the gift giving grinch

Had a fabulous day today that involved driving 30 minutes to the department store here (apparently it's not a 'real' department store whatever that is but it certainly looks like one to me) that is the one and only place around here to buy thank you gifts. Really doesn't matter what you buy just as long as it comes in the department store's blue and white wrapping paper and fancy paper carry bag.

I was there trying to buy thank you gifts for the people who gave us congratulations money for Meg starting school. That's right, they give us money and then we buy them a gift. Crazy huh?

It's all so ritualised, too.

You get a set amount of money depending on whether the person doing the giving has the same surname as you, is your immediate neighbour or just a neighbour.

Then you take half the money you received and use it to buy a thank you gift (from the non-department store store.)

The gift is traditionally towels. More specifically, a set of two hand towels.

So, I headed off to the store thinking this would be a pretty simple shopping expedition- I knew what to buy, where to buy it and how much to spend- what could be simpler, right?


The return gift towel section (yup there is a whole section) doesn't sell towel sets. You have to choose your towels and have them boxed up into sets. And there are sooo many towels to choose from. Seriously. Floral? Striped? Plain? Embellished with ribbons? Glitter? Embroidery? Th choice is yours. And they come in every colour of the rainbow as well.

I'm overwhelmed by the choice and panicky about making a mistake. Is there some kind of towel language I should know about? Are solemn colours for illness money return gifts? Cute characters for birth money return gifts? Do you give towels representing what you're returning (from a 6 year old girl so something colourful and fun?) or who you're giving to (older couples so something elegant?)

Does it really matter?

I call K.

I am sure K is going to say "it doesn't matter, go with whatever." I am sure of that as that is his answer to most of my social protocol dilemmas.

He's often wrong.

Why do I still want to ask his opinion then? To halve the responsibility!

It doesn't matter in the end anyway as he doesn't answer his phone. (As an aside, who else would love a device that gave husbands a small [safe of course] electric shock if he didn't answer his phone after ooooh seventeen or so rings? Seriously. I'd pay good money for one of those!)

Anyway, after another 10 minutes wandering through the aisles of towel splendiferousness, getting ever more towelled out and calling K another three times I threw in the towel (ha ha!) and went for a tasteful, elegant yet sprinkled with cute flowers set of one blue and one white towel for each neighbour.

Took them to the register, wrote Meg's name down for the saleswoman to print off a special paper covering for the blue and white wrapped be-paperbagged boxed and folded just so towels. Phew.

From the time I handed my purchases to the assistant till the time I received everything was a full 15 minutes.

15 minutes of my life I'll never get back.

And we still have to go around the neighbourhood and deliver them.


Wouldn't it be nice if everyone who gave us money only gave us half from the very beginning and then said 'don't worry about the returnee gift.' I wouldn't have to go through this ridiculous towel circus and they would avoid getting - yet another set of- overpriced and over fancy towels.

Bah humbug. I'm such a gift grinch.


tokyo time

After the blessing we headed to Tokyo and (after we finally got there!) we had a really amazing time. Cassie her husband and Nana were great hosts and we just had a blast.

I was really surprised at what we saw. I have to admit I have a very limited knowledge of Tokyo. Tokyo station, Shinbashi, Shinjuku, Harajuku and Asakusa pretty much covers it. Cassie lives in Fuchu and it is such a beautiful area (and I should know- we saw a lot of it before we even got to Cassie's!) that I was really surprised and kept thinking- this is Tokyo?

Monday we went to Kichijoji which is another amazing place. I mean this picture was taken in Tokyo:

Wow. Huh?

The park was beautiful but Amy was incredibly unimpressed. The huge park, the pond, the ducks, the fish, the cherry blossom, the people rowing around in boats, the people watching opportunities (Tokyoites are so fashionable!), the tranquility, the miracle that all of this was in Tokyo?

Nope. Not impressed.

"Gaaahhh! Mummy! You said we were going to a park! This isn't a park! There's no swings!!"

We did find a slide and two rocking horses and Cassie and I flaked on a park bench for a while (Nana had had a broken night and Amy had woken up at 3:30am, realised it wasn't pitch country-style black, decided it was morning, and spent the next two hours trying to convince me to get up and make breakfast- aghhhh!) Well, it seems you can take the girls out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girls:

Meg teaching Nana how to get completely grubby and muddy before lunch. Extra points for being all dolled up at the time.

After a good play (and a restorative communal mummy zone out) we met up with Laura and baby Noah and headed to an amazing Thai Restaurant in the park. It was fabulous and I ate a green curry to die for. Wow. Yum... It was so nice to meet another Aussie, too. I'm in a bit of an American-centric area here. More Europeans than Aussies even. I got to say nappy, brekky, tiggy, flanny and deb and not have to explain. Yeah! And such a nice Aussie to boot. Great to put another face to a bloggy name, too.

We spent the afternoon hitting the department stores and speciality shops. I stocked up on corn meal, cream of tartar, maple syrup, pink pepper corns, crunchy french bread and other such essentials that I don't really miss when I don't have them (most of the time) but that I jump at the chance to buy when I can.

It was such fun and really opened up my mind to the mega-metropolis that is Tokyo. I get all riled up at people generalising about 'the country' and yet I had been guilty of doing the same about Tokyo!

It was a bit scary getting (another) reminder of how lacking in city smarts my kids are, though. Between walking in a straight line down footpaths forcing others to weave around them, ignoring the ringing of approaching bicycles, wandering off in crowded department stores, running off in crowded parks, and just wanting to skip and run rather than walk I did a whole lotta shouting out of warnings. I hate to be so negative but when it comes to safety you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

The girls had a fabulous time, are in love with 2 year old Nana, think a door bell that chimes electronically should be our next household purchase and even started getting good at changing trains.

Cassie's family's home language is English, we spoke English together, we spoke to Laura in English, Cassie made the most amazing spinach meatballs and penne gorgonzola for dinner and french toast for breakfast (not a bowl of rice or a pack of natto in sight!) we ate Thai for lunch, we bought a french stick.... it was so completely unlike our normal life!

So unlike it that when Meg heard the station announcement for Matsumoto on the way home she said "are we back in Japan, now Mummy?"

That about sums up our trip, I think!


who does that?

Who arranges to visit a friend on the very day her husband gets back from an overseas business trip?

Who sets out on an adventure to the big smoke to visit somewhere they've never been before with the wrong address?

Who sets out to drive to someone's house without said person's phone number in their mobile phone?

Who gets lost and asks at a real estate agent for an address?

Who lets their bored, tired kids play in the back of the car, hears paper crinkling and then remembers there's a bag of fresh soba noodles back there?

Who still hands that soba over as a hostess gift?

Who spends 2 hours trawling the back streets looking for a view they've seen in a photo to tip them off where the house they're looking for is?

Who uses an electrical store's computer to try and access the internet and send their friend an email?

Who emails a third person whose husband is in hospital asking for mutual friend's phone number?

Who then emails a different person again (email cold calling) on a tip off that they may have the number?

Who (on finally arriving- you wouldn't believe what a difference a single digit can make in someone's address....) falls onto the sofa and sits there non-communicative with exhaustion?

Whose husband eats the amazing afternoon tea, drinks a coffee and then makes his farewells less than thirty minutes after arriving?

Certainly not us.

No way.

We have way better manners than that.


blessed an ready to go

Today was the blessing at the big shrine. It was freezing. Literally. And it seems shrines weren't made with comfort in mind. Meg's dress is ankle length and I was wearing slacks but we were both still shivering sitting seiza in the main hall for the blessing.

Sitting in the reception hall drinking juice and eating junk food waiting for everyone (15 kids and assorted rellies) to arrive.

The group at the far back are going through reception. Where you hand over your donation. Donation in a very loose sense of the word. The 'suggested' donation is 3000 yen and important men in the village (but not the Shinto Priest) take your money and cross your name off a list. Yeah, that's not quite the way we do donations where I'm from... The gathering in the middle is around the big kero heater. It was freezing!

We were asked not to take photos during the actual blessing. I thought this was to protect the artefacts in the hall or maybe you shouldn't take photos of a priest? Well, I have no idea why we weren't meant to take pictures but neither of those are the reasons as as soon as the official blessing was over the priest himself invited everyone to take pictures and even posed for pictures with the kids.

I was really surprised at the blessing. Surprised because I understood it all. It was delivered in a very sing-song voice but was in decipherable Japanese. A nice change from the Buddhist chanting which has wonderful lilting qualities but tends to make me drousy as it goes on and on and is completely unintelligible to me. The content of the blessing was pretty much bless the children, bless their families and their homes, bless their school and may they all do well at studying and travel safely to and from school. Being non-religious I had been a bit unsure about the whole blessing thing but this seemed innocuous enough and a nice sentiment to boot.

After the blessing the children lined up and those very important men handed each child- an amulet for their school bag, a larger one for the house, a picture book explaining the creationist view of Japan (minus any emphasis on the fecundity and grisly deaths I was relieved to see) a toy and a big bag of junk food. Always good to take your religion with a big dose of chocolate, hey? The Shinto Priest is a father of 4 young kids and always has something for kids who visit the shrine. He even had a little gift for the brothers and sisters of the attendees today. Amy was thrilled!

All blessed and ready for school. Now let's get out of here and go and get warm!


the picture

I have a couple of deep and thoughtful missives about life I wanted to take the time to write up for today's blog but, well, life just gets in the way sometimes, hey?

Anyway, a couple of people commented on the picture at the top of the blog at the moment and I wanted to comment on it, too.

It's the view from the village proper up to wear we live. We live about a finger width above the house on the far left. We're already in the shade by the time the picture was taken. While downtown they are still soaking up the weak winter sun.

I really like this view and enjoy looking at it every chance I get.

My favourite thing about the view is not actually in the picture. It's behind me. To take this picture I stood beside my car. My car that was parked in the supermarket carpark.

Isn't that just the greatest view from a supermarket carpark? Seriously. Japan is big on labelling things 'one of the top three..... in Japan.' I have drunk one of the top three sweetest waters (in about 5 different places but hey, whose counting?) travelled on one of the three most scenic rail routes, eaten one of the three best varieties of rice etc etc. I am therefore going to declare this as 'one of the three best views from a supermarket carpark in Japan'.

It sure makes my shopping trips more enjoyable anyway.


enough already

This is the view from my front door every morning lately.

No, it's not a lot of snow.

Yes, it usually melts during the day (and then snows again at night...)

But it's not the snow that is wearing me out as much as that it's the end of March and it's still cold enough to snow.

It's still in the minuses every night and yesterday we had a balmy top of 4 degrees.

So much for global warming.

So much for Spring.



a day out in the big smoke

After a super tiring graduation day of course we planned a nice quiet restful day for the first day of holidays, right?

Well, that's what we planned until we found out there was a family reunion going on in Saitama. A family reunion that if we gatecrashed could perhaps score me a 'get out of trekking up to Fukushima to see the grandparents' free card.

So, out the window with the restful day plan and we dragged our sorry selves out of bed at 5:00am, were out the door at 5:30 and on the 6:20 train. Without breakfast- K set the rice cooker as usual. As usual means set to be ready at 5:30am.... oh well. We took bananas in the car and promised the girls a riceball at the station.

Great idea but the station kiosk opens at 6:30 and our train left at 6:20. Oh well, we'll grab something when we change to the shinkansen at Nagano city.

Oops, the regular train and the shinkansen entrances are separate at Nagano station, no time to stop by the kiosk.

By the time we got on the shinkansen and the overpriced and preservative packed sandwich cart came around Meg was quite sure I was starving her. Very worried the cart wouldn't arrive and wolfed down the '5 variations on mayonnaise' sandwich special like she hadn't eaten in weeks. Poor kid.

On the morning train

Made it to Omiya station and played our superglue game to get through the station to the other train line for the last section of our journey. This involves pretending to stick globs of superglue on our palms and smooshing them together. A cute way of saying 'you must not, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, let go of mummy's hand in the big scary city.' It's weird. I am perfectly fine with the girls climbing trees up above my head height, running through the fields, playing in creeks, being out of my eyesight anywhere around here but having them stand on a train platform- even wayyyy back with their bums to the wall and my heart starts pounding as I imagine having to drag them off the tracks out of the way of a speeding train- gahhhh!

Anyway, surprisingly enough we arrived safely and without incident, had a huge day playing, made a grandma very happy, had the first all-in meeting of the cousins- a 6 year old, a 4 year old, a 2 year old and a 7 month old and the girls soaked up a huge dose of grandma love. Amy is a live in the moment kind of kid and doesn't get too worked up about the lack of grandparents in our immediate proximity but Meg misses everyone and goes through 'why can't we go to Australia for the weekend?/ 7 hours North to Fukushima for the day?' periods which require lots of empathy and patient explaining. So a whole day hanging out with Grandma was like Christmas in March.

I was blown out by my 2 year old niece. She lives a 1 minute walk from a huge shopping mall on the 9th floor of a very fancy apartment complex complete with reception desk guy. She can swipe the magic key to get in, knows how to run the elevator (not just her floor number but how to hold the door for someone or close the door when we're all in etc etc) she does lunch at restaurants (and not just family oriented ones) and sits in her seat- and stays in her seat- for the entire meal. Wow. Just wow. But I heard that she doesn't like running around outside and at the park likes to be held and have her mum by her side as she plays. I guess we are all products of our environment, huh?

After a big day playing we started the mammoth return journey- the morning's adventure in reverse and finally walked in the door at 8:30pm. 15 hours after we walked out that morning. It was a huge day. A fun-filled marathon of an adventure but boy was it nice to get home!

Last leg of the journey- the slow train home from Nagano city. They were wired and spent the hour trip trying to balance in the aisle without touching anything. It's a pretty rock and rolly kind of ride and they kept bumping into each other. Hilarious. I was sure they would sleep on the train. But nope. Far too excited to sleep on a day out in the big smoke.


graduation in pictures

"Congratulations on your kinder graduation"

Passing the time playing clapping games with her best friend

Entering the playroom/ ceremony hall. There was a violin and piano concert on the way in and each child climbed over the steps one at a time pausing for photos as they went.

Sunflower class, the teacher and a parent each.

Coming out of the teachers' send-off arch. Me hunching, Meg unsure of what's coming up next and Amy just over the whole thing...

(shiitake mushroom log on the left and for some reason K included a shovel in the picture as well....)

Celebration chirashi-zushi. Omelette by Amy, peas by Meg, rice by K and fish by me and everyone's happy.


I may not be able to graduate kinder....

Well it's Meg whose graduating but I have a role to play, too.

A role that needs different coloured markers on the floor to help me fulfil it.

And a nifty diagram and long explanation letter sent home today:

It's blurry I know but I think you get the gist. Geez....

I have read it again and again and again and all I can come up with is that it's going to be very involved. And the sentence at the top? Why it says: "This is very important so make sure you read it" Great....

Oh and just to make it all that much more fun? Meg informed me they are graduating in height order.

Guess who is the tallest kid in her class?

Oh well. They can't make her repeat a year of kinder because her mum stuffed up graduation, right?



the view from my front door

I was going to call this post "got wood" but you know those damn google searchers and stuff....

Anyway, this is the view out the front door at the moment. Last weekend there was a big pile of chestnut branches on the left there. Thinking it's the growing season, there's a lawn there, the lawn needs all the encouragement it can get etc etc I spent the afternoon cutting up the 1.5- 2m long branches into wheelbarrowable lengths, separating the dry and the green and carting them around to the woodpile(s) out the back.


Obviously I did too good a job as K spent today covering up both sides of the lawn with massive apple tree roots. It's great wood, dense and slow burning, it burns really hot as well.

But, being roots they are covered in dirt. And they're still green. So we have to clean them up (or let the rain do it for us) and store them for a year before we use them. I am adamant they will not live on the lawn past next weekend but I really think this time the carting is a little beyond me. In the meantime the rainy sleet is washing all that good dirt onto the lawn which has got to be doing something positive, right? Balance out the loss of sunshine with some added nutrients...?

The girls are thrilled. Not for them is woeing the loss of lawn space. Oh no. As far as they're concerned we have installed a huge great climbing frame out there.

Today was Spring Equinox. The day when Winter turns to Spring. Ha ha ha. Well we woke up to snow. Not a lot, no. And it melted by midday but still, freaking snow. Enough already!



kodomo-kai is like a kids' club for the kids who live in a particular area. There are 60 households in this area and a total of 18 kids so ours is a pretty small kodomo-kai. Kodomo-kai is officially from Grade 1 to 3rd year JHS but because of the lack of numbers kinder kids are honorary members here. So we have been to the Summer BBQ and the winter bonfire for the last three years.

But today was Meg's first event as an official full member of the kodomo-kai. We met at the community centre at 8:00am and walked around the neighbourhood collecting 300 yen from each house. I have been on the receiving end of this activity before and always wondered what the money is for.

Now I know.

After an hour tramping around watching 18 kids scatter and scramble and run wild all over the neighbourhood banging on doors and collecting the 300 yen we met back at the community centre where we broke up until 1pm. The Grade 6ers (two of them) and their mums took all the money and went shopping. For junk food. 60 houses times 300 yen. 18,000 yen. 18 kids. 1,000 yen worth of junk food each. Wow. Actually they also bought bingo cards and a notebook, pretty pencil and pocket towel present for the 4 new Grade 1 students so it wasn't a whole 1,000 yen worth of sugary crap but still a lot.

At 1pm we met up and one of the men's groups drilled holes in tree lengths for us:

Then we pushed shitake mushroom spore infected plugs into each hole:

Thanked the men's club for helping, were instructed on how to look after our mushroom logs- must lie horizontally in a cool, dark, aerated, exposed to rain but not too much sun place. Must not lie on dirt. Must not dry out. Next year we move the log to upright and keep wet and in two years time we should have shitake mushrooms. Wow. I will do my best but I don't think Meg should get her hopes up for home grown shitake mushrooms... I'll be happy if it lasts 2 years without one of us forgetting and throwing it in the fire!

The first year kids' mums took the logs home (they are surprisingly heavy!) and left our kids there for three hours of junk food and games. Meg came home saying it was great fun, very noisy, there are lots of boys (this area is about 70-30 boys to girls for some reason) she ate so much junk food she couldn't believe it, she thought they should at least have had fruit (my kid!), she won bingo, she had a great time.

Who did she sit with? The other girl from her kinder.
Did she talk to any of the big kids (who will supposedly be helping her walk safely to school and back as of next week)? Nope.
Why not? Because she doesn't know them....

Oh well. I guess she'll get to know them eventually. It's a long walk after all!


I don't think anyone's listening....

Unscheduled in-house PA announcement this evening.

You can tell they're unscheduled when the box makes crackling noises and then suddenly bursts into speech without the customary lead in music.

Unscheduled messages tend to be important- fires, floods, typhoon warnings, missing old people etc etc.

Today's was:

"This is town hall. Some areas of Azusagawa are currently experiencing a blackout. Central Electric is working on the problem. We ask for your co-operation. Please be patient. I repeat..."

I can see how that would be a reassuring message if you were experiencing a blackout. Especially at night.

But, uhhhh, the in-house PA system?

It's electric....


what's wrong with the economy.



The news last night said that one in five of this year's University graduates has yet to find a job. This is the worst year ever. Worse even than after the famous bubble burst in 1989.

K went to the Tokyo sales office yesterday. (Not Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Disneyland as Meg and Amy think K goes when he goes to Tokyo- that being their only Tokyo references. Cute but requires some explaining when they announce 'Daddy's at Tokyo Tower, today!' to other people...) Anyway, he came home having done what he went there to do and caught up with two people he knows there. Two retired department chiefs. How did he meet two retired department chiefs at work? Why because they were still there, of course. They worked there until 65 on full pay, collected their retirement bonus but didn't want to quit so they agreed to work on an hourly rate (about the same as you make working nights at 7-11...) Then the economy took a nose dive and they were told they'd only be able to work two days a week. But they really love their work (K's theory) or they spent so much time there over the last 40 odd years to the expense of all other aspects of their lives (family, friends, hobbies etc) that they have nothing else to do (my theory) so they go to work every day getting paid 7-11 wages for only two of those days....


That's what I think is wrong with the economy.


more PTA

Met my fellow mandarin class PTA rep today to finish up the thank you cards for the mandarin class teachers. No fancy embroidery and rick rack for us- we stuck the cute stickers everyone wrote on all over the thank you cards, spent 10 minutes weighing up the pros and cons of writing their names directly on the board and whether to date it 2009, 2010 or the Japanese equivalents- Heisei 21 or 22? Phew! Decisions, decisions, huh?

Anyway, finished that up and headed over to the kinder. Unfortunately today's PTA activities at the kinder coincided with the annual nasty-poisons-usage-permit-renewal-seminar at JA with whom the kinder shares a carpark. Absolutely nowhere to park. So everyone started parking on the roads. Great idea. Especially on a nice narrow road. sigh.

We were there to wash the windows. Yup. Wash the windows. All parents were asked to turn up 30 minutes early for pickup today and help wash the windows. To this end we were provided with buckets of warm water and newspapers. Again, I like the idea of helping out at kinder, I have no problem with giving my time but the inefficiency really bothers me. There are a lot of windows at kinder. Tall windows. Yet we had no ladders, no steps to use, not even the odd long handled window wiper. Oh well. I'm getting used to it...

And what we lacked in technological innovations we made up for in manpower. Mums, grandmas and the odd grandpa were crawling all over the place.

Literally. Crawling along doing the lower windows. Climbing on the shoe racks, standing on the window sills and balancing precariously out the windows holding on tenuously to the eaves while cleaning the top windows. Wow.

Finished cleaning and was invited to teatime to celebrate the end of the kinder year. This was a bit awkward as we PTA reps had decided not to have a breakup party due to the number of mums who wouldn't be able to make it out at night. Seems some people really wanted to get together and took it on themselves to organise something. Oh well. I rsvped that I'd attend so that's something, right?

One more week of kinder. One more week of kinder PTA. And three more PTA gigs to get through...


Spring in my kitchen

Still no blossom or daffodils in the garden but Spring is creeping into the kitchen. Fuki no to- butterbur shoots are popping up here there and everywhere outside and Amy collected a whole lot to make fuki miso. I love the flavour of the shoots, very fragrant, floral almost. Amy loves them too so we have a pretty constant supply.

The vegetables we wintered had mixed results. The super cold snaps and then unbelievably mild snaps throughout the season rotted not just the usual outer leaves of the hakusai and cabbages but through to the core so they are going to the grateful chooks. The spinach survived well but is a bit stunted. Never mind- we are enjoying 'baby leaf salad' at the moment.

The super cold genkan is doing it's job and keeping the pickles well and unfermented. I finished making this year's miso and that is now sharing genkan space with the pickles.

But the sign of Spring in the kitchen that really makes me smile is the branch of plum blossoms my student gave me last week. The heavy snow ripped havoc through her plum orchard and she had gardeners in lopping and pruning. She offered/ ordered (it's tricky to tell sometimes) me to take some branches home and promised me that the tight brown buds would open into beautiful fluffy blossoms. I was incredibly dubious but have learnt it's more conducive to a quick getaway to simply agree so I brought some home.

And waddayaknow:

It makes me smile every time I walk in the kitchen.

Which is lucky as it keeps falling over, hitting the floor and spilling water everywhere.

Kind of a double dose of Spring I guess: my spring blossoms are facilitating a Spring cleaning of the floor.

One vase full of water size patch at a time.



I got paid today.


Not for teaching English.

For making the Hi-zex curry and rice for the neighbours.

That was last August.

Lucky I have other forms of income, hey?

And 1957 yen? Not 1950, not 2,000- someone went to the trouble of getting enough small change on hand to deal out six pay packets with 1957 yen each in them.

Then again, I had no idea the red cross women's group rep got paid at all so it was a bonus and gratefully received.

Think tomorrow I'm going to go and be terribly extravagant and spend it all at once.

Might splurge on some fancy heritage tomato seeds.

At least that way if I'm ever evacuated I will have something other than fish sausage curry to eat!


done it again

Three weeks ago every mum in Meg's class was given an A4 envelope containing a green piece of blank paper and a very long letter. The very long letter explained that we would all be making a page to go in an album thanking Meg's teacher for two years of teaching.

Meg's teacher is a seriously amazing combination of caring and control, of discipline and cuddles and she has done wonders with the kids. I'm all for thanking her. The very long letter had a series of dot points on does and don'ts of making our thank you letters. Do: use colours, include photo(s), drawings etc, use only one side of the paper, include child's name etc etc Don't: use thick decorations that will make the card stiff, cut it into shapes, use both sides of the paper etc etc.

Ok. I can get that. I read the letter through. Twice. I made sure I knew what we were supposed to do.

Meg and I went through 2 years of pictures on my computer looking for a picture she wanted to use. Her requiremements were: wearing a dress, taken outside of kinder ("She's already seen me at kinder!", with hair in two plaits, taken in Japan ("everyone else will have pictures in Japan...") and smiling. Hmm... we came up with this:

And Meg got out her sparkly pens and crayons and wrote a note to sensei "From Megumi. Dear Y sensei. I love you. Thank you. See you!" and drew some hearts and flowers and then I wrote a message thanking her for her time and care and we thought it looked pretty good.

Handed it in last week and forgot about it.

Then today at Kids'bics (kiddie aerobics class where kids run around yelling and playing chasey with the teacher while the mums gossip at the back of the room but hey, it's 500 yen a family and the girls love it) the PTA rep from Meg's class was there and she had the album of all our pages with her. She had sewn an album cover complete with rickrack bookmark, sunflower button closer (Meg is in sunflower class) and 'Sunflower graduation class 2010' embroidered on it.

So of course after oohing and ahhing, we opened it and all not only looked at everyone's pages but read them too (is that not a huge invasion of privacy???) and whoa- it was like a freaking scrapbook. There were sticker boarders, balloon/ heart/ star shaped photos, lace, beads, 3D effects, multi-coloured epistles, family photos, photos of mummy and child, baby photos, ribbons and bows.... Meg's page looked downright plain in comparison. The poor cousin if you will.

And you know, I realised how much I have grown into my skin here. Three years ago I would have been mortified. Would have probably asked for my page back, gone home and spent half the night trying to make it look like the others. But today? Sure, I was a little disappointed that it looked as though we hadn't put the same effort into thanking sensei as the other mothers but that's the point. The other pages were very obviously designed, directed and produced by mothers. Meg was so happy making her page, thinking of sensei's favourite colours and drawing things sensei likes and so proud of having done it herself I'm quite pleased her page looks the way it does.

Even if we managed to do it again and miss the message between the lines in the notice.


happy white day

Today is White Day.

The day when Japanese men thank the women in their lives for all the love they got on Valentines Day.

The men who remember that is....

Oh well. Not the first time, won't be the last and all that. And I decided it's not the thought that counts so much as the chocolate and broke down and told him it was White Day just before he headed off to Aikido- past 7-11....

Between the 'you forgot White Day' grump and the 'chocolate will make up for it' hint we headed up the road to the chestnut field we started clearing last Autumn before the snow stopped us.

K cut the trees he felled last year into lengths and I loaded the k-truck, then he drove us down to the house where we offloaded the wood into the carpark then drove back for more.

Repeat times four.

The girls had an amazing time playing with the rotting chestnuts, running around chasing each other and then they went and got their bikes and rode up and down a flat side-road (a rarity around here) and then when they had enough of that they went and knocked on the door of the house next to the field and ended up playing with the girl who lives there. All up it was about 4 hours. It was great. Not a fabulously romantic White Day by any stretch but quality family time, getting outside without snow clothes and the start of working weather for the season- yeah!

So really, first snow free Sunday of the season? That's a happy white day just for not being a white day, and it ended in chocolate after all.


a Saturday

Important announcement:

**Dear Men of Japan: If you're going to pretend your neighbourhood committee meeting is really arduous and deserving of a おつかれさま "you must be tired" probably best not to sway in three hours later, red faced and incomprehensible, and fall asleep on the floor in front of the fire. Just a tip.**

Back to regular programming:

I only work three Saturday's a month and today was my day off.

So after a late start to the morning skyping rellies we had a big cook up for brekky- Amy and Meg made the omelette, Amy on eggs and milk and Meg on mushrooms and spinach and Mummy got to do onions and had to enforce the parent card to get to be the one to cook it- such a party pooper but you know gas stove and all that... anyway after brekky we decide to walk to the primary school for Meg to practice and me to be a little more reassured she has the road safety skills to manage it. Opened the door and the snow had turned to rain but you know, she needs to walk on rainy days, too so off we went.

We made it there in 35 minutes. Amazing. I was puffed as I had been half jogging trying to keep up with M who skipped the entire way there. Poor Amy was over it about 1/3 of the way there and ended up far behind walking/ being carried by K.

The walk home was a different story altogether. All of a sudden Meg's (empty) school bag was too heavy, her shoes were too small and she was too tired to walk. It wasn't fair Amy was being carried (Amy had fallen asleep on K's back by now) and she didn't want to walk home at all.

An hour and 5 minutes of coaxing, distracting, beseeching, reasoning and pleading later we made it home having bribed her with a can of carbonated stuff from the vending machine at the corner of our block. That machine has saved umpteen walks up the mountain from turning nightmarish. I know bribery is bad and bribery involving fizzy sugar water is horrendous but, you know, it works.

Anyway, we were all pretty tired after the walk and so I decided a nice quiet time activity would be labelling all Meg's school stuff. Oh ha ha ha, funny me! That was just so much fun- all the requirements, the exact sizes, the places and ways to name things, the two little helpers....

Luckily friend and neighbour A dropped in with some calendars for the girls to use as drawing paper and we had a coffee and a good moan about how crazy the whole bloody school preparation thing is. Very cathartic.

K went in to work to do something and the girls went out and played in the dwindling snow in the rain. I put on knee high rainboots and squelched around in the revoltingly muddy chook cage trying to fix the fallen in roof.

We all headed in when it began to get dark and the girls and I had dinner while K went off to his very grueling meeting. (See above).

And that was the Saturday that was.


my best student

Ever since I started going out with K people have assumed he has amazing English skills.

He does use some English at work. English like this:

Electromagnetic Shielding Evaluation Setup for Conductive O-Rings (Near-/Far-Field EM Absorption and Shielding)

But we speak Japanese together. (Something a lot of people have trouble grasping- that K could master my language to the extent we'd be ale to function as a family in it? Sure! That I could do the same in his language? Ehhhh?!)

Anyway, I have taught K English before. He has also bought every "Learn Native Level English In 2 Seconds While You Sleep!" book there is. He also listens to learn English podcasts when the mood takes him.

But still we are at the level where Japanese is our only method of real communication.

Sometimes I wonder if this looks bad to prospective students and their parents- the English teacher who can't even teach her own family English...

So, today when K had his the-economy-still-sucks RDO and he wanted to come to my English class I thought why not?

It's a class of 6-8 year olds, we do some warmup communication activities then we hit the printouts for reading and writing practice. The other kids in the class all have their mums with them and my kids always have half a mum as I am teaching the class and helping Meg with her worksheet at the same time. (Just Meg as Amy always turns her sheet over and draws...)

Anyway, I was thinking "great! now Meg will get the 100% parent help the other kids get, we have someone on hand to keep Amy's worksheet the right side up and I can concentrate on the teaching- win win win!"

Did the warm up no problem. Meg and Amy both showing off what they know for daddy....

Moved to the low tables and got out our pencils for the worksheet. I handed them out, everyone wrote their names and we started.

Not two minutes had past and I saw Amy had flipped her paper over and was drawing.

And Meg was bellyaching 'Is this right? Look at Meg's paper mummy! Show meeee!'

And K? Right in the thick of it helping out, right?


So wrong.

He was asleep!

I have never had anyone fall asleep in my class!

Excuse me for being a little big-headed but I think my classes are pretty fun and they're certainly lively.


Finished class and I asked what on earth he was doing napping in my class?

He looked sheepish, apologised and said 'I think I got so used to sleeping in English class at school that it's automatic.'

Yup, definitely my best student.


snow pictures

For B. Because I need to explain why I turned up to a fabulously fun day- talking, eating, playing with a gorgeous little girl who was such a goer it made me miss two year old Meg, and talking some more- in snow boots.

Despite travelling an hour North to get to B's, and despite B's being an hour closer to Big Snow Country we visited on the weekend there was not even a flake of snow. So I felt kinda odd walking around in snow boots.

But this is what I'd come from:

Climbing her 'mountain'.

Having dug her snow hide- talking about Kevin the whole time. And- just like Kevin- she decided she didn't need snow pants so she's sitting in the wet March snow in her cords....

Amy the sled girl...

And the poor half-tree.

And the best thing about March snow? Better than the fact that it's wet snow so it doesn't stick to you like powder? Better than that it's supposed to be 11 degrees above zero today so we should be snow free again soon? The best thing about March snow is that those pictures were taken after 5:00pm. And it was still light!!!

There is a light at the end of the Winter tunnel.


"heavy" snow

Well we certainly had our heavy snow. Heavy snow that is.

Tree branches are down all the way down the mountain. Some arm sized ones fell on the walking path the school kids use to get home (great- something else to worry about...) and a huge one fell in the carpark at the bottom of the hill. Luckily(?) the company went bust last month so there were no cars there. Would have taken out at least three cars otherwise.

Our fabulous chook cage extension showed it was designed and built by a non-snow country Australian by straining and breaking under the weight of all the snow. The chooks can't get out but the sparrows are having a field day now they can get in....

And the tree of much contention at our front door- the one that's supposed to be pruned into UFO shapes and that I insisted be free to grow as it wished, much to the consternation of my neighbours? Well, it now has a flat top. And it's about half it's original size. No possums will be climbing that tree for access to the roof! Unfortunately that's the tree our fabulous electrician friend turned into a Christmas tree with strings and strings of sequenced lights. K is going to have a look at turning it into the littlest Christmas tree type thing.

All that snow made for a fun start to the day. The snow ploughs do this road every third blue moon it seems so getting the girls to kinder was an exercise in choosing the path of least slippage.

Luckily it was K's bad economy/ prefectural work sharing scheme rostered day off so he chauffeured the girls and then came back and insisted on driving me into the city for my cooking class. I was miffed at his lack of faith in my driving until we got out there and were stuck behind a kinder bus that was sliding all over the place.


Got to cooking only 15 minutes later than usual and we had a great day making vegan cupcakes (thanks for the recipes!) and decorating them in non-vegan ways- I couldn't give up orange cream cheese icing on a chocolate cupcake! My students all had fun and were shocked you could cook with baking soda. Apparently there was a book that came out last year all about cleaning with baking soda and vinegar so when I told them we'd be cooking with it they were a little leary but agreed the results were great.

And I actually remembered to not only take my camera but also have it charged and use it! So here is a sample of my students' creations:

Aren't they cute? The ladybird is for her son. I was showing everyone how to make butterflies and her son loves ladybirds so she made one.


the long drive home

I work in Matsumoto.

About 40 minutes drive away.

I like that. I like the thinking time I get in the car, I like that I meet different people- not related to anyone I know, no local politics to wade through and even a few different surnames for variety! Plus I really like my company, my boss and my students.

So yeah, a 40 minute drive doesn't feel like an issue at all.

Most of the time.

Today there was a heavy snow warning for central Nagano. This is central Nagano. It started snowing in the morning and just didn't stop. Here in Azusagawa we get quite a bit of snow and it tends to stick around but 40 minutes drive away Matsumoto is more of the dusting of snow, the smidgen of snow, the there tonight gone by 10 tomorrow type of snow. But today it snowed and snowed and it stuck. So when I left work at 5:30 the roads were white. There was about 10cm of snow accumulated. (Fellow Aussies: that's a cool word you use when you talk about snow that sticks, I just learnt it so I'm sharing) The slushy snow had frozen and the new snow was powdery on top- fabulous driving weather as the powder clogs your tread and you slip on the ice. And like I said Matsumoto people aren't used to accumulated snow so everyone was crawling along. A 40 minute drive home took 1 hour and 27 minutes. Yes, I was counting. It was lucky we were crawling along though as it seemed every block of houses had it's crazy old woman (and they're 90+% women) out there with a shovel or a broom scraping up the snow. In the dark. Wearing dark clothes. Pushing snow onto the road. AGGHHH!! I only slipped three times and didn't panic when I did slip so feeling rather proud of that one but boy was I glad to get home. Even when I had to park on the road, jump out, find the bloody snow shovel (K!!!) in the dark and dig out a place for the car before I could back in.

The girls were great, gave them each a piece of paper, a pen and a car manual to lean on and they drew pictures all the way home. Probably damaged their eyes drawing in the gloom but it sure made for an easy trip home not having to entertain them.

But now I have a horribly stiff neck from all the tension while driving and it's forecast to continue all day tomorrow.


Wonder if they sell 4-seater skidoos...


ping pong ping pong

ping pong ping pong ping-

Yes? I answer the door after running down the corridor. We have a bell with a rope attached as a door bell and someone is having a wild time ringing away. And it's 6:49 am... I'm thinking please please please don't let it be about Mr K..... Usually early morning/ late night door bell ringing (especially with gusto) indicates someone has passed away. With K being head of the neighbourhood association he gets woken up as soon as the ambulance has been called kind of thing. He has to go down, pay respects and politely ask the family's wishes for the timing of the nighttime vigil, the send off and the funeral. Mr K is very old and is getting less and less mobile as the months go on. His wife is absolutely devoted to him and is going to be devastated when the inevitable happens.

Anyway, "Yes?" I answer.

It's a man I don't know, still holding the doorbell rope and grinning like a naughty kid.

"That's cool!"
"Thank you." (I'm guessing this is not a funeral notice...)
"I'm Nagasaki S... from down the side road" (I already like this guy! It is so unusual to get any name at all from random neighbourly visitors, and when you do it's inevitably "I'm Techan" or "I'm Nagasaki". The first is useless as I will never be able to call a man I don't know who is 40 years my senior by his childhood nickname. The second is useless as it only narrows the search down to half the neighbourhood (the half not called Mizutani.)
"Good morning."
"Morning. I'm the neighbourhood rep for Omiya Shrine. We had a meeting last night and I heard you have a kid starting school this April?"
"Yes, our oldest."
"Thank you."
"The shrine has a blessing for all the new schoolkids at the end of the month. 10:00am. Dress up. We need a boy and a girl to pass over the thank you money. Anybody else starting school this April around here?"
"Ahhh, yes. Nagasaki at the house at the top of the mountain."
"Ahhh, Shinichi's granddaughter?"
"I'm sorry, I don't know. The girl's name is H..."
"Ok. Can I borrow a pen? I'll write that down. .... Well, I'll leave you and see you then. 10:00 at the Shrine."

The old guy grabbed his umbrella, gave the bell rope a flick and headed back down the road.

Nowhere in this conversation did the question of whether we want a Shinto blessing come up, nor whether we're available on that day or even an acknowledgement that 6:49 is rather early for non-urgent neighbourly business...

Just when I think I've had every unusual experience there is to have here I meet another one...


a day in Big Snow Country

It's been really warm(ish) this last week or so.
That warm(ish) spell started on ohhh the day after Obaachan sent the grandkids snowsuits. Yup. Perfect timing. And poor Amy was devastated that we hadn't gone sledding 'properly' this year.

I had shovelled snow into a mountain, tamped it down, cut steps into the back of it so she could climb easily and watched her go up down up down of course.

I had pulled her round and round the garden taking corners wildly and ensuring lots of giggle-shriek inducing spills of course.

But that's not 'proper' sledding. Would have been nice to know that at the time. Might have sat back with my feet up instead!

Anyway, not wanting to go a whole season having deprived my poor child of the chance to sled properly but also not wanting to head to the ski slopes and battle the crowds I remembered that we know someone who lives in Big Snow Country.

Someone who we promised to deliver baby clothes too.

Perfect! So an email and a phonecall later and we were all set to head up to Sakae Village for some snow fun.

Of course we woke up Sunday morning to this:

Oh well. At least it means I don't need to change the picture on the blog just yet. Still holding true...

As usual we had a fabulous time at Kevin's. Picnicking on potato berries and home made natto (both Meg's and K's eyes lit up and they looked at me expectantly) watching the four grey cockatiels fly around over head (slightly more exciting for the girls than K who is a bit funny about birds but hey) and the brand new attraction- cuddling little Mona.

Kevin won a fan for life when he needed to go out and help someone find the house and park their car and he asked Meg if she'd hold Mona. Not me. Not K. Meg.

Big googly eyes and an even bigger grin and she held out her arms.

I don't think it's necessary to mention but I'll say it anyway- I didn't marry K for his photography skills. What is going on with this picture? Even forgetting Meg's goldfish thing she's got going on it's supposed to be a picture of Meg holding Mona- not a jumpsuit with a towel sprouting out of it! Really! Who takes pictures like that?

Anyway, after lunch (and some more cuddles) we headed out to play in the snow.

There had been some meltage in Sakae too and the roads were all clear but who needs fresh snow when you've got a good one and a half metres of the stuff in the "bank". ;P

Kevin who, while now a daddy in his own right, is still a bit like a mischievous older brother had lots of ideas for getting the most out of the snow, he threw the kids (literally!) up onto the snowbank and while the more boring of the adults walked around via the road the 'kids' scampered around finding sink holes and rolling around like penguins. Then we went and played on the village snow dump. You know the place they warn all school kids not to even enter let alone play at? Well, Amy made herself a house, Meg climbed to the very top and decided to dig a hole, then Amy found the fastest, bumpiest, that-girl-got-serious-airtime sledding course she's ever been on and up and down and up and down they went. Meanwhile I couldn't walk 2 metres without sinking waist high and getting stuck only to heave myself out and have to dive down and retrieve my boot. It was all good fun though and we were pretty tired out by the end of the day.

Back to Kevin's for a warm drink, a change of clothes and a wave to sleeping Mona and it was goodbye to Big Snow Country.

I was disappointed we left before dark but the snow was coming down fast and the highway was choked with cars going home to Tokyo from a weekend skiing (or snowboarding, I reckon the ration was at least 3-1 based on what was strapped to people's roofracks) so it was probably best that we left when we did.

We had a fabulous time though and I'm already looking through the girls' old clothes trying to gather an excuse to head back there!


a little anonymity please!

My senior women's English class were all in a tizz today.

Last Wednesday five of them got all decked out (I'm betting there was some cardy action going on), jumped on the train and headed two hours North to Hakuba, home of the Nagano winter olympics, winter home of another member of our class and hotspot for Australian tourists...

Their purpose was threefold:

Catch up with our classmate.

Take the soba making course offered (in English) by the Hakuba Tourist Centre.

Talk to foreigners (in English).

I would like to state now that I had no knowledge of this plan, and therefore would like to negate all responsibility for what occurred.

They didn't get to do the soba making course- probably for the best- imagine the poor teacher expecting a handful of 'let's experience Japan' Aussies and getting a group of five bubbly 'I'm here to speak English' Japanese senior citz!

They did catch up with our missing classmate and report back that 'she looks very happy and healthy'. Phew.... so she's coping without her weekly dose of chat and 'cha then, huh?

And the talking to foreigners....

The first thing I noticed was that they kept saying 'talking to foreigners' rather than 'talking with foreigners' and for that matter 'talking to foreigners' rather than 'talking in English.'

Anyway, semantics aside, they found themselves a foreign couple. Rather fortuitously the young couple stuck their heads in the door of the restaurant my students were eating in.

Five on two, safety in numbers and all that they decided to give five years of English a dusting off and an airing out:

"Hello! Please come in!"
"We all speak English very well!"
"May I talk to you?"
"Where are you from?"
"Our teacher is from Australia, too! She's from ****!" (town of 5,000 odd people)
"Do you know that place?"
"Have you ever been to Hakuba?"
"How long are you staying?"
"Is it cold for you?"

I was slightly mortified. These women are all unfailingly polite in Japanese. We have been studying together for so long and they still thank me formally at the end of the lesson and greet each other formally as well. I couldn't believe they turned into conversation hogging Englo-bots as soon as they got out in the real-live-not-the-teacher-foreigner world.

I got a little preachy. A little 'would you ever, ever do that in Japanese?' I added a little 'foreigners are people, too!' and promised/ threatened them that we are doing a whole class on appropriate times, places and ways to initiate conversation naturally, politely and unobtrusively next week.

And I had a question for them. Just the one. More of a plea, really:

"Please, please tell me you didn't tell those people my name?"


too much of a good thing...

I am road testing vegan cupcake recipes.

As you do, right?

I actually know two vegans.

Love them both.

Wish either of them coming to visit was the reason for the production of 62 (and counting) cupcakes this evening.

But no.

My monthly cooking class has developed a fanclub. A core group of hardcore cooking-in-English devotees who have a permanent booking.

Wow. (Quite chuffed to tell the truth!)

One of the women in this group is due to give birth to her second child in two weeks.

And she's still not going to miss my class next Wednesday.


Her son has an egg allergy and I figure the least I can do for my fans is provide them with recipes they can actually use.

So far we've made foods where skipping the egg was no big deal as there wasn't one in there to start with.

But roll on this month and we're making and decorating cupcakes (Girl's Day theme).

And I am still trying to find a vegan recipe that rises like- and has the fluffy consistency of- a regular be-egged cupcake.

And all the trial and error requires tasting.

I started off in fine form but I'm hitting the wall...

K is not a sweets person and politely declined to taste anymore and, while I never thought I'd ever say it, I don't think I could eat another cupcake if I tried.

*sigh* the girls are going to absolutely hate it when I tell them their job tomorrow morning is to eat cupcakes!

(PS. Yes I know eggless and vegan are not the same but it seems vegans do more baking than egg allergy sufferers. Or blog their recipes more anyway.)


I love you too but...

I love K.

Good thing that seeing how as we're married and all.

Great guy he is too I reckon.

But seriously bad taste in music.


I will admit to a penchant for early Bon Jovi, The Whitlams, Crowded House, SMAP, early Avril Lavigne, James 斜体Blunt even the odd bit of Madonna and the occasional foray into country music with a Brad Paisley song (sheesh! Did I just say that?) so I'm no one to talk about taste in music but K is worse.

So much, much worse.

Other than a whole collection of waterfalls/ whales/ bird chorus/ llamas in heat crossed with classical music CDs that I am positive he bought on the shopping channel (hopefully with the excuse that it was while drunk) but that he doesn't get away with because he actually listens to them! GAGHHHH!!!!

Anyway, other than that aural torture he basically listens to one band. Off course. And they are. Very off course. Take this song. It's a love song. And yet the strongest emotional response I have is to run out of the room, down to the genkan, open the door and just keep on running. I would complain about the noise pollution but K listens to music while he does the dishes, cleans down the kitchen and sets the rice cooker. If I thought he was more devious I'd say he's doing it on purpose but unfortunately he really does like that music and I really do like the help with the clearing up so I just have to suck it up. Doesn't mean I have to be happy about it though, right?

I love youuuuuuuuuuu
I love youuuuuuuuuuu

Oh for mercy's sake- stop loving me already!!!

And please don't put yourself through all 5 minutes of that. 1:04 is the start of the chorus.

And now I'm off to listen to some Offspring to get that horrible sound out of my head:

I love youuuuu- You gotta keep 'em separated!


before 9am...

Pre-country life housewife me felt 9:00am was still early morning-ish. If I had got up, had breakfast with K, made his bento, seen him off to work and had a coffee by 9:00am I was pretty happy with myself.

If I had also got dressed I was patting myself on the back.

Now it seems half the day is lived before 9:00am.

Today by 9 I had:
  • Fed, bentoed and hair arranged two kids, made sure they were wearing appropriate shoes (the kinder has gotten used to their unique and often seasonally inappropriate fashion sense but the other day Amy wore snow boots on a rainy day. Her sister's snow boots. Unsurprisingly she found it hard to play and the teacher asked that I check her shoes...) supervised bag packing and driven them to kinder.
  • Driven home and picked up bag Meg left in genkan and returned to mollify hysteric Meg.
  • Spoken to neighbour to the right about hospital visit to sick father of neighbour across the road to deliver 5,000 yen per immediate neighbour and 1,000 yen per same neighbourhood group neighbour (this was occurring as I shooed the girls out the door, hence the forgotten bag.)
  • Driven down the mountain for a third time as I found the 10,000 yen note I had taken to change into a 5,000 yen note , a handful of change and anything-but-a-maple-flavoured-coffee at 7-11. I swear I am going to start pinning 5,000 yen notes to my knickers or something- they must be the most seldom used note around and of course, the note of choice for neighbourly fleecings.
  • Delivered the Matsumoto magazine after inserting the three Azusagawa notices inside each of 16 copies. Did this on the kitchen floor and was only slightly concerned someone may get a bonus splodge of porridge...
  • Printed out and delivered to the same 16 houses the notice of Neighbourhood Association Annual General Meeting that K had emailed to me while I was out delivering the ruddy magazine. Timing!!
  • Run into neighbour to the right again and find out that I should have been checking whether deputy head M was available for hospital visit. Ran up to M's house- nope. Not available. Anyway bad blood between them because of that thing that was said 18 years ago blah blah blah..
  • Report said information (minus bad blood bit) to neighbour to the right. Neighbour to the right has been to inform neighbour across the road that we are going to visit his father in hospital and found out that the old man is no longer recognising visitors. She has made the executive decision that it is therefore unnecessary to visit him personally and we can hand our money directly to the neighbour at his genkan. I pushed for following protocol anyway (it's not like he would know me anyway, he's been bedridden since before I arrived here) and was shush shushed.
  • Wrote fancy money envelope (but not as fancy as welcome baby one of course, illness being rather less celebratory than birth...) wrapped it in fancy money envelope hiding cloth and met up with other immediate relatives infront of neighbour N's house.
  • Bowed profusely, apologised humbly for not visiting in hospital (words got stuck in throat listening to wriggle-out-of-hospital-visit ringleader apologising for it so heartfeltly) handed over money and received three bottles of apple juice, six cans of tomato juice, two daikon and a pickling stone for my troubles. This kind of thank you gift is rather out of the ordinary but then neighbour N has stripped us each of 10,000 yen in the last week...
  • Been accosted by a scurrying neighbour (I really do feel nervous when one of my neighbours runs down the road to see me- they're old, it's a steep hill and they're usually wearing vinyl slippers with a bit of heal action. Walk! Please! I'll wait!!) to inform me she won't be at the AGM as it's being held at night. They are always held at night (try getting farmers together during daylight hours) so I'm sure this is not the first meeting she's missed but I duly take her apologies and write it down for K.
  • Returnred home.
Phew. All that by 9:00. I hadn't eaten breakfast, drunk any coffee or brushed my teeth but I forgave myself just this once.


unbloggable exhaustion

Very vague post today as I want to talk about (hint at?) some unbloggables (always wanted to use that word and always thought life here was too boring to be able to!)

Anyway some really exciting unbloggables at work at the moment keeping me crazy busy and super psyched as well. That in itself is quite a tiring state.

The girls keep waking me up in the pre-dawn hours asking if daddy is home yet. (That was supposed to be unbloggable for security reasons but ahh well, there's nothing to steal here anyway) I have tried appealing to their sense of compassion/ reason/ logic /for-pity's-sake-mummy-needs-her-sleep that they could easily check Daddy's side of the bed without waking me but to no avail and that routine is quite wearying.

Then today at work there was a (very little amount) of blood spilt. But blood is blood and that creates its own excitement and then the caring and reassuring and explaining and that is draining in itself.

And takes a long time. Especially as not one but two of the exciting unbloggables were being worked through at the same time.

So when I asked the girls if they wanted to pee before we drove home (about 40 minutes) and Amy said she'd already been outside I was not firing on all cylinders. It was a full 5 seconds or so before I processed what she'd said and asked for clarification. I must have looked a little incredulous as I think realisation dawned that this was not going to be a fun conversation and she decided to whisper in my ear:

"I went to the toilet like the dog I told you about did."

What the????

We did indeed have a conversation in the car on the way to work about the dog she saw pooping when she went on her walk at kinder...

"Mummy, it's ok. I put lots of rocks on top."

The area outside is gravel....

So, there I was in the dark, a full 2 hours after I usually leave work, with a very curious Meg, a very remorseful Amy (and I hadn't even commented on her actions yet) with a plastic bag over my hand looking for unbloggables.

Seriously, some days just couldn't be more exhausting if you tried.



If we lived in Australia I think my kids would be 'Japanese- Australian'.

Here they are most commonly referred to as "haafu". Yes, it does rile some people with it's connotations of less than completeness but I am fine with it and the girls seem to be, too.

But what do I call my kids when I'm in Japan speaking English?

Today I was chatting away in English and a (well-meaning) friend used the word 'half-breed' which just about had me splurt coffee across the table.

No. Half-breed doesn't work for me.

Mixed race? She enquired? Nope. Sounds too much like 混血 to me and that's not a nice word...

Half? Nope. Doesn't mean anything in English.

Well then what? She asked?

Hmmmm... what indeed?

I use bi-cultural myself but it was suggested that that is PC speak. A nothing kind of term that is so watered down as to have little meaning left.

There is a neat word Hapa used in Hawaii but I don't think that would work either- not widely known and especially what with it sounding the same as leaf and all...

Being as the girls are too young to ask I'm interested in other people's opinions.

So, what do you call yourself or your kids? What do others call you? Are there any words you really cringe at? Does it really matter?