Monday, March 30, 2009

Sunday in Yoyogi Park

"They saw me walking around the picnic area, and asked me to play." -Dylan (in red)

Earlier, and grumpier

link to more hanami-in-Yoyogi pics

my photos on Flickr

Friday, March 27, 2009

they're here!

Yoyogi Park, Friday afternoon
(The thing to do during hanami -- literally, "flower viewing" -- season is to picnic on a blue tarp under a tree.)

My friend Claire takes her first shot of the season

yummy yogurt drink

meat shop, Tokyu Plaza, Shibuya

pig's head, only 1,890 yen (about $20)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I've never seen Beck live before, so maybe this is his performance style, but his show at NHK Hall on Tuesday night seemed a bit subdued. Maybe it was the crowd. There was applause at the end of each song, but it wasn't what you'd call raucous, and often the clapping would stop completely before the next number started. (There was actual silence! Only for a few moments, but still!) And forget dancing or arm waving. Except for the folks up front, most people I saw were just sitting stony-faced in their cushy theater seats (the venue is also an opera hall). Is this how most foreign artists are received? Is quiet attentiveness the ultimate show of respect? Let's just say I wasn't feeling the love, and I can't imagine that Beck was either, and maybe that's why he barely spoke to us (though he did mention that he was happy to be in "Shi-BOO-yah").

In any case, I thought it was a great show, and I was psyched to hear so many songs from Modern Guilt (including Orphans, Gamma Ray, Soul of a Man and the highlight of the night, Chemtrails) plus old faves like Devil's Haircut and Loser and Where It's At. He did Sexx Laws as an encore -- apparently we as an audience managed to sustain enough applause and cheers to earn one, though I think just barely -- and that made me very happy, though he did seem to forget some of his own lyrics.

I think the locals are more animated at J-pop concerts. Should I test that theory? Maybe there's a Smap tour coming up...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Shibuya fashion watch

Headed for the am/pm across the street from the kids' school...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

break time?

Saw this posted inside one of the ladies' room stalls at the place where the kids go swimming:

If I am reading this right, when you press that button by the tiny speaker in the wall, those on the outside within earshot will think you've just flushed the toilet, when in fact, you have not.

So let me get this straight: when all you want is some private time to read a book or something, this feature lets you fake it and conserve water?

Don't get me wrong, I can totally relate to the need to hide out in the bathroom to get away from people. I do it in my own apartment, or at least I used to do it, when the kids were smaller and Terry was home. I'd pretend I was having trouble getting my contact lenses in, or something, and just sit there with the door locked reading Vanity Fair...

But this isn't about me and my approach to post-partum self-preservation. Do ladies here sit inside stalls and read and just pretend they are peeing?

(March 28) P.S.: My friend Jessica just emailed to tell me that the real purpose of this water sound is "to cover the noise associated with any, um, emissions in the course of going to the bathroom." She's right, of course. I was definitely over-thinking it. It all makes sense now. Better to depict a woman fully-clothed putting the button to use, rather than someone with her skirt up or trousers down around her ankles...

Friday, March 20, 2009

two great loves

I love Lawson's, a chain of spotless convenient stores where you can buy milk, eggs, ice cream, wine, soy sauce, instant ramen, fried chicken on a stick, hot coffee in a can, dress shirts and ties, stationery, nail polish, flash drives, manga...

and I love the clear umbrella.

I bought this one, a 70-cm number that flaps opens at the push of a button, this morning at this Lawson's in Azabu-Juban, after I got off the 06 bus in the rain and realized I had no hood.

In taking this photo I am totally ripping off Japandra, a blog like mine (only better)


I've been terribly homesick lately, and whenever I find myself slipping into a funk I like to take myself out for a day on the town while the kids are in school. So on Wednesday after dropping the boys off, I went to breakfast at Andersen's on Aoyama dori, for an extraordinarily large bowl of "Berry + Yogurt" (big by any standards, not just the tiny serving sizes favored here) plus coffee and all-you-can-eat bread (sesame!) and butter. It was luxurious and beautiful.

I had to scoot (Razor-style) for miles afterward to burn off the calories: down to the end of Omotesando-dori and into Minami-Aoyama, through Aoyama Cemetery and past Tokyo Midtown, across Roppongi-dori and down Imoarai-zaka to TV Asahi building at Roppongi Hills and finally to Azabu-Juban, and into Nissin where I did some grocery shopping (delivery after 5pm please!).

Next I called my friend Brenda who lives in Moto-Azabu and we went to lunch in Ropp Hills, at Yasaiya Mei "vegetable house" (5th floor, West Walk side). Then it was back to Shibuya and to the cinema on the 6th floor of the Bunkamura department store to see Doubt (great movie). With a half hour yet to go before pick-up, we hit the lobby cafe for coffee and cake.

Berries and sunshine, Meryl Streep and cake...Now that is how you cheer yourself up.

sign of the week

Saw this outside a low-rise apartment complex on a quiet street in Higashi, a residential area next to Hiroo that I often walk through on my way to the British School:

"The S-court Novel is a stylish urban mansion which delivers satisfaction to highly sensitive and trendy people who wish for city life."

An actual Novel unit:
It's probably super-nice inside...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hmm... what WOULD Jesus do?

Last Sunday Dylan made this yellow cross in Sunday school, decorating it with the stick-on initials WWJD along the vertical axis. After class, as it was such a nice day, we went to the playground behind the church. There Dylan used his cross as a pretend gun while chasing his brother around. Discuss...

Friday, March 13, 2009

lost and found

I have heard many stories about people leaving important things on buses and trains here and recovering them later. Ladies will often plunk their expensive designer handbags onto cafe chairs before queuing for coffee.

Being from New York City, it's hard to comprehend how people can leave bicycles unchained outside busy shops. Today I got my first real taste of the whole nobody steals thing. As I was leaving for the grocery store this afternoon, I couldn't find my scooter. It's just an old Razor, like the kids' but big enough for an adult). I looked and looked, gave up, then set out on foot, and then, just outside Freshness Burger, there it was, exactly where I had left it leaning nearly three days ago as I was grabbing the kids a quick dinner after swimming. I know, feeding them fast food burgers and chicken nuggets and fries. Bad mother! But what a country...

silly purchase of the week

my new "exercise shoes"
The packaging is all in Japanese, but I discerned from the various graphics and diagrams printed on both sides that the cushion/arch support forces you to work both your front and back calf muscles as you putter around the house. The one bit of English printed on the box reads, "Let's work out a slackless and moderately tight-muscled nice body!!" (their double exclamation point). By all means, let's.

Lou Reed on Cat Street

Thursday, March 12, 2009

germophobic or just good manners?

The other day Terry spotted a woman in his office dining hall eating a banana with a spoon. It was sitting on her plate length-wise, with only the top strip of peel removed. (His iphone camera failed him, so sadly, no photo.) When he told me about it I thought, Only in Japan would you see such a thing, but when I mentioned it to my friend Katherine, she said that when her sister was in college, she spent the summer boarding in a convent in Rome, with very proper young Italian ladies. They never touched any food item with their hands, including bananas and oranges both peeled and eaten with knife and fork. So I guess it's not just a Japanese thing.

Hakuba 47


The boys, skiing the long and windy beginners' trail at Hakuba 47 last weekend.

Bought Terry this ski jacket at Lafuma the other day and was reminded yet again of how an average size American is considered gargantuan here in Japan. The tag spells it out: U.S. size: MEDIUM. European size: LARGE. Japanese size: X-LARGE.

For the boys' ninja costumes (a popular choice for Japanese Day at school - more about that later) I went to Muji and bought black turtlenecks and black leggings in a women's size small. It was a near-perfect fit.
At assembly. Conor is the one holding his hand to his face.
With his buddies Edmund and Joe, outside the classroom

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hawaii with my mom and dad

We had a great week with my parents in Kauai last month. Here's me sitting on a rock on Hanakapiai Beach, feeling good about having made it there, and eating my rambutans...
It's only a 2-mile hike to that spot on the Kalalau Trail, but it was rocky and steep and muddy, so it took a couple hours. (We also stopped a lot to take pictures, so maybe it would've taken us an hour and a half if we hadn't.) My mom and dad watched the boys so Terry and I could do this on our own, and when we got back, they had sorted out all the shells and bits of coral they had collected from the various beaches, and had given them all names, like "giraffe" and "spaceship." Yeah, Grandma rocks...

But back to the funny looking fruit. Rambutans are the size of nectarines, and they have soft red hairy rinds that you can pull apart with your fingers (though it wasn't quite as easy as tearing a clementine open, and sometimes I had to use my teeth to get it started). The flesh inside tastes like a white grape. OK, more shots from the trail:

view of the Na Pali Coast
On most days we would go to one beach or another. I loved them all but the best one, I think, was in Poipu, on the south shore, the warm and sunny side of Kauai.

My camera is pointed east in the shot below; in the background is Brennecke beach, where it was safe enough to body surf.

These are my parents. Aren't they cute?
That's the Kilauea lighthouse behind them. The bird preserve was closed when we stopped by (for President's Day, of all the nerve) but there were whales.

My Dad checking out Waimea Canyon.

There's a free hula show every Wednesday at 5pm at the Coconut Marketplace in Kapa'a, on the east side of the island.

While waiting for the big luau show to begin -- on Friday night we went to the Smith Family Garden Luau, in Wailea -- the kids took turns jumping off the stage while I experimented with the no-flash setting on my camera.

It was a great show, the highlight being the guy in a grass skirt twirling a flaming baton...