Thursday, September 30, 2004

Strolling On The Ginza

Life in the land of the rising sun....well, it was beautiful in the countryside.  We traveled quite a bit when Tom had off from was fun to see how other people lived.  The people that we met were very gracious and bent over backwards to be accomodating to us.

My first love, however, had to be the Ginza - Tokyo's main strip, equivalent to New York's Broadway.  During the day, alive with the hustle and bustle of humanity. Rushing hither & yon to who knew what activity..all very interesting to watch.

Oh, but at night...WOW...the lights, the neon, the vibes......that is my time.  I love New York nights for that reason too.  We tried to travel into the city on a regular basis...I think Tom felt pity for me because of not having too many options to hear English being spoken.  So when a new movie opened...we were first in line...I got to see the first James Bond movie in a Tokyo theater, loving every minute of it.

Coming over on the plane I had met a wonderful woman who was going to work for the US Embassy in a secretary to the Ambassdor.  Her nickname was "Willie" she was something else. She visited us and came a couple of times to my motherinlaws house for a party.  In turn, I visited the embassy, toured the Ambassdor's private office, lined with momentoes of the Kennedy years, pictures and such.

Walking through parts of the embassy, I always felt like I was entering a church of some kind....also the Marine guards were a bit intimidating...all very very tall..dressed to the T's...standing rigidly at attention.  It actually was impressive.

Through Willie I met a few other girls, so on occasion I would go with them to play Bingo on the base...also sometimes I was able to purchase through them some American items that I was dying to have.  

Of course, as my pregnancy grew I had to tone down my youthful excursions and concentrate on my upcoming "mommy" status....preparing the nest and all that you know.

All my life I have made friends only to "misplace" them because of my moving or their moving...but I loved each and everyone of them...thinking back on these special people...I just have to smile....

Monday, September 20, 2004

Golden Pavilion In The Land of the Rising Sun

Tom, of course, wanted to show off his country to me.  So when we had any time off from work...we took short trips to see the rest of the country.

One of those trips was to Kyoto....a most beautiful's very old and contains alot of Japanese early history.  There is a place called the Golden Pavilion, originally built in the year 1397 it has burnt down several times and always has been rebuilt..the last time it burnt was 1950 by a crazy monk.  They rebuilt it and it is covered in real gold foil is extremely beautiful and very peaceful to gaze upon.  The setting is just marvelous too, there are wonderful gardens abounding the pavilion which sits on a pretty lake that is filled with large Japanese Koi fish.

One part of the grounds had moss, so green, so lush that it called out to you to lay down on it. (Of course, I didn't) But from that point on everytime I see a little bit of moss I remember walking in that garden.   So tranquil.......

Kyoto was filled with Temples and sites to see...we must of walked every turn there was something to see.  Even though I was very young I appreciated the beauty of the ancient days...the architecture of the temples and buildings just put me in awe of what man can accomplish when they put their minds to it.

I think back and I just have to laugh......

Friday, September 17, 2004

Tamagawa Kirei desu ne?

My favorite memories are of Tamagawa at Oka-san's house.  Her house was a typical Japanese style structure, with a little wooden walk way around the outside - giving you a place to sit to remove your shoes, as they were not allowed on the tatami mats.

There were wooden sliding shoji panels or doors that opened up the entire house if they were slid back, you could control the amount of air that you wanted to enter the house that way.  The main room ( would be similiar to our living room) was used for a variety of events. In the center of the room Oka-san had a hole dug through the foundation, finished with wood on the was deep enough that you could sit on the floor and dangle your legs in it and be comfortable.  So, of course, she had a little table (imagine a mini card table shrunken) that she placed over this and the whole set up became her little dinning table. Looking back, she was cool before there was cool.  Then she found neat little fold up seats with backs that sat directly on the floor. It was a very comfortable arrangement.  In the winter she put a small heating device in the leg well under the table, lifted the top off the table placed a warm blanket which draped over everyone's lap, put the top back on and we were good to go. I loved that table, so when we were transfered back to the States, she gave me a table like the one she had.  That table went through every move we made from Chicago to New York...somehow, it lasted for years...I lovingly packed it to come here to Florida and of all things to be "missing" when my things were delivered, it had to be that.

Oh some other "stuff" was missing too, a salt & pepper collection, an antique key collection - but the table missing hurt.  My kids had grown up with that table, we had eaten so many meals on it and for some reason the food prepared Japanese style always tasted better served on that table. Damm movers anyway.

If you look at the pictures up above those were Oka-san's gardens.  It's a shame that I don't have any of them in full bloom but those huge mounds are Azaleas -  they are tremendously large andabsolutely beautiful. To reference size, my son Kenji, is 6' tall...her plants were very impressive. 

The room that I was speaking about earlier also doubled as a guest bedroom. The room had deep wall closets that held floor futons that were so comfortable. I swear I've not slept in a bed anywhere that was as comfortable as those futons.  It is kind of ingenious the way that the Japanese utilize space...they don't waste eat, you put it away, you sleep, it goes back into the closet...and something else can take place in that space.

Now the one thing that I did not like at all was the kitchen. Oka-san's kitchen was not modern or bright. It reminded me of the old style cooking by a fireplace. It made me nervous, I like to see what I'm doing especially with food preparation.  So as much as I wanted to learn about cooking from her I shied away from it at her house...but whenever she visited me I tried to get her to teach me more and more. Which she did.

For some reason, everytime I had to try some new type of food...all the Japanese around me would giggle. I don't know if my face was giving my thoughts away or what. In the space of one month I had tried the following totally out of my league foods...Marinated Eel (does not taste just like chicken) Genhgis Khan Beef on Brasior (hot, hot, hot) Large Orange Fish Eggs (Yuck)A Soup (made by Oka-san) Miso? but she added little fish dried with BIG eyes (double yuck)and last but not least..Wild Boar, again marinated...did not taste like chicken either. Rather bold and gamey.

I think back to the food episodes and I just have to laugh....hahahahhahah


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Shibuya Scenes

We lived a bit away from downtown Tokyo - it took about 40 minutes to get there by bus or train.  Our nearest little city was Shibuya, which from what I understand has retained it's charm and still attracts a lot of the younger business crowd.

Japan was so different for me...everything I did or saw felt like a new experience.  In retrospect, I wish I had learned the language faster than what I did.  I never became totally fluent, but I learned enough to shop, speak a little with Oka-san, order food in a restaurant, and tell taxi drivers where I wanted to go (granted I had to say in Japanese first "Watashi wa shingo no Nihongo desu") translation is "My husband is Japanese"...that statement made them actually stop & listen to me.

Anyway, Shibuya was my favorite had narrow side streets just loaded with little shops of all kinds.  The little restraurants have glass encased showcases that have plastic replica's of their food, the yen amount is everyone can pick what they want before they even enter. For a gaijen this was a wonderful easy adventure..because I could see what I wanted and knew I was not getting octopus!

Shibuya was also loaded with little bars, and of course bar girls.  Well, my Mama didn't raise a fool, however, I'm broad minded and I was then too or perhaps just a little too inquisitive.  Sometimes Tom & I would go to a couple of his favorite places and everyone was very friendly.  On occasion a couple of the girls taught me how to do some of the bar tricks that they take a napkin, a glass, a coin - wet the rim of the glass, putting only one layer of the paper napkin over the wet rim and pull gently so that it forms a tight fit. Then you place the coin in the center, you take a lighted cigarette and burn little holes trying not to be the one to drop the coin.  It passes time and was good for a bunch of giggles.

I loved Japanese food, still do and I'm glad that Tom and his mother taught me how to cook it.  I guess some things are totally son & daughter both are excellent cooks.

One time I had to report to a police station in Shibuya because I had neglected to show some documentation when I first got married..if anything changes on your paperwork you have so many days to get a stamp or something...I kind of felt like a criminal.  Anyway, Tom was able to smooth it over...he should of been a diplomat instead of a salesman. 

I also remember Shibuya because of Kawashima-sensei...happy memories of his painting at his easel, regaling me with tales of his youth..his travels....just a wonderful man.....I have to smile



Monday, September 6, 2004

Past Repeating Itself?



When I wrote the last entry, I had no idea that Japan was

actually undergoing similiar conditions....but 38 years later.
They had a cyclone hit the southern portion of Japan, and at the same time several pretty heavy earthquakes hit too.

I guess I feel safer here in Florida with Hurricane Francis and is it Igor? No..Ivan on it's way.  I think it's determined to get us. It's been a very long day I'm going to bed.....Sun will be out tommorrow, tommorrow....(hopefully - cabin fever is setting in)





Thursday, September 2, 2004

Typhoon, Earthquake..Spin & Shake

With these hurricanes coming one right after's making me relive other storms.

Our house in Setagayaku was a two story frame, brick and alot of slate rock. None of the windows were windows like we have here.  All were sliding doors...the outer doors slid...the inner doors slid into a pocket.  The outer doors had a larger pocket built on the outside of the house and in that pocket was space for these metal pull out storms doors. 

Throughout the house there were over ten of these doors...and boy, it was not easy to pull those metal doors out.  You had to position your glass sliding doors just so, then slide over them the metal seal the last one you had to go out your front door and do it from outside.  Just the preparation knocked me for a loop.

Coming from safe secure NewYork I was not ready for a Typhoon.  Anyway, the news said the storm would hit during the night..and pretty close to we shuttered ourselves in like sardines in can..with no view of the outside.

Somehow, that night, we managed to hold it together...did our normal routine, dinner, conversation, listening to the radio broadcasts..we could hear the wind pounding on the outside of the house.  Because of the metal doors it had a weird sound to it...almost alive.

Close to midnight, we decided it was safe enough to try to sleep.  The storm was still raging as I laid my head upon the pillow...before I knew it I must have fallen asleep.  Well! All of a sudden I feel myself being thrown out of the bed!  I awoke to find myself sitting next to the bed on the floor and the floor was shaking!

This was all too much for me, I just started crying.   Tom could not reach me fast enough, as he came to my side he said..."Oh, my God! We are having an earthquake too!"

He helped me up and headed me towards the center of the house, inside a hallway that had a doorway that we stood under...all the while the house is shaking, rolling.  I could hear objects falling in the house, pictures off the walls, God knew what can't do anything.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, it stopped. We were happy that we weren't hurt, the house seemed okay except for a few foundation cracks that could be repaired.  Alot of the little things I had placed around the house were broken though.  I used to love to collect old colored glass bottles in different sizes...they fell, a friend of mine had given me a pre-Columbian statue..a small broke into three pieces (still have it just for sentimental value) the pictures were fine.

So we prepared to unzip the we opened each was remarkable - a brighter, prettier day than I had ever seen there.  It was as if God had decided to wash away all the dirt and grime from the city.  I stepped out on the little veranda and breathed in was so beautiful.  When I think of the day after...I just have to smile....