In southern Japan, it’s the Nekkid

I’ve really enjoyed seeing the way that the Japanese use English for their car model names: the Prairie, the Joy, the Comfort, the Move, the March. “Would you like a ride in my Prairie? Don’t mind the meadowlarks in the back seat.” Today, though, I saw what is bound to be the penultimate vehicular moniker: the Daihatsu Naked (click to see).

The Naked. A green one passed me as I was turning right and I almost swerved my car into oncoming traffic. (How did I know it was green? It had no clothes on.) Surely there is someone in Japan–probably someone at the Daihatsu corporation–who speaks enough English to know all the subtle nuances of the word “naked.” And if they do, what would possess them to still call their car the Naked?

Japan: you can’t drive in flip-flops, but you can drive Naked.


Waiting by the Phone

On Saturday I started down the slippery slope towards something I thought that I would never do: exploit my child. The Navy base sponsors a modeling fair a couple of times a year so that the Tokyo talent agencies can recruit 1.) cute American children for their Combi catalogs, and 2.) large American adults for comedic roles in commercials and sitcoms (I’m sure they’re laughing with us). Since I am not putting my degrees to good use here, I thought the maybe I could dabble in talent management and start Chip a career instead. Like E from Entourage, only with my son instead of my childhood friend, and the Duet instead of the Maserati. Chip, being the extraordinarily well-documented child that he is, did great in front of the cameras and now we just wait for Tokyo to call. For some reason, one of the people from a talent agency who looked over Chip’s little stats sheet (72 cm, 9 kilos, brown hair, blue eyes, 6 teeth) kept giggling at the name Chip. Now I am nervous about what his name means in Japan.

Million-yen baby. (That's only about $10,000)

With Rob home, more of the house got unpacked, and looks a lot better. Let me take you on a tour:

Dozo! Please to leave your shoes.

On your left, the galley kitchen.

Here is the Dining Room and Office

And here is the living room. Rob organized the books.

Chip would like to show you his room:

Of all the things to chew on, I choose the diaper pail.

Hello ladies. Welcome to the crib.

I won’t show you my room because it’s a mess. And as a final blow from Ikea, they neglected to include a key component of Rob’s dresser, so it is still unattractively unassembled at the side of the room.

Yesterday I got my first haircut in Japan, which was a mistake. I went to a lady on base and asked for a trim. I came out looking a lot like a J-Pop star, with the accompanying bouffant-y layers. All that’s missing are auburn highlights.

Approximation of my hair cut.

I’m not coming home until it grows out.


Anyone been to Itary?

I’m sure that I’ll have many more examples of this sort of thing to come.

Two bits of exciting news:

1. Rob’s home! He survived his first “underway” in four years. As always, he came back skinnier although he maintains that he actually ate more than peanut butter crackers this time. It sounds like they did exciting stuff like shoot things and execute high-speed manuevers. They even got their picture taken, click here to see. Stirring, isn’t it?

2. Chip has reached one of the milestones of American infanthood: eating Cheerios. As usual, he does it more cutely than one could have ever imagined:

General Mills, wouldn't this be great on the front of your box?

At least it didn’t take the baby

I’ve read in guidebooks and been told in my “Area Orientation Brief” that one shouldn’t eat on the street in Japan. This was vaguely in the back of my mind yesterday when, while walking home from a nice hike and a stop at the Hayama Bonjour bakery (delicious) for some lunch fixings, my hiking companion Lauren handed me a chunk of her nice-looking bread to try. Lauren has been here longer than me, so when she handed me the bread I figure it was okay to eat on the street just this once and took at. No sooner had I taken a bite than a shadow passed overhead, and before I knew what had happened the bread was snatched out of my hands with surgical precision. Japanese Street-Eating police? No. Bird of prey? Yes.

Looking for Street Eaters

The weird thing was I wasn’t even startled by it and Chip, who was on my back in his carrier, didn’t make a peep. The bird was that silent. And he touched no part of me–his aim was that good. This is actually the second time I have been a kite victim. The first time we were all at the beach enjoying a picnic before Rob left and one swooped down upon me, but he didn’t get anything that time. This was of course not two minutes after I had gushed about how great Japanese beaches are because they don’t have sea gulls. Sea gulls have also not been kind to me. Besides being general nuisances, one, um, relieved himself on me while I was sitting on the dock one beautiful summer’s afternoon at Rob’s parents’ place on the Eastern Shore. I protested vocally, and Rob’s father simply raised his eyes from the book he was reading and remarked, “You know Alden, for some people they sing.”

The thing is, I am a friend of the birds. I love them. I put feeders out, and I mark in my bird books when and where I see a particular species (that’s how I know this is a kite, from the excellent Birds of East Asia book Rob got me for Christmas). Why are they out to get me?

And now I know why one doesn’t eat on the street.

Thoughts While Assembling Ikea Furniture

The movers came on Thursday, and it rained for three days straight, so as unpacking and assembling were about all I did this weekend, this is all I really have to write about. Please forgive the indulgences in self-pity which, I think, are common to anyone assembling Ikea furniture, whether or not one’s spouse is at sea.

  • Ikea furniture gets a bad rap for being cheap, mass-produced, and essentially disposable. But I kind of like the sense of ownership I get from building it myself. And why should I want heirloom pieces? Why would I want to impose my tastes on future generations? If recycled properly, I think it’s a good idea to have furniture that won’t outlast me. If it can’t be recycled, perhaps I can be buried in my Malm dresser.
  • I’m certainly glad that I purchased a hand drill while I was a swinging single girl, and I’m certainly glad that I have hauled it halfway around the world with me.
  • Why in the world did I pack anything else besides my hand drill and some clothes? What in the world am I going to do with my Kitchen-Aid mixer and the fish grill? Why did we bring three umbrellas? How in the lord’s name did my 2009 agenda get packed? If I haven’t read the books I brought by now, do I really think that I am going to read them here? How in the world can I get rid of stray baby socks? They’re so dear.
  • Why didn’t we pack the beach chairs? Every time I sit down on the beach my rear end is covered in the fine, black, volcanic ash sand for days.
  • Last night it finally stopped raining and Chip and I went for a walk on the beach.There a man with a beautiful dog that Chip was squealing in delight over started a conversation with us. He is an English teacher in Tokyo, and his dog’s name is Hanako, which means “Little Girl Flower” (his translation). In the middle of our pleasant conversation, he picked up his dog and just walked away. No good-bye or anything. Why did he do that?
  • I really need to get this shelf built so I can put stuff away on it, but if I hammer I will wake up Chip who is in hour two of an awesome nap. What do I do?
  • Am I reading the pictoral directions incorrectly or did Ikea not drill a hole for me in this drawer? No, they didn’t. TGFTHD. (Thank God For the Hand Drill).
  • Why was there corn in my ramen noodles at lunch today? It was a really nice bowl of noodles except for the corn floating around. Isn’t that a New World vegetable anyway? Has globalization struck again?
  • Is it seriously sleeting in April? (It was.) I’m sorry, did we move to Japan or Nova Scotia?
  • I still don’t know how I feel about the Mad Men episode in which the guy from England gets his foot mowed over. (I am re-watching season 3.) Wasn’t that kind of gratuitous? Or was it all set-up for the one guy to say, “He might lose his foot” so Roger Sterling could reply, “Just when he got it in the door” which, I think, was one of his best lines.
  • I would love to talk to an adult.
  • I would love to see that volcano in Iceland. I wonder if Fuji will ever explode. I wonder if volcanic ash would clog ship engines, because now would be a great time for that to happen.
  • I wonder if the walls are thin enough that the neighbors can hear Chip cry because I just have to finish this last dresser drawer before I go and get him up from his nap. I think that they are because I can hear our neighbor’s children scream, which they did a lot last week because it was spring break and it was raining/sleeting the entire time. Can’t blame them.
  • Forget any nice thing I thought about Ikea.

This One’s Going Out to Fungus

This is for my little bro, whom I miss terribly, and who is studying wind energy at Oklahoma State. Go Cowboys.

Urban turbine. (In Oklahoma, that rhymes...)

I’m not sure what this turbine is powering in Yokohama. Probably a pachinko parlor.

Could you come study abroad?



And Fuji Makes Three

He'll hold this against me someday.

The sailor has finally left for the sea, so it’s just me, Chip, and (thanks to an unbelievably clear day yesterday) Fuji-san. While I was taking out the day’s trash, the neighbors let me know that the mountain was out, so Chip and I rushed down in our pajamas for a photo session. I think Chip would have preferred breakfast, but he did get to see a couple of dogs and some pigeons which threw him into spasms of excitement.

I miss Rob. This is the first time since we’ve been married that he’s gone to sea on me. It’s like he’s in the Navy or something. There’s no one here to leave newspapers lying about, or to fill up the poor trash bin with Coke cans, or to answer my questions about Japanese military history. It is a sadder (though tidier) house without him.

Chip and I have stayed busy, however. Yesterday we explored around Hayama and hiked up a hill not too far from us. It had rained the night before, and the last of the cherry blossoms were wafting down onto the petal-strewn trail. It was also really steep. The view from the top was lovely; very conducive to deep thoughts. As you can see, Hayama is nestled snugly between the “leafy mountains” and Sagami Bay, with Fuji just beyond:

Our hamlet.

Chip endured another photo session, this time perched precariously on a picnic table. (He didn’t fall under this one, fortunately).

Today I had my first Japanese class. The classes are sponsored by the Yokosuka International Association and, bonus, includes child care for the bargain price of 500 yen. The classes are taught by lovely retired ladies, all of whom had trouble transcribing and pronouncing both “Chip” and “Alden,” which came out as “Sheep-oo” and “Al-oo-den-ah.” Together with Rob (“Doh-bat-o”), we might be the most difficult to pronounce family in Japan.  Today we learned classroom vocabulary, greetings, and one of the three alphabets, none of which I remember. I had flashbacks of being fourteen and in French I again with Madame Pluchinsky. I think Chip got the real immersion lesson though, with, his Japanese babysitters.

The movers are supposed to come tomorrow–Rob plans well, doesn’t he? I look forward to a long snuggle with our couch, but I will kind of miss the severe minimalism in which I’ve lived for the past couple of weeks. There’s so much wood floor to slide around on in my new Japanese house slippers.

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