Thursday, December 30, 2004

I’m leaving for my parents’ now and this is my last post this year.
Though it’s a little early, I put up a new template for the New Year, because I’m not coming back until Jan. 3rd, 2005, and by then the best part of New Year’s festivity would be gone… I decided better to be early than late.

May your dreams fly high in the sky and into the future like these cranes….

posted by obachan, 12/30/2004 10:52:00 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


I’m truly shocked by the news of the earthquake and the tsunami that hit those Southeast Asian countries. I experienced the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in Hyogo pref. in 1995. Watching the news of the recent quake in Niigata, and now this news, I feel my unresolved issues coming back. I still can’t write much about earthquake-related issues, but I do want to send a prayer to those affected by the disaster… Though I know we cannot control the mother nature, I can’t help hoping that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

Finally, it’s getting very cold around here.

Kotatsu and Mikan (tangerine oranges)

Just a couple of days are left before the end of year 2004 and I’m keeping myself busy. At the office, I’m finishing up what need to be finished within this year. Cleaning the apartment is another thing I’m working on, little by little. Also packing…I’m going to spend my New Year’s day and eve at my parents’. My sister and her kids will be there, too so I need to pack belated Xmas presents for them. Meanwhile, I’m spending some time on my PC looking for a nice graphic for my new year’s email…

Looking back, year 2004 was a year of a great change. Blogging really changed my life, honestly. In this rural area, people are nice but kind of backward. Though I like them very much, there are things that I simply cannot share with them. Blogging provided perfect opportunity to share them with people all over the world to fulfill my unmet desires. I truly enjoyed responses from many different readers. Even though Blogshares analyst labeled this blog as a “declining blog (SELL),” I do believe that the interactions I enjoy here do not deserve such labeling.

When I started blogging, I was so embarrassed to show the whole world my poor English. (I often find mistakes when re-reading my posts after several days and blush.) I couldn’t imagine anyone “enjoying” my blog or adding my blog to fav. List. Now I have many blog-friends and feel being part of the blogging community. It makes me feel good --- much more than I expected.

Thank you for visiting my site this year. Hope you come back next year, too.

posted by obachan, 12/29/2004 11:14:00 AM | link | 3 comments |

Saturday, December 25, 2004


Unlike regular Friday nights, the Izakaya I work at was not crowded at all last night. It was Christmas eve. Everyone had somewhere else to go, you know. (I’m not going into too much details about how Japanese young people spend Christmas eve.)

At 9:30pm, my boss said I could go home, because there weren’t much to do in the kitchen. I didn’t feel like going straight home, so I emailed my friends and found that one of them was in town. We decided to have a couple of beers together.

At a very tiny pub not too far from the Izakaya, we chatted over drinks and had a good time. The place was very cozy with candle lights. One of the customers bought everyone (5 or 6 altogether) a drink (champagne!) and we made a toast cheerfully. The master offered us some canapé and said it was on the house because it’s Christmas eve. I enjoyed everything there, watching the tiny bubbles coming up in the champagne glass in the candle light, and chatting and joking with my friend. It was one of the best Christmas eve I had….at that point.

At 11:30pm I left for home. I cheerfully rode my “mamachari” bicycle and dropped by a supermarket to buy groceries, still “under the influence of alcohol.” Then I came home, and with a big bag of groceries in one hand, I tried to open the door. ----- Where’s the pouch that has my room key?

I emptied my bag and the bag of groceries right outside of my door and looked for the pouch. No, it wasn’t there. I put everything back in the bags and rode my bicycle again to the supermarket. (Good heavens it is the one open for 24 hrs.) I asked a young casher about my pouch, then he immediately went to another desk and took out my pouch and gave it to me! Hurray!! It’s Christmas eve, after all!

I rode my bicycle again in the cold wind back to my apartment, and tried to take out the key from the pouch. The pouch was open…. my cell phone was there…. but the key and my driver’s license were gone.

Furiously I rode my bicycle back again to the supermarket, and asked the same casher if they kept my key and driver’s license somewhere else for me. The answer was no. I looked all over the supermarket keeping my eyes on the floor, but of course they weren’t there. Did someone who picked up my pouch kindly left my cell phone in it but stole my room key and driver’s license?! On Christmas eve?!

So one more place left to check was the tiny pub where I took out my driver’s license and joked about it. Maybe it fell on the floor while I was admiring the bubbles in the champagne glass?? But at the pub the answer I got was NO again.

On my bicycle, I tried to make a decision ---- either I should somehow get in from the window, or spend the rest of the night at a manga/internet café and go to the landlord to get a copy of the key next morning. Luckily, I had enough money to spend the rest of the night at that kind of café. Gee, am I going to be one of those folks who spend Christmas eve at a manga kissa? Or worse, I could be the only one there!

When I came to the same supermarket, I decided to go inside to ask about the key again, and parked my bicycle at the same spot as before. Then something on the ground caught my eyes… it looked about the same size as my driver’s license…and IT WAS my driver’s license! AND the room key was underneath it!!!

Joy to the World.
May your Christmas be as memorable as mine……

**** Merry Christmas ****

posted by obachan, 12/25/2004 01:18:00 PM | link | 3 comments |

Friday, December 24, 2004


It’s already Christmas eve here in Japan!

See the special Christmas template for the 24th and 25th.
(Yep! I've learned something new. See? The background doesn't scroll with the post.)

********* Merry Christmas **********
posted by obachan, 12/24/2004 01:16:00 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, December 23, 2004


There’s a wonderful end-of-year gift giving custom in Japan, which is called Oseibo. More details here. The oseibo is supposed to convey a message: “Thank you for everything you did for me (us) this year,” and considered as something more formal than Christmas gifts. That means you don’t want to send anything too cheap if you want to keep good relationship with the person. The gift represents the degree of your gratitude.

Yeah, I’m being a little sarcastic. I had a long day today because of this oseibo custom.

My mom called me up at 7:55 am and said “Can you do me a favor?!” I worked hard last night at the Izakaya and went to sleep very late, so I wasn’t ready for a conversation at 7:55 am. I don’t remember most of the conversation, but when I was fully awake, I found a memo in my handwriting (in Japanese, of course): “Oseibo. Crabs. To my sister’s father-in law,” and his mailing address and phone No followed.

Still being sleepy, I made a big mistake. I forgot that today was a national holiday (Emperor’s Birthday) and decided to go to a department store right away. A national holiday on the 23rd of December, one day before Christmas eve. You can imagine all the families in this city rushed to the mall for Christmas presents and the department store for oseibo (we have one mall and one department store in this city )--- trying to take care of both on the same day. Even in this underpopulated city, all the places were crowded like hell. The population is small here, and so are stores, thus they get crowded anyway.

Unfortunately, at the department store, I found that the good, expensive crabs were already gone. Now would it be OK to send my sister’s husband's father some cheaper crabs? What could be the safe price range that doesn’t jeopardize our relationship with he and his family? Or Should I give up crabs and send them something else, like expensive meat? Oh, but what if they don’t like meat…? So I had to call my mom for an advice.

After considering all the possible risks, she and I finally agreed to go for some less expensive crabs. Then there was a long line of people waiting to be attended. While I was in line, at least 2 people cut in in front of me. When I filled in the order slip, I misspelled the recipient’s name. (Ahhhh!!) All the sudden I felt so embarrassed about my poor handwriting, too. The idea of the recipient judging us by this gift put so much pressure on me. If I knew the recipient very well, I could have felt more at ease. But I’ve met him only 2 times before… at my sister’s engagement and wedding.

Choosing a formal gift for someone you don’t know well is so stressful, isn’t it?

Then, after coming back, I remembered that I don’t have to work in the daytime tomorrow. I could have gone shopping tomorrow, a regular Friday, instead of today, and avoided the long waiting line….

posted by obachan, 12/23/2004 10:03:00 PM | link | 2 comments |

Friday, December 17, 2004


Finally, yes finally, I started feeling like doing cleaning. It usually takes some time (long time) for me to get decided. I’ve started making a list of what to do on which day. Hope my energy level stays up until the end of the year. Gee, I don’t know why I’m always such a procrastinator when it comes to cleaning. If it’s scanning my PC for virus and/or spywares, I do it almost compulsively… oh well, actually, it’s my PC not me who is doing the work, so maybe that’s why.

OK, time to get out of my chair and do some work! Hope the weather stays fine like this for the rest of the week!

OK, the cleaning for today is almost done. I’m taking a break with a cup of nice hot lemonade with honey.

When I clean my kitchen, I always recall one scene from an old TV drama, Cagney and Lacey. I don’t remember which, but one of them had a habit of furiously cleaning the friege when she got mad or depressed, even in the middle of the night. How I wished to have that kind of habit myself, or someone with that habit living together!

I do know cleaning has a therapeutic effect and I do have some “how-to” books on overcoming procrastination. It’s just that all my knowledge and energy have to come together and sadly enough it doesn't happen too often. Let's just hope that it happens in time ;)

posted by obachan, 12/17/2004 10:47:00 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, December 16, 2004


There’s a park in this city called “Chuo Koen.” Its English translation is “Central park” but this tiny park isn’t like the one in NYC at all. Anyway, now this big Christmas tree in the park is center of attention. Every day I see a few people holding up their cell phones with built-in camera to take photos of this tree.

posted by obachan, 12/16/2004 01:02:00 AM | link | 2 comments |

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


I’d been working on a real time-consuming calculation for one whole week last week, on and off, and today. Finally this afternoon, we (my boss and me) found out that we got figures from a wrong source to start the calculation with….
posted by obachan, 12/15/2004 11:35:00 AM | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, December 12, 2004


OK, I’ll be honest. Until this day, I had almost no idea what Kagura was. All I knew was that it was some kind of Japanese tradition. Period. Well, Live and Learn. Today, most unexpectedly, I had a chance to see Kagura and believe it or not, I enjoyed it so much.

Roughly summarizing what I read in some Japanese websites after coming back, Kagura is a traditional sacred dance and music dedicated to Shinto Gods to thank for the good harvest and chase bad luck away. In the past, only Shinto priests were allowed to perform Kagura, but these days non-priests can also perform, so the Kagura tradition seems to be mainly passed down by members of preservation association in each village or province.

Of course I didn’t know anything like that when I saw the performance on stage in front of Hirome ichiba (the food court where they had the Halloween party in Oct.) this afternoon. There was a new cultural event going on. The event looked like a dance festival and the program listed a variety of dance performances from traditional ones like Kagura and sword dance to modern street dance and Hawaiian hula!

Hawaiian hula dance. I was impressed with their wonderful smile. They looked so happy even in their bare feet on this chilly, drizzling day!

Kagura. The story was about searching for a missing sword or something, I think.

A goblin in Kagura. The rope with paper strips and holly sprigs indicate that it is a sacred area.

A baby held by the goblin is said to grow stronger and healthier. (I'm more worried about the baby being severely traumatized…) But the goblin gently patted the baby on the head after the dance and the baby stopped crying.

Bow Dance.

It’s such a shame that I couldn’t take a good shot of this gyu's performance. He held 2 wooden trays on his open palms (never grabbed them) and moved them up and down, front to back, and he finally rolled on the floor still holding 2 wooden trays on his palms. Amazing!!

Meanwhile, Yosakoi dance was being performed in the nearby shopping arcade. (Yosakoi festival is held only once a year in August, but some teams dance Yosakoi in other events, too.)

I love their costume and Goldfish-shaped pouch!

I used to think that Japanese traditional dance and music are very elegant, but kind of too slow and not too exciting (sorry.) But today, the Kagura music was really uptempo with 4 beat rhythm (or 16 beat? I can’t tell the difference) and the movements were not slow with lots of circular turns and stomps. Traditional costumes and colored paper strips were beautiful. I guess those paper strips have some special meanings in Shinto. It’d be interesting to learn about those meanings.

posted by obachan, 12/12/2004 10:40:00 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, December 10, 2004


My work-related appointment was cancelled and I got some unexpected free time this afternoon. That gave me time to do what I’ve been thinking about but postponing. Yes. I went to see the doctor.

As I wrote before, there’s a gloomy forecast about the cedar pollen next spring. I was told that I need to start taking medicine a few weeks earlier to be ready when the allergy season comes. The hospital must be less crowded on a weekday, so it’s a perfect opportunity, isn’t it? And I was right. There weren’t many people in the waiting room.

Last year cedar trees had less flowers than usual years, and I thought maybe I could survive without medication if I had plenty of ten-cha (甜茶 sweet tea), yogurt and mackerel. (I’m not kidding. They say on TV that these are the food that helps you fight the pollen allergy.) In early February, I hated myself so much for thinking like that. With full-blown allergy symptoms, I went to the doctor and ended up with a steroid nose spray and 2 kinds of pills. I really want to avoid steroid as much as possible, so this year I want to be more prepared.

The doctor is such a nice person, maybe in his early 30s, but the way he talks always makes me laugh. He always talks to me like I’m 5 years old. Maybe he was a pediatric otolaryngologist before??? It’s hard not to laugh when I hear him talking to a 70-y.o. man with a perfect pediatrician’s tone just changing some words into honorifics.

Anyway, I spent some delightful minutes there with nasal inhaler in my nose and came home with Zyrtec (prescription for 2 wks.) This antihistamine gives me a slight headache when I wake up in the morning, but it’s better than sneezing all day…
posted by obachan, 12/10/2004 11:57:00 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Finally, the leaves started turning colors!! I should’ve waited another week before changing the template of this blog…. because this is going to be a real autumn-like post today.

Hazenoki (Rhus succedanea) Do not touch the leaves.

I took a walk in Kochi castle garden this afternoon and enjoyed the beautiful maple leaves.

They were stunningly beautiful!!

I did my best with my digital camera, but none of these photos show the real colors I saw with my eyes.

(Pics of maple leaves can be enlarged. Click on them.)

A kitty cat and autumn leaves

posted by obachan, 12/09/2004 01:17:00 AM | link | 5 comments |

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


I have a special feeling for what I write. No matter how good or bad it is, what I write is always part of what I am and who I am. So are my blog posts. Especially when I often work on my blog template to make my blog “my kind of place” to express myself. My blogs are my little universe that reflects what I have in myself, and my writings there are almost like my own children.

The great thing about blogging is that it gives me an extra joy of “sharing” my expressions with others and getting responses from all over the world. Such interactions brought into my life by blogging added so much to my life. My blogs are the places for such interactions to happen. Therefore, to me, my blogs are not something to be put into monetary value.

When I found that my blogs (more precisely, virtual stock of my blogs) were sold/bought in a game called “Blogshares,” I was so surprised. And honestly, it wasn’t a pleasant surprise. I understand that most people are interested in some kind of ratings of their own blogs, and don’t mind if the ratings were indicated by how much virtual money their blogs are worth. I can also imagine that seeing increasing amount of virtual dough by selling something can really amuse some people. But the thing is, I’m NOT one of them.

For a player of this game who intends to sell/buy the stock of my blogs, my sites probably mean nothing but mere “source of monetary gain.” That is, however, not the way I see my own blogs. Even though I don’t have the right to control how others see/treat my blogs, I at least wanted to have the right to choose whether I let my blogs listed in that kind of game or not. What really got on my nerve was that my blogs were included in the game totally without my knowledge. But probably it was my fault… maybe I should’ve done something about robots or spiders, right? Something that this obachan has to learn to keep up with modern internet communities… Yeah, it was me who wrote “it’s never too late to learn” in this blog before.

Anyway, I made a request today to delist my sites from the game of Blogshares. I assume they'll be delisted sometime next week (or could be later.) Please don’t take this personally, but some people already did what they wanted using my sites. Now it's my turn to do what I want for my own blogs.

posted by obachan, 12/08/2004 05:36:00 PM | link | 9 comments |

Sunday, December 05, 2004


I had heard that Typhoon NO.27 (Nanmadol) already died down by yesterday evening, so I wasn’t prepared for the storm last night. I even left some laundries drying on the balcony because they were not completely dry. The roof on the balcony usually saves the laundries from getting wet unless it rains too hard with a strong wind. But unfortunately, it did.

This is what happened. It was already too late when I noticed the strong wind and tried to get the laundries inside. I had no other choice but to dump all of them again in the washing machine. Of course all of my herbs were still on the balcony, soaked wet and being blown by the wind. Warnings of heavy rain and landslide were announced on TV. And believe it or not, it’s December, for God’s sake!!

The good thing is that the sun came out this morning to dry my laundries. My rosemary planter was lying on its side, but there seemed to be no damage to the plant. Nothing on my balcony seemed to have been blown away into the neighbors’ balconies or backyards. (What a relief!)

This afternoon I got an unexpected call from a friend of mine and we ended up shooting pool together for about an hour in the afternoon. We played 8-ball.

Speaking of 8-ball, I have the impression that 8-ball rules differ so much from country to country… I once played a guy from Africa, and his rule was like you get 2 shots after your opponent missed the pocket or scratched the cue ball, and it also gives you “ball in hand,” allowing you to start from anywhere you like. What do you think? I personally did not like that rule.

Today I played with someone else and we settled down with “all call-shots” and “cue ball in the kitchen after a scratch.” It was fun (at least, to me.)

BTW, I’ve heard about the movie “Pakners” (in which Efren Reyes played a role). I wonder if it was a big hit in Philippines…

posted by obachan, 12/05/2004 06:16:00 PM | link | 3 comments |

Saturday, December 04, 2004


It’s finally December! Time for a more winter-like template, right? The leaves on the left are, according to the designer, “yukimachi-zasa” which means bamboo leaves waiting to catch snowflakes. See the snow falling on the bamboo leaves?

The actual weather here isn’t winter-like at all. Absolutely no snowfall. Just pouring rain today. It’s not very cold and I still haven’t turned on my Kotatsu yet. There was a typhoon (Nanmadol) coming towards Japan, I heard, but I guess it’s an extratropical cyclone now. In December! How unusual! Well, this year has been an unusual year anyway. I don’t remember how many times I posted about typhoon and having to move my planters from the balcony to the bathroom.

What’s more unusual (and devastating to me) is, however, coming early next year, I heard. The cedar trees are going to have more flowers in 2005 and the amount of wind-borne pollen is expected to be 30 times more than that of 2004. It’s going to KILL ME. Honestly. I’m going to have to find a good clinic real soon and start taking medicine before the end of this month.

Well, I guess I don’t want to go outside at all today….the rain is getting heavier. The grocery shopping can wait till tomorrow so for today I’ll just stay at home and enjoy my solitude with books and yummies ….and bloghopping, maybe.

posted by obachan, 12/04/2004 10:06:00 AM | link | 3 comments |

Thursday, December 02, 2004


I rented and watched a video, “The Last Samurai” yesterday. (Yes, I waited for about a year for this film to be available in videos.) Since then I’ve been having a hard time trying to put my thoughts and feelings into words. I think the movie was well-made, but somehow, for everything I want to write about it, there always comes a word “but…” at the end.

“Yes, the battle scenes and sword fights were marvelously done, but…” “Yes, American staff obviously studied Japanese culture to a great extent and visualized it successfully. I do feel their respect towards Japanese culture and Kurosawa’s movie, and as a Japanese I appreciate it so much, but…” “Yes, Katsumoto’s presence was impressive, and the friendship between he and Algren was touching, but…” “Yeah, I can see how Algren was attracted to Bushido, and how taka and Algren felt attracted to each other, but…” And what’s annoying is that I can’t figure out what I want to add after those “buts.”

A friend of mine who saw this movie last year at the theater had told me, “After all, I didn’t think that movie was really about Bushido. It’s more about Native Americans.” At that time I thought “What the heck is this guy talking about?” but now I think I see what he meant. I also can’t help feeling “this movie is not about samurai or Bushido per se.”

I mean no offence, but I wondered if this film was about America’s self-questioning or self-reflection about the way they have been and how they have treated minority groups. Was Samurai/Bushido a vehicle for their self-reflection? There’s nothing bad about that and, as a Japanese, I didn’t get my feelings hurt by that, “but…” I just can’t help feeling that something was displaced, though I’m not sure what that “something” is.

Anyway, in this movie, there were some scenes in which taka shut the sliding door between she and Algren. I felt something really Japanese and feminine in the way she shut the door.

posted by obachan, 12/02/2004 01:21:00 AM | link | 2 comments |