☆Free time at Christmas.
☆Beer not bear.
In cyberspace,long distance travel is economical,
yet still enjoyable.
With no passport or packing required meeting people in "space" is relatively easy.
It's also a lot fun.
Japan:info-xchange is a website I stumbled upon purely by accident.
Okay I thought.Let's have a closer look.
E-mail pals required for language exchange.
This is an e-mail pen pal forum that specializes
in contacts only between the native Japanese andEnglish speaker wanting language exchange.
Oh!This just might be what I'm looking for.
This website is about language and culturalexchange only not a matchmaking site.
The format of this site is quite straightforward.
There are two methods of introduction.
You can enter your own relevant details and wait for
someone to answer back,or you can contact someone directwho has already registered with info-xchange.
For myself,I decided to answer direct.
One regular e-mail pal would be sufficient.
After scanning the list of people I made my choice.
Manami from Sapporo.
Why did I choose Mrs F from Sapporo?
Well.She is of similar age,married,and lives in Hokkaido.
I wanted someone distant from Kansai/Tokyo,just for a change.
We e-mail each other several times a week,correcting
any relevant mistakes.
This is a good way to learn English/Japanese.
My first e-mail was written in Romanised Japanese.
Manami from Sapporo was surprised to hear from Scotland.
"Why did you pick me."
Quickly followed by hiragana/katakana,then rather slowly
followed by kanji.
Kanji is difficult,sometimes it will take me about one hour
to translate a short message.Healthy for my small brain.
I use several reference books,and my book on kanji charactershas to be my favourite.
Manami from Sapporo writes very good English.
Occasionally,she will make a small mistake,but in general
her spelling and grammar is nice.
Naturally,I make many mistakes.The best one was probably
when I wrote 今日歯雨です。
This made Manami from Sapporo laugh.
I told her "I don't know where the teeth came from."
She found this funny.A Scottish joke.
After gaining some new found confidence,I had an idea.
Why don't I write a short story in Japanese.
Hiroko also thought,what a good idea,but would not correctany of my mistakes.I was worried about the consequences.
So here is my short story.
It is as long as I could make it.
Hiroko says"Chris,will you wash the dishes".
"Just do it".
That was my short,short Japanese story.
Presented to the public for the first time.
For a limited period only.
Finally,I would just like to thank Manami from Sapporo
for all her help.
We will continue...
Hiroko and I enjoy going to the cinema.
This is a nice way to escape the rigours of everyday life.
On the 31st March we bought a red mega pass from U.G.C. cinema.
Situated at the Queens link leisure park,Aberdeen.This pass entitled
us to watch unlimited movies over a four week period.Cost 15 each.
U.G.C. has nine screens to choose from,and with one adult admission
costing 5.60 the pass has to be good value.
A blue mega pass is also available for an eight week period.Cost 25.
Prebooking for any film can only be made on the same day of viewing.
April was a busy month.Here is our schedule.
31st March Toy Story 2.
The Green Mile.
1st April The Beach
5th April Inspector Gadget.
9th April Erin Brokovich.
12th April Lake Placid.
16th April Mission to Mars.
18th April Any Given Sunday.
20th April Three Kings.
21st April Pokemon:The First Movie.Hiroko boycotted this one.
22nd April American Psycho.
23rd April Galaxy Quest.
According to my calculation this makes Chris 15 movies.Hiroko 14 movies.
Amazing value.We both thoroughly enjoyed our month at the movies,and
will definitely repeat this venture in future.
How did we rate these movies?Well.We both agreed American Beauty was our
Chris. Hiroko 1st American Beaty American Beaty 2nd Toy Story 2. The Green Mile. 3rd Magnolia. Erin Brokovich. 4th Erin brokovich. Toy Story 2. 5th Three Kings. Galaxy Quest. 6th American Psycho. American Psycho. 7th Galaxy Quest. Three Kings. 8th Any Given Sunday. Mission to Mars. 9th Lake Placid. Any Given Sunday 10th The Green Mile. Magnolia. 11th Scream 3. The Beach. 12th Mission to Mars. Scream 3. 13th The Beach. Lake Placid. 14th Pokemon:The First Movie. Inspector Gadget. 15th Inspector Gadget.
Sadly,Hiroko missed out the pokemon experience.
Aberdeen has one other cinema.The Odeon,with five screens.
Situated at Justice Mill Lane.Maybe we will go there next time.
May will be a month of rest and videos.
Free time at Christmas.
Hiroko and I had a wonderful christmas,followed by a wonderful hogmanay.
Thanks again to everyone for the cards,presents,ande-mails.
We are always happy to receive such positive feedback.
A happy new year to all Hiroko's readers in Japan.
Now it's a bumpy return back to everyday life.
Two minor problems occurred over the festive period.The first one will soon be documented by Hiroko.She has a new feature coming shortly,which I believe will prove to be very popular.
That's all I can say for now,but it's a good one.Trust me.
The second problem was less interesting,but just as important.
Allocation of free time at christmas.This was soon to become a major talking point in our household.Chris,it's not fair that you have more free time than me.
Hiroko,life isn't fair.This quickly turned into our daily routine.
Morning,afternoon,and evening.Hmmm...Freetime chat.
With christmas day landing on a saturday,boxing day a sunday,new years
day a saturday,add to that an extra day for the millenium.In simple terms,
this meant I had more free time than Hiroko.Four days to be precise.
This was not my fault,nor was it my choice.I would have loved Hiroko to
join me,but this was not to be.She never got her four days.I was dissappointed for her,but like I said before,that's life.
How to spend my extra free time.That was my next dilemma.What can I do with
my four days?I didn't want Hiroko seeing me having a good time.Really.
The sensible option would have been to get out my Kanji book and do
some much needed revision.Or maybe improve my japanese grammar.Yes,I am also lacking in that department.This year has to see a big improvement in my japanese.Hiroko agrees.
Getting back to my free time.I chose videos and toys.I like videos and I like toys.Simple.A simple,straightforward choice,and better than going to the pub.
Hiroko watches American movies,I watch good movies.
Occasionally,a japanese movie will get broadcast on one of the cable channels.
What normally happens in our house,we record it then forget about it.
This time I made an the effort to watch some japanese cinema.
First film Kwaidan directed by Kobayashi Masaki in 1964 starring Mikuni Rentaro and
Aratama Michiyo.A compendium of four ghost stories adapted from
Lafcadio Hearn.A beautiful and stylish film.Not really scary,but I did
enjoy it.Second film Onibaba directed by Shindo Kaneto again 1964 starring
Otowa Nobuka and Yoshimura Jitsuko.A slightly darker movie.Visually
striking,claustrophobic,with an atmospheric soundtrack.This was more to my taste.
Onibaba character made such a big impact on my afternoon viewing.She was scary.
Hiroko wasn't that interested when I tried to tell her the story.Never mind.
Toys.Everybody likes toys.
After two slices of dark Japanese culture I needed some light relief.
This is where I have to thank the gamesmaster from Hachioji,Tokyo.
Apart from being a good friend,he is also my regular supplier of
japanese toys.He is very kind,I would be lost without him.Game 1.
Dance dance revolution arrived in time for my birthday.Manufactured by Konami,this hand held game has been driving me crazy.The last song of the game I cannot finish.It's called Trip Machine,and is very trickyfor a forty year old like me.Who can finish Trip Machine I would like to know.
A frantic game,but still good fun.
Slightly more relaxing is my Sony pocketstation.Game 2.Nice design.
This game arrived over the festive period.My pocketstation makes me happy.
Five games have been.....
Wow!!!Something really exciting has just happened.My Mothra tamagotchi
hatched from a cocoon.Sorry,I had to take a short break and show Hiroko.
She was so pleased.Mothra is now looking pretty cute.
Back to my pocketstation.Five games have been downloaded by the gamesmaster.
A golf game,car racing,train driving and a couple of strange ones are
also included.An amazing piece of technology.What makes these games all
the more interesting is that none of my family or friends have them.Cool.
Now you know how I spent my free time at christmas.Two games,two videosand not forgetting Mothra.
Beer not bear.
What do I think of Japanese food?Yes!Nice with beer!
This phrase seems to be synonymous with Japanese food.
If I had 1000 yen for every time I heard this phrase Iwould be a wealthy man.
The Japanese diet and Scottish diet are obviously different.
One is meat and two vegetables,while the other is a rich cornucopia
of colours,smells,and tastes.Hiroko and I eat both.
My first experience of Japanese food was many years ago in London,probably sushi.Not bad.
My first experience of real Japanese food was when I visited Japan for the first time.Wonderful.This was a pleasant introduction.
Let's just say I like Japanese food.It's healthy,well balanced and the
presentation is first class.Apart from the bear incident already well
documented,I will now eat most types of Japanese food.Friends in Aberdeen
assume that Hiroko and I eat raw fish every day.Every second day I tell them.
Particularly after my experience with Ika in Unzen.Sashimi is not really my favourite.
Here are some of my favourites.
Takoyaki.Octopus ball.The main thing I like about this snack,I don't
have to watch the contents during consumption.No need to close my eyes.
Interesting taste,nice texture,and available all over Osaka,number one
city in Japan.Nice with beer.
Okonomiyaki.Japanese pizza.For this one I enjoy the preparation.
Sitting down and watching all the ingredients being added.Sizzling seafood
followed by the vegetables,sauces and bonito flakes.Most enjoyable and
such a pleasure to eat.Nice with Kirin beer.
To me noodles are just noodles,but to a Japanese never just a noodle.
Hiroko and I travelled to Kyushu searching for the perfect noodle.Nagasaki champon.
We chose a very ordinary looking bar,sometimes these are the best.Well,
this was my first experience of such a noodle.Chinese in flavour,the
taste was also very good.Reason enough for a return visit.Nice with Asahi beer.
Continuing our search,we travelled to Hokkaido,still searching.Next on the
menu was Sapporo ramen.Having heard so much beforehand my expectation
was high.Are they the best?Really!
Our mistake was to choose the wrong venue.Reasonable taste coupled with
toursist prices.A little disappointing.Maybe the bear wasn't so bad
after all.I do like Sapporo ramen though,with added corn.Nice with Sapporo beer.
Back in Aberdeen.Hiroko and I will eat Japanese food maybe once or
twice a week.Partly out of choice,and partly due to limited availability of
certain ingredients.Along with the usual supermarkets,a small Chinese
one keeps our kitchen reasonably well stocked.
Hiroko's mother will kindly supply any of these hard to find ingredients.
Making life that little bit easier.
Agedashi,oden,and nabe,three of my favourite dishes containing tofu.
In Aberdeen,I know someone who makes home made tofu.Her name is Hiroko
Macfadyen.The tofu that comes out of our kitchen has such a fresh and healthy
taste,better than any supermarket.The best.
Oden has some unusual tastes and textures for the western palate.Satsumaage,
chikuwa,and konnyaku.Hiroko assured me they were safe enough to eat.I like the
daikon with hot mustard.Nice with Tennents lager.
Nabe.Japanese winter food,or Scottish summer food.A nice dish for invited
guests.Everyone can sit around the pot,eating,drinking,and talking.Very
sociable.With it's variety of ingredients a gentle introduction towards
Japanese cuisine.Every gaijin likes nabe or so I thought.Surprisingly,
an old friend of mine is the expection.He doesn'like nabe.Must be the raw egg.
Finally,I would like to mention Hiroko's father,Toyoda san.He was kind enough in
taking me pub hopping in Osaka.One pub I remember fondly.I won't mention
the name,but it was hear that I tried various snacks for the fisrt time.
These included natto,shishamo,niku jagga and so on.Too many to mention,
but always nice with beer,whisky,and sake.
That's Japanese food.