Old Japan

My mother’s father, the rather grandly named Theodore Kermit Tucker, whom I never knew, served in Japan in the army during World War II. I know nothing about his service, except that we still have a big set of Noritake china that he “liberated” while he was here.

Last week my mom was at my aunt’s house, and my aunt shared these photos she had that my grandfather took in Japan. One is Fuji, obviously, but I have no idea about the other two. I wonder where they are, and if any of those children are still alive. I wonder where my grandfather went, and what he thought of it all, and if he ever thought his granddaughter would be back here, living in a house that talks to her and carrying a phone that plays movies.

Thanks, Aunt Connie!

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A day in the city

Chip is wondering why Mama is walking away and leaving him with this strange man.

Way before Chip-chan busted his leg, we had a tour to Tokyo planned for this weekend. Not about to let a little challenge to mobility get us down, I crossed my fingers and off we went. In the past week Chip has become much more resigned to life in his stroller, so I think that he actually enjoyed getting wheeled around Tokyo. There are probably few cities on the planet better for just taking it all in, after all.

Our day started at the Meiji shrine in Shibuya. The shrine was built in 1920 to honor the spirits of the Meiji emperor, the one who opened and modernized Japan in the 19th century. The shrine is set in a dense urban forest, and is open and understated. I think it is the most peaceful big shrine I’ve been to in Japan. It being a beautiful last Saturday of summer, there were lots of weddings going on, too.

A shinto wedding. I really like the bride's ensemble, but I love the men in morning suits.

Chip always doffs his hat while touring religious sites. Really he just hates wearing a hat.

Next up was Tokyo Tower built in 1958 and over 1,000 feet tall. The main purpose of the tower is to broadcast radio and TV signals, but it also is a tourist attraction. Shops and restaurants are located in “Foot Town” the appetizingly-named lower floors of the building. We had a nice lunch in Foot Town. It was a clear day and so there were expansive views of Tokyo and beyond from the observation tower. The city just keeps on going and going…

The view from below. Godzilla free.

Our last stop of the day was the Asakusa district of Toyko. I had been wanting to see “A-sock-sa,” which I had been pronouncing “A-sa-koo-sa,” because it is supposed to be a neat little slice of old Tokyo. I wasn’t disappointed. The center of the district is anchored by the giant Senso-ji temple. The temple site is the oldest in Tokyo. The temple itself, and much of Asakusa, was fire-bombed to nothing during WWII, and the temple has just recently been renovated. The ancient-looking structure is actually made of concrete and steel and its new roof tiles are titanium, which should last about a million years.

The new Senso-ji temple.

View from the temple courtyard.

The Nintenmon gate to the shrine, one of the oldest structures in Tokyo. And Chip. The gate was built in 1618 and somehow survived earthquakes and bombing.

From the gate to the temple hangs a huge lantern, and the street leading up to the temple has been a shopping area since the 18th century. It was crowded and charming, and full of street food. Chip and I couldn’t resist fried noodles with octopus (the octopus was a surprise) and peach soft serve.

The main gate and the lantern.

The main gate is at the right, and in the center is Tokyo Tower's new competition. The Tokyo "Sky Tree" will be Japan's tallest building when it's finished, and will take over broadcasting digital signals.

I think this was my favorite part of Tokyo I’ve seen so far. It just seemed to have everything. It was very crowded and touristy, but here and there I still saw older ladies in aprons taking their dogs for an evening walk and neighborhood people buying fresh pears from the backs of trucks. Best of all, Chip saw a monkey. There was a baboon in a pair of shorts performing outside of a shrine. Chip pointed and started making his monkey noise, which is a recent development. (For some reason, the monkey is the only animal he wants to vocalize…)

We also saw real, live sumo wrestlers. Asakusa is near the stadium where the annual fall tournament is being held and we saw two just waiting to cross the street, like anyone else. They were wearing their cotton kimonos and had their hair pulled up in topknots and no one else seemed to be paying them any attention. What does a sumo wrestler go out for on a Saturday afternoon? Noodles and soft serve?

Before and After

Here are some examples of Chip, just a few days ago: at 14.5 months, he finally started walking, and you can see the awe-inspiring footage here.

Here he demonstrates another new trick: showing his bellybutton while standing confidently.

And here he is today:

To celebrate Chip’s 15-month birthday yesterday we went to this place in Yokohama aptly named the “Anpanman Children’s Museum and Mall.” Anpanman is this uniquely Japanese animated creation whom Chip loves. I think it’s the face.

Chip and Anpanman, in happier times.

Anpanman is a superhero whose head is made of bread. One of his good deeds is to fly around the world and feed starving people by giving them bits of his head to eat. His nemesis is a germ (so Japanese) named Baikinman, or “Meanyman.” Whenever Chip sees Anpanman (and he is ubiquitous in Japan) he points and yells “Da-da!” (Still his catch-all word).

So, I thought it might be fun to take the newly-minted toddler to the Anpanman Museum/Mall. And fun it was, until still-wobbly Chip went down hard in the kid-sized sushi shop in the Anpanman Village. Five hours of intermittent wailing later, I noticed that he refused to put any weight on his left foot. I took him into the base ER yesterday evening, and we left well past his bedtime with the awesome thigh-to-toe blue cast.

Someone else has already pointed out that the cast is suspiciously close to Carolina blue, so don’t even bother. The only alternative was a K-State shade of purple.

Poor Chip! He was so fond of his new mobility and independence. Poor Mama, having to haul a 24-lb. 15-month-old with a 5-lb. cast around for another month or so. And poor Da-da (the real version, not the Anpanman version) who is missing all of the fun. Fortunately the doctor said that babies heal very quickly, and he should have his cast off in about four weeks with no lasting effects I, however, shall harbor a lingering resentment toward bread-headed superheros.

In which Dad leaves and I put the kid to work

Rob is really and truly gone; he left today (earlier than he was supposed to–thanks, Navy!) for a time indeterminate. Horrible. But let’s not dwell on that. Today was also the day that Chip finally started earning his keep. He had his first modeling job today in Tokyo, for a Japanese baby company’s catalog, and that kept our minds effectively off other matters.

We almost didn’t make it. The day started off with a bang when Chip woke up before 6:00 am and in the course of the morning’s events, pulled a carton of eggs out of the fridge which soon thereafter smashed all over the floor. Then, as soon as we got on the train to Tokyo, Chip started to scream. Just a howling cry. I tried everything to stop the unearthly noise but he screeched all the way to Tokyo (approximately 75 minutes). The best part was that the trains were absolutely packed with morning commuters whose superhuman ability not to look at the banshee child nor its negligent mother is truly remarkable. I seriously thought about going back but that seemed like admitting defeat, so we pressed on. The minute we got inside the studio in Tokyo and I took off Chip’s shoes he stopped crying. It was his shoes! If only he could talk! I think they might have been too small and I felt awful. Anyway, after that hiccup he was back to his usual charming self.

The shoot was in this tiny Tokyo apartment, parts of which had been converted into little homey sets. Chip modeled a pair of shoes (I know, I about died when they gave them to me but, as they fit properly, he didn’t seem to mind one bit) and three pairs of awesome Japanese pajamas.

Blue Steel.

Magnum.

No, I don’t know why there was a rubber chicken in the waiting room. I haven’t spent enough time with Japanese babies to know if this is a traditional first toy.

Chip posed by himself and with other babies and I will say without any exaggeration that he was by far the cutest and most agreeable of them all. He lay¬†on his back, he stood, and he “freestyled” as one of the photographers (seriously) instructed him to do. The catalog and attendant website photos are due out in Dec./Jan. so I will of course keep you posted.

After a long (barefoot) nap on the train ride home, Chip went down to the beach to unwind with a little yoga. You know, like models do.

A little downward dog after a long day feels so good.