Thursday, June 30, 2005

Oniichan in the Making

No "news" to report on the subject of Koji actually becoming an oniichan, but it doesn't hurt him to practice. Here he is with four-month-old Sion Kimura. He was very tender with her, which is a promising trait for an oniichan-to-be (again, I mean sometime in the future). These "--chan" references I'm making remind me of one convenient feature of the Japanese language: vague title words. I'm sure there's a much more scholarly term for what I refer to, which is this:

Otousan=Father, Okaasan=Mother, Ojiisan=Grandfather, Obaasan=Grandmother, Ojisan=Uncle, Obasan=Aunt, Oniisan=Older Brother, Oneesan=Older Sister

These are all names for people in one's family, right (and in which case "chan" is often substituted for "san," indicating familiarity)? And yet not, because they can also be used to address or refer to others outside of the family who fit the appropriate age bracket. I repeat, I find this very convenient. We simply don't have such a system in English, and therefore, if you want to address someone, you must know their name or risk rudeness, "hey, you!" and "honey" being examples that spring to mind.

With Interested Obaachan

Koji has perfected saying "cheese" when we take his picture, but he gets stuck on the "ch" part rather than the "ee," thus this expression. The obaachan (grandmotherly lady) in the background was amused by his antics throughout our incidental ride together.

Nap-time Ramblings

Political ignoramus that I am, I'm not sure if it's election season here in Tokyo, but the Yelling Man (YM) outside my window isn't likely there for any other reason, though thankfully I can't clearly hear what he's spewing, er, saying.
Perhaps this man somehow overheard the comment I made to Yuko last week. Context: a van carrying a similar (or the same?) man yelling through a loudspeaker rushed past us. I said, "Those trucks with yelling men are super annoying; worse yet, how can they convince anyone of what they're saying when they never stop long enough for one to hear a full sentence?!" or something like that (hey, it was a week ago, and besides, we were actually conversing in Japanese at the time).
So now, YM has parked himself near our window just as Koji's in the midst of his nap. Argh. I would be more frustrusted, but, there's nothing I can do about YM and his chosen location. And, Koji's EXHAUSTED today from being up until 2 am this morning ("a two year old up until two am?! what kind of parent are you?!" you may ask. "An in-process learn as I go parent who is doing my best--by the grace of Jesus--sadly often at the expense of my unwitting but adorably two year old son" I will plaintively reply). Therefore, I'm literally praying that he's good for at least a three hour nap today, YM or no.
Lately I've been wondering if my claim to living here in Japan for 10 years is actually true. This is my fifth time to move here. Exact (make that, exact as I can recall, which is not so exact) dates were as follows:

August 1984--July 1987 (two years & 11 months)
August 1988--June 1989 (10 months)
August 1995--April 1998 (two years & nine months)
August 1999--March 2001 (one year & eight months)
March 2005--present (four months)

That's 102 months. But, correct me if I'm wrong, 10 years would be 120 months. I'm a whole 18 months short! Yikes! In defense of my heretofore poor arithmetic, I suppose I felt OK about rounding up...? So, my first stint here was three years, my second one year, and so on.
One trend emerges from this list; I have a history of moving back to this country within a year or so of moving away. Therefore, does God have a plan for us to be back here in November of 2007?! Probably not, because that would make our future predictable, and life following Jesus is anything but...

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Three Sights I Beheld

Three things I saw yesterday that were interesting/strange:

*A young man (20s?) walking through Takadanobaba Station with a sizeable wad of tissue stuffed into one nostril. Is this an Asian phenomenon? There was an older Korean woman who used to walk around the campus of Biola sporting the same "look". I admit, there are occasions when I've caught a severe cold that I FEEL like stuffing tissues in my nostrils and leaving them there. I even indulge the feeling at times...but only in my own home...

*More than one bicycle equipped with a special parasol holder attached to the basket. These holders were being put to use by their invariably-middle-aged-woman owners, in an attempt to ward off the record 36.2 C sun. The parasol is alive and well here, put to good use not only by the forementioned bicycle riders, but also by women of all ages who wish to preserve their white skin. No wonder they aren't so wrinkly!

*Fire up your imagination because I'm not sure I'll be able to find a picture of what I want to describe: a woman wearing a pair of sling-back pumps cushioned her feet with the most unusual pair of "socks" I've seen yet. Since arriving here this time, I've noticed, accepted, purchased and worn "five toe socks" and "foot covers". But the "socks" this woman was wearing didn't have any heels, just a cut out space for her actual heel to get air? Furthermore, they stopped short of her toes, leaving said appendages free as well. I'm trying to be culturally open-minded. But those were weird.

Monday, June 27, 2005

How Was Your Day?!

A couple of weeks ago, all thanks to Yuko and a miracle from our Lord Jesus Himself as far as I can tell, I was able to sign Koji up for nursery school. He'll go once or twice a week for two or three hours at a time, which is ideal for him and me, too. So far he's gone three times, though the first time was just for registration.
This nursery school is a part of the Aiiku Hospital (please click on this link so you can enjoy the "poetic" English phrasing on the front page!) in Hiroo, which is a 30 minute walk from here. We could ride the train there, but the school/hospital isn't that close to any station, so it would still take us 30 minutes to get there. And I can always use the exercise.
The first day I took Koji there to stay for two hours, he didn't hesitate at all. He walked right into the middle of the group of children who are there for the full day, and plopped himself down into a chair as if to say, "I belong here". It was funny! And a relief; no need to calm him down or feel guilty about leaving him!
Well, once July starts and it's hotter than all hotness around here, the kids are going to do some kind of "water play". But, they can't play until they pass some kind of worm test. I had to put a sticker thing on Koji's rear end where the worms might live for two consecutive days, then take the sticker in to be analyzed. Should he pass this test, he will be allowed to join in "water play". In my book, he's already half passed just because he let me put that sticker on him without putting up a fight.
Anyway, Yuko and I went to the Minato City Health Center last Friday to have our tests analyzed. But no. Friday was not a designated day for accepting these tests, and no, we cannot take the responsibility of holding your test until Monday, which is the next day they will be accepted.
It's not like Japan is the only country with rules and red tape. But "they"--all bureauracracy types--are SO inflexible. I just want them to at least act sympathetic, but they don't.
So, since Yuko was busy today, I volunteered to take the tests in. It took me an hour to walk to the center, since I had never been there before and I got a bit lost. I finally arrived at 11:50. The guy sitting nearest the counter (there were several people sitting near the counter and they all tried to ignore me, but he failed first) helpfully informed me that the tests are only accepted betweeen 9:30 and 11:30.
Huh? What? The person who helpfully helped us by turning us away on Friday had helpfully explained the tests would be received on Monday after 9:30. That's all she said.
Mr. Nearest to the Counter, in the helpful tradition of the woman we had met Friday, kindly informed me that I would be welcome to return at 1:30, when the tests would again become acceptable.
Unacceptable, is what I said. Wait, that would have been the mature response. Rather, I was so flustrated (this is a word, I know because I just made it up) that I began to nearly cry as I repeatedly said something like, I've already come here twice and I CANNOT return a third time.
Praise the Lord, a third woman who was somewhat more human than Mr. N to the C and the Friday lady intervened. "We can mail you the results" she said. "Fine!" I said. "It's not like I'm in big rush for the results, I just want to submit the @#$%^%^^$#$@@# tests already!" (OK, I didn't actually say @#$%^%^^$#$@@# but maybe I would have if I knew that word in Japanese)
"So if we're going to mail you the results, you have to give us a stamp" she then reasonably explains.
Right. I can't just give her 80 yen and have her take one of out of her drawer?! (this post is descending rapidly into Sarcastic Land, sorry, the retelling of this tale is overcoming me)
No. I must go out to the Family Mart (note the exciting news release at the bottom of the page...well, it's exciting for those fortunate enough to live somewhere near West Hollywood, that's you Erika!) across the street and buy a stamp and bring it back so that Semi-Reasonable Woman and Mr. N to the C can carry out their reluctant mission of posting the results of my son's worm test to me!!!!

Gasp for breath.

So I was going to have Koji's teeth check at the monthly children's dental clinic held at the same Health Center. I said, I was.







Saturday, June 25, 2005

Barely Room For Eating

Agio (see link below) was a great choice for lunch; good work Tokyo Food Page! However, we hardly had room to sit down as we were so "cramped" by fruits and vegetables... Posted by Hello<

Blurry Friends

Here's a blurry picture from a "last supper" of sorts: Merete (on the left) is moving to New Jersey soon, so it was our last-for-now luncheon with Jacquie and Anne Marie a couple of weeks ago in Shinjuku at AGIO. As we talked, we realized the last time the four of us were together was at the bridal shower Merete gave me more than four years ago before Aogu and I got married. So we'll meet again. And maybe next time we'll get a better photo taken! Posted by Hello

Scholarly Reader, heh heh

So I'm patting myself on the back because I've just finished reading His Excellency George Washington by Joseph Ellis. Reasons for patting myself on the back:
*Though reading to learn is admirable and I often think I should do it more, mostly I read to entertain myself. Therefore, "self-help" books and almost all non-fiction, including even most biographies of interesting people do not rate high on my reading list. So I'm proud to have made, and even enjoyed, an exception to my rule.
*Most of this book, which is a heavy hard-cover, was read by flashlight, in my ongoing nightly attempt to keep this room (mostly) dark and quiet so Koji can go to sleep. The times I read it in bed, the flashlight was wedged between my chin and left shoulder, and the book was held aloft in a manner that felt like strenuous arm exercise after awhile.
*This is something of an extension of one and two above, but when I packed up the book to bring it here, I wondered if I would actually read it. Phew. The space in my suitcase was worth it!
What will I read next?
I'd like to think I'm going to read a Japanese book, but no matter what kind of entertaining fiction I might choose, it would still violate Reason Number One above. Reading in Japanese is possible for me but not really easy, more like studying as I have to look up quite a few words as I go along. So.
I have a few books here that I haven't read, and I should just choose from one of those, but that's so boring. Any recommendations?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Buzzy Bee

Recently we've made some new friends, Dale and Hiromi Hutchinson. We met at Jesus LifeHouse and we are enjoying getting to know them. Hiromi runs Bee Lovely, a "Net Shop," where she sells wooden toys and Buzzy Bee products. Buzzy Bee is from New Zealand, but he has landed in Japan on the stomachs of Koji and his friend Ethan Poon, as of last Wednesday! Posted by Hello

Taisuke's Jinbei

Koji's at Starbucks drinking "coffee" (more likely some kind of Frappucino, I don't remember exactly what I let him have that day...) and wearing a "jinbei" that was handed down to him from Taisuke Hirose via his mom, Yukari, who is a great friend. As for this pose, it's hard to say what was going on; likely Koji was trying to indicate that is he is two? Or perhaps that he can count to ten? Except that he can't quite count to ten yet. Hmm. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005

what's that smell?

Much effort is made to keep the atmosphere inside of Japanese trains pleasant. There are signs everywhere indicating in script and easy-to-understand pictographs what one should not do. For example, a backpack should be taken off the back and carried in the hand or put on the overhead rack (lately I haven't seen many--any-- people using the overhead rack. Perhaps they're like me: terrified that if they put something up there, they'll forget it and never see it again!). Newspapers should be neatly folded into small rectangles as they are read, so as not to infringe on anyone's space. And it goes without saying that cell phones should be kept on vibrate mode ("manner mode" in Japanese) or better yet, turned off.
I have yet to see a sign forbidding diaper changing on trains. Perhaps only ignorant foreigners--or those masquerading as such--would dare to engage in such a pursuit.
That's exactly what I felt obligated to do recently as Koji and I were on the subway. I smelled a suspicious smell and panicked. You see, we were already late for an appointment. So getting off, changing the diaper and getting back on was not an option. But diaper rash starts quickly and ends painfully, so not changing the diaper was not an option either.
Well. I was in the very corner of the car, and across from me was an empty wheelchair space. The train wasn't crowded and no one was sitting near me. Even better, the subway happened to be one of those with a half wall at the end of the seat. So I grabbed Koji and his supplies from the stroller, laid him out on the seat, removed the offending nappy and replaced it with a fresh one and got him back into his stroller, all in the space of less than two stops. There was just one businessman sitting kitty-corner that may have wondered what I was doing, but other than that, I'm sure I was not seen.
Whether my crime was smelled or not is a different question, isn't it?!

Friday, June 17, 2005


Math is not my strong suit, but I'm pretty sure this equation works:
Koji is 2.
I'm 32.
Koji has 16 times more energy than I do.

Lately I've been thinking about "shikata". This is a Japanese word that means something like "the way to do". Fill in the blank on the "do" part of it; for example, "asobikata" means "the way to play," "tabekata" means "the way to eat" and so on. I probably don't have a lot of original thought on the subject; I think a whole book has been written about it by someone else. I would be more clever if I could give the title here, but I haven't actually read it and I can't track it down, so never mind...
In any case, there are all kinds of opinions about the Japanese idea of shikata. I'm reaping benefits from the existence of this idea as follows: there's a Japanese publishing company called Benesse (who apparently also owns Berlitz! to see the Japanese site I'm referring to click here) with a sub-division called "kodomo charenji (Kids Challenge) to support parents raising pre-schoolers. I've become a member of the club, so every month I get a little package of toys/information/DVDs starring their mascot, Shimajiro the tiger, to help me teach Koji that month's theme skill.
Maybe I'm just a lazy mom, but I love their shikata! I don't even care that Shimajiro is not actually very cute! I'm just not clever enough or motivated enough to think of and implement my own program. Teaching Koji to brush his teeth with the exact same dumb song that millions of other Japanese moms are probably singing right now is fine by me, though it's pretty embarrassing when he asks me to sing it on the train...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Need a Seatbelt

The Seto Ohashi is behind us; we spent a few happy minutes looking up at it and shouting "DENSHA (train)!" with Koji whenever one went past. Posted by Hello

Bold Move

These horses have expensive taste (see story below)! Posted by Hello

Who Did We Come Here For?

From the window of the restaurant where we had lunch, Koji could see the "fee-dai (suberidai=slide)" and was eager to get down to it. Once we got there, though, I had more fun as I discovered this zip line! I never could rebound all the way to the top of the line, but you can see that wasn't for lack of trying! Posted by Hello

Haneda Airport's Happiest Visitor

Here's Koji smack in the middle of shouting "HIKOOKI! (airplane)" as he observes one after another of the same while we were waiting for our flight to Okayama. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Chickens in Heaven

For posterity's sake, it would be interesting (for me, perhaps not anyone else) if I went into excruciating detail about how we spent our time in Okayama last week. However, it's 11:30 and I do want to go to bed tonight, so I'll just settle for one story:
Last Wednesday, Aya, Ken, Koji and I were to dispatched to the middle of Okayama to pick up some chickens. Aya's dad had bought some chickens at the same place last year and had success with them, so he wanted to expand his collection. Since we were the only ones around who didn't have to report to work, off we went.
It was two hours of driving through winding mountain roads, some of which reminded me of the Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii, but thankfully didn't make me as sick. At last, we arrived at Makiba no Yakata.
First, we took turns walking around the restaurant and gift shop so that Koji's nap would last longer. Once he woke up, we went into the restaurant for lunch. The lunch was delicious; I wish I had taken a picture of it. The small factory attached to the restaurant makes ham, sausage and cheese, and all of these things were featured in the lunch set that Aya and I tried. Unfortunately, Koji spotted the fruit and yogurt dessert that came with my lunch before he had eaten much of his sausage.
So a battle of the wills ensued. I'm dying for him to understand the idea of "first, next, last". I tried to tell him that I would give it to him after he ate more of his sausage, but he didn't get that and started screaming. I even took him outside for a lecture and leg slap, but that didn't really help either, even though he gave his requisite "Hai" when I asked if he understood what I was saying.
Eventually he did eat most of his sausage, after Ken came up with the disgusting and yet clever idea of having him dip the sausage in the yogurt...
Next we went down to the athletic field to play. There were two slides, a seesaw, a couple of wooden climbing forts, and best of all, two zip lines there. I was so excited...see picture above...the time we spent there reminded me that I LOVE to "play" outside, but I don't get around to it often because I don't like to do it by myself.
(Major digression from the story: in fact, this is a big problem for me in many areas of my life. Perhaps other extroverts have this dilemma? It's this--if you know me well you've heard this before, so I apologize--I have quite a lot of interests, but I don't pursue most of them because I don't want to do anything alone. That sounds really childish, somehow, but it's just true for me. The exception to this rule is reading, though even that is more fun with the Book Club! For awhile, before I was married, I tried to overcome this challenge by traveling to various places alone. It was sort of fun, but not really. I still wanted to share the experience with someone, which meant that I was left desperately trying to describe it later to some half-hearted audience. This is a topic that doesn't have an ending or a solution for me, so I'll just leave it abruptly here and get back to the story.)
After we had worked up a sweat, which wasn't too hard to do because it was so hot, we went off to visit the horses. Koji wanted to try and feed them, so at first we were picking grass here and there. Once we started observing the area more, we realized that horse snacks--carrots that had been cut in thirds lengthwise--were for sale, 100 yen for three carrot strips. Spendy carrots! Had we known, we would have brought our own!
Koji thought feeding the horses was lots of fun. He said "motto, motto" (more, more) and I was persuaded to spend 200 yen on two carrots. It was worth it for the great pictures!
Finally, we were ready to tackle our mission: picking up the chickens! Once we had stopped by an office to get directions and pay for the chickens (1000 yen each) we drove off to another area of the farm, where a man drove up with a forklift carrying two crates of chickens.
They were meant to be "chicks," but they looked pretty well like grown chickens to me! Yikes! The guy picked them up any which way, wings, neck, whatever, and stuffed them into the boxes we had brought, five to a box and ten total.
Once we had taped the lids closed (but leaving some air holes on the sides), we put the boxes in the trunk and headed for home. The chickens were making a great ruckus in the trunk. It sounded to me like a fight, but what do I know about chicken relations? Koji heard them too, and kept asking me, "Tori?! Tori?!" (bird?!)
We stopped twice to give the chickens some air. Some time after the second stop, but while we were still at least 30 minutes away from Aya's parents' home, we heard some kind of un-chicken-like shriek and then all was still.
Being city kids and not knowing much about chickens, we weren't suspicious. Maybe we should have been. When we arrived and called Aya's dad out to open the boxes, rather than the lively chickens that had been stuffed in a mere two hours earlier, we found ten piles of feathers and a few smears of blood.
ALL of the chickens were dead!
Koji had been looking forward to seeing the chickens, but I wasn't feeling up for trying to explain death to a two year old, so I just told him "Tori nenne" (birds sleeping). Thankfully (or regretfully, I'm still not sure which), he latched onto my explanation.
The next morning at breakfast, we were still shocked by the unexpected deaths of the chickens--more our naivete than anything, after all, the trunk of the car wasn't air conditioned or ventilated and it was a super hot day!--and as we talked about it, Koji, clever boy, chose that moment to ask "Tori? Nenne?"
Rest in peace, chickens.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Country Roads, Take Me Back to Tokyo

This is word one uses when returning from being away. Now you say "okaerinasai," which means "welcome back".
Thanks! Believe it or not, it's good to be back in the room here, and I actually missed it while Koji and I were away in Okayama. We had a great time, and I don't regret going at all. Maybe I'm getting old. Or maybe it's just life with a two year old...I won't ever say that I don't like traveling anymore, because for me, that would be like volunteering to poke my eyes out (which I would never do because I love to read; what good is a metaphor you have to explain!). But it's not so easy breezy as it used to be.
Or maybe it never was, and I've just painted my past trips rosy in my memory.
In any case, we left on Monday and flew with Ken and Aya from Haneda Airport to Okayama. The flight was packed, which shocked us. Who would want to go to Okayama on a Monday? Koji didn't have a seat, but the flight was only an hour long and he had his brand new JAL toy plane to play with, so he didn't mind.
We spent the remainder of our first day in Okayama stopping by the bread shop where Aya's sister works and returning to her brother's house to get settled. I'll have to put up some pictures because they will help with the 1000 words I'm tempted to write to describe our visit. I'd better sleep on it and bring you some highlights tomorrow.

Monday, June 06, 2005

@#$%^&* HTML!

Thanks to those of you who are patiently scrolling down to read this blog!! I'm very frustrated with the format right now. As you can see, the main text, which used to be up at the top, has somehow retreated down a page. Argh~
I don't know how to edit HTML or else I would have fixed this problem by now. But I will learn! And I will fix it! And I will overcome! (self pep talk...) Not until Koji and I return from Okayama, though. We're on our way to with Aya and Ken to visit Aya's family in her hometown of Kurashiki, Okayama. If I have a chance, I'll report on our adventures here sometime this week. You'll have to scroll down to read about them though.
I guess you're used to that. God bless you, good friends!

Ongingi with Meg

 Posted by Hello
Recently we've been able to visit Arisugawanomiya Park with my friend Yuko and her little daughter, Koji's friend Meg. Here they are having a picnic on a bench. The main item on the menu, as usual, was "ongingi" which is Koji's pronunciation for onigiri, or rice balls. Tasty!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Grateful for my Workplace 会社・感謝

For months and months now, from well before we came to this room in Roppongi, Aogu and I have been teaching Koji that when Aogu goes out he's going to 会社ー"kaisha," which means "company" or "workplace". Koji knows this very well now, and he should, because Aogu quizzes him every morning and evening. The morning conversation goes like this:
A: パパはどこ行くの?
 Where am I going?
K: 会社!

The evening conversation unfolds this way:
A: パパ帰ってきたよ!どこに行っていたの?
I'm home! Where did I go? (somehow it sounds dumber in English...)
K: 会社!

Just to make sure the kid really knows what he's talking about, he and I occasionally have the following chat sometime mid-day:
J: 仰司、パパはどこ?
Koji, where's Papa?
K: 会社!

Things really get crazy when Koji brings the topic up on his own, as follows:
K: パパ、来る?
Papa coming?
J: パパは今会社に行っているの。後で来るよ。
Papa's at kaisha. He's coming later.

Recently, my brother-in-law Ken and his wife Aya put out a gospel CD called "Dream Church". (Warning: advertising follows!) It's really great; you need one or two copies for yourself and your mom/friend/boss. Get more information here (scroll to the bottom of the page for a bit of English information, or email me. The best thing about it, is that all of the songs are in Japanese. If Japanese people who love Jesus want to express their feelings in song, should they then run out and find songs in English and translate them?
Well, this sometimes works out but sometimes it doesn' it seems better to me if Japanese people go ahead and express themselves in their mother tongue. I am WAY off my original point, which is this:
Koji LOVES the Dream Church album, particularly the first song, which is called オープニングメドレー主に贖われた者たちは/みんなで手をつないで("Opening Medley: Those Redeemed by the Lord/Let's All Join Hands").
The word "hallelujah" comes up quite frequently in the song, and he's actually becoming quite good at singing it, which is impressive for a two-year-old, right?! Another word that comes up often is 感謝 ("kansha" meaning "thanks/praise")
But whenever we get to that bit of the song, I'm positive Koji sings the more familiar 会社 ("kaisha").

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sumo Jump

Monday was a rainy, rainy day; perhaps a preview of the "tsuyu" (Rainy Season) that will be upon us soon. For the first time in I don't know how long, Koji and I stayed in. All day. Without leaving the building. That gave us plenty of time for practicing Koji's current favorite sport, sumo.
When I tell people he's two and his favorite sport is sumo, they wonder if I've been forcing him to watch it on TV? It's very difficult to explain that this all started with VeggieTales Sumo of the Opera....
At least Koji has more or less learned how to pronounce "S" so that when he talks about sumo, people can understand. This is an improvement from his previous version of the word: "fumo".
Likely more thanks to his Papa than me, Koji even knows how to say the words that sumo refs say when the match gets underway. This is something like an American version of "play ball," I guess. I don't even know exactly how to spell it but it's something like "HAKIYOI!". Then, while the match is going, the ancient and tiny ref shouts, "Nokotta! Nokotta!" which means something like "the match isn't over yet!".
Koji's version of sumo involves an addition step, a kind of set-up jump that we have appropriately labeled "Sumo Jump". This is where he jumps and then lands with feet apart in his idea of a pre-bout position. He doesn't get much air under him when he jumps, but hey,
"NOKOTTA"....! He's got a lot more years of practicing and eating chanko nabe before his first real HAKIYOI.