September 30, 2006

What's That Hanging on the Gate?

Here's a hint:

gomi © John Shelley

Notice the small "c" with the circle around it? That means this sketch is copyrighted or protected so don't copy it or print it out! I got John Shelley's permission to use it.

This sketch of gomi (garbage) was done by John Shelley, a children's book writer and illustrator. He lives in Tokyo. Check out his website to see the books he has illustrated and his gallery of art. He recently illustrated Bella Baxter and the Lighthouse Mysteries, a new book from Aladdin Books.

September 29, 2006

The New Pokemon

A new Pokemon game was just released. Little Brother's friends had reserved their copies at the local video store, but we missed the cutoff date. Papa stood in line for it, though, and was lucky to get it. It is his early Christmas present. I wonder if or when it will go to the U.S. Have any of you heard about it? Did I just spoil a surprise by posting a picture of him?

September 28, 2006

Summer Leftover

These handlebar covers block the sun. These are lightweight and lacey so they are cool. There are heavier ones for the winter to keep hands warm. Even though the humidity is lower and the air feels a little cooler now, the sun is still very hot. Actually, we need sun protection any season. Even in typhoon season.

The white painted diamond in the street alerts drivers that there is an intersection ahead. There are warnings to slow down painted on the street, too.

A Sign of Fall

Today on the way to the hardware store, I saw this dragonfly. I have posted a blue dragonfly, a green dragonfly, and masses of dragonflies of an unknown color. (It was sunset at the time and we couldn't tell). This dragonfly was red. I read that red dragonflies come down from the highlands near the end of September. It is a sign of fall in Japan.

I have to admit that I waited for this dragonfly to light on this car's antenna. I wanted the smiley face looking down on it. That's what I had seen when I first walked up. The dragonfly then moved to another antenna. I had photographed dragonflies before so I knew it would keep making the rounds among two or three spots. I was right. It did. I had to wait a while. I snapped this photo really fast so it's not as close as I would have liked. She flew away so I didn't get another chance. Oh, the car was a yellow Volkswagon. We used to call them "Volkswagon Beetles" or "Bugs".

Saving Earthworms

That's not to say that we have an earthworm collection. For some reason, we come across a lot of earthworms squirming on the hot pavement. There's a place down the street from our house that we call "earthworm crossing". Whenever we see one that is alive, we save it by putting it into cooler soil.

On the way home from the hardware store today and after my dragonfly experience, I saw this one. I took its picture then picked it up and moved it. I had to carry it quite a distance to find cooler digs and it was mighty slimy. I couldn't take any more pictures. Not even one of a dragonfly in the right spot.

September 27, 2006

School Days: Lunch Outside the Classroom

Little Brother has lunch service every day in his classroom at school. Today he had to take a plastic container, chopsticks, a water bottle, a plastic sheet to sit on, a wet towel to wash his hands, and a bag to carry it all. He was given a memo with a list earlier in the week. Members of The Neighborhood Watch went to his school today to eat lunch and to play with the students. They were served outside their usual classroom and their food was put in their plastic containers. They got to mingle with students from other classes.
(His homework is in the background.)

September 26, 2006

School Days: Erasers That Clean Up

I'm sure you've seen that big happy face before, but do you know what this thing does? It sweeps up eraser bits. After you erase something there's usually some small dirty pieces leftover, right? What do you do with them? We used to brush them away. But where would they go? By the way, do we have a word for them in English? I'll call them "eraser bits".

Anyway, this thing can be rolled over the eraser bits, and it will sweep them up into a small bin. Can you see the little black wheels, the big yellow wheels, and the pink bristles? I guess we would call this an eraser sweeper.

The yellow bin can be opened to empty it. The yellow green thing is an eraser. It has a plastic cover to keep it clean. It's that thing with the yellow and green dots. It also has a roller that picks up eraser bits. They stick to the plastic roller and fall into a little bin under it. The roller can be taken off to empty the bin. The roller has its own cover, too. It swings up and down. I imagine these devices help keep the floor clean, and they reduce traffic to the trash can.

September 25, 2006

Dessert at Big Boy Restaurant, Tokyo

I didn't take pictures of everyone's meal. They were all basically the same. But the desserts! Look at them!

This one had green tea jelly (the green square), mochi (the round green balls of glutinous rice), green tea ice cream, adsuki (sweet beans) and whipped cream.

Purin (flan), coffee jelly and vanilla ice cream parfait with a sprig of mint.

Green tea and vanilla ice cream and a soybean purin.

Coffee jelly and vanilla ice cream with a sprig of mint. There were many more choices on the menu.

Lunch at Big Boy Restaurant, Tokyo

The menu at Big Boy has mostly chicken and beef. Actually, as I recall, there is no Japanese food on the menu. "Hamburg" or what we call "hamburger steak" is a common dish at family restaurants here. Papa ordered hamburg recently at Big Boy. Have you ever seen anything like this?

The one in the picture had green and red peppers on it. The meat was really thick. At Big Boy before hamburg is served, the waiter cuts it in half and flips it with the cut side down on the serving dish which is really a hot grill. It sizzles.

The waiter puts a big napkin on the table. The dish is placed on the edge of the napkin. The customer holds the napkin up to shield her clothes. A metal frame is placed over the dish. Then the waiter pours sauce onto the hot hamburg. The napkin is then quickly draped over the frame as the whole dish sizzles.

This round black thing is a very hot grill. A piece of meat can be put on it to cook it a little more.

The waiter brings food out on a cart like this. This is someone else's lunch. I took this picture to show you all the plates of rice. There is an option of a plate of rice or two rolls.

This is where the waiter puts the bill. When I first came to Japan in 1988, there weren't any "No Smoking" areas. Now, there are many.

September 24, 2006

Visit to the Cemetery, Later, Lunch at Big Boy

Yesterday was the Fall Equinox. It is a time when people visit cemeteries to clean their ancestral gravesites. Baba and Aunt had gathered everything together; clippers, flowers, incense, lighter, small broom, water bucket, scrub brushes, and garbage bags. Everyone went to the car. I grabbed an extra pair of clippers and the pruner. Last time we went, Baba asked us to prune the tree next to the gravestone.

I was the last one to the car. I noticed that no one had put a plate of salt outside the gate. As I got in, I asked about it, and seeing Baba and Aunt comfortably sitting in the car, I ran back to the house to prepare the dish. I put salt into a small bowl and then covered it with saran wrap. I left it on the wall outside the gate before getting back into the car. Baba said "thank you" many times.

The cemetery was crowded. People smiled and greeted us as we passed along the stone walk. Big Sister clipped the bushes and Little Brother scrubbed the stones. Baba sat in a folding chair. The kinmokusei was blooming so we didn't prune it. Papa lit a handful of incense and put it in the incense holder. Aunt forgot to bring an offering of Jiji's favorite tea. I'm sorry I couldn't take pictures at the cemetery. My family considers it taboo. (Find the post for August 29th and you can see a picture of a family plot behind a house. Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

We ate lunch out. Before going through the gate when we got home, Papa unwrapped the dish and threw salt on each of us. Baba then took the bowl and threw a pinch of salt on the front and back of him. When we went to the front door we saw that Aunt had left the keys in the lock! Good thing we have a gate that locks!

We went to Big Boy restaurant for lunch. When I was growing up in Texas, we had a Kip's Big Boy restaurant in my town.

Looks like the same Big Boy we had.

At many family restaurants here, there are sinks at the entrance for customers to wash their hands.

Instead of writing our order down, the waiter used this. He punched in codes for our orders and it figured it all out. They've had this device in Japan for at least 18 years.

I don't think you would see this at an American restaurant. Stacks of ashtrays.
I'll show you more pictures later.

September 23, 2006

Chestnut Season

Today is the Fall Equinox. Some chestnuts have already been harvested from the trees down the street.

There are still many on the trees.

There is a "garden" of begonias near the chestnut trees.

Speaking of potted plants, here is a taro plant in a white plastic pot (see the September 7th post "Elephant Ears?") I saw this potted taro at a vegetable shop.

Butterfly at the Hardware Store

Yesterday, I watched this butterfly at the hardware store for a long time. I noticed her because she was trying to get into the store. Then she became interested in a display of young trees. She flitted around and through them for a long time. She seemed to prefer the citrus trees.

She fluttered her wings wildly like this on certain leaves. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Finally, I realized that she was laying eggs. Here is one of her eggs on a leaf of a lemon tree. Can you see the little white dot?

She also laid an egg on the wooden leg of a table.

I shopped for a while and noticed that she had gone. On the way home I saw this butterfly sunning herself. It may be the same butterfly.

September 22, 2006

School Days in Japan: Erasers

Yes, these are erasers. As you can see some look like canned and bottled drinks and some look like cups of noodles. There is a plate of food and a yellow obentou or lunchbox full of food (rice with a dried plum, fried shrimp, lettuce, and hamburger.) There is an ice cream bar on a stick, a pink peach and a red pepper. There is a tea pot, tea cup, a carton of milk and a carton of coffee milk. And a panda. There is also a paper box with an eraser that looks like chewing gum. These are just some of the different kinds of erasers that are sold here. It is okay to take these kinds of erasers to Little Brother's school.

This is a basic eraser. These are commonly used at Little Brother's school. Note the cardboard cover. When the eraser is worn down, it can be pushed through the cardboard.

Pencils do not have erasers on them here. I wondered why and then noticed all my American pencils' erasers had gotten hard. They couldn't erase anymore. I think maybe it is too humid here for them.

September 21, 2006

International Day of Peace

September 21st has been designated by the U.N. as an International Day of Peace. We spent all day in the doctor's office with Little Brother. He seems to be having allergy problems.

Our kinmokusei , fragrant olive tree, is blooming. It seems early this year. I don't think it's the source of the allergy problem. The tree was in a pot for many years on our balcony outside the living room. It never bothered him. It needed to be planted in the garden. I chose a spot near the gate. It is a sweet welcoming fragrance of fall.

See it peeking around the hairy trunk of the palm tree? You can see the sheds in our neighbor's garden behind our wall and trees.

Here is a hazy picture of our gate. We used to have an old wooden gate. It rotted so we needed to replace it. The color and style of the stone is called "Arizona". It looks very western.

September 20, 2006

Roof Garden

Some people have roof gardens. This is our house at sunset. There is a spiral staircase with a light at the top. It leads to our roof garden. The staircase is outside our living room which is on the second floor. Baba and Aunt live downstairs on the first floor.

We enjoy sitting outside. There are too many mosquitoes down in the garden in the summer so it's nice we have a place up above to sit. For the past few days, we have been enjoying the sunset and watching the bats as they dip and dive for dinner. It was impossible to take a picture of them. I'll practice.

Gecko at the Top of the Stairs

This little guy was at the top of the spiral staircase this afternoon. He was sunning himself on the hot metal. Notice something is missing? It didn't look like an injury. It looked like he was born that way.

I haven't seen many of these in Japan. I am calling him a gecko because of the shape of his feet. To me, they don't look like lizard's feet. When I lived in Malaysia, my house was crawling with small translucent geckos that had feet like this one.

September 19, 2006

Masatoshi Koshiba, Nobel Prize in Physics 2002

Masatoshi Koshiba, one of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002, came to Big Sister's junior high school today. Co-recipients of the prize that year were Raymond Davis, Jr. and Riccardo Giacconi. All had worked independently on different projects.

Dr. Koshiba gave a speech about his life and his work with neutrinos. Big Sister was one of five students chosen to ask him questions. She had read his work on the internet beforehand. She sat with the others on stage and was able to shake his hand afterwards. He was given a bouquet of flowers. Speakers usually receive a bouquet as a gesture of appreciation. Today was his 80th birthday, too.

I took this picture as he walked through the audience to leave the gym. Unfortunately all of my other pictures turned out blurry! So this one is precious.

P.S. When we were all home after school, I commented to Big Sister that she had shaken a famous person's hand today. Little brother said, "Don't wash that hand today!" She said she had already touched a zokin, the rag that students use to wash the floors! They had to clean up today. (Search this blog for "School Days" to see a picture of a zokin and other school items.)

Street Gardens

Most gardens in the Tokyo area have plants in containers. A visitor once asked me why. I'm not sure, but I know that Jiji, Grandfather, preferred potted plants because he could move them around to sunny spots in the garden. When the potted plants were blooming, he could move them near the entrance for display. Some houses don't have much garden space. Potted plants are sometimes put along the street next to their outer wall like in the picture above. There are pots hanging on the gate, too.

Some businesses put potted plants along their store front like this one. I'm sure you know what this shop is. Is a barber pole a universal sign? Is it used all over the world? I have seen it in many countries.

Someone put plants along this busy street. Perhaps the shopkeepers extended their store front gardens.

September 18, 2006

Day of Appreciation for the Elderly

Today is the Day of Appreciation for the Elderly. At our local grocery store, there is an exhibition of pictures that children drew of their grandparents. This store displays pictures for Mother's Day and Father's Day, too. Other stores around town display them, too.

Today is a day of gift giving. Flower arrangements are sold, too.

In Memory of Our Garden's Gardeners

Great-grandfather loved plants. He spent most of his time taking care of his garden. He made his own compost and his plants were healthy. There was always something blooming. Great-grandfather lived until he was 90 years old. He passed away over 12 years ago.

Grandfather, his son, then inherited the garden. He wasn't an enthusiastic gardener, but he enjoyed creating a display of morning glories outside the gate every summer. He watered all of the other plants when they needed it. He passed away three years ago. Now I have inherited the work in the garden. It is a lot of work.

These chrysanthemums were in that white container for many years. They have been outside our garden gate, but they are ours to take care of. Sadly, they have been neglected. There were some candy wrappers and an old tennis ball left in them. Even so, they continued to bloom.

They weren't doing well. Grandmother suggested we throw them away. They have been here for so long. Great-grandfather planted and took care of them. Grandfather watered them. I thought I would repot them. I decided to do it before Appreciation for the Elderly Day (today).

I hope they do better now. I don't make compost, but I do my best. Here is what they look like today. They look better, but I wonder if they will bloom this fall. I separated and cut them back a lot.

September 17, 2006

Some Vegetable Stands

This picture was taken at the beginning of the summer. This stand was self-service. There was a box where customers left money.

Here is a close-up. The wooden box on the right is the money box.

It is now the end of the summer vegetables in this field. The stand and field are empty.

This stand was near another field down the street. There were no signs and no money box. The farmers were working in the field. There was a man standing in the shed down the hill.

If you wanted to buy some of these peppers, I guess you would shout, "Sumimasen!" ("Excuse me!")