Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Yes, Halloween is celebrated in Japan... Well, it is a marketing gimmick and loads of decorations have been sold the past month though trick-or-treating is still fairly unheard of.  I didn't have any trick-or-treaters this year though I sort of expected some of the neighbor children who are my students to come by.  Maybe it was too cold for them yesterday.  (And I was out of the house until about 5:00 anyway.... I doubt any mother would let her children go out in the neighborhood after dark.)

My house was decorated for the English children who really enjoy the festive atmosphere.  By looking at our house you'd think I was a real Halloween fan... but I'm not especially.  I remember enjoying Halloween when I was a child.  But sometime AFTER I came to Japan, I got the impression that American Christians no longer thought of Halloween as an acceptable activity and the churches were offering Harvest Festivals that basically did the same thing... Trunk treats (trick-or-treating from the trunks of cars in the church parking lot) less emphasis on ghosts and witches and goblins and more on pumpkins and scarecrows and autumn leaves...

We had some American friends living in Japan who politely declined attending the Japanese kindergarten (a Christian kindergarten) on a trick-or-treating day ... Something I had started!  I felt like I'd made a major spiritual faux pas!  I've consulted with the kindergarten principal about the tradition of Halloween at our kindergarten but I guess we've come to the conclusion that it is an American GAME and no further thought needs to be given.  Thus I went yesterday to the kindergarten dressed as a witch.

By the way... Halloween was started in Japan by Disneyland which successfully introduced the decorations and festivities with their Halloween parades.  (Disneyland is trying to introduce Japan to the Easter Bunny too... That isn't taking so far.)  And of course, as of last week, BEFORE Halloween, Christmas decorations have begun appearing and Disneyland is advertising Christmas with Mickey Mouse.  It seems a bit early for me!!!  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween classes

Because this is the last week of October, we are not doing a lot of English study in my English classes.  Oh, we are USING some English (some) but over the years the kids expect crafts, snacks and games. 

At the pre-school, the teachers had the children dress up (in plastic bags and construction paper!) and they gathered in the main room for a few songs and then the passing out of treats...  Hmm.  I dressed up as a witch but I see that I'm not in any of these pictures...

 Let's see,  there were "jack o' lanterns" and black cats, and different colored bats and Chinese zombies.

Here is a close up of the Chinese zombies...

At home I had one of my English classes working on making skeletons.... with Q-tips!  This was a fun project and the children could create as they wished.  (And cutting up those Q-tips sent fuzzy white balls  whizzing around the room like rockets!)

My lone sixth grade girl had told me she wanted to sew but I had a hard time thinking of a one hour sewing project with a Halloween theme to it.  Ah... Here is some pumpkin fabric... I set her to work making a pillow case and she did a great job! 

Obviously the Home Economics class at school has paid off and she felt very comfortable using my sewing machine.

One pillow case made!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Through the Windows

Tetsu took me off on a mystery drive to a patchwork exhibition a couple of hours away.  He had read in the newspaper that there was a small quilt showing and decided to take me there as a surprise.

Now... Where are we?  It sure is a big building.

Unfortunately no photography was allowed in the exhibition.  But no one said anything about OUTSIDE the exhibition!  So I cheated and took pictures through the windows!

I don't know about you, but I so much more enjoy art exhibitions when I'm allowed to take pictures.  I think it is the process of looking at all the (in this case) quilts, and then going back and choosing which one might photograph well, or which one might be unusual to blog readers, or which one I'd like to try making myself (in the case of quilts).  And then looking at the art from a distance, and then trying to take a close up shot... and later sharing why I chose to take a picture of this particular quilt when there were so many other beauties...

But I couldn't do that this weekend, and so I'm sharing what was visible through the very large windows.

Believe me, there were some GORGEOUS quilts!  Very Japanese in the way that Yoko Saito uses taupe and beige.  And the eentsy-weentsy pieces that were all completely hand pieced!  And the fraction of a fraction narrowness of the hand quilting!  It makes the viewer wonder if these quilters have a life outside of quilting!  Such masterpieces, and so many seemed to be made by the same three or four expert quilters.  (Of course there were a few duplicate works probably made by students.)

So here is a quilt show "Through the Windows".

Such soft neutral colors.

The piecing was amazing on this one.

Many elegant looking ladies appreciating the fine work.

And here is Tetsu thinking, "What is all the excitement about cutting up fabric and sewing it all back together again?"

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kindergarten bazaar

Yesterday was the kindergarten bazaar day.  The weather held and everyone had a good time.

Mrs. Furui and I spent most of the morning sewing felt balls to cording.  This is always a favorite booth at the bazaar.

The children (even as young as three years old!) roll clumps of wool in warm water with detergent and eventually get a ball made (sort of like what happens when you've washed your favorite wool sweater in hot water....  It turns to felt!)  The children got their choice of making a necklace or a hair accessory.

Between helping the children, I had to have a go myself.  I got fancy and added a felt leaf...


There was a small tea room where "homecoming" mothers and kids could relax and chat.

There were noodle booths and used children's clothing booths and a used bookstore booth.

And of course, there was the raffle booth!

The mothers made a pretty Nine Patch quilt and also a lovely Irish Chain quilt.  They really put a lot of work into the Irish Chain quilting (and I heard that most of the mothers had never done patchwork before!)

And, Ta-Da!  Our "Crazy Lady Quilters" quilt (that's what our group calls ourselves....  The Crazy Ladies).  It made a very nice showing and I heard that about 650 raffle tickets were sold.  That makes a nice donation to the kindergarten!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October Patchwork day

I had a sewing/patchwork day yesterday at Mrs. Furui's but didn't take many pictures myself...  Photos today are from Mrs. Ochiai.  She really does a nice job with her camera, doesn't she?

Our bazaar quilt is finished and the label is on.  Mrs. Furui will hand it over to the kindergarten mothers today and it will be hung in the raffle booth tomorrow.  I'll take a picture of it tomorrow.  A group of kindergarten mothers has been making a quilt too so we shall see which quilt gets the honor of going to the first prize winner.  I haven't seen the mothers' quilt yet.

Here is my finished flimsy of Promises and Borders.  It has yet to be quilted and looks pretty wrinkly here but it is lovely.

Oh gosh!  I'm not pleased with this picture but I guess this is the way I look when I'm hand quilting.  Yuck.  The quilt I was working on is the Star Within a Star quilt, the stars made by my friends for me last year when we played the block game.

And here is Mrs. Yamaguchi appliqueing circles to her blocks.  This was also part of our game and she has a few more circles to finish before she can put it all together.

 Trying to decide block placement.... 

I like it on point!

And Mrs. Takagishi brought her many small stars for layout consideration too.  You can see we all chose very different blocks for our game.  

This is laid out on the back of one of Mrs. Furui's quilts so that Mrs. Takagishi can get an idea of how the finished quilt might look.

Mrs. Furui was busy making corners for her quilt border... Nothing to show.  Mrs. Ochiai has been done with her quilt for months and therefore she could sit back and drink tea and give suggestions and take pictures!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hull hills

Wednesday and a busy schedule ahead of me.

The sun is out shining today but I took a couple of pictures on a rainy day last week.  I was driving down the country road and the "golden hill" popped out at me.  This is a pile of rice hulls that the farmer has blown out his barn window.  The dampness of the day makes the harvest color stronger.  Usually I'll go by the farm barns barely noticing these little hills but this day I made a U-turn (twice) and went back to take the picture.  There is a fairly traditional farmhouse there too.

And while my mind was on these rice hills I came across two more in the fields.  I guess the farmer decided his rice had too many hulls for his barn and he just dumped them out in the field again.  Oh well, they make for good mulch.

On another day I found a golden carpet spread over a chestnut orchard...  This farmer had spread his rice hulls all over the orchard maybe hoping for a good crop of chestnuts next year.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Flowers in the fields

Tetsu and Choco and I went on a longer walk than usual around our district.  Through the forests, beyond the rice fields.

 The Cosmos are out in vibrant colors.

As is the Golden Rod.  (I think this is Golden Rod)

This is a far off shot cut close of our church.

And here is another far off shot cut close of a little obaachan working by the side of the road.  Can you tell how bent over she is?  So many Japanese older people (and remember Japan rates highest in the world for longevity) are quite bent over and walk almost facing the ground.  I had once heard that this was because of their spending many hours of their days bending in the rice fields, but my mother-in-law is almost as bent over and she's never worked in a rice field in her life.  I think it must be because of a lack of calcium in the diet or something.

Even though it must be hard to even walk in this position, the farmers and their wives often shuffle along in their fields pulling weeds, cutting grass, always finding something to do.  Occasionally they will straighten up with a, "Yoi-sho!" (Heave-ho!) and then go back to work.  They are not ready to be put out to pasture yet!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Today I guess I'm just writing about what comes to mind...  No insights, no conclusions.

On Saturday I had to go to a funeral.  I can't think of how any funeral could be easy, but this one especially hard.  It was for a classmate of my son.  The boy was 26 years old.

The funeral turned out to be quite large though the family hadn't planned it that way.  The boy had lived in another part of Japan.  He hadn't been in our city for over 10 years.  He had been one of the students that has a hard time adapting to formal education and hadn't really attended school since Jr. high. He had made his own circle of friends in the new city but his parents had felt that there were few people who remembered him in this area.

Untrue.  Though I hadn't seen the boy since kindergarten, I had occasional contact with his mother, I had heard of his struggles to find his place in school life.  When I heard of his death, I brought out the photo albums from our happy kindergarten years and could smile at a picture of Takumi grinning away and this classmate flashing a peace sign at the camera.  There he was as I remembered him, the biggest boy in the class, the one who liked animals and who smiled shyly.

Many people must have remembered him the same way...  Many mothers from the kindergarten years attended the funeral, many classmates of his sisters, many of his father's colleagues from work, and many, many, many of his mother's friends from the numerous activities she is a part of.  And what is a funeral anyway but an expression of love and concern for the family that remains.  A desire to share the grief, to show support, to let the family know their loved one will be remembered.

The mourners overflowed into the lobby area and it took quite a long time for everyone to offer flowers at the "altar".  This was a non-religious ceremony so no priests or chanting or prayers... I wondered if I would have felt comforted...

I think the family must have been surprised and grateful that so many people came to be with them at their last good-byes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Plastic bottles

Our city is fairly strict about recycling.  We have Regular Trash Day, Plastic bottles, Glass and Can Day, Newspaper and Paper Day, and "Dangerous" Trash Day (for broken things, small appliances and batteries etc.)  Plastic bottles are supposed to be washed and placed in bins and the city collects them for recycling.

But people find ways of recycling plastic bottles themselves.  Often times I will see gardens with pretty little pinwheels stuck here and there.

Someone has made a science of cutting up plastic bottles in different ways and then painting them and sticking them on a pole.  They make interesting yard decorations but they serve a larger purpose of supposedly keeping the garden free from moles.

The scientific explanation is that the pinwheels transmit a jiggling movement down the pole to the ground when the wind blows.  The moles don't like their dirt being jiggled and go seek other places to make their tunnels.  Do you think that would really work?

Another way to use plastic bottles in the yard is... put them in the yard.  As is.  Well, filled with water.  These make less attractive garden decorations than the colorful pinwheels, but plastic bottles can often be seen in peoples' yards in Japan.  WHY?  Supposedly the water will reflect sunlight and scare stray cats away!  Hah!  I don't think this is too scientific either...  For one, do cats really get scared away by reflecting light?  Mine don't.  And for another, most stray cats I know make their territory rounds at night when light wouldn't be reflected anyway.  But still, Japanese homeowners believe they can protect their gardens from cats with the help of plastic bottles.  I'd rather have the cats than litter my yard with plastic bottles.

Any other great uses for plastic bottles that you can think of?