A New Keyboard and Mouse
Well, the answer to the question "what was the elusive Christmas gift I was seeking for Ritsuko?" is "a Magic Mouse for her computer". I had already managed to get the wireless keyboard, but the Magic Mouse was so popular that it had sold out everywhere except the Apple Store in Shinsaibashi. So that's what the trip into Osaka was for, to get the Magic Mouse.
Now that her computer has a wireless keyboard, wireless mouse and wireless networking, the only wires coming from it are the power cable and the printer cable. Compare that to my PC a few years ago and it had wires for the keyboard, mouse, monitor (x2), speakers (x2), network, printer and power! iMacs already cut down the wires by having the screen and the speakers in the same box as the CPU, but then going with wireless keyboard, mouse and networking - we have pretty much cleaned up our desktop. Sometimes technological advances are a good thing!
Note 20/06/2010: I got a bit busy over the last few days with the sermon preparation and paperwork for my Australian businesses, as well as English teaching here, so I've been away a few days from pbase. Hopefully, I'll get a few more BLOG updates out this week. - James
"Real" Christmas Cake
One thing I missed in our first Christmas in Japan, was the Christmas cakes we would eat in Australia. For me it's the taste of Christmas. The Christmas cakes in Japan, just don't do it for me: Firstly they are strawberry cakes; secondly they are sponge (more air than cake) cakes; thirdly they don't last much longer than Christmas day. This time I really wanted to have some of the Christmas cake that I was used to and I wanted to share them with as many people here as possible, so I emailed my parents who kindly sent us not one but three huge Australian Christmas cakes. Australian Christmas cakes are solid and chunky; contain dried fruit; last so long that they can be stored away for the next two Christmases if you don't finish them this year!
The only thing was, we needed custard to serve with them and in Japan you can't by custard in milk cartons like in a Australia, neither can you buy custard powder. So Ritsuko and I sourced a recipe for custard from the net. Then I went and bought the required ingredients and we got to work on making the custard. In the end it the custard turned out to be the best custard we had ever tried that I'm not going back to instant custard again!
A few days before Christmas, I went into Shinsaibashi in Osaka to get the elusive gift (that I was unable to find in other places). I'm not going to reveal just yet what the gift was, but the mission to Shinsaibashi was a successful one. Not only that, before heading back to Nagaokakyo, I stopped in at the Nike Store
were I found that the Nike Gore-Tek hiking boots that I had been wanting for ages were on clearance for half price, but only a few sizes were left. In Australia since my shoe size is about average, I never get half price clearance items, but in Japan were my shoe size is bigger than 99.9% of people, they still had stock in my size (note: only Nike and ABC Shoes actually stock my size here, most other places in Japan don't). So not only did I successfully find the Christmas present for Ritsuko I was looking for, I also got a pair of warm waterproof hiking boots just before the New Year's holidays.
Note: This photo is of some Ichou (Ginkgo) that were still (rather late) showing the yellow foliage not far from the store where I secured the elusive Christmas gift.
At Kyoto Station
Before going out to my second viewing of the Arashiyama Hanatouro, I went into Kyoto Station to look for some Christmas Presents. While I was there I checked out the Christmas decorations in the Kyoto Station complex. This tree was the centrepiece of the decorations, one thing you might notice is that it says "x'mas" rather than "Christmas". Around that time I received a Christmas card from a friend in Australia that said "Put Christ back into Christmas", and I whole heartedly agree in sharing about Christ at this time of the year (and all other times of year) and the difference he's made to my life to those who are seeking. At the same time I realise (and this might upset some) that we can't force our beliefs on others including trying to make our nation, or organisations, etc, promote so called "Christian Values".
It seems to me that people waste a lot of time arguing about whether it should be "Christmas" or "x'mas" is OK since "x" is "chi" in Greek and thus short for "Christ". Others who would argue we shouldn't celebrate it at all since "mass" is an "Evil Catholic Church" wrong concept. Others still refuse to celebrate it because it possibly has "Pagan" or "Witchcraft" origins. People get passionate about arguing for there particular point of view and forget the main message of Christ that "we love one another as He loved us". It's as my old boss in Australia would say "stop arguing (about) the toss (of a coin) and get on with (playing) the game" (words in brackets added for clarity, Note: in Australia many sports begin with a toss of a coin, the winner of the toss chooses the direction of play).
Note (14/06/2010): Many of you may have noticed that I hadn't posted anything to my pbase site for about 5 months. The main reason for this is the business here got extremely busy in what was supposed to be our low season (February to April), got even busier after the golden week holiday in May. At the same time I've been writing a new workbook for the Kindergarten students, which I just finished today. So some things in life had to be put on hold for a while and pbase was one of them. Now, that I've finished the workbook I'll start catching up with the "Mission Japan BLOG", hopefully about an entry a day (6 months to catch up!). I'll also start commenting on others photos again. I'm also planning a few updates to some other galleries and lots of new galleries, but I just see how it goes with the BLOG first. Finally, a big THANK YOU to those who sent me messages to see if I was OK, your well wishes were very much appreciated. - James.
Arashiyama is becoming one of my favorite places to visit, there is always something to see there and it's not too far away from where I live. Well, this year I found out about Arashiyama Hanatouro, a special light up of a number sights in Arashiyama which lasts for 10 days. The word "Hanatouro" means "Flower Light Road", because there are a number of lit up flower arrangements along the roads. There is over 5.2km of road lit up, plus special night openings and illuminations of various temples and shrines. (see the Arashiyama Hanatouro homepage
for more details).
I ended up going on two nights, the first night was a Sunday night and it was very crowded. On the following night there was about 25% less people, but the weather wasn't so good (occasional showers and strong wind). Even going on two nights I still didn't get the chance to see everything. I reckon you'd have to go all 10 nights to see it all! If your wanting to come for 2010, remember it is a pretty cold time of the year to be at Arashiyama, expect the temperatures to be in 4C to 8C range during the light up times (5:00pm to 8:30pm). IMHO they should start it at 4:00pm, because the sky is too dark by 5:00pm to look nice in the photos.