Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Extreme weather.

This has not been the best of weeks, our house sale fell through for the third time this year, I contracted poison ivy and we had an earthquake this morning. Nevertheless, life goes on and as I always say "everything happens for a reason". I have to admit though, I can not think of not one good reason why anybody would get poison ivy. Both my right and left legs look like they are going to fall off just above the ankle...Nice.

Well the typhoon passed us by, not much happened and Martin had to go to work. Despite the lack of extreme wind we did get woken up by an earthquake this morning . I awoke just after 7am to what sounded like a giant stamping his foot on our ceiling - last time this happened I thought it was our incredibily noisy neighbours but they have since moved out so I knew right away it was an earthquake. Anyway, Martin and I dashed under the dining room table for the last of the shakes and swaying. It was pretty quick and nowhere near as violent as the one in June but pretty scary all the same. I guess it's because when they start you never know if it's going to be a big one or not. When it happened in June, I woke up to an almighty roar, which was probably the concrete in the building, looked up towards my neighbours and said "what the hell are they up to now?" In reality, my choice of vocabulary wasn't quite so pleasent. When the room started to shake violently I realised pretty quick that it wasn't the neighbours and a very scantily clad Martin and Therese ran for underneath the dining room table. Despite the fact the building was swaying sideways, up and down Martin and I spent the whole time laughing very heartily that I had mistaken a 6.3 earthquake for our neighbours and were still laughing when the whole thing was over. It's always good to see a bit of humour in the midst of disaster, I think it must be a Northern Irish thing.

Anyway, it's all calm on the weather front and as you can see from the picture above it's a glorious Autumn afternoon in Hiroshima.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Typhoon Watch

September is the peak of typhoon season, and like most other things in Japan the first major typhoon has arrived bang on time. At the minute it is dry with hardly a breath of wind outside, the calm before the storm I guess, but by 9pm tonight it should be quite exciting. We currently have a weather warning for flooding and high winds, so it sounds like it could be quite a big one. One fringe benefit is that I might get tomorrow off work. Of course, I won't be able to go anywhere, but I get a lie in!

We will do a running commentary on the blog charting the progress of Typhoon 13.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A cup of tea, a decent biscuit and a sit down.

In case I haven't mentioned it before it is near impossible to find a decent biscuit in these parts. Proper English tea is hard to find too but that's ok since we packed 500 PG Tips in our shipping container along with 6 packets of chocolate covered HobNobs. We have about 350 tea bags left, the HobNobs lasted about two weeks. I have to say that there are few things better in life than dunking a chocolate HobNob in a hot cup of tea (and few things worse than dunking it in the tea for too long, losing it in the bottom and having to make a fresh cup).

We didn't get up to much today since Martin has four massive blisters on his feet from golf yesterday and I quite liked the idea of doing nothing, so I spent the afternoon baking chocolate chunk cookies, singing along to Snow Patrol and reminiscing about Saturday nights boogying on down at Dundee Student Union.

Although tasty, the cookies are no good for dunking in a hot cup of tea but they are still way better than the McVitie Green Tea Digestives on sale here.

Here's the recipe should you feel inclined to get your pini on.

* WARNING: This recipe makes a lot of cookies, about 30 in fact and my baking tray only took 6 at a time. Fortunately, I have an eager husband who was willing to check on said cookies, take them out of the oven, put more on and do this palava 4 more times.

50g of oats, grind to a fine powder in the blender
225g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
100g butter
75g sugar
75g brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 eggs
250g chocolate chips

Thoroughly combine all the flour, oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.

Cream together the sugars and butter. Add the eggs, lemon juice and vanilla, stirring well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until they are fully combined. This requires extreme muscle power but once again willing husband was eager to lend an arm.

Put the dough in the fridge for at least an hour or if you have the patience, overnight is even better. I have no patience and don't even think I waited an hour.

Spoon dessert spoonfuls of the mixture onto an ungreased baking tray. Pat them down slightly and leave plenty of room as they will spread out as they cook.

Cook on 170 degrees for 13 minutes or until they are golden around the edges but still slightly raw in the middle.

Cool the cookies on the tray for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. I couldn't be bothered with all that waiting around and had already sampled one 2 minutes after it came out of the oven.


Ps. We now have a mountain of cookies on the worktop which will have to be dispatched to work with Martin tomorrow otherwise I will eat them all. This seems to go down well Martin's colleagues who receive such treats on a weekly basis, they too miss a decent biscuit and I wont turn into a big heifer.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Golf in Japan

It's Martin here this time, to tell you about my first golfing adventure in Japan. Needless to say after over a year off the course, I hadn't improved, but I was nowhere near as bad as I thought I might be. In fact, I even managed a par on a par 5, and won closest to the pin on one of the par 3's. Of course, I still managed to lose a few balls, and duff a fair share but it could have been worse. The greens were really, really fast - well at least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

First of all apologies for no pictures, i forgot to take the camera. The golfing experience is all a bit more upmarket than my usual pay & play experiences back home. For a start, when you pull up, a team of helpers unload all the gear from the back of the car, and make sure it is all safely transferred round the back and strapped in to your pre-allocated buggy. Next you go in and check-in, almost a bit like a hotel. You get a numbered wallet with your card, which you use like a hotel key in the clubhouse and around the course for drinks, lunch, the driving range etc

A quick change in the very plush changing room (no changing in the car park here!) and out to meet your buggy. The big thing about these, is that they are automatic and remote control! Press the button and the buggy sets off up the fareway a preset amount, or until you tell it to stop! Buggies are mandatory, as it keeps everyone moving, but even if the weren't with the heat & humidity, they are essential. To keep you hydrated there are little drinks kiosks after the 4th & 13th holes, where everyone stops for a swift beer.

Needless to say the course was immaculately prepared, and the setting was beautiful. It was nestled in the moutains and seemed to have been carved out of a natural forest, absolutely stunning - I promise photos next time.

After the first 9 holes, it was a lunch (a tasty noodle dish) and of course you weren't going to lose your place as you had an allocated tee time for the back nine.

Once the wagers had all been settled in the 19th, it was time for an Onsen to refresh and soothe muscles. All in all, a very pleasant experience - with a price tag, but it was worth it.

Sorry to have bored any golf widows out there, I'm sure Therese will be back with another post about cafes, onsens and muffins soon.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Adventures in a mud hut through a 2ft 6" doorway.

It's Sunday night and Martin and I have returned a tad sun beaten but refreshed from a little jaunt to the old fishing port of Tomonoura on the Inland Sea. Fortunately, Tomonoura is not touted as a "Little Kyoto" in the way that so many tourist destinations in Japan are but fail to be and if you come expecting to see hoards of old samurai houses you'll probably be disappointed. Nevertheless, it is beautifully situated on the Inland Sea and it's lovely just to dander around all the narrow little alleyways and take in the ramshackle nature of the place, look at all the weird fish people sell on their door steps, chat to the locals and catch a glimpse of real, old Japan that you wont see in Kyoto.

Typical street scene in the village, it was a very tight squeeze driving down these streets, especially if you met another car. Fortunately, most people here drive little bento box sized cars and they all have buttons that automatically pull your wing mirrors back.

I love all those little gates and fancy roofs.

Freshly caught shrimp laid out to dry on the street.

Once we were done wondering around we caught the ferry over to Sensuijima Island which cost a grand total of one pound twenty and when we disembarked we thought we should head for an onsen. Well this was going to be no ordinary onsen, for a start we had to wear clothes - oh the horror of it! Martin and I then proceeded to change into our flashy airtex polo shirts and shorts supplied by the onsen (Martin had to search high and low for a pair of shorts big enough and when he reappeared I burst out laughing as they were a tad figure hugging - he claims he still maintained his modesty). Next up, we had to go and lie in the sauna which was not your usual pine clad monstrosity. In fact, this was a mud hut, with a thatched roof, mounds of seaweed on the floor, built on top of a roaring fire and could only accessed by crawling on your hands and knees through a 2ft 6" wooden door- see picture below.

Once inside, we had to lie on our backs on the roasting hot seaweed covered floor with only a rod of bamboo as a pillow and sweat it out before the staff let us out. Now after a few minutes of sweating profusely I began to feel a little claustrophobic so I clambered around in the dark until I found the door and crawled my way out. I emerged covered in black seaweed -face, arms, legs and all, boy must I have looked good.

After the sauna ordeal we got to soak in the cold bath which was rather pleasant as it was built in a nice rock pool overlooking the sea. Except this time we got to wear rather fetching sun visors (I'm sure they bought them in 1985) with floats attached to our necks. We enjoyed floating in the water until we were summoned for another sauna adventure, this time lying on a floor of damp tea leaves. After this was over we were ushered down to the beach where we had to sit in the sea for a while before our final sauna experience.

By now I was getting into the swing of things and quite enjoying it although I have to say I have never sweated so much in my life before. This time we laid on a bed of dried aromatic fruit leaves which was really nice. After this was over we headed for a soak in the hot bath where we enjoyed sipping green tea and looking out towards the sea.

We really enjoyed our fun little adventure and it's always good to try something new- even if they say you should never try anything new in a foreign country!