Nov 1, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful: November 1

I'm thankful that I've completed a blog challenge,  31 Days, in another blog of mine. My theme was 31 Days of October in Japan, and I mainly wrote about flowers and food commonly found here in autumn, which helped me pay more attention to things I tended to take for granted.

I'm thankful for the community fair held at the city hall last weekend, where I saw a few alpacas from a village in the mountain. The village was severely damaged by earthquakes in 2004. Five years later, someone in Colorado, the USA, gave the village three alpacas to encourage the people affected by the devastating earthquakes. Since then, these creatures have been the symbol of reconstruction and hope. The village has been incorporated into our city now, and their alpacas often take part in municipal events.

I had seen alpacas on TV before, but it was my first time to watch them with my own eyes.

I'm thankful for the dorayaki (small pancakes) with sweet potato paste between them, which I got at the community fair. The dorayaki were designed by a group of local junior high school students in an interdisciplinary project. Based on their ideas, one of the most famous confectioneries in our city made the dorayaki, and the students were selling them at the fair.

The sweet potato paste was very sweet, and the dorayaki was delicious.

I'm thankful for the lunch I had at the church last Sunday. We had grilled onigiri (rice balls), miso soup, grilled pork and vegetables, nashi pears, cakes, pies, cookies, and coffee. Everything tasted good.
I'm thankful for the chrysanthemums in our garden.  They are probably the last flowers in the garden this year.

I'm thankful for the vegetables we got at the farmers' market on Wednesday. We bought some sato-imo (field yams) and naga-negi (spring onions) for the coming winter.
This week, I'm spending at least two hours a day playing the electronic organ. I'm mainly practicing the variations of "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" arranged by J. Pachelbel. I've also started reviewing chorales for Christmas. I'm thankful for the time when I can concentrate on playing the misical instrument every day.
I'm thankful for the beautiful blue sky and the colors of autumn.
I'm looking forward to the Bible Memory Challenge, which is going to start on November 10. This time, we are going to learn Psalm 27 by heart. I'm thankful for the organizers of this challenge.


I'm thankful for a bowl of matcha green tea early in the morning.
Ten Things of Thankful

Oct 30, 2014

Pondering on the Word 'Litter'

I am joining Brenda @ BYG Adventures for Pondering, where we write about words with more than one meaning. This week's word is 'litter.'

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   If I were a native speaker of English, I might not remember when and where I learned most of the new words and their different meanings. Having been studying it as a foreign language, however, I have a vivid memory of the contexts where I read or heard some of the English words for the first time in my life. 'Litter' is one of them.
   I first read the word 'litter' in the English textbook when I was a senior high school student. I was sixteen years old. (I had been studying English for about four years.) We were reading an essay on environmental problems, and the 'litter' was the noun meaning 'waste paper, cans, etc, which people have thrown away and left on the ground in a public place,' things they should have put in a litter bin instead.

   I learned a new meaning of the word 'litter' a few years after I started teaching English at a high school in Japan. Our textbook had a story adopted from the first chapter of Charlotte's Web by E. B. White, in which the little girl Fern asks her father not to kill the runt of the litter and names him Wilbur. I liked reading the story with my students.

   Years later, when I first saw the phrase 'cat litter' somewhere on the Internet, I wondered whether it referred to 'rubbish a cat throws away' or 'a group of kittens that a cat gives birth to at the same time,' but I know better now. :-)

Oct 28, 2014

'Mist' and the 'Moon'

   Mist, fog and haze. What is the difference? Fog seems to be the densest, and mist sounds like denser than haze. Not being a specialist, I'm hazy about their distinction. So I did a little research as usual.

    This web page gives us the definitions:
The international definition of fog is a visibility of less than 1 kilometre (3,300 ft); mist is a visibility of between 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) and 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) and haze from 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to 5 kilometres (3.1 mi)

  The English word 'mist' can be translated as 'moya', 'kiri', and 'kasumi' in Japanese. The following list shows how these terms are spelt in kanji characters.

Scientifically speaking, #1 (moya) is the most accurate translation of 'mist', because 'moya' has a visibility of between 1 kilometer and 10 kilometers, according to the Japanese definition, while #2 (kiri) corresponds to 'fog' in terms of visibility. #3 (kasumi) basically refers to the same thing as mist and haze, but in the world of literature, 'kasumi' is seen only in spring. In haiku, mist is called 'kasumi' in spring, and 'kiri' in autumn.

   Let's look at the three kanji characters in the list again. What do they have in common?

--Obviously, they all have the same component at the top, which is the symbol for 'rain.'
This symbol can be found in many meteorological terms related to precipitation and moisture. The following list shows a few examples.

Winter is coming soon. According to the traditional Japanese calendar, November was called 'Shimo-tsuki,' or 'Frost Month.'
(moon, month)

 In modern Japanese calender, November is called 'Juuichi-gatsu' (the eleventh month.)
Here, the kanji for 'tsuki' is pronounced as 'gatsu.' In fact, the same kanji is also pronounced in a few other ways, but I'm not going into detail now.

I'm joining Josie @ Two Shoes in Texas
for Two Shoes Tuesday.
writing prompts:
mist or moon 

Oct 27, 2014

Memory Monday: My First Date

Retired Not Tired Memory Monday

   It was a beautiful day in early May. We met at the bus stop near my dormitory early in the morning. I was dressed in a new white blouse, blue jeans and a khaki jacket. He was wearing his favorite light blue hoodie, which I didn't like very much. We went to the station by bus, and took a train. We were heading for Mt. T*, a beautiful mountain to the north of the city.
   The train was jam-packed. It was as crowded as the one in rush hours in Tokyo, which I had seen on TV. I was stuck in the middle of the car. I couldn't move at all. I felt as if I was unable to breathe. He was standing a few meters away. There were several people standing between us. We said nothing to each other while we were on the train.
   Finally, we got to the foot of the mountain. Almost everyone got off the train there. Then we all waited in a long line to get on the cable car. Naturally, the cable car was crowded, too.
  Getting off the cable car, we walked up to the top of the mountain. The path was rocky and steep. When we got to the peak, we sat down on the rock and enjoyed the beautiful view for a while. He said to me, "I'd like to visit various places with you and see beautiful things like this with you." I don't remember what exactly I said in reply, but I'm sure I agreed with him.
  We had lunch at a small restaurant in the mountain. The restaurant was also crowded. I ordered a bowl of rice with chicken and eggs. So did he, though he didn't like eggs very much.

  We got on an overcrowded train again. It was already dark when we got to the dormitory. We said good-bye at the door.

   I was nineteen years old. I was a sophomore studying English Linguistics. He was a junior majoring in Social Engineering. He was friendly, kind and idealistic. Both of us were members of the English Club, where we practiced communicating in English on Wednesdays and Saturdays. He was the president of the club, and I attended the meetings diligently because I wanted to learn to speak in English fluently, and because I wanted to talk with him as often as possible.


Oct 25, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful: October 25

Ten Things of Thankful

I'm thankful for the open air market held near the city hall last weekend. There were dozens of stalls where local specialties were sold. I'm thankful for the thick fried tofu, the fried fish, the rice crackers, the blackberry ice cream and the dried red peppers I got there.
At the market, there were also free workshops where visitors could take part in craft activities, and that was the main reason why I went there. I participated in three of them: creating a vase out of bamboo, making a candle using a seashell, and  learning how to copy an inscription on a stone on a sheet of paper. I'm thankful for the volunteer teachers from various parts of the city, who helped us enjoy these activities.

This is the vase I made at the first workshop. I've put a flower from our garden in it and placed it in the alcove.

The fact is that the teacher did most of the work for me. All I did was choose the bamboo tube I liked, make a design, and help the teacher cut the bamboo.
the tools used for making the vase
It was easy to make a candle using a seashell in the second workshop. First, choose the seashell and the color of the candle. Next, pour some melted wax into the shell, and put the wick in it. Then wait until the wax sets.
In the third workshop, they taught us how to copy inscriptions on stone monuments on sheets of paper. (These copies are called takuhon in Japanese, and the teachers are member of the local Takuhon Club. I hadn't known that there is a club specializing in making copies of the calligraphy inscribed on monuments.)
Since they couldn't bring the actual monument to the workshop, they had a copy of part of the original monument standing at the site of a feudal-era castle, and we practiced making copies of the copy.
the inscription on the stone
The inscription can be roughly translated as "The only thing I hope for is trust." The smaller letters on the left indicates the date (February 6, 1597), the name of the author (Naoe Kanetsugu), and his signature.
This is how we make a takuhon. First, put a sheet of paper on the stone. Second, spray some water on the paper and make the paper stick to the stone using a brush. Third, absorb excess moisture with a towel. Then dab the paper with inked cloth carefully, until the inscriptions appear on the paper. Remove the paper from the stone, and dry it thoroughly. 
 dabbing the paper with inked cloth

the finished takuhon
Some people put a takuhon copy in a frame, and hang it on the wall as an ornament.
I'm really thankful for the wonderful time I had at the open air market on a beautiful day in autumn.

Oct 23, 2014

Pondering on the Word 'Tire'

I am joining Brenda @ BYG Adventures for Pondering, where we write about English words that have many meanings. We are pondering on the word 'tire' this week.

"I'm too tired like a bicycle."
The moment I saw the word tire, I remembered the pun 'Fred' told us many years ago. -- 'Fred' was a graduate student majoring in psychology and I was an undergraduage studying linguistics. We were members of the International Talking Club, where we spoke only in English during the meetings. -- I didn't get the pun at first. 'Fred' repeated the sentence, emphasizing the phrase 'TOO TIRED.' -- 'Too tired.' 'Two-tired.' -- Finally, I got it.
I hope you are not tired of this tired old, hackneyed pun.

The list below shows Japanese words corresponding to 'a tire' and 'tired.'

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Oct 21, 2014

A Birthday Card

I still have a birthday card that was given to me when I was five years old. It is a card from my preschool teacher, which doubles as a sort of school report.

   Opening the card, we see pictures of twelve children, representing the twelve months of the year. At the bottom of the right page is my teacher's comment, saying "Happy Birthday. You are always doing your best. You have made a lot of friends recently. I hope you will always remain steadfast and kind." On the left page is my parents' comment, which says "Happy Birthday. Now that you are five years old, you should listen to your mother, and you should get up earlier."

Unfolding the card, we see a note, my hand print, the photo of me my classmates who were born in the same month, and a picture of me that one of my classmates drew for me.

According to the note, some of the food I liked when I was in preschool were carrots, eggs, daikon (Japanese radish), curry and rice, and buckwheat noodles. I was 102 cemtimeters (about 3'4'')  tall, and weighed 17.3 kilograms (about 38 pounds).

This is the picture of me that Maya drew for me. It looks like me. :-)

This birthday card is one of my treasures.

I'm joining Josie @ Two Shoes in Texas
for Two Shoes Tuesday.
writing prompts:
card or drawing 

Oct 20, 2014

Memory Monday: My First School

Retired Not Tired Memory Monday

    I started going to a private preschool in my neighborhood at the age of four. There were three homerooms, and each homeroom had about twenty pupils. My memories of preschool days are mostly a blur now, but there are two things that I remember vividly. One is a drama we performed in front of the other pupils and the parents. We played a very simplified version of Twelve Months, which was originally written by Samuil Marshak. When the teacher asked us who wanted to play the leading role, I raised my hand. There was another girl who raised her hand. It was my best friend, Misako. Our teacher had both of us play the leading role together: the girl(s) who had to find some flowers for the queen in the middle of winter. I was very proud of playing the role of the heroine.

   The other thing I remember well is the snail I gave to the teacher on a rainy day in June. On my way to the preschool, I always passed by a big house with a stone wall, where there were a lot of snails at that time of the year. I was fascinated with them. I asked my mother to give me an empty bottle, in which I put a snail I had caught. I took it to the preschool and gave it to Ms. N*. I must have thought the snail would please her. She accepted my gift, but I don't remember what she did with the snail after that.

   Looking at my preschool yearbook, I realize that we enjoyed a variety of activities in those two years: going on a picnic in spring, playing in the swimming pool, dancing at the summer festival, harvesting sweet potatoes in the farm in the suburbs, sports day, making rice cakes, and making snowmen in the playground. We also grew some flowers and peas in the garden.

  When I was six years old, I entered the public elementary school, which was about a ten-minute walk from my house. Some of my preschool classmates went to the same elementary school as I did, but the others, including my best friend Misako, went to a different one. Our preschool was near the border of  two different public school districts.


Oct 18, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful: October 18

Ten Things of Thankful

I'm thankful for Judy @ retired not tired, who has started a blog hop, Memory Monday, where we share our memories on different topics every week. I enjoy looking back on numerous blessings and writing about them.

Retired Not Tired Memory Monday


I'm thankful for sweet potatoes I got at the farmers' market.


I'm thankful for the pressure cooker, which I use almost every day from October to April.

I'm thankful for the sweet potato cooked in the pressure cooker above. I didn't add any sugar to it, but it was very sweet.


The toad lilies in our garden are in full bloom now. I'm thankful for the beautiful flowers.


I'm thankful that the fruit of the nanten (heavenly bamboo) in our front yard are becoming red. (We don't eat them, but some birds do.)

I'm glad that the fruit of the yabukouji (ardisia japonica) are ripening, too. The small tree is planted in a flower pot and placed just outside the front door. The fruit is less than 1 centimeter (2/5 inch) in diameter. The fruit are not edible, but lovely.

I'm thankful for the flower buds of  yukitsubaki (camellia rusticana). They are going to survive the coming winter and come out in spring.


I'm also thankful for the buds of chrysanthemums in our garden. I hope they will bloom in a few weeks.


I'm thankful for the beautiful weather we are enjoying most of the week.