Kurokabe Square (Toyoyama PTA Field Trip)

Kurokabe Glass museum — famous for its black lacquered walls which are fireproof

My friends from the Philippines and United States often tell me how much they want to travel here in Japan, particularly to see famous cultural spots and experience the rich culture and heritage in each area. I have been here for 13 years and I, myself, have rarely traveled outside our prefecture (Aichi) except for the occasional visits to Osaka, where we have the Philippine consulate and Universal Studios, a sightseeing trip to Kyoto with my aunts, and to Gero. Our plans of a family trip to Disneyland has never pushed through because my husbnad’s work schedule is always in conflict with it. So when this PTA field trip at my son’s school was scheduled, I signed up! It was a trip to Kurokabe Square in Shiga prefecture where there are hands-on lessons in glass-blowing and burner work. The place is just an hour from Nagoya via express way and just cost 2500 yen (for the lessons, lunch and transportation).

There were about 20 people in our group who went and we were divided into 3 small groups for the specific hands-on lessons we chose which were either stained glass, glass etching, blown glass, and burner work. I chose the glass burner work where we made small glass ornaments which can be used for jewelry as pendants, earrings or key chains.

Our teacher has been doing the craft for 25 years now. I struggled to understand every word he said (which was in Japanese!) when he explained the procedures and some safety points. I forgot most of what he taught, but, basically it was heating techniques to avoid breaking the glass rods which could accidentally hit other members. The lesson lasted for about an hour and afterwards we were all exhausted from the heat of the burner! I was fortunately able to come up with a nice pendant (with the occasional help from the teacher :D)

Here are the finished products of our burner work group

My glass pendant

The coins are payments for the jewelry parts which the teacher will attach to the glass ornaments so it can be used as pendants or key chains.

Here are other pictures I took during the trip…

Kurokabe glass taiken kyoushitsu – Place where lessons are held

Samples of the finished products in each glass art lesson

glass blowing

gel candles

stained glass

burner work

ornaments for gel candles

Where we ate lunch (sorry, forgot to take pictures of my omelette rice)

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lovely glass pendant necklaces

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some glass items sold at the museum

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Kurokabe soft cream made with black rice, black soy beans, black sesame seeds and bamboo charcoal

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Annular Eclipse in Nagoya

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This photo was taken at around 7:24 a.m.with an ND8 filter attached to the lens, a few minutes early/before the actual “ring of fire” .  I wasn’t able to see the ring of fire live because I had to prepare Vito for school since he leaves before 8 a.m.  I just watched on TV!  😀  The next eclipse of this kind will be seen only in Hokkaido in 2030 and, in a large portion of Japan, after 300 years!

2012/05/21 金環日食(Solar Eclipse) from Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan
EOS 5D Mark II + EF700-200 F2.8L IS USM + ND400

'Ring of fire' solar eclipse lights up the sky  (Source: Reuters)

I am able to post this now because I’m on leave from work today because of a sore throat…and it’s not because of the eclipse.

Treeless In Toyoyama

Just posting an update regarding my last post about our Nihon Matsu (Japanese pine tree).

It’s gone…

When I came home for lunch all that was left was a stump just above its roots encircled by my gazanias.

Was this a surprise by my husband who has been procrastinating for years to cut it???

Hell, no! Actually, I had it done…I settled for the easy way. For 3000 yen, a group of still very able septuagenarians in our town’s silver human resource center called シルバーさん  (silver san) chopped it off this morning and took care of the disposal.  I’ve heard about them before but never thought of seeking their service for cutting our tree until a Japanese friend suggested them to me a week ago. 3,000 yen costs a lot but is very reasonable and much cheaper than having my husband take a leave from work for a day just to chop the tree to pieces so that they would fit in ordinary garbage bags.  And, at least, I got to help out our ojii-sans by giving them work for a day…

Our front yard looks very different now, somewhat bare.  Should I plant another tree?

A Blustery Day

Last Tuesday we saw strong gusts of wind and heavy rain (of short duration) in Nagoya.  The storm  made the weather agencies release warnings of high waves along the sea coast of Aichi.  I heard that it even caused some flights and bullet train cancellations in other areas of Japan. 
 I came home and was greeted by this mess that the storm brought to our front porch.  
They are pine needles from our Nihon matsu (Japanese pine tree) which is really very tedious to clean when it falls on the rocks in our garden.  Sweeping them with a broom stick would also mean sweeping the rocks underneath them so I have to pick them up by hand one by one!
We didn’t plant the tree there, the previous owner of our house did.  We’ve been planning to chop it down ever since we bought the house 7 years ago but hesitated because of some paranoid thinking we ourselves spun in our heads that it could bring bad luck if we chop it.  I wonder if there is an actual basis for this.  Plus we don’t know where to throw it!  Garbage disposal is a big thing here in Japan.  Improper disposal could get you fined.  
But the tree really looks terrible now after 7 years of snipping some branches here and there because we have no idea how to trim it properly.  These trees are treated here in Japan like an art form, branches and pine needles carefully trimmed by hand by an expert.  It is usually manipulated using sticks and ropes to give it a form, usually with one long branch forming an arch over the gates of traditional Japanese houses or establishments.  See how the branches have grown so long and randomly  in every direction and have now  reached the roof of our small garage.  I think I’ve had it with this tree…we might say goodbye to it this Golden Week.
Tuesday also greeted me with some nice news though…my blog has just been listed in the japan blog list.