Saturday, March 14, 2009


The girls got it into their heads today for no apparent reason to play ninjas. At least they put on black clothes, unlike one time, when they played ninjas at Oita castle - wearing white sparkly frilly skirts. I was the cinematographer as usual.

First, a blooper reel - not quite the stylish ninja-esque exit from the hiding place under the table that she was intending, I think:

Next, I flubbed my lines:

Finally, success. You hear the stifled giggles in my voice, I was still getting over that clunking table.

Parks again!

She is laughing, not crying! and she did not hit her head or any other vulnerable bit. But it's YOU looking at this, not my mother-in-law, so I can rest assured that you are not going to say 'abunai' or 'kawaiisoo' (dangerous or poor thing).

Amy's Final class performance

The last 'sankanbi' or class observation for the year is a big deal, the kids put on a mini-performance and then all take turns to display their particular talents. For most of the kids, this was skipping! Amy, Yuki and Chisaki played the piano.

Lena's final class performance

Lena's was on at the same time as Amy's! Since I had gone mostly to Lena's class observations this year, I promised Amy I would go to hers. Daddy went to Lena's, and taped it on the video camera. I popped in at the start just to snap a few photos.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hina Matsuri

We finally got around to going and seeing the dolls on display around town as part of the Dolls' Festival. Traditionally dolls are supposed to be taken down by March 3, the actual Dolls' Festival day, but for the purposes of this month-long festival, they're left a little longer. We took Maya with us, Lena's friend from school. She called in the morning, wanting to come over and play, and what the heck, one more can't hurt! The more kids you have the less difference one extra makes! Now I know why every weekend when I was growing up, there'd be an extra face or two at the dining table. Not much difference between eight mouths to feed and nine. They are wearing costumes from home they were playing in when the time came to go, so they decided to wear them! All day, people thought they must have been performing a concert somewhere.

On the left, they are in a room with old ladies playing the koto, a traditonal string instrument, and old men playing the flute. You were supposed to order a tea set, with green tea and cakes, and sit down and enjoy your tea while they played for you. But we just went in and sat down! They all fussed over the kids, asked them where they were from, which confused the kids - they replied the name of their school, good on them! Below is part of the song they played.

On the right, they are at a shrine which had the dolls set up on the altar. They said their prayers all correctly without any instruction from me, they even demanded coins off me to throw in the box. My girls are growing up.

The oldest dolls, about 250 years old, and the smallest dolls.

Do-it-yourself candy floss! What a cool idea! You paid 10yen for the sugar, put it in the centre, then put in 100yen to make the thing go round. Then you tried your best to catch all the spun sugar on half a wooden chopstick. It was so much fun! We ended up with some rather wonky munted candy floss. Amy on the right demonstrating her stupid new bow and arrow. It did not work. At all. She commented that she could make a better one herself from rubber bands, selotape and those wooden chopsticks again. And she can, I've seen her do it!

Amy peering in a window at more dolls.

Maya and Lena by a shrine, fussing over their birds. After the candy floss we unfortunately passed a Lucky Dip stall. I was not tempted, but Maya and Lena saw a little blow-up dog on wheels that they just had to have! I said No, but Amy was a kind big sister and deicded to buy them a ticket. Yes, buy THEM just the ONE ticket.

Amazingly, they got a '3', and scored the dog. Which of course resulted in the inevitable fight for possession of the dog. I managed to convince Lena that we should give the dog to Maya, as she is our guest. The lesson couldn't quite penetrate her six-year old emotions, though, and because I could see she was trying, I gave in and got her another ticket. Which, predictably, was NOT a '3' and therefore did NOT score

Lena was not satisfied and had a HUGE sulk because she wanted the dog. Amy was trying to be conciliatory and trying to convince her that the '5' selection was cool, and I tried to interest her in a golden sword, but sulk she must. So Amy got to choose the toy, and she selected the stupid bow and arrow above.

I got as wild with Lena as you can probably imagine, already feeling foolish for giving in to her first sulk, annoyed at paying 300yen for a piece of crap, and now I have to somehow try to get this kid back to her usual happy mood without buying yet another ticket. So it was Mummy tantrum time, all the way back down the street to the Yori's soy sauce factory, the centre of the festival, with Yori's family's historical collection of dolls the centrepiece.

I saw Uto, and another English teacher, which embarrassed me as I was ripping into Lena again. Finally I decided to put her on a chair at Yori's, and go over to the toy store without her, unless she pulled herself out of her sulk and got back to normal. She managed to convice me she was okay now, she was sorry, Maya could have the dog, she would stop whining and crying about it. Then came the toy store. I don't know when to stop, do I?

I wanted to get some cheap Hago-ita to sell in NZ. Lena saw the toy caged bird, which sings. She had one last time we went to Hina Matsuri two years ago, but it broke. So, feeling sorry that she really was left with nothing in the end, I decided it's time to reward her for her strenuous effort to pull herself out of her grumpy mood, and get the bird for her. So of course I had to buy Amy something too, since how could I not reward her for her exemplary behavoiur? And had to get something for Erica too, just because it felt fair.

Then, what do you know? Maya wants a bird too. At first I said no, then I realized it wasn't fair to take a kid to a toy shop, buy everyone else a toy, and not get her something. I had placed all my purchses on the counter before deciding to get her one. I turned around, and there she was, looking awfully sad, too shy to protest, with Lena saying "Maya wants a bird too!". "Oh, alright" I said, "bring it over". Whereupon the old man who runs the toy store promptly discounted 700yen, the cost of the bird. He gave it to us for free.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Girls and Dolls

We didn't do anything special for Hina Matsuri, the Dolls' festival, this year, we somehow ran out of time.

It's getting harder and harder to get Erica to sit still for a portrait! Here's our first try:

We had more success getting her to lie down on the cushions pretending to sleep - so the big girls followed suit!

She refused to pose mainly because she was so intrigued by the dolls, which she thought were amazing, and said so!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Park Life

The weather is perfect for parks right now! Here are the mad three letting loose near the castle (where we went with Grandma for Hanami No.2 in 2004)