Sunday, May 27, 2007
We were overwhelmed by brunch at the Officer's Club then boarded two trains and a bus for the Hokukuji Temple which is in a bamboo forest. This was the site of a battle between the samurai and the Prince, the samurai were trapped in caves by the Princes' men and committed sepukku, you see their graves in the photo.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Mary Ellen, Trisha, Lauren and Katie have arrived! After a harrowing drive in the rain from Narita we made it safely back to our home on the bay. Today we went to Kamakura and saw a Shinto wedding........
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Tonight I put Lucky's dinner down and he didn't come. Maybe you have to be a pet owner to know how ominous that is. When I went to look for him he was lying on the floor unable to get up, or even sit up. I got a piece of cheese to test just how profoundly out of it he was and he looked helplessly at me but couldn't move. He had a few vaccinations an hour before and Mary Ellen's dog just died after being vaccinated so I was doubly worried. It was five minutes after the vet had closed. There are emergency veterinarians here but you have to bring an interpreter and you need to take a train which requires a dog carry bag. I had neither and my dog was limp and breathing funny. When you don't speak the language it takes hours or even days to do what should take minutes, like ask directions, or make an appointment to have your car inspected. I can say my stomach, head, throat, ear or eye hurts in Japanese but I can't say my dog just got vaccinated and passed out and he's breathing funny. So I rushed to the base vet who is Japanese, he was closed but still there, he saw Lucky and said he would stay a few extra hours and put Lucky in a cage and do vitals and if he was strong enough give him some kind of adrenaline. Come back in two hours. So for two hours I wondered should I tell Mike in and e mail that his dog had died or just work up to it as in "Lucky is on the roof". When I went back to get Lucky he was in the Vet's office on a blanket with a bowl of water next to him. The vet said he came to and started barking so he took him for a walk. Dr Shinjo opened his car door to put something inside, Lucky jumped in and when he tried to get him out he bit him. He scraped the skin but didn't break it.
The picture is of my coworker Maiko-san. When I went to work this morning I told her I liked her shirt. She said "What does it say?" I told her and she said what does that mean? I made a face to illustrate attitude and I think she got it
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Mike's office will be his home as well for the next four months. He left today at 10:00. I will next see him in Brisbane in early July.
Mary Ellen Kiely, her two daughters,Trisha and Lauren and Katie McCarten are selflessly rushing to Japan to keep me occupied during this difficult time. OK, so he's been gone for an hour and I have rearranged the apartment (they call them 'Mansions' here) and am making reservations on the Shinkansen to Kyoto.
Lucky is morose. If he wasn't so attatched to Mike's "Fraser's father's chair", I would be nudging it off the balcony on group resource recovery (big trash) day .
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Every American living in Japan will report about the toilets at some point and finish that sentence with "I want one when I get back to the States". Madonna said that in an article recently.
Toto, the manufacturer, just recalled a model because it was catching fire. Toilet seats are heated, you set the temperature.The toilets here all have two kinds of built in bidets too. As the water refills the tank after you flush it comes out of a faucet into a sink so you don't waste that clean water but use it to wash your hands. Toilets are never in the same rooms as bathtubs. Half our house is bathroom. There are Japanese toilets that are porcelain holes in the ground. I hate them.
The shower and tub are in a sealed, waterproof room, there is no shower stall and the shower is never in the tub. You don't wash in the tub ever, no soap is allowed in it because of sensitive heaters enclosed in it. You wash vigorously first and then get into the deep tub to relax, Japanese families fill the tub once a night and the whole family takes turns.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
It poured. I got motion sick. My hands are blue. I ripped my creation. For $75.00 Mike got a handkerchief that will turn his nose blue. I rinsed the scarf and handkerchief I made in my washing machine and IT turned blue. Here's a picture of lunch.
Bridget, Kathy and Diana made my day.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Today, for the first time, as I was walking along a Japanese street a Japanese person called out to me and knew me. It was Nozomi -san, a coworker of mine. I love Nozomi, she is one of the smartest people I know. Her English, both spoken and written, is perfect (she has never lived in America). She is great mother to her two year old named Unity. If life was fair she would go to a university and use those brains to help run the world.
I saw this elderly couple on the street, right before I took the photo the man had to sit down to rest and his wife stood over him with her hand on his shoulder while he caught his breath. It was touching.
Almost every restaurant here has plastic food in the window. There is a kitchen supply store in Tokyo that sells the plastic food.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
These people can eat! I haven't cracked the code yet on why they all weigh 95 lbs. I have included a picture of my favorite lunch, they are fish or pickled something (like plum) wrapped in rice then wrapped in seaweed and you buy them at your local convienece store, Family Mart, for less than a dollar.
Types of food are symbolic ; for a locale or a season. These are kuro tamago, or black eggs, they cook them for an hour in the volcano, for each egg you eat you are guaranteed 7 more years of life. My Japanese friends sent two to Mike to insure he lives until 69.
Also included is a picture of Maiko-san, one of my co-workers. She is bright, generous and funny.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Today I had Japanese Thermal hair straightening done by Tomoko-san. It's permanent hair straightening via a Japanese method that costs $800 in the US and $90 here. First they put this chemical on my hair and all the articficial color came off and my hair looked totally destroyed. At that point I started picking out very short haircuts from a Japanese hair magazine where everyone resembled a hip version of Moe, the Stooge. Then they blew dry my hair and it looked like steel wool, then ironed it and it stuck straight out. I wasn't panicking( on the outside)( much). Another chemical was applied and my hair is sliky smooth, shiny and straight. I just walked along the ocean and came in and Mike took this photo. I even feel Japanese now.
Mike and I walked through town to dinner and we took the other photos on our walk home. Sometime in the '70's an entreprenuer opened a night club and wanted to make Yokosuka the "Jazz City" of Japan. He put up these musician statues all over town. There is a walk of fame where jazz muscians put their handprints and autographs in the cement. It didn't seem to take off, now there are just these cool statues that people put beer cans next to.
The man in the window is making Anko, adzuki bean paste, my favorite dessert.
1 1/4 cup azuki beans
10 cups water
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
Put 4 cups of water in a pan and add azuki beans in the pan. Soak azuki beans in the water overnight. Put the pan on high heat and bring the water to a boil. Stop the heat and drain the water. Put 6 cups of water in a pan and add the boiled azuki beans.
Put the pan on high heat and bring the water to a boil. Turn down the heat to low and simmer the azuki beans for about an hour. Add sugar and salt. Simmer the azuki beans until thickened. Stir the anko well. Stop the heat.
You can eat as is or really mash them and put into pastries or on croissant.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Education, as you know, is very important here. A post high school education it is out of reach for many people. School loans do not exist here and there are very few scholarships so parents pay 100% of a child's education. My friend Risa is putting one son through university and one son through medical school right now. She said most children will repay their parent's as soon as they are able. Parents consider this investment in their childs education to also be their retirement fund since they will most likely be paid back while in their 60's and 70's. One friend told me that she and her husband paid for her son to also get a masters and Ph.D. and then he became a teacher which meant he could never afford to pay her back.
Japanese people, for the most part, consider American Universities to be inferior. Quite a few Japanese people go to college in Canada. Tokyo University is the Harvard of Japan and very prestigious.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
I have a Japanese language tape that warns about Japanese people's habit of downplaying accomplishments. On the tape someone compliments a Japanese woman's cooking and she spends about ten minutes saying she is not a good cook, she was given a recipe by a good cook and she just followed that. Blah, blah, blah.....you get the picture. I listen, assured I am too astute a judge of human nature and will never fall for something like that. I underestimated the Japanese woman. On the way to her mountain home in Hakkone, Mayummi sincerely apologized for the condition of her home and forcing us to spend time there. She has been telling us that it is a small place she and her sister built (it sounded to me like they went up on weekends and pounded in the nails). She asked me did I think I would be able to sleep in one room with everyone. On the train ride up she told us that something lived under the porch of the house. We all carry these universal translators, she typed something into hers, showed it to me and the screen said "wild boar, razorback". Yikes. What I expected was the small house you see in the first picture. What I found was a beautiful home set into the side of a mountain. The house was used to film a TV drama in which someone is thrown over the deck and killed; that's Mayummi and Chizuru on the murder deck. The former Miss Nippon, who is now a big Japanese movie star, lives in the house Mayummi is pointing to. Shinzo Abe's( the prime minister) second home is behind the beige closed gate. We slept in one room because that's what Japanese women do when they have friends over. I have included a photo of a kotatsu, the table with a heater underneath that I mentioned earlier.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
My three Japanese friends, Motoyo, Mayummi and Chizuru took me to Mayummi's vacation home in the mountains to initiate me into the custom of Onsen, hot spring bathing. As you know, Japanese people sit on a little wooden stool with a little wooden bowl and scrub themselves raw for about 30 minutes before getting into a tub. They do this daily at home and then take it on the road for vacations. In an onsen it's a party with your close (same sex) friends.
I am flattered that my friends try to deny to themselves that I am a barbaric American. In a Japanese round about fashion, I am just learning ,they asked; "Is it true that Americans wear shoes in their homes?" "Yes". "Do you?" Motoyo asked.
Yesterday they asked "Is it true that American's take daily showers and not baths?". "I know only one American who takes a daily bath, Maureen-san", I answered. "Ka-chan, do YOU take just showers?".If I could remember the last time I had taken a bath I would have lied but I had to say yes. "Don't you ever take showers?" I asked. Two can play this game. "Maybe once a year if it's really cold", Motoyo said.
Then Chizuru told me that last year their former English teacher from the base, Joy, was having a baby. Her husband, Jesse, called the women to invite them to a baby shower. All Chizuru could understand of the conversation was "baby" and "shower". When she got off the phone with Jesse and put two and two together she realized he meant that Joy's water had broken . Chizuru, knew it was too early in the pregnancy for Joy to have the baby and she must be having a miscarriage. Chizuru called Mayummi and Motoyo who helped her analyze the situation and realized she was right. They called Jesse back in a panic to find out what hospital Joy was in and how could they help. "No, no, no" said Jesse "a shower is a party".
The girls knew that Americans shower the way Japanese bathe so now they understand they going to a party for Joy IN a shower. They feel odd about this but happy to be included in an American custom for their friend. When they get to the party they can't imagine how all those people are going to fit in the shower. THEN they are told they have to crouch down (in the shower they guess) and then spring up and yell "SURPRISE!!!!!!!!! ".They are sure someone is going to get hurt by crouching down in a crowded shower and then jumping up. And anyway, why would you want to scare someone who is the guest of honor at a party?
While at the Onsen we had the strongest earthquake I've ever felt. Tanoshii, tanoshii, tanoshii (Fun, fun, fun).