30 March, 2016

Posting at camp

We're having a fine time camping. The weathers been on the cool side, but not as cold as in November and it has not rained. As usual it's been fun to be with friends: not only are the chores shared but there are plenty of people to choose from to hang out with and the boys are more likely to have their "other people" faces on and hence are better behaved. Here are a few photos. 

Setting up

The fire: centre of camp!

We're in a park about 2km long. This view we saw as we walked to the ropes/obstacle course yesterday. 

The ropes course was fun for all ages. There is an 11 age span between the seven kids of our two families, but all enjoyed this course. According to our two teenagers, however, the best entertainment was watching the 40 year olds in the group. 


Culture exchange: we had Australian damper the first night then American s'mores last night. 





27 March, 2016

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow

We're a little crazy doing family stuff at present, and taking care of ourselves.

Yesterday, the first day of the school's week-long spring break, we left early and drove an hour west (only about 22km, though) to the US Airforce base for another inter school sports meet. This time track and field. I found the meet more enjoyable than I have in the past, perhaps because there were lots of fun people to talk to that I knew and we had two athletes competing, so there were twice as many events to check out with passion.
Our "wrestler" doing discus. It was frustrating that we couldn't get any closer
and that there were two fences between us and him, but I guess remaining
safe was a big priority too. He threw some PBs (as I used to call them, PRs
as they call them). He's only got 4 more metres to qualify for the big meet
at the end of the season. And 50cm in shot put. He came 7th and 6th in
respectively in these two events. A great effort.
Our middle son breasting the line, second place in his 100m heat. He's looked
forward to this sporting season for some months now. It was great to see him
out there going hard at it.
My weather app told me it was 9C when I took this photo.
It was indeed chilly, but much more bearable in the sun,
though the sun took its toll. We're all a bit sunburnt (and
wind burnt too). It was an all-day event, and that much sun,
even at those temperatures, does damage to skin like this.
This is a photo of America and Japan side-by-side.
Only separated by a fence. And we were on the "inside". 
Yesterday we also sent our youngest son off to a soccer camp until Monday. The base was about half-way to the campsite, so David and a friend took him there after lunch. It's a little quiet today without him.

This afternoon, as well as recovering from yesterday, we're preparing to go away tomorrow on our spring camping trip. We're headed up to a campsite we went to in 2012, only weeks after we did that epic trip to Uluru in Australia. 

This break is something we've been looking forward to, especially during those difficult weeks in Feb/early March. We're going with another family, so that's double the fun!

But alas we need to pack . . . not too hard (we've got a great perpetual list), but it needs doing.

So, I won't be here much in coming days, but I might post some photos from the "field". Hopefully I'll be back later this week feeling refreshed.



25 March, 2016

The unforgettable farewell

I said another farewell today. This time to the guest home managers at our Japan Headquarters. An older Swiss couple who have wonderful warm, servant hearts. Who took an early retirement and spent four more years working here in Japan, a place they knew little about. 

In saying goodbye I reminded them of our departure for home assignment in June 2014. We'd left our house in western Tokyo a couple of days earlier and stayed in the guest home while we finished a couple more things. One of which was handing our car over for the year to a young missionary family who'd just moved to Tokyo. 

Their plans didn't allow them to wait a day longer so that we could have our car to the end and it turned out there were no other vehicles available at headquarters to take us to the airport so our plan was to catch the train mid afternoon. Not really a great hardship as there are no changes between there and the airport. 

We took a rest after lunch in preparation for our overnight flight and weren't keeping an eye on the weather. We only became aware of the big storm headed our way when it was too late to leave earlier to miss it. 

I'll never forget our guest home managers grabbing a bunch of plastic bags and wrapping up all our suitcases and backpacks. A Lot, after all we were moving to Australia for a year. 

They then insisted on walking with us through the torrential summer storm, sloshing through ankle deep puddles and pushing against the acutely angled rain. We battled our way past a car sales shop with smugly dry customers and salesmen looking out at us in amazement. It must have been an amusing sight. 

When we got there they talked their way into the platform and unwrapped our precious luggage. As we farewelled our soggy colleagues with all those dripping plastic bags in their hands, the rain stopped and the sun came out!

What a farewell party! Unforgettable. 

I reminded us of this this afternoon and we all laughed. They said, "God must have given us this story so we never forget you!"

Well, we won't forget you either Fredy and Anuk. 

Indeed, it is the stories, the memories of the many friends and colleagues who we've farewelled over the years that are very precious to us. 


24 March, 2016

Looking back five years to a day in our house

Five years ago this month our lives had been shaken up, literally. The below blog post was written ten days after the earthquake/tsunami. 

At the time I was newly appointed as the (temporary) managing editor of the next issue of the magazine, designated as a "disaster edition". School was still out: unreliable trains, plus many families who evacuated due to the uncertainty of the nuclear situation made it impossible to hold meaningful classes. So we all were at home. The boys were supposed to do some kind of homeschooling and David was doing online assistance for his own students. It wasn't easy. 


Packing the "disaster" edition to post out.
We did a record run that issue, printing
more than 3 ½ times our usual run, and we
sold out. I don't even have a copy in Japan
of that issue any more. We could have printed
many more.
It's good to look back and remember. God sustained us through all this. Now we can see that through this disaster he's opened doors to ministry in this area. I know, we've just sent a 40-page issue of the magazine to the printer that focuses on where we are five years later. 

Have a read about our day, the 21st of March, 2011:

Our new normal day

We're coming to the end of another day. A day of juggling three boys, pseudo-homeschooling, two computers and two part-time jobs. A grey, rainy, chilly day. Another day where we had very little framework to hang our day on. I guess that has been a constant of the last ten days. Almost nothing in fixed in our diaries, and yet things that needed getting done. Something like summer holidays, except a feeling like we should be accomplishing things. 

I write "pseudo-homeschooling" because for the most part it is only an attempt at home schooling. We don't have a curriculum. We have few things that really need doing. It is more like filling the days with educational-value activities, than a real attempt at schooling. The trickiest part is juggling computer usage. Many of the suggested activities involve computers attached to the internet, and with only two computers with that capability it truly can be a juggle with five people in the house. (Not to say that we aren't thankful for the blessing of actually having two computers.)

My job as household manager remains. So sourcing groceries, previously known as grocery shopping, remains. 'Sourcing' giving the impression that groceries that you are looking for are not necessarily in the places you think they'll be or in the first place you look. After yesterday's encounter with a petrol-station line, we're even more reluctant to use our car. Stories of people waiting 2 hours for 10 litres of petrol are pretty common, even here in Tokyo. For now we'll keep our car with its 3/4 full tank for emergencies only. So, that meant grocery shopping in the cold rain in full rain pants and jacket on my bike. Thankfully it wasn't too bad I didn't use gloves and my fingers didn't freeze off, but on this public holiday (Spring Equinox holiday) there were very few others out on their bikes.

So, it really is a "new normal" that we are operating under. Grocery shops are not back to normal. I haven't been able to find bread flour yet. Milk, bread and noodles are still in short supply. There remain conspicuous gaps on shelves. People don't seem to be panic buying, but perhaps it is the lack of fuel that is causing difficulties with delivery vehicles? 

Today, with an assurance of almost no chance of a power outage, I've finally been able to use my slow cooker to cook up the very unusual spare ribs that I found before this all happened. I've never seen them before in Japan, so it will be a nice treat.

I haven't yet taken up the cleaning challenge that is building around me. The dust bunnies in the corners just haven't seemed all that important in comparison to all the other things going on recently. I guess I've got it coming. I'm dropping strong hints to the boys who merely raise their eyebrows or roll their eyes. 

The school had various "open" things going for the morning, but that still required a parent for supervision. David ended up taking them and toting his computer along, trying to fit in some curriculum planning (or other science department stuff that I don't understand) along the way.

I stayed home and got my three articles for our mission's international magazine finished. That is the first piece of on-demand journalism I've ever done. Must say I don't think I'm cut out for fast paced journalism! But it was nice to get that done, even if I felt as though there was so much more that I could have said, unfortunately with the deadline and word limit, I just couldn't.

Then I've continued making connections, sourcing stories and networking. I went into the CRASH command centre mid afternoon to have a meeting about the upcoming edition of Japan Harvest. I'm somewhat relieved as some of the responsibilities for the edition have been taken off my shoulders, but we're aiming even higher and wider now in quality and purpose, so in some ways I'm not totally relieved. There is a lot to be done in four weeks - our tentative "send-to-the-printer" date. I still feel a little bit like I'm a sixth grader doing university-level work. However I'm gradually making progress and have found another editor to help with the stories that I'm finding.

We received a phone call from our mission's home office, just checking that we were okay. It is great to feel cared for. That has been a real sense we've had from this whole affair - that people back home do care for us. Even in normal times we send lots of information back in the form of prayer/news letters, but because life is busy we often hear very little back, that is generally okay, but sometimes discouraging. It has been very encouraging to hear from so many who regularly read our news and pray.

I was encouraged to hear people at CRASH command centre talking about taking a day-off. We mostly took yesterday as our day-off. I still checked email, but didn't really pro-actively work. Today I feel somewhat refreshed. However people at the command centre are working about 11 hours a day, 6 1/2 days a week. It is a very busy, intense and frequently changing workplace. They are working hard to get things set-up and with so many people in need, I can understand the urgency. We also fear for people's ability to keep this pace up.

Well this has been a rambling kind-of post, thanks for sticking around. I hope I've given you some insight into our somewhat unusual days. 

Before I sign-off I want to remind you of those in Japan who have greater needs than ours. That there remains, according to a report I read this afternoon, something like 2.3 million Japanese without running water. Many are able to access water via a community tap (like a village well), but not where they are residing.

23 March, 2016

MYOB streak

Last night I made foccocia to go with our meal. First time I've tried that and it was wonderful. Later I realised that I've been on quite the MYOB (Make Your Own Bread) streak. 

We have been making bread for a long time, since early on in our time in Japan, but only with a breadmaker and usually only wholemeal loaves (though there was a time when David made fruit bread). So, we always have yeast in the house and I'm familiar with the ingredients that go into bread.

I love baking and cooking, something my mum instilled in me. But she never cooked bread (or fish), and so I've never really gone there until these last nine months. It just seemed too hard.

I think there are three reasons for the change:
  1. I have big hungry boys. Most of this bread-making has been an effort to make the meat go further as well as fill them up.
  2. Our year in Australia. We enjoyed many scrumptious breads in Australia (one of the reason we put weight on there and had trouble taking it off again while we lived in the country). While bread isn't hard to get here, most of it is quite expensive and a lot is sweeter than we like for a main meal and wholemeal is even more expensive. However we have a flour mill down the road, so bread flour and wholemeal flour isn't hard to get or expensive.
  3. I feel ridiculously proud and accomplished every time I successfully bake "special" bread. That's a big incentive to keep going.
Here's what I've made in the last nine months since we came back, most of these several times:


Wholemeal bread rolls. The boys love these. Actually they love everything in this post...my teenage boys aren't too hard to please when it comes to plain cooking.

Empandas. A great way to stretch out left-overs. Baked meat-filled bread. A bit time-consuming, but really worth it. These were great for wrestling season as they were neat, could be eaten anytime (even breakfast), anywhere, and provided protein for the wrestlers.

Pizza, of course.


Savoury mince scrolls. These were moist and scrumptious fresh, but also as leftovers. I believe a couple made it into lunch boxes too. Another left-over stretcher.


Hot cross buns. Sweet bread, and very more-ish.


Foccocia. I was inspired by a recipe on Thrive Connection, a website for Global Christian Women. I'm estimating this cost less than 250 yen to make (AU$2.90). I stretched our meatloaf into left-over territory. Without it we would have easily gone through a whole kilo of mince (US=ground beef) last night.




22 March, 2016

Kids newsletter for Japan



These are free for you to copy or distribute. Please contact me if you'd like to be on the mailing list or if you'd like better copies of this newsletter.


20 March, 2016

Deaf ministry in Japan

It was good to hear of a little-known need today at church. The Japan Deaf Evangel Mission sent a representative to speak at our church this morning. They pointed out that there are 400 deaf languages in the world and none of them have the whole Bible, only one (in the US) has the whole New Testament. 

I didn't realise that people who have been deaf all their lives often struggle to read because written language is very dependent on knowing what words sound like. Hence the need for a deaf Bible.

Here is a video explanation:


This video points out that until recently we haven't had the technology to produce and widely distribute deaf bibles, which are obviously visual. These days that is much easier.

I was struck again at how the deaf have a language and cultural barrier between them and hearing people, even when they have the same nationality, something I realised when we watched The Hammer, a movie about a deaf wrestler. 

We were operating in three languages during the presentation this morning: spoken Japanese, Japanese sign language, and some English as well (the video was in English with Japanese subtitles). Being independent as a deaf person must be a real challenge. Being independent without good written and spoken Japanese is a problem for us foreigners, imagine living that your whole life! 

The reason they came to speak to us is that they are seriously lacking in funds, it takes a lot of hours to translate accurately and produce these videos, and hence funds are needed to pay for salaries. So difficult! Especially when the Christian population of Japan is under 1%, that's not a large number of people from whom to gain support. The deaf population of Japan is about 300,000 people.

Food for thought. This is what they have on their website (link at the top of this post):

How You Can= Help
Pray for us. Get the news through our mailings and join in prayer.
Become a Member. Anyone who contributes any amount to ViBi becomes a member for the rest of that fiscal year (until March).
Join the 1000/1000 Program. We're looking for 1,000 people to support us 1,000 yen/month, so we can sell our tapes for 1,000 yen each. To date, we have 746= committments.
Be a "Library Partner." Request that our Bible translation tapes be placed in your local Deaf Chapter video library, or your local community library.
Join (or Start) a Translation Team. You don't have to move to Tokyo. We'll help you learn where you are.

19 March, 2016

The lasagne hunt

I have been hunting for lasagne sheets this week. I don't make lasagne very often, understand, but I do make it. The shop I used to buy them from isn't on my usual routes, so it wasn't until I rode there on Wednesday that I found out that they'd knocked it down and built something else.
In the end, I rode or walked to seven grocery stores and then David went to two near the optometrist where he went yesterday afternoon to pick up our son's new glasses. The lasagna sheets arrived at the very last minute (I was about to start dinner).
There's two more grocery stores on here that we didn't try!

The amazing thing is that the furtherest any of the shops are from our house is 2.5km. We can easily ride to them all! It really highlights the population density: that all these grocery stores can function at a profit. Most of them are medium to large, maybe the size of a small to medium grocery store in Australia.

Tuna Lasagne worked fairly well in the end, for which I'm glad. Next time I might use tortilla, though they are also pretty uncommon.



18 March, 2016

Early Spring ride

A cost of busyness often is a lack of time for the exercise. I have taken a long ride for several weeks, this week I knew it was time but kept an eye on the weather. We've had lots of cold, rainy days, but I could see some warmer sunny days coming so I held off going riding until yesterday. 

Oh and it was so worth it! Check out these photos. 
Daffodils on my route there.

Sakura (cherry blossoms) also on my route.
It isn't easy to catch cherry blossoms on a blue-sky day in Tokyo. Today the sky is grey.
I sat on grass in the warm sun and gazed at this sight in the park. I really didn't want to leave, it was so soul-refreshing and reviving. 

Most of the trees in the park still had their winter bare-ness, but if you looked closely some had pregnant buds. 

We're not sure if this is a plum or cherry blossom, but it's gorgeous nonetheless. 

These look like weeds, but are a seasonal flower that also only last a short time. They're Rapeseed Flowers (harvested for canola oil in some places in the world) and flower at about the same time as Cherry blossoms here. So they're often planted together and provide a beautiful contrast for each other. 


These daffodils are just down the road from us outside a small hospital. Easy to miss, but gorgeous after a long cold winter.

I rode about 18km yesterday on my mamachari. With the temperature at about 18C, it was fantastic to be out without cowering under tonnes of layers. This map I give you to provide context. 
My ride is in green. You can just see the tip of
Tokyo Bay to the east. We're about
an hour from there by train, only 26km.
We live where the four blue lines converge. I did some local grocery shopping after my ride to the park and left my app running to capture that riding too. 

I'm keen to go back to the park soon—tulips and more cherry blossoms will be out soon. The ride definitely provides more than just exercise. I feel refreshed and more positive now.




17 March, 2016

Friends

I've been reading a book with a very unattractive cover these last couple of weeks: The Friendships of Women by Dee Brestin. The cover is dated, but the material is classic and compelling. Despite my first impressions of this book I've really enjoyed it. Here are three take-aways:
  1. It is okay to have more than one best friend.
  2. Mentor relationships should be informal (I've realised I have numerous relationships in this category, primarily because of number 1 in the next section).
  3. Friends can be perennial or annual. God brings  many friends into your life just for a season, but a rare few are there season after season.
So I've been thinking about friends. Actually, I often think about friends. It is one of the themes of my life, the "hats" that I happily wear. In many ways it's too big a topic to tackle in a mere blog post. Here are some thoughts that might resonate with you, though:

Moving overseas brings changes
The Grove had a post last week that suggested three ways that working internationally had changed how the author made friends:
  1. Anyone is a potential friend. Yep you don't have the luxury of choosing your friends around what makes you similar. Your pool of potential friends is smaller. I don't think this was something I first learnt in Japan, though. Working in a small country town after I graduated meant I developed friendships with people very much not like me. 
  2. Discipline of small talk. I don't have too much problem with a bit of small talk, though I'm not willing to stay in the land-of-small-talk for too long. The author is right in saying that this is the bread and butter of making friends overseas, especially in another language. It is starting to connect and hopefully through that finding ways to go deeper.
  3. Distance doesn't have to distance. Oh yes. Possibly this was the biggest change for me. Having good friends who I don't see for years and years, yet can leap off into deep conversation with as soon as we get together again. As the author writes, you can't predict which friendships will thrive in this environment and which will not, it really is "a box of chocolates", full of surprises.
    Mel, a forever friend. We've known each other since
    we were babies.
Friends don't have to be like you
Another article I've read this week links in with number one above: the idea that friends have to be like you (here). I'm often amazed when I think about those who I have a close friends, how different they are in some ways to me. More fashion conscious, jewellery-loving, make-up loving, mums of girls, grandmas, mums of little ones, friends from very different cultural backgrounds (both within Australia and in other countries). Women who've always lived in the same town, women who've thrived in multiple countries.

That article lists five friends you really ought to have:


  1. A friend older and wiser than you.
  2. One that younger.
  3. Someone with a different home culture than you.
  4. Someone who holds a different worldview.
  5. Someone next door.

I have good friends in all these categories! I'm so blessed!

Last year I was talking with a friend from high school about going to our 25th high school reunion. She comes from a very different family situation and worldview to me and was concerned that I would struggle with the environment of alcohol, loud music, etc. But I assured her, with a smile, that I wanted to come and was used to dealing with "cross cultural" situations.

It's true that I lean towards introverts. I have this irrepressible urge to draw an introvert out. But I also have good friends who are extroverts (though they are exhausting at times, they are also fun).

Love the person in front of you
My life as an international women includes lots of people. Many more than I could have imagined when I was in my 20s. I think the key to surviving in all of this has been two-fold: 
  1. Loving the person in front of me (see here).
  2. Perennial friends. Friends who I know will be there throughout my journey.
A few of other posts I've written about friends:Crucial community
Do you have a job in Japan?
Precious gifts
Forever friend

16 March, 2016

Cycling works in Tokyo

I've written about cycling and bicycles quite a lot on this blog (for example here I wrote about bike parking). Below is a great video about the cycling culture in Japan. 
You can carry an awful lot pretty easily on
a mamachari. This is my bike.


Unfortunately it's not quite representative of cycling in Japan. Most of the people interviewed are wearing helmets and talking about "commuting cycling" and "lycra cycling" rather than the usual cycling that the majority of people are doing. Most cycling trips would be a local i.e. a kilometre or two, rather than several kilometres or more.

At least one of the translations aren't quite right either. Then there is the issue of what the words are translated properly, but do they really mean what they said. An older lady in the first minute of the video says she's only been riding for a year. But I think she's probably been riding since she was a kid, just not seriously. But if you listen to the narration, it is explained that riding goes under the radar in Japan. You don't say you're riding to the shop, you just go out the door and hop on your bike. As natural as most Australians hop in their car.

Despite all that it is still worth watching. 

The Gaman Spirit: Why Cycling Works in Tokyo from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

You know when you've been away from your home country for too long when you struggle to know whether someone has an accent from there. The foreigner speaking (Byron Kidd, Urban Cycling Consultant in Japan) may be Australian . . . what do you think? Here is his blog, Tokyo by Bike, with lots of interesting stuff about riding in Japan. Here is a post about mamachari, the standard getting-around-town bike that most of the 85% of people who own a bike use.

15 March, 2016

Coping with slowing down

Life has slowed down. That's both very welcome and not fun at the same time. 

Bad things first 
I've always been somewhat hyperactive. These days it comes out more as mental activity than actual jumping around (my boys claim to have hardly ever seen me run). Hence I find it hard to slow down. 

I find moving quickly from a place of high pressure a hard thing (unless I'm on holidays). I remember learning in some rural health promotion work I did when I was an Occupational Therapist "in the country" in my early 20s that you can't just lift a heavy object (like a tractor) off someone who has been crushed. It needs to be carefully controlled or they'll potentially die very quickly. Well I'm not in that kind of physical danger here, but having the mental and physical strain lifted fairly quickly here does mean I'm feeling a little uncomfortable. I'm trying not to fill the void with more activity, but it's hard.
These three students were fun to teach cross stitching with

Good things next
Amazingly I'm finding myself able to delve into things that were previously not urgent!

On Saturday I had a creative day. I taught cross stitch to some students in the morning at CAJ and baked in the afternoon, that was very good for me.

It's also given me thinking and research time.

Currently I'm thinking about:
  1. virtual teams
  2. team bonding
  3. leadership
  4. friends
  5. Sticky chocolate date pudding with butterscotch sauce. I baked
    this on Saturday afternoon while the guys were all "board
    gaming" at someone else's house. This is absolutely more-ish.
  6. other publishing projects

The first three of these are related to the training I did in Thailand. As I wrote at the time, we were given the task of creating and completing three assignments in the next six months related to what we touched on during that week. I've never had such an open plan for assignments, I've rarely gone to a workshop that had such a thing built into it (with accountability, the PreHome Assignment workshop we came away from with plenty to do, but not much accountability).

But I have to admit my thoughts are a bit muddled. These aren't nice concrete tasks that I can just tick off the list. I find that hard.

The fourth thing on the list is something I'd like to write about as a challenge from The Grove. But I'm feeling the pressure of time (they give a weekly topic and you have five days to produce something...). I'm reading a book about friends as well, and I'd like to write about it here. But the thoughts need more time to percolate.

The fifth on the list is somewhat a source of angst as I'm mostly waiting on other people to reply to me. But I have had a chance to think about on this and will hopefully be in a better place when people eventually get back to me.

How about you? How do you cope when the pressure is suddenly or unexpectedly lifted?

14 March, 2016

Citrus varieties in Japan

Today is a miserable cold and wet day in Tokyo. I'm going to try to cheer myself up by writing about something that is a bright light in the winter season here: citrus fruit. I've been gathering photos through the winter to add to this post, but I haven't managed to get all of them.

Mikan

Known in Australia as mandarin and by a variety of other names across the world. These are the most common citrus fruit in winter in Japan. The ones sold in shops are generally seedless. Our boys didn't like the seeded ones available in Australia.


Iyōkan 

Mikan (mandarin) on the left, iyōkan on the right for a
size comparison.
Three of us love the Iyōkan, it is like a big version of a mikan. You peel it and eat segments like the mikan. The skin and fibres around the segments are a little tougher than a mikan. The taste is often not quite as sweet as a mikan, maybe more a cross between an orange and a grapefruit.

"The iyōkan, also known as anadomikan and Gokaku no Iyokan, is a Japanese citrus fruit, similar in appearance to a mandarin orange. It is the second most widely produced citrus fruit in Japan after the satsuma mandarin." Wikipedia
Kinkan These are tiny and not super common. This webpage tells me
they're grown in Kyushu and are eaten with the skin on.


Sadly Sequola is a US company. In this case,
they're shipping fruit to us all the way from the other side of the Pacific.


Hassaku. Similar to an orange, but more a grapefruit size and tartness.


Orange you know. Interestingly it isn't the most prominent of fruits in Japan. Probably because not many are grown here. Orange juice is very common.

Sweetie

"An oroblanco, oro blanco or sweetie is a sweet seedless citrus hybrid fruit similar to grapefruit. It is often referred to as oroblanco grapefruit." Wikipedia

Yuzu 

"The yuzu is a citrus fruit and plant originating in East Asia. It is believed to be a hybrid of sour mandarin and Ichang papeda." Wikipedia. 
I took a bath with a bunch of these during our camping trip in November. In Japan, bathing with yuzu on Tōji, the winter solstice, is a custom that dates to at least the early 18th century. Whole yuzu fruits are floated in the hot water of the bath, sometimes enclosed in a cloth bag, releasing their aroma. The fruit may also be cut in half, allowing the citrus juice to mingle with the bathwater. The yuzu bath, known commonly as yuzuyu, but also as yuzuburo, is said to guard against colds, treat the roughness of skin, warm the body, and relax the mind. 

Dekopon
Dekopon apparently the third most grown citrus fruit in Japan."Dekopon is a seedless and sweet variety of
mandarin orange. It is a hybrid between Kiyomi
and ponkan, developed in Japan in 1972." Wikipedia
Grapefruit
These are fairly common, though our local grocery store hasn't had them as regularly as I've seen them in previous years. You can buy "white" and "ruby" fleshed ones.

Lemon
The juice is more common than the actual fruit, though they aren't hard to get a hold of.

Lime
I've rarely seen, though I'm rarely looking for one.

There are fruits I miss from Australia when I'm here (like mangoes and seedless sultana grapes) and fruits I miss from Japan when I'm in Australia (like Iyokan, seedless mikan, nashi [Japanese pears], and kaki [persimmon]). I try to buy the fruit that is in season (and cheap) and as usual we try to enjoy what we have where we are, rather than yearn for what we don't have.


13 March, 2016

Shopping adventure in Japan

When our boys were younger we got a lot of attention when we were out with them: "Kawaiiiii" (cute) was the cry. Understandably we don't get that any more. Two of them are bigger than me and the other is close behind them. No longer cute, but still worthy of a few polite Japanese stares. Unlike other cultures where people might flock to us, or stroke our
At times we really do feel a bit like aliens
in Japan.
hair, Japanese people are much more subtle.


We rarely go to the shops as a group these days. If we go with one of the guys, it is usually one adult and one or two boys. Today we all ended up at a small local shopping centre. That in itself wouldn't usually get too much attention (it was busy). But today we had one boy whose glasses were about to break. He also needed an eye test for new lenses. But it ended up being a strange situation. I've never had an eye test in Japan, nor accompanied anyone doing so. So I asked for David's linguistic assistance. I'm glad I did, but the whole thing didn't go in a textbook manner.

In my brilliance I also invited our other two boys along because they each had shopping needs that had been put on the back burner recently. One needed new sneakers. I suggested the other boy also come along and see if he could find another pair of shorts in the hopes that spring will arrive soon, and stay. 

Being able to get them to a shop has never been easy, but it is increasingly becoming difficult with two of them not getting home till nearly dinner time many school nights as they train at school for interschool sports competitions.

So we had them all out. The optometrist, shoe store, and clothing store are all very close at this particular shopping centre. Our goal, as usual, was to do this as fast as possible. So my idea was that while the optometrist was working, we could get the other two boys sorted. 

Except that I also wanted to be at the optometrist and see if I could familiarise myself with the language associated with that speciality. Trying to be in two places at the one time didn't work very well and it quickly got worse. At the shoe store every time our son identified a pair he liked the look of and I looked for something in the right size in the piled boxes underneath the display, a worker came over and said something to me that sounded like a polite "Please don't do that" (I was having a fuzzy-brain Japanese day today that didn't help"). I was frustrated. Japanese shopkeepers are usually more helpful than that.

So I slipped across the way to see how David was doing and ask if he could help. They were just looking at frames while they waited for the exam room to be free. I figured picking out frames wasn't beyond my Japanese ability, so I suggested David go and assist our youngest with his shoe shopping. Meanwhile I'd asked our eldest to go over to the clothes store and see if he could locate some acceptable shorts. He came back quickly and said he'd found none! So he stayed and helped me at the optometrist.

Before David returned the exam room became vacant and we were ushered in there. I'm thinking, How bad can this be?

It started fairly well, but soon we were interpreting. Or trying our best to interpret. We were guessing from our previous experiences of optometry and from what we understood. It turns out we were understanding fairly well, but there was that element of doubt that doesn't engender confidence in the native-speaker service provider. I was especially hesitant because glasses are pretty important. They're expensive and if you get it wrong,  and there are consequences beyond the fiscal.

Eventually I sent our eldest son to see if he could fetch his dad, who came and said, "We've got some, you just need to pay for them." So we switched spots. In the shoe store the attendant was digging a bit deeper, trying to use easier Japanese or even fetch up some English. She told me we shouldn't throw these in the washing machine. She also mentioned spray deodorant and something about a waterproofing spray. I'm not sure, but I guess she was probably trying to sell me extra stuff in a roundabout Japanese way. She also tried to sell me some socks and something else . . . but I managed to get away with just shoes.

We touched base at the optometrist and they were fine (reassuring us that we'd be on track), so I took the other two boys to the clothes store to see if my shopping-eye could discern any shorts. It turns out that I did find a whole rack of shorts and even got him to try two pairs on. They left the store as fast as possible (going back to the optometrist), leaving me to buy the suitable shorts. When I got back to the optometrist I found two of the four guys sipping green tea and all the boys were looking at a game on the shop's iPad. Apparently kept by the shop to entertain kids while they waited.

So I shot downstairs to find a small snack to help us get home (it was nearly lunch time and we had a 3 ½-4 ½ km ride home, depending on the route we took).

I returned to the optometrist's shop one more time and found they'd finished. As we straggled off two of the employees lined up and bowed, saying, "Thank you". I didn't look, but I suspect that they watched us for a short while as we walked. I'm certain they don't often have a family of five foreigners in their store.

While we no longer get impassioned "kawaii" exclamations, we still generate attention. It's something you get used to and learn to largely ignore. After all, we still have to get things like this done, even if it is in an ungainly, foreign-like way.