It has finally cooled down

My mother-in-law thinks we need to get out the heater, but it feels like perfect fall weather to me. I have been able to get to sleep without a fan for several nights now and I don’t have to wipe sweat from where my wrists rest on the laptop anymore.

Apparently another typhoon is headed our way, but hopefully we won’t be hit directly. I actually checked to find out what the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane is. They are actually the same phenomena, called a hurricane when in the north Atlantic Ocean or eastern or central north Pacific Ocean, and called a typhoon when in the western north Pacific Ocean. We are now experiencing a lot of rain from Typhoon #15 that just landed in Taiwan and is now headed east towards Okinawa and Kyushu. Being the worrier that I am, I always start to feel a little anxious when it rains so much. Our house is only about 200 feet from the Banjou River… and it gets pretty high when the rains come so quickly.


We went up the Banjou to a town called Honjo to eat some fresh soba with Jiro’s nieces a couple weekends ago. The soba was great, but the bamboo shoot sushi was incredible. The vinegared rice and the peppery flavor of shiso (perilla leaf) with the slight crunchiness of the thinly sliced bamboo shoot was really delicious.

The Japanese love to eat and love to talk about food. People drive long distances to eat foods that they read or hear about. There is lots of great food and each area has its own specialties. Saiki is known for sushi and gomadashi udon: udon noodles in a broth made from sesame seeds and fish paste. Tastes much better than it sounds..the word “paste” shouldn’t be used when describing food.

Honjo Water Wheel

The river there is really beautiful and so clear you can see the bottom.  There is a large water wheel built during the boom times in the 80’s. At  that time the national government gave rural towns huge sums of money to spend as they wanted to promote their towns. Honjo built a water wheel.

That weekend we also visited Shiroyama, the site of an old castle in Saiki. It’s a short hike from the center of town and the views are awesome. Unfortunately it was overcast that day, but we had fun and kept the girls busy for the afternoon. The path is popular for people wanting a short workout and we always run into at least one person we know when we go up there.

Although this is a medium-sized city, it is surrounded by mountains, rivers and the sea, so the wildlife is pretty phenomenal. I can hear deer crying now and regularly see bats, hawks, egrets, and turtles. I haver seen monkeys in our fruit trees and the damage from wild boars in the fields around here.

Path on Shiroyama
Path on Shiroyama

My job is pretty crazy. As I mentioned before I travel to a different school every day. The way it works is that the schools send in their schedule requests to the Board of Education and a schedule is created for each month. Once the schedule is set, each school sends in “detailed” lesson request. Some schools spend time on English once a week and their requests are usually for me to assist in the lesson, mainly helping with pronunciation and one-on-one practice, other schools just send me a bulleted list of things that they want me to cover; “colors” or “animals”. Other schools just write “English song and games”. These request forms are mostly written in Japanese with a few English words. My favorite typo so far is “English self introsuction practice”

Every day is different and totally unpredictable. Luckily the kids are great and I am able to laugh a lot with them. I end up playing with them at recess and have become pretty good at dodge ball.

I still don’t feel settled yet…although I am not carrying a

This is the small rice planting at the school that I wrote about in early in the summer
This is the small rice planting at the school that I wrote about in early in the summer

camera around as much as I was and I bought a plant for our house. I had a rough couple of weeks after the kids left and then my sisters had a weekend in Mexico for a birthday and then my US family had a big get together…it’s hard to be so far away. The plumbing situation at our Portland house seems to be going okay. The insurance is covering almost all of the extensive repairs (floors, ceilings and walls) and we are really grateful for all the work Kai is doing to help with this. I am sorry for being such a poor letter writer…

5 thoughts on “It has finally cooled down

  1. Susan September 29, 2008 / 6:51 pm

    I just tried self-introsuction and found it to be pretty painful. How do you teach it to young kids??

  2. Susan September 29, 2008 / 6:52 pm

    GREAT to see the rice planting as it’s grown!

  3. Hannah Whitehead October 6, 2008 / 5:00 am

    Hi Kate,
    I often feel the US is too large for our family. How much more so the distance from Japan to the US! I can imagine how hard it was to put Kai and Nina on a plane to leave.
    I’m working on making a coherent flow in my curriculum and then I read about your “lesson plans” – a whole different approach.
    How is your house coming?

  4. Susan Sowles February 13, 2009 / 7:11 pm

    Hi Kate,
    Judy Teufel and I have been working with a bookmaker in Forest Grove on Thursdays for the last year or so. She has been teaching us to make books, boxes, portfolios, etc. using many different techniques. The current project is a book (from Gutenberg on line) with design, cover and construction techniques appropriate to the text we’ve chosen. Judy is doing an early XXth century Girl Guides book about the wilderness. I’m doing a 1912 edition of Aesop’s Fables with illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

    It was Judy who told me that you are living in Japan caring for your mother-in-law and teaching English to grade school kids. I read about Jiro’s show at the Japanese Garden and so just assumed that you still lived nearby somewhere.

    This is my second year as a retired person. There’s been a shortage of time for sitting around eating bon-bons. I take care of my charming and energetic 2 1/2 year old grandson one day a week, spend Thursdays in Forest Grove and other days learning to walk with a new computer chip driven prosthesis.

    Today is Valentine’s Day and Oregon’s sesquicentennial. There have been lots of celebrations and many more are planned. Lauren Kessler’s book “Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American family” has been chosen by the Oregon Library Association for Oregon Reads status, complete with a foreward by the governor.

    Reading your blog seems almost like a conversation with you. I hope this shift in your life will continue to become more comfortable.

    • katezawa February 16, 2009 / 10:08 am

      How great to hear from you. The book project sounds really interesting…it is amazing to have so much original material available online now. Any chance that photos of your completed work will be available online? I didn’t know that you had a grandson…Liz must be a great mother. Keep in touch.

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