Since coming to Japan in 2001, I've grown up, so to speak, with Junichiro Koizumi. He's been in office five years; I've been in Japan the same amount of time.
He's stepping down now, and Mr. Abe (pronounced ah-beh) looks set to take over. Abe seems less flamboyant, and he definitely has less hair.
I don't always agree with everything you do, but Koizumi, I'll miss you, baby.
Don't worry: No blogging activity does not mean that we have ceased to exist. Stay tuned for new news soon.
- He loves babies.
- Absolutely adores a blonde baby girl wearing pink on a DVD he's seen. He talks up a storm when she comes on the screen. Maybe he thinks she's his Coventry girlfriend, Jemima.
- His favorite things are the labels sticking off his toys, and the blue plastic tarp we put under his non-waterproof playmat. He goes fishing for it every time we put him down. I guess we don't need to get him any expensive toys. Labels and blue plastic are the thing.
- Sometimes he bats himself in the chin over and over with his clasped hands. Why? We'll probably never know.
- Yesterday, I sat with him in the rocking chair in his bedroom to read him a story, but he was more interested in the yellow plastic bucket thing that eats his dirty diapers. He had an entire conversation for ages with it. I must say, he had a captive audience. The thing couldn't exactly sprout legs and get away, though we do wonder if other things sprout inside it waiting for trash day.
- When he eats, he lifts his leg (yes, like those leg lifts you see on cheesy TV aerobics shows) and holds his foot up in the air with his hand while his leg is straight up. Then we change sides, and he does the same thing with the other leg! He's much more dedicated to his stretching routine than I am to mine.
Yesterday was a national holiday (Respect for the Aged Day), so out of respect for Stephen we took off on an adventure to Awaji (via the Akashi-Kaikyo bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world), a small island between the city of Kobe and a bigger island called Shikoku. We passed Gunge Port, stopped at a roadside parking area where they had rolled-fish-paste-on-a-bamboo-stick in a vending machine (don't often see that where we come from), and played at a beautiful beach near a town called Ei.
Usually Japanese people think Matthew's older than he is (as an example, a couple of months ago a Denny's waitress brought him a kids' menu). He's taller and thinner than most of his friends of the same age.
But the other day it was my turn to feel foolish. A neighbor was pushing her son up our hill in the basket of her bike. As we passed each other, she commented on how big Matthew's getting. I don't recall ever seeing her before, but evidently she remembers us. Anyway, I asked her how many months old her son was, only to be told that he's two years old.
I think Matthew prefers the warm, clean water in the shower to the colder, dirtier water out at Ashiyahama.
Here you can see Matthew and his buddy Rei-chan engaging in some hardcore, headbutting baby sumo - or akachanzumo in Japanese.
This is more for the benefit of my poor memory than for anyone else's amusement, but please do read on if you're interested!
- He's got two teeth now.
- This past week he held his sippy cup all by himself and had a few gulps, though he still mostly just chews on it.
- The other day he started scooching a wee bit, and lifted his stomach off the ground a couple of times with his little tushy in the air.
- Goes backwards sometimes when he means to go forwards.
- He had his DPT #2 shot on Tuesday, and screamed his poor little head off. They also weighed him at the same appointment, and he's up to a whopping 7,870 grams (17.35 pounds), so the poodles need updating.
- The next day after his shot, he was really grumpy, but then the day after that was back to his usual sunny self.
- He's moved up to size M diapers.
- As the previous post said, he had his first real food this morning, and seemed to like it. I can imagine the washing machine getting more of a workout from now on.
- He loves the big lights on the ceiling at Costco (yes, we have a Costco near here, and what a fun place with yummy pizza), and had whole conversations with them last night when we went.
- Recently he gets bored with his toys more easily than he used to, and more than ever really enjoys our walks around the local area.
- Loves being held by anyone and everyone.
- Has a favorite cashier at our local grocery store.
- Babbles more and more every day.
- The biggest smile he does is bouncing on his daddy's knee.
- If Stephen's out and I put him on the phone with Matthew, Matthew looks around the room for him.
- This morning, Matthew got me out of bed before Stephen woke up, so after I fed Matthew I asked him where Daddy was. He looked around for him.
- There are a million more things I could write, but I'm pooped (from changing all those poopy diapers, hey).
The time has come to Matthew - as it came to us all at some point, I suppose - when he is no longer satisfied with a liquid lunch. Or breakfast. Or dinner, for that matter. That's right - he wants FOOD! He has been such a hungry little boy recently, and has drooled as he has watched us eat our big people food (OK, so he would be drooling anyway, but you get the idea), so we thought it was time to try him out on some real food.
Well, although I call it real food, this is not the kind of food most people call real. We are talking about okayu - otherwise translated as "rice gruel". Basically, imagine you add about ten times as much water as you really need to cook your rice in with it and boil it until it becomes a sloppy, sticky and largely tasteless mess. Apart from feeding a young laddy like Matthew, the only time an adult is likely to have the misfortune of having to eat okayu is if it is inflicted on them as an "easy"-to-eat food when sick. Personally, I will stick with the bread and soup option, myself. When it comes to okayu, I try to just say no.
Anyway, this was not the case with Matthew. Despite the doubts about how much was actually entering his little body that you will hear expressed on the video, Abigail claims that she did see him actually swallowing some, so he must like it. Anyway, why don't you judge for yourself?
Matthew used to love lying under his baby gym and batting the bizarrely-shaped Disney relics hovering above him. Then he hated it and would try to wiggle-escape. Now he loves it again and has learned how to deliberately roll the yellow ball with his hand (and foot, kinda.) So it just goes to show that, as with any fad or fashion, what goes around comes around.
Happy Birthday to the Birthday Boy! Six months old today. He's getting very independent, going crazy with the rolies and polies, and even got his first tooth while we were in England. He's got another one poking its little head through, too. He's smiley, smiley, smiley, and melts our hearts to no end.
According to local legend in Aomori, a northern prefecture in Japan, Jesus migrated to that area of Japan, became a rice farmer, and died there. Stephen thinks he's also heard that Moses is buried here somewhere as well.
Given that this story about Rice Farmer Jesus just began in the 1930s, and there's no evidence for it whatsoever, it's interesting that people come from around the world to look at this Aomori grave. I'd go just for the apple ice cream.
Matthew and I ran into a friend of mine and her baby at the park yesterday. As I was telling her my concern for our New Year trip to the States, and how Matthew might be too heavy by then to meet the eleven kg maximum for the baby bed on the plane, she suggested that I stop feeding him so much. And I think she was serious.
I was having lunch with Jef and Chikara at work today and we got talking about how Japanese people relate. Well, Chikara has been reading a book about bushido (the way of the warrior) and some of the things he related from that book sparked a new clarity for me regarding social interactions here.
First of all, he said that reigi (which means something like "good manners" or "etiquette") is a formalized system that grew out of a genuine attempt to promote love of neighbor. Now, I can't see how you can ever codify love, because all you end up with is law, so what reigi has become is a formal system of rules - you do this, then I do that. An example of reigi in action came from Chikara, who has just had his fourth child: When someone has a baby, reigi stipulates that they should be given money. Not only that, but then they should use 30% of that money to get a present for you to say thanks for the gift.
Reigi covers a lot of situations in Japan. So you can cruise through life here simply following the formalities without really having to think and generally creating no waves and little impression.
The converse of reigi is giri which we have written about previously (and to which I would link, if only Blogger had a decent search function - like Wordpress does - that would allow me to do this... hmmmm.....) Anyway, giri seems to cover those situations where reigi breaks down: Perhaps reigi does not say anything about what to do when someone helps you pick up your shopping? What is the correct thank you gift in this situation? No one knows. So this feeling of obligation - or giri - develops. The only problem is that, to avoid offending the other, the level of obligation tends to be overestimated, which of course then results in the other person feeling a debt of gratitude back the other way. And so a giri war starts of ever-escalating gifts / favors, as we have described in the past on this blog.
The sad thing is that although reigi was built on the expression of love for neighbor, both it and its sibling giri have conspired to virtually stifle this: After all, how can love be expressed if you are just following a tightly prescribed social rule? (Unless you say that to not follow the rule would be unloving.) And how can you express love outside of the rules, if a giri war ensues, sometimes to the extent that the other person may come to resent the fact that you expressed love to them in the first place?
... A TV show has a segment comparing Prince Akeshino with James Dean.
(I was going to stop blogging for the night, but then Abigail switched the TV on and couldn't help myself when I saw this.)
Unlike many of our amusing English posts, this picture was taken in Korea - in Seoul's Incheon Airport where we were in transit yesterday. Fortunately, we were able to figure out from the Japanese that they actually meant Turkish Icecream.
A new baby Prince was born into the Imperial Family today. The as-yet-unnamed son of Princess Kiko and Prince Akeshino will have many middle-aged right-leaning Japanese politicians breathing a sigh of relief as they no longer have to consider the possibility of female accession with any great seriousness.
I am wondering whether the current Emperor is not a little behind the times himself after I noticed a certain lack of age-appropriacy awareness in this final paragraph of the BBC news story:
"But first a messenger from the emperor is due to deliver a protective sword to the baby and place it on his pillow, Kyodo news agency reported."I'm not sure a "sword" would be too "protective" for a little newborn....
Our good friends the Elliotts and the Everinghams came to visit.
Phil Elliott with Matthew.
Rupert Everingham helps Matthew open his gift.
Abigail with our godson, Rupert.
Yesterday, we made a trip up to Birmingham so that Matthew could meet his 94-year-old Great-Grandma Wright. You would certainly not know she is that old if you just heard her voice on the phone, and she was very genki (lively) all the time we were hanging out with her. She certainly seemed to enjoy hanging out with her first grea-grandbaby, as you can see from these pictures:
There are some stringent age restrictions to cut down on under-age drinking in UK pubs, as you can see from this sign I noticed yesterday in a pub we had lunch at in Birmingham:
If you look under the age of 21
you must prove you are 18.
A bit tricky if you have a baby face but are 19, 20, 21 etc.