An addict

I never know what I might find at the Conbini (convenience store). From Lawson to Asnas, through Sankus and 7-11...inside those small and delightful little closets owned by grumpy Obasans and talkative Ojisans. I am an addict. I buy all the mysterious little individually wrapped, "free cellphone figurine" offering, Obento supplimentatives I come across. If I skip my daily Conbini run I find myself "jonesing" for the packs of Junior high boys reading racy manga or the old men squinting at the "One Cup" sake displays. I even find myself missing the half-hearted "Irashiiiiii" as I walk through the sliding doors. I have been know to stand in the candy isle, doing my best to limit my gaijin bulk from blocking the Meiji choco from view of the other Conbini wayfarers. Standing and feeling the rush of people around me, listening to conversations I can only partially follow. In a Conbini you are just one of many, stopping for an onigiri or a sando. You don't have to be a gaijin if you're lithe enough to slip out of the way when someone reaches for the Pocky behind you. You are just another hungry Conbini addict, enjoying your fix for the day. In a Conbini you can sample all the tasty bits of Pre-Packaged Japan you can afford. Pocky to Pear Soda, pantyhose to TV games, cheap movie tickets to bath beads, whatever you need that you really don't need you can find if you look long enough. But the best part, the tasty centre of the Conbini treat is by far the never-ending swirl of people. Every segment of Japanese society eventually visits a Conbini...the Conbini. A consumer Mecca perhaps but more like a watering hole in the Gobi...every animal must drink. I am an addict and I enjoy my addiction. Perhaps you'll see me picking over the assortment of tsukemono or rummaging through the hyaku-yen snack bin. I'll be the invisible one, or at least the one enjoying his momentary invisibility.


Ballpoint pen marathons and things like that

We are sitting in front of the television, legs under the kotatsu because the temperature is back down into the 30's (4 deg C), and we are watching a ballpoint pen marathon on the show TV Champion. The show pits various experts against each other to determine who is the best at their trade, such as ice sculpting or cooking. Except this week they have 3 people sitting in the back of a truck that is driving back and forth across an airport runway, and they are drawing on a roll of tape that is unwinding to determine whose pen will draw the farthest. They just determined the winner - the pen drew a line for 5.5 kilometers before it ran out of ink. Now they are on to the next competition - how many coins can be stacked on a bridge of graphite mechanical pencil leads before they break. It's the stationery supply championships. They are up to 25 10-yen coins and the bridge of two graphite sticks is still holding. Impressive. Earlier I was watching a show detailing all the best places in Osaka to get fried food on sticks - they were eating tomatoes rolled in batter and deep-fried on a stick. And they said it was Italian. ? Who knows... There was even a place where you could get balls of green tea ice cream deep-fried on a stick. There are always food shows on - people cooking and eating constantly. My partner here is watching the stationery supply championships with a beanbag chair on his head, having had a hard day in which many people gave him angry stares or taunted him for being foreign. Most people are really nice, so don't get the wrong idea. But some days are better than others.


snowfalling on gaikokujin

Snow..."yuki" in japanese. "Yuki neh? Daijobu ka?" Our host, Mikiko asked this of University aged daughter as she came in from a quick dip into the curtain of snow. A literal translation in English: "Snowing isn't it? Ok?" What she meant: "It's snowing out there, are you cold?" My skill with the Japanese language, being only passable at the grocery store, I was excited to understand both what she said and what she meant. Both mother and daughter enjoyed the snow for different reasons. Daughter because of the novelty, the quick dash into the sharp cold and slow whiteness, the mother because the daughter enjoyed it. We are as far from home as we can be but I can still see what makes me love the small things in people.

"Yuki neh? Daijobu ka?"
"I Love you too mom."

Late Hina Matsuri with new friends

Empress Hina
Originally uploaded by M and C.
Tonight we were invited to a friend's house for a late Hina Matsuri celebration. We ate chirashi-zushi, clam soup, fried oysters, and strawberries with cream, as well as some tea sweets and green tea. She also did both of our names in calligraphy. My name when translated into four kanji characters means roughly - beautiful, poem, painting, blue jewels. You can't get much better than that. Our own attempts at calligraphy were not great, but she did some beautiful ones for us. She really enjoys speaking English, which is lucky for us because our Japanese is still rudimentary. It's really wonderful to be invited to someone's home here and to be fed home-cooked food in a house full of nearly grown kids where everything feels comfortable and homey. It snowed the entire time we were there and by the time we were dropped off outside our building, a few inches covered the surfaces of the bushes and parked cars. They say "three days cold, four days warm" here about the spring, so after another day or so and we should be heading back into the warm weather. Oh, I hope so.


spring cleaning

A few updates to the blog. A bit of a new look, also addition of a new contributor. Things in life are just more fun when shared, so now this will be a joint blog in the spirit of sharing. I have the flu at the moment, so this will not be a very inspired post. It was feeling like spring for 3 glorious days of above-55 degree weather, made even warmer by my fever. Today it was back to freezing and snowing. Tomorrow we will have sushi and admire Hina dolls left out past the holiday just so we could view them by a new friend. We made the big decision to return to the US when my contract ends this summer, so it feels even more important to soak up as much of "here" as we can during our remaining time. We love it here, but there are important reasons for us to go home, and Japan will always be here for us when we are ready to return. We have gone through a series of illnesses, flus, colds, that have taken up most of the winter, so really there's not much to say about the last few months. Waiting for the warm weather.