Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Beard Papa

Fortunately, the bus we rode today was a "Non-Step" bus. Good thing, who wants their bus stepping when everyone knows buses are much better at rolling along on their tires! Strollers are better at rolling, too, which is why I am now a fan of this type of bus. You see, one doesn't need to step to board the bus, because the floor of the bus is level with the curb.
Is it absurd to compare this type of bus with "caffeine-less" coffee?
If you are amused and intrigued by these examples of mangled English, please take a few minutes with . You should get a more complete picture of what we see daily.
Have you already figured out that Beard Papa is the name of a shop that sells cream puffs? Of course not! They must be pretty tasty, whatever their name is, because the line to buy one was so long that I couldn't stand to wait in it. I'll take a bite of Beard Papa next time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Suspicious, or Just Stylish?

Who knows why it took me two weeks to notice, but it just struck me today as strange that when we rent a DVD at Tsutaya (, they put it into a small black canvas tote bag. Not only are we borrowing the movie, but also the tote bag? What would they do if we decided to keep their bag? This may sound like a silly question, but it's not out of the realm of possibility, because it's a pretty nice bag.
You would never see Blockbuster ( providing this kind of service. No matter how many DVDs you rented at once, you would be on your own for somehow arranging them into a stack and transporting them to your car without creating some kind of domino-like disaster along the way.
The key word here that helps us, or at least me, I'm the slow one here!, to understand the function of the black bag is "CAR". When one is moving around town by car, bags are not necessary. The car is your bag, or can be if you choose. Even if a person was so organized as to bring their own little black tote bag to Blockbuster, no one else would be impressed, for the bag would be rendered invisible once stowed in the car.
Plenty of people have cars here, but I am not one of them so I desperately need and appreciate Tsutaya's little black tote bag, and even hope it makes me somewhat stylish. But I have to air the suspicious side of my thoughts, which is that they are perhaps providing this bag for other reasons than convenience. Privacy, perhaps? Others have no idea what you have rented when you are all schlepping the same bag!
My suspicious theory doesn't actually hold much more water than the tote bag would though: DVDs are just silver discs with tiny black writing and you would need a magnifying glass and a big nosy streak to be able to see what others are renting, since Tsutaya seems to package most rental DVDs in clear CD type cases.
Now that I've worked out just what a classy, fashionable thing it is to rent a DVD here in Tokyo, I'd better get myself over to Tsutaya!

Masked Woman

Spring is the most wonderful of seasons in Japan, both in reality and in the imaginations of nearly all Japanese people, it seems. The highlight is cherry blossom viewing, which takes place in parks through out the country and often involves copious amounts of beer. Unfortunately, the blossoms are a little behind schedule this year, so the fun has not yet begun. They better show up by next weekend though, since our building complex has a big Cherry Blossom Festival planned!
The only downside of spring is the coming of the "kafun," that is, cedar pollen. Hard numbers tallying those afflicted aren't available here, but this year, it's said that 30 times the normal amount of pollen is flying around. As a result, masks are out! White surgical masks that Japanese people aren't embarrassed to wear to avoid spreading cold germs, are also their main weapon of defense against the dreaded Kafun. To say that about half of the people on the train and in the street are wearing masks would only be a small exaggeration!
So Aogu and I are actually wondering if we should join the Masked Force. We aren't suffering terribly; I hestitate to say that either of has KafunSho (cedar pollen allergy). But we do have itchy eyes and we are sneezing more than usual. Aogu's mother is great believer in masks, and was sporting one when we were out with her the other day. She's also given us our very own supply. Should we choose to don the Mask, we need only pull out the drawer, and they will be waiting!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A No TV Day in the Room

Perhaps for the first time since moving into our room two and a half weeks ago, Koji and I spent our entire day here. That in itself is amazing, but I am more impressed that we managed it without watching TV at all. Nary a Veggie Tales episode was aired! Do you mind if I pat myself on the back now?
It wasn't even as painful as I thought it would be. Not that Koji didn't ask to watch TV, because he started off the day saying, "Fumo! Fumo!" (his code word for "Sumo of the Opera," his current favorite Veggie Tales video) and periodically requested "TD? TD?". But I was able to distract him and the day passed without too much incident.
Well, there was one thing. He started getting cranky and bored just before nap time. He thought that picking up the half full coffee pot off of the hot coffee maker would be a good way to pass some time. Um, no. That is, yes, the coffee did spill over the whole table and a bit onto the floor, but I was more freaked out by the possibility that he would burn himself. And of course I was frustrated that I had to watch him doing this as I'm shouting, "No, no NOOOO....!".
Nap time started remarkably soon after. For both of us.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Someone Talked to Me?!

Yesterday Koji and I were on the bus, on the way home from a friend's house. Koji was very cranky after spending a napless day playing with three much older kids. As he was mourning leaving his new friends, I was trying to reassure him we would see them again soon and plying him with graham crackers while a young women with long, dyed hair looked on. Before long, she came to sit by me, and started a conversation by asking me how old he is and then sharing that she has two children who are two and six months.
Someone talked to me! One aspect of Japanese culture I have felt strongly in the past weeks of being here is the need for a connection. Talking to strangers doesn't seem to be proper, unless you need directions, and even then it seems better to get your directions, say your thanks and move on. This means that the only way to meet anyone else is to be introduced by someone you know. It's not actually a terrible system in most instances, but when you don't know anyone except the person you just traveled over an hour to visit, trips to and from are lonely.
So I was overly delighted when this woman started chatting with me! Thank you, God! Our conversation wasn't heavy, and I'll probably never see her again. Nevertheless, those few minutes of sympathizing over life with a two year old were disproportionately encouraging. Next time I need to gather my courage and just be the one to start talking....

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Rough Draft-style Start (Airplane in my Side)

10:19 p.m. on a Wednesday night, my not-quite-two-year-old son is poking me in the ribs with a toy while making flying noises and shouting "cokey...cokey!" (his approximation of "hikouki," the Japanese word for airplane, and I'm choosing this moment to set up my very own, very first blog...?!
Why not?
After all, I'm doing quite a lot of things for the first time these days. Like living in a hotel size room with aforementioned son and my husband. Like doing the laundry every single day in a washing machine with the diameter of a tricycle wheel. Like navigating the underside of Tokyo (not as suspicious as it sounds...I mean the subway lines!) while pushing a stroller bursting with a kid who's like as not saying, "walk! WALK!".
Another thing I'm doing, though this is not for the first time, is falling dreadfully behind on my e-mail. So, as recommended by more than one great friend (thanks, Stephen and Jenny!), I want to try this as a way to alleviate the pressure of trying to stay in touch and perpetually not being where I want to with updating those I love.
Hopefully I won't bore you! Maybe I will even surprise or amuse you with tales of the adventures we are embarking on from this Room in Roppongi (those of you who know anything about downtown Tokyo know that this sounds like it should be some kind of bar. Ha ha! Furthest thing from it...).