October 19th, 2007 by Steph

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.

Piping Hot

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:


Oishii, yo!

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.

3 Responses to “Vignettes”

  1. Mitsuye Says:


    Your little vignettes are like gems. Thank you for recording them and sending them! It is obvious that your students enjoy you as much as you enjoy them! You probably know that Japanese literature is full of ghost stories, so I’m sure your students were familiar with the stories behind Halloween, though All Hallows Day is a Christian holiday. Years ago my cousin sent me a whole set of Japanese children’s books, most of them ghosts stories. If I can find them , (probably in one of the numerous boxes in my garage,) I’ll give them to you! The stories were easy to read.

    Thanks for keeping in touch!



  2. mom Says:

    Glad to see you writing again. We’ve missed the blog.

  3. Cousin Bobbi Lewis Says:

    Oishii, yo! Near Macdonald Pass north of Helena, Montana, on Hwy 12 is a pullout where water coming down the mountain gushes from a pipe. Many people fill water bottles there. A friend of mine from Butte would stop with 10 or 12 gallon milk jugs and fill them. The water in Butte tastes terrible, and this was her solution. Yeah, for me the point of great tasting water is not to taste it! Love all your insights and “outsights”!

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