Oct 31, 2008


Last night I entered my evening school classroom and found this drawing on the greenboard. The writing after the word "to" is my name, Charlie, written in Japanese katakana. At the end of class, these second year students, the girls anyway, gave me some cookies as a Halloween treat.

The day before, at a different campus of the same university, two of the girls came up after class and gave me a box of cookies and two boxes of chocolates. The box of cookies had a note attached to it. Notice the way that the student signed it.

Masayo thought that the note was 'cute' and it is now hanging on the wall between the kitchen and the dining area.

I am not sure whether or not I am the "Pumpkin Hero"

Oct 28, 2008

Tomone and Naomi are back

Yesterday, Monday, afternoon Tomone and Naomi came back from Tokyo. Masayo and I met them at Sendai Station and brought them home in our car. This morning Tomone played with me for a while about 8 o'clock and then again just before noon. These pictures were taken while Masayo was preparing my lunch, zosui - rice that is cooked extra long in soup rather than water so that it is very soft and quite delicious. Tomone, of course, had milk for lunch.

Here is a close up of Tomone. Although she is only 4 3/4 months old, she can sit up and stand up with just a little support. She can roll over and this past week she has been able to get her rear end up in the air so she will soon be crawling.

She recognizes people from their names so she should start understanding language soon, too.

This is a full week of classes for me and I want to get in as much walking as possible, so it is going to be very busy. Next Monday is a national holiday so I will be walking then, too.

Oct 24, 2008

A quiet week!?

This was supposed to be a quiet week. Naomi took Tomone and went back to Kawasaki. Tomone had a health checkup scheduled and Naomi wanted to see her husband and his relatives. Masayo and I would again be on our own schedules.

It did not quite work out that way. I did my usual walking, which included 45 kilometers in the last 48 hours. During one of these walks, the effects of the cool autumn that we are having became very apparent. Many of the trees have already lost their leaves, as you can see in this picture.

I heard on the news that the leaves are changing color at a rate that is about a month earlier than average. The same broadcast said that, because of global warming, Japan is getting colder. From now on they expect summers to cool and wet and winters to be colder.

However, the flowers seem not to have gotten the word about the weather. The second picture was taken along the riverside path leading from my apartment to the main road. It is an extremely pleasant walk, which I take often as it is the shortest way to the nearest subway station. This year there have been a number of gardens planted along the path, including one that specifically has the approval of the city, which means that it will be no construction for the length of the lease - 4 years.

Masayo and I talked with Tomone by telephone yesterday. Naomi said that Tomo-Chan got a very strange puzzled look on her face when she heard our voices and then broke into a big smile. She did not try to make any noises back at us but she obviously enjoyed the 'conversation'.

Oct 19, 2008

More Tomone for the family

Tomone at breakfast yesterday. She is growing up incredibly fast. She, of course, can not talk yet, but she is trying to communicate. A few minutes before this picture was taken I was holding her in my lap and we were playing. All of a sudden she put on a sad face and stared into my eyes. She then put her fingers into her mouth and started sucking. She did this a second time and then reached out and put her fingers in my mouth. I said "mimi?", which is Japanese baby talk for "milk?" and she stopped looking at me and looked at the kitchen. I said "mimi?" again and she stopped moving around and smiled.

Also for the last two days, when I say "Do you want to come to me?" and hold out my hands, she holds out her hands in imitation. She seems to have gotten the idea.

Today, Sunday, Masayo and I took Tomone and Naomi to Sendai Station and put them on a Shinkansen train to Tokyo. They will stay at home for a week, coming back a week from Monday. Naomi is using this as a trial period to see how she does without Grandmother to help out. If she has no serious problems,after she comes back, she will pack up her and the baby's stuff and move back home before the middle of November.

I was thinking that I would have a nice quiet week to rest while they were away, but things just do not work out that way. Tomorrow Masayo is meeting friends for lunch so I have to get home from my classes by myself. This involves a bus, the subway, and a couple of kilometers of walking. My classes are over at noon, but I do not expect to be home until close to one thirty. Then in the evening I will go to the Sendai Book Club. We are discussing The Remains of the Day.

Tuesday, Masayo and I have to have health checkups in the morning, then I have two classes in the afternoon, following which I walk home - only about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, I walk with Ian in the morning and have three classes in the afternoon, following which I walk the six kilometers home. I'll walk a total of about 24 kilometers during the day.

Thursday, I have a class from 8:50 to 10:10 and then, after coffee with one of the other teachers, I'll walk home, again six kilometers. In the evening I leave home at about 4:45 and teach from 6:00 to 7:30 and then walk home.

Fridays are a day off, but I frequently go for a short walk (5+ kilometers), wearing my backpack.

Nothing special on the weekend, except that Sunday morning Ian and I walk about 18 kilometers. I hope to get some drawing done.

So as you can see, my quiet week is actually going to be quite busy.

Finally, so far this month I have walk 200 kilometers, the most in any 19 days since I started.

Oct 16, 2008

Fall cold

It has gotten colder but the weather is beautiful - clear blue skies and temperatures in the 60s. However, with the coming of the cold, the colds come. It started with Naomi, who is now the weakest in the family. Then everyone, including Tomone, have gotten the fall cold. The symptoms are not bad but we all have fevers and no energy. It is sort of like a fall spring fever.

As a consequence, I am not doing much. Luckily this week was one with few classes. Monday was a holiday and my evening class tonight has been canceled for some kind of student body meeting.

Tomorrow, Friday, I will take a physical, required by the government as part of my old-age health insurance. Actually it is a good deal. Normally every six months, I have a good check up by our family doctor and I have to pay for it. This will replace on of those and the local government pays.

On Saturday, I have art class and have to take down my pictures and bring them home. I am getting a fairly large collection of framed pictures. I am not giving away as many as in the past. As I have said, I hope to start trying to sell them next year, probably beginning with a one-man show somewhere.

Oct 14, 2008

Tomone getting ready to go out

Today Naomi took Tomone to visit one of the old school friends. I took this just before they left. The hat is a bear with ears and a face - real cute.

Today Tomone seemed to recognize her image in a mirror, at least as a person. She tried to reach out and take her hand. Also a little later, she was reaching out to play with the rotating mobile that is about her crib. I was holding her up to it and she reached out and tried to grab each piece as it went by. Finally she has figured out names (Mama, Grammy and Grampy). When someone says one of these names, she looks around for the person and then stares at them for a while.

It is beginning to look like they will move back to Kawasaki sometime in early November. Next week Naomi is taking Tomone home for a week to see how it is. If she has no problems and is able to handle things, she will return here and start packing up for the move. We will, of course, miss them, but at the same time it will be nice to have the peace and quiet that comes from just the two of us living here.

Oct 13, 2008

Holiday Weekend

It is now the last day of a three day weekend, actually a four day weekend for me since I do not work on Fridays. The national holiday is Sports Day, which is fitting, considering the way that I am spending it.

Friday, I walked five kilometers with my pack (total weight about seven kilograms) and then spent the rest of the day beginning a new drawing, playing with Tomone, and watching TV. The drawing is a composition of the ropes looped over the posts on a sailing ship. I took pictures on the deck of a ship in Yokohama and have used one of those as the basis of my picture. I'm working in pen and ink with some graphite shading added at the end.

On Saturday, Masayo and I went to a workshop on Japanese drumming. In addition to some actual performances, they showed and demonstrated various drums used in festivals throughout Japan. It was very interesting, especially since we had seen the group in 1975 in the US. As part of their training, the group runs in marathons and that year was the first time they ran in the Boston Marathon. It was big news at the time. After the show, we bought a DVD of the group and had it autographed by the leader. We told him we had seen him run and he was quite surprised. We, then, took the subway back to Izumi Chuo where we had lunch at Starbucks - coffee and a sandwich - following which I took Masayo to the art exhibit containing my drawings. In the building containing the art exhibit, we stopped at a new shoe store and I was for the first time able to buy a pair of shoes that actually fit me. They are 27.5 centimeters long and the width is size G - two sizes bigger than EEEE. They are the walking shoes I will wear for my Henro pilgrimage.

Sunday morning Ian and I walk nearly 20 kilometers. In the afternoon I tried and failed to do the NY Times crossword puzzle and worked some more on my new drawing. I have now more than half finished the underdrawing in pencil. It is taking a long time because it is a complicated mass of ropes, and the ropes are large enough that the detail in their construction (braiding) shows. Also, of course, I played with Tomone.

Today, Monday, I will walk again with Ian. In fact I am waiting for him now. He walks down the hill to my house, then we walk together up the hill to his house, and finally I walk down the hill alone for a total of just under 20 kilometers. This afternoon we are meeting some friends in Izumi Chuo. Actually they are the couple whose marriage ceromony was our excuse for the trip to Yokohama. The bride was my student more than 10 years ago. She went to Australia with us and then later took a year's leave of absence from school to stay in Adelaide, Australia, for a year. I arranged for her to be a special status student in a nursing school there. After graduation, she became a school nurse in the Yokohama area and eventually married a mutual acquaintance from Adelaide. He is now a junior high school English teacher in a Japanese school in the Yokohama area. They are passing through Sendai on their way to her home town further to the north.

Oct 10, 2008

Manners while walking

A few days ago I became aware of an interesting phenomenon - no matter which side of the road I walk on, when there is no sidewalk, only lines designing where to walk, about 70% of the oncoming people insist on moving toward the center of the road to let me pass on the inside. This is interesting because there seems to be no general agreement on rules, or manners, like there are in the US where people learn to keep to the right.

What is intriguing about this is that, if I am walking facing the oncoming cars, the other person moves out into traffic with their back to the cars - rather dangerous in my view.

I started experimenting in order to explore this a bit more. When a person approached me, I would move further toward the center of the road attempting to pass them on the inside. Almost invariably, the other person moves further to the center. I have had people cross the center line in order to stay on the road side of me - and with their back to the oncoming traffic. Of course, if they have actually crossed the center line, they would be now facing the oncoming traffic in their lane.

I guess I will just chalk it up to Japanese inscrutability, and move as far away from the road as conditions allow.

Oct 7, 2008

Tomone and friend

A couple of pictures of Tomone and me.

Those of you who have been in the old house on Ash Street might remember the picture in the background. The other picture, the White Birches on the golf course, is hanging on the opposite wall.

Oct 6, 2008

Art Show

We had just finished hanging the pictures in the gallery, actually a long hallway, when some of the class and some other people started looking at the individual pictures. Mine are at the far end on the left.

This is, of course, me standing with my pictures. There is another behind me and on the other side of the doorway. That picture was drawn in ink and then finished with water-soluble, colored pencils and a wash of water. The pictures you can see are all ink with graphite, which has become my preferred medium.

Oct 4, 2008

Art show

Today I will be hanging five drawings in an art show at the culture center where I take lessons. It is a student show and I will have a special section for my drawings. All the other students will have only one or two pictures included. I suspect that one of the reasons I will have so many is that I am the only foreigner. I will post some pictures of the show tomorrow.

This week has been very hard. I increased my walking schedule so my legs ache and I feel tired and sleepy. I plan to increase my distance and frequency steadily until the end of December, with a big push during the Christmas/New Year holidays when I have few or no classes. Then in January I will cut back to a maintenance schedule before beginning the actual trek in the first week of February.

Tomone has learned to roll over but she can not yet roll back. Also she is 'talking' more and more. It is almost to the point where, if she is awake, she is making noises imitating speech. She is interacting more with people so she is getting to be even more fun to play with. I will try to remember to take some more pictures and post them here.