Hip Hopers Decmeber 2010
Last night was the last class of our first term of Japanese hip hop. I have to say Monday is my favorite day of the week simply because I have this class to look forward to. It is hilarious how bad I am but the fun we have means I barely notice how awkward my moves are! I do the class with Nicole and Jackie and lots of Japanses of all ages, shapes and sizes. Up the front are the young extremely slick kids, they simply blow you away with their talent. Not only do they dance extremely well with no effort at all but they dress like pro’s. Down the back of the class there are some dodgy mummy’s doing half ballet half hip hop but none the less enjoying the exercise. We stand about half way. (But no matter where I stand you can see my head pop over everyone else’s in the mirrors!) We have three great pals that we have made, two are students from Nishi Koko, one 1st grader Rui that I teach, then a third grader called Misaki and also her younger sister Yuka who is at junior high school, these kids are amazing fun to mess with and really make the class. They help us lots and often try to teach us some of their insane tricks. We completed our dance last night, which was to the song ‘Hottie Tottie’ by Usher. Very funny I know. I’d have to say we struggled a lot in the beginning, I had to practice in school on my free periods to simply remember the moves but we can perform an entire dance now. We may not be as good as the front row kids but I am rather impressed we have fulfilled the task and have memorized the insane dance! All I can say on my behalf is what was learnt in hip hop stays in hip hop! I cannot wait to start next term and I am far too excited to hear what song we will be busting moves to.
I heard many things about Aomori and its apples before I came here. I heard they were the biggest, tastiest and most beautiful fruits grown for miles. Well yes, they sure are.
I never knew I could become so fascinated by a fruit I have eaten yet barely noticed for years. These apples are grown for you to appreciation, they are not your average ‘pink lady’ that you wolf down while running to the bus but in fact they are bursting with flavor so delicious it makes you sit down, peel and cut it up so as to treasure each and every bite. They cost a fair penny to purchase some can reach up to 700yen(7euro each) just in your local supermarket. That’s if you ever have to buy them, if you have friends in Aomori no doubt you will be spilling apples out of all your cupboards. It is a worrying thing though, this overload of apples. They are so preciously delicious that I am terrified of not eating them fast enough, it would be a huge waste and to see one of them rot would be devastating, something my conscious wont handle well. I eat at least two monsterous apples a day and still the pile does not diminish. So I have started my apple crumble factory.
On Monday I baked an apple crumble from a batch of 5 apples given to me by one of the many apple donating teachers at Nishi. On Tuesday I presented the crumble to the sensei for him and his wife (to his utter joy and delight). On Wednesday I arrive at my desk to greet a bag of 6 apples as a thank you for the apple crumble. I started with 5 apples and I got 6 back.
My crumble factory was successful in ways I hoped it would fail.
Last minute plans can often brighten up a very normal day. On Sunday I was lying in bed thinking of the hoovering, clothes washing and shower scrubbing that lay ahead of me… Then before I knew it I was en route to Goshogowara with Chirsty, Erina and Kanako to a pottery retreat! A very sudden but extremely exciting change.
We arrived to ‘Kanaima’ at lunch time and sat down to a very cozy little lunch nestled close to a stone oven and its roaring fire. The food was warm, comforting and simply delicious, beautifully presented in the pottery that was made on site. There was something so peaceful yet fun about the atmosphere in this place, and the smell of the food helped a lot too. You could roll out and make your own pizza to pop into the stone oven, but we enjoyed watching a big group of kiddies excitedly make their personal pizza instead.
But sure enough with a little help from Ms.Skilfull hands I managed to craft together two cups. The clay shrinks a huge amount so they look like bowls at first but after 1 month of drying out, then a blast in the kiln, they will hopefully be beautiful baby tea cups! They will be posted to us 3months from now… oh the excitement!
The price of this thoroughly enjoyable class is about equal to buying a cup in the shop
1200yen (12euro) which is a bargain to say the least. It may have a few wobbly bits but every time you drink your tea think of the joy of saying ‘Hey, I made this’
I have grown up in a culture where if you go through a door ahead of someone it is polite to hold it, to save it slamming their face. Or you could open it and offer them to go ahead. Japanese are the politest society I have come across but this custom they do not practice. No matter how close behind you are to anyone, of any age, they will just not hold that door. A creature of habit I suppose I am and I keep holding doors for people, getting astonishing looks of appreciation. How could you not hold a door when you know they will be hit with a full swing if you don’t? The amount of times I have been door slammed is shocking but it really is nothing offensive just something I need to try to embrace along with all the other cultural differences. I am pretty nervous to go home and end up door slamming people in the face, that would be uncontrollably rude. But I am just as nervous of embracing this culture and knocking out some poor Japanese obachan as I march my way through. I’m stuck in door etiquette limbo.
I cannot express in pictures or words the sheer size of this apple. Aomori produces beastly apples! It was given to me along with four others from a fellow teacher. It took me the entire day of nibbling to consume it, he kept coming in to check I was still enjoying it. I also received a bag load from Jacqueline, terrifyingly big aswell. Apple over load is a fairly daunting when you know each one was grown and picked with Blue Forest love!
My granny made the most amazing apple crumble, so here goes my weekend challenge, this is for you noodles!
すずめ (The Sparrow) restaurant was where I enjoyed the first of many un-usual dishes to grace my presence. I have been very lucky to have eaten some fantastic local quisine in Aomori, on Friday I had some strange textures hit my palate.
To start I had sea slug, an extremely rubbery rubbery sea creature, almost like chewing on five rubber bands at once, and raw. I was scared I would choke on it, it was that rubbery but it was nicely pickled and eventually after a solid 10minutes of chewing I washed it down with a few gulps of beer. Thank god for beer. I did not know you could digest rubber bands but here I am alive and well.
Next a small pot arrived, delighted I presumed it was Nabe, my heart went warm at the thought of the cozy soup dish after the stress of the slug. No nabe. It was described as fish eggs, but I think it was actually fish guts, again a rubber outside but this time once you crunched pass the exterior you were met with an explosion of creamy slimy. This has to be the most difficult plate I have experienced so far. I could not handle the creamy bit, it was like an old yop yogurt drink. Thank god it had soup that I could wash it down with, and beer, thank you beer.
Next was a delicious sea shell, lots of garlic and butter and it was beautifully roasted. The flavor of this was un-believable. Phew.
Sashimi plate was next. This one I usually love so I was happy for its arrival. The only thing that scares me is the slimy prawn, it is just so so goo-y (what I would do even for just a gentle steaming or grilling). The minced tuna on this particular plate was amazing, so tender and full of flavor, gotta love the tuna.
Then came the sushi plate. It included various raw fish slices (on steamed rice) that I cannot identify or translate but enjoy swallowing. Just that wopper of a raw egg at the end, glaring at me as I devour the rest of the plate. The only way it slides down is with beer before, during and after. And heaps of fresh ginger which is a god send. In between the sushi and sashimi I got 3 oysters but living in Ireland prepped me fantastically for this one, they tasted like surfing in Lahinch. The trick is in the lemon. And also another strange sea creature which could not be translated for me, something that crawls along the sea floor apparently, maybe a cuttle fish? I really don’t know, but it was yummy, like a more generous steamed prawn.
Full belly of beer.
Our hiphop dance teacher was having a performance in the city so myself and Jacqueline decided to head along to support her. She has the longest hair I have ever seen so it was partly just to watch her hair, but also to see if we could study harder and teach ourselves the slickness we are lacking in class. It was in an amazing concert hall, and was full of all ages, granma’s and pops, young kiddies, school kids and then us two token foreigners.
Have you ever been to a kids ballet performance and you only really go because your kid is in the ballet school and performing? well it was kind of a similar affair except it was with adults, no kids on stage at all. They weren’t professional, but we hadn’t expect that anyways, but what a strange bunch of people we were watching. Some took it very serious others flaffed around in the background. It was pretty much half pantomime half dance show, the sensei (our dance teacher) kept coming out in bizarre dress up costumes and doing these odd skits (which had everyone in stitches). It was themed around the arrival of the new shinkansen station, (everything in Aomori at the moment is) so they would come out in cardboard trains to the extreme joy of the audience, we were also thought a dance in our seats so that everyone could participate. Very funny affair.
When we arrived into the hall a student from Nishi Koko (who is in our dance class) came running up to us and persuaded us to sit at the very front row…. ‘really?the very front’ we were thinking? But we actually had no choice, we were taken by the hand and dragged down to meet her mum, sister and granny….in the very front row!
So there we were squished in between sister and granny, watching strangely shaped and aged woman in cardboard boxes, clapping and dancing along for the solid hour.
It really was a very enjoyable evening because of all these strange go-ons, we were kept endlessly entertained!
In one of the acts these big bellied men came into the audience and flew these ridiculously big flags, it seems to be a traditional kind of act or ‘sport’. The strength you would need to even hold up the pole would be quite substantial but they fling them all over the audience. Impressive for sure.