2008 May 18 Sunday.

Today was the first day of this year, that felt like an early summer's day.

Warm and sunny, with very little wind.

At about 12:00, I called Charlie Hamel, to see if he was up for a bicycle ride.

He said he was ready to go, so I packed my mountain bike into my Toyota Noah, and drove from Asahikawa up to Shibinai, using the back roads as much as possible.

The way I always go there is as follows; First I get onto Route 237 and drive towards Biei.

After driving for 19.5 kilometers and just before the hill known as 美瑛坂, there is a sharp turnoff to the left which says 志比内 旭岳温泉 天人峡.

I turn left there and get onto Route 213, which will take me right to the intersection nearest the Shibinai Elementary School, after driving for another 14 kilometers.

The nice thing about taking this route, is that there are no traffic lights anywhere along route 213.

It is also a very scenic drive that I enjoy every time.

I arrived at Charlie's house and was greeted by some of the kids who were playing outside.

When Charlie came out of his house, he told me that he had a present for me.

I went inside to take a look, and was pleasantly surprised to see a hot-air-popcorn-popper, and several kilograms of raw popcorn!

Before the Hamel Family left Texas for Hokkaido, they sent me an email and asked me if I wanted them to buy me anything in the USA that I can't easily get in Asahikawa.

I thought about it for a few days, and then realized that I have been eating pre-popped popcorn, that I buy for about 100 yen per bag, at the local supermarket.

I love popcorn, but nothing tastes better than fresh popped popcorn, that is warm and fragrant, and full of life.

Therefore, I asked them to get me the above mentioned products.

Thank you!!! I really appreciate it!

Charlie and I saddled up, and got onto the road at about 13:30.

We rode on Route 213 which leads up to the ChuBetsu Dam, ChuBetsu Lake and then on to the Y in the road, where you can take a right towards TenNinKyo, OR take a left towards AsahiDake OnSen.

We didn't ride that far.

We turned off of the main road, and drifted on down into the base of the very large, ChuBetsu Dam.

See the photo above/left for details.

While we were there, we got rained on a bit.

Then, we got back on the main road, and back towards ShiBiNai, but this time along the gravel-lined elevated river embankments, that are everywhere, on this island.

A slightly bumpy, but very scenic way to ride.

We continued along the scenic route until we got back on the main road, for the remaining short ride to the 第一遊水地.

This has recently become a public park, with a very nice park golf course, right next door.

Also in this area, are some really nice looking private homes, newly built and mostly in a Northern European style.

Some of the places also have, huge beautiful gardens.

A very nice place to live, for a very long time.

After looking around that area in a somewhat casual manner, Charlie and I rode back over to his house, about 4 kilometers away.

We were both slightly afflicted with either leg pain, or butt pain.

I was the one with the butt pain.

After sitting on Charlie's flat porch in the late afternoon sun, while having water-blaster gun-fights with the local kids, for about 20 minutes, I drove back home along the same route that I had come.

Along the way, I got rained on, but only for a few moments.

The brief rain storm both felt good, and smelled fresh.

After I arrived back home at about 16:20, I immediately started a beer and BBQ party for Ikuko and myself.

Today's menu; Indian Curry Marinated Chicken Breast with Giant Green Onion blocks.

Slowly roasted over a charcoal grill, with Yebisu Gold All Malt Beer.

While we were lounging around on the second floor balcony and watching all the people and cars go by, the head chef of the soba noodle restaurant came outside from the main entrance and walked along the front of the building and then around the side and into the back door.

While he was doing so, I looked up at us and said; KONNICHIWA!
I held up the big tall cold boy in my right hand salute fashion, and returned the greeting.

Then he said; "That food you're cooking smells good."

I said; "Thank you. I won't steal any of your customers!"

We both laughed and went about our business.

It's great to have friendly neighbors.


2008 May 13 Tuesday thru May 17 Saturday.

Another long week of many classes and not so friendly weather.

Along with my regular teaching schedule, I had an interview at the Asahikawa City Hall Foreign Relations Division.

The purpose of the interview was to generate content, to be used in a monthly newsletter that is produced by the Asahikawa International Committee.

You can visit their website by
clicking here.

I was interviewed by a young gentleman named Brendon, who said he is from California, near Los Angles.

He asked me a series of about 14 or 15 questions, which the interviewer had devised by himself, after looking around on this website.

In fact, the way he contacted me in the first place was by sending me an email to the address listed on the top page.

The title of the newsletter article is; Hello Asahikawa!, and it will also appear on the website at
this page.

Most likely it will be in the June 2008 issue.

About 10 years ago, I was asked to write a short essay for this very same newsletter.

It wasn't an interview, and they didn't have a website at that time.

I'd like to share it with my readers right now but, I can't find a copy of my WORD document on which I wrote it.

Basically, I said that; I really like living in Asahikawa, because the city is not too big and not too small, it is close to the big nature of the mountains and the seas, and the people are very open and friendly.

That is the gist of what I said, at that time.

I still feel the same way today.

Some things never change.

Anyway, also working at the same office as Brendon, is one of my long time students.

She has been coming to my classroom a lot longer, than she has been working at this office, but I know she can do a good job at her new position in the office of the foreign relations division for the City of Asahikawa.

One thing that impressed me about Brendon, is his knowledge of the Japanese Language.

Speaking, reading and writing, seems to be a daily necessity for his life and job.
He told me that he had studied Japanese at the university and had come to
Japan on the JET Program, in order to make practical use of what he had learned while living in the USA.

Now, that's a man with a plan. Rock on big guy!

On a different subject, the photos you can see above/left were taken on May 4th, 2000.
This is the 上雨粉林道 which is a rather long mountain bike trip from my place in Kagura.

I haven't been to this area on a bicycle ride for a long time, but I think it might be a place where I should ride through again, this year.

At the time that this photo was taken, there were not many insects in the air, yet.

If you come back to this location in summer, don't forget to bring some bug repellent.

There are huge horsefly looking critters, that draw visible blood when biting human flesh.

Speaking of mountain biking, Charlie Hamel and I have been talking about going together on a serious riding adventure, but somehow, I haven't been able to get my ass in gear, and get going.

To tell ya all the truth, I haven't done any serious cycling for about 2 long years.

One of the reasons, is because Ikuko likes walking much better than cycling, so if I wanna go out with her, I've gotta hoof it.

However, now that Charlie is here and ready to ride, I need to fix my flat tire, tune up the gear cables and get back on the road.

I thought that day, might be today, but I was wrong.

After my only class for today was finished at 11:30, I sat down to eat a big lunch of 冷やしラーメン.

Made last night by Ikuko, and still plenty of leftovers, for lunch today.

I ate it slowly, while watching some documentaries on You Tube.

About 90 minutes later, when I was finished eating, and ready to ride down to my friendly bike dealer's store for a patch job and a tune up,...... THUNDER and LIGHTNING.

What are the chances of that?

No cycling for today. Maybe tomorrow?

Maybe not, but I do wanna drive upstream to Shibinai, and visit with
Charles Hamel and Family.

We both have lots of other mutual hobbies, that we can enjoy together.

I'll call ya tomorrow at about 12:00 noon, my friend.

Hope to see you all again real soon.


2008 May 12 Monday.

The photo on the left, is yet another excellent picture from the very well organized website, Rambling on my Hokkaido.

This is a snapshot of MiKuniToge 三国峠, which is about a 60 - 90 minutes drive from the center of Asahikawa.

From this angle, it looks like a rather dangerous drive along that very high and winding road.

When you actually drive across it though, it's NOT that scary. Although, it really should be.

Speaking of scary, I went to the Young Buds Kindergarten again today, for the first class of the new school year.

Naturally, I met all of the 1st year students 年少.

Most of them were calm and relaxed, but a few of them were very anxious and frightened, and feeling the whole gamut of childish emotions.

This happens to everyone, when you suddenly realize, that your mommy and daddy will not always be at your side, 24/7/365.

And that's just the beginning of a life story.

One of the girls in the new class, has lived in an English Speaking Country for more than one year, and she could understand everything I said, during our short lesson.

Another young girl came up to me to shake my hand, at the end of the lesson, just like all of the others, but she also gave me a big hug, and a kiss on the left cheek.

It was so sweet.

Please don't tell Ikuko, about this kiss and tell, story.

After that was all finished at about 12:00 noon, I drove back to my classroom to make and eat some more of that red soup Korean style ramen that I sometimes make for myself.

Starting at 13:00, I was back at the 神楽公民館英会話を楽しむ会.

I started off the conversation circle today, by talking about my boring Golden Week.

Usually, I travel far and wide around Hokkaido during GW, but this year I didn't, because of various reasons, as noted in my previous blogs.

Almost everyone else in the group had a travel tale to tell, and one young lady in particular, had prepared an interesting quiz, about how to read the names of some small towns and villages along Route 142, that runs between 釧路町 and 厚岸町 in Eastern Hokkaido.

I don't have enough time to reproduce all of the アイヌ語当て字語(漢字) here in this blog, but if you have a copy of the very detailed Hokkaido Super Mapple, somewhere in your home, you can look at it, and see for yourself.

I couldn't read 90% of the place names that she wrote upon the white board.

That was a great presentation Mrs. I!

Please do another one again sometime.


2008 May 10 Saturday and May 11 Sunday.

Saturday morning started at 10:30, when I had a one hour private lesson with an 8 year old girl, who comes to my classroom every week at this time.

Last week she didn't come, because she and her family went down to Tokyo and Yokohama during Golden Week, to see some relatives and do some sightseeing.

During that time, she visited Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea, along with some other amusement parks in Yokohama.

This week when she came to class, she told me all about her adventures IN ENGLISH!

She even drew some illustrations of what she had seen and experienced during her trip.

This very intelligent little lady, is one of the very few children who come to my classroom, who actually tries to use English as her first language, when she is with me.

We almost never speak Japanese to each other. Amazing.

After that lesson was finished, I made some really hot and spicy Korean Ramen for lunch.

It is my own very simple recipe and I would never think of making it for someone else, but I must admit that I really do love to eat stuff, made with lots of hot red peppers.

I'm not sure why that is, but it IS.

I was hoping that I could drive out to ShiBiNai and visit with Charles Hamel and family, but Charlie was busy helping one of his neighbors, set up a new restaurant.

A very neighborly and noble thing to do.

Maybe I should have gone out there to help them, but I was more interested in playing the guitar, again today.

Since about 2 or 3 weeks ago, I have been getting back into an artist from Great Britain, whom I have been listening to since about 1984.

When I lived in the USA, I had many of his albums on cassette tapes, and I would spend countless hours listening to his music and playing along on both electric and acoustic guitars.

Again this Saturday, I used You Tube to find the songs I love, and my acoustic guitar to play along with the rhythms and melodies.

The British Musician to whom I am referring is
Al Stewart.

You can see a You Tube video of him and his band, performing his original song,

The Last Days of the Century, by clicking on his name above.
Later on, I also played around on the Alto Recorder, and just for fun.

Sunday was Mothers' Day.

Of which I had completely forgotten about until about 10:30 am on Sunday Morning, when Ikuko reminded me of it.

My mother and father are both deceased now, and the only bloodline family member whom is still slaving away on prison planet, is my skinny little sister, who lives in Seattle.

She is not a mother, so I didn't send her a greeting card.

We were mainly concerned with Ikuko's mother, who is still active and healthy, and living not too far away from us.

That's why Ikuko remembered that today is Mothers' Day, and I didn't.

To make up for my forgetfulness, I have thrown together a haphazard digital greeting card, to post in this blog.

You can see my less than diligent results, above/left.

Tomorrow, I get to play my guitar at the Young Buds Kindergarten めばえ幼稚園.

I am well prepared, and looking forward to it.

I think we will start with the ABC SONG, and work our way UP from there.


2008 May 5 Monday thru May 9 Friday.

Monday and Tuesday were both National Holidays so I had no classes to teach.

The weather during this entire five days can be characterized as cold, wet and windy.

I even saw a few snowflakes from time to time.

Well, that's the north country for ya.

Because of the consecutive holidays, I was able to make a new set of Question and Answer Cards, that are designed to be used together with my original textbook for elementary school students.

After the students have memorized all 12 pages of the textbook, the cards are used to test the learning comprehension of the students, by presenting the entire contents of the textbook, one question at a time, in completely random order.

This method, really puts the frosting on the cake.

It took me many hours over several days to finish all of the cards, but now that I have them, I can use them over and over again for many years to come.

Invest Time in Yourself. Turn off the boob tube. Watch You Tube instead.

Starting again Wednesday, it was back to a full schedule of classes throughout each day.

And it continued to be cold and windy, especially at night.

That's usually when Ikuko and I go for our walks. Not this week.

It will get warmer soon, but my snow tires will stay attached until the third week in May.

I have seen it snow here before, as late as May 18.

The hot times are still a month or so away.

When that season comes, we can really get down and go for some long drives, with overnight camp outs, and MEGA Star Gazing.

Bring on the Summer. Bring on the Night.


2008 May 2 Friday thru May 4 Sunday.

The last day of classes before Golden Week.

On Friday, I went to the Dokan Nursing School from 9:00 until 10:30, for a 90 minute class with one half of the second year students.

Today I split the class into 3 groups of 6 students each, and one group of 2 students plus me.

We did page one of my original textbook called Q&A.

It was a most interesting and enjoyable lesson for the students, and myself.

After that, I had straight classes from 15:00 until 20:30 at my classroom.

On Saturday, I had originally planned to drive down to Otaru, and spend the night at the 道の駅 (MaxValue 24/7) so that I could go to Otaru Beer and see the Palosiks do three live stage shows.

However, I got an email from a former student inviting me to a BBQ party at Kagura Oka Park on that same day, so I went to the BBQ party instead.

When I got to Kagura Oka Park, I was rather surprised to see that almost all of the cherry blossoms, had already fallen to the ground.

A bit early in the season for that, in Asahikawa.

Nonetheless, there were many other people gathered in the park for exactly the same reason.

While I was at the BBQ party, I was introduced to a guy who appeared to be about 25 or 26 years old.

When I said; "Hello, nice to meet you." He didn't say anything in response.

In fact, he didn't even look up at me.

I have seen this behavior in some very young children before, but almost never in "ADULTS".

Even as the BBQ Party continued for the next 2 hours, this guy said almost nothing, to anyone, the whole time.

He reminded me of my skinny little sister, who is very self-conscious (immature), and is unable to look people in the eyes, when talking to them.

In the case of my little sister, this is mainly because she was pampered 甘やかしてる and over-protected 過保護 all of her life.

Physically she got older, but mentally, she never grew up.

She probably never will, because she doesn't have to until,.... it becomes a tree to weak to stand.

See photo above/left for details.

Anyway, it was a bit windy, but it didn't rain at Saturday's BBQ Party.

I ate a lot of meat and drank a lot of beer, as I usually do at BBQ parties.

Not a very well balanced diet for the day, but rather enjoyable anyway.

Until the next day on Sunday.

On Sunday, Ikuko and I were planning to drive down to Otaru and spend the night, as per my previous plan for Saturday, but I had a huge stomach ache all day long, and certainly did not feel like driving, even for a short distance.

Trip Cancelled. Maybe some other time.


2008 May 1 Thursday.

The first day of May. Also known as May Day.

I don't know the details of this annual event, but it seems to have something to do with labor unions.

Also, it is the mid-point between the Spring Equinox 春分の日 and the Summer Solstice 夏至.

This has much more meaning for me, that anything having to do with some type of International Labor Movement, or whatever.

Anyway, I didn't have any classes today until 15:00, so I used my free time to do many things around my classroom and living room.

One of the things that I did was to make a new signboard 看板 for the windows of my classroom.

Big signboards can be very expensive.

But, by using a PC, an ink jet printer and a laminating machine, the small business owner, can save a ton of money.

Not only that, but you can get the exact results that you want, by Doing It Yourself (DIY).

I am very particular about the colors and designs that I use to advertise my little old classroom.

The laminated signs that I had taped to my classroom windows for about 4 years, have become color faded and hard to read.

Therefore, I decided to make completely new ones, using the same colors and design as before.

This is not difficult, but it does take time.

So, while I was printing out the new sheets of paper on my ink jet printer, I was also cleaning up the classroom and living room areas.

I often use a wet rag to wipe the surfaces of tables, chairs and other appliances.
Today, while using one wet rag for clean up, I absent mindedly left another rag in the bathroom sink, with the cold water running at full blast.

I was out in the other room, putting a sheet of paper into the printer, so as to print out the next letter of my signboard.

About one minute later when I went back into the bathroom area to get the wet rag, I discovered to my horror, that the rag had floated up into the overflow prevention drain holes near the top of the bathroom sink, thus blocking them.

As a result, a copious amount of cold water was running out over the top of the sink and down onto the floor below, and in all directions.

Oh my Gawwwwwwd!

I immediately turned off the water and unplugged the drain.

I grabbed a mop and started to mop up the excess water.

It was more than my little mop could handle.

About 2 minutes later, someone was ringing my classroom doorbell.

It was one of the office staff members from the first floor.

He said that water was leaking from my room down into a corner of the kitchen, of the restaurant which is directly below me.

Aw Xit!!! This time I have screwed up BIG TIME.

I told the man that I was taking care of the problem, and went back to using my mop.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that my big WET/DRY Vacuum Cleaner, would do a much better and much quicker job of sucking up the excess water.

So, I got it out and went to work.

In about 2 minutes, I had all of the excess water sucked up off of the floor, ensuring that no more would leak down to the kitchen below me.

At that point, I walked downstairs and in through the back door of the soba noodle restaurant to inquire about any water damage that I may have caused by my absent-minded behavior.

The boss of this restaurant and I, both recognize each other immediately, by our physical appearances, so he was not too surprised to see me inside his kitchen.

I anxiously asked him; "Did a lot of water leak down from my room into this kitchen?" He replied; "No, not much." Thank Gawd, I thought to myself.

Then I asked; "Did any water leak into the dining room area?"

He answered; "No, none at all."

I felt very relived to hear that.

I make mistakes, from time to time, as all humanoids do, but I always learn something new from any mistake.

Don't DO IT that way again, IS the basic message, from any mistake.

Lesson Learned, time to move on.

Golden Week, is just around the corner.

Time to kick back and relax.



2008 April 21 Monday thru April 30 Wednesday.

The third week of back to school, and the end of the first month of spring.

April is an interesting month.

One day it will be very warm, say up to about 17 degrees Celsius and then on that very same day, during the nighttime, it can get down to -5 degrees Celsius.

That is a rather large change in temperature for just 24 hours, don't you think?

Not only that, but April has its fair share of cold and rainy days as well.

If you live closer to the mountains, you may even see some snowflakes falling out of the sky, from time to time.

For some folks, April 29 which is now known as ShoWa No Hi 昭和の日, is the start of Golden Week for 2008.

In fact, on Wednesday April 30, I was absent minded enough to drive all the way out to the Kosei Nursing School, in order to teach my English class to the first year students, only to discover that there was almost nobody at the school.

When I got to the teacher's lounge, and opened my folder, I discovered that today and tomorrow and every day after that until May 7, is an extended holiday for all of the students.

Imagine the surprise of the very few staff members who were at the school on that day, when they saw me walking around in the building.

I was surprised too, but I shouldn't have been.

After I got back home and looked at my own personal schedule book again, I was amazed to discover that I had NOT written down that a KNS class was scheduled for April 30!

Even though I should have double checked my schedule book the night before, for some reason I did not, and had ASSUMED that I did indeed have a class on April 30.

You know what they say about the word ASSUME; "It makes an ASS out of yoU and ME."

Yeah, it sure did that today.

Jeez, what an idiot I was.

However, being located all the way out in East Asahikawa 東旭川, and not far from the Asahiyama Zoo 旭山動物園, I took advantage of my huge blunder and drove over to take a look at the zoo, from outside of the gate.

Apparently, they open the zoo at 9:00, because there were a lot of guardsmen standing around directing traffic, as people were lining up to get into the zoo.

A lot of tour buses were also heading for the East Gate of the zoo.

Being rather cold and overcast today, is not the best day to visit the zoo, but if you have come all the way from Taiwan or Korea to Asahikawa, it's a good day, because it is not raining.

Say hello to all of the friendly animals for me.

I'll come back again, on another day.