... I was boarding a British Airways plane to go to Japan for the second time. The first time was when I came to do a Discipleship Training School with YWAM near here in Osaka in 1993. On this second occasion, I was coming to work at Seiryo High School (Matsui Hideki's alma mater) in Kanazawa and to start a ten month full-immersion homestay with the Yasue family.
Tip: Spending your birthday travelling on a one-way ticket to a far-off land with no idea of when you will return is not necessarily the most enjoyable experience. In fact, travelling East means that your birthday is artificially shortened, and in flight you don't have any idea even of when it starts.
A recent phenomenon in our office, but common all over Japan - rajio taiso (or radio calisthenics) has a unique place in Japanese culture.
I first came across it when I stayed with the Yasue's in Kanazawa for 10 months almost ten years ago now. (My birthday this year will mark the ten year anniversary of my arrival there.) I remember the music at the same time every morning as I was eating another gourmet breakfast perpared by my semi-professional-chef hostess. What I did not realize until the school sports day in September, was that the instructions being given in Japanese were for exercises.
Japanese people seem to learn all the moves from a very early age. Indeed there is even a rumour that even in utero, they will respond to the rajio taiso music with the correct leg-twitchings and arm-stretchings. It all makes it more uncomfortable for the foreigner to be thrown into this situation where (1) everyone else seems to know what they are doing, and (2) a degree of coordination is required.
In our office at Provide Cars, the rajio taiso is a relative newcomer. A month ago or so, someone must have decided that listening to the same J-Pop CD for the umpteenth time just was not going to be conducive to further work, and flicked over to the radio at just the right moment. Well, there is nothing you can do to hold back a Japanese person when they hear that distinctive strain. Pavlov would have had better luck in controlling his dogs at a campanologists conference.
Today we decided to take a little trip out in the afternoon to see what is the other side of the mountains - Arima Onsen. "Onsen" means "hot spring", and refers to the spring water, high in dissolved minerals that is expelled from the ground as it is heated up by magma near the earth's crust. Don't see many of these in England, but in more volcanic areas - such as the whole of Japan - these are common pheonomena.
We didn't actually go in any of the baths, although it is possible to do so as a day-trip without staying in any of the prohibitively expensive (and often eyeblowingly ugly) "resort hotels", but did enjoy this little foot bath in the street. I just hope that the strong doses of minerals and heat were enough to kill off the little nasties from thousands of wayfaring feet. Anyway, it is too late now.
We also enjoyed exploring the little backstreets, where Abigail sampled black bean ice-cream, and where we saw fude (calligraphy brushes) being made by hand. In case you are concerned by the photo of Abigail in one of these streets, the distortion of her head had nothing to do with the consumption of the said ice-cream; it was because the narrowness of the street meant that I had to take multiple pictures and have the panorama program I have mentioned before stick them together for me. Abigail's head must have been a convenient place to make a join.
Our little boy is advancing so quickly, he's already talking (though not necessarily making himself understood).
He loves to say "agoo." Faithful readers, any clue to its meaning?
(girl in center) and Jidai kun (boy on right) came over yesterday to play. I think Matthew had the most fun of all. He especially liked to cover Misuzu's face with his arm, so I had to take several shots to make sure he was behaving himself properly for the photo.
The mommies had fun, too.
Had a couple of friends and their babies over for for a four-hour lunch today. One of the friends is a lady I met at the clinic where I had our baby. She had her son, Jidai, five days after Matthew. The other lady is her friend, and we hit it off today. I'm sure we'll all be spending more time together in the near future.
Anyway, I was telling the first lady about a problem I'd had a couple of weeks ago, and how when I went to see my doctor (the same doc who delivered Matthew) he told me it was a "mental problem" and that I should get over it. (I then went to a midwife who diagnosed the problem accurately and has helped me immensely. She laughed when I told her what the male doctor said.)
So this friend told me that when she was pregnant, she had a problem as well (different kind, though), and that Dr. Mori (whoops, I really wasn't going to mention his name, but oh well, there it is) had told her the same thing!
He delivers babies well, but has he ever heard of bedside manners??? Goodness gracious.
Not that there was any question about that!
Anyway, I took Matthew outside today, and as soon as he saw the sun, he sneezed. How very Stephenish!
Do you remember Matthew doing his little dance routine in this post? Well, he is getting into his gym much more now. Lots of arm-batting and leg-twitching. And you would do the same if you had Anpanman and "Classic" Pooh staring down at you for ages.
Remember this photo? Well, Matthew and I had lunch again with Rei and her mom, and boy, you sure can tell both babies have grown by leaps and poodles. Wonder just how many puppies they both are now? Hmmm.
(By the way, Rei was up higher and therefore closer to the camera, which is why she looks SO much bigger than the Little Pickle. She is 3 weeks older than Matthew and weighs much more than he does, but the perspective in this photo cracks me up.)
Matthew loves his little kitty from Pa. Kitty often sits on the top of Matthew's gym watching him patiently, and every time he looks up there he gives Kitty a big smile. He may not look at us that much, but the cat gets his attention whenever it's in eyeshot. Sometimes, though, even Kitty can't hold his focus as he drifts off into sleepy land, and the little feline has to exercise all its agile powers to land on its feet as it plops onto the floor.
("Kitty" and "Hello Kitty" are in no way, shape or form related to each other. Blech!)
Are you mesmerized? Today's new addition to the blog is the morphing StephAbiMatthew, courtesy of the morphing powers of Sqirlz Morph and Openomy file hosting.
Remember, everything on this blog - including Blogger itself - has been done for free. We do not spend money unless we can absolutely not avoid it!
it's time to turn off the toilet seat heater.
You find all kinds of creative places to feed your baby when you are nursing. Take today, for example. Stephen and I were meeting friends at the Nishinomiya Yacht Harbor park for an afternoon of picnicking and fun. We got there first, and of course, it was just as Matthew (aka Little Kidney Bean) was waking up and yelling his head off. I headed toward the ladies' room in the main building (where there are very posh cafes and shops), hoping there might be a seat somewhere I could prop myself up on. Alas, no chair to be found. And the idea of sitting on a toilet to feed him is utterly repulsive.
I noticed, however, the first aid room across the hall had its door propped open a teeny bit. I knocked and entered, interrupting two cleaning ladies' lunch. The two grandmas were extremely friendly, and didn't mind pulling a chair up for me next to the blaring TV. We had a great chat while I fed Matthew. They insisted on holding him while I answered my cell phone, burping him for me after he ate, and helping me as I changed his diaper on the plastic bed (which I assume is supposed to be used for emergencies).
It turns out one of them has a daughter and grandkids who live in Toyota, which is just around the corner from where we used to live. It's a small Japan.
I only wish I'd gotten their photo taken with Matthew, for posterity's sake.
Yesterday evening we saw what we thought were three doggies in the rain on our street, but then we saw a young guy carrying an umbrella and trying to take a picture of them on his cell phone. We looked closer and realized they were some of the wild boars from up the hill! Poor piggies. They must've gotten lost when they were looking for the pet hotel.
I told Matthew he was definitely not allowed out to play with them. He didn't really seem to mind and we continued on our merry way, a bit befuddled as to why the piggies came this far. Maybe we'll never know.
I feel good!
Matthew slept through the night for the first time last night! He ate at 10:00 pm, then again at 6:15 this morning. He woke us up with a few small cries this morning, I went in to his room, and he was all smiles. He's been smiling and cooing ever since. I think he feels pretty happy, too, about all this extra rest. He must be a morning person, like his daddy. (I'm not a morning person or a night person---I like to go to bed early and get up late.)
Let's hope this becomes a habit.
My parents departed yesterday for the U.S. of A. I think all three of us were pretty mopey after they left. We had a great time with them! Here are a few snapshots of their visit to Japan.
Decided to take advantage of Mimi and Pop being here to babysit by getting my hair cut at our local petrol station/beauty salon. You don't see many of those nowadays.
I am not sure about the marketing synergy here... They service your hair and your car at the same time?
As a result of popular demand, we present Matthew's Weight In Poodles, a new feature in the sidebar to the right.
It has been a while since Mom and Dad got here, but we haven't put any pics up yet, so here goes with the latest pictures from the last week:
Most things in life are not black or white, but trendy gray. Google Trends now helps you see what the trends are in these gray areas now. Figure out interest in different subjects by playing them off against each other.
As you can see, Stephen is way ahead of Abigail, but only just beats Matthew. You can do serious stuff with this too: What is the deal with these big spikes for the search term "suicide" in Japanese? What suddenly triggered the interest? Did the increase in searches for the term prefigure increases in the actual suicide rate? A suicide prevention help line would be well-advised to find out to be prepared for and prevent similar occurences in the future.
If you have a blog and want to help your readers get new content quickly and easily, you want to make your RSS feed available. But RSS Feed Here or Get RSS as simple html links aren't that cool. On the other hand, who has time to make cute little buttons?
Well, there is no excuse now. Create every type of RSS link your readers could possibly want very easily at this nifty little site here and make all the buttons we now have on the right and more for free.
Yes, "Meet The Grandparents II" is underway here in the Munday house, as Abigail's parents jetted into town from sunny Orlando via Detroit, the crime capital of America (allegedly).
They are both pretty tired, but at least their plane was almost on time, and only leaked fuel on the ground rather than in the air as well, which was obviously a plus point on such a long trip. They had the usual spectacular night views of Osaka round the bay to Kobe as we drove on the bay expressway, where the twinkling lights of the city bring the illusion of beauty to the concrete and steel that becomes more obvious in the day.
Rather annoyed at McDonald's, though. Came back in good time (or so we thought) for the supermarket at the bottom of the hill that has a Mickey Ds to still be open and serving, but were they? No! So here we are, about to share two microscopic pizzas for about $30. Oh well. At least we will have some nice food in our tummies.
I wonder if Abigail's mom will wake up when she smells the pizza? Or will I get it :)?
You can tell when your wife is exhausted from getting up at all hours of the night to feed the baby when she tells you she is going to go to bed now - and she is already there.
Abigail, Matthew and I decided that we couldn't resist the lovely weather yesterday, so we drove five minutes up the road to near the place where I work to take a walk on the hill.
I must say that we are very fortunate to be living where we are. After all, where the vast majority of people in Japan live is a featureless concrete wilderness. (I know this is difficult to believe for anyone brought up on the myth of the mysterious orient, populated by samurai and ladies in kimono spending indulging in poetry and the tea ceremony for hours every day in beautifully kept gardens - but it is true.) There is a large proportion of the land area where no one lives at all, usually for the simple reason that it is too difficult to maintain a foothold on the precipitous land. So natural beauty tends to be present where there are few people to appreciate it.
But, as I said, we are very lucky living here. After all, we have the huge metropolis of Osaka within easy distance. The port city of Kobe is just down the road, and even Kyoto is not that far north if you pass through Osaka. On the other hand, just take a short walk up into the nearby hills, and there is beautiful woodland with not-so-wild "wild" boar and tanuki (see previous posts) wandering about. It really is the best of both worlds.
Before I tell you about Matthew's first word, I should probably take a moment to disabuse some of our more naive readers about a previous video post in which Matthew "talked": That was Abigail showing off her ventriloquism skills. I know - it looked pretty real. But there you go, you can't believe everything you see on the Internet.
Anyway to get back to today's story, Matthew said his first word yesterday. I knew it was possible he would because he is so smart, but the fact that he even said the word in the right context just shows that this was not just a happy coincidence of timing. There I was changing the little boy's diaper (for British readers - this is pronounced "die-a-per") when he suddenly came out with it:
What a little genius, hey?
Yes, this is the literal name of Kabuto Yama, the hill that dominates the views to the North of where we live. Here is a panorama of the side of it where there is a large Buddhist temple complex, whose bell tolls out regularly - making Matthew jump sometimes when it is in earshot!
Some of you might know that we are in the Golden Week holiday period in Japan at the moment, although I am working so that I can take holiday at other times of the year and use it to visit either the UK or the US with Abigail and Matthew. (No promises, but that is our intention.) Anyway, despite it being a holiday period, the weather is actually amazing: The new green leaves are still new, and the azaleas brighten up gardens all around us.
Yesterday, taking a break from work, Abigail Matthew and I decided to make the most of the clear, bright weather to take take photos for a huge panorama round from Kyoto in the North East to Kobe in the west. 34 photos was all it took, along with an hour or so of processing by Autostich (the automatic panorama maker I have mentioned in a recent previous post.)
You can see the result below by clicking on the image. But if you want to see the full size (6MB) version, in all its highly detailed glory, download it here and use your image viewer to zoom in and out.