OK. Bit of a rewind here. Back to Sunday and Alpha session number 10.Here are three out of our four Alpha people - (left to right) Naomi, Etsuko and Akemi. Unfortunately, Mitsuko is in hospital, although we are helping her keep up by copying (sorry Andy!) the audio from the Alpha videos onto regular tapes for her to listen to on her walkman.

Last of the Bob-hicans


Here he is - the last of the Bobs. This is my boss, Bob, otherwise known as Mr. Takahashi, or Mr. T.

All clear sounds


Well, the skies are clear now, as you can see in this picture. The typhoon went by when we were trying to sleep. In the end I had my earplugs in and I took a melatonin and that did it for me, but it was really noisy. A few things got blown over on our balcony, but apart from that, it doesn't look like there is any damage in our area.

Typhoon 16 is here

The typhoon has just started getting going here. I went with my boss to another city to visit a hanging scroll factory today and there were strong gusts of wind when we were driving back to the office on the expressway. Then, just as I got off the 18:37 train (my usual - and, yes, it really does leave at exactly that time almost 99 days out of 100) it started raining here as well. Now the wind is getting up and I am guessing the typhoon is going to be going over us this evening.

Abigail has taken the washing poles down and has tried to prepare the balcony for the onslaught. Fortunately, our apartment here is much newer and, therefore, much less peremable to wind than the apartment we had in Chiryu, so we won't be kept awake all night listening to the wind whistling round the windows and rattling the internal doors.

We just now tried to call Chuck and Julie in Kumamoto (where the city is knee-deep in water according to the news story below), but we were not able to get them. Hopefully they are still in America, but if not, at least they are on the seventh floor!

We'll call you again soon C & J!

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Typhoon 16 lashes south Japan

Crop Circle Mystery Solved


Who'da thunk it was a bunch of Japanese kids....

Unique rainbow


This is a rainbow we just saw as while we were walking through the rice fields near our house. The clouds must have been focusing the sun into narrow columns that were then being refracted by some falling rain. Beautiful!

Help cheer Bob up

Bob my co-worker has been acting a little prickly lately, and when I asked what was wrong, he told me that he was shrivelling up inside due to a complete lack of fanmail. So if you have a word of encouragement for Bob, be sure to click on the link below and leave a message for him.

Bob wants fanmail


"Dirty pingies (fingers) delicious truffles make." (Yoda)

See the local time in Japan

You can now see the local time in Japan by clicking the link text at the top right of our blog pages under the profiles section. So, if you are thinking of giving us a call (hint! hint!), then you know what you should check first.

Elizabeth Gray Vining - a Friend

I'm reading a wonderful book at the moment, Windows for the Crown Prince, written in 1952 by an amazing Quaker woman, Elizabeth Gray Vining. She was invited to teach the Crown Prince, Akihito (who is now Emperor) in Japan for four years. Here's a link to her life story:

http://www2.gol.com/users/quakers/vining_obituary.htm


FEELings, nothing more than FEELings...

Just got back from our little local grocery store here in Nishi (west) Okazaki. FEEL is a great place, lots of local grandmas and grandpas who like to poke the meat packages to see if it's fresh or not. So I got to the register and the cashier never looked at me. She scanned all the groceries and was counting out the number of bags I needed. Then I gave her the money, saying little things all the while, and she handed me my change, still never even glancing my way. When she finally did, and saw my gaijin face, she jumped! Classic. She said she had thought I was Japanese. I said I'm not, yet. It certainly was a great compliment and made me FEEL pretty good.

Dates!

Stephen and I will continue our world traveling madness with two more trips this year to the countries of our births.

Itinerary for England:

Sept. 17 - fly to U.K.
Sept. 18 - travel to Bristol
Sept. 19 - participate in thanksgiving ceremony at friends' church and become godparents for their third son, Rupert
Sept. 20 - back to Marlow
Sept. 21 - visit our friend Mel
Sept. 22 - off to Malvern area for a few days of pre-wedding festivities
Sept. 23 - Wedding garb fitting a.m.
Sept. 24 - Family shin-dig evening
Sept. 25 - Stephen's brother Paul marries Alison
Sept. 26 - fly back
Sept. 27 - land in Japan

Itinerary for America:

Dec. 21 - arrive in Florida
Jan. 4 - fly back
Jan. 5 - land in Japan

* Notice our itinerary for Florida is empty at the moment! Please let us know if you'd like to get together. Of course we have family engagements on the 24th and 25th.

Boyfriend Arm Pillow

Ah! Another great Japanese invention, much like the Unuseless Inventions categorized in a book Paul gave me a while ago now, although this one looks like it is going to break through into Western markets as well: The perfect partner for the lonely single lady? Interestingly, it is called the "Boyfriend" Arm Pillow, because you couldn't possibly hope for this level of intimacy from a husband now could you. Although perhaps it is fair to say that the other reason for the name was that "Dismembered Torso Pillow" didn't quite have the right ring to it...Anyway, there you have it folks: If you think having a disjointed manequin groping you all night is going to help you sleep, then this is the product for you!

Boyfriend Arm Pillow

Pot calls kettle black

Does the North Korean News Agency have nothing better to do than entertain the rest of the world? What hilarious neighbours we have.

North Korea likens Bush to Hitler

Another Bob


Okay, let's introduce you to another Bob. This is Bob our faithful Toyota Corolla. He was born in 1997 and, until we adopted him last year, led a peaceful life as a grandpa car. In fact, he still is a grandpa car, as most people our age would not be seen dead in such an uncool set of wheels.

The magnetic sticker you can see on his nose marks us out as new drivers. The Japanese call this a wakaba ma-ku (or, "young leaf symbol"). There is another kind that old people must put on their cars that is yellow and orange, which we call an ochiba ma-ku(or, "fallen leaf" symbol), but that is just our little joke. We both have had to get Japanese driving licenses, so under the Japanese system we have been classified as "new". Fortunately, since Abigail passed her Japanese driving test almost a year ago now, we will be able to take it off the car soon and no longer be a target for aggressive drivers.

Bonding with the neighbours


Today was the bi-annual drain cleaning in our neighbourhood. The drains run down the side of the roads and provide water for the rice fields, such as this one behind our apartment. They get clogged with all kinds of silt, leaves and cigarette butts, so twice a year the neighbourhood go out with special scooper-shovels to clean them out. The information we had received said that it would start at 8am, so in typical Japanese fashion, almost everyone was already out there and it was mostly finished by the time I got there at 8. In fact, both Abigail and I had forgotten to turn our alarm clocks on last night, so when I heard ominous scraping sounds, I jumped up out of bed and asked Abigail what time it was. It was 7:57am and I was just able to make it in time having missed the previous dredging, so our names are not "mud" here yet. Phew!

The Munday Residence


For those of you who haven't been to visit us yet, here is a quick visual summary of our living quarters here. It is pretty self-explanatory, apart from the toilet - sorry "restroom": Abigail wanted you to see the amazing "Captain's Chair" console feature on the left of the "bowl" that allows the "user" to control all kinds of fancy cleaning and heating arrangements. If you want to know more, you will have to come and try it for yourself. After all, "Seeing" is believing!

Hey, you crazy driver!


This is my Japanese sensei, Kazuko. I have class every Thursday. The most interesting thing I learned today is that there are car navigation systems for sale in Japan now that have different dialects for different regions, or you can buy one from a different region just for a joke. I can't imagine spending about $500 for a laugh! Anyway, there's an Osaka dialect car navi that yells at the driver in an angry voice if he or she makes a wrong turn. Apparently.

Bob


I'd just like to introduce you to my faithful colleague, Bob. Be sure not to confuse him with my boss, Bob, or our car, Bob, whose pictures will hopefully be coming later. Bob here is not only faithful, but he is extremely plucky and hard to kill, having survived several summer weeks without watering. Bob would like you to know that he is accepting fan-mail and can be reached by leaving a comment via the link below.

Bring on the BBQ!


We had a wonderful time at the church barbeque. Etsuko brought 7 friends, which was great, although we kind of wished that church people had not been so busy with all of their barbequing and shaved-ice making as they didn't have much chance to talk with the guests. We tried our best to "entertain" but it was hard work with so many people.

Second time lucky

Well, today it went a lot better with the phone calling. This time I asked my colleague, KS, for some advice and then he suggested that I do a role play with another colleague. They were very helpful and I didn't feel embarassed. Anyway, it all went better and I think I got my point across this time, so my boss, Bob, and I will be going to Gifu on Thursday to visit this company.

Too successful?

Our webserver has really been smoking today! The reason is that we operate a website for the Japanese Olympic team football ("soccer") manager. The fact that the Olympics are happening right now is obviously causing an increase in visitors, but the biggest thing today has been that Yahoo Japan put a link in one of its news stories to this site. Their story went on-line at 10:35 and we suddenly started seeing over 2,000 visitors per hour! Crazy - although it is nice when a problem is due to being too successful!

You can clog up our server even more by clicking on the link below...

Olympic Soccer Coach, Masayuki Yamamoto

Still learning

Today was my first day back at work after the obon break. Most of the day I think I was bored as I am still waiting for other people to do their stuff on my project. Then in the afternoon my boss asked me to contact a hanging scroll (kakejiku) maker in Gifu to arrange a date for us to go and visit their factory. (My little project involves hanging scrolls - that's the connection.) Anyway, I thought it would be easiest to fax them as it seems like it would make communication clearer. However, when I told my boss that I had faxed them, he said that it was better to make a first contact by phone, so I should call them up. I didn't really want to and, having been looking at my little computer screen all day, I was feeling a little bit spacey as well - which didn't help. When it came to it, what I had feared happened and it seemed like there was a total lack of communication. I didn't even manage to make the appointment. It was so frustrating. I don't know whether it was me not communicating well, or whether it was a phenomenon I have observed sometimes of Japanese people kind of freezing up when a foreigner talks to them so that whatever you say ends up going right over their heads - even if you are speaking Japanese. Whatever it was, I suddenly felt depressed and embarassed. I told my boss, and he said that it was a good experience for me and that I should try again tomorrow. I know he is right, and I think what I will do is to ask my colleague first for some tips on how to approach the call. Hopefully that will do the trick.

Most of the time I think I appear confident in Japanese, but a lot of that is fakery to cover the real fragility of my knowledge and ability. Sometimes I get found out, and I guess today was one of them. I am still learning, and I should make the most of it and see what techniques I can glean from my colleagues tomorrow.


There were fireworks when we first kissed (Millenium night) that still continue to burn.


We just got back from a barbeque at our church. Here we are with our little group - or should we say that we were with Etsuko and eight of her friends, who we have also started to get to know. I got to hang out with a beautiful, yukata-clad lady, so I was happy.


We have been going to a new church about 30 minutes drive South of here since we moved apartments. These are our pastors, Mr. and Mrs. Ito. As you can see, they are the friendly, grandparent-type who love to pray for people. In fact, yesterday Mrs. Ito called and said that they had heard about the hurricane in Orlando and so they wanted us to know that they had been praying for Abigail's family. The funny thing was that at that time we thought that the hurricane would not be hitting Orlando and so we thanked them but told them that we were sure everyone was OK. Of course, then when we checked the Internet we found out what had happened we were a bit embarrased. But anyway, that is what they are like - always praying for and thinking about others. (Oh, and everyone we know in Florida is OK as far as we know.)


Stephen and I hang out a couple of times a month nearby with some kids in an orphanage. We have a great time, running around with them (there are about 70), playing Frisbee, Uno, and whatever games they improvise. They are all really creative and we have so much fun with them. Today we did some writing in the sand, and this little guy was really into drawing flowers, too.


I just finished a series of 8 special English classes for 12 of my students who are going to Australia for a week. However, they'll only be doing a 2-day homestay, and will be staying in a hotel the rest of the time, all paid for by the city. This is the third year I've done these classes. Different students every year. This year was a quiet bunch at the beginning, but opened up a bit more by the end. I imagine next week I'll get 12 postcards with koalas on the front. I hope they have a great time and wish they could stay with their homestay families for longer.


If you are in Florida, this is old news for you, but if you aren't, you may not know that a certain individual named "Charley" has recently made a concerted effort to wipe out most of Abigail's family and friends. We have heard from Abigail's parents that they are okay, but we are not sure about everyone else. Fortunately, God is in charge and is doing His job of looking after everybody.

Something happened on the way to the Olympic Stadium

Let me just tell you that I am psyched about watching the Olympics! Love it. Just watched the opening ceremony on Japanese TV. Some of the countries had wonderful outfits for the athletes as they marched into the stadium. I especially loved some of the African and Pacific Island costumes. Absolutely beautiful. What's up with Japan? They could've worn summer yukata (cotton kimono in bright, summery colors), but instead they chose to wear flowery curtains. Nan de da ro (why)?


The opening ceremonies for the Olympics. Why did the Japanese athletes choose to wear futon covers? I was just wondering...


We just had a fun time getting to know some of our neighbours a bit better while indulging in the Japanese summer pastime of playing with fireworks. Well, they were more like sparklers, but had a bit more of a kick than their Western counterparts. Here you can see Abigail with Mrs. Kani (see previous post) and Mr. Hori, who both live on the first floor of our building here.

The changing attitudes of Japanese women

This is an interesting video report from the BBC about the changing attitudes of Japanese women. Click on the link and watch it in Real Player.

The only thing I think they missed was that it seems to me that for many Japanese men the ideal wife would be someone just like their own mothers.

BBC NEWS | Japanese women

I'm so glad to know that our "troubled" bank (UFJ) has been taken over. Let's hope Mitsubishi is better at banking than its sister company is at making high-quality, non-self-immolating automobiles.

BBC NEWS | Business | Merger forms world's biggest bank

... there is a target for Al Qaeda" (New Revised Imam Ali G Version). Or at least, that is what the Australian Foreign Ministry must be thinking as it has apparently cautioned citizens travelling to the Olympics to "avoid crowds". Hmmm.

Another lantern-lined street...


Another lantern-lined street in Asuke. The lanterns made for a great atmosphere and we were surprised and pleased that there were so few people there as well. It could be because this festival has only been going for about three years and, perhaps because of this, it is not on the package tour agenda yet - and long may that continue. However, there were a lot of amateur photographers getting in my way as I tried to take some artsy pictures. How annoying.

A lantern-lined alley in Asuke


Lanterns lining a backstreet in Asuke. These lanterns are lit by small parafin lamps, but we have a couple of similar ones in our apartment (although they use electricity.)


Quick quiz: We took this picture on the way to Asuke this evening. The question is, what product or service do you think this sign is advertising? (Post your ideas as a comment by clicking on the link next to this text.)

English teaching tips

When teaching English to people who speak another language, there are a number of methods you can use to help them grasp it more easily. Let me demonstrate one of these below. It is a fairly elementary method that uses association to help students learn several words at one time. In this case, we are going to look at a set of verbs that are built around a common underlying theme:

Member - To learn something for the first time.

Remember - To recall something you learned earlier.

Dismember - To forget what it was that you used to be able to recall that you learned earlier (probably - although you are not sure if you really did learn it at all.)



Some things never change.... Paul Munday, caught on camera.

Learning Kanji

My goal this year has been to get the 1,945 joyo kanji (i.e. the kanji that are stipulated by the government as required for high school graduation) down. I have been using free flashcard programs called JFC and KanjiGold on the computer and that has really helped my recognition. However, I am still not finding that I can remember them "cold" very well when I am writing. Most of the time that doesn't really matter, because when I type Japanese on the computer, it gives me a selection of the kanji that match that pronunciation and I can then just recognize and select. But anyway, I really want to get them down and to move beyond them into the jinmei (name) kanji and other more obscure ones even further beyond that.

Anyway, a few months ago I came across some books by James Heisig that use a mnemonic system to make kanji learning easier. Another thing is that these books not only cover joyo kanji, but (unusually for kanji study books) have a volume that goes beyond that to include another 1,000 extra ones as well. Having tried the system out, I decided to buy volume 1 and 2 yesterday and to use them to review and cement in my mind the first 2,000-ish. By then I am hoping that they will be firmly entrenched in my memory and I will also have become used to the system so that I can use volume 3 to add another 1,000 reasonably quickly.

I am excited, as I love kanji (I think I am a visual leaner anyway) and I also want to keep my tools sharpened since Japanese language and translation are my main skills by which I earn a living.

If you enjoy funny Japanese English

This site has a lot of funny Japanese English from T-shirts, menus, food products and even car model names. If you liked the "fork art" you will love this!

Go to Engrish.com!


As seen in Maruzen, a store in Nagoya where we went today, and a great place if you are looking for some "fork" art to take back as a souvenir from Japan.


This is me.

Wacky fushiginess

Ok, ok, I've got to blog this before Stephen does, or it could get way out of control, folks. Last night I took a melatonin (a herbal sleeping supplement) because I couldn't sleep, and it must've messed with my dreams. This morning, as I was still mostly asleep but just starting to wake up, I had this little dream in which I was a tuna sandwich, cut in half diagonally, and I just happened to mention it to Stephen. Big mistake. So now I have to get the real story out before he skews it. Melatonin is so fushigi.


Ain't love grand! Stephen and Abigail on August 9, 2004. Almost 3 years since we came to Japan (August 15, 2001).

Lunch with Anne and Mark

Yesterday, Anne and Mark left us to head off on the bullet train to Kyoto. Before we dropped them at the station, we had lunch together at a ramen restaurant. We forced them to try gyoza (Chinese rice-paper-wrapped luscious snacks with cabbage, pork, etc. inside), edamame (wonderful summer green soybeans served cold, eaten by sucking them out of their pods), and big bowls of steaming, garlic-graced ramen. We had had yakiniku with them the night before. Yakiniku is bbq that is served raw and marinated on plates, and you do it yourself at the table (chicken, pork, beef, onions, corn, mushrooms, cabbage, green peppers, sometimes pumpkin). The middle of the table is endowed with a round gas or charcoal grill. Apparently, this style of dining originally came from Korea. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it...


Edamame, anyone?


Toyohashi dudes.

so can we. Stephen and I went to Horaiji today, a beautiful mountain with a Buddhist temple near the top. We parked at the bottom and walked up a million and a half steps. Ok, well, maybe not quite that many...

We met two blokes from a city called Toyohashi who had bicycled 8 hours (beginning at 4 am this morning) to get there, a blind man who was being led by his father down the stairs, and a little girl with her parents who was obviously at the end of her patience but was still going. It was a beautiful day and much cooler on the mountain than in the valleys. Stephen still managed to sweat through his backpack, and my hair looked like I had just taken a shower. It wasn't too bad going up, but my knees started shaking on the way down so I had to sit for a minute or two every few landings. We heard lots and lots of bugs and birds, VERY loud in our ears. Stephen mentioned that maybe that's why Japanese people love lots of noise and music in the stores and stations and everywhere. Even beauty spots in Japanese nature are extremely noisy.

The hydrangea are just beginning to bloom at Horaiji, about two months behind our area here, so I was excited to get to see them again. Deja vu.

Family history

It has been good having Anne and Mark (my Aunt and Uncle, who live in Adelaide, Australia) staying with us a couple of days. Actually, they left us yesterday to head over to Kyoto and do the tourist thing looking round the temples and gardens. Hopefully they got there OK .... :-)

Anyway, it was good to sit Anne down and find out a lot of the Munday family history. It was pretty much all new for me and I hope that she writes it all down soon before it is forgotten. Just seeing the family tree and being "introduced" to all these people I had never heard of before was interesting in itself.

I am particularly interested in finding out more about my Grandpa Munday, who died in 1982. One factoid that came up was that he was a military policeman during WWII. He was stationed at a number of places including Boscombe Down, which is where the RAF were developing the "bouncing bomb". Apparently, he did not talk about the war much as he had seen so many of his friends (the bomber crews) go off and never return. He himself was actually given orders to go to the front three times (and got the home leave in preparation) but these were always changed at the last minute before he ever got to go. I am glad he didn't have to go, or I would never have had the chance to meet him.

I hope to learn more when Anne gets back to Oz and can put more of it down on paper.

Really, really funny joke

Q: Why do anti-abortion people write so many books?

A: Because they're really prolife-ic.

Email blessings - for a change

We got an email forward from my brother-in-law, Doug, the other day. I am not usually that interested in these kinds of things, but I thought the way this one finished was interesting:

"May God continue to bless you.... Pass this on to someone else, if you'd like. There is NO LUCK attached. If you delete this, it's okay: God's Love Is Not Dependent On E-Mail."

So many forwards seem to have something like, "If you don't forward this to at least 14 people in the next 5.3 minutes, you will have bad luck." Often this follows a story about God's grace, so this kind of postscript always strikes me as incongruous. I, personally, agree with Doug's message - God's love is not dependent on email.

Real vacation!

I am on my obon (Buddhist festival of the dead) vacation now. It is so nice to be able to enjoy time relaxing. Last year at this time we did go away for about three days into the mountains, but the problem there was that we had to get the car out of the car park by 09:00 every day and were not allowed back until 17:00 (unless we wanted to pay extra for the privilege.) It made me feel like we were on a treadmill all the time. On top of that, we were thinking about buying Bob (our car) and I had different rental properties I had been looking at on the Internet going round in my head as we were needing to move by the end of October. It all worked out in the end, so maybe I should have just trusted God a bit more, but it is nice to feel more settled this year.

Cinema.com: Shall We Dance (2004) - Movie Trailers

Another version of Shall We Dance? Richard Gere? Puh-leeeeease. Why didn't they leave well enough alone? Looks awful. I hope that because of this new release, they'll decide to release the original Japanese version on DVD. If you haven't seen it, do. It's poignant, funny, and very well done. And they're not even paying me to write this.


Cinema.com: Shall We Dance (2004) - Movie Trailers

Accident at a Japanese nuclear plant

We have stayed in a Minshuku (Japanese inn) in Fukui near where this nuclear accident took place. In fact, I am fairly sure we were able to see it a little further down the coast. Mum and Dad will remember that as well as we took them there.

This is not the first time that there has been a serious accident in Japan's nuclear power generation facilities. There was a deadly accident in a place called Tokaimura a few years ago and, if I remember rightly, one of the causes of the accident was a compartmentalized bureacracy and a lack of training for the workers.
Fortunately, this time it seems that there was no radiation leak and it was not due to a fundamental lack of understanding about the principles of nuclear physics. With 25% of our power coming from nuclear plants and with Japan lacking energy resources of it's own, it is difficult to see how these problems can be resolved.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Accident at Japan nuclear plant


Happy birthday, Grandma Munday! Stephen's Dad's mum at the front left of this picture.


Happy 92nd birthday, Grandma Wright! Stephen's mum's mum on the right of this picture.


This is our friend, Etsuko Kikuchi, who many of you have heard of in connection with Alpha. Here she is washing the dishes with the radiant Abigail after Baba Church - I mean CFC - tonight.


Here is a picture of us enjoying lunch by the river. (By the way, if you want to see a bigger version of the picture, please double click it. You can then save it by right clicking it and selecting "Save".)

More tourism

Last night's prat around with the rail system meant we got up rather later than we had been planning, but we had time to take (Aunt) Anne and (Uncle) Mark over to Asuke, which is a very beautiful rural location with a scenic river, paths through the woods and a traditional craft village. This is one of the designated stops if you come over here to visit - they are the third tour party we have taken there.

Asuke has decided to address the problem of a falling and aging population by aiming at the tourist trade and has been very successful at it. They also have (although we didn't go there today) a sausage factory called ZiZi (= jiji = granddad) and a bread factory called Barbara (= baba= grandma). Yes, that's right. There is no rest for the old people in Asuke, they are sent back to work in the factories!


20,000 fireworks in 3 hours. That is more than 2 every second. And then there is all the smoke they generate blowing down wind....


Our neighbour's daughter, Kotone (her name literally means "sound of the koto"), in her summer yukata ready to go out to watch the fireworks.

Travel report update

Well we found out what happened with the train last night: Apparently, the electrical system was damaged by a lightning strike. And this was, of course, just after Mark had commented on how wonderful the Japanese trains were and how they always run on time. So clearly it is all his fault for saying that!


Here they are- brother orchids!

Fireworks!

Ok. That's better! 8 hours sleep and the late-night grumpiness of last night has worn off.

It was madness! Loads and loads of people crammed in along by the Yahagi river watching 20,000 fireworks being launched and assorted terrestrial pyrotechnics being immolated. We didn't even stay until the end - although we might as well with the train ending up being delayed by 2.5 hours. (I am going to check out the news websites to see if I can find out what the deal was with that. At the time they were mentioning something about having to repair the overhead cables, but I couldn't hear the reason why.)

Anyway, as you may have spotted, we have now bought a digital and so we will be posting some piccies very soon. But first I need to go and have brekkie with our Aussie guests.

It is now 12:21 and we have just spent 2.5 hours waiting for a train to take us 1 stop down the line back from the Okazaki firework festival. Of course, if we had known it would take that long, we would have walked - but hindsight is always 20/20 (as must have been said 6 or 7 times tonight!)

The firework festival was great, and thanks to Sandy Haworth (who requested that we get a digital camera to take pictures for our blog) there will soon be pics for us to upload and you to see. But that can wai until tomorrow... Goodnight!

Chinese football hooligans

It is not just England and Germany who have memories from the war providing a backdrop for their sporting rivalry. This weekend's soccer Asian Cup final between Japan and China in Beijing seems to be creating a similar forum for nationalistic emotions.

Although it is hard to condone the Chinese fans' actions, the feelings that the war still creates in Asia are often ignored here, so hopefully this will cause Japanese people to wake up to that reality. Just because they have got over the war doesn't mean that everyone else has....

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China appeals for football calm

Aussies ahoy

My Aunt and Uncle from Adelaide Australia just arrived at Narita airport (Tokyo) last night and are on there way to visit us today. I gave them our address and some ideas how to get here, but I don't envy them having to get from their airport hotel into the centre of Tokyo (which I think has to be done by bus), find their way to the bullet train (shinkansen) station and get on the right train. Not my idea of fun. At least they have sent their luggage ahead of them by takyubin (an excellent next day delivery service that everyone uses here.) If you are thinking of coming to visit us here, we really strongly recomment coming directly to Nagoya. And if you come after February 2005 you will be flying into the nice new airport-in-the-sea (or on an artificial island in the sea) . It is costing a fortune to build and with the Expo that is also happening here in 2005, it is proving a huge drain on public resources. (The amount of support the orphanage we visit gets has been reduced by one third.) So, make sure you enjoy it and then some good will have come out of this make-work white elephant.

Glad to not be an American - funny story

Phew - I am SO glad I am not American. If you are, then I should tell you that all those conspiracy theories that the government is out to get you are true: The President himself admitted it on TV!

Click on the link to see the full story. Then pack a suitcase, come to the UK and seek asylum.

BBC NEWS | Americas | President gaffes in terror speech

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This is fun!

Hey we are having such fun with this. We have been sneaky and attached some code from www.statcounter.com, so we have a pretty good idea of who has been visiting (even though we can just see your provider name, we can often guess who you are). Don't forget that you can post comments to any post here. Thanks for coming and be sure to come back. We are going to try to post often, so keep coming back...

... and if you want to see pics of us in Japan, then comment on this post and tell us - it may persuade us to go out and spend the money on a digital camera :)!

Tanabata

There's a Tanabata (wishing-upon-a-star, usually July 7th) festival in a nearby town today and tomorrow where I did some grocery shopping this afternoon. As I was driving out of the parking lot of the store, I saw some bosozoku (gang) chicks on mopeds, wearing yukata (summer cotton kimono), with their hair dyed really blonde, their helmets dangling from the straps behind their heads. Their yukata were bright, bright yellow and neon pink. The sights of modern Japan...

Great minds think alike

Paul (my brother) and I both got Grandma Wright the exact same orchid for her 92nd birthday today! Probably used the exact same website and the exact same delivery bloke will deliver our one later today. Fushigi....

Japan Forum - Alien versus....

Alien is up against Predator in the movies theatres soon, but who / what would you like to see take on the Alien in the sequel? My personal preference is Hello Kitty.... Vote here:

Japan Forum - Alien versus....

Crab and Noodles for Lunch

I had gone to an art exhibit on Tuesday, and liked it so much that I invited our neighbor, Crab san (yes, that's really what her name means) to go with me today. We planned to meet at her apartment on the 1st floor this morning at 9 (we live on the 4th floor). I took the plastic, PET bottles, and cardboard downstairs to recycle (because it's Thursday, and that's what Thursday means), then went to her apartment. The door was propped open and I heard a chipper voice from the deep recesses inviting me in for fruit. I had just had a big brekkie, so felt a bit apprehensive. Took off my shoes in the little hallway just inside the door, donned the traditional flowered slippers (or gingham checked, I can't remember), and warily entered the nest. The fruit was delicious, the company engaging, and I vaguely remember putting in a "hmmm" here and there. Crab san is known for her locquaciousness. After she had explained all of her treasures in her cabinets (she travels widely and must spend amazing amounts), we were off for a day of fun. First stop, art gallery. It was still wonderful and I enjoyed it even better the second time around. Walked through the gorgeous traditional garden and battled our way through the summer dragonflies to the little coffee shop next to the history museum. Next stop, Crab san's boyfriend's big, lush company headquarters. I'll just call him Mr. T to protect his identity. Crab san knows I like traditional Japanese pottery, so she showed me all the beautiful vases (by famous artisans, apparently) he's collected for all of the conference rooms. I was given a beautiful Japanese paper fan with summer goldfish on it with a smooth wooden handle. We had green tea, gorgeous snacks, and coffee later in his private office. I thanked the office ladies every time they served me and they seemed surprised but pleased. Mr. T's son is about Stephen's age, I would guess, and practiced a bit of English with me. Turns out big Mr. T wants me to teach English at his company! I wouldn't mind being surrounded by all those gorgeous vases and art on the walls, even a huge pottery sculpture that covers an entire wall next to a staircase. Who knows what the future holds? Third stop, Mr. T's daughter's soba (noodle) restaurant. This was not just any old soba place. I'm talking major money, folks. Gold-leaf plates, rich gleaming wooden tables, artwork everywhere, just absolutely fabulous. We supped on homemade cold soba for summer, soba tea, tempura, and even soba ice cream for dessert with a splash of nutmeg on top (it was delicious!). Crab san told me (almost every other sentence) that her boyfriend is a "bery bery richi man" (that's pretty much the extent of her English). She's very cute, but it did get old after a while. Home by 1:30, left at 1:50 for my Japanese lesson at 2:30. In my lesson, we were discussing Masako sama's stress (emperor's daughter-in-law and former diplomat who's finding it extremely difficult to adjust to life in the palace). Turns out my Japanese sensei's former music professor's wife (they're good friends) is friends with Michiko sama, the emperor's wife! I mean my dog's uncle's brother's girlfriend's aunt's cousin's hamster... or something to that effect. My Japanese teacher, Kazuko, has even met the emperor and his family because she did a private concert for them. Wow. Now I must go so we can order flowers on the internet for my husband's mother's mother's birthday tomorrow...

Is it autumn already?

This year we have had very strange weather so far: A typhoon in May (the first ones usually come in August), and the highest temperature ever recorded in the Tokyo area in July. Now we are having a cool August and now I think all the little animules and plants are thinking it is September already.

Right now we are on the edge of a typhoon, so we are getting some rain and a lot of wind. Another nice cool day - to enjoy from my airconditioned office.

Come hang out at the office with me

Since my co-worker, Prasanna, has moved back to India, the boss (Bob) allowed me to get a webcam so that we could communicate easier. Or at least, it would be easier if he had a camera and (most of all) if the sound quality was better. Anyway, the upshot of it is that I have a camera pointing at my head all day, so if you want to message a little and watch me do a lot of not very interesting things a lot, then contact me via Yahoo Messenger. My Messenger details are in my profile at the top-right of this page. Try it - if you think you can handle the excitement!


Splash! Elise enjoying some waterplay.


Our niece, Elise at 5 months. Ahhh.

Our beautiful niece, Elise

Born January 16th, 2004, making her exactly 60 years younger than my mother, Elise is now a bouncing 6 month-old, as you can see from these pictures. We will post more pictures when we get them from Abigail's sister, Sharon, in Wisonsin. And you never know, someday we may even..........

..... get a digital camera ourselves!

Fushigier and fushigier, said Alice

... when she discovered that Stephen and Abigail had gotten themselves a blog.

Well, here we are, joining the blogging revolution. I am kind of excited, and would be more so if I had not spent the afternoon setting up a blog for work so that I and my Indian colleague can manage projects more effectively across the miles.

Fushigi....

Yesterday morning (Tuesday, August 3, 2004) I (Abigail) semi-woke up and the first thing I said was, "Fushigi." In Japanese, this means something like "mysterious." So Stephen, in befuddled response, said, "What is fushigi?" I replied, "Clams and grass." Hmmm.


 

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