Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hotel Living

Our move went fairly smoothly and here we are, comfortably ensconced at the M*riott. I was concerned about being stuck in a little hotel room with a baby, but there was no need for concern. Chloe is happy with a spot of floor and a chair leg to chew on. If I would've realized now nice it would feel to have no housework and room service we would've moved here weeks ago! :-) Unfortunately, it looks like I left the camera cables sitting out and they got included in our sea shipment. That means that I can neither charge my camera (which is already running on a low battery) nor - brace yourselves - upload photos onto the computer. I'm already going through "I can't update my blog properly" withdrawl. I keep taking blog photos (Chloe wedged under the footstool in the hotel room, etc.) that are destined to languish on the camera! **Sigh.** Bic Camera is right across the street from our hotel, so I'm hoping I can pay them a visit and perhaps replace these cables...keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Eight Things I'll Miss about My House in Japan

Once upon a time, long ago and in a land, well, not so far away, I requested list requests and promised to make said lists "soon." I'm not so sure that this qualifies as soon, but the time has come! I think that I'll fulfill Heidi's request for things about leaving Japan in multiple lists, and since this is our very last weekend in our house here before we move into a hotel for a week, I'm going to talk about my beloved home here. So here goes: Eight Things I'll Miss about My House in Japan:
  1. The bathtub. Our bathtub is digital. Seriously. We set the water level and water temperature, hit the big green button, and walk away. When the bathtub is full, it beeps upstairs and a lady talks to us from the intercom downstairs. Awesome. It's also huge and has a built-in seat. Chloe loves swimming in it.
  2. Our heated toilet seats. Even in summer, I love these things. And can you say "Michigan winters?" Yeah. We all need one. After two years of such a civilized amenity, sitting on something cold feels, well, just a little bit barbaric.
  3. The in-room heating and cooling units. I know, central heat and air are preferred by all, right? Not me. You know how your bedroom is freezing if your living room is toasty, and your living room is sweltering if your bedroom is comfortable? We haven't experienced that in years. Each room or area of the house has its own wall-mounted unit, right up by the ceiling, and you adjust the temperature to what you want it to be in that room only. It's quick, you get the temperature you want where you want it, and it saves a lot on electricity (or gas - they're electric heaters, though). 'Nuff said.
  4. My patio, back deck, and balconies. We have a sliding glass door in every room of our house that opens onto some kind of outdoor space (except the bathroom). I love it, love it, love it.
  5. Our fish broiler. We don't have an oven, not a real one, anyway. In Japan you get a stovetop with a fish broiler built in instead. It's perfect for fish, but I've also cooked burgers and chicken and who knows what else in there. Sniff, sniff.
  6. The different transportation options. I know that this isn't strictly about my house, but it sort of is! We have a car, so if I want to drive to Jusco and get lots of groceries, I can. If I want to go into Sakae and not worry about parking, I can. If I want to toss Chloe in the stroller and jog over to 7-11 or someone's house, I can. In Michigan, not so much. All car, all the time. Poor Chloe's going to be spending more time in that awful carseat than ever!
  7. The wood floors. Just because I like them.
  8. The shoe closet. Do you know how convenient it is to just toss your shoes into the shoe closet when you walk into the house? No wandering around trying to figure out where you took them off, no big mess in the bedroom closet, and it keeps the dirt in the entryway. Do you think it would affect the resale value of our house in Michigan if we tore out a wall to put one in?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sumo - Foot Stomp!

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Sumo Match!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sumo!

NOTE: I unfortunately had so much trouble uploading two of the videos that I've given up for now. :( That means that some of the text may not entirely match the photos that I've put in to replace them. I'll try again later and hopefully be able to include them in a later post. The sumo tournament on Friday was awesome - definitely one of my top five Japan must-sees! The tournament runs for about two weeks. Each wrestler, or rikishi, has one match per day, though I think some of the lower-ranked rikishi have fewer than that. After the tournament, the standings are revised to reflect the results and wrestlers are either promoted or demoted based on their performance.
The tournament day begins with the lowest-ranked wrestlers and continues through the day to conclude with the top-ranked ones. They are divided into cohorts - sort of like a JV or varsity team in high school - and only wrestle those in their own division. Here's a video of the second-highest cohort being introduced. You may notice a guy in the center (he's not too obvious in this video) wearing a red kimono and black hat. That's the referee. There is one referee, dressed in kimono of varying colors, inside the ring. There are also four judges, dressed in black kimono, sitting on the edge of each side of the ring. If there is any difficulty determining the winner of the match, the five of them meet together to resolve the question. They can also declare a rematch. video

You usually sit on the floor in a 2- or 4-person box seat to watch the tournament (though there are a few cheap bleacher seats up top). We got a two-person seat that was a four-person size because we are big Americans. If we'd actually crammed four people in our box it would have been decidedly uncomfortable - some salarymen sitting in front of us reminded me of four eggs in an egg carton - but as it was, it was great!

We were able to move around, shift positions, lay Chloe down in a vain attempt to get her to nap, let her walk around... it was much more comfortable, and much more relaxing, than your typical stadium seating. I can easily see hanging out there all day.

Before the final cohort (I'm sure this isn't their official name, by the way) began wrestling, two yokozuna (I may have spelled that wrong) came out and performed this ceremony (this is just one of them). The yokozuna is the highest rank that can be attained by a sumo wrestler, and once he has reached this level he cannot be demoted. If his performance fails, he's expected to retire honorably. Anyway, this ceremony is performed for the benefit of the Shinto gods. The yokozuna puts his arms out to show that he has no weapons and that this will be an honorable match; I think that the foot stomp might be to get the gods' attention, but I'm not completely sure. (Click on the photo to see it in more detail.) Chloe thought it was cool... but her feet, the wooden divider, and the people above us were far more interesting. :) Finally, your opportunity to watch a sumo match. (Haha, just kidding! Here are some nice pictures, though. Again, click to enlarge.) The wrestlers are given four minutes to glare at one another. This time of intimidation is a big part of the match. The time limit is relatively new; until 1928 the wrestlers were permitted to glare for as long as they wanted, but in that year it was reduced to twenty minutes and has been decreased a few times since. After the glaring, the match itself may last only seconds. You'll notice them throwing salt upon entering the ring, which serves the purpose of ceremonial purification but also seems to be used for swagger and intimidation of one's opponent. One of the most interesting things about sumo, I think, is that it originates in this land where open agression is anathema and yet is one of the least passive-aggressive sports around. There's no "accidentally" hitting someone with a pitch here! American football certainly contains a bit of opponent intimidation, but even it doesn't have four minutes dedicated to The Glare.

"ARRRRRR! Look at me stomp! I can whip the stuffing out of you, doughboy! ARRRRRR!" Pretty sure that's what they said. After the match, the place clears out in a matter of minutes! The tournament ended at 6:00 p.m. sharp - no-one like the Japanese for timeliness - and we thought we'd hang out for a few minutes and wait for the public transit to clear out a little bit. This photo was taken at roughly 6:05 p.m., right before a kind gentleman came up and told us that we had to leave now. By 6:10 p.m., all the cushions had been collected and the place was pretty well clean. That was the other thing. There is a notable lack of trash lying around considering how many people just vacated this area - everyone packed their garbage into their little plastic grocery bags and brought it home with them!

Oh, and one more thing - because of sumo's relationship to Shinto, the ring is considered a sacred area. No women are allowed to touch it, or the ring becomes defiled. And we thought haivng women at Synod was a big deal... :)

Stay tuned for the videos - I'm determined to get them up sooner or later!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Earthquake

For those watching the news in the U.S. this morning, no worries - the big earthquake in Japan was far to the northwest of us. Mike did feel the tremor in his office building, but I didn't feel anything here at home. Click here for a cool seismic map of Japan!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sumo Mini

Today we went to the sumo tournament in Nagoya! Awesome, awesome, awesome. I loved it; hands down one of the best things we've done in Japan. I'm kind of bummed that it's done.
Anyway, tomorrow is our big sayonara-hurricane party (we timed it nicely to coincide with Typhoon Man-Li, see photo below) so I don't have time right now to do the big post on our experiences that I would like to. So enjoy these teaser photos for now! (By the way - the party is on as long as it's safe to be out and about.) Sumoooooooo! Yeah. We were there. How cool is that? If you'd like to do some reading on sumo, check out the Nagoya Tournament website for some great information!
Doesn't Chloe look adorable in her little yukata? Cute, cute, cute. Oh, Mike's cute, too, of course. And now, the proof - we were there! This is right after the tournament finished. They clear this place out really quickly!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Junkie

70%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Mingle2 - Online Dating

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dali

Round-trip subway ticket: 520 yen
Entry fee to museum: 1300 yen
Giving my daughter the opportunity to poop on the floor
of the Nagoya City Art Museum: priceless

Monday, July 09, 2007

Down by the River

We went for a walk down by the river near our house this weekend. Does Chloe look like she's plotting something in this picture or what?
Awwwww.... Yay! Mike is SO excited about getting his picture taken. We'll be moving out of our house in just 2 1/2 weeks - so sad! I'll miss our house. Too bad we can't bring it home with us. :) And this Friday we're going to the sumo tournament, so stay tuned for some crazy Japan!

Baby Shower

On Friday, Chloe and I went to Claudia's baby shower. Here's the guest of honor with a beautiful bit of calligraphy of her baby's name handmade by Caroline! I'm impressed. :)

This is Chloe and her new little boyfriend, Luca. He was a riot.

And finally, a pic of Chloe and our old Japanese teacher, Keiko-san. The last time they saw each other, Chloe was only a few days old!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Today We Went to the Park

We played on the swings...
...and in the water on the trampoline...

...and left only footprints.

It was fun!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Some More Fun Pics

I learned on Ben's blog that I should post regularly to best serve my readers: once a day, or once a week, or even once a month is okay, but regularity is important! I seem to be developing a posting binge pattern. Does that count as regular? :)
Before getting to the pics, I'd like to note that I'm trying out another new feature on my sidebar - the poll. Let me know what you think of this, too. :)
On to the funny pics...
A Daddy-daughter moment...
Chloe seems to have figured out that small white plastic cups like this are hers. So when we went to Coco Ichibanya earlier this week and they brought out a little plastic white cup, she was quick to take possession. "Daddy...Daddy, excuse me, but this is my cup. Back off, please." She still can't drink out of it of course. But she likes blowing bubbles in it and spitting the water all over her clothes.

Daddy took away the cup. I have to say, I think this is one of the funniest pictures I've taken of her to date. This expression just flashed across her face for a second, but the indignation is clear. :)

And by the way, Heidi, I have not forgotten your request. I'm just really, really slow. And distractable. :)

Recent Adventures - Kahma

This past weekend, Mike, Chloe, and I took a little field trip to Kahma. Kahma is our local home-improvement store. It's a little bit like Home Dep*t or L*we's, with a splash of Meij*r or W*al-Mart mixed in. Pretty cool. Fair warning - there are no Chloe pics in this post, as I was carrying both the camera and her. Too bad, too, since watching her watch the puppies is pretty cute.
It's beetle season in Japan! I haven't seen these things in nature yet, thank all that is good in this world, but they're in stores everywhere. I don't know if it's the size of the living quarters here or the fact that a dog or cat will set you back a good $2,000, but these nasty little - no, BIG - beetles appear to be an extremely popular pet here in Japan. As you can see, at 880 yen (less than $8), they're a good buy. And if your parents won't let you get the real thing, you can get the action figures, or the lunchbox, or the notebook, or pretty much anything else you could dream of with these cute little buggies on them. Yuck.
Mike wants one, you can tell. He's not allowed, though. No way, no how. The inflatable guy on the endcap might be permissible, but I don't think he's for sale.
Here's a close-up. See, now don't you want one, too? I know Keegan does. Just think what would happen if you put this guy in the silverware drawer! Bwahahahahaaaaaaaaaa!
This next photo is one you'll want to zoom in on. It's a tennis-racket-shaped electric flyswatter. Seriously. We didn't get it, but I think we should have. You just swing the racket and BZZZZZAP! end of bug. Sugoye!

And last but not least, we have the burglar rocks. As near as I can tell, you spread these rocks around your vulnerable areas and they make so much noise that they act as a burglar alarm. I stepped on them. They are pretty noisy. I think there might be an application around the Christmas tree, here.

Here's a close-up of the poster. Based on my superior understanding of the Japanese language, I can tell you that various varieties of the rock will yield between 67 and 102 decibals in burglar-thwarting volume, and that when said burglar hears the noise he will become terrified, drop your belongings, and flee. This is why Japan is such a safety country.

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Chloe Learning to Sit - Update

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I think I mentioned a little while ago that Chloe's been working on her sitting skills. She's making progress! I thought y'all might appreciat this little clip of her evolving prowess. :)

On an unrelated note, I did something different with this video - I uploaded it through Blogger directly by going to http://draft.blogger.com (rather than www.blogger.com). It's a new feature they're testing out. The earlier videos I did were all uploaded to Google Video with the embed code pasted in here. This definitely seems easier - cuts out a few steps - so we'll just have to see how well it works. So far it's taking a really long time to upload, but Google Video took awhile, too. Let me know if you have a preference!

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