Saturday, August 02, 2008

I am Surviving a Japanese Game Show II

I noticed in my last post that I described Japanese game shows, but failed to say how I am actually surviving them. Of course there are challenges I wrote about before like The Toilet Flush Fip-out or You Want Me To Eat What? Here are a few examples of lesser known ways of how being a foreigner is like being in a game show.
  • The Granny Dodge - I am big blond foreigner in Japan, as well at the mother of the World's Cutest Baby. Therefor I often get approached by strangers who want to see this odditiy. In "The Granny Dodge" at any given moment half a dozen older ladies will surround me and begin to pinch Baby-san's little feet, all the while gabbering away saying things like "He is so cute", "How old is he?", "Where did he get this red hair?", "Can I take him home and marry him off to my granddaughter?", etc. The trick comes in being able to guess if they are expecting an answer and then being able to provide the correct answer quickly before the pinching leaves bruises and claustrophobia sets in. But to be a first place winner of the game, before they reach us I can dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge or try to outrun them. I am a plus size woman with a baby strapped to her, so while the sight of me being chased down the road by a gaggle of grandmothers might give viewers a giggle or two, so I will be doing the former.
  • Subway Surfing- This is a game that can be played in many metropolitan areas. When entering the subway car do not take one of the many seats given up by business-boys. (I know this is hard to tell in writing, this comment is just reeking of sarcasm. Come on boys, can't you see this baby strapped to me?!? If we'd been in Eastern Europe I could count on some babushka granny to wallop you with her umbrella as she chewed you out commenting on how young people had the decency to give up their seats when your mother was carting you around when you couldn't even get the snot out of your nose and she had not survived two wars to see her country come to to this. So get your fanny out of the seat for this mother and her adorable red haired baby whose dimpled cheeks I must pinch. No, I am in Japan where public chastisement ranks up there with mooning the President.) Anyway back to the game. In subway surfing, the contestants stand in the middle of the train without holding on to any handles and keep their balance for as many kilometers as possible. Bonus points for people who, during rush hour, can keep their balance and read a book AND keep their hands from being into other contestants' personal spaces.
  • Mini Mini - In some Japanese game shows you will see adult men and women peddling a tricycle with all their might, knees bouncing off chins as they go. As a five foot eleven person, the trick is to maneuver around things that are designed for folks who might not be tall enough to go on all the Disney rides. Clothing stores are to be avoided at all costs, as is anything with sleeves, pant legs and hemlines. When on the bus you must be the first to reach that one seat stretching across the back and has a spot with actual leg room. And the winner has to be the contestant who can hold a bag of groceries, answer their cellphone, insert the door key in a lock that is eye level with your knee, and not bang your noggin on low ceilings.
  • Supermarket Scramble - In a country where the writing resembles modern interpretive art more than an actual alphabet, it is amazing when you come home with what you'd planned to buy. Is that mayonnaise in the squeeze bottle, or some kind of tofu puree? Is that a bag of cabbage or kelp? And really, what is that white box with the blue writing and a stream of liquid being poured out? The real winner is the one who brings nothing home and goes to the neighborhood noodle shop for dinner.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I am Surviving a Japanese Game Show

Oh dear, oh my - our computer decided to have a mental breakdown.  Probably couldn't handle any more baby slobber.  Anyway, we couldn't fix it until we got back to Tokyo.  So I wrote a few columns by actually putting pen to paper and will post as if they happened in real time.

If I were staying in America this summer, there are a couple of shows (here and there)that would be programmed into my VCR (or DVR, TiVo, Blue Ray, HDTV, LMNOP - I honestly do not know what most of these are).  My Sweet explained that these games are based on Japanese shows from 15 years ago where TV personalities competed in "extreme challenges" that put their comedic skills to work.

While at Most-Honorable-Mother-in-Law's I noticed that the game shows had shifted from eating to actually learning a thing or two - like why stall doors in public bathrooms fall open inwards when not locked* or why some train tunnels are square and others are rounded.**

So I figured that the days of Japanese contestants doing inane things were over.  Oh no, not by a long shot.  In one show I saw two women hooked up to a wii type of contraption and their characters were cave women carrying a stone wheel while jumping over pterodactyl turds.  On another show comedians had to do pelvic thrusts into a gigantic air machine in order to move a heart shaped balloon up to a female face. 

Watch this if you dare.

All I can do is laugh or sigh.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

* They fall inwards to A) keep you from bonking someone on the head as you try to get out, and B) it is easy to see if the stall is in use without the undignified action of peeking under the door.
** Square ones are easier to make, but rounded ones can handle pressure better, so the ones deeper in the earth are rounded.  Oh, and FYI some Tokyo subway level are a mere 12 centimeters from each other.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hot Spa Haiku

Again, since I have provided a grandchild, my honorable mother-in-law took us to my favorite spot. After my third time in the hot mineral bath I relaxed enough to try my hand at something creative. I'd seen some lovely biddies, and biddy-dudes, using calligraphy brushes to write haiku and posting them on the wall. I'd been reminded again how rich God's world is. So here is my English haiku:

Dancing steam floats high

Water drains our sore muscles

God's gift makes us smile

When I gave my work to the clerk, she accepted it with many thanks and promised to hang it with the others. I think that was said out of politeness more than anything else, but just in case if you ever make it to the Iwaki-sou Hot Spa in Northern Japan, let me know if it is still up there.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Most Honorable Mother-In-Law

Well as I mentioned earlier, we came to Japan to visit Baby-san's paternal grandmother. And in her eyes I performed a miracle. For you see I have provided her with a grandbaby! Everything I do is perfect; except for the way I dress, wash, play with, feed, diaper or put to sleep the baby. And I do not prevent drool from getting all over the place. OK, I confess that I had given up on that last one. I mean really, he produces enough slobber to put out a volcano. Most-Honorable-Mother-In-Law has to squeeze a year's worth of spoiling into a few weeks. This calls for a nearly daily trip to the indoor mall were we hit the very traditional kid's store of Oshkosh B'Gosh.*

Now my mother-in-law does not speak any English, and my Japanese is pretty much covered in the lyrics of Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto, so communication is always interesting. She must think I am an idiot. Not only am I unable to read labels to know which is a carton of milk and which is a milk-ish, but I can't even count change. Let me explain this one. You see my mother-in-law thought it would be cute to see the foreigner give money at the cash register. I figured "what they hey, give her a thrill." After things were rung up, I looked at the machine and saw that the total was 750 yen (about $7.50). "Great," I thought, "I get out a 500 yen coin, two 100 yen coins, and a 50 yen piece." One thing you need to know about me is that I can be a little scatterbrained and after I dug out the 500 yen coin, I continued to converse in my head:
  • I am glad Japanese money had the amount stamped on it.
  • It would be a bit difficult reading the amount.
  • American coins are not so simple to know their value.
  • I can blog the lines: Why is a dime worth more than a nickel even though it is smaller? And the color of the penny stands out more, so shouldn't it be more important?
  • When did Japan go to 100 and 500 yen coins, and will America ever shift to $1 and $5 coins instead of paper bills?
So with all this going through my mind, it is quite easy to see why I absentmindedly took out two 10 yen coins instead of 100 yen ones. Unfortunately as much as my mother-in-law occasionally gets under my skin, she was not inside my head. She did not know the complexities going on up there. Instead she is convinced that her son married a number one nincompoop!

Well, Baby-san is calling for me, so I will sign off for now.
  • I wonder why it is called sign off?
  • What if it was sing off instead?
  • Would singer and activist Bono then be able to get his message across better?
  • What if he...
* To give credit where it is due, My Dear Sweet Mother has more than spoiled Baby-san with some totally adorable outfits!

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Up Up and Away

It has been almost two weeks since I got on the plane with My Sweet and Baby-san for a 10 hour flight to visit Number One Honorable Mother-in-Law. Traveling with a three-month-old on an airplane, let me tell you - it isn't that bad. Imagine putting an infant in the back of a car and going on a really, really, really long car ride. He was out like a light before the stewardesses finished vaguely showing us how to put on the life jackets located somewhere under our seats behind or above, or maybe even below, the 15 over packed carry on bags everyone has chosen not to pay extra to have put in cargo.

When we booked our flight, we requested the use of a bassinet. I thought that was very nice of the airline to provide, especially since we were going cheap and not buying a seat for the baby. It wasn't until about two hours into the flight when I found out that even though we'd talked to three different people three different times to confirm that we had the bassinet on reserve, none of these folks had fricking noticed that we were not booked in seats that accommodated space for the little bed. So I sat for 10 hours with a passed out baby on my lap, trying not to spill the airline dinners on him (the dinner roll might have put his eye out).

And while he slept most of the time, he did get fussy when wet or hungry. Both of these events always coincided with a key part of each movie I was watching. So on the Bucket List I know Jack Nickolson truly pisses of Morgan Freeman (is Jack pissing someone off really a surprise), but I have no idea why they get back together. And I have absolutely no idea why the Spiderwick creatures inhabit the home the kid's family just moved into, or how the cute old granny fits into anything, but I do know they defeat the creatures by the eccentric retired professor type of guy go out in a flurry of magic. And to be honest, do I really need to know the plot to Mad Money? I am just glad that Katie Holms gets out of her habitat, I mean mansion, once in a while.

There will be more to come from the land of Ninjas and Hello Kitty.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Greetings from the Land of The Rising Sun

Greetings from the land of Freshness Burgers, Happy Drugs store, and actual customer service. Yes, we as a family have ventured to the Land of the Rising Sun to take Baby-san to meet his paternal granny. There is a whole post on the whole hanging with the in-law who is a first time grandparent, but I need a break from all things baby.

I just love coming to this country! When you can't speak the language, and especially can't read anything, you have time to observe random things around you. The other day we were walking to the market and I spied this sweet little old great-aunt-Flora type hobbling down the lane. She has probably never had anything more dangerous on her person than a pair of worn knitting needles, and yet she was sporting a sweater adorned with a black skull that had its eyes X-ed out.

Here you also can not assume anything concerning taste and style for gender or age. I saw a very expensive grave marker for a venerable husband and wife who passed on at a ripe old age. How does their family distinguish their spot? By the three foot statues of Snoopy and Hello Kitty.
There will be more coming soon. Sayonara

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Wish List

Dear Baby-san,

Once during the deep of winter we had a power outage and all my distractions were not around and I started thinking of the things I want for you.

Here is my wish list:

* That you will have as much fun playing with the box as you do the toy that comes in it.
* Make several friends, have a couple who are like siblings, but never feel like you've got to go with the flow.
* Your eyes will be open to ways that will make people's life a little better, you'll do them, and never feel the need to take credit.
* Laugh often and heartily, but not at the expense of others. Life is full of humor, just look for it.
* Have dreams to revel in. Life is too short to not have flights of fancy.
* That you will know forgiveness, both giving and receiving. We have all sinned and fallen short of what God wants. So cut people some slack, including yourself.
* Walk the balance between using your head, and following your heart. But if you have to err, go with your heart.
* Hold out for the good chocolate, and the good women. Don't corrupt your taste for things of low quality.
* Explore and know the depths of love, God, and advanture.

Love Mom
(Man, does this title still feel weird!)

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

During the last week of my pregnancy My Sweet and I were talking a lot to the baby. Our monologues went something like this: Mom, “Please do not come this week until my maternity leave starts! Anytime after Friday is OK.” Dad, “Please do not come until after the new camera gets here!”

My Sweet and I had taken a birth class and we learned how to breathe properly to promote relaxation and saw several no holds barred films about natural childbirth, water births, c-section births and just about every type of birth possible. After each viewing My Sweet would say, “This was the lamest B horror movie I’ve ever seen.” Or he’d say, “This was the most boring porn I’ve ever watched.” To which I’d reply, “When have you ever watched porn?” “Um, I was speaking hypothetically, of course Sweetheart.” We were as prepared as anyone who’d never gone through the blessed event could be. We even had our Birth Plan ready: We wanted a midwife at the hospital, a water birth in their big ol’ Jacuzzi, breastfeeding only and no drugs unless I really, really, really, really, really need it. I say what “we” want, but I really mean what “I” want. We would discuss it, but he said it was all about what I wanted and could handle. His role could be likened to an amusement park attendant, he needed to make sure that I kept my hands and feet inside the car at all times and to make sure that a derailment didn’t happen. This included being able to read my mind and know if I really, really, really, really, need the drugs or just really, really need them.

Well, on Monday afternoon, the first day of my maternity leave and two days after the camera came in, I went in for a scheduled check-up and never came out. I called My Sweet and told him it was time, waking him out of a deep sleep, and he called My Dear Sweet Mother giving this detailed account, “It’s time for the hospital,” and hung up.

About 75% of my birth plan had to be ditched, and about 5 hours into everything, I really, really, really, really, REALLY needed the drugs. I had heard Carroll Burnett and Bill Cosby talk about the pain in childbirth, and I think for the sake of comedy they tamed it down a bit. Imagine placing a finger on a railroad track and having it run over while still knowing when it is over you will have to do it again. A friend of mine went through childbirth by clutching the side of the side of the bed and murmuring, “Jesus, be merciful to me.” I was more like, “Jesus, be merciful to me for the terrible things I said about You, your sainted Mother and Your Holy Father. I am truly sorry for shouting out those obscenities. But you were the one who put pain in childbirth, so please take what I said with a generous grain of salt.”

Well, after 24 hours of painful labor, which I will remind him of every moment of his teen years, our son was born, beautiful and handsome. Life will never be the same again.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hello 'Ya All

Hello ‘Ya All,

Yes I am back. I’d like to say that the pregnancy is the reason that I have gotten out of the discipline of writing. It definitely had something to do with it, in much the same way the flu gets you out of the habit of working out at the gym. You get sick and truly do not have the energy to work out, and then you have a crazy week at work that drains you, and before you know it you are reacquainted with the easy relationship of your sofa and television. Well, I am metaphorically getting off of the couch and back on the writer’s treadmill. But with the end of the writers’ strike TV is actually beginning to be worth watching again (Oh Sawyer how I have missed you, Jake was just a temporary fling!)

Here is something from my pregnancy. (I know, I promised that the blog would not be “All Baby, All the Time”. Well, cut me some slack, hopping on the writing treadmill means posting about what is right in front of me, and right now I have baby on the brain.) Being good first time parents, My Sweet and I dutifully attended a getting ready for childbirth class. In that class they recommended getting a birthing ball, the same as a pliaties/exercise ball, which we went out and bought. I enjoyed sitting on this so much that I seriously thought about bringing it to work. But, I never wanted to be this guy:

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!