2008/11/22

2008 October 1 Wednesday thru October 5 Sunday.



As expected the winds get colder and the rain falls suddenly and more often.

It is harvest season and the rice farmers are working as fast as they can to rake in this year's crop before the snow level reaches the low lands.

Early on Saturday afternoon, I drove out to the Kamiubun 上雨分 section of Asahikawa, to retrace the roads that I and my friend Brian Smith would often go cycling along, on our mountain bikes.

Everything was pretty much the way I remember it from many years ago, except that there was some new road construction going on.

I saw many farmers out in their drained off rice fields with harvesting machines, cutting down the rice, spitting out the leaves and stalks, and then unloading the golden grain into a waiting truck.

It's the same thing every year at this time.

A job that has to be done.

Many people are depending on the farmers to bring in the staple food of Japan.
Rice.

Some like it polished and white, I like it brown.

Either way, it's fresh out of the fields.Yum yum.



Another thing that is always the same each year at this time, is the changing color of the leaves.

The best way to describe Hokkaido during the summer is GREEN.

This is the greenest place I have ever lived, and in more ways than one.

Higher up in the mountains, there is more color right now, than there is here in the lowlands.That will change very quickly.

The best way to describe Hokkaido in autumn, is RED GOLD and
YELLOW.

An amazing patchwork interwoven colors that can
keep a professional photographer busy for hours.

Coming soon, the all white blanket of winter snow.Don't say I didn't warn you.

It says so right at the top of the
ASAHIKAWA page of this website.

Warning!!! Asahikawa is covered in snow for about 5 months of the year, every year.

If you don't like snow, don't move here.
Yeah, it's been there since the birth of this FrontPage web site.

Speaking of giving birth to new web sites, I have started a new one using the

DreamWeaver MX software package, and it looks and feels completely different than this old rusty web site.

The new web site is at
www.everythingjapan.net and is being designed as a customized google search engine, and also as an affiliate web site for the promotion of all products and services that are MADE IN JAPAN.

If you are looking for a quick and accurate search for something about Japan, you might enjoy using the search engine portal on this NEW WEB SITE.

You will be able to find what you are looking for more quickly, because I have designed it to filter out unrelated content.

Try it! I think you'll like it!

2008/11/05

2008 September 30 Tuesday.


Thirty (30) days has September, April, June and November.

All the rest have Thirty-one (31), except for February which has Twenty-eight (28) days.

Unless it is LEAP YEAR, that is the time, when the days of February are Twenty-nine (29).

This is how children in the USA are taught to remember how many days are in each month, throughout the year.

It works well, if you understand the English Language.

Here in Japan, they have another method.

It involves starting with a closed fist, and counting from the the knuckle of the index finger which is up high (January), to the valley between the index finger and the middle finger, which is low (February).

Up to the next high point of the knuckle of the middle finger (March), down into the valley between the middle finger and the ring finger (April) then up to the knuckle of the ring finger (May) then down into the valley between the ring finger and the little finger (June) then up to the knuckle of the little finger (July).

At this point, you start at the knuckle of the little finger where you already are and count that as August.

Then you go back down into the valley between the little finger and ring finger (September) up to the knuckle of the ring finger (October) back down into the valley between the ring finger and middle finger (November), and finally back up to the knuckle of the middle finger (December).

The meaning of this exercise is that the high points on the knuckles, represents the months with 31 days.

The valleys between the knuckles represents the months with 30 days.

The only exception being February which has either 28 days or 29 days, depending on the year.

Which method works best for you? I use both of them.

By the way, the photo in today's blog was taken just today in the Nagayama District of Asahikawa, not to far from the campus of Asahikawa University.

You can clearly see that there is a lot of new snow since September 24, when it all started again for the foreseeable future.

From this day forward, you will be able to see the snow line get lower and lower on the mountains, and then onto the flatlands were most of the humans live.

There is no escape. Unless,.....

You get aboard an airplane and fly off of the island of Hokkaido.

I'm staying here. In the hot tube.

Catching big fluffy snow flakes on my tongue, as they fall from the sky.
It's just another way to fly.

2008 September 25 Thursday thru September 29 Monday.


It was cold, dark and rainy all week, until Saturday morning.

Then the sun came out and it warmed up a bit, making for a pleasant Indian Summer 小春日和 kind of feeling.

I spent most of my time developing a new web site at the URL of
www.everythingjapan.net .

It looks and feels much different than this web site, and has a completely different purpose.

The web site you are looking at now, started out about 6 years ago, and looked very different then, than it does today.

The only reason I started this web site way back then, was to give people more information about my classroom, than the Town Pages (Yellow Pages) in the telephone book could provide.

In fact, the web site was finished just in time, before the new telephone directories were shipped to everyone in Asahikawa.

I had put my URL
www.snowmanjapan.net in my new advertisement, and didn't want people to try and access it, only to come up with a "FILE NOT FOUND" message, when they did so.

That would be very embarrassing, to say the least.

I used FrontPage 2000 to make my first web site, and even that simple to use software was a big challenge for me, at that time. My first web site had only about 5 web pages in it, and was very confusing for the user to navigate through.

A year or two later, I upgraded my software to FrontPage 2002 and bought a big thick book from Amazon dot COM, called the Developer's Guide.

This book helped a lot, and I learned how to make frames for the web site, making it easier to set up a navigation menu for the users.

After that, I was able to organize this web site much better and added many new items to the navigation menu, and several hundreds of pages of original content, to this web site. It was a big improvement.

In the year 2004, I discovered Marcomedia (now Adobe) software.

They had a software package called Studio MX, which contained Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Freehand and Flash.

When I first bought, installed and tried to use this software, I was overwhelmed by the number of menus and functions that this excellent software package has.
Again, I went to Amazon dot COM and bought a set of about 5 books, to help me learn how to use this new and amazing web development tool.

It wasn't easy, and I am still an amateur, but finally, I produced a small (for now) web site that you can see at
www.everythingjapan.net

One of the things I discovered is, that DreamWeaver is so much more powerful than FrontPage, I began to wonder why I ever used FrontPage at all. The reason is, FrontPage is so much easier to learn for people like me, who are not very Techno Smart.

But, the good news is, I am becoming more knowledgeable about the internet and the IT industry in general, thanks in large part to my good friend
Charles Hamel.

He has been working with computers and the internet for a lot longer than I have, and he has shown me so many things about IT, that he has removed the fish scales from my eyes, about the World Wide Web.

Thank you so much, my dear friend Charlie.

2008 September 24 Wednesday.


According to the evening addition of the Hokkaido Newspaper, Mt. Asahidake got it's first snow on the mountain peak 初雪冠雪 just today.

Wait a minute! It is only September 24! Say what?!?

Welcome to Hokkaido.

It is time to start wearing warmer clothes again, especially at night.

Summer in Hokkaido is extraordinarily beautiful.

It is also very short. I hope you enjoyed it again this year, as much as I did.

With colder weather approaching rapidly, day by day, I and most other people who live here, will be spending more and more time indoors.

It's a good time to do all of the things you have been planning to do, but didn't do, because you have been spending so much time in the great outdoors.

In my case, I will be spending more time developing web sites and reading books about how to do that, and reading more books about various other things.

For other people, it will be a time to get back to THE classroom and study English or music or flower arrangement or the tea ceremony or whatever.

The long winter in Hokkaido makes it easier to stay indoors and really concentrate on the STUDY at hand.

Recently, I have been getting a lot of new adult students coming to take a look at my classroom, and then starting regular lessons on a weekly basis.

Last week a man and a woman began private lessons every week on Wednesday, starting at 20:00.

The man is about the same age as me, and is also a guitar player with
a band called LIBERTY and the woman works at a law office.

I am also a guitar player so we have a lot in common and we both love many of the same songs.

Mostly stuff from the USA rock and roll style of the 1960s and forward from that time.

I don't play the 6 string guitar as much as I used to, because I like to play the bass guitar more nowadays.

Also, just today, I had two adults come to take a look at my classroom for a free trial lesson.

The man is also a guitar player who likes HEAVY METAL, and the woman can play the trumpet and violin.

Another interesting thing about these two people, is that they both work at Asahiyama Zoo!!!

What a cool job! I love animals too, so I could enjoy a job like that, if ever I had the opportunity to do it.

They both found out about my classroom after seeing this web site on the internet.

In fact, the man who came today is one of the people who has designed and currently maintains the
Asahiyama Zoo Web Site.

A very good web site indeed.

I have a permanent link to it on the
LINKS page of this web site.

The main reason they both came to take a look at my classroom today, is because many foreign tourists come to the Asahiyama Zoo every year, and being able to speak English is very usefu, for their jobs.

I hope they both decide to come back again and start taking lessons on a weekly basis.

I really enjoyed meeting and talking with them today.

By the way, the photo in today's blog is of a brand of Japanese Rice Wine made by
KuniMare 国稀 which is located in Mashike Town 増毛町.

I have been to this rice wine brewery several times, and you can see a
photo slide show of Mashike Town by clicking here.

This particular product is called Hokkai Nigori Zake 北海にごり酒 and was made during July of this year.

It usually hits the shelves of the supermarkets around September and that is why I am enjoying it right now, as I write this blog.

It is not 100% Rice Malt Wine 純米酒ではない but it is raw and needs to be keep cold or it will spoil.

It has a sweet smooth flavor and is about 20% alcohol, so it's easy to drink a little bit too much, and get tipsy.

As you can see from the photo, it is not clear, but cloudy.

The meaning of Nigori is something like "cloudy", and that is why the brew looks something like watered down milk.

The perfect drink for this season.

If you love Japanese Rice Wine the way I do, please try this product.
You won't be disappointed.

CHEERS!

2008 September 23 Tuesday.


Today is the Autumn Equinox 秋分の日 and a National Holiday in Japan.

Not only is this day the official end of summer on the calendar, it is also noticeably colder in the air with some rain in the evening.

Time to switch from cold water baths to hot water baths.

Ikuko and I stayed home today, and didn't go anywhere except to the supermarket just before closing time.

I did some work on the internet, and then later tried again to make some musical sounds come out of my newly acquired plastic ShakuHachi 尺八 Flute.

I am making some progress and discovering a whole new world of music at the same time.

I love to feel the deep vibrations of the flute when I make a sound that can be called a musical note.

Oh no! Another obsession.

I usually go down to the bank of the Biei River to practice, but today it was so cold and rainy that I just stayed indoors and practiced in my classroom.
So far, nobody has complained about it.

Of course, I closed all of the windows double tight so that none of my horrible sounds could leak out into the world.

I am years away from any kind of public performance, but I will get there.

Practice, practice practice.

2008/10/13

2008 September 16 Tuesday thru September 22 Monday.

The Autumn Equinox is tomorrow, and the weather this past week has been absolutely gorgeous.

I love this time of year the most of all.

I like to spend a lot of time outdoors, both day and night.

Because it is still warm enough to walk around with bare feet and sandals.

I like to walk slow, and take my alto recorder with me.

Which got me to thinking again, about my promise to myself, to get a Japanese ShakuHachi Bamboo flute THIS YEAR, and learn how to play it too.

I was thinking that I may have to pay from between 20,000 yen to 40,000 yen for a beginner's bamboo flute.

A bit expensive, but I really want to do this, so I decided to go downtown on Saturday afternoon and buy one.

The only store which I could find, that had any 尺八 for sale, was the OoNuma Musical Instruments Store
大沼楽器 at 2 Jodori 11 Chome.

When I walked into the store, I saw a very nice looking shakuhachi with a price tag of 100,000 yen.

YIKES! I wonder if they have something a bit less expensive. They did.

The one I bought, is the one you can see in the photo on the left.

It only cost 9,000 yen because it is made of plastic.

A very hard and thick plastic, but plastic nonetheless.

The black band that you can see in the middle of the flute is the place where you can pull it apart into two pieces, making it easy to carry around in a small bag.

The shakuhachi is not easy to play.

It has no reeds in the mouthpiece, in fact it has no mouthpiece at all.

Just an open hole at the top with a very small v-shaped cutout at the front.

It is like blowing across the top of an open bottle in order to make a sound, only much more difficult.

I has a total of five finger holes. Four on the front and one on the back.

The easiest sound to make, is with all of the finger holes open.

Even this took me a good 30 minutes to learn how to make a steady musical sound.

After practicing for 3 days straight, I was finally able to make a sound with all 5 finger holes covered.

I say make a sound, but not music. Not yet.

This is by far, the most difficult musical instrument, I have ever tried to play. (I have never tried to play the violin or the clarinet, or the trombone, etc.)

I really love the sound of the Japanese Bamboo Flute 尺八, and I am confident that I will be able to make it sound nice, after several years of practice.

I know for a fact that anyone who really tries hard to do something, that they really want to do, will be able to make it happen.

Even non-Japanese people can learn how to play the shakuhachi well.

Click here to see a YOU TUBE video of Todd Barton playing a song called "AKEBONO" on a very expensive flute.

I want to become that good too, someday.


Another thing which I bought on the same day, was a book about 15 historical sites of the Jomon Culture, which are in Hokkaido and the North northeast area of Japan 北東北.

I saw an article about it in the Hokkaido Newspaper a few weeks ago, and decided to buy it right then and there.

I have already been to most of the Jomon sites in Hokkaido, in fact you can see a photo slide show which I made of the Oofune Site that I visited on 2007 August 9.

It is located in Minami Kayabe Village which is now a part of Hakodate City.

Please view this photo slide show by clicking here.

The main purpose of this book is to show the reader how to get to each of these 15 sites, and what they can see once they get there.

Also, the cover of the book says; "With the aim of having these historical remains registered as World Heritage Sites. I totally agree.

The Jomon Civilization dates back from 12,000 years ago up to about 3,000 years ago.

That is a very long time. Unfortunately, they did not develop any writing system so we have no written record of their daily lifestyle, and no clue as to what kind of language they spoke.

Was it the original Japanese Language? Maybe so.

The Japanese Language as only 5 vowel sounds, which is a very small number by modern language standards.

I have already studied quite a bit about the Jomon Culture, and will continue to do so from now on.

Human Beings living in total harmony with the earth.  That was the Jomon People.


On Sunday morning of September 21, I went to the KeiMei Elementary School 啓明小学校 to watch their School Arts Festival 学芸会.

The only reason I went to this event, is because 5 of the students who come to my classroom, also attend this elementary school and they invited me over and over again to come and see them perform.

So, I made a special trip out to their school, to see them on stage.

I enjoyed it very much, but the sound system wasn't very good, and I couldn't understand what the actors on stage were saying.

Finally towards the end of the event when the 6th graders got up on stage to do their performance about the beginning of this school 80 years ago, I was able to move closer to the stage and hear what the actors were saying.

It was a lot more interesting for me than the previous performances of their younger classmates.

The event was finished at about 12:30 and I quickly got back into my van, so I could drive on over to the next event that I wanted to attend, on that day.



The next event that I wanted to go to was a free outdoor music stage, right in front of the Marui Imai Department store on the pedestrian shopping mall 買物公園, that was scheduled to start at 12:00 and end at about 17:00.

I couldn't find any free parking, so I drove my van back to my house, and walked from there back into town.

I arrived at about 13:30, just in time to hear a Rolling Stones Cover Band crank out some wicked sounds, at high volume. What a treat!

In total, there were about 13 different bands, playing different kinds of music.

The photo on the left is of a band called "Hauling Scrap" which was probably the most dynamic of all the bands.

Also, it was one of the youngest of the bands in terms of the member's ages.

About half of all the other bands were composed of older guys about the same age as me.

There was a large crowd gathered around for each performance, with people drinking beer and dancing to the music.

A very peaceful and enjoyable afternoon, with not one policeman in sight.

I met many people near the stage area, whom I have known for many years, and

I even made a few new friends as well.

I play music too, so I can really appreciate what goes into making a band sound good. A lot of practice.

It has been several years since I have played on stage at one of these events, but I hope to do so again in the very near future.

Nowadays I am concentrating on the electric bass guitar the most, of all of the instruments that I can play.

Oh yes, let's not forget that I just started learning how to play the Japanese Bamboo Flute 尺八 only 3 days ago.

It will most likely take me about 3 years to learn how to play even one song, well.

Yeah, so what! I have enough time to do that too.

Lifelong learning is my greatest pleasure, now that I am 52 years young.

There is always something new to learn. ALWAYS.

2008/10/09

2008 September 8 Monday thru September 15 Monday.

GOLDEN HARVEST


Monday September 15 was a National Holiday in Japan known as KeiRo no Hi 敬老の日 Respect for the Aged Day.

What a novel idea! Show respect and pay attention to the older people in society, who have built this country into what it is today. I am talking about Japan.



In the very beginning of the stage play RUN, which I translated into English from the original Japanese, writer Kuramoto Soh 倉本總 wrote the following;
As for me,…. Well,…. I used to be the same way.


I graduated from college and got a job at a big company.

It was during that time when Japan was still recovering from the damage it had suffered by defeat in the big war.

Anyway, without knowing why, I started running. Running,…… running and doing my best. I lived that way for almost 40 years.

Getting closer and closer to retirement. Today was my last day on the job.

(pause)

Yeah, lately I’ve been really confused.Even though I’ve reached retirement, should I keep on running?

Or, should I just stop around here somewhere, and take a rest?

That’s why I’m just standing around here and waiting.I don’t know what to do.
 
The main point being that in late 1945, Japan was just a big pile of ashes with a black rain falling.



It is a whole new world today. Because of the slavish work of the millions of survivors from the atrocity that IS every war, Japan has become the most peaceful, most civilized nation on the face of this earth today.

Made in Japan, means something special. Including this rice field in Higashi Kagura 東神楽町. Japonica rice.

I prefer to eat it as unpolished brown rice 玄米.




I could buy it directly from the farmers if I really wanted to, but usually buy it at a WESTERN supermarket.


One of the few supermarkets were you can easily buy unpolished brown rice.

I eat more than 5 kilograms of it every month.



I cook it in a regular rice cooker, in the same way you would cook white rice.

Brown rice smells a bit nasty while it's cooking, but it tastes great.

A bit more chewy than white rice, and not appropriate for use as sushi すし, but it goes great with curry カレーライス and everything else.

Once you have had brown rice, you might like it better than white rice, but I doubt it.

I am not in the majority as a brown rice eater, but then again, I know what I like.

Fiber filled golden grains of locally grown brown rice.

2008 September 1 Monday thru September 7 Sunday.


Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were the days of the Okagura Festival お神楽まつり here in the Kagura District of Asahikawa.

It is held every year on September 1, 2 and 3.

Unfortunately, this year it rained on September 1 and 3. Rained Big Time.

September 2 was a beautiful sunny day, and I was able to video tape the children of Kagura Elementary School as they carried the Omikoshi 御神輿 (portable shrine) along the main streets of the Kagura District.

I will be putting that video on my
PrivateHokkaido channel at YOUTUBE in the near future.

Tuesday was also a big day for HOMAC, as they held a big Sports Festival 運動会 at the Taisetsu Arena.

All of the HOMAC stores in the DoHoku Area 道北 were closed on that day, so that everyone could participate in the event.

After the big sports day event, everyone went to TsuboHachi 居酒屋つぼ八 for dinner and drinks.

After that, many of them went to a place in Kamui called HiBana 火花 which is another Izakaya type of restaurant.

Ikuko has a part time job at HOMAC, so that is the only reason I know anything about this.

I myself did not participate in any of these activities, until about 11:00 p.m. of September 2.

I was alone at home, drinking some TAKA 貴 brand NihonShu 日本酒 and playing the bass guitar, when suddenly I heard Ikuko's voice calling me from the entrance of our classroom.

At first, I thought I was hearing things 空耳 but in fact it was Ikuko's voice.

When I put down my bass guitar and walked over to the entrance to take a look, Ikuko was standing there in tears, with two of her coworkers from HOMAC standing at the open door.

My first question was; "What Happened?"

The answer was that Ikuko had fallen down and injured her shoulder.


I could see from a close examination that she may have dislocated her shoulder, so I called her mother and auntie and told them what happened.

After they came to my classroom to see Ikuko for themselves, we decided to call an ambulance and have Ikuko taken to the Red Cross Hospital.

At the hospital, the doctor confirmed the fact that Ikuko had indeed dislocated her shoulder.

After he popped her shoulder back into its proper place, and put on a big
Velcro bandage, we left the hospital and went back home.

Good Gawd! I never knew that eating and drinking at a Pub Restaurant 居酒屋 could be so dangerous.

This particular Izakaya has rooms where they have tables in the style of HoriKotatsu 堀コタツ.

A KOTATSU 炬燵 is table with very short legs.

The ones that most people might have in their homes also have an electric heater attached to the bottom of the table board, and also a thick curtain hanging from the outer edges of the table and down to the floor.

These traditional Japanese style low tables are meant to be used while sitting on the floor.

In some modern Pub Restaurants, the seating arrangements have been modified so that a hole has been dug from the floor level down to about one half of a meter in depth, so that the customers can sit on the floor at the KoTatsu and let their feet hang down into the hole.

This design makes it feel more like sitting on a bench that sitting on the floor.

It is much more comfortable for people who may have sore legs.

Anyway, to make a long story shorter, Ikuko was walking between these tables on her way towards the toilet, when she somehow managed to step into the hole with her right foot, and fall to the floor hitting her left shoulder hard.

I myself have sat at such tables at Pub Restaurants many times before, and I could not visualize how someone could so easily injure themselves in this way.
Ikuko's repeated explanation of her accident caused me to become even more bewildered about the whole affair.

So, on Sunday September 7, I drove her down to the very same restaurant at about 16:50, just before opening time, to have a look at the accident scene for myself.

We talked to the manager and I looked at the big room where it all happened, and I could see no negligence on the part of the Pub Restaurant for faulty equipment, or dangerous surroundings, so I apologized to the staff for barging in on them before opening time, and distracting them from their preparation work.

Conclusion? Ikuko herself, had been careless in not watching where she was walking and had caused the accident to herself, by herself.

WATCH YOUR STEP is common sense, in the world of the living.

XIT happens. Accidents do too. That is why, they are called ACCIDENTS.

Words have specific meanings. Pay closer attention to the world around you and watch your steps carefully.
Your damn lucky you didn't hit your head on the ground first.

You could have been in one helluva worse condition than you are right now.

Count your blessings and throw away the BLAME GAME.

You did this one, to yourself. WATCH YOUR STEP.

The photo in today's blog was taken on July 2, 2006.

It was taken at ShoSanBetsu
初山別村 along the Sea of Japan.

I even took a dip in the shining sea that day, before I took this photo.

This photo was copied and pasted here without any changes whatsoever.

It was taken by my 3.0 Megapixal Digital Camera on that very lovely day.

I took a very large number of photos on that day, but this one was THE BEST of the lot. You can even see RiShiri Island 利尻島 in the background, thru the gates of the ToriI 鳥居.

Also known as RiShiri FuJi. A photo says it all.

Hokkaido = BEAUTY.

Come and see it for yourself, sometime.

2008/09/20

2008 August 25 Monday thru August 31 Sunday.



The last week of August, and autumn is just around the corner.

My first gig on Monday was at the Chestnut Tree Kindergarten くりの木幼稚園 starting at 10:00.

As usual, I was up on stage in front of about 220 noisy kids.

See the photo above/left for details. This week I talked about summer vacation activities using big colorful laminated flash cards to make the English words easier to remember.

One of the cards represented the word DRIVE. I even made up a new song the night before called MY CAR, that was simple and easy to remember for the kids.

With my acoustic guitar in hand, we sang my new song, and a couple of other old songs that the kids already knew.

Finally, all the kids came up to the stage one by one and we shook hands and said; "Bye bye. See you next time!"

After my class, the kids got to go outside and play on the big lawn that the kindergarten has. They even got served freshly sliced watermelons.

My next class on Monday was the 神楽公民館で英会話を楽しむ会 from 13:00 until 14:30.

This week, one of the ladies told us about her family's 12 day trip to FRANCE, which started off on a bad note.

After the very long flight from Japan to France, they arrived at their hotel, only to discover that the hotel had NO RECORD OF THEIR RESERVATION even though the family had a printed out copy of their reservation confirmation in hand, and showed it to the front desk clerk.

Wow! How is that for a laid back attitude about running a business.

Actually, I have heard this same horror story before from other students who traveled to Spain and Turkey, arriving after a long hard day of traveling, only to discover that the hotel they thought they had reservations at, didn't have any reservations for them.

I seriously doubt if something like this ever happens in Japan or Germany.

Anyway, despite an uncomfortable second rate hotel room on the very first night, the 12 day trip turned out to be a wonderful experience for her and her family.

Other students talked about various things, and we never got around to the printed hand out that I gave to them last week.

No, problem there. We can use it anytime.

I have a thousand more that I can prepare on a moments notice for any class.

Tuesday through Friday was a regular school week at my little classroom.

On Saturday afternoon around 13:00, I drove out to Shibinai to visit
Charles Hamel and family.

They live in a farming community, and even have their own little garden plots.

Despite the rather small area that they had to grow in, they had an amazing abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, red hot chili peppers, carrots and corn.

When I first arrived and walked in the front door, I smelled something delicious on the gas stove.

Turns out that Charlie was making a big pot full of TEXMEX (Texas/Mexico) SALSA サルサ with fresh off the vine ingredients from his own garden, and the farms of his neighbors as well.

I don't know about you, but I just love Mexican food with a big dish of salsa on the side.

It was a lucky day for me too, because Charlie has so many tomatoes, that they are beginning to rot on the vine.

Not all of them, just some of them. There are still lots of green tomatoes that will become edible in the very near future as well.

As a result, Charlie let me pick as many of the edible tomatoes as I could, and I picked a lot of them.

After I got back home from Shibinai, I got out a big aluminum pot and started making a huge batch of my own fresh salsa.

It was so good, I even surprised myself. Fresh ingredients really do make a big difference.

I hope I will be doing this again, in the very near future.

On Sunday, Ikuko and I took a long drive to Biei, Shirogane and Tokachi Dake Observation Area.

The weather was perfect, and I brought along my video camera and new tripod.
I got some excellent video of the active volcano, the surrounding mountains, the sunset and myself in a natural outdoor hot tub in the dark with a chemical light stick, making light drawings in the water.

When these videos have been edited and finalized, I will put them on the
Private Hokkaido channel on YOU TUBE.

Please check it from time to time for new videos that will be COMING SOON.

Tomorrow is the start of my favorite month, SEPTEMBER.

The Autumn Appetite 食欲の秋 is now upon us. Harvest season in Hokkaido is something everyone should see for themselves.

Please come and visit some time

2008/09/18

2008 August 23 Saturday and August 24 Sunday.


Every Saturday morning starting at 10:30, I have a private lesson with a very intelligent 9 year old girl, who also takes lessons for; piano, social dance and opera singing.

She learns very quickly and is enjoyable to teach. After her lesson was finished at about 11:30, I made myself a meal of what I call; Mexican Rice Bowl メキシコ丼.

I use ground beef seasoned with Turmeric, Cumin, Hot red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper.

I cook this mixture very slowly in a covered fry pan until the meat is cooked to medium-well-done.

Then, I scramble and egg or two, pour it on top of the round meat patty, and cover the fry pan again for about 2 or 3 more minutes.

When I remove the fry pan lid again, I have a big round beef patty held together with steamed egg on top.

Next, I get a big deep bowl and pile it half full with brown rice 玄米, and slide the big beef patty on top of it.

Finally, I sprinkle some grated cheese over that and then pour a generous amount of hot salsa over the top of that, and I'm ready to eat.

Yum yum. It tastes like tacos.

About 2 hours after eating my big brunch, I became very sleepy and could not stay awake.

Later in the day, I was planning to drive to Numata Town 沼田町 and video tape the YohTaka Andon Festival
夜高あんどん祭り in the evening, so I decided to lie down and take a nap at about 14:00.

I didn't wake up again until 21:31! Oooops!

I missed my chance to make an excellent DVD of a very interesting festival. Maybe next year.

I must have still been tired from the 12 kilometer walk that Ikuko and I took on Friday night.

A walk that lasted for more than 2 hours.

Am I trying to burn the candle at both ends?

On Sunday, I stayed home all day and learned more about editing videos and making DVDs.

Also, I uploaded the final video clip of the Hokkaido Newspaper's Big Fireworks display to my YOU TUBE channel.

This is the BIG ENDING to a wonderful event.

You can view the video too, by
clicking here.

Be sure to also click on the WATCH IN HIGH QUALITY 高画質で見る link under the lower right corner of the video screen.

It looks much better in that mode of playback.

2008/09/16

2008 August 20 Wednesday thru August 22 Friday.


Most of the public schools are back in session as of Wednesday, and all of the students who come to my classroom were back at our lesson table as well.

It was nice to see their smiling faces and hear their stories of summer vacation, time passages.

On Thursday, the 13 year old girl who comes every week at this time, proudly showed me her Certificate of Eiken Pre Level 2 英検準2級.

She passed both the written test, and the interview test as well.

Before both exams, she and I and the other students in her class, did lots of practice for the interview part of the examination.

It paid off for all of us. She also had taken a good look at this website and expressed interest in being able to make the same type of website for herself one day.

She further went on to say, that she has weekly computer classes at her junior high school.

I asked her if the classroom was equipped with a BIG SCREEN so that every student can clearly see how the teacher is operating the PC.

When she replied "NO", I told her that such a big screen in any computer classroom is an absolute necessity.

She agreed with me saying; "The teacher's lessons are slow and difficult to understand."

Of course they are! He/she doesn't have a Big Screen and Projector to work with.

I wouldn't want to teach that class.


On Friday, the 30 year old lady with Downs Syndrome who comes to my classroom every week at this time, had a rather shocking story to tell.

With the help of her mother and father, she explained to me how she had been KICKED OUT OF her hula dance circle, by some of the older ladies in the group.

Ai Chan has been a member of this hula dance group for many years, and has given me many photos of their annual recitals in November.

It seems the older ladies wanted her out, because they thought they could GO PROFESSIONAL without her.

Hmmmm Let's see, 60 to 70 year old ladies have a chance at becoming PROFESSIONAL HULA DANCERS??? Dream BIG!!!

Anyway, Ai Chan found herself another HULA CIRCLE which she promptly joined. Good job Ai!!!

Don't let the TURKEYS drag you down. You can fly with EAGLES.


After that interesting lesson was finished at 20:00, Ikuko and I got dressed up warm and went out for a veeeeeeeeery long walk together.

The total distance must have been about 12 kilometers, and went like this. First, we crossed over the 両神橋 that separates Kagura and Kamui.

We turned left onto the long straight cycling road that borders the Biei River.

This is a very good place to take a long walk at night because there are less lights on this side of the river, and the night sky is more clearly visible. When we do the short route, we walk from RyoJin Bashi to HeiSei OoHashi 平成大橋, and then turn left to cross the bridge back into Kagura again. But today, we didn't do that.

We kept on going straight until we reached the next bridge, which is rather far away.

This part of the route is much darker also, making stargazing an even more enjoyable addition to the walking exercise.

So,... walk we did. And walk and walk and walk, until we reached the next bridge which is Route 90 and passes by 1,000,000 Volts 百万ボルト.

At this point in our long walk, we were only half finished.

The remainder of the trip back home took us along Route 237 from HyakuMan Boruto back to our home near Taisetsu Arena.

Not only was it a long distance for us, but I was also wearing wrist weights of 2 kilograms, on each wrist.

It helps me stretch out and exercise my upper body.

It also creates more weight for my POOR FEET, which also have to haul around my 99 kilogram body.

Poor feet. If can can lose some weight, will you stop torturing me ?

2008/09/15

2008 August 18 Monday and 19 Tuesday.


It's back to school for me an my students today.

Even though the public schools don't open until Wednesday, all of my elementary school and junior high school students came to my classroom today and yesterday.

Some of them don't even live in Kagura or Kamui, so they had to make a special trip to get here. Thank you so much.

On Monday from 13:00 until 14:30 I had a class with the 神楽公民館で英会話を楽しむ会, for the first time in 4 weeks.

The students had a lot to talk about, and so did I.

One of the young ladies told us about a trip that she and her husband took to MEXICO.

She also brought along 3 photo booklets with lots of really nice photos.

I felt very nostalgic when I heard her story and looked at the photographs, because I myself have also taken this same trip when I was about 16 years old.
Of course, I was traveling with my parents and my skinny little sister at that time, but I remember that vacation very well.

The route we took was to fly down to Mexico City and stay there for 2 nights.

In Mexico City, we got to see the very impressive pyramids built by the Aztec Civilization.

After that, we went to the Yucatan Peninsula and looked around at the various pyramids of the Maya Civilization at various places.

I distinctly remember skin diving with a mask and snorkel off of the coast at Merida and other locations.

I will never forget how clear the sea water was.

It was like entering a whole new world, as soon as I put my head underwater.

The young woman and her husband who went to Mexico during this year's summer vacation really enjoyed their time there.

She told the class how much she loved Mexican Food (me too) and that she loved TEQUILA as well!!!

She said that she had purchased 3 bottles of tequila and brought them back to Japan with her .

I have to admit, I used to love tequila also.

The really good authentic tequila is very delicious, and easy to drink. Therein lies the danger.

Tequila is at least 40% alcohol, and some folks say that it has an extra hypnotic effect as well.

In other words, it is easy to drink too much, too fast.

Behavior which can lead to a loss of memory, and odd behavior in public places.

I haven't drank any tequila in about 10 years, and have no plans to try it again, anytime, ever. Unless,........

On Tuesday, there were two new persons who came to take a look at my classroom.

Both of them have a definite goal in mind for their personal lives, when it comes to being able to speak English freely, and accurately.

MOTIVATION is the KEY word here, because motivation gives birth to ENTHUSIASM and enthusiasm gives ENERGY to DOING, and doing creates RESULTS.

In Japanese, they call it SeiSeki 成績. RESULTS.

Literally, the "the becoming, piles up upon itself"

That is how I read these two Kanji when used in this combination.

Even dust, can pile up to become a mountain, is another way to say it.

2008/09/01

2008 August 1 Friday thru August 17 Sunday.


My long 3 week summer vacation is finished today.

Usually during this time of year, I go for long drives and camping here and there around this beautiful island.

This year, I stayed at home.

The main reason being, I had rediscovered my Digital Video Movie Camera, after having not used it for about 3 years.

I have about 8 Mini DV cassette tapes that I had filmed in locations like Otaru and Niseko, but had never transferred them onto a computer hard disk.

So I did that. Also, I was encouraged by the good results I had gotten from filming at the Hokkaido Newspaper's annual Big Fireworks Display on July 31, and
I planned to do an even better job of filming at the Hanabi in Kagura held every year on August 14.

I went to the festival grounds about one hour early, and filmed the trees illumination and the live music show on stage before the start of the fireworks.

I was able to get a place right in front of the stage with an excellent camera angle for the upcoming launch of the fireworks.

I had my tripod down low and was sitting down during the entire display.

This time, I was careful not to make the mistakes I had made on July 31 while I was filming.

I used up the entire 60 minute tape and felt really good about my filming session.

Felt really good until I got home and attempted to download it all onto my computer hard disk.

That's when I discovered the awful truth.

The camera hadn't recorded anything at all!!!! WHAT IN THE WORLD????

I got out the owner's manual and looked through the back pages.

I soon discovered what the problem was.

The recording and playback heads of my camera were DIRTY!

The manual also said that a message will appear on the camera screen telling me when it is time to clean the camera heads.

No such message ever appeared.

I went from feeling really good, to feeling really bad in the space of just a few seconds. What a fool I had been.

I never thought that the camera heads were dirty, because I haven't used the camera all that much.

I was wrong. The next day, I went to a big electronics store not too far from my house, to buy a camera head cleaning cassette, and 3 new recording tapes as well.

When I tried to clean the camera heads with the cleaning tape, I discovered that
I had to do it three times in order to get them really clean.

Then I discovered that the recording cassette tape which I had used to "record" the Hanabi in Kagura, was worn out and would not record anymore.

I will not make this same mistake ever again.

Next year for the Hanabi in Kagura I will use a brand new tape to record the marvelous show.

In my opinion, this year's 20th anniversary of Hanabi in Kagura was the best ever.

They even had the fireworks synchronized with the loud music that they were playing during the entire event.

I really missed a grand opportunity to make an excellent DVD this year.

I'll get it right next year. On Saturday, Ikuko and I went to visit the family gravesite in Kannon Dai, on the top of the hill near the former Inosawa Ski Ground.

The weather was very nice as you can see from the photo above/left. Tomorrow, it is BACK TO SCHOOL.

See you all again at that time. 

2008/08/27

2008 July 30 Wednesday and July 31 Thursday.


On July 31, the Hokkaido Newspaper held their annual Big Fireworks Display 花火大会 along the banks of the Ishikari River 石狩川 just below Tokiwa Park.

Charles Hamel and his oldest son came over to my place at about 18:40, and soon thereafter walked with Ikuko and I over to the same location that we went to on July 25 when we watched the Yomiuri Newspaper's Fireworks together.

This time, instead of my snapshot camera, I brought my digital video camera.

It has been a long time since I have used this rather expensive but very good DV movie camera, so I had to sit down and read the instruction book again.

I bought a new tripod because my very old one broke during the photo session on July 25.

The four of us arrived at the river bank about 10 minutes before the start of the show.

When the final salvo of fireworks was finished at about 19:50, we all walked into the downtown area where the 3・6 Downtown Merchant's Festival was in full swing.

As usual, there was a lot of interesting and amusing things to see there.

When I got home, I downloaded my fireworks video onto a special computer hard disk, and began the editing process.

I was able to come up with the best 18 minutes of the fireworks display and put it onto a customized DVD.

The quality of the video is very good on the DVD.

I will send a copy of the DVD to my sister who lives in Seattle Washington.

For most of the rest of you, I have begun uploading the movie to my YOU TUBE account which is called PrivateHokkaido.

You can see the videos from that server, by
clicking here.

The image quality of the DVD is much much better than what you can see on YouTube, but you can still get a good feeling for the excellent timing and combinations that the fireworks professionals put together, for the dazzling light show. ENJOY!!!

2008/08/22

2008 July 29 Tuesday.


Happy Birthday to ME!

Yeah, it's true. I'm still alive.

And, at 52 years young, I am finally playing with a full deck.

It's important to have a full set of tools, when playing the game of life.

Speaking of DECKS, I am going to spend most of today cleaning the big deck of my balcony with soap and water.

Summer fun, in the sun.

A clean deck is a happy deck. A happy deck for happy campers.

Count me IN! 

2008 July 25 Friday thru July 28 Monday.


Summer vacation starts off with a bang.

At about 18:40, Charles Hamel and family drove all the way from Shibinai to the Asahikawa Michi no Eki, which is right next door to my classroom.

At about 19:00 Charlie and I walked on over to the river line below Tokiwa Park, and set up our cameras and tripods just below ShinBashi bridge.

The women and the kids, took the bus and arrived a bit later.

I was surprised to see that the place was not all that crowded.

In fact, it looked about half empty. I was drinking a bottle of Otokoyama Sasa Ori as I always do at this event, but I didn't share any with Charles.

Sorry Charlie, you have to drive back to Shibinai when this is all over, but I can walk home.

By the way, Charlie got some really good photos of the event, which you too can
see by clicking here.

Three full weeks of no classes to teach for me, so I will be able to get out and about, or just stay at home and do some cleaning up, and bass guitar practice.

The more I play the bass guitar, the more I like it.

Oh No!!! Another obsession!

Time to get out the alto recorder again too.

2008/08/18

2008 July 22 Tuesday thru July 24 Thursday.


Just one more day of classes until the start of my summer vacation.

On Thursday July 24, Ikuko and I went to the annual Biei Fire Festival 美瑛火まつり for the first time.

Every year on July 24, they hold this powerful event.

Why has it taken me so long to get there and see it for the first time?

Lack of planning. For years, I have been driving thru Biei on my way to the Mt.
Tokachi Observation Area 十勝岳 望岳台 and FukiAge Outdoor Spa 吹上温 泉露天の湯, and I have seen the posters for this event many times. Finally this year, I made the smart decision to go and see it.

It was awesome. The contrast between WATER and FIRE has never been more obvious.

Charles Hamel and family were at the event as well, and Charlie has a new digital camera,
Canon EOS Kiss F 10.1 Megapixel DSLR which takes awesome photos! CLICK HERE to see one of his best.

A photo good enough to be published in
National Geographic Magazine.
I also took a lot of photos on that night, with the very first digital camera I ever bought.

The
CASIO QV-3000EX. This camera has the largest diameter glass lens, of all my digi cams. Perfect for night time photos.

With a digital camera it is cheap and easy to take a massive amount of photos.
Among those many photos, there are always some really good ones.

Once and a while, a really great photo.

You can see a slideshow of the best photos I took at this event by clicking here.

The origin of this festival in Biei, has a lot to do with the repeated eruptions of Mt. Tokachi in the years; 1857, 1887, 1926, 1962 and most recently in 1988.

That is very active volcano, if ever there was one.

As you can well imagine, having a volcano blew it's top in a place that is close to where you live, is a big disaster for human beings.

The main purpose of this festival which began exactly 20 years ago in 1988, is to beg the mountain to remain quiet, and not blow up again.

It seems to have worked so far. I think that I will make this one of my yearly traditions, and go every year from now on.

After all, I have had the experience of driving from Seattle Washington to


It was a scary experience that I will never forget.

There is nothing humans can physically do to prevent a volcanic eruption.

Spiritually, we may have a chance, if we show our respect for the power of MOTHER EARTH.

That is the real reason why this festival is so important.

2008/08/08

2008 July 20 Sunday and 21 Monday.


Umi No Hi, 海の日 or as I like to call it, Marine Day, is a National Holiday in Japan.

Ikuko and I were planning to go to Sapporo and stay overnight on Sunday, but I backed out of the deal at the last moment because I had an awesome stomach ache.

No thank you, to riding the train for 3 hours and walking around a big city, far away from toilets, all day long.

I stayed home. So, Ikuko went with her mother instead.

Her younger sister lives in Sapporo now, so they all had a merry time as a happy trio.

While they were swilling it up at the Sapporo Beer Garden Genghis Khan BBQ beer hall, I was sitting at home, eating brown rice and natto.

After that, I had a midnight snack of hot buttered popcorn.

Thanks to
Charles Hamel, I can once again enjoy the smoky flavor of fresh popped popcorn, right here in my own home.

He brought it with him from Houston Texas USA, when he and his family made their big move to Hokkaido.

What a treat and a much appreciated and often used gift.

Thanx again. Ikuko came back from Sapporo at about 12 noon on Monday morning, and showed me all of the photos she had taken on her mobile phone camera.

Looks like everybody had a really good time. Me too, in a lonely sort of way.

Starting tomorrow is the last week of classes before the start of a three week summer vacation.

I'm giving a final exam tomorrow at AU, making use of the internet to get the job done.

Being able to find the information you want on the web quickly and easily, is an important job skill in this day and age.

College kids need to learn this as fast as possible.

Some of them will. Others won't. It's an individual choice. 

2008/07/31

2008 July 19 Saturday.


The smart little girl who comes to my classroom every Saturday morning, couldn't come today because she had a bad headache.

I hope she feels better soon.

With my morning lesson canceled, I had the perfect opportunity to get back to basics on the electric bass guitar.

I am all the way up to track 20 on a 65 track instructional CD that came with the textbook entitled; EASY BASS.

Yeah, that's right up my alley. ABC 123.

After about 90 minutes of practice, I had to change clothes and get ready to go the the Grand Hotel by 14:00 for the celebration of the 45th Anniversary of

Asahikawa Women's Junior College, 40th Anniversary of Asahikawa University etc.

It was a huge event, with the likes of who is who in Hokkaido, all in attendance.

Even the Mayor of Asahikawa, Mr. Nishikawa himself, found the time in his busy schedule, to show up and make a speech.

See the photo above/left for details.

After about one hour of speeches and awards presentations, everyone of the more than 220 people who came today, went into the room next door for food and drinks.

We were also treated to an excellent performance of some very complicated music by the
旭川大学高等学校吹奏楽部 Asahikawa University High School Brass Band.

They were really good!

They must practice almost every day, in order to pull off a perfect performance like the one they did today.

Another delightful treat for today, was to discover that the elderly gentleman seated to my left at the banquet table, and who teaches information processing on Tuesday mornings, is in fact distantly related to my wife's family!

To keep it short, he is the husband of the sister of the mother of the the husband of my wife's older sister.

Therefore we have the same two nephews, in common!

Did you follow that? OK, here it is again in reverse order.

My wife has two sisters. One older sister and one younger sister.

My wife's older sister, is married to a man.

That man's mother also has a sister.

That sister is married to the elderly gentleman who sat next to me today at the banquet table.

Yeah, I know. It's a long and winding road, but all of us are connected in some way.

Whether we know it or not.

2008/07/30

2008 July 14 Monday thru July 18 Friday.


I was not as hot this week, as it was last week, and I didn't need to turn on the cooling system.

About a month ago, my wife received a used digital camera from her younger sister.

It is a
RICHO Caplio R2 5.0 Mega Pixel unit, and you can see it in the photo above/left. Ikuko almost never uses a camera, so I have developed the custom of taking this camera with me where ever I go.

It is by far, smaller than any other camera that I have, and it takes very good photos.

Now, I will never miss another photo opportunity because I didn't have a camera with me.

Thanks Yuki! This camera will be well used by me.

Not only does this camera take still photos, but it also takes motion video as well.

Plus, it can also be used as a voice recorder for sound only.

Isn't it amazing what electricity and magnetism can do.

On Monday, I had my last lesson with an 8 year old girl who has been coming to my classroom for about 5 years.

She and her family will be moving to Chitose because of her father's job.

I hope they can find a good English classroom in that city so that she can continue her studies there.

On Thursday at about 20:30 while I was walking the aisles at the next door supermarket, a beautiful young woman runs up to me saying; "ノーマン先生、ノーマン先生!"

She came right up to me and we looked at each other face to face.

I could not remember who she was, until she said; "I am Haruka".

As soon as I heard that, I knew exactly who she was.

I haven't seen her in about 3 years, but she and her brother who are fraternal twins 一卵性双生児, used to come to my classroom during their elementary school and junior high school days.

Now they are both 23 years old and attending universities in California USA.

How's that for a job well done, by all hands on deck.

It's a small world after all. Be kind to your neighbors.

2008/07/28

2008 July 12 Saturday and July 13 Sunday.


At about 18:00 on Saturday, I went over the hill and down into TomiSawa to attend a private BBQ party being held for an American guy, how used to live in Asahikawa for a long time, but now lives in Atlanta Georgia.

I haven't seen this guy for about 8 or 9 years, but when I saw him again today, it was like we had never been apart.

Some people just don't change no matter how long you know them.
This party was rather unusual for me, because there were no Japanese people at it.

Only non-Japanese. There were people from Canada, England, Holland, Sri Lanka and of course, the USA.

As such, the common language was English.

One thing I noticed, is that these people like to talk about other people a lot.

In other words, GOSSIP. Gossip is something which I don't like much and almost never do myself, so today I heard a lot of strange stories about some of the people who were at the party, and some other people who weren't at the party.

Stories I had never heard before, even though the events being described happened both recently, and many years ago.

As a result, I grew rather bored with most of the conversations, and went inside the house to play my bass guitar which I had brought along with me.

Fortunately, the owner of the house also likes to play live music so he soon joined me with his guitar and microphone, and we started making some groovy sounds.

The photo in today's blog shows one of my bass guitars and one of my six string electric guitars, sitting in my classroom, after being prepared for transport to the party.

I needed to do an equipment check before I left, and also put all new strings on the stratocaster.

The guy from Holland who was at the party, was also a very good guitar player and singer, and he knew a lot of good songs from memory.

So, I played along with him too on the bass guitar.

The party ended about midnight.

Because I was driving that day, I drank no alcohol at the party but I had a few beers when I got home.

I continued to play the bass guitar at very low volume, practicing the basics over and over again, until about 5:00 Sunday morning.

Music and languages are my specialty, and what I like to do most.

2008/07/27

2008 July 7 Monday thru July 11 Friday.


The WORLD comes to Hokkaido.

What a nightmare for the traffic cops.

I stayed far away from all of the hoop-la, and didn't leave Asahikawa.

I had already scoped out the Windsor Hotel Lake Toya, during Golden Week of 2007 on May 12.

Click here to read the details.

Unfortunately for the World Leaders and their entourages, the weather at Lake Toya this year on July 7, 8 and 9, was not the best.

From Live News Broadcasts, I could see that it was very overcast and dark.

Not the best way to remember this beautiful island of Hokkaido.

When it is clear and sunny, Lake Toya is absolutely stunning in its own natural beauty.

The Windsor Hotel has the best view, because it is located on the highest hill, that surrounds the lake itself.

A Magnificent View from the top.

Will this
34th G8 Summit be remembered as the 3 days which rocked Hokkaido?

Hmmmm,... I wonder. I will be here as usual, 365/24/7 waiting for yet another sunny day, and visiting the Windsor Hotel again, in the very near future.

By the way, a word about the Annual G8 Summits, in general.

Every year, this is a big media event, and that is about all that it is.

Nothing of real importance is decided at the G8 Summits.

All of the really serious issues about how the world will be managed in the near and not so distant future, is decided at the Annual
Bilderberg Summit that is held every year BEFORE the G8 Summit.

What does that tell you?

Exactly! Everything that is really really really important, has already been decided before the annual G8 summit even starts.


Therefore, the top of the top in the Governments of the BIG 8, can relax and talk about family and friends and favorite memories and, etc.

Consider the G8 Summit to be a very short summer vacation in some far and distant land for all the government leaders of the first world countries.

The only disappointment I have about the whole affair this year, was the lousy weather that G. W. Bush and Family, had to suffer through during their very brief visit to Hokkaido.

They arrived in Hokkaido, and left from Hokkaido aboard Air Force One, at Chitose Air Base.

I know that somebody somewhere in Hokkaido, was there on those days to take photos of Air Force One coming into and going out of Chitose Air Base.

I wish I could see those photos.

That would be an excellent adventure, in and of itself.

If you have some, please e-mail me at
snowmanjapan@live.jp

Thanx again!!!

2008/07/26

2008 July 5 Saturday and July 6 Sunday.


Saturday morning starting at 10:30, was my private lesson with the 8 year old girl, who really tries to speak English at every moment during her lessons.

What a pleasure this is for her, and me as well. Today, we used some hand written cards that I made many years ago, to learn words of opposite meaning, ANTONYMS 反意語.

Words such as HOT and COLD, LONG and SHORT, DEEP and SHALLOW, etc. Not only did she learn all of the words, but she used her imagination in coming up with short sentences, that use both words in a meaningful way.

For example, The ocean is DEEP but small rivers are SHALLOW.

Girls have LONG hair, but boys have SHORT hair (not always).

Summer is HOT and WINTER is cold in Hokkaido. And so on and so forth.

It was a very interesting lesson for both her and myself, and when her mother came by my classroom at 11:30 to pick her daughter up, the eight years old girl was surprised to see that ONE HOUR had already passed by, like it was just one wrinkle in time.

The rest of the day I spent watching some interesting BBC documentaries on YOU TUBE, and also playing my black
Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar, UNPLUGGED while listening to some of my favorite POP ROCK CDs on the music player.

It is overcast and rainy today, and not a nice day to be out and around, unless you absolutely have to be.

On Sunday morning, I woke up at about 07:00 and noticed immediately, that it was going to be very hot and humid today.

Yesterday's rain and today's sunny weather were combining to create that heavy, sticky and hot air, which really takes the fight out of me.

Time to close off all the windows, and turn on the cooler.

I have a big job to do today, and you can see what that job was in today's blog photo.

Yep! That's right, A3 sized full color laminated presentation cards, designed to go along with that very well known CHILDREN'S SONG; Mary had a Little Lamb.

What a classic! And so easy for even 3 year olds to understand.

Not only do the words of the song appear on the back of each picture card in both English and Japanese, but I also made three A4 sized handouts, which the kindergarten teachers can use to teach the kids the lyrics, in both English and Japanese.

The entire job took me about 5 hours to complete.

Well worth the effort as I will be using these cards and my acoustic guitar tomorrow morning at めばえ幼稚園 and many more times after that, at various gigs.

FUN FOR HIRE!!! Have Car and Guitar. Will Travel.

2008/07/24

2008 July 1 Tuesday thru July 4 Friday.


Happy Birthday USA! How long has it been now,.....

Let's see the year 2008 minus the year 1776 equals; 232 years as a sovereign nation.

Congratulations.

Try a little harder, and you might rival the glory of the
Roman Empire.

Wait a minute, what am I talking about. Consider China.

How long has that culture been on this planet?

Four thousand some years is what I have heard. Now, that's a long time.

Anyway, July 4 is a National Holiday in the USA, and falling on a Friday this year, you can be sure that a lot of people will be taking a very long and enjoyable 3 day weekend.

Because the month of July is rather hot, in most of the continental USA, there will be lots of outdoor activities including BBQ parties, softball games, volleyball games etc.

The climax of the day is the BIG FIREWORKS DISPLAY 花火大会 in each and every city, town and village, that you might happen to be in, on that day.

In my hometown of Spokane Washington, it is hot and dry every year in July, and the perfect season to get out the pyrotechnics, and enjoy the lights and smoke.

I remember well, how I used to ride my
Schwinn Cherry Picker banana seat bicycle all over the place, visiting the fireworks stands, that sprang up all over the small city of Spokane.

Each and every year, they had something new to offer, plus all of the old favorites that we bought every year.

Another thing that I learned to do, while reading my Encyclopedia Britannica, was how to make gunpowder out of the 3 essential ingredients.

Salt Peter, Sulpher and Charcoal.

I didn't make any explosive devices, only sparklers and fountains that shot out an enormous amount of heat and light, and were not dangerous to the public at large.

Boy, those were the days.

Nowadays, I live in Japan where these type of small fireworks are available for sale to the public at most stores, of any kind, all around Hokkaido.

Oddly enough, even though I had enjoyed this type of activity when I was just a kid in the USA, I have never bought nor used any small scale fireworks in Japan.
I like the big sky burst displays of fireworks much better.

Maybe this is because I have no children of my own, and therefore no real opportunity to buy and use these hand sized fireworks, which are so popular in all parts of Japan.

According to my calendar, there will be a big fireworks display on Sunday July 13 starting at 20:15 near the 北旭川大橋, and then, many more after that date.

Click here for a full schedule of the big fireworks displays in Hokkaido for 2008. See ya there.

2008/07/23

2008 June 30 Monday.


The last day of June and heading into summer full steam ahead.

I will be closing my little classroom for about 3 weeks from July 27 until August 17 so that I can relax Spread Eagle Style in the great outdoors of Hokkaido.

The photo you can see in today's blog is of Oregano Flowering Plants that are located just outside my window along the sidewalk.

In fact, the color of this flower is the same as the color of my laminated signs, that I have taped to my windows.

I made them that way on purpose.

By the way, on last Saturday at about 15:30 while I was walking along the upper cycling road of the Biei River and towards the RyoJin Bridge, I was suddenly and viciously attacked by two crows!

The attack went on for a good five minutes, as I was forced to spin around, walk backwards, walk sideways and flail my arms around above my head.

The two of them were most definitely after me, and I was not very close to their nesting areas, so I know there must be another reason.

Crows have good memories.

Crows reincarnate at a more rapid pace than humans.

These crows remembered me from Kodiak Alaska.

Yiikes!!! What comes around goes around.

I lived for 2 and one half years in Kodiak Alaska, and I must say that there is nothing to do there.

Except, go walking around the hills and valleys and shoot guns and camp out.

There are many dangerous Kodiak Brown Bears all over the island, so it is just common sense to take firearms with you when you go outside of the USCG Air Station gates.

I packed a .357 magnum revolver, and a rifle with me at all times outside of the airbase.

The long gun would be either a Ruger Mini 14 Model .223 caliber semi automatic rifle, or an 8mm Mauser German WWII vintage standard issue rifle, with scope.

Either way, if I had happened to stumble into a bear, I would have had a good chance of surviving.

I never did run into a bear. Never. But, I did bring the firearms with me every time.

So, I started shooting at crows. I must have killed hundreds of them, both from up close and from very far away.

Two of those crows spotted me on Saturday afternoon, and would have shot me too, if only they had guns.

They don't have guns and neither do I, anymore.

The 5 minutes I spent fighting them off, as I slowly walked along the upper cycling road towards the 両神橋 on my way to the BBQ party, made me wish that I had a slingshot.

I could have saved a lot of energy by using an archery type method of self-defense on them.

Crows are big and intelligent birds. They can be noisy and obnoxious, and they do harass my favorite sky rider, the Eagle Hawk 鷹 鳶.

Maybe the eagle hawk and I should join forces to drive away the crows.

Naaaah!, it will never happen. Crows will always be with us.

2008/07/17

2008 June 26 Thursday thru June 29 Sunday.


The warm and sunny weather continues, but on some days, it can be a bit cold at night.

On Thursday, Ikuko wanted to go to the Korean BBQ Restaurant KinKaRo
金花郎 because they have an all you can eat plan on Thursday's only.

There are two KinKaRo Korean BBQ that I know of.

The closest one to our house is on 1 Jodori at about 5 Chome.

It is a short easy walk from our place, but we took a longer detour along the cycling road of the Chubetsu River in order to get some much needed exercise.

When we got there, we we happy to see that there would be no waiting for a table, which is rather unusual because this place is always packed full of hungry people.

We got a nice private booth and started looking at the menu. The all-you-can-eat plan 食べ放題 is 2,700 yen per person, plus drinks.

The all-you-can-drink plan 飲み放題 is 1,290 per person, plus food.
Hmmmm,.... What to do?

Easy choice, get the all-you-can-drink option and then order food as we see fit.

So, that's what we did. While we were there, I recognized one of the waitresses as a former student at my classroom.

She is now about 22 years old, and is going to a technical school in Eniwa, so she can become a Certified Nutritionist.

It was very pleasant to see her again, and she was doing a very good job as a waitress on this evening.

The service was prompt, the food was delicious and the beer was ice cold. Total cost for the evening meal, a little over 7,000 yen.

Not a low price but a fair price. Remember, both locations of this restaurant are almost always full, with people standing in line outside the shop waiting for it to open at 17:00 on weekdays and 16:00 on weekends.

Another excellent example, of a very well run small business that makes money hand over fist.

Ikuko and I, will certainly go there again and again.

My Friday morning class at the
Dokan Nusring School was a lot of fun as usual.

Today we enacted a skit about buying some sunglasses and asking for a discount and then a bigger discount.

I was the shop owner and the students played the part of the customer.

I call each and every student by name, and they have to do the skit either once, twice or thrice until they have completely memorized, all of their lines.

I gave them the script about two weeks ago, so most of them got it right on their first try.

Sometimes, I will attempt to throw the students off of their mental balance by saying something that is not written in the script.

For example, the first line in the skit is the shop owner saying; "Welcome! How may I help you today?"

But sometimes I say it in Korean as; "O So O Se Yo!"

The idea here, is to get the student to stop and think and hopefully respond with; "Do you speak English?"

To which I say; "Yes, I do. May I help you?" and then the skit continues.

Of course, some of the students speak English better than other students, and they will Ad Lib during the skit, making it much more interesting and enjoyable for everyone.

On Saturday at about noon, I received a telephone call from an old friend, inviting Ikuko and myself to an outdoor BBQ party at his house.

Ikuko already had plans to go to Sapporo and attend some type of seminar about making money as an internet affiliate website, so I went to the BBQ party by myself.

The person who invited me and Ikuko to come over to his house today, is a
long time restaurant owner in Asahikawa, and he always has the best ingredients for his BBQ parties.

Again, this location is within easy walking distance from my home, so I took a stroll in the very warm afternoon sun.

I even was able to stop at an old time Rice Wine Shop and pick up 2 bottles of 男山笹おり all malt rice wine at a premium price, and bring it with me to the party.
Mr. Baba has two grandchildren, both of whom I have not met in about 2 years. Kids grow up fast.

The granddaughter was especially looking bigger and more like a girl, than a baby.

She and I spent most of the party time feeding watermelon rinds to the many black ants walking around on the asphalt, and later hide and seek with her inside the house running from window to window on the first floor, and I trying to locate her with my eyes, as I sat next to her mother and the other guests outside, drinking the best nectar and eating the best foods, while they talked about things of which I know not, and while I played at a distance with a very cute and lively girl.

Human Relations. You don't need a PhD to figure it out.

After the party was winding down at whatever time it was, I walked back home across the bridge and went to bed, almost immediately.

Ikuko wasn't home yet, because she took the last train from Sapporo to Asahikawa.

I went to bed and slept quite well, thank you.

I didn't get out of bed on Sunday until about 10:30, and didn't get around to checking my email until about 13:00, because I was very dug in at my Private Hokkaido.

When I did check my email, I discovered that Charlie Hamel had sent me a message about a Festival in HigashiKawa Town.

I didn't know anything about this event, so I called Charlie and left a message on his answering machine.

It turns out that there is a festival with fireworks at the the HigashiKawa Forest Park 東神楽森林公園 during most of Sunday.

Ikuko and I both had risen early, and gone to bed late on Saturday, so we had to decline the Hamel Family's generous invitation, and stay at home tonight.

Summer has just only begun.

There will be many more opportunities to get out and enjoy the warm weather, during the next several months.

I Can't Wait to see what happens next.