January 31, 2010

That's it!

Our exchange has came to an end. Official farewell party was held on Friday followed by less official student party. Needless to say, everyone felt wistful at the party, knowing that soon it is time to return home and tell goodbye to all the good friends who became very close during the exchange.

It is difficult to grasp the speed how time has passed. Looking back to last year's October when we began here, it has been a period of laughter, good times, making friends and even learning a thing or two wile doing it!

It is possible that some of us meet again but sadly also it is likely that some of us never meet again. Anyhow, a big thanks goes to everyone at Oita University for creating such an environment where getting to know each other and creating friendships that last!

Thank you Oita! Good bye Oita! See you again Oita!

Oh, and camera broke the other day. No photos for a while! :(

January 20, 2010

A visit to Japan Self Defence Forces (JSDF)

JSDF is the military of Japan whose aim is to protect and give an initial defense in case Japan is attacked. We had an unique chance to visit their base in Beppu, view the training grounds and enjoy soldier's lunch.

The general public has some what negative image of the forces. They would prefer to see the country without any militaristic grouping. To make the image better, in addition to ordinary military training, JSDF has engaged in helping the community. They, for example build roads and schools, carry out peace keeping operations and rescue missions to find lost people from forests.

The reason why they allowed a group of international students to enter their base was most likely also linked to improving their public image. One of our students was asked at the end of the visit,
"Now that you have been here, has your image of JSDF changed?"
A question that baldly indicates their intentions of image construction. Indeed, they received us with a very hospitable and friendly manner, leaving little space for negative thoughts. Despite that a question remains: Can a truly friendly military exist?

We met the camp commander, and some students went into asking quite sensitive questions such as:
"As the JSDF is solely serving for self defense, isn't it contradicting to have troops in Iraq or in any other place around the world?"

"What are the future challenges or scenarios that JSDF is likely to face?"

"As JSDF runs in a voluntary basis, how does JSDF lure new soldiers, and has there been a drop in the number of applicants?"

"Do they think the physical and mental condition of newcomers is worse today than, say 20 years ago?"

The answers, tough presented in a direct militaristic tone were satisfactory. Understandably the camp commander, a Colonel of his rank circumvented skillfully around any topic that included his personal views or opinions. What was more satisfactory, however, was the food they served. The lunch that honestly tasted better than looked was a well-thought way to get us distracted and at the same time rise our spirits.

We asked several soldiers why they had joined JSDF. A common reply was "We wanted to do something for our country". One man, in addition to doing something for the country, added saying, "This is a good environment for those who want to become more confident and grow interpersonally.", not too bad motive at all, eh?

Do you have an impression of JSDF? Aspiring to join them?

January 11, 2010



Me kävimme Oitassa maatilalla auttamassa marjojen poiminnassa.

Minä en tiennyt minkälainen marja on. Se on tämmönen.

Gardenian, eli Keikarinkukan marjan poimiminen muisututtaa marjojen poimintaa Suomessa.

Kun kuivattaa nämä marjat, niitä voi käyttää väriäykseen. Jos esimerkiksi niitä keittää riisin kanssa, riisi muuttuu keltaiseksi. Oitassa syödään sellaista keltaista riisiä uutena vuotena. Se on juhlaruoka.

Poiminnan välissä joimme macha-teetä marjapuskien keskellä. Ulkona maku tuntui paremmalta kuin sisällä.

Lopuksi me söimme paljon erilaisia ruokia, myös keltaista riisiä, säilöttyjä vihanneksia, makeita papuja ja jokikalaa!!

Kiitos Ando-sanille, joka kutsui meidät sinne! Saimme arvokkaan kokemuksen oikealta maaseudulta.

January 9, 2010

The local farmers' market

Once a month near the center of Oita a busy market opens up. There one can find domestic meat, fish, vegetables fruits, all fresh, excellent quality and very affordable! Even more, in the atmospheric early morning market one can see a huge tuna fish being sliced into bits by smooth moves of master's knife, and if one so wants he can taste the freshly cut tuna for free. We went there today, January 9. Next time it will be held on February 13, from 9:00 to 12:00.

Cut-master is eying the 107 kg tuna, which still is in one firm piece. Boy, it would be something to hook one like this to the dinner table. On the other hand, I'd better keep on fishing ordinary fishes since growing demand has made bluefin tuna an endangered specie that might soon collapse.

Ten minutes or so passed and a quarter was left of the body. On the background someone is giving bits for everyone to taste. I tell you, people went nuts, pushing around rushing forward through crowds to get a tiny bite. One man even forgot he was wearing a mask on his face as he snagged a piece and quickly tried to push it thorough the mask into his mouth.

Mom, if I buy all these what would you prepare of them? Perhaps a nice tentacle soup? The last octopus in the box was so freshly caught it was still moving and obviously alive.

Can you guess what is this? Look at the drawing on the price tag to get a hint. Yep, it's whale meat. Probably for research purposes. The man who was selling this said "Uhh frightening... a foreigner taking photos of my whale meat, I'm a little troubled". Any comment on this dear readers?

Fugu - poisonously delicious.

Look at this! No octopus or whale, but potatoes, apples and mandarins totaling 1640 yen or about 12 eur. Good buy, huh?

See you there next time on February 13!

January 6, 2010


Thanks to a fellow blogger at Oita times, we got to know about a taiko-drum group called TAO. In December they performed at Taketa City Hall, and soon afterwards in January at Park Place Oita.

Forceful and rhythmic. In few words, I can say that the show is all the way till the end a breathtaking one. The sounds of the largest drums are astonishing. In Taketa City Hall it felt like the lamps are going to fall off the sealing - so strongly they were shaken by the deep sounds.

Sorry, all I have to present are these poor photos. Unfortunately, no pictures or video was allowed during the performance, which I don't get because what they would get by allowing recording is merely free advertisement.

If you ever get a chance, go and check them out! They perform around the world.

January 5, 2010

New Year in photos

Ahh... the first time to spend a New Year in Japan. It was great! This morning we returned back to cloudy Oita from Nagoya where we had spend five wonderful days with Yumiko's family and relatives. A night bus, more comfortable than an airplane's tourist class took us there and back in eleven and a half hours, leaving late evening from Oita and arriving next morning at sunrise to Nagoya, and vice versa. That 19 600 yen night bus in my mind is one of the most economic and comfortable ways to travel such a two-way journey as this.

We had great fun playing different games. Everyone sitting around warm Kotatsu, legs stuck under the table. Uno, several other card games, an ancient board game found from the dust of warehouse, all these we played. In the photo above is Shougi (将棋), a board game with Chinese origins. I had never played it before. We used the board for several kinds of games, one which was like chess but more complicated.

During the five days we probably ate more than in two weeks normally. To say the least, the food was absolutely gorgeous and it came with great variation! This hot-pot style dish is Oden (おでん). All the tasty things swimming in the soup it make it an exciting food to eat. Most fascinating of those things are the rice cake filled pouches.

My very favorite, the spectacular Sukiyaki (すき焼き). The idea I like about Sukiyaki is that everyone adds more vegetables and meat in the sake, soy sauce and sugar mixed soup meanwhile eating it, making every eater around the table a chef.

This is Toshi-koshi-soba, a year-crossing soba. It is eaten in the night right at the turn of the year. The lengthy soba-noodles, which can't really be seen in from this photo symbolize long life and good health for the coming year.

Most of the food was summoned by Yumiko's mother's skilfull hands but this piece is from Harbs, the dangerously delicious cake shop found in central Nagoya.

Look at this set trays full of colorful goodies! My eyes dropped when I saw these on the breakfast table on the first morning of new year. Yes, we enjoyed that for breakfast! And believe me, we weren't hungry for long time after. The food is called Osechi-riyouri (御節料理), it's a traditional set of dishes, prepared by mother, and is eaten for three consecutive days after new year. It is supposed to give a break for the mother from the house hold chores, well cooking at least. I wonder if it actually gives any easy, since it seems very time-taking to prepare. Nevertheless, it was for sure yam-yam!

Meeting relatives is an important part of the new year. Yumiko's Uncle and Aunt hosted us for a long afternoon, by making Okonomi-yaki, better than in a restaurant, and serving lot's of other treats, including a war cup of green-tea and wagashi. It was very fun to meet them and talk about things. For my side, it was enlightening to realize that I could actually catch what they were saying, tough my Japanese is still far below what a two years can understand of say.

May this year be utterly fantastic for everyone out there!
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