Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sayonara, Japan and 2010!

They're muuuultiiiplying (and have been for weeks)!!! The bunny goods to celebrate 2011, the year of the rabbit, that is:

It's the emperor's birthday today, and I'm heading out to Vietnam for what promises to be a coconut Christmas and 'Nam-licious New Year. I'll be tackling this one alone this year, but I'm excited for the last solo sojourn of my 20s! I'll miss my favorite traveling buddy terribly, but know that he has duties here and that we'll have many more adventures together to dream for! Soooooo thankful for Jacob, our time in Japan, our travels and friends and family, the ups and downs of 2010, and the possibilities of 2011!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

School Spirit

Okay, so maybe such Western carol classics as "Oh, Holy Night," and "Away in a Manger" aren't thought to represent the season by any means here in Japan (thanks in part to Wham and John Lennon), but that doesn't mean that the Christmas spirit isn't in full swing, especially at our school:

Lovely holiday 生け花 (ikebana, or Japanese flower arranging):

Calendar notes to the 3rd year students wishing them luck for their upcoming university entrance exams:

Christmas oragami...brilliant:

'Tis the season, and it's cuter than ever in this country! Scrouges don't stand a chance here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmastime in Sapporo...

...means chicken dinner frenzies at KFC, unnecessarily necessary overload of Wham's "Last Christmas" and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" (over and over and over again), expensive "traditional" Christmas cakes flying off the department store shelves...

...and this:

Jacob's annual stint as Santa-san at the local elementary school near us is always a hit with the kiddos, as well as with my little camera (which I always send along on the journey)! Japan seems to have a shortage of skinny, gaijin (foreigner) Santas that are all the rage in popular culture here, so the Shinkawa Elementary School makes sure to book him up as soon as possible! Warning: cuteness overload:

It also means a full month of the Munich German Christmas Market, featuring among other seasonal goodies, hot mulled wine and Rudolph (reindeer) burgers!

And, of course, the colorful season wouldn't be complete without the White Illumination down in Odori Park:

Sapporo actually knows how to do Christmas up right. Like, storybook right. And that has always been a nice send-off each year on our way out the door to South East Asia where garland-decorated tuk-tuks are awesome, but just don't have the same seasonal appeal!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sake, Sushi, and Hip Hop Abs

Mori sensei is somewhat of a legend at our school. He's fun, likes to dress in drag (for teacher parties, of course), and is always ready to provide a good time for all. This weekend he invited the other native English teacher, John, and I to his hometown of Otaru to give us just that...sadly, minus the drag-dressing, but nevertheless a grand 'ol time.

Our first stop, Otaru's sake brewery and museum:

Mori sensei and's all fun and games until somebody busts out the REALLY big bottle:

Afterwards, it was back to the Mori household, where Mr. Mori and his wife wined and dined us with cheese and crackers, salads, and crab & tofu nabe (Japanese hot pot-like stew):

And just when we thought we couldn't eat anymore, the doorbell rang. It was the sushi delivery guy:

Good thing John noticed that the Moris are connoisseurs of that timeless classic DVD, "Hip Hop Abs." In true Mori-fashion, it was then popped in and turned on for all to partake:

What a party. What a guy. What a country! And for the record, the Mori couple is the best darn Japanese couple I think I've ever met. The proof is in the photos, folks.