Tuesday, January 31, 2006


There were birds singing in the bare trees this morning. It was good for a smile.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Sarariman is acutally salaryman, salaried office workers in Japan. This term' includes all white-collar employees from newly recruited freshman (who like schoolchildren, start new their new jobs they same day the new school year starts--April 1) to general managers but does not include Japanese executives and directors. Nor does it include women,but that's a rant for later posts. The salarymen and their families make up a sizeable chunk of Japan's 'middle-class' and the Japanese government.

A typical day for a salaryman.

Salaryman as a movie genre

When the economic bubble burst in Japan, there were some changes, including layoffs. Since employment for a salaryman had always been cradle-to-grave, this was a big shakeup. The life of a salaryman, though hard, was at the very least secure, and now that is no longer the case.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


We spent the day showing Tezz around Misawa. Tezz had been stationed in Japan about 12 years ago, but not in Misawa.

We had brunch and then spent the day touring Misawa, looking for a car, figuring out locations of housing areas and the like. In doing the "nickel tour", a lot of memories came back. Our company had just started to send folks overseas, so they had growing pains, we were shell-shocked and nervous. Sometimes it felt like we should just give it up. It was all so unfamiliar and we didn't feel we would ever manage. But somehow, we did.

Tonight, after dinner, we took Tezz to the supermarket. In seeing Tezz take in everything, I hadn't realized how far we had come, until it dawned on me that I was actually reading the label on a box of ramen soup mix. Granted, I couldn't read all of it, but I was functional. The really funny thing though, was the overhead aisle signs. When I got here a year and half ago, I couldn't make heads or tails of anything, so I never used them. Tonight at the grocery store, Tezz asked where the rice was. Not thinking, I looked up at the aisle signs, read them and found the aisle. I didn't even realize what I had done until Chris pointed it out. Part of it was pure dumb luck, as most of the writing is in Hiragana, which I can read. The rice aisle had the Kanjii for rice, but that's one I know. So wow, some of it has sunk in.

Maybe I should start Kumon back up again. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Sly, you be quiet. Stop laughing at me (I missed you and I'm glad you're back).

Saturday, January 28, 2006


A day off. An easy day off, where we just slept in, hung around, went shopping and waited for Sly and Tezz to arrive.

A day doing much of nothing sure feels good after this past week.

Friday, January 27, 2006


What a week!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Another 12 hour day at work. We're caught up for the time we missed last week. I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Taihen is the word for problem, which is what we had tonight while we were trying to mail a very large item through Kuro Nekko (Japanese Fed Ex). We struggled through transaction and it was looking pretty bleak--when the Japanese start saying dame des (it's hard, it might not happen) it's bad, but when they say mure (impossible), well, you're pretty much fucked. We were at dame des and veering into mure until the manager came 'round and busted out some English. And not just any English, mind you, but unaccented, fluid, perfect English. We were crazy suprised. Honest, he sounded like he was from the midwest. Okay, maybe there was a little bit of an L sound to his R's but it was very, very slight. Even better than his English was his mad management skills-- he got our troublesome item shipped. So that was the end of our taihen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Here is (a badly cropped) photo of Masako-san, who in addition to being lovely is also very smart. I am very lucky to have someone so sweet and patient who will let me practice my kimono skills on her. The outfit she is wearing is a gift from me. Yes, that's the "famous" $40 kimono she's wearing, yet she looks like a million dollars.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Went to bed at 11pm, woke up at 3am and couldn't sleep. Went into work at 6:30 and worked 12 hours and then a two hour kimono lesson (of which I remember nothing). It's gonna be a lot of long days at work this week, too. I'm going to bed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Quatum Computing

Kewl, except for the fact that by the time quantum computing becomes commonplace, I'll probably be waaaaaaay old and talking about the old days when, we didn't have quantum computers, and PC's took up a whole corner of the desk! AND you call THAT music! I'll tell you what! Instead of having them implanted,we had to wear our iPods, in the snow, uphill both ways, and dammit, we liked it that way!

Saturday, January 21, 2006


How to get a deal on a great kimono.

  1. Find a flea market.
  2. Find the kimono stand.
  3. Dig through the piles for a good one.
  4. Ask if the kimono is jinken (rayon) or silk.
  5. When told if it is silk, ask if it is chirimen, to impress the lady.
  6. While she's suprised that you know what chirimen is, ask how much it is.
  7. When you are told it's ichimon yen (100 dollars) nod your head.
  8. Sit quietly then say "Gomen naisai, tsukoshi taikai." (I'm sorry, it's a little expensive).
  9. The lady will lower the price to 70 dollars.
  10. Keep petting the kimono and look earnest and say "Omatchi kudasai" (please wait).
  11. Make a big show of running off to find your spouse.
  12. Come back and look sad and say "Shujean ga fuku jinaii" (my husband isn't happy).
  13. Try not to grin while the price is lowered to 50 dollars.
  14. Look really, really despondent.
  15. Lie and say all you have is 40 dollars (there is actually 60 dollars in your wallet).
  16. Watch in amazement as the deal is closed and you get the kimono!
  17. Make a big show of bowing and emphatically thanking the woman.
  18. Beat feet before you ruin it by busting out laughing.

I took my "stolen" kimono to Eiko-san for evalution and she told me it was a very, very good kimono. It was probably a thousand dollars when it was new. It has cutwork and embroidery and a beautiful ombre dye job on the sleeves. It has one tiny stain on the hakkake (lining) near the bottom. This thing is mint condition. It will be perfect for Masako-san! Yay! I'd post some pictures of it, but I left the camera with Eiko-san after today's kitsuke lesson. I am still having trouble getting the length of the kimono correct. Basically, Eiko-san told me my obi skills are very good, but my actual kimono skills suck.

Friday, January 20, 2006


We were at the hospital today and Chris was undergoing a routine eye exam and he fainted during the glaucoma test!

He came out of the examination area and he looked bad. I mean, really bad. He turned to me and said "I need you to drive me home." Of course, I got terrified, because I thought the doctor had just told him he had cancer or some horrible eye disease or something. While we were heading out, Chris told me he had fainted during the exam. Well, I got Chris home and no sooner was he out of the car when he puked in the front yard. Poor guy. He was out of commission the rest of the day.

Happily, he recovered enough to go out to dinner with our buddy DKC and Masako-san. We went to Tsubohachi's and it was a lot of fun. DKC is a total cutie. I was hoping Masako would be interested but she's seeing someone. Damn. Maybe I can hook up Sly with DKC. That would be awesome. Sly's gonna kick my ass if I get all nosy and interfere-y, so it probably wasn't a good idea to put this on my blog. HI SLY! I MISS YOU! There's a bottle of good wine and some cheese and crackers waiting for when you get back!

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Being at work for 12 hours is brutal. I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Kitsuke V

Tonight was only an hour lesson (damn having to work for a living) so it was totally speed kitsuke. I learned two variations on the Fukuro Suzume bow, then went home and promptly forgot them.

A cute thing happened during the lesson. Eiko-san and the other older vendors, were practicing my name! I had been under the assumption that she just couldn't remember my name half the time, but in actuality, she knew it, but she was afraid she would mispronounce it. Maskao-san told me last night that the "Dee" sound in my name is a fairly modern one, and many people Eiko-san's age have trouble with it. So while I was tying my obi, I kept hearing "joDEE...joDEE...joDEE". It was a bit odd.

I finally told Masako-san that I understood that my name was hard and to make it easier, I would answer to "Jo". I think everyone was relieved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Kitsuke IV

Today I learned how to tie the Fukura Suzume (Plump Sparrow) style obi. I'll spare you the details, but here is a picture of my final bow of the day, which Eiko-san deemed acceptable.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Kitsuke III

I had a five (that's right, FIVE) hour lesson today with Eiko-san. My brain hurts. Poor Masako-san, who is the translator, got to be the drive-by Kitsuke victim.

On one hand, my brain hurts. On the other hand, I got to grope an absolutely gorgeous Japanese girl (sorry guys) and on the other hand...wait, that's three hands...anyway, it was a long lesson and hopefully some of the more advanced stuff sunk in. Uh, guys, let the whole "grope" thing go--it was a joke. Guys? GUYS!

My kimono looked a little sloppy at first, mostly because I'm used to working on a mannequin and not a living person, so I was terrified that I would hurt Masako-san by tying the himo (the cords that hold the kimono together) too tightly. As a result, my first few attempts didn't look so great.

Masako-san was so funny and gracious, despite having to stand up for five hours and listen to Eiko-san scold me and have me do the same thing ninety bazillion times. By the end of the lesson, my kitsuke was looking almost respectable. Almost, but not quite.

Especially after today's long lesson, I would like to do something nice for Masako-san, who really is an integral part of my study. She's only 22, so there's no way she could afford a kimono of her own, so maybe I will suprise her with one. I wish I could introduce to some massively rich, handsome dude who would take really good care of her, but she'll have to settle for a kimono--it's the best I can do.

Speaking of presents, Eiko-san had a gift for me--a beautiful brocade-covered photo album. Eiko-san is going to help me make a Kitsuke portfolio, so that I have a photographic record of the different kimono and obi techniques that I know. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I'll be trying for my license in June of this year.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Lazy Sunday!

Saturday, January 14, 2006


I spent a pokey day not doing much of anything until late in the day. I tidied the house, did laundry, cleaned up the kimono explosion in the tatami room, played with the video capture and authoring tools on my computer and worked on my knitting.

In a rare turn of events, I managed to get a hold of my kid brother, and we chatted for almost an hour. He loved his birthday gift! I sent him a set of kanna and nomi (planes and chisels), because he's a woodworker. Japanese hand tools are like little pieces of art. The ones I purchased were old tools, full of "character" or if you want the Japanese, they had wabi-sabi. I was really, really pleased to hear how much he liked them. He even pointed out that he liked the patina and the fact that they were smooth and worn from use, full of history, full of stories, and as he held them, he found himself thinking about the people who used them and what things were made with them. I knew right then, I had found those tools a good home.

Actually, they weren't that worn, the largest plane apparently still had a razor-sharp blade.

I'm glad my brother "hears" the stories of things, as it means I'm not as nuts as I thought. My kimono sensei told me she likes to watch me shop for kimono, because I always go for kimono that are not as flashy or flawless as the newer ones most Americans buy, but are often more valuable and are made from much finer (and rarer) materials. I've often picked out the best in the bunch. She asked how I make my selections, because for someone with no formal training, she says I have a good eye. This might just be horsepucky employed to make a sale, but I'd like to believe I have a little bit of nascent talent. Anyway, she asked me to explain how I went about picking out kimono.

I told her, "You're going to think I'm crazy, but I buy the ones that talk to me. I don't know how else to explain it." **

Apparently, I didn't need to explain it, because Eiko-san smiled and said "I'm glad someone hears their voices."

I was really glad that Bill could hear the tools' stories. I hope they give him lots of joy.

**Although Malcolm Gladwell's Blink might be able to 'splain it--it's a good book, I own it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Kitsuke II

More kimono practice.

This is actually an inexpensive washable kimono. It has nifty built-in ties to make it easier to put on. I like the pattern, which looks just like same (pronounced sah-may). Same is ray skin, which is used on sword handles. I don't like the fabric. A lot of the pleasure I get from the kimono is tactile, and this just doesn't cut it. If you would like this kimono to come live with you, drop me a line. It's yours. No, you can't have the obi. The obi rocks.
I absolutely love the obi. It has shishi (Foo dogs) on it and stripes. The stripes give it a Victor Vasarely feel. Eiko-san's danna (husband), Aizawa-san, found it for me. It was hiding in a bale of other, not-so-great obi. Did I mention I absolutely love this obi! Foo Dogs! FOO DOGS!
Check out the drum knot. I told you it was a cool obi. Shishi are not a common motif and the obi was in mint condition. I mangled it a little during practice, so now it's slightly-less-than-mint. Oops.
My most recent aquisition. This is a Taisho Era (1912 - 1925) kimono. It has the narrow eri (collar) and the bold designs are typical of the era. Taisho and early Showa period are my favorites. I really like Western clothes from the 1920's and 30's, too. In Western Art, Art Deco is one of my favorite styles along with Futurism. In case you were wondering, this is my favorite sculpture, ever: Sculptural Construction of Noise and Speed It is much, much better in person, so if you're ever in Washington, DC visiting the Smithonian, stop by the Hirshhorn Museum and visit it. An ex-boyfriend once remarked that my fascination with something entitled "Noise and Speed" didn't suprise him in the least. Blppptttt. Back to the kimono.
Another shot of the kimono. This is one of those kimono that are uuuuugly when folded up or even laid out flat. Chris wouldn't say so, but when I showed it to him while it was still folded up, I could tell he throught it was craptacular. It really came to life once it was put on. The obiage is actually a modern, cheap-ass scarf from the BX. But it looks great!
The silk for this kimono is rinzu, which has a woven pattern in it. I believe we call it "damask" in English. The vintage fabric is wonderfully soft and has a lovely, flowing hand. Some of the appeal of the old fabrics is that they just can't reproduce the silk nowadays (different farming techniques for silkworm, different dyes, etc).
A shot of the obi, before it is tied up. I need to ask Eiko-san how to deal with this kind of pattern on an obi, because when I tie it up, most of it disappears. You can see my Tansu (kimono chest), stuffed full of kimono, in the mirror. I've left the doors open, like a total slob!The "treasure ship" motif is lucky. The tomato-looking things are actually tachibana (flowers of the bitter orange tree). The same pattern is featured in the kimono.
A close-up of the mune (chest area). It really is a lovely, lively design. There are also Nadeshiko (Sweet William), Botan or Kiku (Chrysanthemum) and Ume (Plum) blossoms, in addition to the Tachibana.

A brighter shot, so you can see how vivid the colors are. I love the use of yellow and teal in the color scheme. The bits of white is what really makes it, though.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


I've been pulling long days at work, so I haven't had much time to do anything, including kimono practice. I did, however, manage to squeeze a big enough window of opportunity to buy yet another kimono, but I was at work when it was delivered. Damn.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Economy

The phrase ‘economic animal’
I suppose is already fairly old.
Quite a gap exists between
The time when they said we seem that way
And now when we are that way.
Now then we economic animals
Will think about the economy.
From the time that I was born I’ve just been counting money.
That was what we were taught in the home
By the state.
People only count the time they have left
When it has started to run out.
We live terribly impoverished lives.
We die terribly lonely deaths.

--Ishigaki Rin

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

-Charles Simic

Monday, January 09, 2006


12 hour days at work are t3h suck.


I had a weird, scary dream. I had to fight an evil witch who was stuck in the chimney of my parents' home by banishing her with a mouldy piece of pastry.

I'm not sure what I ate before bedtime that brought that one on.


Sunday, January 08, 2006


Hachimantai is a ski resort about an hour and forty minutes from Misawa. Chris and some buddies from work hit the slopes on Saturday, 1/7. I wisely (and warmly) stayed home.

The parking lot
Torii gate marking the location of the resort's shrine
Ben Lee at the top
Alvarez at the topTony Tamayo at the top
Chris at the topThe view from halfway up the mountainTypical resort runchi. Curry rice (and a beer)
Fall down, go POOF! The powder was knee-deep in places
James Crocker's lift ticket holder full of powder

Saturday, January 07, 2006


...makes perfect. Here's an kimono featuring ちょ cho (butterfly). The obi features the kanji for butterfly (clever of me, neh?) worked in gold thread. I love to put red and purple together, although in this case, I can't take credit for thinking of the combination-if you look at the sleeves, you'll see they feature a red lining.

Friday, January 06, 2006


...is the color of the Japanese pines in a wooded area near here. It's an indescribably beautiful colour. The dark pines covered with snow are a quintessential wintertime image. It was really lovely to see the woods in the twilight. I wish I had my digicam with me.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


...but no cigar. We got A LOT of snow, but not enough for a work delay and it definitely was not a blizzard. It sure looks pretty though.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Well, Sly is Stateside for the rest of the month; her truck is living at our house. Bye Sly!

There were beautiful pink and purple clouds in the sunrise this morning. I have never seen clouds like the ones here, just so amazing. I think I have mentioned the clouds about a zillion times to anyone to whom I've ever spoken. I think it's the proximity of the ocean that results in such lovely clouds, although sometimes I just like to think it is magic.

I keep hoping for a blizzard. Honestly. I've got soup and cocoa and stuff to bake bread, movies to watch and books to read. C'mon ! I'm ready!

Other than that, all's quiet on the Eastern Front.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Back to work, after four days off. It was pretty busy most of the day. I was proud of myself, I figured out something that had been broken for a couple of weeks! It also occurred to me that I had really missed seeing everyone in my office/branch. They're a great bunch of people.

I officially quit Kumon today by writing a note indicating I would no longer be attending. I feel better and worse, all at the same time. Kumon was just not for me; I was particularly put off by the noisy "classroom" and the multitasking teachers. I REALLY want a proper classroom and teacher. If I really want to, I can study off Chris' sheets. I think I may just do that, but I'm hoping to find a tutor.

Eiko-san returns to Misawa in 10 days. My lesson planner indicates I'll be learning こどもきもの(children's kimono), ふりそで (furisode-the long-sleeved kimono) and おびむすび (obi knots). I'm making an effort to practice kitsuke (or a component of it) daily. I have a little day planner and I write my notes in it. Yesterday, I worked on obis, but had a few glitches. I'll ask Eiko-san for a review.

Tonight I practiced the whole enchilda, er...kimono. It took about about 45 minutes, with stops to take pictures and some stops because I didn't lay out all my items. Eiko-san wants me to be able to do a kimono in 20 minutes (or less).


My selected practice set is in a winter theme. The kimono has brushstrokes that look like snow or sleet and a bare tree motif, very nice for winter. The obi features a hawk on pine branch, a very Japanese symbol for winter.Here is Karadako-san, my practice mannequin.
She's wearing a traditional chest wrap,
which is more comfortable than a bra! On goes a cotton slip
Then the nagajuban
Oops, here's a mistake.
Do over!The nagajuban has been done over.
Now the kimono goes on.
It would stay on better if
Karadako-san had arms!The clips help hold the collars
since there's no arms.The bottom looks ok.
Now to the top!
The "V" is too deep. Drat.
Much tidier!
The excess fabric is folded over
the cord that was tied around the hips.
The folded over part is called the おはしょり
Something I did right!
The top and bottom seams of
the back of the kimono should
line up neatly. Yay!
The neck looks ok.
Not great, just ok.
It should be slightly deeper and
rounder and the undercollar
should be a bit smoother.
Then you fold up the upper layer
of the part you folded down!
(I clipped it so I could take a picture)
Put on the obiita
The obiita helps the obi stay flat.Here's the obi after two wraps.
The pine embroidery is pretty.
Here's the back,
I have made the intial tie.I did the wrap well. Woo.
Here's the completed drum knot.
It's a little long, but I wanted
to show off the hawk.Now around to the front for
some clean-up.
We must be tidy.All done!
Take it all apart and do it again!

Monday, January 02, 2006


I had 173 Xmas photos, not including the ones previously posted. There's NO WAY I am going to put them all up here as Blogger only allows you to upload 5 pix at a time. So here's some select ones.

The funny Xmas story:
We're opening our gifts, in a gluttonous frenzy of mass mercantilism and consumer greed and over the rrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiip of tearing wrapping paper, and I hear this soft scrape, scrape noise.
Curious, I look out into the living room, and see Genji the cat with his front paws up on the end table where the Creche is. He's sort of snuffling around and I realize...
"Chris! Chris! Stop Christmas!"
Chris stops in mid-rip, wondering what he did wrong."Huh, what?"
"The Cat! The creche! Oh, dammit! The cat's stealing the Babby Jeebus out of the nativity!"
I stand up. Sure enough, The cat, who apparently wanted to get on the Fast Track to Hell, has the Babby Jeebus in his mouth and is trying to look like he doesn't.
I made a lunge towards our pet, yelling "STOP! BAD CAT! NOooOOOOoooO!"
Genji, realizing he was totally busted, spit out Our Savior, and took off.
The Babby Jeebus had some cat spit on his halo and a scratch on his cheek, but no real damage.
After laughing our asses off, we resumed with Christmas.


Christmas 2005
The Tree in the TatamiThat's "GOGGLE" not "GOOGLE"
In an attempt to be funny, I wrapped Sly's gift in
the "HO" paper...but she wrapped mine in the "HO" paper, too!
So we both be HO's.
Sly got a sakura-pink cashmere sweater from us!
She's so cute!
I look better in the dark.
The Yo-Yo is handmade by Bud!
I got mad, because I can't do any yo-yo tricks.
Self-portrait. I look better in the dark.

Baka! Boshi jinai!
Idiot! That's not a hat!Awwww...MINEMINEMINEALLMINE!
Chris' Pile

Chris got Radical Fish Clubs!Wheeeeeeeeeeee!
Jodi got artwork!We both got a lemon mousse pie
from Deb, our neighbour (yum)!

Here's our table, all set for
Christmas dinnerA close-up of a place setting.
The dishes where a gift from
my brother and his wifeI'm all Xmassed out.
My socks were hand-knit by
meine guten freunde, Susann

Genji is all Xmassed out, too.