made here in this prefecture in a place called Shigaraki, we’ve been there and it was simply incredible (see the above photo).

As a weird coincidence, relative to the lake, the tanuki is actually standing over where Shigaraki would be.

Lastly the big blue shape is Lake Biwa. A Biwa is sort of like a lute and they named it that because they either:

a) Had some weird-arse biwas back then


b) Had never seen the lake from above.

It’s the largest lake in Japan and is simply massive.

I’m kinda worried I’ve overstuffed the design with Shiga factoids, but ahh well. The prize is a free T-shirt if I win, so it’s not all that big of a deal.

What about your area? What says “home” to you?


(bro hug)

A Lazy Autumn Weekend

By Gem

IMG_6769Yesterday, we waved farewell to the other Shiga JETs, as they set off on their Halloween adventures in Kyoto and Osaka, and we’ve been living vicariously through our newsfeeds as they party on down (in costume) across two cities and three prefectures. It appears that a good weekend has been had by all, with only minimal vomiting (which is nice).

The two of us, however, are not the most active of beasts, so we decided to take advantage of a weekend when no-one would be attempting to lure us out by lurking in our apartment and embracing the Lazy.

It has been wonderful.

We’ve enjoyed the sort of breakfasts that you simply can’t whip up in under fifteen minutes on a weekday morning. We’ve dug out scarves and gloves from summer storage to help keep out the new nip in the air. We’ve aired our futon and other bedding while there’s still some sun to do it in, as well as catching up on pre-winter cleaning tasks.


I’ve planted the very last crops we’re likely to harvest before the cold really sets in; new spinach, lettuce, coriander and rocket seedlings, as well as some Asian greens and chrysanthemum seed that I don’t really expect to do much before the snow falls. Still, it’s good to hope.

Kin has worked on his T-Shirt design for JETs in our prefecture (yes, that is a scrotum; google “tanuki” and you’ll understand).


We’ve rugged up and gone for lovely walks (before the temperature gets too low), and enjoyed the Nagahama sights.


We’ve caught up with beloved friends in Australia and sent lots of long-awaited emails to our wonderful families (aided by rather too much red wine in the evenings). I’ve also dug out the scarf Kin has been waiting so patiently for and have added another couple of feet to it. We’ve had a couple of full-day meetings, so I’ve had plenty of time to get my speed up. I think he’ll finally get to wear the thing this winter!

…and then start complaining that real wool is itchy and never put it on again, I bet.


We went to Hard Off (our local second hand store) and bought a lovely new (ish) nabe pan for delicious winter hotpots. Our old one was looking a little ill and had an unsettling crack in one side that was getting longer and longer every time it was used! I also bought this wonderful book, full of simple sewing patterns that Beans can hopefully help me work out when I’m back in Australia. I can’t sew at all, but I’m definitely ready to learn!


Goodness me, looking back at all of that, it looks as though we’ve had a very busy weekend! Somehow, though, there’s still been plenty of time for Kin to play Pokemon and for me to catch up on Downton Abbey (and my ironing, damn it).

A few more of Kin’s shots can be seen on our Facebook page.


We may or may not be back in the social whirl next week, but whatever happens, we’re both so grateful for this downtime together. It’s lovely to be lazy!



Butterflies and Flowers: Nagahama Kimono Festival

By Gem477  (A more complete album of Kin’s pictures can be found on our Facebook page.)

On October 12, Nagahama once again celebrated its long silk-weaving history by hosting the Nagahama Kimono Garden Party in Kurokabe SquareLaughing girl

Every year, a thousand glamorous butterflies dress in their most beautiful kimono (both modern and traditional) and descend on the town for their chance to eat free ice cream, win lottery prizes, and be relentlessly photographed. And photographed. And photographed!

545One of the nicest things about this festival is that, unlike most kimono-related occasions, you get to wear any sort of kimono you like. Traditional Kyoto, modern Kimono Hime vibe, formal, informal, anything goes.554

530Most gorgeous were the young women in furisode, the brilliantly coloured, long-sleeved kimono traditionally worn for Coming Of Age. I believe that I, along with the other matrons, carried myself well in paler robes with simpler designs. But the furisode girls’ showy designs and spectacular hairstyles definitely put us in the shade!

503Fortunately (unfortunately?) even if I weren’t in furisode, an Anglo-Saxon in Japanese formal wear is unusual enough in a country town that I still attracted plenty of attention. I did mention there were photographers, right?


A LOT of photographers. And when you have that many photographers, it actually gets a little hard to deal with. Of course, when you’ve dressed up to feel beautiful, it’s lovely to have other people think you look beautiful as wel548

But not, actually, as lovely as you’d think. The photographers were like seagulls at a picnic; as soon as you toss a crust to one (Hai, shashin OK,) the whole flock spots it and before you know it, you’re surrounded by thirty lenses and your friends have disappeared.

Overwhelmed little oneI don’t think anyone was as relentlessly pursued as this little one, pictured here trying to hide from the solid mass of photographers surrounding her. Fear not, this photo did not add to her woes! Kin’s work is very subtle.

Poor Kin, who absolutely HATES being photographed, was also a popular target, thanks to his blonde hair and red hat. Luckily, he had his own lens to hide behind, and managed to fight back nobly.

526Of course, like any festival, the kimono ladies weren’t the only attraction. Kurokabe is popular with tourists at any time, and many local organisations were also out showing off, like the local antique gun club (weapons manufacture is another local specialty…yay?) and a group of Imperial Guards in badly-fitting uniforms.



This gentleman was a noble-looking exception to the rest of his cohort, and we suspect this was mostly to do with his age. The rest of the “guards” were scruffy looking young men in their teens and early twenties, who were FAR too scrawny for their jackets, while he was probably more the age group who first commissioned the uniforms (and had the income to pay for them).

532These guards were also not the only uniformed warriors present on the day! We were fortunate enough to run into another Nagahama celebrity having a snooze in the sun.

Samurai kittyOur commitment to living locally was wonderfully rewarded by this festival. Rabid photographers, beautiful ladies and firearm enthusiasts (not to mention giant beers and samurai cats) make a combination that will definitely live on in our memories.

Again,  for a more complete album of Kin’s photographs, please check out our Facebook page. Meanwhile, what amazing events are happening in YOUR area? Let us know!



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