Epilogue: Airline Barf Bags (Still) Make Me Sick

Source: Air Sickness Bag Virtual Museum

[Before reading, please check out the first post I wrote about a year ago – Airline Barf Bags Make Me Sick.]

I can’t believe it happened again. What is it about international flights with a South-East Asian destination that causes our two children to excrete bodily fluids in unpleasant yet spectacular ways?

This time it was ID’s turn to put an airline sick bag to test. He waited until half way through the flight, and then after he had a full stomach he enthusiastically emptied its contents into a paper bag 10 kilometres above the ground.

Wise from history, however, we were prepared. We sat him up straight and pushed his head forward into the sick bag that we had pre-opened for his convenience. This time the only other collateral damage was his T-shirt. We were calm. We remained relatively clean. No other passengers visibly gagged.  What a relief.

Despite one year passing since the original “unpleasantness” I can confirm that the designer of airline sick bags still doesn’t actually test them prior to manufacture. They still can only be opened by tearing along a near-invisible perforation, and they still have a tendency to rip down the side rendering them useless for their intended purpose.

This is why we now have a new family ritual. Each time we are initially seated on a flight we carefully open all the sick bags in the pockets in front of our seats. Our fellow passengers must think we’re about to perform a magic trick, or perhaps make our own in-flight popcorn. Later they’ll only wish it was so.

So, there you have it. A moderately absurd year sandwiched by high-altitude vomit. I’ll leave you with one final thought to chew over, and perhaps regurgitate at some unexpected time in the future: Airline barf bags… they still make me sick.

The Boys Kitted Out for Summer Festival

the boys in yukata
The Boys in their Yukatas

Summer in Japan is festival season. The days are hot and humid and the evenings are pretty much the same (except just a little less hot). It thus figures that the best time to hold an outdoor festival is in the evening when the temperature has dropped a little.

There are fireworks, traditional dancing, taiko drumming, stalls selling festival food and cold beer, and locals dressed in traditional costume. In some ways it reminds me of a Scottish Ceilidh (dinner dance), which provides the rare occasion for everyone to dress in kilts and dance the night away.

Of course wearing a kilt in the traditional manner at close to 60 ° North is quite a different climatic experience to wearing a Yukata on a balmy summer evening in Japan.

Trip to Hamamatsu

We recently took a short family vacation to Hamamatsu, a small city of around 800,000 residents in neighbouring Shizuoka Prefecture.

A visitor to Japan will soon realise that every Japanese prefecture and every Japanese town is ‘famous’ for something. Nagasaki is ‘famous’ for deep fried noodles. Aomori is ‘famous’ for apples. The fact the locals are required to tell you that, for example, the tiny town of Azai is ‘famous’ for weaving, is an irony that seems lost on most of them.

Bucking the trend however, Hamamatsu has some actual fame in the area of musical instruments. Yamaha, Kawai and Roland are all headquartered here, and just so as to remind you that you are in the “City of Music” the only skyscraper in the city is shaped like a giant harmonica. Subtle Japanese pride.

One of the city’s prime attractions is the Museum of Musical Instruments. I particularly enjoyed their selection of pianos, harpsichords and clavichords, although understandably almost all of them were not able to be played by museum visitors. Some of the more unusual items on display included a traditional grand piano with dual (upper and lower) keyboards, and a double-headed piano that could be simultaneously played by two people – one at each end.

small piano
Our small man standing next to an appropriately small piano.

We stayed at a motel situated on the shores of Lake Hamana. It was new, comfortable, clean and relatively cheap. Only one other room was occupied while we were there. Why would such a new, clean, comfortable and relatively cheap motel be so unpopular, we wondered? That was before we opened the curtains to find ourselves face-to-face with a carriage-load of train commuters. The outside track of the JR Tokaido Line passed literally a few metres from the window. Freight trains ran all night at 10 minute intervals which unfortunately made sleeping nearly impossible. But this is Japan, the land of both trains and stoics. The second night we slept better – either because we were becoming more stoical or, more likely, we were really, really, really tired!

We spend one afternoon relaxing at an onsen, and on the way also tried out a public foot bath.

footbath
A free public foot bath at Lake Hamana

One of the most interesting places we visited was the Hamamatsu Air Park, a museum and, I suspect, a recruiting station for the Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF). Given that the latter is probably the primary purpose of this place, entry is free!

I can confirm that JASDF personnel are overwhelmingly female, young and beautiful. These lovely young ladies will help you sign away your life, after which point you will be permitted to enter the actual JASDF base to discover that your real colleagues are overwhelmingly male, balding and uncouth.

Anyway – back to the museum… it rocked! It was all Top Gun and I was Tom Cruise before he became a prick. I tried out a couple of flight simulators and managed to crash just about everything they had. The boys dressed up in JASDF uniforms and practiced waiting for a war to come to them.

pilots
What, you thought this country with its famously pacifist constitution didn’t have a military? Think again.
2-year-old pilot
Son, your ego is writing cheques your body can’t cash.

Banzai!

Little Princess Syndrome in a Dog

sakura

Nicewife’s parents have a beautiful black labrador. They bought it after both their adult children had left home.

The dog serves a vital purpose. It indulges their need to pamper something younger and cuter than themselves. The dog’s life perks include the following:

  • Green tea on demand.
  • Year round climate control: Air conditioning in summer. Central heating in winter.
  • A raised feeding bowl so the poor dear doesn’t have to strain her neck to reach for food on the floor.
  • A wind shelter on windy days. A sun shelter on sunny days.
  • A collection of mats that are rotated according to season: Airy tatami, a gell-filled “cool pad” and thick luxury carpet.
  • An electronic insect repeller.

If there is a fly in her room she will bark until they remove it. She refuses to go for a walk if the ground is even slightly wet, yet alone if it is actually raining. She also won’t walk if it is much over 30 degrees outside. Nicewife’s dad cuts open old yoghurt and ice cream containers so that she can lick up every last drop. (I’ve yet to see him help with housework by cutting up the containers that we are required to recycle.) If the family are eating some special treat that has been given as a gift, one is often reserved for the little princess. Even her transportation is first-class. Despite the fact that Nicewife’s parents own a small tray-top truck perfectly suited to canine carriage, the dog will only visit the vet in the BMW.

The pampering of dogs is something of a common theme in Japan. It is not unusual to see women taking their small dogs for a walk…. in a Louis Vuitton bag! The dog looks bored. The woman looks exhausted. Yves Carcelle looks immensely satisfied.

I thought I’d finish with a photo of an elevator at a local shopping mall. This particular elevator (of a total of three available) is specifically intended for the use of customers who have come, to this very nice modern indoor mall, accompanied with their bagged dogs.

pet elevator

You bought what?!

Yesterday my father-in-law made a stealth purchase. He didn’t tell Nicewife or I about his plan. He didn’t tell his wife either. He just casually rocked up at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon with a Porsche, parked it, and went inside without any comment.

porsche

Thanks to the fact that older cars rapidly depreciate in Japan he bought this 1992 Carrera, with only 66,000km on the clock, for a fraction of what it would have cost in Australia. At least now the question of whether or not he’s in the midst of a mid-life-crisis is well and truly settled.

Cheaper Coffee

I’ve posted in the past about my dislike of paying $5 for a cup of mud-like filter coffee, and I’ve been actively seeking better alternatives. Today I bought a small filter coffee at Maccas for just 100 yen. After I paid they said they could also do me an Iced Coffee for free. So that’s two coffees, one iced and one hot, for around $1.30 in total.

Coffee still takes like mud, but at least it’s reasonably-priced mud.

mac-coffee
Two coffees for $1.30. I’m lovin’ it.

Earthquake Hat

This is ID’s earthquake hat. It’s a compulsory purchase for all children attending his nursery school. I can’t imagine how the teacher would get all the children in the class to don these during an actual earthquake, given the generally short duration of earthquakes and the associated panic they tend to cause. But the photo attests to the fact that at least he wore it once, and that it, evidently, makes him happy.

Earthquake Hat

Soccer Rivals

Source: Asian Football Confederation

Tonight Adelaide United (my hometown’s soccer club) will play Nagoya Grampus (Nicewife’s homtown club) in the knockout stage of the Asian Champions League. These two teams have never played each other before.

Nicewife always pretends to be dispassionate about such things but after kickoff and once Nagoya are down a goal, Nicewife will suddenly become quite animated and will perhaps, just on this one occasion, fail to live up to her moniker.

(If you’re in Japan you can watch the match on BS Asahi from 7pm JST.)

Annular Eclipse 2012

We were blessed to experience a pretty cool eclipse this morning. Nagoya was within the path of annularity (I had to look that up!) which meant we were able to view the sun as a “ring of fire” around a silhouette of the moon. We viewed it using a pinhole projector made from an old shoebox. In contrast, Nicewife’s dad decided the best way to view it was to look directly at the sun… We’re expecting him to need new glasses by tomorrow.

The Japanese word for eclipse is made of the characters 日食 which literally mean “eat the sun”. Kinda neat, eh. Nicewife’s 95 year old grandma doesn’t understand science – she proclaimed that the sun god had an illness. A very beautiful illness.

So here’s the picture:

 

Annular Eclipse
Annular Eclipse from our home just outside Nagoya