Posts Tagged ‘wife’

Flautist Again

2012年 8月 1日

My father-in-law has two main hobbies: one is pottery and the other is playing the shakuhachi (尺八). Almost exactly four years ago he started teaching me how to play. Almost exactly three years ago I was hit by a car while cycling. One of the saddest parts of that was how it knocked a lot of the creativity and inspiration out of me. After that I put the instrument down for a long time and took care of other, less creative things; however, this week – mostly thanks to my kitten – the shakuhachi is back in my hands.

Monday I made sure I could still make sounds and then practiced the basic notes. Tuesday I ran through several fingering exercises and played one song. Today I practiced all the fingering exercises and played a couple songs. Running out of breath and getting dizzy is the most significant trouble right now. One small problem is that my soul patch is too bushy and makes it hard to keep the instrument in the right location. Judicious use of scissors will correct the small problem. Hopefully daily practice will correct the other.

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Riding My Stocking Stuffer

2012年 1月 17日

Little behind the times perhaps, but here is a little Christmas update for the second half of January.

Japanese children sometimes get a visit from Santa, but it is not universal; which makes talking about Christmas a little tricky sometimes. Talking about Santa visiting the “good kids” is not a part of my discussions since, many good little kids in Japan don’t receive a present and I don’t want to be the source of their trauma. Also of note is that children who receive a present generally get only one. For the most part, children in Japan are curious to talk about the little fur-clad elf so December conversations are a lot of fun.

Also in Japan it is very rare for adults to receive Christmas gifts. When I show my stocking which I’ve used for 40 years, people are shocked – and sometimes upset – to hear that I am expecting gifts yet again this year. Not just one of course, but an overflowing stocking full of them.

Christmas morning, I started wondering about my position on the good kids list since my stocking was far from overflowing. My wife however is clearly in good standing with the jiggly-bellied one as her stocking was packed full and had various packages littered beneath it which clearly would not fit inside.

First impressions can be misleading, as I found while burrowing into my stocking. Three presents and an envelope revealed themselves: a book, two chocolate bars, and a note from Santa. As far as my recollection, this is the first time Nicholas has taken the time to put pen to paper for me. Getting to the bottom of his kindly prose, I found a message telling me he had stowed one more item in the back of our micro-van. Much to my amazement it was one of the three items I had been hoping for (but never expecting)… a unicycle.

My Flamingo has to be the largest stocking stuffer to date. Actually this is a present I have hoped for, going on 26 years, since I worked in Development at IBM San Jose. But, that is another story…

Full of Tradition

2012年 1月 7日

Japan is a country full of tradition. After living here almost eight years and seeking out culture and tradition, I am still constantly amazed by serendipitous appearances of more traditional activity. Tradition being over-abundant has its downside: in our ever-busier lives, the tedium of preparing for, executing and passing on tradition is causing many to disappear or become only shadowy forms of what they were.

Perhaps this is just one more reason that my wife was delivered into my life. Working in a home for children removed from abusive or neglectful situations, she was charged with providing them plentiful access to tradition. I sometimes tease her about not respecting various traditional arts; however, she has a much deeper knowledge than me. For that matter, I would guess it is much deeper than the average citizen; and it often just comes out naturally, as a matter of practice.

January Seventh is one of five important seasonal festival days called Nanakusa (七種、ななくさ). It is a time to celebrate the passing from winter into spring. Tradition is to make a rice porridge with seven types of young greens in it. There is definitely a strong grassy flavor to it, so I would probably not choose it everyday; however, it was an enjoyable way to celebrate the coming fruitfulness.

When she made this for the children at the home, the flavor was not invited by the young ones: definitely a taste for a mature palate. I imagine this is one reason the tradition is not broadly practiced. Also, most housewives are extremely busy the last week of December and the first few days of the new year taking care of other traditions, so they probably aren’t anxious to put effort into another special day.

Supermarkets sell small kits with the seven essentials in them, so it still carries at least enough popularity to support that business. Finding the greens – especially in the small portions needed – would be a chore without these packages, so they are definitely a nice aide.

Moving (Back) North

2011年 8月 22日

May of 2009 saw me leaving Tsu after five years living in the capitol of Mie for the historic and spiritual Ise. Two objectives dramatically inspired the relocation south. Naturally the first reason was to be able to see her more than once a week, but the second is more involved.

My then-fiancé was living 24×7 in a home for abused and neglected children providing guidance and care. Even for people who love the children and the work deeply, there is a significant amount of stress from living in such an intense situation. As a result, she sought soothing and healing ways to spend her brief breaks each day. Renting an apartment minutes from her workplace allowed us to create a bedroom, kitchen and dining area to her desires. Even if I was up at work in Tsu, she could study at her table, make her tea, listen to her music, nap on her futon, concoct goodness in her kitchen, … Essentially, I desired that she should have her space where she engage herself in the ways which most cleared her mind and refreshed her heart.

As of the end of March, my now-wife, left her position after all these years under the prompting of many plans and hopes for our new life. Resigning leaves us in a nicely arranged apartment to which we are accustomed; however, it also leaves me living more than an hour from work without compelling reasons to be there.

We discussed moving back to Tsu a bit since March, but started looking in earnest in late June. Hoping to move at the end of August, when teachers can easily take vacation, I tried to push the house-hunting efforts along. My desired schedule proved too aggressive, yet we have found our new home and signed a lease commencing September 15th.

Allowing for two days of intense cleaning, we contracted movers for the morning of the 17th. Critical utilities (gas, water, electric, and internet) need to be arranged and we will rest a little easier. My expectation is that proximity to my workplaces will free up 10 to 20 hours of my time each week, to be used for doing more chores, studying more calligraphy and Japanese, and blogging.

Returning to the Scene

2011年 5月 17日

BouquetsMy wife and I were married on May 15th, 2010 or possibly May 16th. It’s been a whole year, so it’s to be expected that some details are vague.

Our relatives were invited to a dinner party on the 15th, which was a Saturday. After the party ended, we drove to city hall at night and filed our paperwork. Official records will show our marriage occurring on that date. At mid-day on Sunday the 16th we had a wedding ceremony and party, so we think of that date as our wedding.

We held the ceremony in Kameyama at a restaurant called Tsuki no Niwa (The Garden of the Moon), outside under the trees. We stood with our two officiants in a gazebo with our guests seated in front.

Both of us were hoping to eat there soon, so we decided it would be perfect to spend our first anniversary there remembering the day’s events. Kaori, the owner, is a friend of ours and she came out to chat with us. She arranged a special table in the gazebo where, the same as last year, the weather was gorgeous.

AppetizersWe started dining around 1 :30pm, with Appletiser instead of champagne. My wife was driving and I didn’t have much interest in drinking champagne without her. We toasted our first year and our hopes for our second.

Our entire meal was organic vegetarian. Typically, I love fish and meats, but eat more vegetables and fruits; however, the vegetarian creations at Tsuki no Niwa are always very satisfying. Balance of colors, textures, flavors, and health are all well attended to in their preparations. Our first plate had four small dishes, one being tofu with egoma, which many people mistake for a kind of sesame, based on the name; yet, it is really a seed from the shiso plant.

Eri ChiliEbi Chili is a popular dish in Japan made with shrimp. The owner created a dish called Eri Chili, with similar spice and sauce, but replaced the shrimp with eringe mushrooms. We were delighted with this one. Spring RollsSpring rolls and shumai dishes were also served. A very satisfying blend of flavors.

ShumaiDuring the meal, Shunsuke – who was the manager of the restaurant during the wedding – dropped in to talk and brought a bouquet of flowers for each of us. It was very touching. He has since moved on to taking care of other projects, such as a monthly organic market in Seki, so we felt honored that he would make the time for us.

Rice and Mabo TofuOur final dishes were whole rice with pickled radish and plum; and, mabo tofu. Mabo is often made with ground meat, but ours had a dark millet instead, which gave an amusing texture.

Planning everything for our wedding was a little hectic to say the least, and we missed a few details. Perhaps the largest gaffe was when we realized a couple weeks before the wedding, that we had no cake. An executive decision was made to do without, saddened by our parting from Western tradition. During the wedding reception, once guests had eaten a fair quantity of food, Shunsuke got ahold of me and wanted me to corral my wife and get to our table.

Tofu Cream CakeAi-chan then carried a cake to our table and presented it to us. Were I not an emotionally restrained American, I would have been bawling, but I managed to smile a lot with glistening eyes. Since we were going to Tsuki no Niwa for the anniversary, I requested that we have the same cake again. She produced a lovely, smaller version, for us. Large enough to share with the staff and still have leftovers for the next day.

Tofu Cream CakeHearing “tofu cream cake” for the first time, I can tell you, I was a little suspicious; however, it was incredibly good – as you may have guessed by my insistence on ordering it for the anniversary meal.

With all our chatting and listening to the birds in the trees, it was 6pm by the time we finished lunch and were on our way. I really love Kaori and her restaurant and I hope to visit again soon.

The Darndest Things

2010年 9月 28日

My wife and I communicate almost entirely in Japanese. She can actually speak a fair amount of English; however, it can be a chore for her and – when it comes to nuance – my Japanese is stronger than her English. Occasionally she suggests that she is going to knuckle down and study English yet, between her schedule and babysitting me, the time for it vanishes.

Recently, I was feeling a little lonely and distanced by our situation. We managed to get lunchtime together yesterday and before she ran back to work we shared a few sentences in English. It was just simple, silly talk, but she said something that melted my hard heart a little.

“You are very beautiful.”

“Thank you.”

“Are you single?”

“No, I have a very nice husband.”

“Oh. Have you been married long?” (Wedding was May 16th for the record)

“Yes! I was married to him before I was born.”

She was sitting on my knees, facing me; and I was leaning back in the seat. After she said this, she leaned forward and nestled her head in my chest.

P.S. Please don’t ever tell her I wrote this; she would kill me. (o^-^o)

Ironic Little Twist

2010年 7月 15日

Choosing to live in a different city from where I work added several complications to my schedule. If it weren’t for all my extra-curricular activities, it would just be a simple matter of adding commute time; however, outside of work hours I have many things to schedule – some in Tsu, some in Ise, and a few in other places.

When I was in physical therapy things got very crazy, often riding the train to Tsu in the morning for work, riding back to Ise for therapy, heading to Tsu for an evening activity, and taking a late ride home to Ise. At least I made good use of my commuter pass during that time.

Given the chance, I try to arrange my schedule for efficiency: putting all my Ise activities on the same day; shifting things so they are back-to-back; etc. While this can open a lot of free time, it can also leave people frustrated if they want to reach me on a busy day when I can’t call them back.

Recently, I restructured everything, making Thursdays busy, but opening Friday up on my schedule. On the way home from work I can stop off at my Japanese teacher’s home for a lesson and still get home in time for dinner or playtime.

As some of you know, my wife’s eight days off each month are chosen for her for the most part and those are the only days we can be together; so, we must make the most of those days. So, here’s the twist: the last three Fridays in July are days off for her. This left me unable to study Japanese with my ‘good’ schedule because, I’ll be heading back to be with her.

My next lesson will be August 6th and then vacation will prevent me studying until September. Of course I can still study on my own.