January 24, 2009

Year Two: The Elena Supremacy

Lady E. celebrated her second birthday a couple weeks ago. Naomi and I put on a small shindig to mark the occasion. It was just the three of us, but it was truly a fun little party.

Times are tough, though, and few people have the luxury of frivolity and games, especially two-year olds who should be seriously considering their future.

On the event of her second full year with us, Elena has graduated from the training phase and now has to be able to justify her position within this organization. We love her, of course, but in this kind of economy, everyone has to pull his or her own weight and work more efficiently. Innovation, baby! Thus...

Here is Elena’s performance appraisal for year two of her career to date.
Attitude: A on good days; F on bad days
Judgment: B
Control of bowels: C
Articulation of ideas: A (when screaming: F)
Decisiveness: B+
Learning ability: A+
Temper: D-
Eating skills: C (Indecision in this area needs work.)
Farting: A+
Teamwork/social skills: B
Motor skills development: A
Overall character and lovability: A++

On a more fact-based note, once again I’d like to recap the prior year with a few photos and wisenheimer remarks.

January: actually at Miyajima in Dec 2008….because we didn’t have a good photo for January.

February: Still cold, but the Rising Daughter’s cuteness kept us happy and warm.
March: Still in the driver’s seat and working on mastering her plastic cutlery.
April:…in another driver’s seat at a kiddie arcade. (Weather warmer…free at last!).
May: Naomi and Elena coming down the chute at the Aquas Aquarium playground.
June: At the Miyajima Aquarium one last time before it closed for renovations.
July: A new fan in Uncle André (above) and Grandpa (below). Both photos from our visit to Ottawa.
August: At the Mazda Museum’s concept car exhibition.
September: Driving the car…it’s the other guy’s fault.
October: One last visit to the Tivoli Park in Okayama before it closed down. It was hilarious.
October: Swimming lessons…and not terribly happy about it right now.
November: Getting colder, but we still hit the park whenever we could.
December: Christmas Day. Everything in Japan is just a bit smaller than in Canada.

January 4, 2009

Annus Novus

- The Munchkin celebrates her second New Year; her parents frolic during three days o’ fun -

Very Short Quiz
The title says it all: a new year is upon us here in the fair city of Hiroshima. The Rising Family has been in high spirits and busy during this winter vacation. The onset of 2009 has seen us engaging in a slew of activities intended to: (pick the correct answer from (a), (b), (c), or (d).
(a) do our part for the local economy
(b) prevent our beloved daughter from getting bored and thus stir crazy
(c) avoid “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” syndrome
(d) allow us to drink every night with little concern for the next morning
Answer is: (d).
OK…maybe (b).

So what things do people in Japan do over the first few days of the New Year that might be of interest to my Canuck relatives and Yankee brethren? Using us as an example, it’s fair to say we had a fairly traditional launch to 2009. Some of the things we did included:

- Waking up at Naomi’s folks’ house in the countryside of Hiroshima prefecture after a rare snowfall. We spent New Year’s Eve with Naomi parents and grandmother, and went back to our apartment in the city on January 1 after her uncle's family came to eat sukiyaki with us.
- Collecting our New Year’s greeting cards sent by family, friends and work-related acquaintances. The idea is similar to the Western custom of sending Christmas cards. We enjoy designing and sending out our New Year's postcards; it’s a tradition that is ever popular despite the Internet. People usually send them well in advance so that the post office can deliver them on January 1. The idea originated decades ago as a simple way to let people know you were still around or, if you had moved, your new address. The cards usually have a personal or family photo, a happy new year personalized greeting, and something featuring the animal of the Japanese Zodiac for the particular year, i.e. 2009 = Year of the Ox. (The Japanese Zodiac is derived from the ancient Chinese concept of a 12-year cycle, each year named after an animal which represents 12 different personalities which that year might exhibit. Words like dependable, methodical, tenacious and modest are used to describe the Year of the Ox. Regardless if there is anything to this Asian tradition, there is only room to improve after 2008, so let’s hope 2009 will be a bullish year!)
Here is the Rising Daughter family version of the New Year’s greeting we sent to our friends.
And here is the less family-friendly version I sent to my close friends who ‘get’ the joke. Hopefully, so will you. - Giving the mighty Laputa its annual wash and cleaning (ablution?) before we headed out to the Toshogu Shrine situated on a hill very close to Hiroshima station. And yes, it wasn't that cold here in the city. No snow so far this year...Yee-hah!
This hill, called Futabayama, is very close to our neighborhood, and there are about seven shrines aligned along its sides which have all been there for hundreds of years. Heading to the shrine for the first time in the New Year is called hatsumode, and people usually go to the shrines to pray for good fortune for the year ahead. Japanese people tend to visit a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple on the first, second or third day of January because those are those days most people are on vacation from work. At the shrines, you can also buy omamori, which are amulets for good fortune, safe driving, good health etc.
Here we see the Rising Daughter and Naomi at the Toshogu Shrine on January 2. Pretty long line. Crowded as expected, but the weather was great.
- Taking off for a hot spring at a new mall in a Hiroshima suburb. Yep, a modern shopping plaza that has a hot spring...imagine a public bath next to a Sears and you get the picture. And it was a pretty good onsen, too. Naomi tells me that Lady E. generally likes the hot springs (a big, warm pool from her point of view?) but during our visit she apparently was not very happy and almost bolted outside of the ladies’ changing area buck-naked and wailing. Now that would have made an impression.

- We closed off the holidays on January 3 with some fish and chips at a favored Irish pub called Molly Malone’s. Admittedly, this is not a Japanese tradition. But we love their food. We followed this fine meal with another trip through the 'Dreamination' illumination festival on Peace Boulevard that I mentioned in a prior post.

So there it is, loyal readers, the highlights of our start to 2009.
All the best to you and yours this year.