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Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task relating to some aspect of life in Japan. This month’s mission is ‘Back to School‘: to learn something, anything, about Japan.

I’ve been getting reacquainted with origami. In my early teens it was one of my biggest hobbies that started when I discovered how to fold a butterfly on an Asian open air market. It was probably the first Japanese thing I really got into — not counting my father’s enthralling stories about his childhood in a World War 2 Japanese prison camp… :\

Somewhere along the line I lost interest in the art of paper folding, but I never stopped using my golden paper fir trees as Christmas decoration! Unfortunately I can’t show you ‘cause they’re stowed away in the basement. You’ll have to wait till X-mas time! ;) Or ask Mr Gnoe whether it’s true.

Now that I’m having some kind of burnout, I’ve been looking for activities that are less intense than computer stuff, reading or watching movies. Enter: cooking, ‘gardening’ (on our small balcony), hiking & my old pastime origami. My brain is SO hazy I can’t remember a thing, not even how to fold the butterfly that I must have made a thousand times. So I started from scratch again by buying second hand copies of the instruction books I owned back in the days. Of course I had hung on to my multiple cute papers! :)

I’ve been learning how to do some of the old fav figures, but I had to learn something new for this month’s Hello Japan! challenge. Since I’ve also been looking into origata, the (related) art of gift wrapping, I here present the combined result: a spring birthday present with origami flowers I’ve never made before.

Spring birthday gift with origami flowers

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Edited to add: there’s a post up on Graasland explaining how to make these fancy origami flowers!
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As the gift is a book (Crossroads, by Niccolò Ammaniti), I also taught myself how to fold a crane bookmark. In Japan cranes are a symbol of longevity.

The mark is made of gold & blue paper: both colours symbolizing wealth. The feminine blue also represents self-cultivation, calmness and purity and pale blue is specific for April. The warm gold & cold blue tint are in harmony (yin & yang).

A present: novel & origami bookmark

But that’s not the only thing I’ve been learning this month… I also set my mind to learning how to count to ten in Japanese. I already knew how to get to eight, but now I’m trying to recognize the characters, know the digits out of order and to sum up to ten. And yes, I’ve got some proof! Listen to this. :)

1 t/m 4 in Japanese

I hope you’ve also contributed to April’s Hello Japan!? For each and every participant our host Tanabata is donating $6 (¥500) to either the Japanese Red Cross or — even more up my alley — Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue Support (JEARS)! No need to have your own blog, commenting on the challenge post is fine too.

I’ve already donated to JEARS but their work is so important that I hereby pledge to follow Nat’s example with the equivalent of €4,- per person. So please join us if you’ve got a chance!

Here’s why.

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Quickpicnicbento #87Today’s bento-for-two was assembled in a hurry before going on a 16 km (10 mile) hike across the Kampina nature reserve (walking from Boxtel to Oisterwijk). The picture was taken quickly too — there was no time to mess around with furoshiki’s etc. because Mr Gnoe and I wanted to be on our way before the cleaning lady arrived ;)

(So the clear background has nothing to do with your picture preferences, elm@! ;)

Wilde craneWe threw together some edamame (with African peper) and salsa picante as dip for a veggie nugget. Mini wiener sandwich rolls with garden cress, two boiled eggs, and a small bag of cashews to put in between the mini bread rolls. It may not look too great but it actually was quite good; kept us on our feet when we got tired & hungry.

The hike was wonderful, even though the weather could have been better; it was foggy and we even had some rain. Photos of our day can be found on Flickr. Today was extra special because for the first time in my life I have seen real life wild cranes! They are beautiful birds! Let’s hope they bring us luck, like the Japanese believe :)

I want to use the opportunity for a progress report on my 100 Mile Fitness Challenge. Last update was on the first day of autumn (Wednesday October 21st), when I had managed a total of 7 miles. My main ‘workout’ activities since then have been yoga, some cycling, walking around our city canal and last Sunday I danced A LOT on the Shabushabu, Oruutaichi, La Veuve Moustachue and maho+thaidisco concert in Rotterdam. I must have been swinging uninterrupted for at least two hours! It definitely was a great night out :)

I’m down to a total of 37 miles! And in only three weeks, since I didn’t join the challenge before October 20th. With 7 1/2 more weeks left of 2009, it must be possible to walk those 100 miles before January 1st!

Some strange coincidences happening this week. Today we met just one party of other hikers — including someone of my yoga group! That’s weird since the Kampina is in a whole different province. And the concert on Sunday attracted a maximum of 50 people… among which a former best friend of my brother I hadn’t seen in years! Holland really isn’t that small LOL! Many things happen in threes… what chance occurence will happen in the next few days???

Kampina Hike

The last of my new furoshikis arrived this weekend: a cool blue & white dragon-fly design. I think it fits summer as well as winter :) I couldn’t say it better than Rusillio who tweeted:

i like the natural theme of the pattern, delicate but lively

The orizuru (crane) was made by my mother-in-law; I haven’t done any origami myself in a long, LONG time ;) But that might change in the near future when I’ll try this edible origami crane! Great bento dish :) But I guess I’ll need to practise first! ;)

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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