Wednesday, June 11, 2008

May's Best of Hokkaido; Part I

My mom's much anticipated arrival in Japan was finally here ! Her first week was spent in the village and touring neighboring towns. A hike to the top of the ski hill gives May a good look at our home for the past 10 months.Shawn's Board of Education workmates threw a welcome party just for May.
Jinpe, the local deer hunter, keeps the Sapporo flowing and cooks up some delicious wasabi venison. The shika was taken that week by his wife Ryoko.
This was a great introduction to Japanese social culture complete with sake hangovers the next day.

I was happy to have May here for my Thursday English cooking class.
May holds Sora as Chihiro teaches her, "Itadakemas", spoken before meals which means, "I gratefully receive it".

Today's recipe, lasagna. Here's me going over the recipe before we get started. I refrain from telling them that I myself have never made lasagna before.
Chizuko surprises us with a home-made pasta and cottage cheese demonstration.
Chizuko pretty much rocks and has become the darling of this blog, second only to Nova of course.

The lasagna was a delicious success.
May spent her birthday in Japan this year. Her only request, that we spend it outside.
Our amazing and stunningly handsome chauffeur, Chaunces (aka Shawn), drove us half an hour east to Takinoue to view the famous Shiba Sakura, pink carpet flowers.
It really does feel like a carpet! This place was amazing even after peak season.
Lots of Nova/May love-fest action throughout the trip. We just couldn't get over the fact that she was really here with us!
I was told that these flowers were planted by one man starting in 1957.
In Takinoue we visited a Shinto shrine.
May observes the custom of washing her hands before entering the shrine grounds.
Nova crosses over a bridge flanked by her two spirit animals.....
Born in the year of the horse, on the left. And under the sign of Taurus, the bull, to the right. A dynamic duo of strength for sure.
Her special connection with shrine deities continues.

The superintendent of schools, Kamaya-san, invited us to his home to welcome my mom. It was a great honor to be invited. Mrs. Kamaya put on an amazing spread of traditional Japanese foods. Mr. Kamaya and May share a passion for birding. It wasn't long before the Guide to Birds of Hokkaido was being referenced. Sharing bird calls soon replaced the awkwardness of any language barrier. The Kamayas ended the evening with Macha, green tea, preparation. I got to show off my Macha whisking skills for May. She took a special interest in the ritual of it all.

Here we are admiring a display of plastic food at the mall. A true art form and easy way to order. The Jr. High school English class surprised May with a wonderful welcome presentation.
Saki wows us with her excellent English in a warm welcome speech. Afterward, students were invited to ask May questions about American culture. What is your favorite anime, what is your favorite baseball team, what are the biggest differences between American and Japanese culture? May did a wonderful, gracious job in answering.

Kikuchi-san, one of the middle school teachers is also a Kendo-sensei.
She and her students put on an awesome demonstration for us.
Kendo means "way of the sword". Its purpose, among other things is to mold the mind and body, to cultivate a vigorous spirit and forever pursue the cultivation of oneself. Very zen.
Surprise, now it's your turn May!
Kikuchi-sensei helped May don traditional Kendo clothing as Kurata-sensei looks on.
Bogu, protective body armor is worn. The torso (do), head (men) and forearms (kote) are the three Kendo strike zones. Before a strike, the name of the intended zone is strongly cried out.
May gets strapped in to her helmet and face guard. She was such a good sport and giggled with Kikuchi-sensei the whole time.
The shinai, bamboo practice sword, is held at an angle while one foot slides forward followed by the other in an advance toward your opponent.
We cheered May on as she delicately tapped her opponant on the head, tentatively calling out, "men!". I think her adversary got off easy this time.
Yatta, you did it! After the practice, May was presented with a garland of origami cranes made by students, which brought tears to her eyes.
Thank you so very much to all the Jr. High school English students,their senseis and all the people of Nishiokoppe for making my mom's time in the village an unforgettable and heartwarming experience. We felt proud to call this place home and introduce May to the friends we have made.