Aug 27, 2008

Tomone's hairbrush

This is Tomone holding her hair brush. Actually it is a soft bristle-toothbrush, but it is perfect for brushing her hair. In the last week or so she has reached the stage where she can grasp things in her hands.

Also she is trying very hard to talk. She makes all sorts of sounds and will respond with various sounds when you talk to her. She also smiles and talks to her mobile when no one is paying particular attention to her.

Aug 24, 2008

New Ice Age

Mid-October - that is when we normally have temperatures like this. At night is gets down into the upper teens (below 60 degrees F). We are also being blessed with almost continuous rain. I have been going out for muscle building walks every other morning but carrying an umbrella. There has been nothing interesting to photograph or to talk about.

After returning from my walks, I have spent the rest of the days playing with Tomone, watching the Olympics on TV, and studying Buddhism. I had planned to do a lot of drawing but it is so dark and dreary that I just can not get into the mood. I have a class on Saturday morning so maybe that will strike a spark.

Next Sunday I will be giving a presentation for the local teachers' organization on the history of language teaching in Japan. I will have to spend a lot of time during the coming week on preparation for that.

Normally I would be walking with Ian at this time, but he is not feeling well and it is raining, so I will wait and go out alone tomorrow.

Aug 19, 2008

The weather

For the last week or so, we have been having really rotten weather - cold for this time of year, rainy, and very high humidity. It is almost like the rainy season all over again.

Yesterday I walk 10 kilometers before breakfast and then spent the rest of the day watching the Olympics, reading, and playing with the baby.

Today is going to be much of the same, but with no walking. My muscles need a chance to rest and rebuild, a little R&R for you ex-military people.

Tomorrow I plan to walk before breakfast, again doing about 10 kilometers or maybe I will walk after eating so that I can stop at Starbucks for some coffee on the way home.

On the days when I walk alone, I have found a good way of increasing the value I get from the time. In addition to building muscles for the Henro trip, I have been listening to lectures about Buddhism. Recordings published on the internet by Western Buddhist Order in England are particularly informative. That group is distilling Buddhism so that it is more sensible to the Western mind. Things that belong to Indian, Chinese, and Tibetan culture are noted as interesting but not necessary. For example, belief in reincarnation is something that was adopted from Hinduism, rather than being an innate part of what the Buddha said. Also, their version of Buddhism is totally atheistic, which eliminates all the thousands of gods, who become metaphors and teaching tools. It is all very interesting.

Aug 16, 2008

A first

Tonight I watched fireworks in the rain for the first time. Actually the fireworks were in the rain; I was in my bedroom looking out the window. The local Shinto shrine had a festival tonight but it is raining. They held the festival anyway and had the fireworks display as well.

The little shrine is only about 300 meters from our apartment and it is for the river god. I did not go to the festival itself (because it is raining) but most years there is a ceremony where you walk out over the river of a little dock-like structure and drop an offering (which you buy from the shrine for a few hundred yen) into the river. They have a flattened area along the river with a platform for musicians (which reminds me I have not heard any music, so they probably canceled everything but the fireworks) and around 10 or so stands selling food and beer. No festival is compete with out beer and Japanese sake. There is music and dancing for entertainment.

More Tomone

Tomone has reached the stage where she is fascinated by rotating objects. Her toy, in the top left of the picture, has Winnie the Poo characters and objects that hang beneath parachute-like green blobs. It all comes apart so that later, when she has developed some eye/hand coordination, she can use them as toys.

At present she is also fascinated by picture frames and other sharply defined straight lines. She stares at them with a concentration that I did not realize was available to babies.

I might add that her crib is in the living/dining room, so that she does not bother the rest of us at night. Most nights Masayo stays with Tomone until about 4 a.m. I wake her up, sort of, so that she can move from the sofa to the bedroom. I spend the next hour or two in my computer room and wake up Naomi when Tomone decides it is time for a diaper change and breakfast.

Aug 13, 2008

A dark, dreary day

Today is a dark, dreary, humid and hot day. The cloud cover is almost down to the ground. I have decided to stay home and watch the Olympics and maybe do some drawing or computing later.

This picture is one that I took last Sunday on my way home. The road that I took runs along the side of a park, a number of paths allow entry to the park. Since I was in no hurry and already decided to stop at Macdonalds for coffee and pancakes, I entered one of the paths to see where it went and soon found this man fly fishing. I watched him make a few casts and he did not seem to be having any luck, but it was fun for me. I don't know if he was enjoying it or not.

Aug 12, 2008

Baby Technology

What are these things? According to Naomi at least one of them is only available in Japan. The answers are below.

The first picture (top left) is a gadget for disposing of paper diapers so that they do not smell. You drop the dirty diaper into the open top, close the lid, and spin the rotating top. The white ring inside the yellow ring is actually a container for a long tube of plastic wrap. When you spin the top, the diaper is sealed in plastic and it is twisted until it is very tight, so there is absolutely no smell and the sealed pack is quite small.

The second picture (top right) is definitely only available here, at least according to the company's advertising. This is a bottle of milk for the baby. The milk comes, not as a powder, but as cubes that are placed in the bottle. Hot and cold water are then added so that the liquid is just the right temperature for the baby. We used to give Naomi milk straight from the refrigerator, so it should be no surprise that Tomone gets it at room temperature. We just pour in the water, shake the bottle a little, and presto the milk is ready.

The final picture (bottom) shows special equipment for cleaning the baby bottles. The ball point pen is there to show you the size. The gadget at the top is for the bottle itself. The yellow and white end is shoved into the bottle, and then holding the bottle with one hand, you turn the handle. It does a fantastic job. The smaller thing at the bottom is a special cleaner for the nipples. Again you just shove it and turn to get the thing spic and span.

Aug 11, 2008

A picture of Tomone

Tomone at breakfast yesterday.

Aug 6, 2008

Yesterday Ian was away on a school related trip so I walked alone. I passed the Asahigaoka Station (Morning Sun Hill or Bright Shining Hill). This is a subway station with a combined bus depot and a place where you can rent rooms for meetings. This is the tall building in front in the picture. The lower building behind it is a parking building with a supermarket on the first floor. The building off to the left behind the trees is the Asahigaoka Seinen Bunka Center (the Asahigaoka Youth Culture Center. It is a big complex with rental rooms, theaters and auditoriums, music practice rooms, a restaurant and some other stuff. This is where we usually have the meetings of the Sendai Book Club.

This picture was taken from the same spot. I just pivoted around to my left a little. This is Shinrin Koen Park where Ian and I normally walk on Tuesday mornings. The Asahigaoka Subway Station is directly under me. Ian and I walk along the pavement on the left and follow the valley. Just around the corner we climb up the hill on the left. It is a pretty steep climb but we are both getting used to it and we now circle the park twice for a total of about 5 kilometers before heading for the Kita Sendai Station.

This picture was taken about half an hour later when I had circled around and reached the valley level of Shinrin Koen. This shows the parking garage on the street level and the front of the subway station.

After leaving the park and starting home, I had to climb this one last hill. It is very steep and provides a really good workout. After reaching the top, I walk along the ridge line for about a kilometer and then decend back to the main road for the final two kilometers of the walk.

Last night I went to party at in a friend's apartment. The purpose of the get-together was to watch the fireworks which are an annual part of the Tanabata festival, three days of parades, music, dancing, and drinking. I did not leave until 1:30 a.m. and then walked home, arriving at about 3 a.m. after a seven kilometer hike.

Aug 3, 2008

Walking with Ian

Today, Ian walked from his house to my home. We then walked together back to his house. Finally I walked home alone.

The road that we walked on is called the kanjosen and it is essential a bypass road that goes around the west side of Sendai. The problem from the point of view of walking is that it goes over a fairly tall hill. If you have read some of my other posts, you will have seen pictures of the Kannon on the top of the hill. Well, to get to Ian's from my place we have to walk very close to it so I took a closeup so you see what it looks like.

The two road pictures are the kanjosen, up and down the hill. As you can see, there are lots of trees and it is not too bad to walk on. It would be a lot better is there was not so much traffic, especially trucks.

The final picture shows something that was not in the day's plans. It is the local police station near my home. As I was walking along on the kanjosen, I found a wallet and a change purse. There was only 1,144 yen it so I almost just left it there on the chance that the owner would find it. However, closer inspection showed that the owners driver's license and some medical papers were also in it. So instead of walking home as I planned, I took a side trip to the police station where I turned them in. Being Japan, there was a lot of paperwork involved, including all my contact information. When you find something here and turn it in to the police, they locate the person and make them give you an award or at least contact you, thanking you and then appologizing for the trouble they caused. The police also make them give you a reward consisting of 10-20% of the value of the item. I said I did not want to be contacted and did not want a reward, but I still have to complete the paperwork, because the 1,144 yen would become mine if no one claimed it within six months. This is a good deal if you find a lot of money, but for this it was a waste of time.

Anyway as I was leaving the building, I stopped to take this picture. As I was getting set, an off-duty policeman came over and asked if I need help. I said "no" and told him that I had just turned in a wallet and was talking a picture for my blog. He thanked me and offered to give me a tour of the inside of the station, but I declined thanking him for the offer. Politeness is one of the wonderful aspects of Japan.

Taking Tomone to the shrine

Yesterday we took Tomone outdoors for the first time. The occasion was her first trip to a Shinto shrine for a blessing. Futakashira Shrine (Two Pillars Shrine) is less than a kilometer from our home, but we took the car anyway. The first picture shows Tomone sitting in her car seat in the parking lot of the shrine.

The second picture shows my wife, daughter, and Tomone (her white dress is just visible under my daugher's left arm).

The ceremony was quite impressive. After filling out some forms and paying 10,000 yen (about $100) at the office in the administration building, we were sent up stairs to a waiting room. There were two big sofas and a coffee table and it looked like any living room. There was even a TV with tape recorder and a large collection of tapes about Shinto - and some popular cartoons. After about 20 minutes the priestess came in and asked us to follow her. I had the impression that the wait had been for her to get dressed into the ceremonial kimono she was wearing.

We followed her across a bridge to the second floor of the shrine proper and were guided to seats in a large room. At the very front of the room there was a round mirror which represents Amaterasu, the Sun God. Once we were seated properly, the priestess start beating on a large drum, making a loud sound that scared the baby. She then stood at a narrow table, facing the mirror and sang a song, I think, asking the god to favor the baby and us. There were some small packages on the table which she took to the table holding the mirror. Since she was facing the mirror with her back to us, I could not see what she was doing, but eventual she brought the packages back and replaced them on the table. Next, after sitting down and then standing up again, she went to the left side of the room, where she sang another song. She was standing in front of a wooden stick with folded white paper banners hanging from it. She waved this around and then came over to us and asked us to bow our heads while she wave the stick over our heads.

After sitting and standing again plus starting a tape recording of classical shrine music, she went to the right side of the room where she went through a similar ritual, however, rather than the stick she used a rattle.

Finally she returned to the middle of the room and finished with a final song.

She guided us back around the balcony and across the bridge to the admin building and left us to find our own way out. We were quite surprised when she reappear as we left. She wanted to see the baby and after appropriate comments she went on her way.

We stopped for pictures in front of the shrine building. The last picture shows me holding Tomone, who is still dress in her fancy lace dress that she was given by one of our friends expressly for visiting the shrine.