Miyabi-tei Udon – Nanao Restaurant Review

 

手打うどん雅亭

手打うどん雅亭

Quick Facts

Ro−19−8 Shinmeichō, Nanao
Across from Nanao City Hall
Find it on Google Maps

☎ 767-52-0218

Hours: open until 20:00

Website (Japanese)

Nanao Community Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5 stars

手打うどん雅亭What’s on the Menu: Noodles: udon and soba made with a variety of different vegetable, seafood, and pork combinations. The soups come in large bowls that fill you up for a reasonable price. The menu is in kanji, and doesn’t have pictures. I suggest the nikuudon (meat udon, pictured above) and tsukimiudon (literally “moon-viewing udon,” made with a poached egg). You can also order your noodles as a set with rice and pickled vegetables.

Quirks & Perks: Miyabi-tei has large, glowing orb lanterns that shine through the windows, inviting you inside. The dining area is a combination of raised tatami mat seating and a main floor with tables and chairs. The tables are pretty low and may knock your knees, so if you’re tall it may be more comfortable to sit on the tatami. There is enough room for a large group if you’re willing to be split up at multiple tables.

If you’re looking for an affordable and filling bowl of udon, this is the place to go.

Patricia is a second-year ALT. Prior to moving to Nanao, she managed social media for a high-end bistro in Michigan. You can usually find her at local restaurants poised over her dish with a camera. She blogs about food, among other adventures, at My Present Life.

How to be a Great Co-Worker

Spring break is drawing to a close, which means that for most of us here in Ishikawa with the JET Program, we’re headed back to a regular working schedule.  Back to teaching, back to English club, and of course back to the staff room.

The Staff Room

Ah, thar she is. ‘Tis a thing of beauty.

In light of that last reality, I recently found a great survey from the website What Japan Thinks, a site dedicated to translating Japanese public opinion polls into English.  If you have time, it’s a great way to gain insight and understanding into some really intriguing subjects of Japanese culture that are rarely discussed openly, much less with people from other countries.

The survey I want to discuss, however, is one that all of us can learn from and use in our daily JET lives: Office Annoyances That You Just Can’t Talk About.

The survey asked over 1,000 Japanese office workers what kind of behaviors they can’t stand in their co-workers, yet do stand, presumably because it’d disrupt the social harmony of the office if they burst out screaming at their neighbor.  Reading through the list, I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty at my own office habits.

Especially since I (and may I be so bold as to suggest that a majority of the readers) don’t speak Japanese at a fluent level, I’m sure there are little cues or tones of voice or connotations that I miss during interactions with my co-workers that would offer some clue as to how I could better my office behavior.  As such, I loved reading this survey.  Hopefully we can all learn a thing or two about how to become better co-workers while we’re in the staff room.  You can tell that the questions are geared more for your traditional office setting and not necessarily a school staff room, but overall I think they’re very applicable.

So then.  Are you ready to start being a better co-worker?  How many of these annoyances do you do on a daily basis?  You can find the full survey results here.

Topping the list is the co-worker “who has terrible coughs or sneezes and doesn’t wear a mask.”  Yeah, that seems a little rude I suppose, though I’d still advocate for “cover your nose/mouth and wash your hands frequently” over “wear a mask and let ‘em rip,” as seems to be the approach in my own staff room.

Interestingly, the next two in line have to do with smell – co-workers who wear too much perfume, or co-workers who smell like an ashtray.  Take note!  Your fellow teachers have sensitive noses!  (Included in the ‘smell’ category is number twenty, “co-worker who eats smelly food like curry or ramen at their desk,” which I am most certainly guilty of.)

Pictured: Something way more adorable than me.

Pictured: Something way more adorable than me eating curry at their desk.

Many more of the annoyances had me vigorously nodding my head in agreement, such as “Co-worker who has an unnecessarily loud telephone voice” (HAI!  HAI!  ARIGATOUGOZAIMASU!  HAI!) and “Co-worker who batters their keyboard keys” (I once had someone in a completely silent staff room delete an entire paragraph of text by repeatedly slamming the backspace key, instead of holding the dang thing down or just highlight-deleting it.)

Yet just as often, I caught myself thinking, Oh, crap!  I didn’t know people found that annoying!  When I read things like “Co-worker who frequently cracks their knuckles, neck, etc.”

Sheesh!  Next thing I know, I'll learn that "staring menacingly at others" makes the list, too!

Sheesh! Next thing I know, I’ll learn that the “co-worker who stares menacingly at others” makes the list, too!

 

I hope the survey enables you to be a more hospitable office-mate to your fellow teachers this year, and that you can remember to avoid the things that secretly drive your co-workers crazy.

 

 

 

Daniel is a second-year JET living in Kanazawa.  He teaches at a junior high school and enjoys coffee, riding his bike around the city, and hanging out with his wife.

Ristorante Rio – Nanao Restaurant Review

rio outside

リストランテリオ

Quick Facts

1-145-8 Minatocho, Nanao
East of Fisherman’s Wharf
Find it on Google Maps

☎ 767-52-5351

Hours: 11:00-14:30, 17:30-23:00

Website (Japanese)

Nanao Community Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5 stars

ameblo jpWhat’s on the Menu: Italian food: pasta, pizza, a wide variety of appetizers, fancy desserts, and an excellent wine selection. The menu is handwritten in kanji and katakana, and doesn’t have pictures. I suggest buying several meze (Italian appetizers) and sharing them around. If you’re a party of one, you can splurge on a set-course meal. I recommend everyone try the prosciutto - the thinly sliced dry-cured ham is especially delicious because it’s freshly cut with every order. Prices are on the expensive side.

Owner

The owner is very friendly.


Quirks & Perks
: Rio boasts a beautiful view over Nanao Bay, especially at sunset. Wedding parties are often attracted here because of its romantic atmosphere. The restaurant can accommodate large groups in its table-and-chairs dining space, as well as a sit-on-the-floor enkai room. You can even watch muted cartoon movies projected on the wall during dinner. Overall, a must-visit.

 

Patricia is a second-year ALT. Prior to moving to Nanao, she managed social media for a high-end bistro in Michigan. You can usually find her at local restaurants poised over her dish with a camera. She blogs about food, among other adventures, at My Present Life.

Hanami 2014

The time is near!  Soon those barren, sad trees that have been collecting snow on their branches all winter will bloom, triggering one of Japan’s most recognizable springtime activities: Cherry blossom viewing.

What are your plans for this season?  Make sure you think ahead, because an unfortunate characteristic of hanami season (especially in Ishikawa) is its brevity.

When?

This year, it looks like the first bloom should come around April 5th, with the full bloom coming a few days later, around April 9th.  There are numerous hanami forecasting websites, including the one I just linked, so do a little bit of research to make the best prediction.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 4.42.00 PM

A sakura forecast for 2014.

Where?

Sure, there are trees all over this fair country.  Why, on your way to work you probably pass by numerous cherry trees.  But where are the best places to get the full hanami experience of kicking back on a blanket, drinking a delicious chu-hai, and soaking in the springtime sunshine?  (Disclaimer: due to your residence in Ishikawa, your “sunshine” experience may vary.)  I asked a few JETs, both current and former, for their best picks for blossom viewing.  Here are some suggestions, with a map below:

“My favourite is Rojo Park in Komatsu! The park is absolutely filled with cherry blossom trees and there’s plenty of space to sit, drink, and barbecue all day (and night) long. There are also delicious festival food booths close-by, of course. Lanterns are strewn throughout the tress, and as the sun sets the park is lit up with soft, pink light. Rojo Park is rather beautiful in general – with small waterfalls and scenic bridges – but in the spring, it becomes a sea of pink.”  -Danielle

“Kenrokuen obviously but also along both rivers in KZ (Asanogawa and Saigawa). Sakuragaoka high school also has that name for I reason I suppose.” -Ida

“Saigawa.” -Hantz

“The obvious would be the Saigawa between the blue bridge and I believe it’s the Sakura bridge? Basically anything east of Katamachi.  The sakura trees along Hyakumangoku road are quite nice.”  -Mauricio

“Up behind Kanazawa, there’s a few groves in the ’400-Year Forest’ (四百年の森) that were great, especially later in the season because of the higher elevation and since they were shielded from the wind.”  -Daniel

“I know it is awkward asking people to go up there – but the Education center is stunning. There is even a little 10 minute hike you can do to the look out.  Komaruyama park and Sakura Station in the Noto/Nanao region are supposed to be beautiful too.” -Melissa

“My favorite place is, of course, along the banks of the Saigawa; but if you’re looking for a place a bit less traveled to, check out the shidare sakura (http://kimassi.net/hana/kitasakura.html) in Kahoku.”  -Joanna

For a map of these locations, just click here!

Now hopefully you’re ready to go stake out a spot and enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms in a few weeks.  Have fun, everyone!  

If you have any suggestions for other great hanami areas in Ishikawa, post them in the comments section below.

Know Your Holiday: Vernal Equinox Day

Don’t you just love those glorious red numbers on the staff room calendar?  Your mind wanders at the sight of them, imagining all the things you’ll be doing on your day off: sleeping in, playing Minecraft, riding your bike, or, more likely, staffing some ESS event.  Regardless, many of us take our holidays without a second thought.  But have you ever wondered what all these Japanese holidays mean?

Well then, today’s your lucky day.  It’s time to Know Your Holiday!  Today’s holiday: Vernal Equinox Day, or 春分の日 (Shunbun no Hi).

seasonsAs the name implies, this day marks the time of year when the sun crosses the equator, making night and day equal in length.  Since it depends on astrological circumstances, the exact date varies from year to year, so its date is announced the previous year in February.  This year, it’s on March 21st.

A brief history: Vernal Equinox Day became a state holiday in 1948, set forth in the Japanese postwar constitution.  Prior to that, it was a Shinto holiday known as Kōreisai (皇霊祭) where people prayed for a good harvest and venerated past ancestor spirits.  However, it was repackaged into Vernal Equinox Day during the American occupation in an effort to separate religion and state.

The seven-day period around the vernal equinox (starting three days before and ending three days afterwards,) is known in Japan as Higan and is a time for families to visit the graves of their ancestors, often cleaning and decorating them with flowers and incense. In case you’re curious, the Higan period also occurs around the autumnal equinox, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves there.

159964722_f386434f03_o

Vernal Equinox Day is also regarded by many as an unofficial end to winter and beginning of spring.  As such, it’s a great time to enjoy nature and look forward to the cherry blossoms that’ll be blooming here in Ishikawa around April 5th through 8th.

Have fun on Vernal Equinox Day, everyone!

Want to learn more about Vernal Equinox Day?  Give a gander to the sources I used for this article:

Encyclopedia of Shintoism: http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.php?entryID=735

Japan Holidays for Kids: http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/explore/calendar/march/higan.html

Good ‘ol Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernal_Equinox_Day

Cultural Gap: Jinji Ido

Hello all, and welcome to the very first post in a series called Cultural Gap, wherein we’ll discuss those fun, fascinating, and frustrating cultural differences we all face living and working here in Ishikawa (and Japan in general).  With this series, we hope to examine, explain, and discuss some of the cultural quirks we encounter on a daily basis in Japanese schools, with input from JETs and Japanese teachers alike.

The topic for this inaugural post is, for some, the ray of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, and for others, the stormy clouds building on the horizon.  They come every spring, and are without fail the source of both silent triumphal fist-pumps on your commute home, and bitter tears over your bento.  That’s right, we’re talking about Jinji Ido (人事異動), or personnel transfers.

See you!                                              [Found at blog.art21.org]

 

Every spring, usually in the second half of March, Japanese teachers at most public schools are told where they’ll be teaching during the next school year.  Many are told with as little as two weeks to make preparations.  This means they have to pack up their desk, say their good-byes, move to their new school, set up shop, meet their new co-workers, and begin preparing for lessons all before the new year starts in April.  The process for who goes where is infamously difficult to predict, and cards are kept close to the vest by those in charge of making the decisions.

Pretty reliably, though, the longer a teacher has been at a particular school, the more likely they are to be transferred.  If they’ve only been around for a year or two (and it wasn’t their first year teaching out of college) they’ll probably not be picked for the transfer.  If they’ve been around longer, their chances increase.

These transfers where something that really surprised me when I first came to Ishikawa with the JET Program.  When I was in high school, there was a science teacher who said to my friend on the first day of classes, “Hello Mr. Patterson!  I’m excited to have you in my class – I remember teaching your parents when they came here!”  She’d been teaching at my high school for over thirty years (and, last summer when I went through to visit, she was still there!)  Though this is just an anecdote, it seems to be generally true that teachers in countries like America, Canada, and Australia will stay at a school for as long as they like, if they don’t do anything crazy and they like their position.

Not so in Japan!  I asked a few Japanese teachers at my school about the tradition of Jinji Ido, and one mentioned that teachers here simply can’t refuse.  “Especially if you’re young and unmarried like me, you just have to go where they say,” one teacher explained. “Personally, moving takes a lot of effort so I would like to avoid [it],” she later explained.  She did add that “Of course if you’re married and you have kids in the local schools, you probably won’t be moved very far.”

A few teachers mentioned this disappointingly short notice when discussing the transfers.  “At [my last school], I was told that I would be transferred to [my current school] on the last day of the term, after I had left from work.  So, I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye to any of my students,” a teacher recalled.

It also seems a little unfair to the students, who want and sometimes need a strong teacher role model during their school days.  “Looking after the same students throughout their time at school is needed sometimes, right?  Especially with problems or [students in] need of special care,” one teacher pointed out.

What, were you getting attached to this teacher? Transferred to the mountains!                                           [Found at dannybaggs.wordpress.com]

Of course, it’s not all bad news – there’s a healthy amount of merit in this practice.  “[Personnel transfers] bring some new ideas into schools I think,” one teacher I talked to said, “not just ‘new’ but some successful cases at other schools, and new to this school.”

Of course, the Jinji Ido tradition can be a real saving grace, by making those teachers who are awkward or sometimes difficult to team teach with disappear over spring vacation.  Also, it’s great to see some new faces in the staff room, and have new people to work with while team teaching.

That last point brings me to one of the original reasons for the Jinji Ido practice, and that is it serves to make better, more rounded teachers.  A website full of really great Japanese cultural information points out that this practice originated from postwar Japan with the idea that an employee should, through their lifetime at a company, learn how to do every roll in that company.  This makes a lot of sense in the public schools context, if you’re trying to create really well-rounded teachers.  Stick them in a high academic school for a few years, give them some time at a tiny school in the Noto, let them “teach” at a “sports school” for a while.  At the end of their career, they’ll have a lot more experience, flexibility, and adaptability than the teacher from my anecdote, who’s been teaching kids in the middle of the desert in America her whole life (no offense, Ms. Moreda…)

And heck, it’s not just the Japanese teachers who are benefiting from the Jinji Ido practice.  For the ALTs out there, it’s certainly enjoyable to have a crack team of all-star JTEs you get to teach with, and it’s great to have the “fun machine” on your class schedule.  You know the type: “Now, we’re going to learn about the past perfect ten– Oh!  Bob-sensei’s here!  Everyone, close your textbooks!  Let’s play an English game!”  [cue cheers as you enter the room].   However, isn’t it those “difficult” teachers that really cause us to hone our skills?  Our creativity and professionalism grow when we’re forced to work with teachers who are more adverse to new ideas or different styles in the classroom.  Touché, Japan.

Making me a better teacher? Very nice.

At the end of the day, Jinji Ido will be sticking around for the foreseeable future.  So, we’d better get used to the idea.  Remember to savor and/or keep white-knuckling it these next few weeks.  Soon, the announcements will come in and you’ll start to get a better picture for what next year will look like.

What have been your experiences with Jinji Ido?  Have a good anecdote?  Feel free to share in the comments section below!

If you have a suggestion for something you’d like to see discussed in the Cultural Gap series, feel free to comment below or email us at IshikawaJET{at}gmail{dot}com.  Thanks for reading!

The Tax Man Cometh

Ah, taxes.  You can’t escape them, no matter how far from your home country you go.  The Tax Man will find you.  Here are two points regarding taxes for this year:

A Quick Word on Filing Taxes from Japan

Now that we’re all settled into the new year, it’s time to make preparations for (and begin) filing your taxes.  The situation varies dramatically depending on your home country, so if you’re new to Japan this year, try asking some of your fellow sempai-countrymen and women for tips.  But remember, make sure to contact the tax office of your home country for the exact, official details!  Give their website a once-over, or see if they provide support for you.  Luckily for you, many have gone before us in the JET Program, so usually a simple “filing taxes on JET [insert country name here]” Google search will get you headed in the right direction.  Don’t put it off!

Red Alert!  Tax Increase in April!

If you haven’t heard already, there’s a tax hike coming in April that WILL affect you.  Starting this April, the consumption tax across Japan will increase from 5% to 8%.  That’s right, your 100-yen store purchases will now ring up at 108 yen!  Oh, the humanity!  Of course, those three extra yen add up if you’re making a large purchase.  So, if you’ve been considering getting a car or a fridge or a horse recently, you may want to seal the deal before the prices jump this April.  Just some food for thought.

But hey, it could be worse, right?  I mean, the tax could be doubling!  Oh, wait…

 That’s right!  The end goal of the legislation responsible for April’s increase is to double the consumption tax (to 10%) by October 2015.  This April is just the first step towards that goal.  If you’ll be sticking around after next summer, get ready to fund some serious social welfare programs for the elderly!  Of course, there is a possibility that the government will put off the hikes… but we’ll have to wait until after April to find out.

So, don’t be that person who rolls into Diaso this April with exactly 105 yen and expects to walk out with a can of ice-cold melon soda. You’ll be in for a nasty surprise.