Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spring Has Come...Hanami Time

I'm still trying to do some catch-up here with this blog... but as the title suggests it's Spring-time here in Adelaide. These photos were from the beginning of October...

We bought our house about 2.5 years ago... after an incredibly painful process (Australia, and Adelaide had been going through a housing boom that was like trying to catch a runaway train... blindfolded). Anyhow, one of the selling points of the house was a weeping cherry tree out the front. I guess it just reminded us of our Japanese connections. And every Spring for about 2 weeks, we get to enjoy a little bit of Japan in our front yard. 

And every Spring we grab our picnic rug, we (ok - mostly T-chan) makes some yummy dishes and we head out for a picnic under the Sakura tree. Now this is a bit of a reminder of the hanami (flower viewing) outings that are an annual feature of Japanese life... if you check out my Japanese Ties blog shortly, you'll see the real thing (check it out here). Now hanami typically involves eating and drinking under the blossoms as groups of friends, family or work colleagues. Perhaps the emphasis is on the drinking these days... as it's one of those opportunities for the Japanese to let their hair down. Ours is however very much a family affair. 
L-kun enjoys onigiri (rice ball) as Dad and T-kun (our cat) watch on

I'll post up a few more slightly older posts as I go... but I'll also try and throw in some simple Japanese lessons as I go. Be warned however... you would not want me teaching you Japanese...but I will do my best.

花見 - hanami, is made up of 花 (hana= flower, blossom) and 見る (miru = verb to look, or view). Japanese writing is made up of a number of different forms, from the so-called native kana script (which can either be hiragana or katakana), chinese kanji script (the more complex form), and then of course there's romaji (our roman alphabet). In this case, 花 and 見 are kanji characters and る is the hiragana character for "ru".

Friday, October 29, 2010

Matsuri on Mobara - Festa Time In Adelaide Part 3

The last part of the afternoon was spent once again with a number of different demonstrations and dances. One of the more stunning was a beautiful display of grace and poise as part of an umbrella dance... showing that the arts (and fun) of Japanese culture are not limited only to the Japanese. This dance was very very well executed, each like a controlled expression of flexibility, strength and control.

There was also a session on kimono wearing - though for an Australian context, the kimono were largely replaced with yukata which is a more informal "summer" dress.

And there were more martial arts demonstrations... including aikido... which is a blend of martial arts and philosophical-religious system that is roughly translated as the "way of the harmonious spirit". Actually, this is a relatively recent martial art developed by the fusion of Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu and the religious beliefs based on Ōmoto-kyō (which is closely related to Shinto). The martial art was developed by the founder, Morihei Ueshiba, in the 1920's. There's something to be said for the system of using your attacker's strength against them... though at times it looked anything but harmonious.

Of course there could be no Japanese festa without a tea ceremony (ok - if you hadn't worked it out by now, festa is the Japanglish for festival). Here a number of the crowd were given the opportunity to sample some delicious Japanese matcha (a thick green tea). The tea ceremony (known as chadō) dates back originally to the introduction of tea into Japan in the 9th century - but today's ceremony harks back to the Zen practices of  the 15th century. It's meant to be conducted in a place of quietness... not possible in a giant sports hall filled with lots of kids and parents running around. Still - it was enjoyed by all those that watched.

T-chan makes a rare appearance in this photo of L-kun... the good thing about this festival is that it's located alongside a school with a very nice playground... a great space for L-kun to run off some steam. And the yakitori he had for lunch. L-kun loves playgrounds, and whilst he was a very good boy (until the end), he comes alive when he can play.

 Adelaide doesn't have a large cosplay community, however, they do make the most of their opportunities. There was actually a whole demonstration based on this... but the participants were intimately connected to the AVCON (Anime and Video-games Convention) group in Adelaide. They certainly added a great deal of interest and colour to the proceedings... and were a focal point. Final Fantasy was a popular theme as always.
One of the Cosplay participants (on the right)

These sorts of events are all about communities coming together... Japanese communities as well as Australian.  There's something nice in the moments we share, and indeed the pictures (those moments captured in time) that suddenly transition between the instant and the immortal. As time goes on, we find ourselves rapidly defining our lives in the moments captured in bits and bytes on our computer... one of the many challenges to our free time in our modern lives.

There was another interesting folk dance performed, a mix of slow almost static poses...

Combined with swirling, expansive dance moves...

We had to head out before the final event (the taiko drumming) but for us a very fitting finale was the return of Noriko Tanabe who performed again on the Shamisen giving some of her modern interpretations (and even gave some lessons on stage). She also gave an impromptu lesson on Sōran Bushi, a traditional matsuri dance based on the work of Japanese fisher-peoples. This dance goes back a long way in Japan... an ancient precursor to Zumba.

Whilst it was a complicated affair for those brave enough to go to the front, it was both a lively and fun way of ending the day. This song/dance is often accompanies bon dances... the summer ancestral spirit festival in Japan.

It was a good day... but alas it ended in some tears as L-kun missed out on getting his face painted. It's hard explaining to a 3 year old why they would say no (when the booth closed... with us next in line). Even though he didn't like face-painting before, he was very upset now that he couldn't do it. As a result, we decided that perhaps it was a good time to call the day to an end - so we missed the taiko drums.

So whilst L-kun missed out on his face painting... T-chan obliged with a beautiful set of home-drawn images.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Matsuri on Mobara - Festa Time In Adelaide Part 2

One of the demonstrations was of a traditional Harvest Festival Dance... by a group of volunteer enthusiasts around Adelaide. I have to say that I really respect the effort that people put into their hobbies - especially when it comes to preserving some of their own heritage so far from home. Also, there were several Australian members of the group - making the performance that bit more special.

There's something very nice about seeing people brought together... from different cultural and age backgrounds - to enjoy experiences with people from different parts of the world. Of course - the people that  come to these sorts of events are of course naturally pre-disposed to being open to new things. I wonder of the 3,000 people... how many of them already had ties to Japan? And how many were experiencing some of these cultural experiences for the first time.

It was a fine day in Adelaide... Spring has been coming along strongly (and I might throw up some other posts about Spring in Adelaide shortly).  Sunday morning was quite bright, but with a cool breeze to start - so much so that L-kun was a bit cold without a jacket. It was however perfect weather for koinobori... these flags made in the shape of carp are a Japanese tradition related to the annual boys festival (known as Children's Day) that takes place on 5th May.

And the other thing the weather was good for was kite-flying... and there were some very large traditional Japanese kites up in the air. Not sure however that the kites were such a great idea when one of the big ones came down... and almost took T-chan's head off. Phew... abunai!

 As the morning turned into afternoon, our thoughts turned to lunch. Festivals are always a little iffy when it comes to food. They don't normally have the facilities to cope with large crowds, and the food is always a little bit questionable (at least from the perspective of someone that eats a lot of Japanese food). On the menu today was yakitori (grilled chicken), gyuu-don (cooked beef on rice), okonomiyaki (cabbage-based pancake often referred to as the Japanese pizza) and various other bits and pieces.

It was a red-letter day today for L-kun...  We had bought some pretty so-so (interestingly translated as ma-ma) gyuu-don for lunch - but I had also bought some strawberry flavoured Ramune... which is a traditional Japanese soft-drink. It has an interesting cap-system which has a round ball vacuum sealed against the bottle opening. To drink you need to break the vacuum by pushing the ball into the bottle (with the aid of a plastic tool provided). It's a bit of an old-fashioned way of storage, but fun...  and Ramune is one of those Japanese institutions that should be tried.

Now - we have to admit something here. We're not big on exposing L-kun to lots of junk foods - though we're not food-nazi's by any stretch of the imagination. As an example of our overall parenting style, we haven't let L-kun have fizzy drinks before. Before today that is. Daddy's Strawberry (ichigo) Ramune was going to be his very first carbonated drink... let's see how it went...

So far so good... he seems pretty into it (after seeing Daddy enjoying)...

Ummm... (face expression changes)...  oishikunai! Yucky!  To be honest, we were hoping for a reaction, but we hadn't quite anticipated such a "ewwwwrrrrgghhh" reaction. That most probably is a good thing. But I hope it hasn't traumatized him too much - otherwise Mr Coca Cola might miss out in the future.

We're not sure that reaction will last long however. It doesn't take L-kun very long at all before he's got his cheeky expression back again. I wonder how he will react to his second fizzy drink?...

In between eating there were still demonstrations and displays occurring at the main stage.

One such was a demonstration from the Japan Karate Association Australia (JKAA)...In fact, we're seriously considering enrolling L-kun in a martial arts school... just not quite yet. Of course, there's a lot more to Japan than martial arts. However - it makes for an interesting demonstration nonetheless. This particular group emphasizes the fact that  children to practice with adults to get them to be more confident with older people in conflict situations. I'm not entirely convinced by this argument however... still anything that builds self-confidence is good in my book.

Matsuri on Mobara - Festa Time in Adelaide, Part 1

24th October, 2010 - Welcome everyone to the blog of our life in Adelaide... and today I thought I'd start things off with a very Japanese experience. "Matsuri on Mobara"... where Matsuri is Japanese for festival! This is an annual festival that is held in Mobara Park in Mawson Lakes - a relatively new suburb in Adelaide's north. This was held last sunday - so it's pretty fresh. The suburb of Mawson Lakes is part of the Salisbury city council area, which has a sister city partnership with Mobara... from the Chiba prefecture (not far from Tokyo).

Now Adelaide doesn't have a very large Japanese community - so these sorts of events tend to be quite popular amongst the Japanese families. There were about 3,000 people attending throughout the day - but the majority were curious Australians looking for some colour and excitement. The day started around 11am and went till about 4, with the program featuring a number of different cultural events and food experiences. I'll try an give you a bit of a taste of things that happened on the day...

A word of warning... I'm not only playing with my new camera (an entry-level Canon Kiss X3 DSLR), but also starting to play with some editing software. Like a kid in a candy store.

The day started off with some beautiful Shamisen playing by Noriko Tadano who actually lives in Melbourne. She played the largest of the three types of shamisen, the futozao. The Shamisen is a three stringed instrument - that not only doesn't have any frets (and hence is played by ear), but also is unique in that it uses a simultaneous percussive hitting of the soundbox to generate a very unique sound. Exquisite.

Our son, L-kun has mixed feelings for these sorts of events. He has fun, but he'd much rather be doing something (like playing) rather than sitting down watching things. Even perched up on Daddy's shoulders which has to be his #1 place to enjoy the world.

Of course, matsuri is also a time to get dressed up - and have some fun.

There was a demonstration of Iaidō...the Japanese martial art of sword drawing that dates from around the 16th century - but harks back to the more practical skills of Japanese samurai of even earlier times.

An important part of this, and one of the most dramatic, is the practice of the cutting with the drawn blade in smooth, precise movements. This was dramatically demonstrated below with sodden rolled up bamboo mats and bamboo stalks. Now that's Ginsu sharp!

 Festa are of course a time to catch up with friends... L-kun was comparing notes with his friend K-kun about a bike that had been parked nearby. They were in deep discussion - perhaps about the colour, or perhaps just because they couldn't understand what a bike was doing here all by itself.

K-kun was sporting his Ampanman toy, a must-have accompaniment to any outfit.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Introducing My Son, L-kun... Hajimemashite!

Hello all, I'd like to introduce you to my son, known here simply as L-kun... well... this isn't really the L-kun that we know most of the time as his parents... A more usual L-kun is shown below.

He's almost three and half years old, although at times it's felt like a blink of the eye.

L-kun was born here in Adelaide, although his mother was born and raised in Sapporo, Japan. She's a shy type, and as such she doesn't want her photo to plaster the inter-web. I'm a less shy sort (and basically lazy) - so you might see me popping up at times. Whilst I wasn't born in Adelaide, I'm a South Aussie born and bred.

And for those that don't know the geography of Australia, or Adelaide... here is a quick lesson:

And the city of Adelaide itself:

Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia, and with a population of about 1.3 million is the 5th largest city in Australia. It's a small city that's often considered a large town. That's a good and bad description - but also an accurate one. We are the Festival State, but our main claim to fame is our wine industry.

Why am I doing the blog... well, it's really about telling the story of a mixed family (half Aussie, half Japanese) being raised in Adelaide (hence the name). Actually I used to really like the movie, Raising Arizona - so perhaps that has something to do with the title. Anyway, this is a blog about us, but more specifically about L-kun.

I'll most probably be posting various blogs from our past, but if you want to see some of our adventures over in Japan... then please visit my other blog, Japanese Ties. In the meantime, this is the start of a new blog, so don't expect things to run smoothly (or even to remain constant). Hope you enjoy it, and don't hesitate to call on in and leave a comment or two.