Friday, May 25, 2012

School ecosystem

Today the school had a Saturday school. This happens pretty often; earlier in the year the kids made pizzas, learned to play dodge ball, etc. Today, we went to the school Biotope, a small natural ecosystem on the school grounds. There is a small pond, fed by an underground stream (one of the parents told me this). There is a small flowing stream, several trees (apple, kiwi, possibly a guava) and all sorts of bugs and crawdads live there.

Today, each kid got a 16 space bingo card and a list of 16 things to find or do (different bugs to catch, leaves to smell or eat, things to see). We got some help with the list, but really, the kids were just having fun chasing bugs with nets and catching pillbugs (dango mushi) and ladybugs (tento mushi).

Without further ado, here are the pics, especially for you MG. :)

M and some classmates with a bingo card.

M is holding a bug container. She caught 4 or 5 dango mushi and made a little habitat for them. Then, since it was a catch and release program, she let them go.

N found several minnows or tadpoles but we couldn't catch them.

I'm inspecting M's dango mushi.

Each child has a habitat!

M really liked looking through the microscope at several bugs and a little plant "sticker" pod; you could see the velcro-like stickers coming out of it. I told her that the person who invented velcro got the idea from these stickers.

M and a classmate

one of the parents made a grasshopper out of grass. So cool.

I am not a fan of giant insects, even pretend ones.

Nat caught this. It is a Ka (か). Some sort of moth.

Happy memorial weekend to you in the US.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


We had a GREAT view of the eclipse today!  I remember back in 1991 standing on the roof of the UC Irvine chemistry building with a "pinhole camera" 6 or 8 inches across in a giant piece of cardboard; we were able to focus the image of the sun down to the ground 6 or 7 stories below. Great fun.

Here are some photos of us looking at the eclipse and our pinhole camera.
Only look at the sun when using ANSI (or the Japanese equivalent) approved safety equipment.

M and N with a pinhole camera we made.

the image as the moon almost covered the sun

the goggles had holes for string and they made a pretty good camera too. Here we have a crescent sun!

Almost total annular sun!

We could see a ring of the sun around the moon through the glasses but couldn't get a photo of it.

The kids and a neighbor. There were lots of people out looking up at the eclipse (it was at a maximum at 730 am)

Dad looking at the sun.

More mexican food

We went back to Taqueria Pachanga this evening and have decided that it is the best mexican food in Kyoto. There are cuban maps on the wall, and decorations from Mexico and Central and South America. Wendy had hueveos rancheros and a yummy chicken/avocado salad, I had chorizo taco and bean and cheese taco, and yummy chicken rice and lime soup. M had quesidillas, of course. N had the bean and cheese taco and the same soup as me. W and I split a margarita too.  ¥4800, or $60. We are either getting used to paying high prices for food, or we don't care. It was very very good.

On the way home I bought 2 bottles of Belgian beer and I am drinking a Chimay red right now. Yum. Today is a good food day!

We are starting to make and follow through on our list of "things we absolutely have to do before we leave!" We only have 76 more days. Amazing.  I'm shopping for some more gifts tomorrow; a few more surprises and thank yous for everyone helping me out in California this year. thank you!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Aoi Matsuri

The Aoi Matsuri is a procession that has taken place for approximately 1500 years. Although the details of the origins of this parade are lost, it is likely a reenactment of a religious offering to the deities of the Kamo shrine, placating them for a series of national disasters (  There were people on horseback, ox carts, and people dressed in very fancy clothes. The flowers were very beautiful. Here are some pictures:
an archer on horseback

one of two oxcarts (spare ox behind...)


more flowers!

even more flowers!

beautiful kimono

and more kimono

and more kimono

on horseback

It was a fairly short parade, probably about 40 minutes. It was originally supposed to occur on the 15th but it was rained out yesterday.

In other news, does anyone know if the tooth fairy goes to Japan?!?