Posts in Show Me Japan
Japan with Babies

My view from Japan is actually pretty narrow, encompassing my apartment living room, the grocery store, the fruit and veg man, and the park. Nap times and lunches and sleep problems prevent me from getting out and experiencing much beyond my little circle, and although I have ambitions of hopping on the train and getting out to some surrounding villages, fear of wrath of a missed nap keeps me close to home.

However, Japan is a relative paradise for mothers of young babies. Public transportation is easily accessible by stroller, nursing stations are plentiful and easy to find if you know where to look, and people, for the most part, are genuinely untroubled by the antics of the small set. Instead of snide remarks and angry glares, a crying baby is met with gentle clucking and compassionate understanding. 

My girl and I went out for a lunch date today, proving that even the smallest little restaurants are baby-friendly. As soon as we arrived, we were given a baby chair, anpanman dishes, and a mini culture set. 

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Stella delighted in eating rice with a fork like a big girl. Until she discovered that her underdeveloped hand-eye coordination rendered that particular rice delivery method inefficient. And I cleaned up her mess afterwords, I assure you.

 

Linking up at Budget Trouble for Show Me Japan.

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Show Me A Wedding

Several months ago, a friend asked me to take pictures of her wedding here in Japan. This was remarkable for several reasons (not the least of which are my piss-poor photography skills):

  • The wedding was a traditional shinto ceremony
  • No one in the wedding was of Japanese heritage or nationality
  • No one in the wedding spoke Japanese
  • The groom had to recite a very old, very traditional reading in Japanese (see above point)

True to EPB form, we arrived just in the nick of time, so I didn't have much chance to take pictures of the setting. Also, the lighting was super funny - a combination of natural light, fluorescent, and light filtering though the walls - and that combined with my superawesomeamzing photag skilz (see above) lead to some shoddy pictures. 

Nevertheless, I thought I'd share them for this weeks Show Me Japan, as hosted by Budget Trouble. You are welcome.

 

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Although I did not understand much of what happened during the wedding ritual itself, the feeling and tone was really beautiful: reverent, quiet, reflective, zen, if you will. Only having experience with Western and Chinese weddings, I found the silence and the sedate pace of the proceedings remarkable. And beautiful. 

 

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The wedding took place inside a beautiful Shinto Shrine; a little gem nestled in the heart of an industrial part of the city, near the port. It was officiated by a priest who was assisted by two girls. 

 

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we arrived, there was a set of benches prepared for the guests to sit prepared with a beautiful sake cup and a wooden tray. The couple sat in font of the alter, with the priest off to the side. There was much standing, sitting, and occasional kneeling. 

 

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The priest recited blessings, and used what looked like a gigantic feather duster to purify the couple (I presume). After, his assistants served sake.

 

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Both the bride and groom dressed in traditional costumes, which are simply wonderful. Much more beautiful and joyous than Western white. But the hair. I tell you! I did not realize, but to get the kind of height and volume required, you have to stuff the hair with something that looks like black cotton batting.

 

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After, we all drank champagne and celebrated. And then I went home, had a piece of cheese, and spent the whole night barfing. True story

 

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Now, for some pictures of Japan that are actually good, check out Budget Trouble's great photo meme.

 

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Show Me Rainy Season

Rainy Season. It's back. Officially. Which, for the most part, is super crappy, especially since I planned a picnic birthday party for a CERTAIN BABY GIRL this weekend. All is not lost, however, as the rain does give me the opportunity to get out and take a few rain-droppy pictures. Thus, in honour of  the plum rains, I've taken some snaps and am linking up at Budget Trouble for Show Me Japan

 

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I wanted to try to capture a superwellfocused raindrop on a leaf, but this is much more difficult to accomplish than it appears to be in all those fancy photography websites. So, here is my halfassed, thoroughly mediocre-to-poor effort.


So, yeah. Rainy season in Japan. Tsuyu, or plum rains, they're called (coincidentally, in China the season is also called plum rains, which I think sounds beautiful: full, ripe with rain.) For the uninitiated, the season 'round these parts opens at the end of May and last until mid-July. Frigid Siberian air masses collide and do battle with the hot, moist air of South-East Asia and the fallout is four weeks of rain. 

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Damp lobby.

Rainy season brings rain. Clearly. But also intense humidity. The foyer of our building becomes a steam room, the marble floor slick, and glass heavy with condensation.  Mould marches in and seizes any available territory. Like, for example, my girl's laundry bin. (There were many causalities; a tragic culling of fabrics various and sundry.) Apparently incidences of food poisoning rise during this time of year. And I know from experience that you can't leave fruit out on the counter more than a day or two. It even seems to rot in the fridge at a freakishly alarming pace.  

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Look it's me. In the mirror of my building's foyer. Très humid, I tell you. 

Rain pours, but we still must go about our business. Subways and buses are thick with dripping umbrellas. Large stores have umbrella bag dispensers at their entrances; you stuff your sopping umbrella into a plastic bag in an attempt to contain the wet. Umbrella thieves prowl, capturing their unattended prizes left in doorway stands. People arm themselves with little towels, draped around their necks or hidden away in pockets to combat the humidity. You tuck folding fans into your purse, or having forgotten one, accept a fan printed with an advertisement in the train station.

But it is not all bad. There are days of intense downpours. And days of soft, warm drizzle. And then a break. The Japanese say three days rain, four days sun. The air smells fresh, the greens so intense. And rainy season is when irises bloom. So. 

 

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Show Me Expensive Fruit

Hey, everybody! Expensive fruit season is back! (But really, the question is did it ever actually leave?)

I know, I know, clueless foreigner making fun of 100 dollar square watermelons and 12 000 dollar cantaloupes is hilarious (where hilarious = totally done to death), but I was cruising around my local department store food section in search of cilantro and coconut milk (these staples of my diet are not readily available, sadly), and saw a display of NEW! EXPENSIVE! FRUIT! and couldn't help snapping a few pictures, and in the process collecting some disdainful and disapproving looks from fabulous passers-by and stock boys alike.

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HEYYyyyyyy! I'm a $135 mango, and I prolly taste about as good as my 3 dollar cousin! 

I do not understand the price-politics of the Japanese grocery store. There's the thing with the bonkers-expensive fruit, we know that. (For the uninitiated, the expensive fruit is intended to be given as a gift, to a boss or a respected family member, or someone to whom you owe a great debt of gratitude, or perhaps a friend who is sick in the hospital. A gift of expensive fruit garners a certain amount of thanks and respect because, hey, EXPENSIVE! and also, they generally come from EXPENSIVE department stores, which are brand names, and therefore EXPENSIVE and awesome.) But then there are also staples, like rice for example, that just cost. so. much. money. I bought 500 grams of brown rice today, for about 9 USD, and it was no specialsuperhealthyorganicmacrobiotic rice, just the crappiest, cheapest kind in the crappy cheap Wal-mart derivative grocery store where I do most of my shopping because I'm cheap.  Compare that with a similarly sized box in the US, at 3 USD. 

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Mangos- A bargain at $64!

 So, I know that Japan has all sorts of rules and regulations set up designed to protect its economy. I also know that it still sees itself very much as an agricultural country, and therefore has a certain collective emotional investment in propping up its farmers. Also, the farmers are apparently a fairly powerful political force, and as such, politicians are keenly aware of farmers' interests, and happy to keep food prices protected.

There is also the idea that Japanese people prefer to buy local; they see their own produce as being superior to imports (and given the problems that their biggest neighbour is facing in the food safety department, could you really blame them?) But what about Taiwan? Or Australia? 


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77 dollar cherries! Too delicious to even eat!

 

And then there's the idea that it's better to buy locally - you know, for the environment and everything. This I totally don't buy. If you see the amount of packaging that goes into Japanese foodstuffs, you'd be amazed: individually wrapped apples; bubble wrap for every bottle you buy; special plastic bags to keep the rain off your paper bags. Environment-shimiroment.

IMG_0757 Two peaches for 15 dollars! At that price, I'll take 100!

 

Normal people just don't make buckets of money in Japan. For example, a friend of mine recently hired a trilingual secretary for about 12 USD / hour. And that's considered a pretty high wage. Rent is crazy expensive. So, how do people afford to eat?

I, for one, am not too sure. My fruit purchases are limited to bananas. Because of my aforementionedcheapskatedness.  

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This melon costs 193 dollars because it is filled with unicorn horn dust.

And this concludes my random, ill-educated, sleep-deprived foray into Japanese agricultural economic policy.  

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Amended to add:

I just got out of bed to add a link to Budget Trouble because they're the ones hosting Show Me Japan, and I didn't think that I'd get into heaven if I forgot to link properly, so you know. Rapture.

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Empty Parks

Springtime + beautiful weather + pre-walking baby = a lot of time spent in parks. And so, for this week in Show Me Japan, I'm featuring photos I took in our local, empty park.

And I know, parks, right? How interesting can that be? A park is a park is a park. But hear me out. First, as it was the week after Golden Week, and everyone is back in the office, I was struck by how empty the parks are. Like, ghost town empty.

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The BEST slide ever. Rock climbing wall on one side, supercrazysandy slide on the other.

 

Also typically Japanese, the level of politeness that one must exhibit to all people at the park: children, crazies, and bums alike. Kids line up at the swings, waiting their turn. And when you see someone lingering, that's your cue to get the hell out of there and stop being a hog.

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no one waiting here. 

Homeless people, and others who are generally a bit strange hang out in the park. And these guys are not menacing as their counterparts in North America would be. Just a bit strange. I've noticed that the mothers who supervise their kids in the park talk to these guys if they happen to initiate conversation, and are sure to bid the homeless dudes farewell before running off after their kids. Imagine that happening in North America.

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Empty and forgotten. 

Kids take off their shoes in Japanese parks. Even if it's, like, five degrees outside. There is no perceived danger of stepping on hypodermic needles, or broken beer bottles, but there is the risk of leaving your shoes behind. 

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There are always handy little taps for feet washing when playtime is over. Because, you know,  you can have fun, but you've got to be clean. 

 

The playground equipment is well used, and charmingly old-timey:

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Still empty.

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Nobody there.

 

And although there is a clear man-rules-nature vibe: everything is stylized and controlled, unlike our wild and natural North American parks. 

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Swan boats on a man-made lake.  

So, that's my view of Japan for this week. Now, head on over to Budget Trouble for more Show Me Japan. 

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Show Me Japan: Golden Week

This week I'm linking up with Budget Trouble's photo meme Show Me Japan. Because this blog is supposed to be about life in Japan, when mostly it's about the fact that my kid won't sleep. 

ANYWAY, as I mentioned, we are just finishing up Golden Week, and the sights and sounds of celebrations are dazzling. We live across the street (more or less) from a pretty significant shrine that is host to all sorts of festivals and interesting goings on throughout the year. This week there were literally hundreds of kids running around in crazy outfits and wapping each other with swords. I'm not too sure what THAT was all about. Moments like these make me think, "holy shit, I live in Japan!" So strange. So surreal. So different from life in Canada. I didn't manage to get out with my good camera, but here are some snaps I took with my phone. 

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So, that's a view from my Japan.

For more, check out Show Me Japan.

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