English as Decoration

Japanese companies often use English words and phrases as decorative motifs on products. They do not worry too much about what they mean, or whether they are actually English, because they are simply decoration. This can lead to a certain degree of incongruity for English speakers; anyone who has visited Japan will have encountered at least a couple of examples.

In the TV listings magazine this week there is an example that goes a bit beyond incongruity. It’s an advert for an idol DVD. This is a genre I’ve not noticed in the west, although it may exist. One or more attractive women pose in bikinis, underwear, or revealing outfits, over the course of a one hour DVD. They do not generally, I believe, include nude scenes.

Anyway, this DVD features a model called Kawamura Yukie. The English strap line is clearly derived from her name.

“Silky body, Yuckey”

Baby News

I’ve got a bit behind on the absolutely fascinating news concerning our incipient child. People with no interest in the entirely normal process of pregnancy can ignore this article.

So, we went to the clinic on Monday, and there’s almost no news. Which is good, because it means that Yudetamago is developing normally. She’s now head down, as she should be, and right on the centre of the growth curve for her age, which is also good. She’s too big to fit in the ultrasound window now, and she was hiding her face again, so we don’t have a 3D picture. It’s early to be camera shy, but maybe we won’t be putting her on the stage.

Last time we went to the clinic, she was in breech presentation. One of Yuriko’s Japanese books suggests that an effective way to deal with this is to talk to the baby and tell her that her head needs to be at the bottom. So I did that. And now her head is at the bottom. Clearly, this works. (In English, as well as Japanese.)

We’ve also had our local-government-provided parenting classes, which provided rather more useful information. It has been mainly the basic stuff: brushing teeth, basic nutrition, home environment, the process of birth. There were partners at all the sessions (even in Japan, they don’t call them “husbands” any more, although they did call them “fathers” at the last one), maybe three, for thirty mothers. The average age of the mothers was about 30, and most had lived in Miyamae-ku for less than three years; that is, apparently, normal.

For the last session, the fathers were encouraged to attend, because there were special things set up for them.

One was the pregnancy experience; they had jackets with breasts and stomach attached, filled with stuff that made them weigh eight kilograms. The idea is that the man tries it on, and finds out how hard it is for the woman to move around. When I put it on it provoked comments like “Yes, well, this is designed for Japanese people, we really need a bigger one for you”, especially after I did a sit up in it. Yes, the exercises are working. I have no doubt I will be very grateful for that post-birth, when I actually will get to carry the baby.

Talking of which, the other experience was giving the baby a bath. They had a proper simulation doll, the right weight, floppy in the right places, and anatomically accurate, for us to practise on. I think I did OK; I didn’t drown the doll or anything. Of course, the real baby might decide to move by herself, something that wasn’t a real possibility.

I think about half the mothers got their partners to come along, and there was a bit at the end where the mothers consulted together, and so did the fathers. I asked if anyone was taking paternity leave, and it seems not. I probably will; being self-employed I can take it whenever I want, as long as I don’t mind not being paid. And I’ll give myself my job back afterwards… However, this still seems to be something that hasn’t really caught on in Japan.

Overall, the lessons were useful, and we’ve made contact with half a dozen other families in the local area, which should be good. For now, I just have to keep supporting Yuriko.

Storage Space

Today, we rented some storage space. One disadvantage of flats is that they don’t have lofts or cellars that can be filled to bursting with junk, er, items of great sentimental value. Or, in my case, books. However, because there are a lot of flats around here, there are also a lot of companies that specialise in providing rental storage space, generally in converted shipping containers.

We’ve been thinking about renting storage space for quite some time. In fact, since we moved in, and quite definitely since my books arrived from England about eighteen months ago. Now, with a baby on the way, we want to get things sorted out. In addition, a new storage facility has just opened right next to the bus stop for Mizonokuchi, which means it’s really close to the flat. That is, of course, a great advantage, since I do occasionally need the books that I can’t fit on my bookcases. So, today we went to have a look at the facilities (it’s part of a converted shipping container), and signed up. We attached our lock to the door a couple of hours ago.

The next step is ordering some shelves and boxes, so that we can fit a reasonable amount of material in. Actually, looking at the size of it, if we fill it properly, as is reasonable for storage, we can fit a lot in there. I think I could fit all my books in, and some of them will, in fact, go on the bookcases.

Of course, it won’t all be my stuff. At the moment, most of the things cluttering up the cupboard are mine, but that’s because Yuriko’s stuff is still in Nagoya. And her mother is making remarkably persistent noises about her taking it away now that she’s married nad has her own family. So that will have to fit in as well. I think it probably will, especially as some of it will get thrown out.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to get my books to the storage. It’s close enough to just carry them, if I do a few at a time. There’s a good argument for that, because it gives me a chance to sort them out again, and try to get them into a sensible order inside the storage, so that I can get at books that I want to look at. I think that they’ll actually be more accessible that the books in the bottom rear corners of the cupboard in my office at the moment; I should be able to get at the most hidden boxes after moving four boxes full of books, rather than the six it would take now.

Thus, it might make sense to just leave them in the boxes as they are now, but in that case I’m not sure that I can easily carry them over. My exercises have been working, and the facility is close, but it’s still a bit far to be carrying those boxes. So I’d have to borrow a trolley or something. I probably could do that, which is why I’m not sure. I’ll have to think about the best way to do it.

Of course, I can’t do anything until the shelves arrive, so we’d better get on with ordering those.

Perils of Japan

We had an earthquake about an hour ago. Level 3 on the Japanese scale, here, which means that the windows rattled quite decisively and a couple of books fell over, but no real damage. It was magnitude 4.6, according to the current reports, and the epicentre was quite some way north of here. There was obviously something about the rock between here and there, because we had the strongest effect in Kawasaki.

And then, the day before yesterday, it rained a bit. Actually, it rained 90mm in an hour, and didn’t stop, although it got rather lighter. There was lots of thunder and lightning as well; it was really quite spectacular. I’m very glad that I didn’t have to go out until the main show was over. As it was, I got quite wet collecting our vegetables from the place they get delivered to, but I didn’t get absolutely soaked.

I really like Japan, but it is a silly place to put a country.

Signs of Progress

A couple of recent events that suggest my Japanese may be making progress.

First, while we were on the Tohoku trip, a woman mistook me for a Japanese person. Admittedly, it was dark and I suspect her eyesight isn’t too good, but we did have a very brief conversation, and it was only a bit later, when she came a bit closer, that she suddenly realised I wasn’t Japanese.

Second, today I went to a lecture on Shinto in Shibuya (which was very interesting, incidentally). I’m the only non-Japanese-looking person in the room, so I rather stand out, and another of the attendees spoke to me afterwards. In the course of the conversation, she asked whether I was born in Japan.

A while back, I read a website list of “You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…” things. My favourite was “…people stop complimenting you on your Japanese, and starting asking where you got your eyes and nose done”.

Nearly there…

We’re Back!

We’ve just got back from our Golden Week holiday, to various places in Tohoku. It was a really, really good trip; six nights, seven days. I can’t remember last time I went on trip that long that wasn’t to visit family. I also took lots of photos, so detailed accounts, with pictures, will go up in the diary over the next few days.

I’ve also come back to 1071 new emails. If you’ve sent me an email this week, it may be a little while before I get round to replying to you… (Or, if there are 1000 spam and 71 real emails, it may not.)