Pumpkins and Potatoes
I’ve been coaching a high school student for a speech contest (which she won, incidentally). She was really nervous the day before the contest. To calm her nerves, another teacher suggested that she imagine that everyone in the audience was a potato or a pumpkin. This advice, “Minna wa jagaimo”, is apparently de rigeur when trying to calm public speakers. I told my co-teacher that our old stand-by is to imagine everyone in the audience in their underwear. I don’t think this American version was translated for my student’s benefit.
The Big Chill
I’ve been doing mini-lessons on Halloween, explaining why we wear costumes, and why we make Jack O’Lanterns. During one of these lessons, I learned people go to haunted houses in Japan also, though it is a summer activity, because being scared cools the body. I can see a certain logic there, I suppose, but autumn will always be haunted house time for me.
Many of the onsens around Akita are located in mountainous areas. These ups and downs can be really hazardous to negotiate in the winter with ice on the road. However, wintertime is exactly when you want to take a nice long dip on an onsen. The solution? Pipe onsen water under the roads to keep them ice free. Efficient and brilliant. Here’s a cross section of road with all the tubes for water:
While driving through the ken, we stumbled onto a little pullout by the side of the road, which was absolutely brimming with trucks. We pulled over to see what the hubbub was about, and found people enthusiastically filling huge jugs with the water pouring out of a pipe from the mountain. Empty bottles were provided nearby for a small fee. People were hauling away this water by the truckload. Apparently this particular source of water was praised by some writer, and ever since, people have flocked to this spot. With assurances of “oishii, yo!”, I filled up one of my own bottles for a sample. I must not have a very sensitive palate, because I tasted nothing. Or perhaps that is the very embodiment of delicious water.