Friday, September 12, 2008

Pressies and Freebies

Besides being blessed with yummy seasonal produce, fresh air and breathtaking views, this is another perk of living in a small town (or countryside, depending on your definition).

We've been showered with many unexpected presents from the locals these two weeks, including:

- A bag of huge onions and potatoes from the Itos, a retired couple I teach in the Ban Ban Class at the Kominkan (community hall) every Monday evening.

- Packs of noodles from Wada-san, Mr Tan Tan's new friend and Japanese tutor.

- Chocolate, senbei and sweets from a number of the schools I teach in.

- Crab bento from one of the schools' staff we bumped into at the fish market.

- Origami and drawings from some of my students. How sweet of them.

- A super kawaii photo montage of staff and students from Kuki JHS. (There are only 5 students in the whole school. Again, effects of an ageing population. The school will be shut for good after the final batch of students graduate next March. Sadly, situations like this are highly prevalent in Japan).

- A beautiful preserved floral arrangement from Megumi, a Kominkan staff. Earlier, we had tried to sign up for the preserved flowers course but it was full and so Megumi very kindly offered the flowers to appease our disappointment :)

And finally, a pyramid of 団子(dango/ glutinous rice balls) from a kindergarten that has only 3 students! It was given to me as part of the mid-autumn celebrations. Yes, surprisingly the Japanese celebrate the mid-autumn festival too, and in Japanese it is called the 十五夜 (jyuugoya). Instead of mooncakes, they eat dango that is either grilled or dipped in きな粉 (kinako/ soy bean flour) or 餡こ (anko/ red bean jam).

Why dango? Because it is shaped as round as the moon.

And why is the dango stacked in the shape of a pyramid? Because it's meant to be an offering to tsuki-sama, the moon. (interestingly the Chinese, when praying to the gods, also stack their offerings in a pyramidal shape. Think: 5 oranges stacked 4:1 on a red plate.)

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