Working Holiday on Otaru Project

WHOOP it up!「もりのきヘルパー's Blog」

Sunshine lady, sushi and sayonara.

2010.08.26 Thursday | by maria@whooper036
 Yesterday I jumped on the bus, and headed up to the aquarium. I didn't actually go in to marvel at the dolphins and er, fish, but more to dip my toes in the sea and like an old man, have a snooze on the rocks. It was a gorgeous day, as I settled down onto my chosen flat stone and closed my eyes and opened my ears to the waves and seagulls. On the bus back, I got into conversation with my bus seat companion, and on leaving she handed me a beautiful black and white patterned fan. She was the lady in yellow, a gorgeous bright yellow rain coat to be exact. Thank you sunshine lady, it was a lovely present.

Last night, Masa, Keiko, Sachiko and Masa's mother and I settled down for a sushi hand roll feast. It was all delicious and a wholesome and filling way to finish out my stay here at Morinoki. Yes, the time has finally come for me to bit adieu and sayonara to this port town which has hosted me for the past month. No word of a lie, I have really liked it here and am thankful to have come across so many kind and generous people. Thank you Masa San for allowing me to stay in your beautiful hostel and experience a slice of life here. 

ありがとう!


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Golden rain and soba showers

2010.08.23 Monday | by maria@whooper036
 Last Sunday I attended one of Otaru's summer firework displays with Akiko, a lovely guest I met here at Morinoki. Now Japan is full of artificial night lights come summer, and after the thrill of seeing the first few glistening shows, it kinda gets lower on the to do list, but I was assured by Masa San that this one was going to give us a bit more bang than the usual firework fiesta. Bang it did. Arriving at the harbour front, where the usual array of food stalls were busy selling clams, squid, yakisoba, fried chicken (do NOT think KFC, please...) and of course, beer, we found a spot right at centre stage, with fishing boats gently bobbing in front of us and a huge rock with a red shrine gate perched on top, some 400 meters away. (I don't know how it got there either). Armed with lots of food ( I got a bit too excited me thinks) and a pint, i settled down ready to be suitably wowed. The fireworks started and came streaming down, close, very close to our heads and the crowd loved it though in a slightly scared way, with oohs and aahhs (very frequent applause and gasps of appreciation during a fireworks display in Japan) and then a shout of "abunaiiiii!!!" or " that's a BIT tooooo close for comfort!!!!"...the sparks came down metres away, disappearing into the sea. With frequent breaks to give the mysterious shadows on the rock in front of us time to reload, an announcer gave out information you'd find in the back of your local newspaper, memorials, newly weds and then, what to expect during the next round of fireworks, like fruit shapes (we have a very creative press in south london). We got the watermelon and the pineapple but quite frankly the rest was a mystery, though an enjoyable one. The big sighs of delight came when the glorious golden glistening shower of sparks rained down above us.  And then we were content to leave with our bellies full and eyes bright. 

I discovered last week that I like soba. This was news to me, as I had previously listed it in my not to eat category. I am usually always asked about which foods I hate, as if I must be allergic to every type of Japanese dish going. People always seem disappointed that I actually like the cuisine here, so the fact I disliked soba was great as I had something to triumphantly declare as a no eat zone. But then Masa San came along with his fancy soba making equipment (namely his hands, a large laquerware bowl and a scary machete knife thingy) and went and made the long stringy brown noodle. And I liked it, in fact, I could have eaten it all if there weren't other guests to feed. So now my list is down to two. Natto and steamed egg. Hmmmm....will have to get my thinking cap on, or just go round the streets of Otaru trying the local specialities...






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Let them drink Beer...

2010.08.15 Sunday | by maria@whooper036
 This week saw the monthly Otaru Beer Club take place in a warehouse esq restaurant by the canal, which welcomes all to sample the delights of Otaru's finest German beer and sausage! Yes, beer here is German in origin though brewed down the road, no light sapporo classic here thank you very much. (I don't know where the pigs come from). After an afternoon lesson in bagel making, Sachiko san took me to enjoy the beer club. We awaited Masa san, but to no avail, as he was as always, busy tending to his visitors. Oh well, more beer for us. I started with the weiser, a dark brown pint, which was light in taste and woody, and then moved onto the pilsner, whilst also sampling some of Sachiko's lemon and then strawberry flavoured beer. For all you purists out there, well, it was actually pretty good! ( I am just masquerading as someone who knows about palette and taste, I don't think I really know what woody actually tastes like, erm...beer=good). Should I admit that after two pints I headed into the coffee menu...too late, I know I know, complete lightweight I am...I will have to come back next month and try every alcoholic concoction going to make the most of the beer club experience.

Whilst sitting in the German beer hall, or at least what I imagine one to look like, sipping my oaky smoked beer (?), a fantastically expressive faced woman chatted with me, and then as her parting gift, gave me a glass made necklace accessory. I was really touched, but felt my arigatou gozaimasu didn't get my gratitude across. She had the most amazing face, play dough couldn't do it justice. I wanted to take a photo and immortalize this face, but with a broken camera I had to let the moment pass, and rely on the old memory to capture and keep the image. I know, a sans camera moment. Now to learn how to draw...
maria@2010 | comments(0) | trackbacks(0) | - | - |

Let them drink Beer...

2010.08.15 Sunday | by maria@whooper036
 This week saw the monthly Otaru Beer Club take place in a warehouse esq restaurant by the canal, which welcomes all to sample the delights of Otaru's finest German beer and sausage! Yes, beer here is German in origin though brewed down the road, no light sapporo classic here thank you very much. (I don't know where the pigs come from). After an afternoon lesson in bagel making, Sachiko san took me to enjoy the beer club. We awaited Masa san, but to no avail, as he was as always, busy tending to his visitors. Oh well, more beer for us. I started with the weiser, a dark brown pint, which was light in taste and woody, and then moved onto the pilsner, whilst also sampling some of Sachiko's lemon and then strawberry flavoured beer. For all you purists out there, well, it was actually pretty good! ( I am just masquerading as someone who knows about palette and taste, I don't think I really know what woody actually tastes like, erm...beer=good). Should I admit that after two pints I headed into the coffee menu...too late, I know I know, complete lightweight I am...I will have to come back next month and try every alcoholic concoction going to make the most of the beer club experience.

Whilst sitting in the German beer hall, or at least what I imagine one to look like, sipping my oaky smoked beer (?), a fantastically expressive faced woman chatted with me, and then as her parting gift, gave me a glass made necklace accessory. I was really touched, but felt my arigatou gozaimasu didn't get my gratitude across. She had the most amazing face, play dough couldn't do it justice. I wanted to take a photo and immortalize this face, but with a broken camera I had to let the moment pass, and rely on the old memory to capture and keep the image. I know, a sans camera moment. Now to learn how to draw...
maria@2010 | comments(0) | trackbacks(0) | - | - |

The refined elder lady and kaidan sweeping

2010.08.12 Thursday | by maria@whooper036
 The other day I narrowly avoided a collision with a beautifully dressed older lady. Clad in a navy kimono, hair and make-up perfectly applied, I couldn't help but stare at this 70 year old vision in blue. Maybe unnerved by a frazzled looking foreigner heading in her direction, she stared back at me, our eyes met and very nearly our heads. With a bow to rectify the situation, she was off down the street, and I was left to marvel at how being a 'lady' in Japan can look so effortless. 

One of my favourite tasks at Morinoki is sweeping the stairs which lead down from the hostel to the street below. It's usually my first job of the day if the rain. Sweeping away I am greeted by a succession of ladies walking down the road to place their rubbish in the communal bin. For all of two seconds, with a friendly 'ohayou gozaimasu' I am part of the street community. The simplest things bring a smile to my face, and this small gesture of friendliness does exactly that. Small gestures and simple pleasures, taking it slow and taking notice of your neighbours. All too easy to forget when rushing around from A to B. So thank you Otaru for reminding me to open my eyes and ears to whats around me, and thank you ladies for your early morning wake up call to living. 
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The answer is there if you scrub hard enough

2010.08.09 Monday | by maria@whooper036
 Am really settling into my life in Otaru...arghhh!!! How quickly our habits form! I've been here only a week and already I'm settled into a routine, and I came to escape that very word! But I am really growing to like this town, so I shall enjoy it while it lasts, routine and all.

I think cleaning could be the answer. The answer you have all been looking for. My cleaning ritual here completely clears my mind. I am focused on one task, and all questions cease in my mind. An empty head is refreshing. Now go on, go scrub that bathroom and see for yourself the therapeutic benefits it brings...(you can pay me later).
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I want to eat Hokkaido all up.

2010.08.08 Sunday | by maria@whooper036
 I want to eat Hokkaido, bite its head off and slowly chew it whilst savouring every ounce of flavour, but then I fear, I will not be able to stop here, I will have to move down to Honshu, and bite on and on and on until I reach the far south of Okinawa. Everywhere I walk here there are amazing smells rising through the air..and then there's the beer...oh liquid gold of joy, you are so delicious... (I went off the rails a bit today and had a WHOLE can of beer...I know, crazy). 

So in short, food here is good.


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Keeping us guessing..will it come?? And how?!

2010.08.07 Saturday | by maria@whooper036
 Now even though I previously lived in Japan for two years, and came back and studied intensely for two months, I still falter and splatter and mumble my way through conversations...BUT, when it comes to talking about the weather, I am in my element...I am at peace with the old nihongo. I feel there is an inherent sisterhood between Japan and Britain, because the weather is that all important safe topic which both Brits and Japanese can harp on about for hours, days, months, without risk of offending anyone. I think every other sentence I have uttered and heard, since arriving in Otaru, has been about the weather. Today gave us a lot to talk about because whilst sunny in the morning...clouds descended in the afternoon, yes, CLOUDS. And so ensued the rain, light, then heavy, it wickedly kept us guessing as to what it would do next, soak us or just slightly drizzle over our heads like olive oil over fresh mozzerella balls...with pepper and basil...and maybe some fresh off the vine tomatoes...talking of which, tomatoes in Japan are delicious. Just so you know.

Staying at Morinoki is lovely because I get to meet friendly people everyday. It attracts families as well as backpackers, from close to home to far away. It's a great environment to be in.

Now time for some tomatoes...buon appetit!


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The craziest of them all?

2010.08.06 Friday | by maria@whooper036
 Ok, before I begin to tell you who I think are the craziest people here and very maybe in the world at large, a word about the weather...it is hot. Very hot. I came to Hokkaido with images of walking with a refined air along the streets with an ice-cream in hand and general sense of coolness, but I have been thwarted in my attempts by the heat, which makes my face red and hair frizz and brow sweat. Not very cool. At all.

Rickshaw drivers/haulers/pullers of cart and people. Yes, you. You are crazy. And also very fit...and I have to say quite good looking too..erhem...Out in the midday sun they stand, turning ever more mahogany brown, flattering all who walk past, and then, when finally they get a customer or two, they are off. I've walked past them down main streets, side streets, alleyways; they know Otaru like the back of their hand. As they walk and pull and haul they talk and chat and laugh with their passengers. I am in awe. I salute you crazy rickshaw people. Kampai to you.
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Canal Park

2010.08.04 Wednesday | by maria@whooper036
 Today I met Sachiko San who uses the hostel to open up her own cafe, twice a month or so. What a fab idea, a roving mobile cafe; tea, coffee, cake, meeting people in a comfy house, what's not to like? Maybe I can do the same back home, (ok, no doubt this is another idea I will add to the many accumulating steadily, which I will forget once I hit the grey skies of London...). So after cooking us up a delicious spaghetti alle vongole dish, Sachiko went to tend to her first customer while I went for my obligatory walk around town. Walking past the old stone warehouses, the grand banks built long ago (erm, am not quite one for dates...) and the first railway track built in Hokkaido (which is what a heard the rickshaw guy telling his customers, so a bit of history for you there) I felt the old town vibe of the place. Reaching canal park, at the quiet end of the canal, I sat watching teenagers skateboarding before heading back along the throng of sushi streets to my home at Morinoki.
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