Monday, April 11, 2011

An AQ Sakura Experience

My friend, Vicky, aptly refers to our lives now as BQ and AQ. Before Quake and After Quake. It shows just how much our lives changed in an instant on March 11, 2011. One month later, it was Cherry Blossom Viewing time, and people who desired to go out and drink while reveling in the beauty of the cherry blossoms above while enjoying the warmer spring weather and hanging out with friends and family worried about "jishuku". Jishuku means "self-restraint." It expresses a feeling to not show too much enjoyment out of respect for victims of the earthquake and tsunami. At the same time, people argued that we should support the economy and buy sake and food and celebrate as usual under the cherry blossoms. I was of the latter group.

This is not a cherry tree we are sitting under, but it was the only tree left in the park without a family. I think it was the only tree that blooms at the same time as the cherry blossoms, but since it is not a cherry tree, it stood alone. We sat there and enjoyed our little viewing party

 Earthquake and liquifaction damage in our local park. I mentioned this before, but this was originally an evacuation zone for everyone in our neighborhood. Not anymore.

 Papa...pppppp....ppppp. Luka's joke is to say Papa name and then make two farting noises. It's really funny.
 My name is Luka.
 And I am too cool for school.
 We took the long way home in order to view the blossoms, and meanwhile, Yusuke's mom started planning for next year. She wants to do it up with a BBQ in the park and she had decided to invite Auntie Nanako so it will be a like a real party with lots of beer.

The song Sukiyaki is being used as an inspirational song in these hard AQ times. I think Suntory had several celebrities get together and record it, We are the World-style. I have known this song since my days as an exchange student in high school as it is quite famous, and even people in the USA know of it. It was written in 1961, performed by Kyu Sakamoto and is called Sukiyaki only because that was a recognizable word for Americans. It is actually called Ue o Muite Arukoo (I look to the sky when I walk).

I learned to play this song on the piano long ago and still have the sheet music. I dug it out so I could teach the words and melody to Ailin. She is learning to sing it now (along with all the songs in her Glee repertoire). This song has new meaning to me now. I don't think I really understood it before.

In this song, he is talking about spring, and in Japan, spring is synonymous with cherry blossoms. He has just experienced loss. It could be a loss of a loved one, but here, cherry blossom season and spring is a time for endings and new beginnings. Graduations followed by entrance ceremonies. Job transfers followed by welcome parties to new branches. It is a time of sadness and good-byes, but quickly followed by a time of fresh starts and newness.

In the wake of AQ, we are all filled with extreme sadness, and we cannot help but look up at the cherry blossoms in a new light. They bring hope. They bring something new. But, they carry the memories of our old lives.

This song says something else that is very revealing about Japanese culture. "I look up at the sky so that you won't see the tears in my eyes." Yes, that is true. People try to avoid speaking explicitly about their feelings and the sadness they are experiencing. They want to appear strong, hopeful, resigned. They don't want you to worry about them. When they are alone or you are not looking, they cry and the tears fall.

Sukiyaki Lyrics (by Rokusuke Ei)

Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall
Omoidasu haru no hi Remembering those happy spring days
Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone
Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Nijinda hoshi o kazoete Counting the stars with tearful eyes
Omoidasu natsu no hi Remembering those happy summer days
Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone
Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Shiawase wa sora no ue ni Happiness lies above the sky
Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall
Nakinagara aruku Though my heart is filled with sorrow *
Hitoribotchi no yoru For tonight I'm all alone
(whistling) (whistling)
Omoidasu aki no hi Remembering those happy autumn days
Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone
Kanashimi wa hoshi no kage ni Sadness hides in the shadow of the stars
Kanashimi wa tsuki no kage ni Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon
Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall
Nakinagara aruku Though my heart is filled with sorrow *
Hitoribotchi no yoru For tonight I'm all alone
(whistling) (whistling) 
* Note that poetic license was used to render the English lyrics.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ailin's Birthday - 2 months Late

I know this is really late, and the state of this birthday party, which took place in mid-February, will tell you that I was busy and that is my excuse! Now, I am finally writing about it.

For her 4th birthday, Ailin wanted a purple purse-shaped cake. What she got was a double-layered, kind-of-purplish cake with candy decorations. Simple enough for you?

I asked that we have the party at our house which meant that I had to do the cooking. Ailin wanted pizza. (That's my girl!) So, I made 12 different kinds of small-size pizzas. Auntie Nanako came to celebrate with us.

Ailin, now a 4-year old lady, tried hard to contain her excitement...and she did. There is a big difference between 3 and 4, I think.

After dinner, but before opening presents, Ailin wanted to wear her princess costume so she could show us her "curtsy" which apparently she had been practicing with Grandma Yuki.

Grandma Yuki knitted this sweater for her.

Mama and Papa gave her an easel with paints. Ailin's dream was to draw a heart with red paint just like she had seen in a picture book.

Ailin got presents from her family in America too. Grandma Holly sent some clothes, including this outfit. Thank you to Auntie Michele for the presents too!

On Valentine's Day, the day before her real birthday, Uncle Karl (Ailin's godfather) met us in Odaiba and we hung out for the day.

We ate lunch and then hung out at the Fuji TV building.

Karl gave her a Lite Bright for her birthday, but on a whim, he decided to have this drawing done of her by one of the mall artists. She actually sat still the entire time, but she got very sleepy. Due to her obsession with princesses, we asked him to give her a princess look.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Big Sister Little Brother

Ailin is turning into quite the big sister. Yes, she has her moments...I mean, she is only human. One can only take so much pestering, snack-stealing, and lap-stealing. But, she is doing well and takes her job of big sister quite seriously.

On a nice day in Ginza of Tokyo, when they close the streets off for pedestrians, the kids were running around scaring pigeons. It was a great day!

At home, on the infamous striped chair which doubles as Papa's parking place for his coat and bag, the kids seem to enjoy playing on the chair and posing for photos on it.

A clock that I ordered from an Etsy store called TammnoonyKids. TammnoonyKids is run by a Swedish woman who lives in Israel. She specializes in making art pieces for children's rooms, including clocks and door signs. The clock in my kids' room broke one day so I thought it would be a nice opportunity to get a more personalized clock. Notice that "Max" is sitting between them! Ailin was really pleased to have this clock especially at a time when she is striving to learn how to tell time.

The first day of a new school year. Luka has moved up to Otter Class; Ailin has moved up to the Seal Class. This is not exactly the kind of first-day-of-school pose that I wanted, but it's funny.

In both of these photos, I can see the resemblance between the two. They look very different, yet certain features of their faces are quite similar.