Elementary Christmas Cards 小学校クリスマスカード

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Today after teaching a Christmas lesson to one of my favorite 3rd year classes at my elementary, the kids took me by surprise!
Soon as i finished the farewell, they all ran up to me at once pushing dozens of Christmas cards they had written for me into my hands!

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I thought this one was cute. My Japanese isn’t amazing but it basically says.

Dear Daniel,
English classes are fun, even though I don’t understand any English at all!
I now understand because the explanation was clear.
Please continue to teach me in the future.

All of the feels!

Kobe Luminarie (神戸ルミナリエ)

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Kobe Luminarie 神戸ルミナリエ has been a grand event held in Sannomiya the central district of Kobe, for around 2 weeks every December since 1995.

The lights were donated by the Italian government to commemorate the Great Hanshin Earthquake which had devastated much of Kobe that year, resulting in the deaths of around 4600 residents.

The display includes around 200,000 hand painted lights which have been lit every year as a tourist attraction to draw people back to Kobe after the disaster. In addition the event acts as a fundraiser to help cover the 100 billion dollars of damages that were caused by the Earthquake.

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Unfortunately I missed out of seeing the lights last year,as the event conflicted with my return to Australia over the Christmas break. This year however I was lucky enough to check it out with my good mate Pete!

Around this time of the year, glancing at my Facebook feed, it seems like pretty much every JET in Kobe seems to head over at some point, take the exact same photos and upload an album of them :p

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Protip: If you are attending this event, don’t be a stooge and line up with the masses!
Especially on the weekends people will wait for hours and hours just to walk down the shopping street!
The thing about Japan is the average person here doesn’t really break the rules, so there is little to no security at things like this. If you simply just walk along parallel to the enormous lines of people, there is really nothing stoping the clever of us from just slipping into the river of people at the entrance of the event.

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Tropical Japan: Adventures in Ishigaki 石垣島

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For the last week of natsuyasumi 夏休み (summer break) a couple friends and I headed off to Ishigaki Island 石垣島, one of the smaller less populated islands of Okinawa 沖縄, for a little adventure travel and R&R in paradise!

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Our journey began last Monday evening on the last bus to Osaka International Airport from Kobe. If you find yourself with a flight departing prior to around 10am (ours was 7:20am), shacking up overnight in the airport is the only way to hope to make it in time!
Although not being what one might think to be the most comfortable or classiest of nights, if you borrow some blankets from the information desk and find a nice dim spot it’s not a half bad way to grab a little shut eye.

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We opted to stay in a cheap little youth hostel called Iriwa on the inaka side of the island, although located a little far from society at only 2000円 a night who can complain! The website is below.
http://iriwa.org/about-english.html

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In order to compensate for our location, we rented a car from said hostel for the week to explore the island. At only 3000円 a day it lived up to our expectations of what you might receive from such an appropriately priced vehicle.

Seemingly held together with rust and duct-tape we soon named the little guy gokiburi kaa ゴキブリカー (cockroach car)!
As shortly after departing for the first time we were soon attacked by several cockroaches! this led to the conclusion that the only way to justify the number we encountered within the interior, was that a nest of the insects must have been hidden away in its rusted doors!

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With a car at our disposal exploring the island even from our some what remote location was no trouble. We spent evenings watching sunsets on beaches sipping cool beers, dinning upon fancy local cuisine and chilling in the common room of our hostel.
Days we explored ishigaki and its neighboring islands, some of exciting activities we got up to included swimming in waterfalls, snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, canyoning and cycling! Basically ALLTHE EXERCISE!

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On a final note here is some of there awesome omiyage (gifts) I picked for my coworkers! These beniimo taruto 紅芋タルト (purple yam tarts) are particularly popular as local fare so I grabbed a box sparing a couple extra for my own nommings! Basically just a tart base with a fluffy purple sweetened yam filling, delicious town! It was hard to part with them when the time came to hand them out!

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Not that I have visited Naha yet but from why I have heard Ishigai offers a much more rural and isolated experience of Japanese island culture in Okinawa. To be honest there were times when I forgot I was in Japan all together, quite a lot of scenery and tired little towns looked like they belonged in south east Asia.

That’s not to say I don’t recommend the experience 100%, just bring a long a couple good friends, a pocket full of yen to burn and the spirit of adventure!

This Is Why I Love Summer Vacation!

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So I was quite ecstatic when the coach of the track and field club (who I have been training with everyday) finally asked me to go swimming with the students this morning. The school pool has sat tantalizingly cool and refreshing across from my desk but realistically a world away up until now!
Anyhow I just finished up spending the last 90minutes swimming with my kids, playing games and whatnot. Now with what feels like retinal chemical burns, it’s painfully clear why the boys laughed at me when I said I didn’t need goggles…… Shouganai live and learn ^^;

Cycling The Awaji Longride 150 (淡路島ロングライド150)

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Having become quite the avid cyclist since arriving in Japan, recently along with a couple similarly crazy friends we decided to tackle the ‘Awaji long-ride 150’ (淡路島ロングライド150) an annual 150km bike marathon around the island of Awaji 淡路島.

For those that don’t know of Awaji island it sits neatly in between connecting 2 of Japan’s 4 major islands Honshū and Shikoku. Being very close to Kobe particularly where I live if you’re facing south it’s likely you will catch a glimpse of it on the horizon!

The island is separated from Honshū by the Akashi Strait and from Shikoku by the Naruto Strait. As of April 1998 it has been connected to Kobe on Honshū by the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge 明石海峡大橋, at almost 2km in length it is the longest suspension bridge in the world (no surprise I can see clearly from my school).

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How to get there:
I person cycled to Akashi City 明石市 as its only about 7km from my house, however here is a little diagram showing how much to expect to pay if your taking public transport.
There is a ferry from there that cyclists can use to take their bikes over, as the bridges which connect Awaji with other islands are exclusive open to cars.
One way tickets for adults can be purchased for 450円 and a bike ticket for an additional 200円.

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Here’s a pic of the Awaji team (minus our photographer Pete) on the 7am ferry. We departed on the day from Gakuentoshi at around 6:15am, arriving to Awaji within 20 minutes (it’s all downhill).

It was stepping off the ferry on Awaji that the real challenge began, for the most part the ride is quite straight forward and flat, we chose to go around clockwise as the few mountains that Awaji does have around the coast, are primarily on the eastern side of the island.
After a long morning and about 70km of varying giant hills and flats we all met up in the town of Fukura 福良 at around 1pm for lunch, as this is about the halfway point I would recommend it for a stopover, that said the variety of eateries leaves much to be desired (コンビニましょう?!).

Now our ragtag team all had varying bikes (mines actually a mountain bike) and varying skill levels, unlike the professional looking teams in matching outfits we saw perpetually overtaking us. So for more than half of the ride I found myself alone with the road, it certainly gave me a good 13-14hours or so to think (and sweat). By the time we all arrived back at the ferry port having completed the 150km loop the sun had long since set and we managed go jump on the 8:10pm ferry home.

Despite our fatigue and burning asses we decided to man up and tackle the final 7km from Awaji back to Gakuentoshi. We headed straight for a nearby izakaya 居酒屋 (Japanese style bar) where after one beer the long 165km or so of riding finally caught up with us and we all realized the sooner we were in bed the better (I actually fell asleep in my chair :p).

Anyhow it was a crazy 15 hours or so of pain, however I couldn’t recommend it highly enough if your an avid biker in Japan! In fact my morning ride to school now seems far easier since (it might just be in my head), next challenge……. Lake Biwa!!

The Most Handsome Man in Space

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It’s been one of those shougakkou 小学校 (elementary school) days that are bad for my ego.
Three of my san nen 三年生 (third grade) girls got in a heated argument that ended in an epic janken battle!
Kana: Daniel you are the most handsome man (lit:イケメン) in Japan.
Hana: No you’re wrong, he’s No. 1 in the whole world.
Ayumi: No no no, in all of space too!

tl;dr According to 8yr olds I’m the most handsome man in space!

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 15 Gomatamago ごまたまご

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Welcome to another instalment of the Mochi Diaries, Chapter 15 Gomatamago ごまたまご! Once again these guys really aren’t mochi but in fact intricately designed cakes, however they are omiyage お土産 nonetheless and so kawaii I couldn’t resist!!!

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During my last top to Tokyo 東京 I picked a box of Gomatamago ごまたまご (Lit. Black Sesame Egg) cakes on my way home as the packaging intrigued me. Furthermore Gomatamago are a meibutsu 名物 (Specialty product) of the Tokyo region, so it’s not as if I would have the opportunity to purchase them again in the near future.

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As far as omiyage go these are on the pricy side of things at 700円 for a box containing 8 pieces, that said they are each individually wrapped and sizeable.

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The centre is a sweet paste consisting of kurogoma 黒胡麻 (Black sesame seeds) and anko 餡子 (red bean paste) which is supposed to constitute the ‘yolk’ of the egg…… Perhaps they are piitan 皮蛋 (Chinese century eggs) ( ^ω^ ).

This ‘yolk’ is then coated in a thin layer of kasutera カステラ (castella cake), a type Japanese cake originating in Nagasaki through trade with the Portuguese in 16th century that is immensely popular here. Finally the tamago is coated in a thin layer of white-chocolate to form a delicious crispy ‘shell’!

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All in all I was quite impressed by this tasty treat, I imagine they to well hand in hand with a cup of afternoon tea.
The centre retained a perfect level of moistness and was not overly sweet.
If your ever in Tokyo give a box a try! 4/5

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