Friday, September 29, 2006


Mom's Over Enthusiasm Spoils the Day

For what I am certain will not be the last time, my over enthusiasm caused Mina an embarrassment today. It was her very first sports festival, an autumn ritual for all Japanese school children, and I caused a false start in her first ever race. She was standing on the starting line, cute as ever, I cheered her on “Go! Mina, Go!” and she went. Too bad the starting whistle had not yet been blown. Why did she have to choose that moment in time to finally start listening to me and following directions?!?!?! No, it was all my fault and next year I will keep my big mouth shut. She did not listen to me however, when I called after her, “WAIT!! STOP!!!” She kept on like a thoroughbred all the way to the white tape and took first place in a race against herself. Then they sat her down with the other kids who had already raced and did not let her go back to race against her friends. I was almost in tears I felt so badly, but she was fine and it did not end up spoiling the day. Her grandfather congratulated her on her first place win and there were other events that she enjoyed more, such as the dance she did to the Totoro theme song with her class mates and the race she participated in with her dad as her partner. The morning culminated in a dance routine in which all of the students participated. Now, I had thought that the song was called “Chiki Chiki Boom,” at least that is what it sounded like the other mothers were calling it. When the music started I was relieved to hear the familiar notes of the “Tiki Tiki Room” song. Whew! “Chiki Chiki Boom” sounded a little risqué for pre-school children! So, as always in Japan, I live and learn. Perhaps by the time she graduates I will have it all figured out.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Can You Not Do That

Last week in the middle of the night, I heard Mina talking in her sleep. The small bubble of pleasure of witnessing her do something I have been known to do was popped by the fact that she spoke in Japanese. My heart broke a little to hear it. To think that my daughter’s most inner, private world was going on inside her mind in Japanese made me feel distanced from her. Intellectually I understand how wonderful, and how challenging, it is to raise bilingual children, however I never anticipated the emotional difficulty of the fact that my children’s first language is Japanese. Even if English is their “mother tongue,” Japanese will always be the stronger language for them.
Last night, I was awake in the middle of the night, when suddenly Mina said, “can you not do that.” In her sleep. In English. I could not help from smiling with the realization that my daughter’s dream world is just as blended, bilingual, creative, mysterious and multifaceted as she herself is. And then she proceeded to grind her teeth, just like her father.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


It's a Boy!

No, our family is not expanding, however the Japanese Imperial Family welcomed a son into the world today. While others are breathing sighs of relief, I breathe a sigh of exasperation. The country was on the verge of changing its constitution to allow a female to ascend the throne. This would have meant an improvement in status for all women in Japan. It is no longer to be; a male heir has been produced.
It was exciting to be a part of the buzz. All the morning news programs centered on the topic. During a mid-morning phone conversation with a friend, she informed me that the baby was male and we shared our mutual disappointment. As I walked through the aquarium with Sam, we watched workers construct a display in honor of the new royal in a section dedicated to the present Emperor’s research. The mothers were discussing the topic as we waited to pick up our daughters from school and the focus of conversation was on Crown Princess Masako and the implications of the birth for her. Interestingly, the consensus seemed to be that it would increase pressure upon her to produce a male heir, whereas I had thought that it would relieve pressure since a male heir now exists. When we passed through the station, copies of a special edition extra that had been printed were being handed out, complete with one page reporting on the event in English.
It would have been so interesting to watch the nation evolve had she given birth to a girl. Now it will be business as usual until the next catalyst for change comes along. Who knows, maybe Mina or Sam will shake the nation up somehow. But I think I’ll put my money on Aiko-sama, the would-be Empress.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Home again, home again

“You must be tired. Mina needs to recover before school starts again. We’ll just see you on the fifth.”
WHAT?!?!?! The FIFTH?!?!? My concerns over why this mother was deflecting my attempts to set up a play date with her daughter were over shadowed by the realization that I had been planning to return to school on the wrong day. The fourth, Mina goes back to school on the fourth, right? Wrong. The first day of school is the fifth. So even though this mother doesn’t seem to want to hang out with us, I still have to hang on to her because she has saved me once again. Will I ever get my act together? At least I was planning on getting to school a day early, that’s better than a day late, kind of.
That leaves me with a three day weekend. Today we walked with Ojiichan to a local fruit grower. Asian pears and grapes are now in season. There was a line of people around the traditional storehouse on the farmer’s property. We arrived about five minutes before they opened and thirty minutes passed before it was our turn to pay $12.00 for six pears and $20.00 for four bunches of grapes. Ojiichan’s treat of course.
Being back in Japan means a return to walking to the grocery store, to the station, to the post office, almost everywhere. Thank goodness, because I need to walk off my month long American food binge and it might just take me the next eleven months to do so. You should have seen me, I could not resist anything. I ate an entire three pack of Twinkies. Twinkies! I would have eaten an entire box, however I managed to show one little tiny shred of restraint in the grocery store and opted for the three pack.
Even still, the focus of our return has been on eating the foods we missed from Japan. Today’s lunch was cold udon noodles in a broth seasoned with freshly grated ginger and leek. Our first dinner home was Ma Bou Dofu and Gyoza. Toshi is a master at perfectly browning the bottoms to a golden crisp. They are so good that we already bought another pack at the store today!
Otherwise, the time has been filled getting my new train pass (it freaks me out a little that one little card is worth more than $400), signing Sam up for daycare (yes he did start screaming in his stroller as soon as we crossed the threshold of the center, even though we didn’t leave him there) and taking care of other lose ends, including a trip to the dentist for moi. Thank goodness there is a box of See’s candy in the fridge to help me through it all.

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