Mother, do you hear me?

“Something wired is going on these days.” 
About two months ago, my sister confessed to me with a frown.  She said that something like psychic phenomenon had been taking place back-to-back at her place. 

To be honest, my mother passed away in June.  My mother liked making phone calls to kill time.  The main telephone was in my sister’s bedroom and my mother was using codeless extension handset in her bedroom.  According to what my sister explained to me, the main phone originally made clicking sound when both we pick up the extension handset and hung it up.  Consequently, my sister was able to know the moment mother on the phone by hearing it. 

Scary things were that my sister had heard that clicking sounds totally three times at midnight after our mother died. 
“It can’t be!  She is already dead and who else do you think could make phone calls?” 
My sister seemed to be upset and a tad frightening.  I didn’t know exactly what was happening in there, but I thought it would be nice if it were some message from our mother.  Yes.  I really hoped so.  Perhaps, so did my sister.

There is an annual Buddhist event called obon in Japan.  It is believed that during obon (Aug 13th~16th), the ancestors' spirits return to this world in order to visit their family.  My sister and I were not religious at all, but this year was deferent.  We thought that this was a great chance to see our mother again and ask her in person; “Was it you who made phone calls at midnight?  If so, what are you going to tell us?”  We set about preparing to welcome our mother who was supposed to be coming back in obon. 

We made special vehicles for mother’s spirit by cucumbers and eggplants according to Hoyle.  Besides, we lit lanterns up so that mother could find our place easily.

On the first night of obon, we sat down in front of a household Buddhist altar and asked our mother. 
“Hi, are you here?  If so, please make us feel any sign of your existence.  We miss you, mother.  Don’t you have something remained to be said?  Maybe, is it ‘I love you’?  Oh, please tell us.” 
We strained our ears and waited for her replay until late at night.  

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It was a heavenly experience, Yubiwa Hotel’s performance at Ichihara Art×Mix.

Kominato Railways that runs through canola flowers fields.  photo:Japan Times
It was just a few months ago when I saw a Yubiwa Hotel’s performance for the first time.  And now, I became a big fan of it.  Its latest title, “But I was so in love”, or あんなに愛しあったのに---中房総小湊鐵道編 was one of the most impressive performances that I‘ve ever seen.  I still remember some of the scenes played at Ichihara Art×Mix, an art triennale that has just launched at Ichihara in Chiba prefecture this year.

Yubiwa Hotel is the name of performing arts company that Shirotama Hitsujiya has been leading.  Her way of playmaking is unique.  She thinks that stages should not always be at theatres, and practically, she has used the seashore, a factory, a book store, a tennis court as alternative acting places and made the most of the uniqueness of the spaces for her playmaking.

This time, Hitsujiya used local trains as her stage.  It was really interesting!  When I visited Ichihara Art×Mix, it was in the middle of spring and the sites were incredibly picturesque.  Fields were covered with tons of yellow canola flowers and pink cherry blossoms.  “This must be real Shangri-la!”  I almost shouted.  The performance was taken place on the trains of Kominato Railway that run through this mesmerizing countryside.

photo: Chiba Nippou
“Welcome aboard on Kominato Railway today!”   As the train departed on time, a conductress announced. 
“Now, let me see your train ticket, please.”  The following moment when she tried to check passengers’ tickets, she found a woman falling down on the floor. 
“Passenger?  Passenger?  OMG!  She is dead!!!”

photo: Chiba Nippou
Something scary happened just in front of all of us passengers (=audience) on the train and we were strongly drawn into the act.  The drama went on not only on the train.  At Satomi station, musicians got on the train and started playing.  In canola flowers field stretching outside of the windows, people were dancing.  The story developed beyond our imagination and it took our mind past and future unexpectedly.  Finally, the borders between a fictional world and a real world, actors and audience and dead and alive were getting vague.  That’s exactly Hitsujiya’s magic.

When the train got to the terminal station, I felt so sad because I knew that’s the end of the journey and also the end of the story.  I wished I had been in the story as long as I could.

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Escape from reality

I should have done accounting work instead of making these accessories.

The other day, I went to Asakusabashi to buy some materials and parts for accessories because I’ve been hooked on making bracelets, earrings and necklaces.  The more I make them, the more I seem to be addicted to doing it.  And eventually, I came all the way to Asakusabashi, which is a Mecca for the accessory DIY maniac.

There are some wholesale districts in Tokyo.  For instance, Kappabashi for kitchen wear, Nippori for fabric, Okachimachi for jewelry and Asakusabashi for dolls and accessory parts.  You can find a wide range of things with comparably lower prices there.  And I’ve came to Asakusabashi, though I’m just a beginner who started making accessories three weeks ago.

However, to be honest, I shouldn’t indulge in such things at the moment.  I have to file my tax return as soon as possible.  Although I haven’t finished preparing the documents for the tax return, I still don’t feel up to doing it.  I’m afraid that I’m saying the same things at this time of the year, but accounting is definitely not for me.  It’s a real pain in the neck.

I usually manage to sit at my desk and do accounting reluctantly, but soon I find myself starting to make bracelets.  Is this a typical symptom of addiction?  No.  I think I’m just escaping from reality unconsciously.  Accounting is a harsh reality for me enough to make me do such alternative work.

Making accessories is more like meditation.  I pick up a teeny-weeny bead one by one.  It requires me to be patient, but in return, it gives me peace of mind when I concentrate on simple work.  Anyway, it’s almost time to face reality and go back to accounting work before it becomes too late.

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Community based sports club

When I want to go walking or jogging, I go to a junior high school in my neighborhood.  It’s not that I sneak into the school grounds, but there is a sports club that is run by a NPO. 

In my area, the local government recommends residents to work out with the slogan of 3033 (san-maru-san-san).  It means that we should do 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week and at least continue for 3 months.  The objective of this movement is obvious.  On the face of it, it’s to improve local people’s health, but actually it’s to reduce the medical insurance cost for the coming super aging society. 

The NPO club provides us with a variety of sport programs and some culture classes like tea ceremony and shogi (Japanese chess).  The price is dirt cheap.  It may come as a surprise, you only need to pay 1,000 yen for a month no matter how many classes you attend.  It’s a really encouraging and friendly community based sports club.

As they use school facilities, the environment is quite good.  Speaking about the walking and jogging class that I often join, we use a 250m race track.  It’s a well-maintained race track that is adequately soft enough to absorb the impact on our knees and ankles.  So we don’t need to worry about injuring our joints as we are likely to do on asphalt roads. 

The members are eager runners.  Some of them have run at famous marathon competitions like the Tokyo marathon.  Now, all members except me are going to run at a local ekiden race.  Members have invited me to run with them, but I haven’t reached that level yet.  Maybe, I’ll cheer them on with a flag of the club in my hand along the road this year. 

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I'm fed up with getting tickets.

I’m sick and tired of trying to get tickets.  I was totally exhausted when I tried to get a couple of seats for my favorite performance.    I’m wondering how do people usually get their tickets?  It seems that it’s getting harder and harder to reserve tickets compared to a few years ago.

In the end of May, there is a Bunraku, Japanese puppet theatre, performance, which I desperately want to see.  So, I decided to get the tickets at any cost.  After checking online, I found out that there are two ways to buy tickets.  There is a ticket allocation for theatre members as well as for the general public.  Needless to say, I thought I would try both of them just to be on the safe side.

I became a member of the theatre right away by paying 3,500 yen in order to gain the exclusive presale tickets.  So, I presumed that my tickets should have been all but assured.  However, it was not that simple.

On the day they started selling the tickets for theatre members, I simultaneously logged into the theatre’s website and called the reservation center at 10:00 AM on the dot, but both the server and the phone were busy.  I tried them over and over again and when I finally got through to the operator, it was already 10:30 though, I was told that only B seats on the third floor were available.

I was so disappointed!  The first thing that popped into my head was if I could actually see anything from the third floor.   And the second thing was that the 3,500 yen theatre membership was of little avail.

Not to worry.  I had another opportunity to get better seats.  I was well prepared for the on-sale day for general admission tickets.  On that day, as luck would have it, I was able to access the website as soon as they went on sale.  But again, unfortunate.  Tickets were sold out while I was filling out my information. 

Afterwards, I got to know that the tickets were completely sold out in just three minutes. 

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The Tale of Princess Kaguya

When I was a kid, one of my favorite folk tales was ‘Kaguya hime or Princess Kaguya.’  I read it over and over again and I still remember the scene in which the messengers from the moon descend to Earth to pick the Princess up with the full moon as a backdrop.  It was not only beautiful and owe inspiring, but made me aware of the existence of outer space and the creatures living there for the first time. 

It’s amazing that the story dates back to the 10th century.  It’s the oldest-known science fiction narrative to exist.   Isn’t it fun to think that people 1,000 years ago imagined aliens on the moon as they looked up at the sky?  For me, as a four or five year old kid, Princess Kaguya was nothing but an alien who tried to contact us like ET.

The original story writes that one day, an old bamboo woodcutter finds a bamboo tree glowing mysteriously while he is working.  A beautiful baby girl appears from it.  The old woodcutter and his wife think that the baby is a gift and raise her as their own.  After, she grows up into a beautiful princess, princes and even the Emperor himself vies for her affection.  However, she returns to her home on the moon leaving the Emperor alone and heartbroken.

Ghibli’s latest animation, ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ is based on this story.  The difference is that Takahata, the directer of the film has embodied the character of Kaguya and has added the reasons why she came down to Earth and had to return to the moon.  As the tag line of the film goes “A princess’ crime and punishment,” the reasons are the clue to understand the film.

Takahata depicts the liveliness of everything on the earth closely with seemingly rough and dynamic strokes.  When Princess Kaguya runs though the field, gentle breeze blows and the grass bends joyfully along with it.  Birds, insects, animals, grass, trees and flowers, everything is alive.  Our lives are filled with brightness, even though we have to go through sufferings.  Despite fear, anger, and sadness, our lives are wonderfully original.  The film brilliantly illuminates it with images of life.

I longed for the moon when I was a kid.  On the contrary, Princess Kaguya longed for the earth.  It can be said that the film tells something important from the viewpoint of an outsider.  It’s a cerebration of life on earth.

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Vertical gardens in Aoyama

When I walk around Aoyama, I often spot vertical gardens here and there.  This new way of greening of town is definitely increasing and I think it’s becoming a trend.  Practically, boutiques, restaurants and cafes are adopting this lovely greenery on their façade or inside walls. 

Vertical gardens are easy on the environment.  They not only make the look of the buildings fascinating, but are effective against the heat island phenomenon.  For example, they protect buildings from being exposed direct sunlight and prevent a rise in wall temperatures.  According to a report of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, vertical gardens have created at least about 55 ha of greenery in the last 13 years in Japan.

Plants at Kazahana cafe are very energetic! 
As far as I know, we can see one of the oldest vertical gardens at Kazahana in Aoyama.  Kazahana is a café on a back street, but it’s a Mecca for aspiring gardeners as well.  The owner is a landscape designer who sometimes takes part in the Chelsea flower show and his designs have won awards.  Over the years, plants on the wall have grown bigger and a bit wilder, though I like this place because it totally makes me forget about being in the middle of Tokyo.

It looks like a entrance of a wonderland.
 My favorite vertical garden is the one at Santa Chiara church.  It’s really amazing.  The building is almost covered with plants and it looks like a green cave!  I was so excited when I saw it and I bet it will wow you, too.  Although this cave doesn’t give you a nature adventure, it offers you delicious and sweet experiences.  Every time I visit this site, I never miss dropping by a Spanish chocolate shop, Cacao Sampaka, which is attached to the complex.

I have no idea what will be the weather like this coming summer, but no matter how hot it’ll be, with vertical gardens, our days might be much cooler than last year. 

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Happy New Year!



ブログタイトルの「I’m what I like」のように、


ドメスティックに育った日本人が、ネイティブのような英語を書くのは大変です。どうやっても「日本人の作文」感がぬぐえず、アップをためらうこともしばしばです。で、打開策として、最近始めた勉強法がこれ。→ The Guardianを読むことです。ライティングのためにリーディング? と思われるかもしれませんが、とにかくよいお手本をたくさん読まないと書けないということに気がつきました。(遅っ!)The GuardianはNYTimesみたいに難しくないし(意地悪くないし)、読みやすいですよ。オススメです。これを、意味がすんなり入ってくるまで2〜3回音読して、言い回しのリズム感みたいなのを掴もうと思っています。


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