Saturday, 3 October 2015

museum of contemporary art

Once a month my husband works on a Saturday, which is great because I get a mommy + boy date! This time we headed to The Museum Of Contemporary Art In Tokyo, I love this museum but it is quite a trek for us to get to.

The first exhibit was "Whose place is this?" Set up with kids in mind to get them to think about their environment, 4 artists had contributed  and it was pretty cool!

Sorry, photo overload but I absolutely LOVED this room. The walls were all mirrored and the lamps all made from plastic that was washed up on the beach. The German artist Jurgen Lehl had collected all the debris from the island he lives on in Japan. This was great timing for us after just visiting Tamagashima, where there was a lot of rubbish on the beaches.

It's amazing how this rubbish can be turned into something so beautiful, and got us thinking about the rubbish we generate as a family, and how that can be recycled in a better way.

These hoops of light were my favourite. I'm not plotting a way to make something similar!

There is an area I have no photos of because only elementary and JH school kids were allowed in! According to Ebi-kun, inside there were several paintings and sculptures and the helpers would ask questions about how the art made you feel, stressing there is no right or wrong answer and we all interpret art in a different way. Pretty cool but the should have let me in too, I look 13 don't I?

The final room was a cardboard city, lots of tiny cardboard houses stacked up high, they must have been about 4m tall. They also have papers to fill in where you could design your own dream home. I love how they try and involve the kids in the art at such a young age. 

The second exhibit was all about the architect Oscar Niemeyer, Ebi-kun wants to be an architect after he has finished being a pro footballer! It was interesting too but not really a kids exhibit. They do have a Thomas the Tank Engine exhibit on at the moment too but neither of us were interested in that.

One cool section was this, it was an aerial view of one of his designs, a uni I think, made into a carpet. You can see the whole thing from the other exhibit then go down and check it out on ground level.

They also had a video playing showing the actual place in use, very cool but not suitable for little ones as it is all quite delicate!

We had a quick look around the shop then headed into the permanent exhibit hall, Ebi-kun was quite taken with this enormous counter, we checked out the rest of the art, some of it we had seen before. Then went outside to look around.

One of the things I like about this place is the actual building, it is so beautifully designed, makes great use of lines, light and water.

Having fun with the shadows...

Taking a rest...

We finished off by stopping at a cafe just across the road from the museum (they have an English menu too). We just got drinks and a parfait to share before heading back, it take and hour and a half if we are lucky with the train connections! 

There is a park right next door to the museum, so if your kids need to run off some enegy first, it is perfect! Check out more info HERE

And if you are worried about taking your kids to museums and galleries, you need this book! It doesn't have to be scary...

Friday, 2 October 2015

We're cheering for yellow

The verdict from the Dr was that he has to go back in two weeks! The bone is starting to heal though, which is a good thing and the Dr said Ebi-kun could join the sports festival as long as he didn't use his arm!

So this is his lucky yellow bento since he is in the yellow team this year.

Top left: kaki stars and pumpkin salad
Bottom left: Corn and tangerine with a string cheese cheerleader
then of the left are chestnut rice rolls wrapped in thin omlette, yellow pepper stars and yellow mini tomatoes.

Should keep him going...

PS - I am looking for bloggers to review my latest book "Fast and Fun Ghoulish Halloween Treats" if you have been a reader for a while you will know how much I love fun ghoulish food! If you would like a free copy in return for a blog review then please pop your details in this form! Can't wait to share...

Thursday, 1 October 2015

On being ambidextrous

I have always been pretty ambidextrous and there are some things that I favour my left hand with, like playing hockey, archery, pouring drinks! I don't really think about it, it just seems more natural with some things.

I don't wear a watch these days but when I did I wear it on my right wrist and strangely enough, Ebi-kun does the same.

So, a little story, when I was 16 I left school and went to the local art college for a year, wasn't the best year. Firstly I had applied to do art and tech drawing but when I rocked up, the tech course was mysteriously full - we learned later they had let three lads onto the course under late enrollment. That is a rant for another day. 

A few weeks into term, our dog managed to knock me down the stairs, I hit my elbow pretty badly and couldn't straighten my arm properly for about 3 weeks, I rocked up to college with my right arm in a sling!

The lecturers wanted to know why I had bothered turning up, I said, I'd use my left hand, which I did. I favour my right for writing and drawing but forcing me to use my left was great. Strangely though, my style is completely different with my left hand, one of my lectures actually said that I should use my left all the time! The cheek!

Later in the year I broke my leg skiing! Nasty break and missed a lot of college, I did take my mock exams and was allowed to take my A Level a year early, it was surprising they let me because I didn't have that much work in my portfolio due to missing so much college and only being there for a year anyway, and I had missed a lot of classes. Turned out to be a good call on their part as I rocked a B!

Anyway, Ebi-kun has been going through a similar experience with his fractured arm. Sensei hasn't been very sympathetic and still makes him do his tests! Maths he is doing OK at, he had a set of questions the other day and still finished 4th, doing it with his left hand. Kanji on the other hand he is struggling with because there are so many strokes and it's difficult for him to write them accurately with his left. We see the doctor again today, if still hurts so I'm not sure what will happen.

It's sports festival on Saturday so Ebi-kun really wants it fixed by then!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Fish and girls...

Our last day in Wakayama and I had a date with the gorgeous Jacqui from Meeabee and the boys went fishing!

Jac picked me up from the station and surprised me as danielle and Katie were coming along too - both of these ladies I have know for ages on facebook but never met in real life. They had 4 kids between them (I got to cuddle the baby!) We had a picnic in a rose garden, the weather was glorious and the conversation flowed! The kids seemed to be happy just running around.

The mamas with kids had nap time to deal with so Jac and I headed off to the mall and had a fancy mocktail, chatted about work, our businesses and how crappy life as an ex-pat is when family are sick or die, the feeling of being so far away and unable to do anything. But it wasn't all doom and gloom! It's a shame we don't live closer.

So whilst I was having fun with the girls, Daddy and Ebi-kun went off fishing, I think they caught 18 sardines, they were hardly massive but Ebi-kun really enjoyed himself.

He has been on a fishy overload,  sashimi every night except one, but then he managed to sneak some sushi in! Baa-chan cooked up their fish for him. I don't do fish, the smell of it makes me want to throw up, I certainly don't cook it! I can handle sitting at the table when it's sashimi because it doesn't smell but cooked fish - urgh. Needless to say, we had a happy boy that night and I was forced to drink extra wine to get over the smell.

Then Ebi-kun and Jii-chan managed to squeeze in another game of shogi, a Japanese version of something like chess. I have no idea how to play (and no intention of learning to play, otherwise I will get roped into playing on long train journeys!) We had to be early the next day for the trip back home. A rapid train, 2 shinkansen and the local excuse-of-a-train, it's always a long journey.

I was great that we got to spend a few days down there and the the weather wasn't crippling hot, like it is when we go in August. The only sad thing was that Ebi-kun didn't get to catch up with his cousins. maybe next time.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Ninety Nine and Three Quarters...

That is the age of Ebi-kuns Japanese Great Grand-mother! We only get down to Wakayama once a year, and she isn't getting any younger so we went to visit her.

She's actually in hospital at the moment because she has had a fever, so we stopped off at a restaurant where my husband's cousin works, it is on the cliff over-looking the sea. We have been once before but it was just after the big earthquake and I couldn't enjoy the meal of the view because all I could think about was the escape route if a tsunami struck!

We had left the house early so we wouldn't get stuck in traffic and so ordered a drink and nursed it for an hour before order lunch (before 11am I should add!) Ebi-kun had this fancy cream soda fruity, umeboshi thing.. it was good but a bit too sweet for him - I had to help with it, what a shame!

Then we finally went to see Hi-Baa-Chan. She was pretty genki and remembered me, it's not like she can confuse me with anyone else in the family, I am the token foreigner :D She looked really happy to see everyone and wouldn't let go of Ebi-kuns hand. Then it was back to Wakayama for more food...

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Awashima shrine - enough to give you nightmares

The day we went to Tomogashima shrine, we also went to Awashima shrine. We had to wait to buy tickets for the boat so we wandered down to the shrine then hung out until the tickets went on sale.
I'll show you the nice photos first...

Ebi-kun looking very grown up! Where did my little boy go?

I think he is looking more like daddy these days too (daddy has been watching America's Next Top Model and picking up modelling tips, can you tell? lol)

Lots of these birds around too, I think they are kites but don't quote me on that! It was fun just watching them hunt.

OK, now down to the shrine, Awashima-jinja is apparently famous for it's girls day ritual of floating dolls on the seas for the girls day festival (March 3rd). Just outside the shrine there are some little store selling fresh fish and seafood, if you are into that, I will give it a pass...

The shrine is full of dolls and they are all grouped together, it is pretty darn spooky and would be a great setting for a horror movie.

On one side were these dolls and the other side had geisha dolls... I can imagine them all coming to life...

There was an area where all the Japanese gods were hanging out, some of these are happy looking fellas so not quite as spooky.

My mom, who hates cats, would be freaking at this little lot...

The tanuki I found quite amusing, I think because they have such a fun expression. In Japanese mythology, tanuki (raccoon dogs) are shape shifters and they have large testicles, I'm not sure if the two ideas are linked! There is a great Studio Ghibli film called Pom Poko which I highly recommend, all about the tanuki fighting against the humans who are destroying their habitat.

The shrine is also for 'women's troubles' so women who have fertility or other internal issues go to pray there. It's a 10 minute walk from the port where you catch the boat for Tomogashima and there is a bit more info about it Awashima-jinja here.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Tomogasima Day Tripping

We arrived in Wakayama on Saturday, it's quite a trek to get there. We have to take the local train, then a shinkansen into Tokyo, change to another shinkansen into Shin-Osaka and then a rapid train to Wakayama, about 6 hours door to door.

Sunday we set off early to visit Tomogashima, a small island just off the coast. We arrived at 8.30am to hopefully catch the 9am ferry but the place was packed and we ended up catching a boat at 10am. It is a 20 minute boat ride over to the island, it was a beautiful day, perfect weather for it!

The island was used in the war, there are bunkers and places where cannons/guns were used to shoot down enemy planes. There are several buildings dotted over the island which are now abandoned. If you go, pick up a map when you buy the tickets for the boat! There are a couple of official routes but we just did it our way!

You can also stay over night and we saw quite a few groups with camping gear - most of which obvious had NO IDEA what they were doing, all the paths on the island are like the one above, so you can't use wheelie suitcases or trolleys! They must have found out the hard way!

It's not really suitable for anyone a bit dottery on their feet or for wheelchair users, or pushchairs for that matter! But GREAT for little boys (and girls) who like exploring. It's a good idea to bring a torch as there are quite a few tunnels and buildings to explore.

Also bring any supplies you need for the day, picnic and drinks. We made our way to the top of the island to a great viewpoint, to stop and have a spot of lunch... and lark about...

Ebi-kun eats...ships!

Then we headed down the other side, you can get to the sea in a few spots, it was pretty sad the amount of rubbish on the beach, I'm not sure how much had been just left behind and how much had washed up. A lot of PET bottles and plastic. I didn't see any bins on the island so be prepared to take your rubbish home with you.

Ebi-kun had fun catching hermit crabs, lots of them!

The lighthouse is still in use apparently and a few meters from there is the international timeline that Japan is on, not really well marked, just a signpost!

But a stunning view! Quite a few people were fishing for the day, so if you are into that, take some gear with you. When we got back to the jetty we noticed there was a shop open that was selling some food and basics.

I managed to catch the sun quite badly! Red face, white eyes, quite the look! The leaflet about the island says you can do the walking tour in an hour and a half, which if you are hardcore and with kids, then probably you can but I would allow for more time, enjoy the scenery and relax!

More info about Tomogashima and how to get there HERE

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Then THIS happened!

Sorry, I am well behind with the blog at the moment!
I'll fill you in with the last weeks events...

Wednesday, Ebi-kun came home from school, he had fallen on the way home, just tripped up and hurt his arm. He wasn't crying and it wasn't swollen and he could move it OK so I thought he had just sprained it. He struggled with his homework and only did the maths, using his left hand as writing hurt his arm.

Thursday morning, just before school we heard about Papie so he took the day off and we had lots of cuddles on the sofa and watched some films (actually Harry Potter 4 wasn't the best choice!)

Friday his arm was still hurting but it wasn't swollen or bruised so I thought we should go and check it out at the doctors. Went to the pediatrician around the corner but he only does internal medicine so he sent us to the other clinic (which I was trying to avoid, it's always packed) and it was, so we were stuck in there for 2.5 hours!

After an x-ray the Dr decided it was fractured but he didn't get it plastered, he has a medicated band aid and a bandage which needs changing everyday.

So I dropped him off at school, made sure sensei understood what had happened and then I came home to get some work done.

Ebi-kun arrived back from school later that afternoon and said he had had a kanji test and sensei still made him do it but with his left hand! What a task master. 

I chatted to mom each day, she is holding up OK and my little brother is over there at the moment. We had booked to go and visit the in-laws as starting Saturday was silver week, once every few years the calendar aligns and we get a 5 day holiday in September! 

I wasn't sure if I should try and book a flight home but there was no clue about when the funeral would be and many of the flights were booked out because of silver week. The only advantage would have been that Ebi-kun would be taken care of and I didn't have to try and figure out some childcare.

Saturday we took the Shinkansen down to Wakayama, I'll post about that separately, then earlier this week mom let me know that the funeral would be on the 1st. Which is when I have to take Ebi-kun back to the hospital.

It's pretty impossible for me to get back for the funeral, I want to be there more for mom really but I have no-one to leave Ebi-kun with, DH has to work and I can't really take Ebi-kun with me. So that is that.

It has been a week since Ebi-kun hurt his arm and it still hurts so I'm not sure it is healing, just a matter of wait and see I think.

So that has been my week! Now I really and to get my head down and get some work done!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Today we lost a great man

I knew something was wrong when the ipad started ringing at 6.45am. We chat to my mom often during the week but never before school.

Mom called to say that Papie (Den, my step dad) had passed away a few hours earlier. He had been sick for a while and just moved to a lovely dementia home but sadly his body decided it was time to go.

Just before we flew back to the UK in the summer, Papie had a bad turn and so I had to sit down and have a chat with Ebi-kun about the possibility of him not pulling through. That time he did and we did get to see him over the summer. He will be greatly missed.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Paris Pixel Art

When we were in Paris we spotted a lot of these cool pixel grafiti art. They are mini mosaics and found on the side of buildings. Ebi-kun and I had fun looking out for them. I have tried to find out more about the artist behind, the artist goes by the name Invader and was born in 1969 and he has his art displayed in many cities around the world, although I don't remember seeing any anywhere else, maybe I just wasn't looking!
Here are a few of the ones we saw, sometimes we were on the bus or train so the photos are blurred pictures of someones head!

This one wasn't a pixel art but we saw quite a few like this, a different artist on a similar mission I assume...

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