Chasing Cherry Blossoms
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Forest spirits, dumplings and an earthquake truck.

Life’s been bubbling away at a gentle pace here in Johen. The aftermath of a particularly expensive past few months has seen my budget restrict me to a few weekends here in the inaka, when usually I’d be on the first Friday afternoon bus bound for the city.  As against my instincts as that may be, it’s actually done me some good. Sometimes I feel that, constantly spending weekends on the move, I can get too far removed from Ainan: it can feel like a Monday-Thursday place to crash rather than a home. Every now and then it’s nice just to take a breather and appreciate who and what are on your own doorstep.

Last weekend, then, I spent a restful afternoon at home coming up with a plan for this year’s bunkasai (or, Culture Festival) at Johen Junior High. There are a number of different activities students are invited to sign up for as part of the festival (dance, gymnastics, drama, photography, calligraphy, artwork…); on the day itself, the performance-related activities are presented in a back-to-back marathon on the school stage, whilst the creative pieces are exhibited in the gym.  This year I found myself in the “Rock Art” group (mainly because it was headed by my JTE, the only member of staff at Johen who speaks English…) Specification: make something cultural out of a handful of rocks gathered from the local Sozu River…and an Amazon JP box. If only Neil Buchanan could see me now.

I cycled through a few ideas for my display, but settled on recreating the Forest Spirits (or kodama) from Princess Mononoke. In the film, the kodama look a little something like this:

My idea was to go for something which required minimum talent but could be executed with maximum effect (a mantra worryingly relevant to most other areas of my life). It’s still not completely finished (Culture Festival’s this Sunday, so I’ve still got a few days), but here’s my progress so far:

Rocks painted and box, well, covered in paper, I scurried over to Kei’s house for a gyoza (dumpling) party! Sadly, this was a situation where a dash of culinary talent was required… yes, even the simple act of making homemade dumplings was too Herculean a task for me. NEVER MIND. I STILL HAD FUN OKAY.

Finally, this week Johen Junior High was also visited by the roaming Earthquake Truck. Just last week, I was shaken awake by a 2.0 earthquake in the early hours of the morning. Well, that was nothing compared to the 7.0 monsters this simulator-on-wheels allows you to experience. 

The truck's computers store data of real earthquakes from Japan's history and allows you to experience their strength and tremor-patterns. A plasma screen TV on the wall simulates a window to show you what would be happening in the real world outside. When the meter reached its maximum level of 7.0, you had to grip the table with all your strength to avoid falling off your seat entirely. In the fake outside, buildings were slowly collapsing. Of course, in the context of a slightly gimmicky simulator, it's hard to suspend your disbelief (it was just like a fairground ride, the kids were all fighting over who got a second turn). Nevertheless, it did wake me up to the reality of what could - and soon, will - happen, with the next Tokai Earthquake set to hit within the coming few years.

Fittingly then, first on my Saturday to-do list: buy an earthquake survival kit.

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P.s. While you're here, I'm going to do a bit of shameless self-promotion and show you the magazine I'm currently editing! It's the official AJET magazine, called "Connect", and is released every month! You can check out this month's issue by clicking on the cover below. All other issues are archived online at It's not half bad, so give it a read! THANKS ETC.


Anonymous Abby said...

The kodama are awesome. Who needs to be good at dumplings when you're that good at rock transformation?

Love hearing what you're up to, but counting down to Christmas too. Lots of love. X

October 17, 2012 at 11:58 PM  

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