70. The precious way Japanese people use English

June 25, 2010

I volunteered to help a friend with her 6th grade class last year. Here is the informative note she wrote me about that day:
“Dear Rinda
June 8 please come at past 10:00.

As a volunteer of the elementary school, registration is necessary.
Please tell your address and date of birth.
When I encountered an accident when you come to the elementary school, a part of treatment costs is paid.
Please register itself by all means.
The gate of the school closes, but the small gate of the left becomes vacant.
There is the entrance when I walk in the right direction if I enter inside. I enter inside, and please call out to the person who is in the staff room.
When I am uneasy, please call my mobile phone.
The contents of the class of 8th are as follows.
1. Self-introduction
2. The pronunciation exercise of the alphbet
3. The game that I used the alphabet for

I look forward to.”

She also gave me very helpful train information in Japanese. I actually found the classroom and the lesson went off without a hitch!

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69. A clear day during rainy season

June 21, 2010

Next to newly flooded rice fields, I think my favorite thing in Japan is a clear day during rainy season. The rain seems to wash all the haze out of the air and the sky becomes a crisp, rich blue that would do justice to Hawaii. Even the greens seem greener, a shimmery iridescent green. Last Wednesday was just such a day, and what a delight it was, as I returned home from the southern Chiba peninsula on the train, which follows the coastline for some distance.

68. The workers’ clothing stores

November 30, 2009

As I have written elsewhere, the uniform is a major feature of Japanese culture, so of course there are shops where workers can go to buy their uniforms. These stores are very basic clothing stores, carrying everything from sweat bands to footwear, from pocket carabiners to levels and such. It’s great fun to shop there, because the clothing is very good quality and the prices are very cheap! But when I say “clothing” I’m talking about some very Japanesey items, baggy pants, Amish-looking hats, geta sandals, toe boots, tabi socks, sleeve protectors, gloves. All great stuff for working outdoors and being totally covered up – impervious to sun and insects. They also have some more familiar items, like jeans, sneakers and rain boots.

I especially like my toe boots, even for driving. I think I have much surer footing in them, although I generally only wear them on “work day” during my vacation.

67. The sweet potato man

November 28, 2009

He’s kind of like an ice-cream man for the colder months. Driving slowly around the neighborhoods in a small pickup truck with an oven in the bed, he hawks baked sweet potatoes using a recorded sing-songy Japanese voice. I have only very rarely patronized him because the sweet potatoes are sooooo expensive! (They are also verrrry good!!!!!) But it’s a treat just to hear him going by, this harbinger of winter so to speak.

66. The “monkey nest” trees

May 28, 2009

These trees grow at the top of our block, by the big Shinto shrine. For a long time I wondered what the round leafy balls were, so I called them “monkey nests” although we never see monkeys in our neighborhood. Turns out they are probably mistletoe or some other parasitic plant. But I had never seen these in America, and I like their exotic look.

The "Monkey Nest" Trees

65. Art under the overpasses

May 26, 2009

In what I suspect is a twin effort to beautify while discouraging graffiti, the walls of many of the underpasses in my area are painted with murals. These are sometimes done by school kids, under the direction of an art teacher I would suppose, since they are very excellently executed. My favorite was done by an elementary school, and shows several animals on either side of a river all engaged in turning a rope that a whale is jumping. A very cute depiction of “group” and “cooperation” and – my favorite – a sheep who is pulling with all her might. I pass this sheep nearly every day, and she always cheers me up.

My favorite little sheep - isshou ken mei helping

My favorite little sheep - isshou ken mei helping

Some of the other animals on the sheep's side

Some of the other animals on the sheep's side

64. Roof tiles

May 17, 2009

I’m going to include my first picture here (beware: makes this a 1000 word post!) Seeing is understanding.Roof tiles on a single house

63. The sound machines

May 11, 2009

Not just any sound machine, these are machines about the size of 2 paperback books that are located in toilet stalls – ok, there, I said it. And they make a sound like the sound of a toilet flushing. Now, why in the world do you need a machine that makes that sound in a toilet stall ? Well you may ask. The machines are there to provide another level of privacy for those most private of functions – a curtain of sound! Sometimes they have a button to push, and a row of small LEDs to track the progress of the sound experience. But the other night the machine was electronically wired to the commode and started automatically when the patron sat down, and began tapering off when the patron arose again. Pretty nifty way to deal with a densely-packed small-personal-space-envelop but we-all-crave-privacy society, ne?

62. Japanese holidays and music

May 4, 2009

This week is holiday time here in Japan, known as “Golden Week” because of the string of holidays that enable people to take much more time off than they are used to (4 holidays in a row counting the substitute day for the one that fell on a Sunday this year). To set the mood, many merchants depart from the usual pop and rock music and play traditional Japanese music instead. What a nice change! I feel so much more like taking my time in a store when I’m not being distracted by loud music. Tonight I was even able to enjoy a little boy who playfully broke into his own version of traditional Japanese dance when he heard the music. . .

They flooded the rice fields in my neighborhood

April 23, 2009

They flooded the rice fields in my neighborhood. As I came home tonight, I pulled up beside the new reflecting pool, briefly turned off the headlights and enjoyed for a few moments the song of the frogs on a cool spring evening with a bare wisp of a breeze and no bugs. What a magical time!