Yes, Mom and Dad (from the spelling, you can guess which parents I am referring to) have just arrived and look like they feel horrible. Well, they did, but now it seems like mom is perking up and showing an interest in Japanese TV (and I quote) - "He's cute!"
More news tomorrow when they get to see Japan live and lit up. (By the sun.)
Seems like the Chinese Premier read my previous blog post.
BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japan told to reflect on war past
I had been wondering how long it would be before a Japanese leader admitted Japan's remorse over the so-called "incidents" which happened during the war. This coming from a man who has visited the Yasukuni shrine, where seven infamous war criminals have memorials, every year since he took office. I'm in shock. I hope this helps Japan-China relations, which have been at such a low point recently. I don't know where all the protests in China are leading, but as someone who lives in Japan, I can't help feeling that I don't want to be in the target zone of any possible attacks!
I suppose this is an important diplomatic concession. As to whether normal, non-politico types are convinced by this is open to question. After all, as the BBC article says, on the same day a large group of politicians went to pay their respects at Yasukuni Jinja. Futhermore, the textbook issue is still not resolved and (as has happened many times with war-related claims) a group of Chinese who were the victims of wartime bio-weapons experiments by Unit 731 of the Japanese Army were refused compensation by Japanese courts. (The excuse is always that these questions were resolved by international treaty after the war and so individuals cannot make any claims against the Japanese government. Contrast this situation with that of the Swiss Banks and German Industrial firms who have been pressured into setting up multi-billion dollar compensation funds to make reparations for crimes against the Jewish people and others.)
Until there are actions to back up these words (rather than counter-actions that undermine them), very few ordinary people in Asia are going to be able to be persuaded to take this "apology" at face value.
BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japanese PM apologises over war
Was wondering about the history of this grave marker. It was next to a temple that we saw the other day. Japan is less than 1% Christian, and this is the first time I've seen something like this here. There was nobody around to ask, unfortunately. There were fresh flowers on the far side of it but the stone itself looks very old. Things that make you go "hmmm."
A story that has nothing to do with Abigail's visit to Seoul.
BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Elephants rampage through Seoul
Stephen and I went hiking to a lovely waterfall called Otaki on Saturday. The sun was bright and the cherry blossoms were falling like snow. We went about the same time last year with our friends Mike and Andrea. Stephen got a bit too much sun and felt a bit ill after we got home, exactly the same as last year. It was deja vu, except our friends were MIA this year.
Kazuko has been my Japanese sensei for 3 1/2 years now! She and her husband are moving tomorrow to Beppu, on the island of Kyushu, where she grew up. They've both retired now and are looking forward to a life of leisure, walking on the beach, fishing, and sand saunas. She said they'll be the youngest people in their area. The new kids in town!
This is Abigail's parents' house in Orlando on a little loop of a road aptly titled Kerwood Circle.
You can see satellite images of a lot of locations in the US now by searching on the address and zip code in Google Maps. Just click on the link in the links section on the right and find out if there is a view of your house from space as well.
Here is Abigail's grandparents' (Abigail's Dad's parents') house as seen from space! As you can see, they have a nice long garden that stretches down to Lake Weldona.
When they built this house, this area was countryside and they were some of the first inhabitants. Now, it is a very nice part of the much-enlarged city of Orlando.
Stephen said he had to pop out to the store this morning. He rang the bell when he came back, I picked up the intercom phone, and he asked me to marry him! It's been 5 years today since he proposed. I love that man. So glad I said yes!
I must admit I went a bit crazy with all the Korea pictures, so if you have trouble seeing all the pictures and the rest of the blog from this month, go to the right side of the screen and click on the month of April in the archives section. Then you'll be able to see all of my blogs from my trip.
John and Sheena's street. Notice there's no room for cars to get past other cars! They keep their phone numbers in a corner of the windshield, so if you need them to come out and move their car, you just give them a holler.
Actually, I think this is the only time Korea is ever tranquil. :) I was amazed at the late hours the shopkeepers keep. Japan goes to bed early and gets up early, and I think it's pretty much the opposite across the little pond. And I definitely wouldn't say the bus drivers in Korea are ever at all calm. I just wanted them to pick a lane and stay in it!
Kazuko, my Japanese sensei, had extra air miles for me to use, which I gratefully accepted. John and Sheena, our friends who used to live in Japan, graciously hosted us for four days in Seoul. Sheena used to be in the Japanese class with me. Now she and John are going all out in Korean and impressed us with their fluency. It was like being a baby all over again for me there, though bits of Korean sound like Japanese. My ears occasionally perked up only to be let down by the Korean. Everyone there thought Kazuko was Korean so would babble on at her. She just tilted her head and smiled. :) The Japanese embassy in Seoul had just issued a warning not to speak Japanese in Korea, because of all the growing tensions over textbooks, islands, etc, so we did our best to just use English.
We arrived on Friday afternoon. Stephen and I'd both been sick for a few days before (and had each lost 6 pounds), and Kazuko had been packing like mad for her move to Kyushu at the end of April, so she and I both konked out and took naps. Sheena made a lovely dinner that evening and we relaxed and chatted.
Saturday morning dawned with rain, rain, and more rain. We braved it anyway in a taxi (which are incredibly cheap in Seoul!), train, and bus to Suwon, where we visited a replica historical village.
Back in Seoul that evening, we stopped at a luxurious board game cafe, played Clue (though maybe didn't get one), then had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. (Wonder if I could start a board game cafe here in Japan??? It was so much fun!)
Sunday dawned beautifully, with a trip to John and Sheena's English service at their church. Wow. Massive. We were herded along afterwards down the stairs, mushed together just like the fish guts kimchi which Kazuko enjoyed in Korea (and brought a tub of it back to Japan).
J and S had a wedding to attend in the afternoon, so Kazuko and I jetted up the big hill next to their apartment to go up Seoul Tower, which happened to be closed til October. No worries. It was a good view from the top of the hill anyway, and we had fun in the carnival atmosphere. I was impressed by the bikees (dressed like Lance Armstrong) who flew down the hill with whistles in their mouths to warn oncoming traffic. Tour de Seoul.
Back home, we enjoyed cool breezes on the roof of the apartment with J, S, and some of their British Council friends. Lots of views of big brown kimchi pots on other roofs.
Monday was fun, too, with two trips to a traditional palace in Seoul (Gyeongbokgung) and the National Folk Museum, and lunch with John at the British Council in between. The classrooms where he teaches are very high tech, with glass walls, glass stairs (we opted for the conventional elevator complete with TV built into the wall inside), and funky computer screen wall which John and students can write on, in place of the neanderthal white board.
Also went to a cultural artsy fartsy center (Insadong) where I savored ginseng tea in a tearoom with birdies flying around overhead, and stone fish bowl in the bathroom. I loved walking around this area, looking at the celadon ceramics and traditional brown pottery.
John had to go to bed early, and Kazuko appeared to be tired, so Sheena and I hit the streets that night about 9:30 to go to Itaewon, a nice shopping district down the hill near the American military base, but alas, most things were closed by then. Sheena said that's unusual, and we did pass lots of mom and pop shops on the way which were in full swing.
Tuesday was Namdaemun, a HUGE indoor/outdoor market where I bargained for an eelskin wallet. Lunch in a department store (kimchi, rice, kimchi, bibimpa, kimchi, kimchi, an eggy pancake thing with green onions and seafood, soup with sliced rice paste and meaty dumplings, kimchi, and some kimchi).
Then it was back to the apartment, packing, and catching a taxi to get the airport bus! It was QUICK! But fun.
Abigail is away in South Korea at the moment and took the digital camera with her, but I still had fun at the weekend going into Okazaki with my old SLR and shooting off a whole roll along the Igagawa River on the way to the castle and back.
That is about 3km of prime cherry blossom country, so there were more than enough opportunities to get some great shots. I got the film back yesterday, but (being film) I can't put any up on the blog at the moment. I did order 6 or so enlargements, so you can tell I am pleased with the results. The office has a new scanner, so I may take the prints in tomorrow and scan some at work so you can see them.
On Sunday we had the annual church meeting, which I am sure Abigail deliberately avoided. As usual with these kind of official Japanese meetings, everyone was given a detailed handout with all the ins and outs of the last year's activities on it. People then took turns in presenting different parts and essentially rehashing not only what was already written on the paper, but actually what they all already knew: After all, it is a small church and almost all of them were at almost all of the events. Anyway, I managed to stay awake long enough to get some comments in and to receive my survivor's sandwich.
Well, it kept me out of trouble for a few hours.
There was a funny story on the 9 O'Clock NHK News just now: It turns out that today in Nagano the fire department was called out to a suspected forest fire by local residents who had seen white smoke rising from the trees. The firefighters were a little surprised when they were unable to locate the fire when they got there - until they realized that it was not smoke which the witnesses had seen, but pollen!
Yes, now is the time of the cedar pollen in Japan, and if you are a sufferer then you are really suffering. They showed pictures of it on the news and it really did look like thick smoke rising from the cedar trees. Now that is a lot of pollen.Crazy!
Here I am, the white shining face in the mirror, with my new class in Okazaki today. We had a blast and I'm looking forward to seeing Noriko, Kaoru, and Kazuko every Monday. Stephen used to teach this class at CESA until he finished there, and at that time CESA dropped this class. I ran into Noriko recently at the orphanage where Stephen and I visit sometimes (and we first heard about the kids' home from her). She asked me what my plans were from April, and I said I was free. She jumped on the bandwagon and I was hooked in (very willingly) for this class. They're all great ladies.
I don't know how many of you have been following the Terri Schiavo case in Florida, but I have been extremely saddened by her passing today. I don't always agree with President Bush about everything, but I was impressed by what I read about him in BBC today.
Mr Bush urged those who backed the Schindlers [Terry's parents] to "continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others".
"The essence of civilisation is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favour of life."
What next? is my question. Not all doctors were in agreement about her being braindead. Who else do we refuse to give food to?
The BBC also quoted the Rev. Jesse Jackson:
I'm saddened by her passing, and I'm pained by it. It's unnecessary, in the end. She was starved and dehydrated to death. To me, it was merciless rather than merciful.