Saturday, January 29, 2005


The issue of imperial accession is being discussed a lot recently.
I’m 100% in favor of a female emperor. I simply do not see any reason why not. And if they do decide to change the law, I support the idea of “the first child, regardless of gender, succeeding the throne.”

posted by obachan, 1/29/2005 09:52:00 PM | link | 2 comments |

Saturday, January 22, 2005


It is funny that when we think about going sightseeing, we tend to choose somewhere far away --- somewhere we can’t go too easily and too often. Yeah, we can visit nearby sightseeing spots anytime. It doesn’t have to be this time. ---- And many years may pass before the “anytime” comes. For me, Katsurahama beach and Kochi castle in this city were exactly the places of that kind. This time I happened to have an opportunity to show someone around in this city and to revisit those places.

I’ve been to this statue of Ryoma Sakamoto a few times before. He was one of the heroes in Meiji revolution which changed Japan from a closed feudal society to a modern nation with Western influences. This Ryoma was said to be a friendly and extremely open-minded guy. He became well-known after an award-winning novel about his life. His fans, which are many, just adore the guy who wore western shoes and dreamed about abolishing social classes when most other samurais were trying hard to protect the shogunate and feudal system in which they can remain in the top class. They come to this statue, see Ryoma looking beyond the horizon, and, in their minds, hear him saying, “Dream on.” He is the symbol of the future, so to speak.

I accidentally found this site and liked the title, "The Indispensable 'Nobody'" very much (though I don’t see him as the Japanese equivalent of George Washington, like the editor writes).

Kochi castle, on the other hand, is a treasure from the past, which has been preserved amazingly well. According to the tour guide, Kochi castle has some traditional buildings that were completely lost in almost all other castles in Japan. It was interesting to learn about all the different devices for protecting the castle from the enemies.

I vaguely remember seeing inside the castle once when I was very little, coming all the way (3 to 4 hours by bus) from my hometown. Now I live just 5minutes (by bicycle) away from the castle, and never felt like touring inside at all.

So I appreciated this opportunity very much and enjoyed re-discovering the things we have around here. It was, honestly, a nice experience that added a different color to the familiar everyday scene.
I just wished it wasn’t freezing cold like that, though.
posted by obachan, 1/22/2005 05:09:00 PM | link | 4 comments |

Friday, January 21, 2005


It’s a bit too early for plum blossom season, but oh well, what the heck. Here it is. ; )


On January 17th, 2005, the 10th memorial ceremony of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake was held in Higashi-koen in Kobe. I was there at 5:46AM, praying in the cold rain.

At 5:46 AM on Jan.17th, 1995, I was in my room in Nishinomiya, Hyogo prefecture. Seems like something inside of me got frozen then. As numerous how-to stuff on crisis intervention recommend, I talked about my experiences whenever I had a chance. It got more and more difficult to bring up the issue as years passed.

Then I came back to Kochi in year 2,000. Still I kept attending the memorial ceremony held in a park in Kochi city every year. I just knew that I HAD TO be with the candle lights at 5:46AM on that particular date. In a few years, however, I had to realize my inner voice telling me that I was feeling more “alone” at the memorial ceremony in Kochi, where most people did not share the same experience. You know, there are times that you feel so grateful to the people around you but still feel you don’t belong there… and it’s just no one’s fault. I became silent, and felt something was buried deeper, untouched.

Last year at the ceremony in Kochi, it got to the point that I couldn’t ignore my inner voice saying “I gotta be there in Kobe.” I need a change. I can’t tell exactly what needed to be changed. I didn’t lose anyone close to me in that earthquake. I’m not suffering any serious flash back or nightmares. Some personality concerns do exist, but they are not necessarily disaster-induced ones. And the memories are fading…. So what is it that’s bothering me then? I can’t tell, honestly. It’s just a feeling … something like drinking terribly weak and lukewarm tea and thinking this is the only kind of tea I can have for the rest of my life. Well, maybe there’s nothing wrong with weak and lukewarm tea. But once I realized that I don’t want it any more, I can’t cheat myself any longer.

There’s one thing I have never done about my earthquake experience. It’s “writing about it.” Again, I cannot say why I couldn’t, especially when I was able to do decent amount of talking about the experience, but I just couldn’t write about the earthquake. To this day, I have never written about what I went through on Jan. 17 1995, even in my private diary. And that’s what I’m going to give a try this year, 10 years after that dark, cold morning.

My writings about the quake will be kept at:
“A frozen clock”
so that they won’t block my regular entries here.

I have no idea how long it’s going to be.

posted by obachan, 1/21/2005 06:24:00 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, January 14, 2005


My life with the new TV set is pretty comfortable. It’s nice and stimulating to have a new member in my everyday routine. It was also nice that they took my old TV back with them for free of charge, saying it was recyclable. These days you have to pay more than 2,000 yen to get rid of certain old home electronic appliances here.
I feel I’m going through some changes now. Getting a new TV was just one minor part of it. A more important change is that now I’m feeling like giving one thing a try --- something that I didn’t have courage to do in the past 10 years. It’s writing my earthquake experience of 10 years ago and sharing it with others.

I kept thinking that I was not ready, and didn’t have anything to make me step out of it. Then the Sumatera Offshore Earthquake occurred.

When I was still in shock of the Hanshin Awaji Earthquake in 1995, I happened to have some chances to read about what people went through in major disasters before that earthquake, including the Northridge Earthquake in CA, USA. It helped me a lot…not so much by “teaching” what to do in such situations, but by making me “feel related.”

I DO NOT mean to arrogantly “help” or “teach” the suffering people by sharing my experiences. I just remember that for me it was important, in processing my experiences/feelings, to touch and be touched by the emotional processes of those going through the same kind of thing. Writing about my experience is nothing more than my personal therapy, but sharing it may or may not produce something else…. That’s all I have in mind.

After lighting a candle at the memorial ceremony on this coming Jan.17th, I’ll move one step forward.

posted by obachan, 1/14/2005 02:02:00 PM | link | 4 comments |

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


I bought a new TV a few days ago and had it delivered yesterday! The last one I had worked for me for more than 10 years and was ready to retire. The new one is about the same size, but much cheaper. I’m so happy. Now I can see subtitles when I watch rented videos!!
posted by obachan, 1/12/2005 01:19:00 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, January 06, 2005


Here's some photos I took in my hometown last weekend.

View from my dad's orange orchard

It is a very small town with a great view of the Pacific Ocean. You can have a better view from the orange orchards on the slope of the mountains.


tidepool animals (Click to enlarge)

seashells I picked with mom

Ponkan Oranges

posted by obachan, 1/06/2005 11:28:00 AM | link | 8 comments |

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


New Year’s Day is a time for prayers and wishes. We make a lot of decorations associated with good luck. My dad makes shimenawa (twisted straw rope with decorations like ferns and daidai orange) himself and place them here and there in house. I guess it can’t be just anywhere… there seem to be certain places that you expect the God of New Year to visit. Things related to water should always be included, according to dad, but my mom and I begged him not to put the shimenawa decoration on the kitchen faucet ; )

Small rock altar for the God of water right behind my parents' house

Some more photos of New Year's decorations are on my foodblog, if you're interested.

This is a small shrine near my parents’ house. We (my mom, my sister, her husband and kids and me) visited this shrine on the New Year’s Day at midnight for Hatsumode, the 1st visit to a shrine in a new year. People in this community (it used to be a small village before it was merged with other villages/towns) take turns to host Hatsumode at the shrine. The family who’s in charge needs to clean the shrine beforehand, prepare the altar, and stay there (maybe from around 11:00pm till 1:00 or 2:00am?) for the people who come for the Hatsumode.

It is not like the daytime-Hatsumode at big shrines with many visitors in beautiful Kimono. We go to bed after the Hatsumode, so there’s no use going through all those troubles to wear Kimono. It’s a plain, quiet custom here.

When we visit the shrine right after midnight, first we take off our shoes and go inside. Now I’m not sure (maybe no one is) what is the correct way… some families go straight to the altar, throw coins into a big box called saisen-bako and pray. Then they come back to a big bell with big ropes to ring it, and proceed to a big taiko drum and hit it hard. Others finish the bell and drum part first and then go to the altar to pray, and their rationale is that you need to let God know you’re there with the bell/drum before you pray. Hmmmm, makes sense.

After the prayer, we go to greet the host. They give us omiki (sake dedicated to God) and offer some sweets. BTW, never imagine that this old shrine is air-conditioned. It isn’t. It’s hard for the visitors but harder for the hosts who have to stay there for several hours just sitting on wooden floor. I guess they bring in small electric heater if it’s too cold.

For some reason, it seldom rains on New Year’s Eve. I can’t recall any year that my family went for Hatsumode in rain or we cancelled it because of the rain. So every year, after I get out of the shrine, I look up in the sky and see the stars. We can see more stars in the rural area and they are definitely shining brighter. As I look up in the sky there in the dark, with the shrine behind me and with the warmth in my stomach from the sake, somehow I feel closer to the heaven, the ocean and the earth. That makes me feel, “This is the beginning of a new year.”

... more to come later..
posted by obachan, 1/05/2005 11:30:00 AM | link | 0 comments |