From Celebrating to Wishing

Life is full of stories. It’s the second time I spend my (precisely my husband’s – I am always at home) winter holidays in Okinawa, this southern resort, and this time I would get a memory of being cold again. This year it is much warmer here than the last year, when we walked around the city through the wind pulling the shoulders hard and rattling the teeth, but the hotel we stay has no room heater. When I found it I was surprised than being disappointed, to know that here people don’t regard a heater as a necessary tool. We borrowed some blankets from this hotel for keep us from cold for only a short time of early morning.
Now it is at night, the room is warm enough without a heater, and there is only 90 mins left for this year.

Before coming here I had written and send all my greeting cards for my friends and acquaintance. Sending cards in new year has been a tradition in Japan and even now it is half a duty and half a seasonal pleasure. By writing on the cards in a special format and sending them in December, the post office will save them until the new year’s day, when they are delivered all at the same day. For this service the post office hires many part-time workers, most of who would be high school students. Even the school recommend this job to the youth, because it would be a legal and sound work to earn their own money.

But this year might be unusual in Japan, because of that disaster in this March.

In Japan people use a word “Omedetou おめでとう” in new year’s greeting, which means just “celebration,” not including “wish”. Thus those who had lost their close relatives in that year do not write the new year greeting (within the year they send the seasonal greeting without celebration).
And this year, perhaps all Japanese would have a feeling as if they had lost thousands of their closest relatives.

For the first time I thought about abstaining from sending greeting cards. But when I heard a news that the people in the area damaged by tsunami was trying to restore their address book for sending their greeting cards, I decided to send mine, too.

However I could not write “Omedetou.” instead, I wrote, “I wish the next year would bring happiness to all.”

After I wrote the message, the idea came to me, that it is very nice decision not to write the celebrating word. Until this year I had not thought about other people in Japan and the world – there had been obviously many people losing lives of themselves or their lovable ones, suffering from disease, poverty, famine, violence, and many bad things. If I had realized that earlier, I could not have written “Omedeto”, since that time.

So I will never write “Omedeto” in my greeting cards, until all people in the world could be able to celebrate the coming year together.

I wish you a happy new year 2012.

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In Okinawa

We are in Okinawa. We’re going to stay here through the change of the year.
Our plan for travel is always instantly planned. My Husband is a very busy man. He is traveling most weekdays – “Where do you go tomorrow?” “I’m going to my office” “Really? it’s a surprise.” For every travel he reserves the seat in the train and the hotel by himself. He even prepares the next travel while he is on the way.

And last monday I asked him, “When do you have the winter holiday?” and he said “From Wednesday. So let’s go somewhere. Where do you like to go?”
I said, “Ah…somewhere with enough electricity.”
“Then Okinawa, isn’t it?”

We went to Okinawa also last winter, and it was also instantly planned. For the above reason it is quite easy for him to prepare for a travel, and I would have fun wherever to go.

When we came here last year, it was rainy, windy and so cold as the weather in our city. Nevertheless it was much fun. We walked around the city, went to a park and there we took many photographs of the birds specific in this area. Indeed each of us pressed the release button like a mad towards a tiny creature on the tree – we also took a taxi and visited some battlefields and mass graves in the World War II. Here in Okinawa many taxi drivers willingly talk to tourists about the tragic history of recent Okinawa.

When we arrived here this year, it was also cloudy. But it’s warm! Tomorrow the max temperature here is said to be 19°C. This is really Okinawa. For we had had in our hometown so a cold weather this winter, this temperature is blessing.

Tonight he said to me, “What do you like for tomorrow? Fish( to the famous aquarium), or birds( to take photos of them)?”
Well, it depends on the weather – if it rains or not. Anyway, the blue sky is not expected.

Eigo de Mail

All Japanese learn English at school for at least three years, most of them do for more than six years, but very few people would speak it.

It’s indeed the fact. Because most of us meet with very few incidents that require us to speak English, much less to read or write, after we graduate from schools.

But I have long believed that, once they wished to do so, all Japanese would be capable of using the world- standard language. Most of them just close their heart from trying it.

I wish more Japanese to use English more actively. I think it necessary for Japan to survive through the great recession and especially that recent disaster.

Since last spring, thus, I send english mails to some young japanese friends every day.
I have shown them the following instructions:

1. You don’t have to answer. Of course I’d be very glad if you did sometimes, but don’t care about it.

2. You don’t have to search unknown words in the dictionary. You are going to learn them at school.

3. You don’t have to read my mails. Just take a look at them, and say “Uh, Miki has sent me an english mail again. Huh, there is something written on it.”

Summary: It’s important, that you regard it quite natural, that you see some English sentences every day. That would reduce your pressure considerably when you would start to learn English harder in the future.

Sometimes they give me answer, in English, that make me very happy and satisfied.

Recently really happy things occurred me one after another. Three adults in the neighborhood accepted my proposal, that I should write them english mails.

At first, all of them reacted similarly. They said, laughing, that it would be no more possible for them to learn English again.
But I explained to them, that I would start from a very few words, and the instruction above. So – what a nice surprise! They smiled and said “OK, I could not answer to you, but write to me please”
Moreover they said “Oh, that seems to be something exciting!”

Yeah! I was right. Everybody would like to learn English at the bottom of his heart. My dream, that more Japanese would be open to the world, has started its first step for coming true.

Meddling with Words

Suppose you have nothing to see or read, no iPod, your hands are busy, and no one near to talk with – do you have any way of killing time?
I have one. It’s training to create English sentences within my mind.

After the great earthquake in March, I started to make more effort to study English.
Before I had not thought speaking so important. So far as you can write it, you could manage to express what you mean… But recently I have found that training of speaking drastically enhance both reading and writing. It might be because through speaking one could train himself to imagine a chunk of words together at once. Such kind of thing I had once written here before, so I’d like to skip the detail.

It is a remarkable thing that one speaks a language since one was really an infant. Count from 1 to 100 in English – most of Japanese can do it, I believe. But if the counting rate is raised to 0.5sec/time, for example, I will fall in confusion at counting over twenty-five. Of course, in Japanese, I will never make such a mistake.

But it is more difficult to arrange words within one’s mind, that is, to think in foreign language.
In Japan there are many English school, most of them recommend to learn conversation first of all. They say, “It’s no meaning in only meddling with words in your mind! Express them to outside!” – no, no, sirs, it’s too difficult to dealing with words in silence.

After I tried for some time to think things in English, I found that it should not matter to me so much, to recall each word. Leaning English for years I have become a fair amount of vocabulary. The problem was in keeping the words for a long time in my brain, until a whole sentence would be created. Each word came from my brain but immediately evaporated. When I write them, as I do now, I can take time to construct sentences looking over all the words I brought from the brain.

How can I fix words in my brain? There’s only one way: repeating.
So I made up a new way of training. I started to think about a funny story in English. It should be funny, or I would soon get tired of thinking. I will not write a word about it. I will repeat to recall words, arrange it, to create sentences in my brain, until I memorize all the words I create myself.
It was some weeks ago. Now I have not yet fixed even the first sentence. The way to master a foreign language would be long and steep.

Black Kite

Yesterday my husband and I went to the nearest park to enjoy taking photographs.
After we wandered for an hour or two, we bought some bread and coffee and took them on the bench.
Then we found a black kite flying the sky.

Black Kite

This species is very similar here. Though it is classified as “bird of prey”, it seldom captures living things. Those which in the city live often come to the park or the beach to pick up people’s lunch. I have once seen on the beach one of them descended rapidly towards food in a lunchbox of someone sitting there. My husband said he had seen another took an ice cream which a high school student was eating while walking on the street. Indeed they are birds of snack.

Yesterday, that black kite slowly approached us, drawing circles above the sky.
“He’s coming”, we said. “He’s looking at our bread.”
He really flew near around us. Then I fell into a dilemma.
I had still my cocoa-melon bread (the bread had a round form with pattern, which would remind one of a melon, but no melon fruit or its juice was included) in my right hand. My camera was on the bench.
To reach to my camera I would have to leave my hand apart from the bread, then the kite would take it immediately and fly away, before I could hold my camera. That would mean my complete loss of the game.

So I gave up to capture him, but kept my eyes on it.
Then it went to my husband, who had his apple-pie bread in his hand. He was not such a person to yield the advantage to a bird, which had already lost its wildness. He quickly avoided the attack. At that moment I could hear the sound that the wings ripping the air. The bird flew away.

“One thing I’ve found was” my husband said, “He preferred an apple pie to cocoa.”
“If he caught it well, I could let him a block of mine,” I said.
“You shouldn’t. That species often hurt people as it attacks the food in and. No one would praise you if you were robbed of your food and hurt by a bird.”

Counting Night

Yesterday I wrote about the memories of Christmas eve when I was a child.
Then how I spent last Christmas eve yesterday?

Yesterday was my husband at home. It was miracle, because these years he was usually out on a business trip in this season.

Nevertheless, we didn’t have so big a event.
In the daytime we went to downtown for some shopping. We bought some travel utilities, stationery, books, etc.

For the supper I cooked curry and rice.

This is my christmas tree. I made it from paper and used chopsticks two years ago. Now we don’t use disposable chopsticks to save forestal resource.

At night we had a piece of chocolate cake for each, and sparkling soft drink. My husband doesn’t drink, and I had drunk the previous day. I make it a rule not to drink for two days repeatedly.

My husband said, “Recently I can’t find so much interesting softs for Mac,”
I said, “Maybe now much of them are bundled,”
“What do you mean an interesting bundled soft, for example?”
I started to count them up, “iPhoto, iMovie…”

Then I got a mail from a friend of mine. He must have been drunk. He wrote to me he would like to count up famous rock guitarists one by one, so as the initial of the family name of each to range from A to Z. But he stuck at E.
“Do you know someone with the initial E for his family name?” he wrote.

I sent him the response immediately : “Master, you must not forget Eric Clapton or Eddie van Halen.”
He wrote me back: “I said family name, not first name”
Oh…

Then I tried to remember, with help of my husband, a guitarist with the initial E for the family name. All We knew was Mattias Edklundh. I wrote him the name.

Then my husband said, “Don’t we listen to the music? What album do you like?”
I said, “Well, as an album for Christmas….”
“You don’t need to stick to Christmas.”

But I counted up 7 albums I feel like to listen to Christmas eve. I intended to count 10, but could find only 7. I did not want to compromise.

1. Reckoning Night – Sonata Arctica
2. The Divine Wings of Tragedy – Symphony X
3. Vengeance – Celesty
4. Twilightning – Twilightning
5. Underworld – Adagio
6. Helloween/Walls o Jerico – Helloween
7. Sonic Firestorm – Dragonforce

Mmmmmm, my selection might be a bit maniac…three of the seven are by Finn bands.
Some of the titles might not be proper for Christmas, but all have fair melodies.

In this way I spent much time of Christmas eve by counting up something.

Christmas Party in Childhood

Tonight, in this silent night, I planned to write various things that happened and go on happening this year – but I quitted that. I don’t want to cast a shade on your celebrations. Merry Christmas, dear people. Have a good time!

Instead I’d like to recall a typical Christmas party that I had when I was a child.
I lived with father, mother and a sister, three years elder. Every year we had a party with us alone, in supper time. Alone – my father worked until 7-8PM, so we started the party among the three. Then father came home with a box of christmas cake.

It was a living room in my house, that I can remember. it was one of the two rooms our house had.
And it was so small as another.

The living room of my house, in my childhood

I might have to explain about the items here.
(1) Kotatsu. A typical heating facility in Japan. Under the blanket(the orange figure in the picture) stands a table which has an electric heater at the top plate. The blanket, which covers the table, was fixed by a heavy board (the red quadrilateral) , on which things are put on.
the below is a vertical cross section of kotatsu. The red hemisphere pointed by a black arrow is the heater.
Vertical cross section of kotasu

(2) Cusion. One sit on it and put his legs into the blanket of the kotatsu.

(3) Television. At that time, it needed a supplemental antenna, which had a shape like stretched heart.

(4) The Christmas tree. It was made of plastic. After the Christmas it was decomposed and put in a case.

(5) Cupboard. It was composed of two parts, upper and lower. The upper part has a glass door and tea cups and saucers of japanese type were in it. My mother was fond of collecting such cups. The lower part had drawings and wooden doors, and stationery or other tools were in it.

(6) Tatami.

(7) Christmas cake.

(8) Stove. Because I had forgot to draw it in the picture, it seems to be located too close to the blanket of the kotatsu. Of course, it was located at more separeated place. Moreover, there was a wire cage to prevent any contact with flammable things.