Thursday, April 30, 2009

A trashed van

I'm showing this picture of this trashed car for two reasons. One, I wanted to show it to Takumi and let him see what has happened to it in over 12 years, and two, to tell you about one of Takumi's escapades when he was 10 0r 11.

This used to be a van. Not a large van and even when it I first saw it, it was broken down and sitting on blocks. It was rusted and lopsided and inside there were ropes and pipes and shrubs trying to make it into a trash terrarium. It sat (sits) on the edge of a field off behind the highway and if I passed it at all it was after pushing aside weeds and watching my step for snakes. It was a forgotten piece of junk.

Or so I thought. Or so Takumi thought.

One evening I was making croquettes for dinner. (I distinctly remember this since it is a big job that can't really be interrupted.) My hands were covered in flour and bread crumbs and I was standing over a pot of oil deep frying my croquettes when Takumi came home from school and came straight to the kitchen.

"Um... I need to tell you something... Um... I got in trouble at school today. Well, not really, but sort of. Well, I had to go talk to the teacher because of something I did, but I didn't do it by myself. But I didn't know it was wrong. The teacher might call you."

I think the conversation went something like that. It's been a long time. Anyway, Takumi wasn't being very clear. It seems that he and some other boys had found the old van by the side of the fields and thinking it was abandoned had thrown rocks through the windows and smashed them all. And that had been weeks ago. BUT the farmer who owned the van discovered it vandalized and realizing that the deed had probably been done by school children had contacted the school. The school had promised to look into it and had talked to the upper grade classes and STRONGLY SUGGESTED that the culprits come forward and confess.

With a bit of soul searching I guess Takumi did. But either he didn't want to tell on his friends or the teacher wanted to let them confess themselves, the other boys hadn't come forward yet. The matter was still being pursued, and after being mildly scolded Takumi was told that his parents might be contacted later.

My son was on the verge of becoming a vandal! I put my croquettes on hold and marched Takumi back to the elementary school. The teacher was surprised to see us and surprised to hear that Takumi had told me right away since she hadn't really decided what to do about the situation yet.

Takumi repeated his excuse that he didn't know he'd done anything wrong and that he didn't think the van belonged to anyone.

"But you knew it didn't belong to YOU!" was my retort and I started crying.

The teacher had to switch from scolding Takumi to reassuring me that I had a good son who had made a mistake but mom, there was no reason to get so upset. I asked for the name and address of the farmer and we would go and apologize.

"Oh, no. We don't know who the other boys are yet. When we know who all was involved then the boys can go and apologize together."

Japanese like to do things together. I don't. There is safety in numbers. I think if we wait until we find out WHO is guilty, and then decide HOW to apologize, and then WHAT to take as an apology offering and then WHEN it is convenient for everyone involved including parents and teachers, then the apology is watered down and the child doesn't learn the lesson.

Tetsu happened to be at a seminar for a month in another prefecture but he got called that night and he came home that weekend and together he and Takumi went to apologize to the farmer. I heard that the other boys went later together.

I still don't know if this was the right way to handle the situation. It was not the Japanese way and Takumi may have felt we were making a much bigger deal over some misdemeanor than necessary. He has always said that I was much too strict a parent and as a child he was constantly being reminded that his foreign mother had different ideas about child raising, about solving problems.

The van never moved off its blocks and continued to serve as the farmer's storage container. It has rusted to the ground and I wouldn't be surprised if it has been assaulted by other grade school children after Takumi's years. It really was an tempting piece of junk. And this is how it sleeps these days.

Hey Takumi! Does this bring back memories? Good ones? Bad ones? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Yesterday I made cheesecake. If I do say so myself, it is one of my better recipes. One of my Japanese friends gave it to me and SHE got it from a friend who worked in a bakery. Of course I've changed it around a bit to match my needs.
Tanya's Cheesecake
  • Butter cookies 150 gms --- I use graham crackers if I can get them. And since I don't really work in grams I just used the whole box of about 15 cookies!
  • Butter 50 gms --- it goes without saying that I use margarine. Maybe about 1/3 of a cup... I don't measure.
  • Cinnamon 1 teaspoon. --- I forgot that yesterday. It didn't seem to matter.
  • 1/2 egg --- I used a whole egg. Whoever heard of using a 1/2 an egg!
    • B

      • Cream cheese 300 gms --- Philadelphia cream cheese comes in a box of 250 gms. Good enough for me.
      • Sugar 60 gms --- I put in three tablespoons. I really ought to buy a scale one of these days. You'd think after 30 years of living here I'd wise up.
      • 2 eggs
      • vanilla 1/2 teaspoon
      • brandy or rum 1/2 teaspoon --- Sorry. None of that around in the house so that didn't get included.
      • Fresh cream 200 cc. --- Who knows? Maybe a 1/2 pint? No. 3/4 of a cup? Somewhere around there. And I didn't use fresh cream. I used the calorie off stuff. In the end I eat two or three slices of cheesecake but I still think about saving a few calories buying the fake stuff.
      • Sugar 2 Tablespoons --- This is to sweeten the cream so that gets added to taste.
      • Lemon juice 2 Tablespoons --- And this is added to make sour cream! Did you know adding lemon to cream will make sour cream? Duh! But it also thickens it up too. It's a sudden chemical thing I think because you add the lemon juice and start stirring the cream mixture and suddenly it thickens.
        1. Crumb the crackers and add the other A ingredients. Press into pie pan.
        2. Mix B ingredients (blender or mixer) and pour into pan. Bake at 160 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes. That's 160 in Centigrade. In Fahrenheit it is about 300 degrees.
        3. Mix C until sour cream consistency and pour over cooled cheese cake. Refrigerate.

      Do you know this poem? I often think of it when I'm cooking and especially when things don't turn out the way I'd like them to.

      Sad Recipe

      I didn't have potatoes
      So I substituted rice
      I didn't have paprika
      So I used another spice
      I didn't have tomato sauce
      I used tomato paste
      A whole can, not a half can
      I don't believe in waste
      A friend gave me the recipe
      She said you couldn't beat it
      There must be something wrong with her
      I couldn't even eat it!

      If you like cheesecake give the recipie a try. It will probably be even better if you follow it the way it was originally written!

      Tuesday, April 28, 2009

      A Thousand Colors

      I couple of weeks ago there was a major earthquake in Italy. I heard about it on the news and immediately e-mailed my friend Roberta who lives in Italy to ask about her safety. Roberta and I became quilting friends through blogging and last summer we actually had a chance to meet and spend a day together in California. We had SO MUCH FUN!!! We got lost, we found a quilt store, we chatted constantly. Since that time, Roberta and I sometimes exchange e-mails and we pray for each other and each other's family.

      I was very relieved to hear that Roberta and her family were safe and I promised to pray for Italy. Then last week I received another e-mail from Roberta, this one a general request for any quilters who might want to offer comfort to the children of Italy, specifically in Abruzzo where the earthquake hit.

      I responded to Roberta and this morning received another e-mail from her with details for her project called A Thousand Colors for the Children of Abruzzo. Roberta is heading a group that she hopes can donate hundreds of quilts in bright and cheerful colors to children from between ages 3 to 5. She is asking quilters to make quilts 48" x 60" large in simple patterns. Not an heirloom quilt, not a work of art, a comforting, bright, happy quilt.

      "The children of Abruzzo do not need blankets to warm them up, the italian relief corp Protezione Civile provided wool blankets for all the folks, what they need is a colorful quilt that they can hold, play with and call their own, a Linus blanket !"

      I am planning to take up Roberta on her challenge of making a quilt for a child in Italy. If any other quilters have some extra time, extra fabric and feel a calling to help out please check out Roberta's blog page It is written both in Italian and English. She has set a deadline for June 30th for European quilters and a July 15th deadline for any other overseas participants.

      I'm going to go and check out my bright colors stash!

      Monday, April 27, 2009

      Crazy cats

      My cats are driving me crazy! They find things to do at night when the house is supposed to be peaceful and they either wake me up or I wake up to a mess!

      This morning Chip and Toi decided to have an Sports Day at 4:30 and they were racing up and down the stairs, JUMPING on my stomach, leaping over my head and climbing up onto the closet (using the curtain!) This is not an everyday activity but it isn't completely unheard of. I think because they are younger cats they feel the urge to wear off some of their energy. But 4:30 in the morning is not the time to do it!!!

      Patora has discovered that she can paw around in a cupboard and drag out packages of crackers. Every night she opens a package and eats a couple crackers. And in the morning I walk downstairs in my bare feet and CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH. That's an eye opener! I'm going to check out some recycle shops and see if I can buy a cupboard that latches shut.

      Toi has a fetish for thumb tacks. He cannot leave a thumbtack alone no matter how far up it is on the bulletin board and he'll climb quilts to reach a thumbtack he notices (a good reason to always put a hanging sleeve on the back of the quilt.) So in the middle of the night this week Toi was up on the dresser pulling off the necklaces that I had pinned up so nicely.

      "PLUNK. One off. PLUNK. Another off. How many can I take off before Mom wakes up and throws a slipper at me."

      This is a picture of my bulletin board AFTER Toi denuded it (he missed a bracelet). And this is the board back holding my necklaces.

      "Silly Mom to think that I'll leave the thumbtacks alone again."

      And then a couple of days ago I woke up and almost had a heart attack!

      "OH NO! Some cat has caught a bird and eaten it right next to my head!!!! Someone catch me! I'm about to faint!"

      It wasn't a bird. The doors and windows are locked. The cats can't get out and I don't think any of them are nimble enough to catch a bird anyway. I dimly recall swatting at a cat in the middle of the night who seemed to take great interest in my head. Ah! The pillow! Some dumb cat has decided to gnaw a hole in my feather pillow and left feathers spread out all around my head! I'm sorry for the pillow but happy that no bird lost its life.

      Sunday, April 26, 2009

      Japanese news

      I've sort of made it a policy on my blog to write about things I do and see and what I come into contact with daily. But there is news in Japan that actually doesn't touch my life very much but that I find odd or sometimes incredible. Recently in the Japanese newspapers, in the very back pages of the newspaper, there has been news that Japan is thinking about revising their Organ Transplant Law.

      Japan is a very modern country. The technological advances are astronomical and I often think that technology in Japan is farther ahead than in America. BUT... So many things get weighed down in caution, in the reluctance to change, in the "what will people think" lifestyle, in the community thinking.

      Did you know that that major organ transplant wasn't legalized in Japan until 1997? Isn't that amazing? I mean, Japanese doctors have studied the procedures and performed outstandingly in medical centers around the world and yet they weren't able to perform major organ transplants in their own country because no criteria had been set for what is brain death. It took 20 years before Japanese laws were revised to establish what is and is not brain death.

      From 1997 there have been numerous heart transplants. BUT... The original law stipulated that organs could be donated only if the donor's family gave permission AND the donor's documented will showing intent of donation at the time of brain death was submitted. If either of these criteria were missing then organ donation could not proceed.

      The problem is that this means that no children's organs may be donated and no children may receive major organ transplants in Japan. (Babies and children can't comprehend nor sign the documented will, right?) And so every couple of months the Japanese news carries another story about a family who is trying to raise donations so that their child may receive an organ transplant and get medical care in the States or in Europe. Sadly most of these situations rarely have a happy ending. There is too much risk taking a weakened child half way around the world, there are too many people on the waiting lists, the medical costs without insurance are too high.

      The law says that no one under age 15 may donate organs which means young children diagnosed with heart disease or major organ abnormalities are condemned to wait. Wait until they are old enough. Wait until they die. Wait until Japanese lawmakers revise their transplant laws.

      Research, technology, action. We need a little action around here.

      Saturday, April 25, 2009

      Koinobori quilt

      For the past week I've been looking for my Boys' Day, Koinobori quilt. Every year about this time I put the Koinobori quilt up in the entryway. It isn't very big but it is nice to have up in late April and early May. But I haven't been able to find it! In the quilt box where it is supposed to be? Nope. In the drawer? Nope. Under blankets in the closet? Nope. BEHIND one of my other quilts? (I get lazy and hang larger quilts on top of smaller quilts.) Nope.

      Oh rats. And the real Koinobori are out flying above the fields. What's going to happen is that I'll find the Koinobori quilt a couple weeks AFTER Boys' Day.

      I really was getting into the mood for that Koinobori quilt. I've thought of making another one as a present for someone, so why not now?! That was my thinking yesterday morning when I woke up with a free day ahead of me. I had the pattern someplace and I located that fairly quickly. Finding fabrics was fun though I had to check out my old blog post to see what the first quilt looked like. Then I applied the black bias tape. Yesterday evening I got that far...

      Do I want to hand applique all this? Another couple months project that won't get finished until months after Boys' Day. Ah, there was a technique I did with tulle and machine quilting when I made the Happy Village quilts last year. I wonder if that would sew up quickly and nicely.

      Well, quickly, yes. Nicely, no. This morning I've been quilting the Boys' Day quilt and I must say I didn't do a very good job. Arggh! I'm not going to be able to give this to anyone! What a waste of time!

      Then I happened to be "chatting" with Leiya this morning and she asked me what I was doing.

      "Well, I'm making a Koinobori quilt because I can't find my old one though I've looked everywhere.

      "Mom. You gave it to me! I have it in Ohio."

      "I did? When did I do that?"

      So sad when the brain begins to go... Leiya said (I don't remember) that she asked for it and I took it to California last summer.

      Oh good. Now I can keep my new Koinobori quilt. It has a childish, paint in with crayons look about it anyway so I guess I don't mind that the quilting is lousy.

      Everything all works out.

      Friday, April 24, 2009


      A couple of days ago I had a chance to "chat" with CT from Mexico. She asked me what I was doing and I told her I had just finished making some cookies with "soy bean pulp".

      "Oh! You mean with okara."

      "You know about okara?!!? You even use the word okara in Mexico?"

      Okara is a byproduct of tofu and soy milk. Actually I have no idea how okara is made but I think soy beans are soaked in water and then pureed and the "milk" is pressed out leaving only the pulp. The soy milk can then be made into tofu or yuba (soy milk "skin"). Since it is all left over, okara is very cheap and makes a great non-fattening filler for hamburgers or meatballs though Japanese will use it to make main okara dishes. It has a lot of protein and fiber and is rich in nutrients, but mostly I think it gets sent on to feed companies for making cattle and pig feed. It doesn't have any taste and most of my Japanese friends snif and say

      "Okara. It is so bland and dry. I don't like it much."

      So, when chatting with CT I was surprised that Mexico even had any soy products. Shows you how much I know about Mexico. I thought Japan was the only country that used soy beans for things like tofu, soy sauce, miso, yuba and okara.

      "Oh no. We used lots of soybeans in Mexico. I love miso soup and we just had miso soup with hon-dashi (fish broth) today."

      "What!? You know about miso? You know about hon-dashi?!"

      CT and I chatted for quite a bit more about recipes we know using okara. And for the rest of this week I've been telling all my students...

      "Did you know that in MEXICO they know about okara and miso? Isn't that fascinating?"

      So this is what I've been making with my okara. I made hamburgers one night using okara for half the amount of meat. Delicious. I made cookies using okara for half the amount of flour. Pretty good. I blended in okara to my chicken stew. Yum, extra creamy. And on the advice of CT I added okara to this week's batch of granola. Fantastic!

      And Tetsu (who doesn't like okara) didn't even notice.

      Nice talking to you CT!

      Thursday, April 23, 2009

      A fashion show

      The days are bright and sunny and while I get enthusiastic about the warmth and the flowers and the nice weather days, I also start thinking about the wrinkles and liver spots that are waiting to adorn my face...

      When I lived in the States I never thought about skin. As a teenager I laid out by the pool and got as sun-tanned as possible! In college I lived in Oregon and there wasn't much sun to contend with. And coming to Japan I was surprised to see ladies with deep hats and long elbow length "driving" gloves to protect their forearms from the sun rays.

      But now I'm in my fifties. If truth be told, somewhere in my forties I started to look at moisturizers and sunblocks and UV cutting powders. I see more sag and crows' feet and spots that I can no longer call beauty marks. So I wear a hat.

      In Southern California I don't know anyone who wears a hat. My mother has never owned a hat in her life. Marcy never wears a hat. All these people out at the flea markets and jogging on the streets and there aren't that many hats. Maybe a visor or two. Sometimes a baseball cap.

      Japanese women love hats! There are some very fancy ones made of silk and kimono fabrics, there are cute ones with little flowers decorating them. There are lace hats and elegant straw hats. There are berets and Chinese Mao caps and deep bucket hats. And if you don't want to wear a hat (or if you want extra protection) you can always carry a sun parasol when walking from car to supermarket. I've seen some ladies wearing a visor mask that makes them look like a relation to Darth Vadar! It is very important to protect the pure, fair skin and some of the cosmetic product advertisements border on discrimination. "Beauty is White".

      Well, I'm not going so far as carrying a parasol and I haven't bought any skin whitening products yet. I'm more interested in keeping the age out of my face so I do wear hats. I like to try on hats in the stores though I rarely find one that looks good on me. In fact, every summer when I go back to the States with one of my hats my mother will inevitably say,

      "What an unattractive hat. It looks like a towel."

      (Sometimes she says it looks like a old man's fisherman's hat.) I wear my hat for the first few days of walking in the strong California sun but I usually feel silly and leave it in my suitcase and opt for a tube of sunscreen instead. When I wear hats in the States I really feel Japanese.

      I already have two hats. The first I bought a few years ago and liked it because it was reversible. I can wear stripes or plain. I have never had the courage to wear it stripe side out.

      I love this cap not because it looks so great nor keeps the sun off my face but rather because of the logo. Look at that!!! It says GOD ANSWERS PRAYER and no one else but me in Japan knows I'm giving out a message.

      And with the arrival of spring (and a half price bargain sale!) I bought another hat this week. I can just hear my mother's voice when I take it to the States this year.

      "What an unattractive hat. It looks like a milking pail."

      I guess I bought it because it was "different" and the visor can be pulled up or down depending on my mood and it is especially deep to keep me in complete shadow when I take Choco for a walk. I hope I don't bump into a tree...

      Wednesday, April 22, 2009

      Bright fabrics

      I have been doing a bit of sewing in my rearranged sewing room. Last month when my friend Sandra visited for a couple of days, she brought me some fabric from her friend's fabric shop, Over the Rainbow. The package was called a "layer cake" which I suppose is a take off on the "jelly rolls" that are often sold, or the "charm packs". None of these can be found in Japan... Anyway, just a lovely assortment of fabrics but I didn't know what to do with them.

      Then I also threw out the question to blogging visitors about what is the easiest quilt to make for prayer and charity quilts and many of you commented that the Disappearing Nine-Patch was an easy and impressive pattern to make. SOOOO... I got out the roller cutter and cut my layer cake into quarters and did a quick Disappearing Nine-Patch.

      Truly an easy quilt to make! And fun! And for myself the colors are beautiful and exciting. Yes, I will be making this quilt again. But maybe I'll combine some of bright fabrics with some solids. I keep coming back to my theory that Japanese don't or won't like all these bright colors and combinations. Well, I make prayer quilts with what I have at hand and this is this month's result. I still have a lot more blocks so next month's prayer quilt will be much the same...

      And yes... It is not about the quilts. It is about the prayers.

      Tuesday, April 21, 2009


      This weekend I mentioned I wanted to search out the source of smells in my sewing room. Velvet lives up there and can do what he wants... So Tetsu and I went upstairs to move around some furniture and I scurried around pushing fabric into drawers and putting away scissors and roller cutters.

      "Do you need this bed in here?"

      No, not really.

      "Okay, just leave it to me. I'll move the bed out and get the place back in order."

      I did help Tetsu move the bed and I directed him as to where the sewing machine needed to be in relation to the cutting table. Then I left him to putter and clean. And here is the result of a couple hours of Tetsu's hard work.

      This is my sewing room. It used to be Leiya's room. Velvet lives in the bay window. Hmmm. I could have moved the cat box before I took the picture. Toi was visiting when I snapped this but usually Velvet enjoys this space alone. With the bed gone I've got more room to spread out quilts I think.

      And this is what was my laundry room and before that it used to be Takumi's room. Now doesn't that look pleasant. Tetsu put up books to decorate the bed stand and my 365 Challenge quilt finally gets a debut on the bed! Besides all that work Tetsu folded clothes in drawers, and tidied the bookshelves and vacuumed and dusted.

      You must wonder what I do all day when I have a husband who does housework for me. Well, he doesn't do it ALL the time. Just when the mood hits him. In the afternoon he went off to play pachinko (Japanese pinball) by himself and I certainly didn't begrudge him his time of play!

      Now, it my job to keep the rooms looking nice.

      Monday, April 20, 2009

      Cows, Flowers, Cats and Beads

      Choco and the Cows
      The days are warming up and Choco and I go out for longer walks. We went to visit the cows which I find interesting but which Choco doesn't like much at all.

      "Those ladies are too big!"

      True but they look just like Choco and they come to the fence to visit with her.

      Edible Flowers
      When I was a child I remember reading a book called "The Boy Who Ate Flowers". I don't why that book has stayed in my head but I remember my 6 or 7 year old brain thinking that it was such a funny book. Then I come to Japan and find that people really do eat flowers! These are called Nanohana which are Rape blossoms in English. True, we use Rape seed oil in both Western and Eastern cooking but Japanese also eat these blossoms and stems. (These have probably grown too large for human eating but when the shoots are younger they are tender and delicious.) In the fall the Japanese like to eat an edible type of chrysanthemum ("A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." -- Shakespeare. A chrysanthemum by any other name would be easier to spell. --Tanya)

      Cat Balls
      I know I show this picture of the armchair with three or four cats in it every few weeks. You're getting tired of looking at the same cats in the same chair. They are so funny though. Three of them (the bigger three) decided they all wanted to occupy the same space. Toi especially is very happy to sit with, on, under, beside, next to, around anyone. Patora looks a little disgruntled.

      And a few minutes later they shifted around a bit and Chip joined the cat ball.

      This is my handwork for the weekend. I purchased this hand made glass bead a few months ago and it has been lost in the drawer ever since. This weekend I decided to make a necklace with a Chinese knotting technique my friend Mrs. Ochiai once taught me. It took a while to get my brain back remembering how to make knots (you know how you learn a computer technique and then a few weeks or months later you know you knew how to do it but you don't remember how! Same thing.) but in the end it worked out. I'm sending it off to a friend and not showing Mrs. Ochiai because she'd probably tell me I did it wrong...

      Sunday, April 19, 2009

      Day trip

      I missed a day yesterday because Tetsu and I went out to Mashiko, the pottery town again. We weren't really planning to go that way but that was the direction we were heading and we ended up wandering around the town again. (And bought NOTHING.)

      Lots of pretty buildings. Lots of pretty pottery, some quite expensive. This lovely cherry blossom dish was priced at $500. Hmm, I don't think so. It doesn't go with the rest of the decor in my house which is modern cat.

      But look at this neat dish, also too pricey. I think this person has studied making quilting feathers with Tazzie or Elaine.

      Just walking up and down the streets made me smile. This was just a little house on the main street with a very round cat sitting on the front step enjoying sites of passersby. This is pretty typical around my area. Gravel driveways, boxes and other things that don't fit in the house "decorating" the outside. Laundry hanging in view of everyone, a pot or two of flowers to brighten the place up a bit.

      I came home to knit. Yes knit! This has been an ongoing project since January when I decided to rip apart one of Tetsu's old sweaters and use up some left over skeins of yarn. Tetsu kept asking me "What are you making? It looks like a donut." I started from the neck down so it was a bit of a strange construction. I finished last night. Ta-Da!

      Just in time to put away until next winter....

      Friday, April 17, 2009

      Hands and knees and claws

      I finally got around to a job I've been procrastinating about. Waxing the floor! I mean how many of us think of this as a fun job?

      Yesterday was a nice day. I didn't have anything special to do til evening classes. Tetsu and I had both commented about how bad the wood floor looked. BUT... What is the point? Think of all the claw scratch marks it gets. There are 18 claws per cat (I think my cats only have 4 claws on each hind foot... At least that's all I clip) and I have 5 cats. That's 90 claws!!!!! And Chip and Toi think the house is a race course so there is a lot of scrabbling and sharp turns in their daily chase. (But granted, Velvet adds very little to the wear and tear. He tip-toes if he comes downstairs at all). Choco is the worse. She is also a scrabbler and comes bounding into the house scaring cats this way and that, and she will enjoy a race and a slide and then a bump into the wall. Then the same routine in the other direction. Why do we allow it? Because she is such a crazy dog and she looks like she is having fun. But Choco adds the major damage to our floor.

      So the floor was looking very bad! But even if I wax it, in a few days it will get the same claw treatment. And I'll just be angry at the animals for messing up a nice floor. Forget it. Resign yourself to a scratched and scuffed floor. Oh, Tanya, you only do this job once a year anyway. Just get down there and wax it!

      Gather up all the cats and stick them out on the upstairs veranda. Go right ahead and complain to your hearts' content because you are stuck out there for the next two hours. And of course Choco hearing the cats had to add her noise too.

      Here is a picture of my house with some of the furniture out in the driveway. Can you see some cat heads up there on the balcony? And Toi is sitting on the ledge watching the work progress while Cleo is debating jumping onto the car...

      Open up all the doors and windows, change into shorts and start in! There IS such a thing as a mop in Japan but I've never used one and instead I'm down there on my hands and knees. Maybe this is because I gained any housekeeping skills at all after I came to Japan and Japanese believe getting down on the hands and knees to clean is important. Children wipe their classroom floors and corridors down on their hands and knees. Pregnant women wash the floors on their hands and knees (supposed to strengthen the stomach muscles.) And in many of the churches I've attended, the ladies' group would always be down there on their hands and knees.

      So I washed and waxed and now I have a lovely shiny floor.

      Chip threw up on it right after I let her come back in the house. Too bad. I'm not doing it again until next year.

      Thursday, April 16, 2009

      The last of the cherry blossoms

      The cherry blossoms are beginning to fade from the trees and in their place fresh green leaves are budding. This is one reason why Japanese love cherry blossoms so much. They are so delicate and their beauty is short lived. Fragile life to be appreciated in the moment and all the more lovely because it is so fleeting.

      If the days are warm then all of us (the whole Japanese population!) go out cherry blossom viewing and search out parks and riversides and temples where the cherry blossoms are at their finest. Booths are set up along the road for selling fried noodles or squid or skewered bits of chicken. Sheets are spread out under the trees with arguments and confrontations about who has claimed the best spot, who has taken more than their share. Crates of beer will be lugged to the staked out areas and lunchboxes will be shared along with the delicacies sold at the booths. CD players will be brought along and impromptu singing contests will begin. Here and there people will pass out from drunkenness and garbage will overflow from the extra trash cans set out. Police will patrol the festivities watching for pickpockets, helping hung over visitors to their taxis, reuniting lost children with their families. All great fun but sometimes the cherry blossoms get forgotten in all the excitement.

      My neighbor's dog, Taro, has his own cherry blossom tree and I often find him sleeping peacefully under it.

      "Taro, you have the best cherry blossom tree in the whole neighborhood and you are the only one who really knows how to enjoy it!"