Saturday, January 31, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Dylan is the boy in the middle, in the plain white shirt. You first see him holding up a poster and then he recites two lines. In case you can't hear it clearly, this is what he says:
Dylan: "But surely you could have dialed 999 and called the fire engines to put the fire out!"
Classmate: "No, we didn't have fire engines at the time. We used leather buckets and squirts to try and put the fire out but it was really no use. The fire was too strong!"
Dylan: "The information text we read told us that people pulled the houses down with fire hooks and blew houses up to make fire breaks to try and stop the fire from spreading farther."
Another classmate then mentions the Great Fire of Meireki, which killed 100,000 people and destroyed much of Tokyo (then Edo) 9 years earlier, in 1657.
After the history lesson, a song and dance number! Again, Dylan is the guy in the middle, plain white shirt. Lyrics posted below.
When I was one, I sucked my thumb, the day I went to sea
I climbed aboard a pirate ship and the Captain said to me
'we're going this way, that way, forward, back, over the Irish sea
A bottle of rum to fill my tum, and that's the life for me
When I was two, I lost my shoe...
When I was three, I climbed a tree...
When I was four, I shut the door...
When I was five, I learned to dive...
When I was six, I met some chicks...
Friday, January 23, 2009
But seeing that photograph, which shows a beaming Barack in a gray T-shirt and Chicago White Sox cap, standing at the counter with two of the shop's employees -- I don't know, it just cheered me up. And when we got home, after the kids were squared away, I went online and watched a bunch of video clips of the events and read some of the articles and blog posts and looked at some friends' inaugural ball photos on Facebook, and, bit by bit, that bummed out feeling went away. I used to live in Washington DC, and I'd been to two previous inaugurations (the first Bush in 1989, Clinton in 1993), but this week was the first time in the 16 years since I'd moved away that I actually missed the place and wished I could've been there, watching a Jumbotron with the huddled masses.
Around here, at least around the British School, nobody was really talking about the inauguration, and why would they, anyway, right? But the election had been a hot topic of conversation in and around the halls of the school and at the Starbucks where the moms tend to congregate after drop-off. I had Brits, Aussies, French and Japanese moms all talking to me about it. One Japanese mom told me she had been moved by Obama's acceptance speech, when he talked about the "old lady." I had people patting me on the back, giving me high-fives, congratulating me for electing the right guy. "I'm so happy for you," they would say, sometimes pausing for a moment and adding, "you are happy, right?" One English lady who lived in Westport, Conn., for two years (and absolutely loved it) said that on election day she wished she was an American just so she could've voted for Obama. It was exciting. We finally had a cool president! No more shame over the screw-ups, no more having to join in the eye-rolling, (like yeah, I know, we suck) because now we didn't suck. Back in November, a week or so post-election, Garrison Keillor wrote that "We all walk taller this fall." Well I certainly did. Maybe the inauguration was anti-climactic on this side of the world. But it would've been nice to get a few more of those high-fives.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I wanted to go to the top of this thing during Christmas vacation. Monday Dec. 29 seemed like the perfect day. Terry had to go to work, the sky was blue, the boys and I had no prior engagements...Alas, when we arrived, the mile looked to be about a mile long. Needless to say we didn't get on it. We went grocery shopping instead. What fun! Like bulls in a china shop...Anyway...Later that day Terry told me that the tower was celebrating its 50th anniversary. And that all the Japanese schools were off that week too, for New Year's (the most important holiday of the year in Japan). Ah, yes, of course! And next year I will attempt to go to the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day! (what a dummy)
I did get a few nice photos from the ground though.
Monday, January 12, 2009
The robot from Castle in the Sky lives up on the roof. We paid him a visit last Saturday.
[Thanks, Stace, for telling us about this place all those many months ago. It just took us a while to get there!]
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Last weekend we went to Nikko, a lovely little town in the mountains two hours north of Tokyo, to do some sight-seeing, and stopped by for a caffeine re-up at this mobile coffee shop near the entrance to the Toshogu shrine, the main tourist attraction there. The proprietor took our picture and posted it on his website. Check it out! (When you go to http://ernest.petit.cc, you have to click on "Diary" then scroll down a ways. We're under Sat.01.03.2009.)
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Conor says "HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!"
What is this thing he's pretending to be, you ask?
"Kagami mochi (鏡餅, Kagami mochi), literally mirror rice cake, is a traditional Japanese New Year decoration. It usually consists of two round mochi (rice cakes), the smaller placed atop the larger, and a daidai (a Japanese bitter orange) with an attached leaf on top. In addition, it may have a sheet of konbu and a skewer of dried persimmons under the mochi. It sits on a stand called a sanpō (三宝, sanpō) over a sheet called a shihōbeni (四方紅, shihōbeni), which is supposed to ward off fires from the house for the following years. Sheets of paper called gohei (御幣, gohei) folded into lightning shapes similar to those seen on sumo wrestler's belts are also attached.
The kagami mochi first appeared in the Muromachi period (14th-16th century). The name kagami ("mirror") is said to have originated from its resemblance to an old-fashioned kind of round copper mirror, which also had a religious significance. The reason for it is not clear. Explanations include mochi being a food for sunny days,the 'spirit' of the rice plant being found in the mochi,and the mochi being a food which gives strength.
The two mochi discs are variously said to symbolize the going and coming years, the human heart,"yin" and "yang", or the moon and the sun. The "daidai", whose name means "generations",is said to symbolize the continuation of a family from generation to generation....
It is traditionally broken and eaten in a Shinto ritual called kagami biraki (mirror opening) on the second Saturday or Sunday of January. This is an important ritual in Japanese martial arts dojos.It was first adopted into Japanese martial arts when Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, adopted it in 1884, and since then the practice has spread to aikido, karate and jujutsu studios..."
Here's a shot of the real thing, which decorated our table on New Year's eve...
Thursday, January 1, 2009
UPDATE Jan. 12: I've asked several Japanese women what you're supposed to do with the mochi cakes and they said you're supposed to heat it in some way after you slice it, which makes sense, though I'm not sure that would be enough. The stuff is horribly bland, after all. The woman who runs the ryokan where we stayed in Nikko told me she likes to saute her mochi cake with soy sauce. My taiko teacher's assistant (she plays the bass note -- or is it 'base' note? -- while we students struggle with the other parts) recommended putting it in the oven topped with tomato sauce and cheese, like a pizza. Will have to give that a shot next year.