Sunday, August 31, 2008

A day out with hubby

Last week I was in Tsukuba for my work. By the end of the day, I would be rather tired and eagerly waited to talk with my hubby over phone. But I could not talk much with him the entire week. Each time I rang him up (or he rang me), his mobile phone ran out of battery within 5 min of our conversation, which was rather frustrating.
After returning home, last Saturday I took out the battery of his mobile phone to see whether there was any problem or not. One look at the battery and we knew that the battery was the culprit. The middle portion of the battery was bulged out as if it had consumed too much electrical power and had 'metabolic syndrome'! This is the photo of the bulged battery.

Battery of old mobile phone



We were worried that the battery might blast and so we decided to replace his mobile phone with a new one. On Saturday afternoon we went to an electrical appliances shop named Yamada Denki in Akita city. Hubby liked a model of a mobile phone handset having one-seg (one segment) television, global positioning system (GPS), and an option for making payments for purchases of goods at convenience stores, departmental stores, and vending machines. The mobile phone unit was the latest model and its cost was around 50,000 Yen. Although it was a bit expensive, it was nice to see my hubby with a smiling face and so excited about his new mobile phone! Here are the photos of his old and new mobile phones. We can see that the new phone looks very cool and sleek.

Old mobile phone versus the new one



We shopped for a few more things, and it was only 6.30 pm by the time we finished our shopping. We both were not in the mood to return home so early. My hubby decided to go to a baseball batting center named Tennoh Batting Dome in Akita city. He batted for five games, with each game having 20 pitches. He was completely exhausted after swinging the bat so many times (100 to be exact!). This may be because he has not practised batting for quite some time now, as he has been rather busy with his office work. I had lots of fun watching him bat. Initially his batting stance was so funny and the batting was not so good but after the first game he seemed to get back his form. Here is a video of my hubby batting in the fourth game.

Hubby in a baseball batting center
video


After that we had dinner in a family restaurant named Gusto. Hubby had a Japanese dinner set and I had Mexican pilaf. We ended our dinner with chocolate-banana icecream parfait and coffee. It was a nice day out with hubby.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bird's nest

On 8th of August, me and hubby were watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on television. Ours is a Bilingual television and at that time it was switched to the 'English mode'. Some commentry about Beijing National Stadium - Bird's Nest was going on. Although my hubby is quite proficient in English, somehow he was not aware as to what a "nest" means. So I started explaining by drawing on a piece of paper. It took me more than a minute to draw it but it looked so horrible that he said he could not understand. Later on I realized that he was just pulling my legs about not understanding as he drew a perfectly fantastic nest with baby birds within 20 sec! His drawing was so cute. Here is the photo of the drawing of the nest that we made. We can clearly see that his sense of drawing is far better than mine.

Help needed for "help"

As I started blogging only about a week back and the blog format is still very new to me, I had many questions regarding the layout, color, counter, etc. So I started looking for the 'help' button on the blog layout. But I could not find it for more than two hours! I guess I was searching for it at all the wrong places.
Recently, my hubby has been quite busy with his office work and returns home late at night all tired and stressed out. Yesterday, eventhough he was too tired after returning home, I asked him to help me in finding the "help" button on my blog. He was really very amused that I needed help to find "help" in my blog. He had a nice laugh about it and that helped him to relax a bit. I am thankful that I could not find the "help" button myself!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obon holidays

Obon is an annual Buddhist event to commemorate our ancestors. It is believed that each year during obon, the spirits of ancestors return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, graves are visited, and food offerings are made at house altars. At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes, and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region. Obon is celebrated from the 13th to the 15th of August every year.
My hubby's ancestral home (jikka) is in the suburbs of Nagoya. Our flight from Akita to Nagoya was in the afternoon of the 13th of August. On that day, me and hubby reached Akita Airport about two hours prior to the departure time as we had to buy souvenirs for all our relatives and also had to take lunch. My father-in-law was waiting for us at Komaki Airport in Nagoya and we reached jikka after about one hour of car ride. During the car ride, while I dozed off, hubby had a nice talk about golf with his father. Both are crazy about golf. After reaching the jikka, me and hubby went to visit his mother's grave to offer our prayers. We also prayed at the family altar in jikka, and my father-in-law offered some food items (cucumber?) at the altar, lit incense sticks, and read some sutras. My hubby and father-in-law's wife also chanted the sutras in unison. Unfortunately, I cannot read Japanese language and so only observed the prayer rituals. We all were sitting in the Japanese kneeling style (seiza) for the prayers, and after about 2-3 min I was extremely uncomfortable. After the prayers were over, it was difficult for me to stand up as my legs were completely numb! Later in the evening, four of us had a very tasty dinner of sushi and sashimi.

Garden in front of hubby's ancestral home (jikka)


Father-in-law and his wife in front of jikka


Hubby offering prayers at his mother's grave


Buddhist altar at jikka


Dinner began with sushi


The next day, my father-in-law, his wife, and my hubby went to play golf at six in the morning. They were going to return only in the evening. I was going to meet my sister-in-law later in the day. So I just lazed around. I read a few pages of a novel, drank tea, and watched television. My sister-in-law came with her kids at 11 am and we had lunch of doughnuts and riceballs. Oh, both my nieces are so cute. I had a nice fun time with them. Afterwards when my hubby returned from playing golf, we went to see a nearby tower, which is a tourist spot. In the evening we all had a sumptuous dinner in a chinese restaurant. It was funny to see my three year old niece eat using chopsticks.

My adorable younger niece


Cutie pie older niece



Sister-in-law and kids playing with blocks


Hubby posing in front of tower


Picture perfect postcard image of golf course


On 15th August, my father-in-law and hubby went to play golf for half a day. I had a nice time chatting with my father-in-law's wife. Soon it was time for us to return back to Akita. We reached back Akita tired but filled with a sense of fulfilment for carrying out our traditional family duties.

Kantou Matsuri - festival of lanterns

Kantou Matsuri held in Akita city is one of the top three festivals of Tohoku region of Japan along with Nebuta of Aomori and Tanabata of Sendai. A Kantou is an array of many candle-lit lanterns hung on a bamboo frame and each one looks like a glowing ear of rice. A larger Kantou weighs about 50 kg, rises 12 m into the air and suspend 46 lanterns. With more than 200 Kantous, the number of individual lanterns reaches 10,000. The performers balance the Kantou without gripping the poles on the palms of their hands, and also on the forheads and shoulders.
The festival was held from 3rd-6th August this year. Hubby and me decided to go to the festival on 3rd August, the first day itself, as it was a Sunday. We started from our home at about 2 pm to reach Akita city by 3 pm. Finding a car parking place was rather difficult as a large number of people from all over Japan came to watch the festival. However, after finally parking the car we still had about 3 hours to kill. So we went to a game center, and spend about 1 hour playing UFO catcher. It was very amusing and I realized that I have absolutely no sense for the game. Hubby was also playing after a gap of 3 years, so initially he also couldn't play well. Here is a video of it.

video

We had an early dinner of Ramen in one of the restaurants near Akita station, and by 6.30 pm we were ready to go to the festival spot. About 1.2 million people gathered to watch the festival, which was very amazing!! People were eagerly waiting alongside the Kantou Odori (road). I was pleasantly surprised to hear several announcements being made in English welcoming gaijin (foreigners)! The festival began at 7 pm. Unfortunately it was a rainy day and started drizzling. So people had their umbrellas open, which made the viewing a bit difficult but cannot complain....The kantous fell down several times due to windy conditions. There were constant announcements being made to be careful of the falling Kantous! It was marvellous and breathtaking to see so many lanterns in a procession. It was really a pleasing view. We watched the procession for about an hour. Below are some photos of the Kantous and a video of the Matsuri. Afterwards we went to the food stalls and ate frankfurters, yaki-tori, and yakisoba to our heart's content.





video

I was satisfied to the core, and slept the entire way on our ride back home. Kantou Matsuri was really fantastic! It was a very pleasant day for us.

Lake Tazawako

July 20th being a Sunday, me and hubby decided to take it easy and relax at home watching some television program. All of a sudden hubby decided that we go to see lake Tazawako, and I also got into the mood. The lake was about 1.5 hours drive from home. Lake Tazawako is a crater lake, situated almost in the center of the eastern part of Akita Prefecture, and is 423 meters deep, which is the deepest in Japan. Its transparency, of about 30 meters, ranks second in Japan. Surrounded by a gentle range of hills, the almost perfectly circular lake is filled with sapphire-blue water with lots of fishes.
We reached the lake at about 4.45 pm, which was rather late. First we went to see the statue of Princess Tatsuko. The legend says that Tatsuko, a girl with rare beauty, desired permanent youth and beauty and prayed to the Goddess Kannon. On the hundredth day, the Goddess told her to drink water from the spring in the north and her desire would be fulfilled. However, the more water she drank, the thirstier she became. Finally, she turned into a dragon and went deep into the lake where she lives as its guardian sprit. It was a bit cloudy at the time we reached there, but the view was amazing. There were more than 100 sightseers at that time of the day also! We could not watch and enjoy the view for a long time as other people were waiting to take photos from the choice spots. Sitting on one of the big stones near the lake, I was surprised to notice the very clear and transparent water of the lake with many fishes swimming! Here are a few photos. I could make my hubby also to pose for a photo!







Then we went by our car (as hubby does not like walking) to the opposite end of the lake and took swan-shaped boat with pedals and did boating for about 30 min. Initially I was a bit reluctant as I am not that proficient in swimming, but once we started boating I realized that it was really worth! The view from the lake was breath-taking. The sky had cleared by this time and the scenary around us was amazing. The fishes were constantly swimming alongside the boat. Here are a few photos and a video of the boating.





video

We completed the day by having dinner at "Peacock" the Indian restaurant in Akita city. We were a happy but tired couple by the end of the day. However, hubby had to drive for an hour to reach back home, but he does not mind driving!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Trip to Furusato Mura

On July 12, me and hubby were getting bored sitting at home and so we decided to visit Akita Furusato Mura (Akita Home Village) in Yokote city. It is an amusement theme park having the facilities the Akita Modern Art Museum, the Wonder Castle, a planetarium, and an Exhibition and Demonstration of Traditional Handicrafts facility.
Furusato Mura is located near the Yokote junction of the Akita expressway. It took us about 2 hours to reach there by car. As soon as we got out of the car, we saw that a high-school baseball game was going on in a nearby open stadium. My hubby's full concentration shifted to watching the game. Car parking space was in a hilly area and we could clearly see the ongoing game in the adjacent stadium. We enjoyed the game for about half an hour and then went to the amusement park.
First we entered the local handicrafts, food, and gift shops. It was nice to look at all the handicrafts but we did not buy anything. We skipped the planetarium as there was not enough time to visit all the facilities due to spending time for watching baseball.
Then we strolled outside the Museum of Modern Arts, as it was a clear day and the view was very good. Took photos of us with dogs (Akita?), elephant, and giraffe sculptures. The glass exterior of the museum is designed to reflect changing views of the sky, thereby making the building appear to be floating in the air. We did not go inside the museum as we would like to again visit Furusato Mura sometime in the future.
Next we visited Wonder Castle exhibiting illusion type pictures, which is ideal for kids and families. I guess hubby and me are still kids at heart, because we enjoyed it very much!
Overall, it was a bit childish but we enjoyed and had a nice day. Here are some of the photos we took.

Glass exterior of the museum reflecting the view of the sky



Hubby with elephant



Me and hubby with sculpted elephant


Me and hubby with sculpted dogs


Me infront of the Wonder Castle


Me so big


Me so small


Me so small


I am a tightrope walker


Wondering how hubby can tilt his body so much!

Walk near home

After moving to Akita prefecture, weather permitting, I usually walk every day for about an hour in the evening. This is to keep my mind clear and also for health reasons. Our home is surrounded by acres and acres of farming land. In the beginning of May, I noticed that farmers began planting the rice saplings. I watched it for almost an hour and forgot about my walk! It was amazing to see how a tractor was used to plant rows and rows of the rice saplings. It was the first time in my life that I observed such a thing. In India as well as in Japan, I have lived in city areas and never knew about rice fields! Well, for that matter any type of farm fields.
In Japan, Akita is considered to be a major rice producing prefecture. It seems the location and weather of Akita fit rice production. It faces the Sea of Japan to the west, where Tsuhima (warm) current is running. To the east, Oou Mountains block Yamase (cold) wind. Most rice fields are located in the basin, where temperature gap between daytime and night is big, which is good for rice growing. Also, Akita has plenty of clean water. In fact, one of the most famous brandname rice of Japan is Akita-Komachi.
6th of July being a Sunday, I asked my hubby to accompany me for the evening walk as I wanted to walk in the unpaved gravel road in between the rice fields and enjoy the sight with him. However, my hubby does not really like walking. So we went by our car half of the way! We walked on the gravel road surrounded by farm fields full of rows and rows of rice saplings. The fresh green color was very pleasing to the eyes. We walked for about 2 km and then reached the Koyoshigawa river. Seeing the river my hubby wanted to play 'ishinage'. I became very excited as I remember playing this game in my childhood! If we throw a stone in the river, the stone should skip across the surface of water. I tried and tried but failed miserably. My hubby was also playing it after a gap of 20 years. So due to lack of practice, he could make the stone skip for 2-3 times only. But just the feeling of playing ishinage and walking down the gravel road without worrying about any other wordly affairs for two hours was really refreshing. It gave both of us the much needed refreshing energy. Here are some of the photos of our walk and a video of hubby playing ishinage.

Me in front of our in the parking space very near to the rice fields.



Me walking on the gravel road surrounded by rice fields







Hubby posing in the gravel path



Me walking adjacent to koyoshigawa river



Video of hubby playing ishinage
video

Me

I am an Indian and obtained a Ph.D degree in Physics from an Indian University. I came to Japan as an experimental Physics researcher way back in 1997. I thoroughly enjoy researching on the Physics and material aspect of semiconducting materials. I have worked in a University in the suburbs of Tokyo as well as in two research institutes in Tsukuba-the science city of Japan. Sure I enjoy research very much but with passage of time started feeling a bit lonely since working as a full-time researcher is a 24 hour job and there is absolutely no time for maintaining a relationship. I met my hubby, also a Ph.D in Physics, while working as a researcher in the University in Tokyo suburbs. However, it took me almost six years to come to a decision to get married. Guess, I was a bit worried as my hubby is Japanese and we are from very different cultural background. But marrying my hubby was probably one of the best decisions of my life!!
My hubby works in a company in Akita prefecture, and I was faced with the biggest decision of my life, i.e., to give up full time job and work as a part-time researcher. Prior to marriage I was so completely involved in my research that I could not even think about it!! I moved to Akita in April 2007 and travelled once a week by shinkansen (bullet train) to work in Tsukuba. However, such a long distance travel is too tiring and now I am thinking of quitting research activities completely, well, atleast for the time being, and concentrate on family life. Akita is an agriculture oriented prefecture and it is difficult to find a research institute here. Sometimes I am a bit apprehensive about my decision but very recently I started feeling that it does not really matter.
I am enjoying the family life to the fullest. I can get up at my own sweet time, read a lot of novels, write some science related articles, and recently do blogging! I am really thankful that last year one book shop named Junku opened in Akita that has English novels. I read any type of novel under the sun as reading has been my hobby since I was 14. Nowadays I am reading a lot of authors like Haruki Murakami (English versions), Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, Meg Cabot, Robert Ludlum, Sandra Brown, Ruth Rendell, Raymond Chandler, Jeffery Deaver, Sophie Kinsella, Kim Edwards, Sidney Sheldon, Dean Koontz,.....My home started looking like a mini-library of novels!
Another thing that I realized very late in my life is my passion for cooking. I hardly got the mood or thought about cooking my own meals before marriage. Restaurant food is so tasty in Japan! But me being an Indian, I am now faced with a really big challenge to cook Japanese food. I myself prefer Japanese food. My hubby loves my version of Japanese cooking (atleast he says so!). I feel that a good experimental physicist should also be a good cook. Cooking good delicious food is also like optimizing the parameters of laboratory experiments to the best value!! But recently hubby and me have started putting on weight, so I guess I have to keep my passion for cooking under control!
I hope I will succeed in the second phase of my life.