Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day Trip: Hiking in Yamagata

Recently I went hiking with a couple friends in the neighboring prefecture of Yamagata. It's just a 30 minute or so train ride out of Sendai to the the mountains that line the border between Miyagi and Yamagata, and the train ride itself is pretty scenic- it passes through the Japanese countryside and up into the mountains. We got off at a mountain called Omoshiroyama, and hiked through a small canyon beside a river that leads to the town of Yamadera. Yamadera which literally translates to "Mountain Temple" is a popular tourist attraction from Sendai. As the name would suggest, the town hosts a number of temples built into a mountain.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sendai's Rokkonsai Festival

Tohoku, the northern region of Japan's main island, Honshuu, is made up of six prefectures. These are Miyagi (where Sendai is located), Yamagata, Iwate, Akita, Aomori and Fukushima. Each of the prefectures has its own unique summer festival, the most famous of which are Sendai's Tanabata and Aomori's Nebuta. Recently the Tohoku region decided to bring all six festivals together in Sendai as a morale-booster and way to bring in some money through tourism. It was called the "Rokkonsai Festival".

Origami decorations which line the streets of Sendai during the Tanabata Festival in August.
One of the lit-up floats from Aomori's Nebuta Festival in August. Photo from Wikipedia.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: Kindle, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Even in the midst of a festival, I have a bad a habit of slipping off to read.
Hi, I'm Maura and I have a problem. I'm addicted to books. I never leave the house without at least one book in my bag, I sometimes like them better than I like real people and I spend probably 75% of my free time reading. On average I probably go through about 4 or 5 books a month depending on size, and given that books run about 1,000 Yen and up over here that's an expensive habit. Not to mention the fact that all those books are a hassle when you move countries every few years.

So when considering the order I was about to place at for the next month's reading materials, it occurred to me that it was really time to buy myself a Kindle. If you don't know, a Kindle is Amazon's E-reader for reading books electronically. Go here to see more. When I first heard of them the bibliophile in me shrunk back in distaste, but after having seen one up close I realized how nice they actually are. The screen is very easy to read and doesn't strain the eyes, and the ability to carry not just one book but an entire library around with me has finally fulfilled a life-long dream.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back from hiatus...

Sorry for the long break recently- there's been a lot going on this past month, not to mention that June and July are basically the busiest months of the year at work. This is because the kindergartens I teach at (there are 5) try to cram in as many classes as possible before summer break/fall arrives. But my kindergarten classes are mostly finished for the summer, which means I just have a few weeks left before my vacation! 

So here are some highlights of what I've been up to the last month:

At the end of June, my friend from college, Ellen, came to visit me in Sendai. Ellen lived in Japan for about 12 years, went to grad school in Portland which is how we met, and then went off to the Netherlands to teach at an international school there. I always enjoy hanging out with Ellen, since we have so many common interests. She brought me some wonderful Dutch souvenirs, including stroopwaffel cookies and cheese! Good cheese is extremely expensive and hard to find in Japan, so I decided to throw a fondue party and share the goodness. 

Mm, cheese and stroopwaffel... and! Sprinkles for toast!!