Card for Stalkers

I received this thoughtful birthday card from nicewife. It was very sweet, but we both thought it also had the potential to be a little bit creepy…

card-for-stalkers

 

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Sakura Matsuri

Every year the appearance of the cherry blossom is a celebrated event in Japan. For the last several weeks we have been informed on TV and in the newspaper of the progress of the “cherry blossom front” as it sweeps across the country from Okinawa in the far south to Hokkaido in the north. Daily forecasts include the proportion of blossom expected in each location, from just beginning to bud to full bloom. Where the trees are planted in clusters the effect is certainly impressive, but sakura in Japan is really about the changing of the seasons. The bloom of the cherry blossoms heralds the coming of spring.

sakura

It is customary to partake in “hanami” at this time of year. This involves setting up picnic or BBQ at a nice spot below a blooming cherry blossom tree, and then proceeding to eat and drink the afternoon away. Blooming brilliant. To help facilitate this important cultural exercise our town holds an annual Sakura Festival. This year it was absolutely freezing, but we all attempted to ignore that fact to the extent that our bodies would allow, and enjoyed the food, dance and festivities. We felt particular sympathy for the Hawaiian Hula dancers.

sakura matsuri
People enjoying the semi-bloomed sakura.

The sakura were not in full bloom on the day. A few days later and all these trees were covered in brilliant white petals. A few days after that and after a heavy fall of rain the petals had fallen to the ground, blanketing the path in petal snow and flowing down the river like confetti. There is something about the transience of the cherry blossom that is a thing of beauty in itself.

dance

Nuptials with Nanoparticles

Given that you usually only get married once, you want that special day to be memorable. One way to ensure this is to get married at this beautiful and expensive little wedding chapel in the south of Nagoya.

before
What a beautiful fake-sandstone wedding chapel....
after 1
.... just make sure your photographer knows how to crop his pictures.
After 2
A perfect setting for a special day.

Octogenarian Rugby

On TV a couple of nights ago I saw footage of a bunch of octogenarian former rugby players actually playing rugby. It was a full contact game that included tackles, scrums and trys. As one would expect there was a large group of medics on scene to quickly deal with any incidents, and a bunch of undertakers and counsellors on standby to deal with the numerous expected deaths.

In what was billed as a Japan first, the minimum age for participation in the game was 80. The oldest player was 90, and is clearly identifiable in the video below by his gold pants. Kylie Minogue would be proud. At the end of the video the 90 year old is asked how long he’ll continue. He replies that he’ll continue as long as he’s still alive and able. Perhaps not that much longer then.

ID Starts Nursery School

Our little man is all grown up…. sniff sniff.

The Japanese academic year starts in April and our eldest son, ID, will turn 4 this month. From tomorrow he’ll be attending the local nursery school. Today we attended his Entrance Ceremony. (Yes, there are ceremonies for everything in Japan!) He will be in a class with 15 other 3-4 year olds.

The United Nations of Nursery School
The United Nations of Nursery School

We were surprised and delighted to find that he’ll be sitting at a very international table. It’ll be just like the UN with Japan, Australia, The United States and The Philippines all represented. We anticipate his teacher uttering these famous words at some point in the term: “Do you kids wanna be like the real UN or do you just wanna squabble and waste time?”

Entrance Ceremony
Entrance ceremony - It apparently all got a bit too much towards the end of the morning!

Convenient Conveniences

The Japanese are expert at taking pre-existing things and refining them until all inconveniences are eliminated.

The toilets at any modern Japanese shopping centre are a prime example of this. Imagine you’ve arrived on a rainy day, umbrella clutched under your arm. At the entrance to the mall you’ll find a machine that bags your umbrella, preventing it from dripping all over the floor as you walk about. Enter the male toilets and next to each urinal you’ll find a hook upon which to hang your now bagged umbrella, and a shelf above for your bag or briefcase. There’s nothing inherently clever about the existence of these two things, but the fact that someone thought to put them in those locations is very clever indeed. The urinal itself flushes automatically when you arrive, as if say, “I’m clean. I’m cool.” Do your business and step back and the urinal flushes automatically.

urinal

Does your business involve something more, ahem, substantial? Enter a cubicle and sit on electronic bliss. The lid raises at the touch of a button on the wall-mounted control panel. The toilet seat has been pre-warmed for your pooing pleasure. (By contrast, if you sit on a toilet seat in Australia to find that it is warm, it is never a good thing.) Use the built-in bidet to get that freakishly fresh feeling. Adjust the temperature, location and pressure of the water jet at will. Make a few mistakes with all those buttons and you’ll soon learn not to do so again. Use the in-toilet dryer to desiccate your derrière. Don’t worry if you forget to flush or close the lid. The toilet will do these menial tasks automatically on your behalf. That way you can pretend to care even though you don’t.

Rest assured that if you are pregnant, the toilet will know about this before you do, and kindly inform you of the fact. What better way to find out than being told by a toilet? I am reliably informed that ladies embarrassed about the sound of their natural bodily functions also get a special button on their toilets that plays a beautiful masking sound, such as the tweeting of birds. In Australian toilets the only tweeting you’ll get is on a smartphone Twitter client. Uncouth.

Do you have a toddler that needs to go? Use the provided child seat. Do you have a toddler that you need to restrain while you go? Use the “jail seat” provided inside the cubicle, where you can secure the toddler while you take care of business. Enjoy the convenience. Don’t think about “human rights”.

At the sink soap is dispensed at the touch of a button and instant warm water, heated to just the right temperature for the season, begins to flow as soon as you put your hands near the spout. An “air towel” blows excess water off your hands much faster than it would evaporate using a traditional hand dryer. It also takes off a layer of skin.

I enjoy the fact that conveniences in Japan actually live up to their name.