Monday, December 31, 2007

Osoji

Most Japanese households perform a ritual cleaning called Osoji, in preparation for the new year. It's a pretty thorough cleaning and time-consuming enough that most Japanese now wait until a weekend to do it, making do with a symbolic cleaning of the family altar if New Year's Day falls on a weekday.

My mom always did a thorough house cleaning on New Year's day. I followed that tradition to some extent, but I do mine before now, a gaijin version of Osoji.

This year, my Osoji took approximately 28 hours (over two and a half-days). I have a three-bed room, one-and-a-half bath house. The cleaning takes so long because it's top-to-bottom and truly involved. Some of the things I do: I pull down the curtains to be laundered, I pull stuff out of drawers, closets, off of shelves, etc. I also pull up the area rugs and move the furniture and scrub and wax the floors. I usually pull a muscle or two as well. I clean the stove, the fridge, change out fire alarm batteries and stuff like that. Wax the woodwork, clean the ceiling fixtures (guess how many dead bugs in my living room light? Too many!) This year, I had the added fun of snaking our bathroom drains. There's some interesting um, stuff(?) that gets built up in those drains. Yuk. I put aside items to go to charity (clothes that don't fit or I don't wear). I take down the Christmas tree and all the other holiday decorations. I also put up our shiminawa and kadomatsu.

As I'm typing this, it's been snowing all morning and it's looking pretty and white outside. My house is sparkling clean and so cozy. Best wishes for the new year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Japan: Part III


Tree
Originally uploaded by bakagaijiin
Here's my Happy Holidays!
Hoping yours were wonderful, too!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Enuff Fluff


Enuff Fluff
Originally uploaded by bakagaijiin
The internet is a truck.
A wonderful, fluff-filled truck.
A wonderful fluff-filled truck that arrives via USPS to my mailbox.

Goldie, if you want some fudge, you need to email me your snail mail addy.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Christmas in Japan: Part II

Okay, so what kind of real fucking American grocery store runs out of MARSHMALLOW FLUFF DURING THE HOLIDAYS? The commissary here, that's who.

Today, I was picking up some baking supplies for this weekend, hoping that a massive dose of Christmas tunes, holiday baking of breads, cookies and making of candy as well as liberal applicatons of booze and putting up the tree would get me in the holiday spirits, because, for the first time in my life, I really don't give a shit about the holidays. I was actually kind of excited about baking/candymaking, so I got my chips and flour and sugar and sprinkles and stuff like that, but still needed to get Fluff for the fudge. So I push my cart over to where the Fluff normally is and IT IS SOLD OUT! IT'S ONLY THE FIRST WEEK OF DECEMBER. SWEET ZOMBIE BABBY FUCKING JEEBUS. THIS PLACE IS TEH SUX0R.

I was shaken right down to my blue-collar/white trash roots. NO FLUFF! Yeah, yeah, I know you candy snobs are like "Make fudge the proper way, luzr!" I honestly don't feel like dicking around with doing it from scratch. And ya know what? Fluff fudge is easy and the guys at the office like it. But it requires MARSHMALLOW FLUFF OF WHICH THERE IS NONE!

And there is no way I'll find it in the Japanese suupa. Or if I do it will beconsidered a "gourmet import" and will cost 2,000 yen (about 20 bucks).

My god. NO FLUFF. I had to console myself with a large whiskey with some eggnog in it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas in Japan: Part I

(clipped from Daily Mainichi's English Website, because they don't do permalinks)

Electric eel used to power Xmas lights

Aqua Toto Gifu's electric eel and the Christmas tree lights it powers. (Mainichi)
Aqua Toto Gifu's electric eel and the Christmas tree lights it powers. (Mainichi)

KAKAMIGAHARA, Gifu -- An aquarium filled with exotic fish here is using an electric eel to power lights on a Christmas tree.

Each time the electric eel at the Aqua Toto Gifu aquarium touches a copper wire in its tank, it sends power that lights up globes decking a Christmas tree.

Officials expect the "eel Christmas tree" to be a popular attraction for dating couples in the lead-up to Christmas Day, when the tree will be removed.

Electric eels are capable of generating electricity in their bodies. They have notoriously poor eyesight and use electric shocks to stun prey so they can catch and eat them.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Phew!

I am home once again. After 20 days stateside, I've decided if it takes me another three years to get home, it'll be too soon.

Pictures on my flickr photostream.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Big Bazaar Day Two


IMG_0127
Originally uploaded by bakagaijiin
Still working the bird motif, but this time, a more muted outfit.

Big Bazaar First Day


IMG_0124
Originally uploaded by bakagaijiin
Isn't this a great kimono? I hadn't a chance to wear it yet, so here it is!

Blogworthy

I haven't mentioned that we'll be stateside from the 8th to the 27th. As part of prepping for the trip, I've been cleaning like a lunatic, since we have the faboo Reginald taking care of our house (and cat) for the month. One thing I've been meaning to do is take the kitchen rugs to the laundromat and use the industrial washer to clean them.

So today I did it. There's a brand-new 'mat by my favorite 100 yen shop. It's called "Blue Skies", of all things. So I walked in with an armful of rugs and a confused look on my face because I couldn't tell the washers from the dryers. Luckily, the 'mat is also directly attached to a dry-cleaners, and the clerk was very helpful. She pointed me in the right direction, to a pretty serious-looking washing machine. It cost 500 yen (about 4.85) for a thirty-minute wash, soap included-and automatically dispensed. But wait, it gets even better. This particular washing machine had a ca-razy looking keypad on its front.

Luckily, at this point in my stay in Japan, I can follow along, otherwise I never would have understood it when the clerk told me to punch in my mobile phone number and hit the green button twice.

Oh, hells, yeah. The fucking washing machine CALLS your mobile five minutes before the wash is done. No more hanging around the 'mat, watchin' your dirty drawers go round and round 'till they are clean. THESE DRAWERS ARE CLEAN! Well, I can't ever remember my freaking mobile phone number because it's umpteen digits long AND I didn't have my mobile with me, because I had told Chris where I was going AND I had planned on doing some shopping at the 100 yen store during the wash cycle.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, so I plugged in the number for my Japanese land line. And then I went shopping and then I went home.

I came home and asked Chris "Did the washing machine call?" and bless his analytical brain, he replied "Is that what that was? It said something about preparing and five minutes, but that's all I caught." So I told him all about the very cool calling-your-mobile washer and then we went and got the wash and some groceries for dinner.

Blue Skies also has a special machine just for washing sneakers but that's a story for another time. And I want to get Crocker in on that one, to see if the Blue Skies clerk can get Crocker's size 15's (!) to fit in there.

Hee!

Monday, November 05, 2007

And So It Begins...

Well, this isn't a travel day, but it's the start of our home leave. I'm at the house, finishing up prepwork for the trip. Chris is doing a short day at work. We leave tomorrow for Narita and on Tuesday we fly out, making our way towards the East Coast.

I'm a bit concerned about how well I will hold up-I'm a terrible traveller. I'm also concerned about what it will be like to be back after three years of being away. I need to quit worrying about that, what's the point?

I'm very excited about seeing my family and friends, particularly my former coworkers at APL. Sounds like a few people are going to come out to lunch with me. I really do miss them now that I think about it, not dwelling on my friends and family back home has been a coping mechanism, albeit a dysfunctional one.

Chris' parents say Columbia has been built up a lot in the last three years. Not suprising, Rouse died shortly before we left and a lot of the restrictions on building in Columbia were lifted, pretty much ruining what I liked about it. Eh, you can't go home ever again AND I find myself referring to Japan as "home" which strikes me as pretty funny.

Let me get ready to leave "home" and go "home."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Nine Years

On October 7, 1998 at 1:04pm in the town of Brockport, county of Monroe, State of New York, my father dropped dead.

Nine years have passed. The details above are not etched in my brain, quite the opposite. I have a hard time remembering the date, let alone the time. To write this, I must refer to information printed on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. This paper, is sitting unfolded, three crease marks across its face, on my desk. The notary's seal is visible embossed into the fibers of the top third of the document. My desk, in my house, in the city of Misawa, prefecture of Aomori, the country of Japan. How far away I am from that day, from that world, even.

Not long after my father's death, as part of an art class, I did a project in the spirit of Joseph Cornell, consisting of Plexiglas boxes full of found and manipulated objects, literally trying to piece together an understanding of my father's death. I rummaged through the junk that accrues in the odd little drawers in one's house, went to flea markets, raided a then-boyfriends' (expensive) supplies for tying salmon and trout flies, scavenged wherever and whatever. I wasn't sure what I wanted to put in the boxes, but I knew what would go in when I saw it. But one thing I knew for certain, from the outset, was that most of all, I wanted to put copies (or pieces) of copies of my father's death certificate into these boxes.

So, breathless and heart-hammering, I called my mother on the phone, explained as much as I could and asked her to send me a copy of the official certificate. Imagine my surprise when the envelope from Florida arrived in the mail, containing not multiple xeroxed copies, but the original document, complete with notary seal. I had to sit down. My hands were shaking. It had all, suddenly become very real.

"Proof" was not only not what I expected, it was much less so. The paper hadn't the gravitas of my birth certificate. It lacked the heavy manila, ornate Gothic typeface and gold seal of my college diploma. It hardly even looked official, it was dumpy. Instead, the death certificate was bleary black ink on thin white office copy paper, the copy made slightly out of alignment, so that the edges weren't quite plumb. The form had been completed in a mixture of my brother's all-caps hand-printing and the straggly courier typeface of a government-office typewriter that had probably been in use since the Eisenhower administration. It was printed on the front only, 33 boxes to neatly categorize a messy, hard, funny, confused, under appreciated, drunken, stoned, angry, loving all-too-human life that had spanned 60 years.

It made me irate, all that flat black and white. It made me irate, those 33 little boxes that said everything about my father's death and nothing about his life. It made me irate to frightened and dismayed by a piece of paper.

My memory boxes were fairly large and deep, made of Plexiglas because it was cheaper and safer than glass. I filled my father's memory boxes with color: turquoise, crimson, ochre, silver, vermilion, saffron. I filled them with glass beads, river pebbles, little-girl glitter and puffy craft paint. I filled them with nuts, bolts, bits of fabric and duct-tape. A beer cap. Tobacco. I used fine silk thread, gossamer like spider webs and pieces of burlap and twine, shiny sheet metal, old skeleton keys and chicken bones. I used a copy of an article from my home-town paper, an article that made the front page--my father, lying unconscious next to a downed 1953 Harley Davidson--a wreck that almost killed him--almost made me never be.

I drank most of a very expensive bottle of whiskey while doing up the memory boxes (recalling my dad always drank cheap rotgut) and for the most part, I didn't even taste it. I got stoned off the epoxy used to fuse the edges of the Plexiglas into boxes. I glued my fingers together, got glue in my hair, I wrecked my favorite pair of jeans. In frustration, I smashed a box that wasn't working out the way I wanted to. I cut my hand doing so and I put the bloodied shards of Plexiglas back into another box. I took the finish off the varnished kitchen table, burnt a hole in the carpet. I fought with my boyfriend-at-the-time, who wouldn't, couldn't see the point of 120-pound watercolor paper smeared with glue, glitter, tears. I pulled twigs off of trees, I snipped off a chunk of my hair ( took three years to grow back in) and used that, too.

And I used copy after copy of the death certificate, enlarge, reduced, in its entirety, in torn and burnt bits and pieces. Hundred of copies of the certificate. I made a box, then another, then another. I wrapped each of the 12 boxes with black pieces of cloth, put them in an old chest and took them to my art class. I had my classmates pull the wrapped boxes out and reveal them. As they did, I so talked about the boxes, the keys, the bones, the glitter, the death certificate, and my father.

I left those boxes at the house when I left that particular boyfriend. I do not miss the boyfriend, I do not miss the boxes. Sometimes I miss my father. Not so much after nine years, but this is the way of things.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Seasons

As I have mentioned before in my blog, the Japanese are very proud of their four seasons and have elevated the appreciation of seasonal changes to an art form. There's seasonal food, drink, activities, clothing, holidays. I've come to love the way the culture appreciates nature's cycles, even if it means I can't always get a favorite food all year round.

If you can't see my Kanji characters, you may need to make adjustments to your browser's encoding.

Aki
Autumn
By far the loveliest and longest season in Misawa. Among other things, Autumn brings typhoons, dragonflies, the rice harvest, oodles of chrysanthemums, and of course, brilliant fall foliage. Viewing leaves is almost as popular as Cherry Blossom viewing, but not quite. Kirin Breweries also releases a special fall lager that I adore, but I'm writing about Fall, not beer.

While I, as an American, tend to think of Autumn as one long continious season, I recently learned that traditionally, the Japanse break Autumn down into sub-seasons:

立秋
Risshuu
Establishment of Autumn
Happens around August 7 or 8th. In true deranged Japanese fashion, these dates are often the hottest of the year, particularly in Misawa. I hate this time of year. It's hot and humid and gross. I have yet to cultivate a love for this season.


処暑
Shosho
The limit of heat

About August 23 or 24. It gets really rainy/typhoony around this time. It's still kinda hot and humid. Bonus! There's suddenly shitloads of bugs, too.Thank God for Aki Beer, which starts showing up on the suupa shelves.

白露
Hakuro
White Dew

I've never seen any dew on September 8 or 9 when this occurs. Maybe because I'm not in the Kanto Plains? It's still pretty warm out.

秋分
Shubun

Autumnal Equinox

Also celebrated as a national holiday. The Japanese have at least two national holidays a month, don't be fooled by reports of sarimen working themselves to death, they're all at the mall on holidays. I think this day also falls in the middle of a Buddhist observation for the dead.

寒露
Kanro
Heavy Dew

October 8 or 9. This is what we are heading into right now, at Misawa. Haven't seen any cold dew, but we had a few chilly nights. The weather right now is amazing, the days are mild and the air is clear. They're harvesting rice now, too.

霜降
Soukou

First Frost

In the Kanto region , the first frost does arrive on October 23 or 24. Surprisingly, even though Misawa is about 8 hours north of Kanto, we don't get a frost until November. Around this time, the distant mountains, observable from my house and work, get snow on their tops. All the skiers/boarders get all excited.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Fitow

Typhoon Fitow has arrived in Japan. Down in Tokyo, airline flights have been cancelled and the Shinkansen (Bullet) Trains are delayed, if not already cancelled, there's been some flooding and there's been one death already.

Up here in Misawa, we're experiencing "brisk" winds, light misty rain, fog and a sky that looks like a concrete bunker.

Usually the typhoons peter out by the time they get up here and we just get lots of rain.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Black Joke!! F*** Captain


Black Joke!! F*** Captain
Originally uploaded by bakagaijiin
Usually buying clothing in Japan is depressing. Not this time. Best. Socks. Ever.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Misawa Festival (8/26)


The Ends!
Originally uploaded by bakagaijiin
We went to the Misawa Festival last night, wearing yukata.
Check out the set on flickr!

Also, I finally got around to linking up my flickr to my blogger, so that I can directly/automatically blog my photos. Kewl! I should have done this sooner.

The two butts over there are Chris (my husband) and my cow-irker and buddy, Ben.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Iro Iro (This and That)

The days are starting to shorten, I noticed it was still dark at 4:20am. The weather's been gross, so I am looking forward to Autumn, which really is the nicest time of year in this area. today, via email, I totally gave Sly a ration of crap for not updating her page, so I figured I should at least have a little something on mine.

Finding myself missing family and friends back home. Maybe it's the time of year or maybe its the fact we are trying to decide if we are going to stay one more year or head back to the states. I think family and friends picked up on our thoughts because DKC sent us an amazing care package from Hawaii. It was awesome and made us feel loved (and sick, but that was my own fault for eating all those macadamia nuts myself--self-inflicted doesn't count). We got a bunch of emails from people we were close to in Maryland, just when we needed to hear from them, too. A co-worker in England dropped me a nice email, too talking about canoeing on the Nene and going to watch seals swimming in the sea. Nice. Da Gee called to talk to Chris, which made Chris really happy and I got some stuff in the mail, which even though I bought it myself, is still fun and good. Sly remembered I love bamboo and picked up a cute glass serving tray with that motif. She always seems to be spot on with a pick-me-up. A long while back, she suprised me with a bouquet after I had a bad day. Holy cats, has it been that long? Yes it has. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Also today, I had a nice visit with Eiko, who had a couple of gifts for me and also suprised me by trotting out several new English words and two phrases. Amazing. Still learning at 74 and pretty damn quick on the uptake, too. She's decided to make an effort to learn at least shop English. That's really cool.

Tonight, Chris and I went to dinner to celebrate my updating my MCSA to 2003, and finally got into a restaurant we've been meaning to try. Food was good and the decor was really cute. It was the cleanest place I have ever seen. The chef, I believe, may be retired military or government. Our pizza had basil in the crust, which at first I mistook for nori (dried seaweed). I've been here too long, because that the pizza might contain seaweed didn't faze me in the least.

I'm wondering what suprises the rest of the week may hold. For you readers out there, hope you have some nice suprises coming your way, too.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hiking in Hakoda

Today we went hiking! Japan has a lot of natural beauty.

Hakoda Hiking(on flickr)!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Week in Review

Yesterday (7/28) we went to Tanabata Festival. It was raining. We wore our yukata anyway.


On 7/26, we went to Oriase Gorge for a bike ride, to celebrate the fact that for the first time in a long time, I didn't have any pain, felt pretty energetic AND it was a gorgeous day out. We biked 26 kilometers, in a very winding and hilly area! In the traffic!

fotos on flickr.

The rest of the week, I was sick at home, sick at work, or sick at the doctors/dentists. Oh well.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thanks!

Thanks to everyone for birthday wishes.
I had a nice birthday yesterday.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Kiwifruit Kit Kat

Japan is the land of crazy kit kat flavours! I wrote about this food trend a while back, featuring a sakura (cherry blossom) kit kat.

This summer, it's KIWI FRUIT! I like them a lot.



Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rainy Season?

Meanwhile at Misawa, it's mild, warn, and breezy. I hung up furin (windchimes) all over the yard. I love how they sound. The glass ones go tinktinktink, the iron one goes dingdingding and my bamboo ones go tonktonktonk, and they all set each other off very nicely.

I wonder if we're heading a hot, dry summer here. Usually Rainy season (Tsuyu) has not only started but would have been continuing unabated by now. We've had a few spots of rain here and there, but nothing like the 17-day streak of non-stop rain we had last year It rained other days, too, but intermittently. It was grey , it was damp, it was dreary, everything got moldy and musty and I was ready to shoot someone, myself, anyone. Seriously.

Weather reports say a pressure system is keeping the the rain away and that it is raining properly in the Kanto plains, but I still wonder. As much as I dislike the mold and the grey, the rain's necessary for good crops, on which Misawa depends, since this area is mostly farms.

Speaking of farms, summer produce is here. Asparagus is all over the place, as are eggplants, peaches and watermelons. I could live on asparagus and watermelon, except that I would be living in the bathroom. I rarely shop at the commissary for vegetables anymore, preferring to use the farmer's market (why didn't I work up the courage to go in there two years ago?) or local stands or the supermarket down the road from me.

I think I also mentioned way back that the area I live in is famous throughout Japan for its apples. You can't get a bad apple here. You can get 10 dollar ones, though. And yes, they are worth the price. I will let you know that a 10 dollar apple is about as big as my head and takes me two days to eat, unless I'm really hungry, then it only takes about 9 hours. Hugest apples I have ever seen, and so perfect and tasty.

Aomori's apple industry started back in 1875, with just three trees! Aomori apples are hugely popular throughout Japan, accounting for 50% of the nation's supply. They do well in Thailand, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (as exports). They're a popular gift item, too. I think apples are often used in conjunction with funeral/memorial services, but as an offering rather than a snack.

There are three main types of apples: Sekaiichi (the meaning is number 1 in all over the world), Mutsu (an old name for Aomori and the area surrounding it , Fuji (the name is from Mt.Fuji) and Yellow apples (such as Orin and Kinsei ) . Fuji are the favorite among my friends, big, sweet and reminscent of the fragrance of roses and honey. Who woulda thunk an apple could smell so good and taste even better. They look really nice, too. Mmmm. I guess I'll pick some up today.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hardware (Father's Day 2007)

Hardware
--Ronald Wallace

My father always knew the secret
name of everything --
stove bolt and wing nut,
setscrew and rasp, ratchet
wrench, band saw, and ball
peen hammer. He was my
tour guide and translator
through that foreign country
with its short-tempered natives
in their crewcuts and tattoos,
who suffered my incompetence
with gruffness and disgust.
Pay attention, he would say,
and you'll learn a thing or two.

Now it's forty years later,
and I'm packing up his tools
(If you know the proper
names of things you're never
at a loss), tongue-tied, incompetent,
my hands and heart full
of doohickeys and widgets,
watchamacallits, thingamabobs.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Phew

Between working, working out, working second part-time job, working on my computer, doing yardwork...I was too worked up to work on the blog. Phew.

I think I'm really tired because this past week I tried to look nicer than just jeans and a t-shirt and old snears all this week. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but you can sometimes get a decent wallet from it.

Here's Masako-san and me at our part-time kimono-slinging jobs During the slower times, I was teaching her American slang phrases. Masako is drop-dead gorgeous, in addition to being funny sweet, and smart. These were taken using her cellphone camera, so they're not great, but you get the idea.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007

Three Year Mark

Today was our three-year mark for arriving in Japan. We've come a long, long way. Hard to believe I have not been in the continental United States in that long (we went to Hawaii last summer). Oddly,while I miss my family and my friends, I don't miss very much else, aside from decent pizza and the ability to run over to Target. My life here has a aura of "semi-vacation"--this is not a "real life" in Japan, by any means. It's really more of a fantasy of living in Japan and it's pretty enjoyable, but pretty atypical.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Where's Bakagaijiin?

I've gotten a few emails from folks asking about my Tokyo/Hong Kong trip. I'll try to get some stuff up shortly--I got back last week , the cat went in for another surgery (his fourth!) and then had a small emergency (bleeding from the suture) and suitcases needed unpacked and housework done and just when I thought everything was under control, I promptly got sick enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room! I'm feeling much better, but am a little behind on things. Bear with me.

It was a terrific trip and we had a blast.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Eki

Yesterday, I took Eiko-san to Misawa Eki (station) to catch a train back to Odate, where she lives. She had to be at her shop today to dress a bridal party. (It took a few tries to figure that out).

I understand a lot more Japanese than I let on, and can follow along pretty well in basic, nonurgent situations, if the person goes at a pace used to address brain-damaged dogs. However, I don't have the grammar infrastructure nor the vocabulary to flesh out my communications. Combine my already rotten Japanese with my American accent AND the Aomori accent that tinges it a further color of incomprehensible AND add one slightly hard-of-hearing Japanese oldster and you get conversations like this: (transcribed from the mangled Japanese)

Eiko-san: I need to go to the train station (talking to her son), so I am leaving.
Bakagaijiin: Please wait (grabs stuff and begins walking). We can go!

Luckily Eiko gets the hint!

ES: Really? We can go in your car? I'm sorry for being a bother.
BG: It's nothing. Really.
ES: Where is your car?
BG: Over there. (points)

I go around and open the door for her. I realize I forgot to take my library books back to the library. There's a two-foot stack of them on the passenger seat.

BG: Shit. Oh! Sorry! (flings books into back seat)
ES: That's alright. She throws her purse and tote onto the seat and hauls herself up in to my truck and then proceeds to sit on her bags.
BG: Oh, um... (grabs bags out from under ES's butt)

In the car, driving:

BG: It's raining. I don't like rain. (I can talk about the weather- it's nice or I don't like it, simple)
ES: We're going to the station, right?
BG: Yes, Misawa station

We drive for a bit.

ES: We're going to the station, right? Isn't it that way?
BG: Yes, we're going to the station. (here I attempt to ask where her TRAIN is going)
ES: Huh?
BG: Where are you going? Are you going to Odate?
ES: The train station. EKI. MISAWA EKI
BG: (in English) I know that! (in busted Japanese) You're going to Odate, right?
ES: No, I'm going to the station. GO LEFT HERE! (I go a different way than she is used to and it is making her nervous)
BG: (in a sudden flash of brilliance) Aha! is the TRAIN going to Odate?
ES: No! MISAWA STATION!
BG: Are you going to Odate today?
ES: No, I'm going to MISAWA EKI!
BG: Yes, yes. Fine. You're going to Misawa Station.

sudden shift in conversations, because now we're both annoyed about MISAWA EKI

ES: You [and Chris] have two cars?
BG: Yes.
ES: (I think she asks how old my truck is, not sure)
BG: Not new (because I can't drive, talk, and figure out Japanese numbers without killing both of us, she gets a two-word answer, which she understands is not meant to be rude, thank god).
ES: Oh, I see. It is used (the phrase is actually 'middle old'). It's a good car.
BG: I like it. It is cute.
ES: I don't have any English. I'm sorry. Where are we? Where is the station?
BG: The station is straight ahead. My house is over there (asoko "over there, a bit away).
ES: Really? Oh, look! There's the station (I'm sure she thinks this is a fucking miracle). That was much faster than I thought!
BG: The time is good? (implying we have enough time for her to catch her train)
ES: Yes, it is good. Thank you very much for taking me to MISAWA Eki.

(I hung around to see her off, because that is good Japanese manners, you just don't drop off and dash, plus I like spending time with her, even if it is at MISAWA EKI.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

nerdy

Last night, my 'net xtion croaked. Hard. Nothing would bring it back. Frustrated, I shut everything down and went to bed.

This morning, I restarted everything, performed a few tweaks and was good to go.

So this afternoon, at work, I "casually" mentioned "You know I had a problem with my connectivity last night...did anyone else?"

And everyone else in the office was like "ME! TOO!" The subtext being that we were all relieved that it wasn't just us individually having issues and that no one would come and revoke our Nerd licenses for losing connectivity.

Lee thought it was his router. I thought my slowly dying machine had finally shuffled off the Tesla Coil, Kotlarsic thought it was just his shitty, half-assed connection, and Kelly, well, bless Kelly, his first thought was he forgot to pay his bill and they shut him down. K's second thought was he paid his bill and they shut him down anyway (his ISP has made a hobby of randomly disabling his service).

Turns out there was a pretty major outage affecting all the ISP's. It had nothing to do with us.

Hee hee hee. Nerds.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Not Very Pheasant

We have this Japanese Green Pheasant living in the patch of woods behind our house. Wiki's not kidding about it living near human communities--this pheasant is in my backyard. This pheasant makes a noise like someone is trying to rape an innertube with a rusty bike horn while simultaneously raking their nails down a chalkboard. At 2 am. This noise wakes me up. Did I mention at 2 am? I am going to go kill that phucking pheasant. The one we had last year got eaten by something in early April, so I didn't have this problem. This year's model managed to survive. But not for long.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cherimoya Et Cetera

I had a cherimoya as part of my lunch today. It was really good! Also, the cherry blossoms are waaaaaaay blooming but it is raining out, so no hanami (flower viewing) for me today. Maybe this weekend the weather will be nice again (ha ha ha) and I will pack a little picnic and go sit in Misawa Chuo Koen (Middle Park) under the Cherry Trees.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mutsu Bay

This past Saturday, Chris and I went over to Mutsu Bay to have a look around. I got to see a giant wind farm, a nuclear plant, battleships, and dead starfish. Then we came home and had ice cream cones! All in all, a very good day. I'll have the pictures up on flickr in a bit.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Baaaaaaaad News About Your Doggie

Oh, I feel badly for the Japanese. I thought everyone could tell the difference between a sheep and a poodle:

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=263297

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

One Hundred Haiku

Check out my latest endeavour! Writing bad haiku!

One Hundred Haiku

I'm hoping this will force me to sit down for an hour each day and try to write a haiku. I used to be pretty good about sitting and writing poems or working on short stories or just writing about stuff in general, but I've fallen away from that habit. Now that I am working on a bunch of IT certifications, I need something to balance out all that logical thinking.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gubernatorial

My "Long-Distance Co-Worker", Dwayne, has decided to put things right in the fecked-up state of Maryland. Be sure to check in regularly for updates. He has an interesting platform.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Haiku

I entered the Base Haiku contest...and won first place for my age group!

Bits of sweet color
Tucked among bland winter weeks
Hanging Persimmons


Traditionally, persimmons (gaki) are peeled and hung up (usually under the eaves of houses) during fall and winter. The drying processes makes the hoshi gaki (hung persimmons) very sweet. The taste of the dried fruit is a bit like dates, with hints of honey and floral.

This is not the haiku I thought would win, if I won at all. However, this is the haiku that I struggled with and revised over and over, so I am very pleased it won. I would have been pleased if it had even placed.

Here are the other three haiku I submitted for the contest:

The Seventh Month starts
Swimming in a sea of clouds
Ends drowned in the heat

Flaming maple leaves
Drop away from black branches
Moments of our lives

Springtime fields beneath
The darkness of a new moon
A heart's deep secrets

Monday, March 05, 2007

Spring Things

Hina Matsuri was on March 3rd. I put a little decoration up in my house, too:
Takenoko Onigiri in the Lawsons! Takenoko is literally "bamboo child" The onigiri, shown here in its packaging, contains a shoot (actually a corm) from the bamboo. They're very good and you can only get them in the spring.
Fresh Flowers from the Misawa Farmer's Market (three big bouquets: 750 yen!):
Fresh eggs! Although these are available year round, I was particularly excited to find these at the Misawa Farmer's Market for several reasons:
  • I love brown eggs
  • These were the most humongous eggses I had ever seen
  • All the eggs were weird shapes. Not a single properly egg-shaped egg amongst them.
  • These were all DOUBLE YOLK eggses! My grandmaw always said that doubles were LUCKY!
  • They're a Japanese dozen. That means there's TEN of them. Lee finds this observation hysterical.
  • They had a picture of the CHICKEN that laid them! Seriously! A big old photo of the chicken that laid the eggs. She was a cute red hen.
  • They were less than two dollars! For the equivalent of fifteen small eggs. Wow.
The little word balloon on the label lets you know that there are two yolks in each egg. It also lets you know that you should use the eggs before March 25. They're not kidding, either, as these eggywegs are not pasteurized (and thusly actually TASTE like eggs).


Also, in addition to 3/3 being Hina Matsuri, it was also Creepy Old Japanese Guy Day at the 100 Yen store. I swear, I have never seen so many creepy-ass old dudes as I did that day. Weird.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Lee Got Promoted!

And I got to pin him on (which means a good punch to the arm)! I was really, really flattered that Lee asked me to particpate.

My husband CANNOT take pictures, they're always out of focus or some weird thing. I think it's the camera's revenge for Chris throwing it out a few months back. The pictures I took were fine! So because of Chris, you can't see Lee looking awesome in his blues, my awesome outfit (which I agonized over for a full week) or my awesome punch or the awesome five pound hams that Crocker calls his hands. Jeebus.


Here's Lee, prior to the beginning of the ceremony. Slightly nervous, perhaps?
Maybe excited.
Chris' problem was he was focusing on some guy's head... There's the Lt. Col and Lee!
Here we go. Place the stripes on and...
WHAM!Aftwards they made the promotees sing The AirForce Song! (Off We Go...)Here's another shot of Lee singing his little SrA heart out! Congratulations!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

BIG CHOCOLATE

"UFO Catchers" or "Claw Games" are very popular in Japan and you can find them anywhere.

Game prizes range from bite-size candy up to I-Pods. Seriously. The prizes here are much better than the ones that are offered in the States.

We rarely play the machines, since their odds aren't favorable AND it takes skill to win prizes from a catcher and that skill is something Chris and I both lack.

But every once-in-a-while my husband surprises me, like today when he won THIS:

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a 15-inch ruler provided for scale.

I was too embarassed to carry the bar out of the arcade, I made Chris do it.

Later, I asked Chris "How am I supposed to eat this huge chocolate bar?"

To which he replied, "With malice of forethought."

This is why I love my husband.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pantyhose

I was very flattered when Ben Lee asked me to participate in his promotion ceremony.

I want to look nice and that means getting dressed up more than my usual jeans-and-a-tee. It means a skirt or a dress, and either of those mean pantyhose.

I hate pantyhose.

I don't have any pantyhose.

If I hate them, why would I have pantyhose?

Unfortunately, pantyhose are sometimes a necessary evil and cannot be avoided.

Did I mention I didn't have any pantyhose?

Did I mention I hate pantyhose?

So I had to go buy some and it made me cranky.

I can never find pantyhose in flattering shade that's close to my skintone.

The BX has NO selection of pantyhoses.

I couldn't mail-order the pantyhose of my preference in time.

I looked all over for pantyhose, getting angrier and angrier all the while.

Eventually, though, I bought some f*ing pantyhose.

Seriously. See?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Hakodate Trip

Hi Everyone!

We're back from our long weekend in Hakodate.

You can view the pictures on flickr.

Be sure to go to the end to find out about our "really gross food" experience. It's funny now, but it was traumatic (for me, anyway) then.

It was such a great trip. I wish I could have taken you all along with us.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Engrish: Milk Bubble Maker!

Question: How good could a two dollar frother be?

Answer:

Pretty good.

It took me a while to buy the frother I had seen at the 100 yen store, mostly because they kept moving its location around and also a little bit of overload and I would get distracted by all the other crap in the store, all of which could be mine for a 100 yen or sometimes a little more...such was the case with the frother.

It took a bit to pry the frother from its blister pack, mostly because I was trying to be careful of not breaking the damn thing (it looks a little wimpy) as well as trying to preserve the hysterical packaging with its copy full of culinary brio and a shitload of Engrish. Perfect. I needed some content for the blog, anyway.

To my surprise, the extricated frother actually felt pretty sturdy. The stand was a nice touch. Even the whizzy bit on the shaft seemed well-made enough that it wouldn't fling high-speed metal shards directly into my beady green eyes.

I put the mixy bit into the motor housing then and installed two AA batteries. I made some hot cocoa. It was Swiss Miss Fat Free--it's crap but I wasn't about to fuck up my really good Williams-Sonoma stuff. I then stuck the frother in and let her rip. The frother went ZZZZRRRRRRRRRR and it very effectively foamed my hot cocoa, albeit all over me and all over my kitchen. I ended up only having half of a cup of cocoa, but I just made another (also frothed to half-a-cup, but between the two halves, I got a whole) and laughed my ass off the entire time. And BONUS! The frother absolutely scared the crap out of the cat. I chased him with it, just to make sure his terror was legitimate.

Buoyed by such resounding (and entertaining) success, I then tried to froth Chris' left ear. But even with a little tenacity source (as the package states) it went BRRRZZZKKKKKZPLFTH and stopped dead in its whirly, circular tracks. A quick reboot and it was as good as new. Should have seen that coming, since the back side of the package states:

When attached to a skin or a dress, please wash with water
.

It obviously didn't work because my husband WASN'T wearing a dress AND he had dirty ears.

Enjoy the pictures, you can click to get a larger, legible size.



PS: Be Sure to wash a mixer after use.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Housekeeping

I removed the links to my kimono and triathlon pages--they weren't seeing much traffic and I was not doing a good job keeping them up-to-date. The kimono page was too much work for so little return and the triathlon stuff, well, the actual months where I was training were interesting, but then it just became a whine-fest. No point in lingering on that.

Spring is trying to come to Misawa, it was a gorgeous early-spring day yesteday, you could just feel the newness of the season in your soul. It was one of those day where I really like being in Misawa, being in Japan.

Speaking of which, unless a miracle (or a large cash incentive) occurs, we will be leaving Misawa in September. 8 months -- a relatively short time if you think about it. I am pretty ambivalent about the situation, as part of me is ready to leave NOW and part of me wants to stay indefinitely. If we're really going to leave, I'd like to be back in the states prior to the start of the fall semester at Loyola, so I can finish up my Masters degree.

And Sly passed her Red Head certifications. Actually, "passed" is an understatement, she CRUSHED. Yay, Sly!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Nico

The folks in the office are taking turns visiting Kelly's dog.
She is the spaz-o-matic 6000 deluxe model.
I was afraid to take her out running with me, for fear I would be dragged all over the place, including across the flightline, which would result in BOTH of us getting shot to death.


I took some pictures of our visit. Of the 10 or so I took, only three turned out:

I had to bribe her with a treat to get this pensive shot. I call it Emo Nico!
(she's sad because she doesn't have the treat yet)I got my face licked just before I snapped this. Urgh.It took a few tries, but INCOMING! Look at her floppy ears!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Asamushi Aquarium

We went to the aquarium in Asamushi on Wednesday, January 24.
We got to see fish, rays, eels, otters, dolphins and even some bonus ENGRISH!

Aquarium pictures on flickr!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hakodate

Currently planning a long-weekend trip to Hakodate! We'll be going in February. We're planning to stay in a ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn. I'm really excited. At some point this winter/early spring, we also want to go to the OTHER end of Japan and visit Okinawa. There's a Club Med there, and maybe we'll try that, just to say we did. Of course, we just might stay at a ryokan there, too.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Rucky!

My husband owes the Japanese trash collector his life. Chris somehow managed to throw out our 500 dollar digital camera. The trash guy saw fit to leave it alone and Chris was able to retreive the camera from the bottom of the bin. The strap was a little wet, but the camera was undamaged.

For Susann--look! A knitting update! I finished a scarf and a hat. The hat only took me an hour and it came out very cute. Chris was supposed to bring the camera (before the whole trashbin fiasco) so I could take pictures of my kimono teacher wearing her hat, but after reading the above paragraph, you know what happened.

Knitting is not a fiber art that is native to Japan, however, like everything else, they improved and refined it and do it very well. I love Japanese yarn.

The hat is a fluffly, chunky yarn with some slubbing. I knit it on 15's, I think it would have been better on 13's. However, it made a darling hat that I completed in an HOUR! One ball made the hat and a monster pompom (not shown, I decided not to use it for this hat, I'll save it for something else). I have four balls of the yarn left. I may use it for the Around the World Scarf.
This is a scarf I made for Mr. Aizawa. It is burgundy with tweedy bits and is quite handsome. It's soft and warm, too. I made it a little bit too nagoi (long). Mr. Aizawa wrapped it around once and then said "Duburu Pray! (double play!) and wrapped it again. He wouldn't let Eiko help--Mr. Aizawa is very natty and he arranged the scarf just so. I hope he really likes it, and wasn't just being nice. I also ended up giving Eiko the hat and scarf (made from Artful Yarns) I was wearing, because she liked it so much. You can see the hat and scarf here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What Happened to Winter?

There's no snow. Seriously. It's cold, but there's no snow. How can I snowshoe without snow?!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Engrish: Low Cost Rog House


more of my engrish sightings at flickr.

Monday, January 01, 2007

明けましておめでとうございます!

明けましておめでとうございます

akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!

Happy New Year!

2007 (or Heisei 19) is the year of the Boar. This happens to be my sign; in the European zodiac, I am Cancer. I can't win either way--either a pig or crab or an abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way . Hardly glamorous.

Here in Japan, the days of January 1st to 3rd are called shougatsu. January 1st is called gantan and is a national holiday. Shogatsu is the most important holiday in Japan. Everything shuts down from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January. People stay at home with their families, and eat and eat and eat! They may watch holiday TV programs or play cards or go or chess.

Tradtionally, a fancy bento (box meal) is served. This is called Osechi and is very pretty and very symbolic. It used to be the mommies and grandmommies spent the days running up to Shogatsu making Osechi (so they wouldn't have to cook during the three days) but now it is more popular to order Osechi ready-made. This means that the supermarkets are BUSY. Usually, I see Japanese shopping with one basket. When I went to the suupa a few days ago, not only was it a mad house at 9am on a Saturday morning, Japanese ladies were pulling TWO carts with two baskets each full of stuff. Some husbands had even been roped into helping.

It is traditional for Japanese people to visit to a shrine or a temple during New Year's Days. People pray for safety, health and good fortune, buy charms or blessings and drop off old charms or talismans to be burned by the priests. The first visit to a temple or shrine in a year is called hatsumoude. It is not a very religious event but rather a custom. Many well-known temples and shrines are extremely crowded. Not a good idea to go sightseeing at this time!

End-of-year gifts are exchanged (usually food items) as a way to say "Thanks for your kindness in the old year, please treat me well in the new." Everyone looks to the new year for a fresh start.

Many people put up a shimenawa and/or kadomatsu. We do, too! See (gimme a minute to link to my flickr pages)

This year, I managed to stay up until midnight. I was listening for the temple bell, as Buddhist temples toll their Okane (bell) 108 times at midnight, one ring for each of the 108 evils man must overcome. I thought I heard bells, but I also heard drums, whistles, cheering, drunking singing/hollering, canned music, dogs howling and maybe a firecracker or two. It was a beautiful, clear, cold and starry night, with Orion shining through the branches of the trees in my little yard. A nice image with which to begin The Year of the Boar.