Saturday, September 30, 2006


I passed the test!
Yesterday I got a mail in my mailbox. When I saw the envelope, I knew what it was about. Since it was thin, I expected a good news (because if I didn’t pass, they would have enclosed bunch of flyers with info. on the course schedule and ads of study guides, etc.) I was right. There was a piece of paper in there just saying “passed.” That was it. It didn’t say anything about how I did – what my score was or which problems I missed. That’s not nice… But I’m not going to complain as far as I know that I passed. Now I’m officially certified as a clerk who can make billing statements of the elderly care insurance in emergency situations in the office like power failure or PC crash. Impressive, ha? ;)

So today I’m going to give myself a little reward and now I’m listing up the things I want to do: Shopping, shooting pool, trying out a new dessert recipe… Wow, it’s going to be a nice day today. :D

* Thank you everyone for your support.
posted by obachan, 9/30/2006 11:20:00 AM | link | 9 comments |

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Yesterday I visited a tea ceremony club at an elementary school in Kochi city. It was for an article I’m currently writing for a magazine, and I had a great time there. (For those who are not familiar with the tea ceremony, here is some information.) 

As I wrote in my blogs before, my mom is a tea ceremony teacher. She made arrangements for me with her fellow teacher who teaches this club. (Thanks mom!) And the young and open-minded principal of the elementary school gave me permission to attend the club and take photos of the kids. He also asked the kids’ parents if it was OK to use the photos for the magazine article and got their permission for me. (There are more than 12 kids in the club. Did he make 12 phone calls?! Gee, what a kindness! I’m so grateful.)

Unfortunately, I told them about the magazine but not about this blog, so I didn’t get a permission to post the photos of the kids here. But let me tell you… They were so adorable! Anyway, here I posted a couple of photos that don’t include kids.

I have to admit that I had a stereotype about what a tea ceremony club is like. -- Serious atmosphere. Quiet and obedient kids who were told by their parents to join this club. -- They must be trying so hard not to say “Oh, bitter!” after drinking tea made by mixing matcha powder and hot water. But it was not like that AT ALL!

The teacher, who is about my mom’s age, brought more than 10 tea bowls, sweets and minimum tea utensils for kids to prepare and serve tea. They use a sort of Japanese-style multipurpose room at the elementary school, which is floored with tatami mats. After she laid the utensils and sweets out on a couple of low tables, kids came in one after another. No, they were not super-patient, serious students or anything… they were just cute, ordinary kids: three boys and seven girls. (I heard that the boys were also enthusiastic succor players!) The kids were rather quiet, but looked comfortable and relaxed being there.

The kids were broken into pairs and given the tasks of serving sweets and making/serving tea. They took turns to do the tasks. With the teachers’ help, they prepared tea, two of them at one time, on the low table near the wall, and brought it across the room to the kids who were given the task of being “guests.”

Most of the formal procedures were skipped, but they did bow and offer tea properly, sitting on the tatami floor. It was just so cute when they did that! And they were obviously having fun doing so. For them it was probably a fun part of the game rather than a rule they were forced to follow. Most surprisingly, the kids seemed to like the taste of the bitter green tea! The teacher said that when she started teaching this club, she made weaker tea for the kids, but soon they asked her to make it stronger, just like the tea that adults drink. After all kids drank tea once, the teacher asked, “Who wants second?” then almost all kids raised their hands with big smiles! @.@

The teacher was terribly busy throughout the practice. She made hot water (but not too hot for the kids’ safety) in the adjacent small kitchen and brought it in cute little tea pots to the low table where kids prepared tea. She was obviously trying to give each kid a chance to do all kinds of tasks, and give me more chances to shoot the photos. What was very impressive and even touching for me was that, seeing the teacher being that busy, some of the kids, including the succor boy, spontaneously washed the tea bowls in the kitchen to save the teacher’s trouble!

I felt that this simplified tea ceremony practice was successfully giving the kids the most important message of this traditional performance. The teacher said, “I don’t want to force these kids to memorize detailed rules, because it’s not what tea ceremony is really about. Tea ceremony is about enjoying tea.” I think the kids are so lucky to be in this tea ceremony club with this teacher.

They were talking about some kind of winter school festival in January in which the tea ceremony club members serve tea to visitors from the community. I’m thinking about visiting this, and if I managed to get their parents’ permission, I’ll post the photos of them doing tea ceremony. ;)
posted by obachan, 9/27/2006 11:00:00 AM | link | 7 comments |

Saturday, September 23, 2006


It’s such a nice day out. Not too hot, not too cold. Perfect day for going out with my camera and a nice bento. I’ve got to enjoy every minute of a gorgeous autumn weekend like this. (But first of all, I’ve got to finish doing the dishes…)

Yep, I changed the background design though it is not the end of the month yet. It’s not that I got tired of the dragonfly graphic. It’s just that I cannot see it any more and I got tired of seeing the blank background. Were you able to see, until today, the sunset glow and dragonflies which came down with you as you scrolled down? I really liked them, but I hadn’t seen them since I installed Norton Internet Security 2006 about a week ago. No, that’s not exactly right… I was able to see them a couple of times when I repeated re-loading about 10 times. But when I re-opened the browser (Firefox 1.0.7) after closing it once and saw this site again, the background was blank again.

I don’t know what’s wrong… Turning off ad-block or pop-up block of Norton didn’t help. Looks like this 2006 version of Norton does not like the URLs of the web graphics I uploaded via a Japanese free blog (the one I use for keeping my watercolors)... So I tried to upload the dragonfly graphic to blogger using hello, but seems like hello can only take care of jpg images, not gif or png. Am I wrong?

So, I had to spend good amount of time, after I came back from the “lunch in the park,” to find this jpg image that I like. I think it looks pretty good… though it doesn’t look really “Japanese.” Is there anyone who cannot see the ivy fixed on the top left of this site? If so, please let me know your browser and antivirus software. No, I can’t fix the problem for you, but at least I can post an apology ;P
posted by obachan, 9/23/2006 10:33:00 AM | link | 4 comments |

Friday, September 15, 2006


Yes, we were informed about it beforehand, so it’s not the power company’s fault. They had given us flyers about the scheduled power down from 13:30 to 16:00 for some power distribution work. I just completely forgot about it.

When the light went off, I was in the middle of my net search. Luckily, I didn’t lose any data or anything. But the following two and half hours felt soooooooooooo long. No PC. No TV. No electric fan. Good thing that it was a relatively cool, cloudy day. The breeze from the open window helped me survive, and I didn’t have to worry too much about the food in the fridge/freezer.

The problem was that I had to cancel almost everything I planned to do in the afternoon. No net search. No blogging. No emailing. I thought about taking a couple of food photos, but it was a little too dark in the room on a cloudy day without the room light. For my late lunch, I was going to microwave the frozen rice in the freezer, but I had to give up on that, too. So I tried to toast the frozen bread instead, and realized that it wouldn’t work without electricity. Of course.

I ended up making spaghetti for lunch and sketching a jar on the table all afternoon. I tried to read a book first, but found out that it was too depressing to do so on a cloudy day without the room light on. And I didn’t want to go out because they were calling for rain.

When the power finally came back on, it was about time I had to leave for work. Oh, well…
posted by obachan, 9/15/2006 11:17:00 PM | link | 4 comments |

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Princess Kiko gave birth to a baby boy this morning. I guess many of us Japanese felt somewhat relieved by the news, not because the birth solves all the problems but it bought us some time. I have to admit that I am one of them.

I have to confess that I wasn’t clear about the difference between supporting “a female emperor” and supporting “maternal-based succession of the throne” until this morning. Well, I’m still not 100% clear, but I did a bit of net search and now I understand at least better than before. Now I know that the real issue was not whether a female is qualified as an emperor; it was whether it is OK to end the “paternal line of succession” which has continued for over 2600 years. Whether Princess Aiko (the only daughter of Crown Prince) becomes an emperor or not is not the real issue -- it is what would happen when she married someone and had a baby.

The Imperial House Law allows paternal line of succession only. The law was almost going to be changed in order to allow Princess Aiko to be a female emperor because the birth of a male heir seemed hopeless. But many do not want to change the law because they fear that if Princess Aiko became a female emperor and “married someone from outside the Imperial Family, the male Y chromosome from the current line would be forever lost, replaced by the Y chromosome of whoever she marries,” as mentioned in this site.

I can see the fear of abandoning something which continued for over 2600 years and cannot be found in any other countries. But at the same time, I can’t help raising questions such as “What indispensable quality does the imperial Y chromosome have? Or is it just the‘continuation’per se that is honored?”“Are we still thinking that a boy is better than a girl, or a mother who gave birth to a boy is a winner?”“Is passing down the Y chromosome the ultimate role of the imperial families? Does it mean that it’s the proper Y chromosome, not the ability/personality of the emperor that matters?” Then I realized that I have never thought about what kind of ability/personality I wanted for the emperor to have.

So I guess, after all, my questions can be boiled down to these basic ones: “What is emperor? What is royal family? What is the role we want them to play --- or is it us or them who should decide on their roles?” No easy answer... right? I think it is a blessing that this baby boy gave us time to discuss these issues more carefully and thoroughly. To me it doesn’t seem to be a good idea to change the Imperial House Law in a hurry when Crown Princess Masako is still psychologically vulnerable.
posted by obachan, 9/06/2006 11:55:00 PM | link | 4 comments |