Take a hike

Rice fields forever

Apparently winter is coming, but at least last week it was still warm and sunny enough to take a walk down the mountain, to Kamegawa and downtown Beppu. This time I took a different route than usual: few surprises were on my way!

This worm seemed picture-worthy

Even though the walking directions here are rather limited, the scenery at least is variable. And there are many new things I encounter each time.

The second worm was a lot longer than the first one

You never know what comes around the corner.

Oddly enough, this hebi (snake) was just sun-bathing on its’ back

It takes roughly two hours to walk to downtown Beppu. I prefer the route along the habitation, since there are nice plantations where people grow their vegetables (no wonder, since they’re so expensive in the stores!), beautiful small gardens, architecture and interesting encounters.

Lady selling fish from her cart, I’m guessing this is local entrepreneurship at its’ best!

My next goal is to walk to the nearest onsen, on the other side of the mountain. It is easy to go down, but I would never walk up here (to “Hogwarts”).

Not even nearly there!
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Tenkusai

Happy students and visitors on campus

This weekend APU hosted its’ 10th annual Tenku festival. For two days, the school campus was filled with the extra curricular activities circles’ food stalls, performances in various fields, exhibitions and activities. Open campus brought many visitors from Beppu and maybe other cities to see, what else than studying this mountain beholds.

Traditional Japanese dance

 

There were many activities, such as chemistry lab for kids, movie screenings, calligraphy exhibition and a lot more. Besides the interesting and talented performances, to most people Tenku was all about the food. There was a lot of different kinds of treats, and the students were really persistent on their selling.

Kawaii price tags were usually not in English. All the food was fairly cheap!

 
Since the prices were from 100 yen to no more than 400 or 500yen per portion, people could afford to go from stall to another to taste different foods from around the world.

My personal favorite: hotate clam, sold out on both days
Chinese tea eggs, way tastier than what they look!

 
Even though it rained on Saturday, I think everyone enjoyed the festival and thought it was a success. On Sunday, the outdoor stage was popular and had performances one after another.

 

Visiting high school students dancing to one of the performing bands’ music

Tenku festival was probably something the circles have been waiting for a long time, I can imagine the countless hours of practicing, planning and organizing the selling. I bet most of the people involved are happy that the festival is over – I wish we could have something similar more often! There was so many things I didn’t get to try yet, and so many great things I probably missed. Several people wanted to have pictures with me, it doesn’t stop surprising and amusing me! I wonder, if all the festivals in Japan are similar to ours.

Tea ceremony

Next quarter I will have a course called the Japanese Traditional Arts, but impatient as I am, I already went to see (and participate in) the Tea Ceremony circle’s practice.

Tea master and his pots

The circle gathers twice a week to practice the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Some of the members have been practicing for several years, and they still have a lot to learn and remember!

Matcha in the making

I tried to follow the ceremony rules as best as I could, though with the language barrier it was a bit challenging. I tried the okashi as well as the powdered matcha green tea, which was foamy and definitely not like your regular cup of lipton (not that I ordinarily would ever drink Lipton, but matcha was something quite unique).

Apricot cream daifuku, and some thingys whose purpose remain unclear to me

The okashi (traditional sweets served before eating) was delicious sweet mochi. I have to admit, it was a bit of a challenge to get the mochi to my napkin with the chopsticks, since all the club members were staring and making notions of my left-handed work.

26 bows and counting

The tea ceremony had 2 tea drinkers besides me, then one person making the tea, another talking (apparently something about the tea and okashi), and third person was serving the okashi and tea. There was numerous bowing and cup turning – in my turn, I was supposed to bow to each and ask both my sempai (seniors) if they wanted to have my tea, and then ask the tea maker as well. Unfortunately I forgot the phrases as soon as I uttered them out.

Sensei in her beautiful kimono

I truly wish I spoke Japanese and would be able to understand the meanings of the ceremony – after few months the secrets will hopefully start revealing. Until then, I will drink my tea without any fuss of turning the cup around and bowing 14 times before drinking. Maybe next time I will understand what is happening and why – maybe one day I will get to foam my own tea as well.

Tea-making gear

Gym class hero

After attending the gym guidance few weeks ago, I received my gym membership card and thus am eligible to use the APU gym. As long as I have my gym card, student ID card and a towel with me, and I wear my brand new 200yen indoors sneakers, I am good to go.

Check in before you go. There are several rules and guidelines to remember

When entering the gym, one must sign in and give their cards to the security officer. After that, you receive a locker key.

Nice pink style on the machines

The gym is equipped with some basic machines: few treadmills and bikes, some machines for arms and legs, plus free weights. There is also two mats for stretching, ab/back workout or practicing sumo steps.

Even though I don’t understand the different features of the bike, the main point is clear (on the scale)

I have to admit, that I do feel rather big in the gym, too. Back home, I felt like an insect compared to all those pumped up bodybuilders, but here the biggest guys are hardly my height.

Best thing about the gym: Japanese music from a boombox in the corner!

Confession: I have been to the gym only twice, even though in theory I would have the time to go there every day. I am in desperate need of a reasonable workout programme.

More Japanese sweets: zanzen and green tea crepes

Life in Japan is sweet: most breads in the stores are sugar coated and/or filled with jam or cream. The pastries, cookies and other treats are aplenty. In addition to the mochi-making last weekend, today I was introduced to another anko (red bean paste) and rice-based dessert: zanzen, which is red bean soup with dango (rice flour) balls.

Simple ingredients and simple instructions: flour and water, form balls and boil

Anko soup is fairly easy to make: just put equal amount of red bean paste and water into a pot, and bring to boil. The dango balls are just as simple, but require a bit more work – they need to be rolled into small (roughly nail-size) balls and boiled until they rise from the bottom of the kettle. Dango is similar to mochi, and can be filled with anko paste, too. Without the filling, the dango does not taste like much.

Dango balls in the making

 

 

Green tea flavored whipped cream and bananas for crepe filling

 

The crepes are simple to make, too: flour, milk, eggs and sugar are mixed, then fried. The Japanese twist comes from the green tea in the whipped cream.

Happy crepe chefs

These delicacies were offered to the lucky students living in AP house. I was lucky to be able to join the House Activity Organization in making this event happen. I was also promised to be able to join next time – maybe this will be my activity, in stead of Aikido (which I skipped to be able to cook). More treats coming my (and your) way!