Got a Job

Woke up a felt much better, though not 100% as I was quite weak. I still went to work as I was quite busy.

In the afternoon my manager told me that the grading presentation and interview with Head of HR to decide about a “permanent” employment had been concluded and that it went excellent 🙂 It means I will become a full-time-until-further-notice employee of Sony Mobile. Feels a bit more secure than the one-by-one year contract I have had and that will expire by August 20 this year.

I celebrated by buying 10 lottery tickets from a work colleague (Henrik Enckell). His three daughters are selling them on behalf of their school and to support building a playground for children in Tohoku. All prizes are donated by different companies so the whole cost of the ticket is going straight to building the playground. I bought 10 tickets for 2500 yen.

When I got home and told Chie about the lottery, she wanted 10 tickets for herself and 10 for her work colleague too. Neither of us really care about winning but are thinking that now 7500 yen is going into the playground.

Tohoku Visit

This weekend was extended with an extra day due to a National holiday on Friday. We spent it with Sachi-san and friends in Kobuchihama and Fukukiura. Yes, we traveled the 600 km or so to Ishinomaki and then some to the peninsula outside of Ishinomaki where Kobuchihama and Fukukiura are located.

This time it was not to really do any volunteer work but mainly to meet with friends, talk, and spend some money in the area.

The one thing that always hit me when I visit there is how friendly everyone is. We drop by unannounced and they always invite you in, offering something to drink or eat. The food you are offered is almost always self-catched and home cooked – or home prepared because often it is not cooked 🙂

We left Tokyo at 7 am and immediately got of course stuck in traffic, this was after all a long weekend so we were not the only ones traveling the roads. But it sucked nevertheless. We crawled our way out of Tokyo and once central Tokyo was behind us it speed up a bit. Still it was slow progress until after Nikko, 1.5-2 hours ride into our journey.

After a couple of stops and normal speed at the end of the trip we reached our destination around 2:30 pm. Our first stop was the newly built oyster factory in Fukukiura, but they had closed for the day. Instead we visited Haruto-san and his younger brother Kouichi-san in Kobuchihama for a talk.

Kouichi-san was packing sea cucumber in plastic bags for export to China – Chinese seem to like sea cucumber; me I can eat them but they don’t taste much and are kind of crunchy to eat. He also showed us where they dried sea cucumbers and awabi, and we tried a delicious dried awabi. We also got oysters cooked in their shells.

Around dinner time we went to Fukukiura to have dinner with some friends, a family that has helped coordinating the volunteer work in Fukukiura. After the dinner we said good bye and drove to Ishinomaki where we stayed at the Grand Hotel. On our way to Ishinomaki we saw a tanuki (raccoon dog) and about 20 or so rain deers.

On Saturday morning we returned to Fukukiura to visit the oyster factory. It was fun and interesting to see how to prepare the oysters for selling them. Most of the work is done by hand, including cleaning the oysters from blue mussels, open them, washing them to get rid of sand and other things. It seems to be hard and cold work.

We also met Haruto-san at the oyster factory. He was taking some people out in his recovered boat. His boat was pushed up into the forest by the tsunami but was recovered and was now back in a state as new – you can read about Haruto-san’s boat here.

After the oyster factory we visited a nori (dry seaweed) factory. They had quite recently invested a lot of money to automate it. It was interesting to see how the seaweed turned into nori, something that we eat on a regular basis.

It was now time for a coffee break and we, almost as usual, visited one of our friends for it 🙂 While the others were drinking coffee and talking I took a stroll around the house and walked into the woods behind the house. I was interested in what they had done there since the last time, basically they had cut down some of the trees. And I found that some had taken the opportunity to do some wood art.

In the night we went to Meguro ryokan in Kobuchihama. They were full the first night but today they had a room for us, which included dinner and breakfast. We also got a visit during dinner time from some of our friends.

Sunday was return-to-Tokyo day, but before we returned home we drove around visiting friends. Talking and saying “bye” for this time.

Our final stop was at a family where we got oysters, awabi, eel, and pickled Chinese cabbage to bring with us back to Tokyo. This happened almost everywhere we stop and the car was packed with boxes full of nori, eel, awabi, oyster, and even rice.

Before we returned back to Tokyo we also made a brief stop in Ishinomaki to visit some friends there. They invited us for coffee and snacks. We stayed there drinking coffee and talking for a couple of hours before it was time to leave. It was getting dark by the time we were on our way.

Visiting Tohoku

At 1 am on Saturday morning we departed Sachi-san’s house in our car. It was Chie, me, Sachi-san and Sakai Junko-san (Lifestyle, CBS News).

It was our first time to meet Sakai-san and halfway through our visit we got to know that she was a top selling author. One of her most famous books is called “The Grumbling of Losers” – a book about single, childless, thirty-something women and who are defined as losers vs. married women with children who are defined as winners.

This visit was not about distributing anything but all about Sachi-san talking with people to understand what they need from now on. As usual they are all so friendly and invite us into their homes when we visit and offer us home cooked food, almost always that they have caught in the ocean.

Since we did not distribute anything we had more time than usual and it was more relaxing than usual. We even had time to join Sasaki-san when he used his boat to pick up some families from an island where they had done volunteer work. It was hot and humid and it was really nice to take a swim while waiting for the families to come down to the boat.

Saturday night we had dinner at the Meguro ryokan in Kobuchihama. It was fish and fresh sea urchin that was still wiggling its “nails”. Halfway through the dinner we were joined by friends from Kobuchihama. Koichi-san offered us to go fishing with him… at 2 am :-O Too early and too little sleep two days in a row and driving home later on the same day was not going to fly. But we decided to meet him in the harbour at 8 am in the morning to pick up some fish, and the next time we will stay 3 days so we can join him to fish.

The coolest part was that when we had got the fish from him he was backing the boat out by remote control. He was not in the cockpit but out on the board or whatever it is called in seaman language. Ooh, he also showed us the biggest flat fishes I have ever seen in my life.

Around noon on Sunday we went to Ishinomaki to have to spend some money in Tohoku and to have lunch. We stopped at a kind of market place where all bought some sea weed and other local produce from the ocean. I did not, but I caught a cool super hero with my camera before he took off 🙂

Flea Market

This weekend Ishihara-san arranged a flea market for Kobuchihama and Fukukiura. We were not able to help set it up on Friday night as we were busy working, but today we helped packing all the remaining items. Saturday was a record day for us as the flea market brought in 550,000 JPY (currently around 47,000 SEK) 🙂

We also met the Ishihara-san and the other on Saturday night. By “accident” when we had dinner at KotoKoto. We had just finished when they arrived, bunt we stayed for a while longer talking and got acquainted with one of their new friends – red iPhone cover 🙂

Mekabu and Wakame – Day 2

On Sunday we went directly to the harbor in Kobuchihama where we helped out with mekabu. This time it was for one company only and we were about 10 people. In the end we managed to do 500+ kg mekabu. It was fun work though I doubt I would stay sane doing this day in and day out for more than a week.

Anyway, before this trip I had eaten wakame without a thought that someone have to harvest it and prepare it before it ends up in the shops and eventually on my plate or in my soup. Now I could see almost all steps of making that happen, except the harvesting in the ocean and what happens after the wakame is picked up for transportation.

First the raw wakame is cooked quickly, just a few minutes. Then it is put into a giant top loaded laundry-like machine where it soaks in super-salted water for about 50 minutes.

Next the soft “hair” part of the wakame is separated by hand from its stalk. This was the part that was not really my strong side, but Ishihara-san and Chie was doing good 🙂

Once the wakame was separated from its stalk it is put under heavy pressure for some time. Then it is put into a tumbler before it is packed into boxes. Each box contain 15 kg of wakame and is sold for about 20000 JPY a box.

The final step is for someone to buy the boxes and come and pick them up.

Even though we were working we also had time to go out with one of the fishermen on his boat. We picked up some cages that they had put out the day before to catch sea shells and crab. We also visited where he was growing oysters but since everything was destroyed in the tsunami they were still too small to eat – may need 2 more years before they are ready to harvest.

At about 4 pm we were in our car driving back to Tokyo. It’s a 6-7 hours drive depending on how fast you drive and how long you rest. Luckily Chie and I shared to burden as all the work had made me tired… In a good way 🙂