We all have colds at the moment. In my case or Yuriko’s case, that just means the usual feeling under the weather. Mayuki, however, has been sick twice in the night (including on me, last night). As you might imagine, that doesn’t help with us getting the lots of sleep that colds demand, so I’m really not feeling on the top of my game at the moment.

This is my excuse for not having written up the rest of our Kanazawa trip yet. It was pencilled in for today, but that really wasn’t happening.

Sorry about that.

First Rabbit Festival

Mayuki standing in front of a torii, on which there is a straw snake

Mayuki at Shirahata-san

Today was this year’s First Rabbit Festival at Shirahata-san. Because it is held on the first day of the rabbit in March, I always have to ask when it is. (I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but the animals of the Chinese zodiac are used for days as well as years.) Fortunately, I could attend today, and only had to rearrange one lesson. The weather wasn’t great, so at first I was going to go alone, but then I decided to ask Mayuki if she wanted to come. Her response was an enthusiastic “Yes!”, so we went to together. Yuriko stayed home, and apparently got lots done while Mayuki wasn’t here.

When we got to the shrine, we paid our respects as normal, and then Mayuki was ready to go home, as normal. I had to explain to her that there was a special ceremony today, and that we were going to stay to see it. I convinced her, but then the priest started beating the drum to mark the start of the ceremony, and Mayuki was frightened. I picked her up and held her, but she really didn’t want to go anywhere near the shrine building at that point, so I couldn’t see that part of the ceremony very well. Not that I imagine it was very different from last year, or the year before.

After the main part of the ceremony, they had the part where they shoot arrows at the targets. The two small boys who were supposed to play a major role were not desperately interested in doing so, so it was all done by the ujiko, both the ceremonial bamboo bows, and the rather more usable proper bows. By this time, it had started raining properly again, so Mayuki and I decided to go home.

I rather hope that, by taking her to ceremonies at the shrine, I’ll get her used to it, so that she can enjoy her own three-year ceremony in the autumn. We’ll see whether that works.

Mayuki’s Patience

Mayuki is learning to be patient. There have been a couple of telling incidents recently.

The first was a few days ago, when I was playing with her, and she wanted to watch one of her videos. I wanted to read a book with her first, but she was insistent on watching the video. So I said “Let’s read the book first, and then watch the video.” Mayuki agreed and we read the book together. As soon as we’d finished, she jumped up and said “Now video!”. But she did read through the whole book with me first.

The second was yesterday, when I needed to go to the convenience store, and decided to take Mayuki with me. Before we left, I told her that we weren’t going to buy her favourite pudding today, so she had to stay with me in the shop, and she agreed. What’s more, in the shop she did wait with me while I used the ATM and picked up my shopping, and she didn’t go off hunting for the pudding. I was really quite impressed.

I’ve been both busy and tired recently, which is why the blog has been slightly neglected. I really need to think about whether I have enough time and energy to keep up blogs in both English and Japanese, to be honest.


We’re almost certainly moving flat in the near future.

This has come about rather suddenly; the leaflet about it appeared in our mailbox a couple of weeks ago, we went to see it a little more than a week ago, and we did the contracts on Saturday. The flat in question is in a danchi, one of the complexes of flats built in the 70s to accommodate all the Japanese people moving to the cities as the economy took off. Thus, it’s rather older than our current place, but it’s also rather larger, with an extra room. That’s the important thing; we need another room so that Mayuki can have her own room when she gets a bit older.

The other key point is that selling this flat should cover the cost of buying the new (old?) one. We do need to apply for a mortgage to cover the interim, but the estate agents, after consulting with the banks, didn’t anticipate any problems with that, even though I don’t have permanent residence yet. That did cut down on the options a bit, as many places will not lend that much to resident foreigners without permanent residence. So, it could still all fall through, if, on the actual investigation, the bank decides not to lend us the money. But, on the balance of probabilities, it looks like it’s going to happen.

We aren’t moving far, incidentally. You can see the new place from outside our front door. That’s another important factor; it means that I won’t lose my students.

This morning, another leaflet arrived, advertising a flat equally close, slightly larger, much newer, with a better view. And two and a half times the price. That’s really not practical…

Christmas in America

As I mentioned, we spent Christmas in California with my father. This was Mayuki’s first trip to the USA, although she went to the UK in summer 2008, and met most of the US family then. One thing we discovered is that it really is rather easier to travel with a very small baby than with a toddler; Mayuki complained a bit on the flight out, even though she did sleep, and she was sick just as the plane was coming in to land. Fortunately, we had a change of clothes for her in out hand luggage (that was my idea, by the way), so we were able to get her into something clean before we had to queue to go through immigration.

That took as long as ever, but there were no problems, and when we emerged into the arrivals area, Dad and Joy were waiting for us. Mayuki saw them and, shouting “Grandad!”, ran to him with open arms for a hug. I imagine that he was pleased, not that he’d ever show it. We attribute this to the weekly iChats with them, so that Mayuki was already quite comfortable with him. Indeed, it didn’t take her long to get comfortable with everyone, and start calling Joy’s mother “Bestermor”, just like all the other great-grandchildren.

It took us quite a while to get over jet-lag, something that becomes harder with a two-year-old. Mayuki kept waking up around midnight and not sleeping again until three, which was not quite what we had in mind. Still, we recovered enough to go shopping, and I went to see Avatar, in 3D, with Dad. (I quite enjoyed it, by the way.) I spent a whole day in bed on the 23rd, and I’m still not sure whether I was actually ill, or just completely exhausted. There was a cold going around (Dad and Joy both had it), but I didn’t really have any cold symptoms, so it may have been just tiredness.

Mayuki enjoyed meeting her cousin John, who is four months younger than her, and they actually played fairly well together, with only occasional “Mine!” or “Mayuki no!” (Japanese for “mine’, as said by Mayuki) problems. She also met her older cousins a little later in the break, and that seemed to go well, too. However, she didn’t speak much English; she got as far as “again”, and “popsicle”. Her understanding of English was on display, however, and even included understanding, and acting on “one more time”, which was quite impressive.

Christmas Day was interesting. Mayuki got utterly involved in her first present, a colouring book, and we had to open the rest of her parcels for her. She did get interested in the other presents later, but she didn’t want to do anything but colour for quite a while. She’s showing more understanding of Christmas than she did in 2008 year, but she still hasn’t quite grasped the whole thing. Maybe this year she’ll be as crazy as small children are supposed to be.

We’d planned to get back for New Year, so we left on the 29th. It was only two weeks, and they went really quickly. Mayuki seemed to enjoy herself, and when we got back, she said “Mayuki’s Grandma Joy has gone, hasn’t she?”. I think she missed everyone.

Talking of Mayuki’s presents, Joy made her a Very Hungry Caterpillar puppet to go with the book that Silver bought for her. The puppet turns inside-out to turn into a butterfly. Now, when we read the book, Mayuki insists on getting the puppet, which she says is the same as the pictures on the pages, and when the caterpillar metamorphoses, I have to turn the puppet into a butterfly as well. I think those were a very successful pair of presents.

I did realise that Mayuki needs longer in an English environment to draw her talking out, so I’m thinking about ways to get her to the US or the UK for a bit longer. It’s a little tricky, however, because I can’t afford to take too long off work.

But this was such a good trip that we would like to repeat it quite soon. It won’t, I think, be this year, unfortunately.

The Colour of Traffic Lights

A notorious peculiarity in the Japanese language is that they think that the “go” light on traffic lights is blue. That is, the word that is normally translated as “blue” (ao) is used to describe the “go” light, rather than the word normally translated as “green” (midori). This is something that foreigners, particularly Western foreigners, are said to argue with Japanese people about. Indeed, on one site of “evidence you’ve been in Japan too long”, “you think the “go” light is blue” was listed as one of the signs.

On Monday, I took Mayuki to Ginza, one of the main shopping centres in Tokyo, because I had a couple of jobs to do there. When we were waiting to cross the road, I pointed at the pedestrian signal and asked, “What colour is that?”

“Red!” she replied, in Japanese. (She almost invariably speaks Japanese, even though I address her in English.)

Moments later, it changed, so I said we could go.

“Oh, it’s turned green!” Mayuki said, again in Japanese.

“Actually, in Japanese you say “blue”,” I told her.

“What? That’s green!” she retorted.

So there we have it. A neutral observer, at two years old, has declared in favour of the westerners.

The “go” light is green.

Goth Girl

Mayuki has recently started insisting on choosing her own clothes to wear. Putting her in other things causes a tantrum and a bad mood, so unless she, for example, chooses two pairs of trousers and tries to wear one pair on her head, I tend to let her. Save my energy for the important battles. Anyway, today she chose black trousers and a black top; obviously this is her aunt’s influence. However, I’m not sure who is responsible for the choice of pink socks and yellow wellies to complete the ensemble.

We were going to the park, where Mayuki got very into blowing soap bubbles. I think she must have spent about an hour doing it. When I suggested we go home, she said “There’s still some left!” (That’s much shorter in Japanese, well within a two-year-old’s capacity.) Still, finally the solution ran out, helped by her spilling a bit, so we did get home.

I know I’ve not written much on this blog recently; just too busy. I’ve got several things to write about, as well, so it’s really just a matter of finding time. At this rate I’ll do lots of updates over the Christmas holidays.

Magic Words

Yesterday and today, Yuriko was in Kyoto on a study trip with her kimono course. She should be back in a few minutes, but Mayuki has decided to watch a video again while she waits, so I have a few moments to write a blog. And I haven’t written anything about Mayuki for a while, so it’s a good chance.

This overnight trip to Kyoto was the first time that Yuriko and Mayuki had spent the night apart since Mayuki was born. We were, therefore, a little apprehensive. We did tell Mayuki lots of times in advance that Yuriko was going to Kyoto with her kimono class and wouldn’t be coming back on Monday night, but at one we weren’t sure how much she understood. Yuriko left at 6:30am, and Mayuki woke up to wave her goodbye.

Monday during the day was fine, of course, as it was just like any other Monday. Mayuki understands that Yuriko goes to kimono on Mondays, and knows what a kimono is, so that was no problem. Except that she had a cold, and was running a slight temperature. In the evening, she developed a cough, which got quite bad. She didn’t want to eat any dinner at all, and was already looking tired by seven, despite having had an afternoon nap. I planned to take to her to bed, and then leave once she was asleep.

While Mayuki was happy to change into her pyjamas, she also insisted that I change into mine. Obviously, I had no plans to go out, so that was worth doing to keep her quiet. Unfortunately, it took her a long time to get to sleep. Part of this was the cough, which kept waking her up just as she looked to be dropping off. She finally fell asleep just before eight, and I went to do the washing up and such. After I’d finished that, Yuriko’s father phoned to see whether I was managing to look after Mayuki by myself, and I assured him that things were fine.

About quarter to nine, Mayuki woke up again, and it took half an hour to get her back to sleep. Again, this seemed to be largely about the cough.

It was noticeable that, up to this point, Mayuki had shown no particular desire for Yuriko to appear, so I think she may, in fact, have understood what we were telling her, and knew that Yuriko wasn’t there.

However, when she woke up in the middle of the night, I don’t think she was quite as aware of everything she had been told, because she did comment, in grammatically correct Japanese, that Yuriko wasn’t there. The first time she woke up, she stayed awake for quite a while, crying intermittently, and rolling around on the bed. Sometimes she wanted to nestle up against me, while at other times I was definitely not good enough. I tried various things to get her back to sleep, but the one that worked was the magic words.

I said “go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep” repeatedly. In a calm voice, and with a falling intonation, rather than yelling “go to sleep now!”, which would be counterproductive. She went quiet almost immediately, and soon fell asleep. The next time she woke up, the same trick worked, quite quickly. Around the fourth time, more than half asleep myself, I decided to try an experiment, and discovered that saying “rhubarb fish” was equally effective.

Don’t ask me why “rhubarb fish”. I haven’t the faintest idea. (Well, apart from the fact that it scans with “go to sleep”.)

In any case, Mayuki woke up this morning in a good mood, and, again, showed no puzzlement at Yuriko’s absence. I got her ready to go to day care, and that’s rather more difficult by myself than it is when Yuriko is here to split the work. Then I took her to daycare, for the first time. That would have gone without any problems, had she not sneaked up behind me as I was stowing the last bag  and been knocked onto her backside when I stood up. As a result, she was, in fact, crying when I left, having not wanted to stop hugging me, but I’m assured that she was happy all day.

She also, apparently, said “Daddy is coming” repeatedly during the day, which means that she understood when I told her that I would come to pick her up. And when I did arrive, she jumped up and ran to me with open arms, shouting “Daddy!”, as soon as she saw me. That was a very encouraging reaction; when we left I heard the nursery nurses telling the remaining children that Mayuki loved her Daddy. And she does, of course.

So, apart from a rather disturbed night, the days went well, and I think Mayuki understood what we told her about the changed arrangements. I’m constantly surprised by how much Mayuki does understand. We’ll have to watch what we say around her.

Mayuki Being Cute

Since it’s a while since I posted anything in this blog, I thought I’d post a couple of things about Mayuki being cute. People with no interest in yet another cute baby can simply read something else.

Both incidents happened yesterday, before we went out to do Mayuki’s birthday shopping. This is probably the last time we’ll be able to do the birthday shopping with Mayuki, at least for a few years, and she even went to sleep while we bought her presents, so she hasn’t actually seen them yet.

Anyway, the first cute incident involved a cup of barley tea. Mayuki spilled quite a lot of it on the floor, and Yuriko was cross with her, taking the cup away. Mayuki was just sitting on the floor, looking annoyed herself, so I went to get the floor cloth, and got Mayuki to help me wipe the tea up. She didn’t want to at first, but soon came around. This is our basic policy; she’s only one, so she will make a mess, but she normally helps to clean it up. (Only helps, of course, because at the age of nearly-two she can’t quite clean up properly by herself.) When we’d finished wiping the floor, I said “Now go and give Mummy an “I’m sorry” cuddle,” and Mayuki stood up, went over to Yuriko, and gave her a hug. Yuriko was behind me, sitting on the sofa on the other side of the room, when I said it, and I didn’t look at her, so Mayuki must have understood at least most of the sentence. The only bit she might not have understood is “I’m sorry”, but from the context, I think she did.

The second incident was a lot simpler. Mayuki and I were both drinking, and Mayuki suddenly touched her milk bottle to my glass and said “kanpai!”, the Japanese for “cheers!”. I know we did that while we were visiting Yuriko’s family in Gifu last week, so maybe that’s where she picked it up. Of course, I said “kanpai!” back, and from that point Mayuki was doing “kanpai!” every thirty seconds or so. She hasn’t entirely mastered that particular social skill yet.

Today is my day to look after Mayuki, so maybe I’ll get to see even more cute things. I’m looking forward to it.