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[sticky post] Welcome to my JET Blog

This is a blog to remember my experiences as an ALT in Kumamoto as well as to share them with friends and family.

I'll post a short entry every day.

Please feel free to leave comments on the posts; you don't need a Livejournal account to do so.

Want to contact me or send a letter/care package? Please see my profile page for contact info and stuff I need while in Japanland.

Giraffe Magic Club: April Meeting

The April Giraffe Magic Club meeting was a huge success! While we lost one of our regular performers who moved to Fukuoka, two new magicians came to this month's meeting. (I didn't catch their names because I arrived late - oops!)

The first newcomer did a simple trick based on an optical illusion, where he convincingly made two paper cats seem to grow larger and then shrink.

The second one did card tricks:

For his climax, he hinted that the signed card would appear in a lemon:

But when he opened the lemon, there was nothing inside. The signed card actually appeared inside an unopened bottle of tea:

I liked his card tricks the most because they were all simple ones that I could do. They were so simple, in fact, that I had assumed they weren't suitable for performing in front of a crowd, but his energetic and comedic dialogue showed that even the simplest magic trick can be used to entertain.

Murakami-san performed his famous coin magic for us.

He let the audience examine the coins to ensure they're genuine.

And then they appear or vanish inside the spectator's hand!

Sakata-san did his shrinking Doraemon trick for the little kids.

And Makita-san wowed us with his expert card handling.

Tanoue-san once again did his three-monte card trick that he's working on.

He's gotten quite good at card handling! The expression on the woman's face above says it all.


Tawara Yama

Earlier this month, I finally got around to exploring one of the popular hiking spots near my house, a mountain called Tawara Yama.

It was an easy hike most of the way, with only a few steep parts. Heavy rain from the previous few days made the course extra challenging, and most of us took a few spills into the slippery mud.

I was charmed by this homemade path marker telling us that it didn't matter which way we went in the fork because both paths were about the same length.

We had been worried about rain, but the weather turned out to be pretty nice that day, although it was windy and cold.

It was so cold that once we reached the top, we didn't linger there very long.

We ate lunch and quickly packed up and headed back down.



Another Minami Aso Restaurant


I've mentioned before how Minami Aso has some really fantastic restaurants, and here are some pictures from yet another one that I visited recently.


I love having small servings of several different things! It's much more fun than having a lot of only a few foods.


This simple, creamy potato soup followed the appetizer.


Pasta was the main course. Note the very reasonable serving size.


The dessert was also quite a treat - just as the meal, it was a few small servings of several things. Fun!

Street Magic

At a festival a couple of weeks ago in downtown Kumamoto, I saw a magic performance by Noguchi-san, a regular at my Giraffe Magic Club.

He performed some classic illusions, like putting his female assistant in a box and sticking swords through it.

Spoiler: she came out unscathed.

Noguchi-san asked me if I would be his assistant in some of his future magic shows. Of course I'm interested, but last week he moved to Fukuoka to accept a job offer, so it's unclear if we'll have the opportunity to work together, but I'm hoping it pans out.


Gen's Hanami Party

The first hanami party I went to this year was last Friday. My friend Gen is preparing to tour Japan alone on his motor bike for the next few months, so it was his going away party.

It was nighttime, but the paper lanterns lit up the cherry blossoms.

Shunsuke brought a game he'd purchased that day called Skull and taught us how to play.

The gameplay is quite simple but fascinating. We played three times.




Last Saturday, I saw a rakugo performance for the first time. Since it's hanami season, the event was scheduled to be outdoors among the cherry blossoms next to Kumamoto Castle, but the rain drove us indoors.

While waiting for the show to start, we ate and chatted and played card games.



My friend Kei performed the rakugo masterfully. I was surprised by how genuinely funny the story he narrated was to a modern audience.


After the rakugo, there was a performance of a musical instrument I'd never heard of before called tenorion. You push buttons on it to make music, and it lights up so you can simultaneously make a light show.


Takahiro played along using a cardboard box as a percussion instrument.

The last act was a one-man comedy musical called Potetsu. The performer, Akihiro, usually works with another guy who couldn't be there that day, so he did the entire act by himself. That added quite a bit to the comedic value.


I asked Kei to let me participate in the next raguko event with a magic act. I hope that pans out!



Hanami Picnic

Yesterday, I went on a hanami picnic with a small group of friends.

The spot was in a town called Ozu, about thirty minutes from my house.

There's a stretch of road with cherry blossom trees on both sides. The road is closed to traffic during the day on weekends in hanami season.

Hanami season is almost over, so the petals are falling off the trees now. There's so many of them that when the wind blows, it looks like a snow storm.

If you catch one, it's good luck!

We set up our blanket and table and chairs on the side of the road.

I stopped by a bakery that had recently opened near the hanami spot. I bought anpan, which is a roll with sweet bean paste inside. It's not my usual choice, but they were sold out of nearly everything else. It turned out to be amazing! It's one of my new favorite foods.


During spring break, there's no school lunch. When I'm at my base school, I usually walk home for lunch. It gives me a nice break from sitting at my desk all day. When I'm at other schools, I'll pack my lunch to save money. But yesterday, some of the female teachers at Choyo Junior High School went out for lunch together. Spring is the time of year when the teachers get transferred around, so it was a sort of low scale going-away party.

We went to a restaurant in Minami Aso called Yoshida. Minami Aso seems to have a lot of little restaurants like these that offer excellent food. Perhaps it's because this area attracts a lot of tourists.

The first course was salad topped with cheese and okara. That block next to the salad, which I thought was cheese, is actually some kind of shiitake mushroom egg-white omelet. On the right is a block of tofu with sesame sauce.


The main course was hamburger with hijiki (a type of seaweed) and pickled vegetables, with miso soup and rice. The hamburger rested on a circle of sauteed onion, which was a nice touch.


There was another side course and a dessert course as well. The ingredients are locally grown, and the food was all handmade (the lunch took two hours because of it!), but it only cost about 1,500 yen (~$15). The restaurant had a nice atmosphere, too; it felt like a cabin in the mountains. It was a fantastic way to say goodbye to the teachers who will be leaving for other schools this week.


I snapped this photo on my walk to school this morning.


Looks like winter is finally over. It's still cold enough at nights to make me use my kerosene heater, but the days are nice and warm, and the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Hanami season has started here in Japan.

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