July 27, 2009

Dear Diary, where is all the zen?

Thank you for your kind messages and comments... let me explain my current excuse for not being the perfect blogger...

I have been busy. I know, I know, you are too...but, please allow me to whine a bit.

4days of work, 1 day off, 5 days of work, 1 day off, and now I am getting ready for a week of
6 days of work to be followed by...

1 day off....

And work hasn't been all that great. Lots of people whining about stuff that really isn't THAT important.

Why do people threaten librarians? They must have a very difficult life if venting on me makes them feel better.... But does it REALLY make them feel better?

When you are angry and let that anger persist, all it does is consume your energy.
I really don't think it is worth it.

So...while I was being hollered at for not having a particular book at the library (it is not in my power to do anything about very sorry), I decided to meditate.

Right in the middle of being hollered at...I straightened up my back, set my chin straight, looked directly at the hollerer and said....
"yes, I understand" ... repeatedly like a mantra.

I sort of zoned in by zoning out and freaked out the hollerer. hehehe

But this made me think about what the rest of the world thinks about the Japanese people.

Quiet, subdued, polite, tranquil, zen-like....what do you think?

Of course, like any other nation there are stereotypes and much more. You can't really label a whole people, can you?

I have met some angry people over the past couple of months and they have made me wonder...what happened to the mild mannered Japanese?

So, I made comfort food (which is an amazing feat for me)
Pumpkin soup, mushroom, eggplant and goya pizza with marinated beans and peppers...
and I called my mom.
According to her it was all an illusion from the beginning. "Foreigners think Japanese people are polite because Japanese tend to cram their bad attitudes into the closet when they are with foreigners. They are afraid of being disgraced. But with each other, Japanese can be rude, harsh....mean."

My mom has never really liked her own people that much.

So, I thought I would think about it myself.

Maybe it has nothing to do with nationality.

Maybe it's me.

I can't cope with being around angry people. They make me angry for making me uncomfortable.
I'd like to fight back but I know that that is like "oil on a fire"(hi ni abura wo sosogu) will just make matters worse.

Or maybe it's the Moon...
The total eclipse on page 1 in all the newspapers....(evening papers from the 22nd of July).

But then again, maybe someone stole the zen from Japan.

Maybe there is some kind of zen sucking vampire on the loose. In that case, I will guard my "peace of mind" with my life! I don't care if the vampire turns out to look just like Robert Pattinson... it will not suck anything from me.... except a little excess fat wouldn't be minded at all ;-)

To keep my mind from collapsing....
...on this very treasured day off, I am still waiting to hear when my next job interview is... while I read....

and meditate/yoga, and do a bit of shodo, Japanese style...
in the lower right hand corner is the kanji for the word "light" (hikari光)...I have made a mix between kanji and the alphabet in the center.

Here is a more simple one for "dream" (yume夢) ...

(There is an amazing shodo artist named Kunishige Tomomi. I can't find an official website but there was one example of her work for the word "festival" (matsuri) over here.)


I am also working on my next "i-ro-ha" series. The next character is "chi"... and will include words like

chyouchin (lantern) ...'tis the season for lanterns and summer festivals in Japan.
My search to find the lost zen will continue...

July 18, 2009

an overview of my weekend in Nagasaki...

I haven't been able to check out many blogs this past week, I'm very sorry for being a "bad blogger".

I jumped back into my work schedule after returning from Nagasaki...and I also had a job interview! Yes, I am currently hoping to get a job where I can use my English skills and previous experiences as a teacher and in book sales.

I did my best and if providence is willing I will have a second round of interviews later this month...
Let's see what happens!

Now, here is what I did in Nagasaki...again, apologies...I wasn't able to take very many photos.
It was raining when we reached Nagasaki last week. There is a famous song in Japan...
sung by
It was a bumpy flight sometimes but we had a smoooooth landing...
There was a very strange looking (and gigantic) bowl of noodles in the airport to greet us.
It was supposed to be a model of the local delicacy called "chanpon" but it looks nothing like the real thing!
Here is a picture of the real thing...the picture doesn't capture the actual deliciousness of the dish though...sorry!
Chanpon is a bowl of noodles in chicken and pork broth with cabbage, bean sprouts, shrimp etc...
It is a combination of Japanese and Chinese food.

There are many Chinese descendants living in Nagasaki and that is why a lot of the Buddhist ceremonies and other festivities in Nagasaki have a very China-like atmosphere.

For example usually cemeteries in Japan are quiet...but the first summer after a loved one has passed away, in Nagasaki not be surprised if you hear a lot of people lighting firecrackers. The loud crackling sounds are supposed to scare off bad spirits.

Lots and lots of firecrackers!...this is from the Chinese culture that has become a part of Nagasaki.

(I'd show some pictures from 2 years ago, but I'm not sure everyone would be interested in seeing me in a dark cemetery lighted by an orange-ish flame...;-))


Speaking of flames....since it was raining most of the time that we were in Nagasaki and because our main purpose of being there was to "commemorate" the 2nd year after my father-in-law's death, we didn't go out much. So with the couple of hours of free time, I read some of my husband's old manga that he had in his room.
Hinotori (the Phoenix) by Tezuka Osamu.
All 5 episodes are set in different times but the main character, the Phoenix, appears in all of them.
I wanted to bring these back with us but our suitcase was next time I will try to post more about this epic tale of life!


In Japan there are many memorial services that are tied in with both Shinto and Buddhist religions.
There is the "tsuya" = kind of like a wake
the shonanuka=a memorial after the seventh day of passing
the shijukunichi=a memorial after the 49th day
the isshuki= a year after
the sankaiki = "san" means 3, but in this term it is actually the second year after...

I know, VERY confusing.

This year was the "sanakaiki" memorial service, the second year since my father-in-law passed away.

We listened to a Buddhist monk chant for about 40 minutes. My mother-in-law, my husband and myself had front row seats. I could hear people getting restless in the back...
I used this extremely long chant to "meditate". I closed my eyes, held my buddhist beads (like Catholic rosaries) and concentrated on my father-in-law's smile.

If someone stands in front of you, or waves their hand in front of your face when you have your eyes can tell, can't you? You can feel their presence without having to open your eyes...

...I had my eyes closed but I KNEW someone ELSE was there, right in front of me. Unless, the Buddhist monk was doing an unexpected jig around us...

Of course I can't be sure, but I wasn't scared. I felt calm and rather peaceful.

After the chanting, our party of 23 people sat down to eat a huge lunch.

Some relatives stopped by my mother-in-laws home. I had to shuffle around in the kitchen to prepare things to eat and drink. I can't cook, at least not for relatives...and ordered chanpon and other dishes from a local restaurant. I did cut some fruit though! ;-)

(My own "story" reminds me of a book I am looking forward to reading that should be released sometime this September. It is by Marie Mutsuki Mockett and she has written a very interesting essay about Buddhist funerals and Japanese society. Please click here to read it.)


..and then the day we had to leave wasn't raining anymore!
...and from the car ride to the airport I was able to take a few pictures of the beautiful countryside.
Nagasaki grows a lot of fruit and vegetables... some people have asked me about the effects of the nuclear bombs...they wanted to know if it was safe to eat food grown in Nagasaki..."isn't the radiation supposed to last for a long long time?" they asked me.

There was a news article recently about how a researcher found that people who were in the area of the bombings still carry some radiation in their cells. However, since the bombs went off in the air and not on impact with the earth it is said that there is not enough radiation in the soil to be lethal.
The airport is an hours drive from Nagasaki Omura City (Nagasaki Prefecture).
It is has recently been renovated! it is small but it's sparkly clean!

AND there is a new lounge!
This is what I saw from the lounge. You can see some of Omura City at the foot of the hills and the Omura Bay.
Before we boarded our plane back to Osaka, I noticed the green Nagasaki sign right behind our airplane.
It looks like our airplane is being sucked on by a huge elephant snout!
Hope you have a great weekend!

July 10, 2009

i-ro-ha #7 "to"

I spent an hour constructing a post for this splendid character "to"....only to have it deleted in a split second. aaaahhhh%$#"!

So, here is a quickie because I am not up to rewriting a hour's worth of "work"....

"to" is pronounced like the "to" in the word : toe

と is splendid because it means : and

words that begin with to:

tori = bird
I went outside hoping to take a picture of a bird but I was met by clouds....I think all the birds have flown away because it looks like some rain is headed this way...
tobu = to fly
a famous peson in Japanese history:
Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Toyotomi was born into a common farmer family. He is often described to have been a peasant.
He had a nickname after being hired by the local warlord Oda Nobunaga... Saru (means monkey).
The nickname comes from his small stature and his always running around wild like a monkey.
Toyotomi lived "The Japanese Dream" by becoming a Shogun from such a low status.

You would think he would be willing to give other people a chance to climb the samurai ladders...
In 1588 he did a national sword hunt and prohibited the change of status. He is a popular figure in Japanese history but I don't really like him...maybe that is why my 1 hour piece of work all vanished into cyberspace...I am living in a city that used to be his home base. A couple of minutes on the train will take me to the remains of his castle...

photo from wikipedia since I haven't visited the palace yet...
more words that start with "to"
tombo = dragonfly
toshokan = library
と(and) of course the most important one:
tomodachi = friend
thank you for being a friend!
Hope you have a lovely weekend, I will be going to Nagasaki for a couple of days from tomorrow!
(no internet access but I will hopefully be back with something interesting to talk about)

July 9, 2009

Dear Diary, I believe in wormholes

These past two weeks have been...very strange. I can't even explain why.
Let's just say that I feel like I have been in a wormhole...
I'd be in one place and before you know it...wham!...somewhere else...
Totally trippy week.

So...instead of going on and on about time and are a few snippets of what I saw and did....

I went shopping for new slacks because I ripped a pair (!?) and at the department store I noticed the displays for yukata...the traditional Japanese kimono for summertime. Times are changing, the bow arrangements (obi) are so different these days!
I finally got my visa cost 4,000 yen for a three year VISA.

After you get your VISA renewed in Japan, you have to go to your local city office or ward office in order to have them update your residency status on the "alien registration card" you are required to have with you 24-7.

A few years ago I forgot to do this and got "scolded" at my ward office.

When I went to my local city office to get this done, I noticed that they had an interesting sign out front...
It says: photochemical smog official report bulletin board
There are 4 different levels and the higher the forecasts get the more you are urged to stay indoors.

We haven't had an alert since I moved to this city, but it is historically known for pollution with a few lawsuits still pending.

I think it was last year or the year before, a city I used to work in had to actually cancel schools because of this "photochemical smog" stuff... Children where becoming ill from running around outside! Argh.


Oh, and then it was the 4th of July and since (according to my passport and all those VISA papers), I am American I had my own little celebration...senkou hanabi! (Japanese sparkler type fire crackers).
The picture came out...really...weird...but here it is:
Happy Independence Day!
I forget who is independent of whom sometimes...but I love America for all it is and all it can be.

And after July 4th comes my special anniversary.

I came to Japan 24 years ago on July 7th.

July 7th in Japan (and I think China too?) is Tanabata.
The day Hikoboshi and Ori Hime (a couple who became the stars Altair and Vega) get to meet in the heavens after a year of being seperated by the Milky Way.

Setting aside the Milky Way's major control is said that if you write a wish on pretty paper and tie it to a bamboo tree, the two stars will make your wish come true since they are so happy to be together on this one special day... if it doesn't rain.

I use to wonder if I came to Japan to meet my Altair...

as my husband guzzles beer and stares at his mobile phone on the couch...

I wonder....


I went outside on Tanabata night to see if I could see at least one star. But even without a "
photochemical smog alert" it was just plain cloudy since it is the rainy season...

But I did get a glimpse of the moon:
turned out harry Potter-ish...
In between shopping for pants, getting my VISA and staring at the sky, I did a teeny bit of housework and found a box of books that I had brought with me to Japan 24 years ago...

The one in the middle (Girl Sleuth by Melanie Rehak) is a new edition (obviously since it was published just a few years ago, a non fiction book about the people behind the name of the author Carolyn Keene):
I use to be an avid reader of Nancy Drew books... I was shocked to find out that Carolyn Keene was not a "real" person... Although I don't read these books anymore I can't bring myself to get rid of them...
I'm hoping that one of these days I will be able to display them on my "mystery-books-shelf"...

(I'm aiming for
a look similar to Delwyn's and a tad bit similar to what I found on Jamie's blog with a pinch of Laura's taste....)

Without sufficient shelf space I have recently made my pile of books larger with these:

I also bought a magazine, something I haven't been doing lately since they ARE SO EXPENSIVE...
(2000 yen for the latest issue of MONOCLE!)

The Big Issue is a magazine I buy every chance I get...I wrote about it before
And since Willow introduced
some of her favorite magazines and I thought it would be neat for me to do too, here are some of my favorites:

I can't buy the New Yorker and Mental Floss now because the company that I used to work for was the importer of these magazines...and well...the company went bankrupt last year.

The Rolling Stone I can still buy as well as Marie Claire idees (which I can't read since it is in French but I just love the pictures and crafts!)

One of my favorite Japanese magazines is
Tennen Seikatsu and it features recipes, eco friendly crafts, and lifestyles....

Speaking of lifestyles, hopefully I will be able to get back on track soon.
I will be going to Nagasaki over the weekend for a Buddhist father-in-law's third year after passing away...

Before the weekend I will have to write 1 report, update an English manual (all for work) and pack... and all the other stuff in between that people need to read.


Which reminds me that I need to write about Pope Joan ( a book I finished reading which was great!) and I still haven't blogged about a concert I went to....


which reminds me that I am going to a Simon and Garfunkel concert next week!


I better go to sleep now before I remind myself of more stuff...

Hope you are having a splendid week!