Sunday, January 27, 2008

Heaven and Earth

Last week my Wifi router died on me. Much like my printer about 2 months ago. When turned on all lights were on, and there was little to be done in the way of troubleshooting. I could still link in with a LAN line downstairs, but it meant a lot more work for me, saving stuff on my external hard drive and running upstairs to print it out. I have a new router now and am back in business.
I was very shocked by some bad news at the beginning of last week. One of my colleagues suddenly passed away. I was taking over the class and the office told me the situation. I had met her when we worked in the same building and Ritsy and I have gone for food and some drinks with her husband and her in the past. She was quick with a joke and very friendly and funny. The news was a total surprise she was still fairly young and we had exchanged e-mails shortly after Ken was born, we would have met up one day in the future. Her loss definitely brought about a lot of reflection about life and our frailty. She was a great person, and we will definitely miss Karen.

On a much lighter note, Ken is 2 months old now. He had his measurements and is now sitting at 6.6kgs(14.6 pounds) and 62 centimeters(about 2 feet). Ritsy says he was bigger than a 3 month old baby that was in the midwife clinic office. He is no longer overweight (first month he was a bit) and seems to be completely healthy. He has just started trying to turn over on his left side, so in no time will become even more of a handful. Ritsy has been a great mother and always seems to be enjoying the time spent with him.

Life is a precious gift and we walk a thin line, something we often forget. I will do my best to ensure that he is able to enjoy as much of it as he can, as we all should, and savour each and every day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Shinenkai & Farewell

I want them to bring back Santala!
We got a great little canucks toque and mitts from Jon in Hamamatsu whom I do a little work for sometimes. Anyway- we had the toque on Santa one day perfectly but he slipped it by time the camera was ready... too bad- it was funny.

Here the tradition is to hold "forget the year" parties- known as shinenkai. As December was pretty hectic for me and I was a bit hobbled- I wound up attending no parties at all! Well, one class that I was finishing up after teaching for 2 and a half years- we felt it was important to still have a year end party- so we held a shinenkai party(or New Year party) on Saturday night.
Tom, Chie, Mr. Yamamoto
We met up at a place called Fujiichi, where he had the traditional round after round of extremely delicious food and were able to all share a laugh for the last time together.
Miyoko, Mr. Ito, Tomo, Taeko
I had to quit the class to claim back a little peace of mind and some rest, as I was through the end of the year working 13 days in a row and then having a day off (the class was held every second Sunday). I decided it was important to ensure that I had at least one day to spend with Ken and Ritsy, so I had to move on.
Emperor Shu and Keiko
It was a tough decision though, they were the first regular class I started to teach in Hamamatsu and were always very fun to talk with and to teach. So if any of you are reading, thanks again for everything and don't be strangers!
The always serious Chris and Pete
Chris was out that night too, hosting his friend that was visiting from Macau. I forgot his name, but it was nice to meet him and catch up with some of the boys briefly before heading home.Upon getting home I was greeted by Ken giving the "what's up" sign.

Monday, January 21, 2008

More Ritsy's camera

Did I mention that little Ken is becoming quite charming? He often smiles at some of the most unexpected times. Yesterday, he was breastfeeding and then just started smiling at his mom (of course he was returning Ritsy's smile- but it was still pretty cute). Also sometimes when he is sleeping, his eyes will open and he will get a big grin on his face.
The cats are working hard to stay competitive in the cute department. The basket we had bought for Santa originally, but he was never interested in it until Lanma had declared it her throne.
The book I have been reading talks about how babies these days aren't spending as much time on their stomachs as before. Mainly because parents don't have the babies sleep on their fronts so much anymore out of fear of SIDS. So they recommended some supervised stomach play time. I call it crawling practice.
He really has the feet kicking down pat, but he doesn't use his arms very much- usually Ritsy or I have to move his arms in front of him to show him how to push himself up.
Ah, here he is paying his compliments to his chef, very polite young man.
And finally, here he is telling me a delightful story about "agoo" and "legyu"- it's one of his favorites to tell.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stolen from Ritsy's camera pt 1

Lots of good news this year. My former student, Satomi, is going to get married soon and will be moving to Tokyo! Congratulations to her. Also someone I know told me they are now pregnant- I won't disclose the name as they might not want me to- so just a big happy congratulations to you. I look forward to our children playing together! Another student will also be getting married this next weekend also! Might be a good year for good news!
I have fallen off a bit on the taking baby pictures, but I know that Ritsy has dusted off the old camera and has been taking lots of baby pictures, and cat ones too, of course...
Not to mention that sometimes her camera is more convenient for a good shot for me to take like this one...
Maybe we are just a little bit blinded by our parenthood (our little angel is such an incredibly handsome genius!), but I think he is already developing some good charm! Even when he is yawning- a little reminiscent of Billy Idol in this one...
Or when he is having a nice little pre-meal snack on his hand...
More to come tomorrow...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Resolutions for the year

Our planet still looks beautiful despite being wounded
Quick Note: I was directed through this website with some great pictures taken from the Space Shuttle- (the source of the lead picture today)if you are into that sort of thing, check it out here.

Every year, I do think about what sort of changes might be good for me in the coming year. I guess you can call it a resolution, though I tend to think of it more as a personal reassessment with potential improvement suggestions....

Aside from the typical- lose 10 pounds (which I really sucked at last year- I was doing alright holding my weight but after the fractured ankle put on 2.5 kg), have a healthier lifestyle, all that junk. I think that there is something that I need to seriously address. I don't know if it is because I am now a father or if it just has been in the back of my mind for a while- but it's time to get serious about the environment thing.

Rather than passively sit back and make note of which practices aren't "Eco friendly" it's time to start looking at my daily pattern and assess what changes need to be made. I am already pretty happy with my effort with driving. I, of course, chose not only a cheap car- but one that is reputed for it's ecological friendliness. I furthered that last year by concentrating on my driving technique. A small example would be- do you ever catch yourself keeping your foot on the gas pedal after you see a traffic light change to red and you know that you will be stopping soon? Why not (if it is safe to do so) just stop accelerating and just allow your car to coast to the red light- does it matter if it takes a few extra seconds to get there? Likewise with going downhill. Just a couple of examples and I think that when I am doing it well, I am seeing results- I had one tank of gas last year get me over 600 kms. I know in Japan the "idling stop" campaign is popular- turn off the engine at a red light- I haven't tried it as of yet- but an old student of mine swears it works. Maybe a 7oo km tank of gas awaits in the future.

Not just gas though, there are some things that I need to improve on drastically. Avoid over-packaged foods, buy more bulk(again reduce packaging), discontinue use of 'blatantly disposable' goods like Paper towel (just use a washable cloth-though there is the water pollution to think about). Also be smarter about food quantities and more efficient with leftovers- throw out less food- overeat less. I am just touching the iceberg- and it's going to be tough to make a remarkable adjustment- but the important thing with changing habits is to enjoy the little victories and never give up even if you fall off the horse every now and then.

It's easy to see why. It's middle of winter now and the days are warm out. Like it's spring! The summer is getting hotter and the cold days are becoming fewer and farther between. It's scary. We have to have some sort of a world to leave to the little guy,and the animals who are ignorant of the brutal damage we are doing to this world...

And now a little bit of the norm- the (innocent) cats and (future of the world) Ken..

video

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

That's Japan (volume 6)- The Damn it's cold edition

borrowed from here
You wake up and turn off the air conditioning, you walk outside of your nice and toasty room and are suddenly startled awake by the bitter sting of cold. You sit down on your toilet just to get warmed up, since it's heated, then you hop into the shower and are shivering as you clamber into you clothes and finally you are able to stick your legs into your Kotatsu, slip on the 5 toed socks and start nibbling on your kimuchi nabe. You look on the calendar and notice it is almost New Years eve, so you have to think about ordering some Osechi. Did this happen to you? Chances are you are in Japan- because, definitely, That's Japan! It's time to take a little dip into the wacky world of Japanese culture!

1. Kotatsu - When you first see a Kotatsu- you might think to yourself- "now what the heck is that?" Looking a little like a table with a tent propped under it, it's an odd sight for those Westerners like I that are used to central heating in their apartments. But considering how cold houses are kept here without heaters pre-installed in all rooms- when you stick your legs into the bottom of this heated table you will be hooked. Keeping your legs nice and toasty goes a long way to keeping your mind and body happy on those cold days in Japan!
2. Heated Toilet Seats - Though I have seen heated toilet seats in North America, I had always thought of them as an unnecessary luxury. Coming to Japan, again I quickly learned their value and understood why pretty much every household I've been to here has one. Come on you've never sat down on a cold toilet seat in the middle of winter? Those days are gone for me!
3. 5 toed socks - Like a glove for your foot. Apparently these keep the toes nice and warm, but- well- they just look silly. Enough said!
4. Nabe/Oden - Nabe, also known as hot pot- is a staple from the first day that is cold onwards. Sitting in front of the hot pot boiling away on a cold day warms up your face and you stomach and, let's face it- is just yummy. I even go for hot pot sometimes in the middle of summer- though it is generally regarded as winter food. Oden is a type of hot pot that features a more unique flavour and lots of fish cakes and mochi and eggs- usually slathered with very spicy Japanese mustard- it's great! Actually I think I will be eating some tomorrow!
5. Osechi - Yes, there is a traditional New Years food. Apparently, according to wikipedia
the tradition dates back to the Heian period a long, long, long time ago. I always talk about it with my students, but honestly I have never had an Osechi meal. Apparently traditionally it consists of broiled fish paste, rolled omelette, herring roe, seaweed, black soy beans, sea bream, and sardines. While reading this on your screen, it doesn't sound that appetizing- the Japanese have a unique talent for making mediocre-sounding foods actually quite amazingly delicious!

Beautiful, fashionably challenged in a cool way, delicious, cold? That's Japan!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Yusanji

Ken was still passed right out, but Ritsy and I were having some fun, so we headed to our second destination, Yusanji temple- about 3 kms from Kasuisai.
At the front, we can see a stone etching of a couple of gods that look a lot like Ken. Maybe they are related?
There were two main areas to the temple. At the bottom section was this lucky stump. You can see that many people have stuck one yen coins into it for luck, but a rub would be enough for some good luck. Ken woke up long enough to give the stump a bit of a touch.
The courtyard of the bottom temple section had a lovely garden with a nice miniature pagoda and some of those little statues with red clothes. Quite a cozy feeling.
We continued on up to the higher temple. In the middle of the walk up was a nice Red building- we entered and could see this miniature waterfall...
I caught it at least, mother and baby were waiting for me. I thought it made quite a nice picture.
Finally we found ourselves at the top with a nice little temple...
And a three story pagoda.
It was actually a very beautiful winter day and a couple of great temples. On top of that, Ken was on his best behaviour. Of course in the car on the way home he realized he was pretty hungry and let us know- but that is to be expected.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Kasuisai temple in Fukuroi

While on the 2nd of January the visit to the temple was for wishing for a good year, yesterday we took Ken out to a couple of interesting temples out in Fukuroi for the purpose of sightseeing. Ritsy knew nothing about either temple but I had seen the signs for the two temples near one of the places that I teach at.
The first stop for the day was Kasuisai temple. The walk just before the temple you could see this interesting building with two beautiful statues bookmarking the door.
Naturally Ken was primed for sleeping by the time we got there.

The actual temple was nestled in the hillside and had a payoff of a beautiful cozy temple that was reachable with minimal walking.This temple had one of them cool giant shovels.
And the giant that crafted the shovel must have left his giant sandal behind as well.
As we walked away, quite satisfied with the discovery of this lovely little place, I was quite taken by this interesting guardian statue.
We then continued on to our next destination, also in Fukuroi- Yusanji.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

New Years 2008

This picture just worked better in Black/White
One of the big traditions in Japan at New Years time is the trip to the temple to pray for good luck in the coming year. While Ritsy and I are not really religious people, we do believe that it doesn't hurt to just not tempt fate, be respectful to life, nature and to ask for safe passage. I do think it didn't work out too well for me last year, with the numerous trips to Temples in Nara- and my leg still got fractured so close to my baby's birth...
But we decided to lug little Ken out to Gansuiji temple on the 2nd. As I believe I mentioned, the temple is very popular for praying for babies, so it was a good fit. The other key point being that Gansuiji is so close to our home. Ken looked quite amused up to this point.
It was a pretty nasty cold day though, so we had to hurry along to do our business. At the front gate, they had their traditional New Years decorations out.
We went to the main shrine and said our Pleases and Thank yous. The shrine was decorated by a number of very colorful flags (not sure what the relevance is) and a thousand paper cranes as shown in the next picture.
Finally we had to hurry back to the car as Ken was not too happy about the cold weather, and I can't say that I blame him. It was pretty nasty.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My picks for the top 10 posts from 2007

One of the great things about keeping a blog is that there is a quick reference of the things that happen in our lives. Though it turned out to be quite time consuming (mental note, shorter posts) it was quite interesting to see the highs and lows of the year. A lot happened and it's always tough to say one post is better than another, but I tried my hardest.All you need to do is click on the title to relive each memory with me (and then the back button on your browser to continue on), here we go;

To Start we'll go with my pick for the worst post of 2007;

A Normal Post
While it was actually a pretty special post, it was the first time I mentioned the imminent arrival of Ken, I also thought it would be funny to do up a picture in Photoshop combining elements or Ritsy's face and my face (and my nephew Mac's body). The end result was like Frankenstein's monster and probably severely traumatized some readers. So, it gets the worst of 2007 award.

Now the best picks;
10. A funny thing Fracturing your leg while playing basketball is not what many would consider good news to break (ouch! pun not intentional)- but this makes the list because of its relevance to my life. It was a pretty monumental happening!

9. A concert
There was a few good party posts last year. A couple with Manami and Tet-chan's family and a couple at my student Josh's house. This one makes the list because it was quite a nice and unique musical show with a fantastic setting! Later Josh gave me a CD with the recording of the performance- a great touch.

8. Japanese Beauty At times I have been known to ramble. But every now and then a pearl of wisdom comes from this tendency. Japanese Beauty is very beautiful and speaks of the ways in which I appreciate Japanese culture- I can't believe that it was actually I that wrote it!

7. Princesses and Cherry Blossoms A nice post simply because of some beautiful pictures. 'nuff said.

6. Pete and Mari's wedding
At the beginning of last year Pete and Mari had their wedding party locally. It was really interesting time and there was some nice pictures.

5. Lillooet
This was my second Lillooet posting but I liked this one a little better as I took a little more of a humorous approach in recounting my story. Though some of the humour may be better understood if you read the first one too. And it really does look like the tv is eating him I think....

4. The Tokyo Series As there were a few series this year I tried to pick the best post from each group. The first was the trip to Tokyo. I picked this one because of the pictures of the old Kabuki theater in Ginza that apparently will be torn down. Beautiful looking building though.
3. Ise Another of my trips this year back in August. Man it was hot- and Ritsy was having a bit of the morning sickness still on the boat- but it was a great couple of days up there- and it's just great to explore Japan really. My choice had my favorite pictures from Ise, though I was actually torn between this one and the old shopping street.

2. Aunt and Mom's Visit
Sorry ladies, you will have to settle for second place! It was awesome to show the ladies around Japan a bit, and selfishly I was able to see a lot of stuff I haven't seen before. There were actually a lot of great pictures from the series- but I'll go with my favorite location Todaiji- the home of the great Buddha in Nara. Honorable mentions go out to Kohfukuji and Hatasan in Fukuroi.
1. Ken Of course the arrival of your baby- especially your first is just a special moment- and I took a lot of time and recorded the events leading up to his birth quite nicely.

There it is the highlights of my blog world for 2007.

Now it's time to build a new year of memories.