July 31, 2016

Traditional summer fun

Here are a few scenes of traditional summer fun. In plain words that means these time-honored Japanese cultural activities have become July rituals for the Rising Family™. And they are fun for all of us. 
(Ed. note: there’s a little something just for me at the end, a time capsule of sorts…)
At Marina’s kindergarden, every year they hold the summer festival for the kids and parents amid the sweltering July humidity. The students put on a cute show of quasi-Obon dancing on a stage pulsing with the bom-bom taiko drums; these toddlers to six-year-olds gamely try to contort their bodies properly to the traditional summer songs. Mostly it’s for parents like me to capture it on video for the ages. They also hoist the omikoshi (portable Shinto shrine) going around the school joyously squeaking “washoi”—which nobody really knows what it means, but it’s a good thing!

Next was the neighborhood Obon summer festival, always a huge hit with our kids and the neighborhood. The community association astutely plans it before the actual Obon holidays in mid-August because so many people from Tokyo and Yokohama are from other parts of Japan, and will probably go home at that time. So it’s well attended in July, and I think a charming public event for people of all ages.

Elena was quite excited. All the students at her school make the lantern shades for the lights that criss-cross the festival grounds, which is held at the biggest local public park. She proudly showed us hers. Also, she is old enough to want hang with her friends. Here she is with her best friend, H.F.
Here is our mini Annie Oakley, M., knocking down two of three dixie cups thanks to her sharpshooting skills.
Full moon…
…and dancing groups of older folks who really know how to do the Obon dances properly.
Finally, this is just for me. The 2016 Blue Jays are in first place for the first time since April. 
Of course I am pulling for them. I have no idea how the season will turn out, but yeah I am hoping they will go to the fall classic. It’s a joy to watch and follow the team, even from half the world away. 
So I am just posting this to show a righteous belief that..they…can..go...all…the..way
Go Jays!

July 19, 2016

Rising Family hungry for Golden Week fun

East eats West
The wacky Golden Week golly-gee goodness train just kept a’ rolling. We visited one of our favorite parks in the Yokosuka area, Kurihama Flower Park, which features a terrific view of Tokyo Bay. I’ve noted the park before in this blog but what made it different this time was that when we arrived at the play area the Godzilla slide looked more menacing...
Perhaps it was jonesing for a hamburger? “Where’s the beef?” indeed. So our usual walking/tag/hide-and-seek/Tarzan rope drills were augmented by some eye-catching frivolity due to the huge inflatable burger.

Marina now on two wheels
Walking upright and learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels are typical rights of passage for children. In a flashy display of her improving balance and eye-hand coordination, Marina joined the ranks of kids who can ride bikes without training wheels.
Somehow, as with many things in parenting, the bicycle operation regimen felt easier the second time around. I gave Marina a few balance clinics several months ago; she was a gamer then, eager to catch up with other kids and impress her older sis. I laid off on the pressure and got busy so we had a bit of a hiatus. Next thing I know, Marina is zooming around the neighborhood A-OK sans training wheels. Big Sis Elena claims it’s all due to her instructing on technique, but methinks this really is a case of quick learning by peer osmosis. I certainly had very little to do with this new milestone in M’s life. Regardless, she is regularly zipping around the block on her refurbished pink lady bicycle, and we couldn’t be prouder as she takes another step forward. Congratulations Marina!

Two-wheeled rebel
Never to be outdone by her younger, therefore (in her view) always-less-capable sibling, Elena got intrigued by these new skateboards that have appeared on our neighborhood streets.
Similarly, Lady E.’s balance and reaction time have advanced such that she is riding a “wave board” thanks to her friends in the neighborhood who taught her. It’s “street surfing” with the “wave board.” They call it the “bu-ray-bohdo.” It rides on two wheels, each on a pivot so that the board can turn freely. The gyrating force from her legs propels her forward. It’s daunting, and makes me feel old. So good for her—the young generation rises! All hail the latest two-wheeled rebel.

Lady E’s sports day
You can’t help but love Sports Day at schools in Japan. I’ve written about it before so I need not regale you with the details. Suffice it to say that once again Lady E. was a total team player and, as a veteran of these public spectacles, very definitely contributed to the show. Relay runs, dancing, and putting up with the heat and parents pestering her for photos…
She did us proud.

Kamping near Kid’s World @ Mt. Fuji

Recently the Rising Family took off for a camping weekend getaway at the Kodomo no Kuni (Children’s World) amusement area. It’s near the base of Mt. Fuji and is a great way to get outdoors and camp without too much strain. We bookended the weekend with a day visit to the Fuji Safari Park, which was excellent.

The drive through the enclosed safari was very well done – nice balance between access to the animals but keeping their habitat intact. Especially memorable was that the giraffes were not shy: one nibbled on our car roof’s radio antenna while its partner refused to get out of the way. Long-necked tag-team! There was one instance of animal passion, "nature gone wild", which made me crack up...

More outdoors around Canada Day
Jeez, as I write these descriptions I see we are actually quite busy on the weekends in summertime. To wit: on the Canada Day weekend, with a good weather forecast, we were off on another camping foray. This one was to Mother Bokujo Farm in Chiba-ken, across Tokyo Bay. The plan was to spend the day wandering around the farm (petting animals, playing games, watching the sheep-sheering show by a Kiwi sheepherder, which was primo family bonding time) then camping at the adjacent "auto camp", which was cheap, low-frills, lots of space. We did all that.
Next morning, I unfurled the family kite and sent it aloft. Elena and Marina both took a turn. When I was back in charge, the kite decided it had endured enough altitude abuse: the line snapped. Our kite wafted into the azure skies in a bold bid for freedom. It was actually a pretty poignant moment and we all laughed.
Freedom, my friends, is a powerful draw even for inanimate objects.