Happiness is …

Fresh home baked cookies 🙂

These banana and oat goodies are inspired by Teresa Cutter’s amazing website.

Banana and oat cookies

Banana and oat cookies

Very happy to have deciphered the oven sufficiently to be able to bake. Next challenge is to try making a cake – maybe banana or carrot as those are readily available here.

… then chocolate brownies. If anyone has a family favourite recipe, send it to me and i’ll give it a go. My fall back will be to get a copy of the Jackson family traditional brownie recipe – Rahn, can you send it to me?


Field trip #1

So, we have attended our first formal field trip as part of the YLP.

This trip was not so much academic as tourist focused. but I suppose that in the scheme of things we are all still in the tourist phase of our lives here in Japan. It’s been 4 weeks now that Tokyo has been my home, and if I were really a tourist, I am sure by now I would have visited Tokyo tower or Tokyo Sky tree (or maybe even both), visited the Imperial palace and a shrine or three, would have been to a Manga cafe, maybe even the Gibhli museum, and would definitely have chased down the opportunity to see a Sumo match or a baseball game.

Even after our touristy field trip, the only of these tourist things that I have achieved has been a visit to the Meji Shrine (see my earlier post). Although I have also been to the Tsukiji fish market, but I am not sure it counts as it was Sunday and the market was not operating!

Clearly, I am not here as a tourist. In part, my lack of cramming things in reflects that I have time to do these things – I am here for 12 months after all (or 11 more now). However, being here for a year also means that I need to spend some time getting life established here in Tokyo. You know life’s necessaries like finding where to get contact lens solution, household items, getting books for study etc., oh and of course making arrangements with immigration for P to join me here in Tokyo. I suppose that part of my limited ‘touristing’ is also affected by wanting to be able to share these new experiences with P. I know that plenty of families make the choice to life in different locations, and some of my colleagues in the YLP have made that choice for this year. But that is not the decision we have made, so I would like to be able to share many of these iconic Tokyo experiences with P.

Okay, enough moping about that, at least now P’s immigration paperwork is on its way to Australia.

Let’s get back to what we got up to on the field trip, the destinations for our field trip were:

Nezu shrine – there was a cultural festival which we visited in the shrine area, and then we just walked the streets for a few hours checking out the festival and the nearby streets.

Gates at Nezu shrine

Gates at Nezu shrine

Fish for sale on one of the streets in Nezu

Bicycles parked between apartment buildings in a side street of Nezu

Tranquility in the chaos of busy streets

Picture says it all. I would never have considered two level bicycle parking in Australia. But here, space is so precious and people so numerous that these things make sense.

Tradition drumming display at the Nezu festival

More fish markets – this was in an oldish style street which was basically full of street stalls, food vendors and trinket shops

Kyu-Furukawa Gardens – western style gardens built during the Meji period, as Japan was opening to the World. A Western style string quartet was playing and we listened and wandered around the garden.

Not all western, I found this great Japanese sculpture in the gardens.

Ueno park – a typically Japanese park/garden.

Ameyoko street – a trading street which has its origins in the post war American control period –  lots of shops, with goods at quite cheap prices, and good shopping for ‘ethnic’ food. I found a supply of Quinoa here … so happy about that. (I was planning a trip to Ameyoko, so the field trip visit was a bonus.)

These were amazing sweets. Something like a cross between a pancake and a sponge cake. They were filled with either a cream/custard or red bean paste. Very good!

It was a strange collection of locations, and I almost think that our professor was planning to attend these events anyway and just decided to have 35 students tag along. By this, I mean that he led us to each location by the public transport system and then once we arrived at each destination, he merely said “off you go and I will meet you here in X hours” and then proceeded to vanish and do his own thing. No explanations, or history, or guidance about what we were seeing. A very strange field trip. But another great chance to get out and about in Tokyo.

Some of us posing with the Prof before he disappeared and left us to our own devices for 3 hours!

Some of us posing with the Prof before he disappeared and left us to our own devices for 3 hours!

Over the Rainbow …

… Bridge that is.

I am so impressed with myself.   I have taken the pedestrian pathway over the Rainbow Bridge. And even within the first month of living here.

The sun was setting as I was coming back to Odaiba, and the sky looked amazing. Alas, I was travelling light, so did not have a camera with me. Maybe next time I can share the with you.

Was this what Judy Garland was singing about?

Was this what Judy Garland was singing about?

Typhoons No. 27 and 28

Typhoons Francisco and Lekima are headed our way this weekend.

This means another wet and windy weekend for us in Tokyo. But my understanding is that these are less intensive than the typhoon of last week. I asked one of the Japanese students if these would be bad typhoons, and he replied “not as bad as last week”. So given that I thought last week’s typhoon was mild, I am not expecting anything too eventful this weekend (although hopefully we can forgo the 5am fire alarm this time!).

The Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) is predicting that the two typhoons are expected to cross paths at some stage over the weekend. I don’t know enough about weather patterns to know if this means that they will join to form one larger typhoon, or if they will counteract each other sand fade out. I guess only time will really tell, but if any of you know about weather – I am thinking of you Stuart F, or maybe Paul – then please post a comment to let me know the answer.

Here’s hoping for no fire alarms this time around! But if you’re interested take a look at what we’re in for, courtesy of the JMA:

Here’s what is headed our way!

Show and shine Tokyo … You wish you could have been here

Monday 14 October is a public holiday in Japan. More specifically it is Sports Day.

What does this mean for Tokyoites? Well it means both a day off work/school (at least for many) … And amazingly it also appears it means sports! This is so not Australia, where public holidays mean relaxing in ways quite unrelated to the reason for the holiday.

While out for my morning run (see running buddies post), I noticed a large marquee being set up in one of the bigger parks on the foreshore. On the way back, there were chairs set up, tracks marked out, a stage ready, BBQ areas and food vans were being readied for the day. I did not go back to see what was happening as I was occupied by other sports for my first Sports Day.

What was it that occupied me?

Let me give you a clue …

Subaru rally car

How about some of this action?

Tokyo motorsport festival.

I know a few people back home who would have loved to be here. Subaru Rally cars (with Japanese championship winners on hand to say hi and sign autographs), dakkar 4wds, MotoGP motorbikes, formula 1 cars, electric race cars and countless other motorised wonders. There was even the offer of FREE hot laps in a wide selection of fancy cars (kompressors, range rovers, bentleys, audis and the options go on). I have not yet developed a fascination with queuing for an necessarily long time, so I skipped the hot lap opportunity, but it looked like fun – I’d post some footage, but FAIL on my part. (many of you know that technology is not my forte!)

Instead, here are some other photo worthy things I saw.

Dani Pedrosa’s race bike. Visitors were even allowed to sit on the bike ;0)
And, no I didn’t.

Maybe a new bike for me? … This is the Suzuki 750 2014 model. I have always had a soft sport for Suzis….and there is no need to worry about right hand drive conversions.

Japanese rally car team

Like I said, there were heaps of drivers on hand to answer questions and have their photos taken. This is a couple of Japanese rally drivers, who recently raced … somewhere!


And this is their race car. Does anyone know the team?

Typhoon No. 26

Yesterday, or more accurately, early this morning, a typhoon passed just east of Tokyo Bay. To put that in more plain terms, it passed very near to where I live. (Remember that post of me at the beach? Well that is Tokyo Bay.)

So how, did I fare?

Fine. Not much to write about really. It was quite wet all afternoon and evening. Not nice to be outside. Then in the early morning the winds were very substantial, squally would be the term I would use, and the rain was coming down in wind swept sheets across the sky.

How is it, you might be wondering, that I know what the weather was like in the very early morning? Perhaps I am playing down the sense of the storm (After all, some of you might worry about my well-being and safety)?

Sorry to disappoint. The typhoon really was not that dramatic. But …

We also had a fire alarm this morning. At 520am a VERY loud alarm went off in my apartment. For about 10-15 mins the alarm went off and over the PA system, a pre-recorded message told us (first in Japanese – not so helpful for an accommodation tower full of international students – then in English) that a fire had been detected in one of the buildings. Now as “b” and “c” and even “d” sound quite similar in some accents, I had no idea which building had the potential fire. The pre-recorded message also commenced advising us that the alarm was being investigated.

After some minutes, the pre-recorded message (again in Japanese and then English) switched to telling us to evacuate. Well, what did I do? Brace yourselves for early morning randomness as only I could perform.

Firstly I put some daytime clothes on. Then I read the disaster manual. Good that it was only about 10 pages of cartoon pictures. Next, I chaotically commenced gathering and packing into a bag a range of things that I might need if I were not to get back into the apartment for some time. Passport, jumper, clean clothes, food, water, ATM card, spare contact lenses, precious photos of loved ones, power cord and iPad. While this sounds okay, I must confess, that it was not very ordered … And we had been told to evacuate already, although to where I was not sure.

And of course, I also grabbed the umbrella. After-all, as I looked out the window it was torrential rain outside. All this was happening at about the time that the typhoon was at its closeest to Tokyo Bay.

I hope I have adequately conveyed the flurrying and scurrying I was engaged in, it is a most amusing thing for me to look back on. But we’re not finished yet.

Just as I was about to leave the apartment -finally! – a live human came on the PA and indicated it was a false alarm. You got it, in Japanese first and then in very broken English.

I spoke with some of my neighbours who were already on the balcony making their rain-soaked way to the uncovered emergency stairs and confirmed that it was a mistake. I was dry and unhurried as I returned to my apartment.

After all the activity, I was not sure if I should stay up or go back to sleep. It was around 6am by this time. So I checked on the typhoon’s progress on the Japanese meteorology webpage. It was pretty close, but I could hear that from my apartment. In fact the worst of the storm was passing about then.

As I checked, the fire alarm continued to go off intermittently. I thought it would best if I went back to sleep, but as the alarms continued in fits and starts, I finally gave in. I made a cup of coffee and sat down at the books – with the typhoon unfolding out the window in front of me.

All the while it kept squalling and the rain is pelting down. Then as daylight broke, the wind died down, the rain stopped and the sun came out.

At this point, I just got on with my day. And put the washing out on the balcony to dry! So glad we did not have to evacuate though.

My verdict: typhoon=0; fire alarm=1; Shellie=-2

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