Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ikebana anyone?

Hi everyone.  Boy, I have been pathetic in my posting lately.  My "giant buddha" post is still in draft form so I thought I'd show you all my latest ikebana masterpiece.

I've taken three classes so far and each time the teacher practically redoes the whole thing but I am getting there.  I am only doing the most elementary of forms.  This is elementary form style B.  These creations are studies of assymetry, empty space, dialogue between the plants and flowers, geometry (lots of angles), and of course beauty.  The class I am taking is very low key.  We meet at someone's home and the instructor comes over to teach.  There are four of us.  As we snip and struggle with the stems our kids play together.  So it's pretty relaxing.  I've been instructed to get a container of my own and some good scissors - "You must spend at least 3,000 yen," says the instructor.   She also recommends getting a black container in a matte finish.  I will also need to buy one of the spikey needle rectangles that you jam the flower stems into.  These things are extremely heavy and sharp enough to be lethal.  So when I get around to finding out where to buy these things, I think I'll go for it. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Big Buddha

Last weekend we took a trip to Kamakura to visit the big Buddha.  Max was a champ riding the subway and showed signs of becoming a true straphanger or as Rich likes to put it "a future salaryman".  

Kamakura is important historically for the Japanese.  The first shogunate was established in Kamakura in 1192 and lasted until 1333.  More interesting to me is that the Buddha was cast in 1252.  Apparently a woman and a priest came up with the idea and also collected donations for the construction.  (The birth of fundraising in Japan, perhaps?)  
The statue survived a major tsunami in 1498 that swept away the entire town and the temple covering it. 

Sitting placidly for the past 750 years, the buddha is 13.35 meters (about 44 feet) tall and weighs 121 tons.

Max and Rich riding the subway.

Some perspective on the Buddha's size.

Max getting into trouble.

Monday, April 7, 2008

How to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich

We've cautiously introduced peanut butter into Max's diet and have had some luck.  No allergic reactions (big relief) and he appears to like it.  Woo-hoo, a protein source!  Big thanks to Rich's colleague Meeta for supplying us with more jars of PB.  Here's Max with his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Please note, there might have been more PB on the face, hands, clothes, plate  and table area than actually ingested

Friday, April 4, 2008

Aqua City, Toys R Us, Kid sized bathrooms

Max and I paid our first visit to a Japanese shopping mall this week.  We got a lift from friend Blanka who has her Japanese driver's license.  Blanka picked us up at our building and it was a struggle to try to get Max's car seat into the car.  There wasn't any latch system so we had to weave the seatbelt through the back of his carseat.  It was hardly attached at all but what are you gonna do?  She actually had her daughter in a carseat in the front seat.

So I sat in the back after finally getting Max buckled in (he protested vociferously making quite a scene) and we were off.   We headed out of the center of Tokyo towards the man-made islands on the outskirts and arrived in Odaiba after about 20 minutes.   There we hung out in a beautiful park for a while.  It was amazing to be in such open space compared to what we are used to in central Tokyo.  There was a beach (man-made) nearby and everything was very new looking.  So after a bit we got back into the car and Max got back into his wobbly carseat and we drove a short five minutes to the mall.  

Inside, I can only say that I felt transported back to the States.  We emerged from the elevator into a food court and there was a Cinnabon and MacDonalds and in the distance I could see the Toys R Us Store looming and next to that Gap and Eddie Bauer.  It was incredibly disconcerting.  In any case, we headed to Toys R Us where I was to look at tricycles and a bike helmet for Max.  He entertained himself at the Thomas the train tables and I was able to look at tricycles.

One by one, I wheeled them out to Max and he had no interest at all.  So I scrapped that idea.  I grabbed the smallest bike helmet available (so he can ride along with me on a big bike) and a bag of pull-up diapers, some window decals and was done.  Good thing because Max had a serious need for a diaper change.  So we brought the kids to the baby changing room where there where cushy large tables for diaper changing.   I may seem fixated on baby changing amenities but it's so nice when this everyday unpleasantry isn't made into more of an ordeal by lack of facilities.

Then I discovered the kids bathroom and my god, it had tiny (short) toilets and urinals and short sinks.  Max was loving it and went from sink to sink turning the water on and off and spraying soap on his hands.   I had to take a picture to document this.   So here it is.  


Last weekend was probably the peak of Cherry Blossom season here in Tokyo.  The weather was a bit overcast on Sunday but Max, Rich and I ventured out to the Nakameguro neighborhood to see the cherry blossoms along the river.  Well the river turned out to be more of a canal.  Still, it was lovely and fun to be amidst the many Japanese visitors snapping pictures of the blossoms.  

On Saturday, we visited a cemetery known for its blossoms.  For my own personal reasons, I was more impacted (positively) by being in a cemetery than by the beautiful blossoms.  It was interesting to see a mix of Japanese and Western headstones and markers. 
Overall, both Rich and I agree that the blossoms are beautiful but perhaps our expectations were so high that we are kind of wondering what all the fuss is all about.  Granted, we didn't manage to get to one of the larger parks packed with drunken revelers hailing the coming of spring.
Still, it's a welcome sign that warmer weather is ahead.