Kawaii!

Kawaii (which means “cute!” and is pronounced just like Hawaii with a ‘K’) was the first Japanese word I learned because Japanese women coo it every time I take Chip out of the house. He might think it’s his name by now. Hopefully we will be back home and he will just be a regular kid again before his head gets too big.

Anyway, I have been weeding through pictures that Rob has taken recently and found that he has well documented the phenomenon of Japanese ladies loving Chip. I thought some of these pictures were funny.

In Yokohama

In Kyoto

In Tokyo (more precisely, in the Tokyo Krispy Kreme--good find, Rob)

At the Hayama Starbucks

I often wonder what my life in Japan would be like without Chip (or any other non-Japanese child). I think 100% fewer people in this very reserved place would approach me, so in that sense it’s been really nice to have him around.

And turnabout is fair play. Emboldened by their unabashed attention, I have started uttering, “Kawaii!” when I see little Japanese babies, especially the ones that look like miniature sumo wrestlers with fuzzy hair which, in my opinion, are just about the cutest things on the planet. I’ve even taken (or asked Rob to take, he usually has the camera in his pocket) a couple of pictures…

In Kyoto, at the Heien Shrine celebrating "7,5,3 day"

 

Also Kyoto; note the mini Uggs with the Kimono!

Kawaii, ne?

Anyway, there was a funny article about Kawaii in a Vanity Fair a while back. As the article says, “cuteness and social misery seem to be linked.” I don’t think the Japanese are that miserable, really, but their economic woes of the past two decades have been held as a cautionary tale for the U.S. Perhaps we as a nation are just a few months of recession away from hollering “CUTE!” at the little sumo babies who make it to our shores.

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One more Christmas story

I know that Christmas was four days ago, but I hope that you have time for one more heartwarming Christmas story. All my friends trapped on the East Coast are a captive audience, at least.

So I am now at liberty to say that six days before Christmas, and just one day after his mother and sister got here for a week-long visit, Rob had to ship off to deal with certain rogue states in the western Pacific. I felt terrible for Rob, but I was delighted to have the company. Rob’s mom and sister were very understanding of the vagaries of navy scheduling, and we had a nice time together doing some low-key exploring: Kamakura, Tokyo, and the food section of the local Lawson’s convenience store, where I am a rather expert guide by now to the myriad flavors of onigiri rice balls and Haagen-Dazs.

 

The one night we were all in the same place.

Chip shows Aunt Betsy his favorite place to put stickers: other people's hair.

 

The family left the 23rd, and thanks to a Christmas miracle that kept the two Koreas from doing everything but actually firing on each other this time, look who walked in the door on Christmas Eve:

 

Chip eats Santa's cookies on Christmas Eve. Note Rob in background.

 

After that, it was your standard Christmas except that 1.) we missed everyone back home terribly and 2.) everything is open on Christmas in Japan! I almost had ramen just because I could, but it just didn’t feel right. Plus I had eaten a lot of Christmas candy. Chip was showered with toys by all of you who love him.

 

Chip's new wagon from Grandma.

 

But most importantly this season, I learned the true meaning of Christmas as expressed in the immortal words of Mariah Carey:

“I don’t want a lot for Christmas
This is all I’m asking for
I just wanna see my baby
Standing right outside my door

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true,
Baby, all I want for Christmas is you.”


Poster Boy

Chip’s first (and likely only) modeling job has finally been published. In case you are not expecting the Combi late winter/early spring catalog in your mailbox, you can check him out by clicking here. For the grandmothers: he’s at the top, and you can scroll down and see a few more pictures. I think the funniest is him lying on the heart-shaped pillow. That will haunt him for the rest of his life. At least the camera didn’t seem to add ten pounds, like they say, because that would be almost half of his body weight. Very embarrassing.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Kurisumasu

The Japanese, being a seasonal people, really seem to be into Christmas. I was afraid I would call attention to myself with a string of lights in our palm tree and a little Christmas tree on the porch, but I needn’t have feared. One of the people on our street has Santas popping out of his yard like so many gnomes, and a light display that rivals Chevy Chase’s in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This is a man who usually trims his yard with scissors. I was very concerned about his light bill until I saw his strings of lights are solar-powered. Inspired, I got some, too, but it was really mainly because I have no outdoor electrical outlet and was not about to run the light cord through an open window despite my determination to be festive. I have also decorated the inside of the house, with the bookshelf substituting for the hearth. Fortunately Chip is too young to wonder how Santa will get into the house without a chimney.

Ornaments in the window and lights on the bookshelf. Safe? Probably not. Festive? Definitely.

Why the determination to be festive? Usually I am not so thrilled about Christmas and it is Rob who is Tiny Tim to my Scrooge. But he is gone again–if you follow the news of the western Pacific closely you’ll know exactly what he’s doing–and I feel that I should step up in his absence.

Other signs of the season:

  • My neighborhood Starbucks, which made me very sad by not having any pumpkin-flavored things this fall, has come through with the gingerbread latte! It is even more delicious here, I think because their default milk is whole. I’m not going to ask about that, though.
  • If gingerbread lattes aren’t your thing, there are a variety of seasonal drinks now in the vending machines. Corn potage (my guess is some kind of soup in a can), hot lemonade (lovely), hot jasmine tea (lovelier), and something in a can with a stack of pancakes on the outside. I haven’t tried it yet, but I will.
  • Before Rob left again we went to Tokyo for a night. (Chip-chan got babysat and we had a night out. We went and saw the new Harry Potter movie because it was in English. The theater was amazing: it looked like a space ship inside, everyone put away their cell phones and shut up for the duration of the film and then took their trash out afterwards, and two tickets cost over $40–seating was reserved!) Walking around Roppongi we caught the scent of pine and were delighted to see a Christmas tree lot…

    Perhaps you can't see the price tags for 40-50,000 yen. That's like a $500 tree.

  • Boxes are appearing everywhere. Watch out family and friends: you might just be getting Chip mailed to you for Christmas.

I just wrote "Chip" on the custom form. No questions asked.

 

In other Chip news, after almost 18 months of life Chip finally had enough hair for a haircut. He cried the entire haircut, but looks much more respectable without the baby mullet.

    Gimpy no more

    Look who’s cast-free and loving it:

    Sorry the picture's not better, but the child won't stand still.

    The only tarnish on the experience was Chip’s first thorough scrubbing in 6 weeks. He was none too pleased with it.

    Chip on a trip

    Here’s a funny similarity between Japan and Kansas. As one goes through security at Narita airport, one sees this sign. Ha! No sword in aircraft, samurai-san! And in Kansas one sees signs on the doors of all kinds of public buildings that say “No guns.” Ha! No gun in school, cowboy!

    I point this out because Chip and I just got back from a lovely long visit to Kansas. It was a perfect break from the Land of Rain and Pavement: clear air, sunny skies, bright foliage, and wide open spaces. It was funny to see Chip discover the wonders of America: Sesame Street, grass, backyards, playgrounds, grandparents, stairways with wide carpeted steps, dishwashers, Halloween decorations–particularly large inflatable ghouls in yards, homemade baked goods (Mama went on a bit of a baking spree), and the toy aisle at Target. It was fun for me to rediscover the wonders of America: daylight savings time, pumpkin-flavored everything, Chipotle, haircuts in which one has a good chance of leaving with the desired results, Mad Men live, reading things, eavesdropping, football on the TV all weekend (except the Chiefs start losing the minute I come back), wide streets, sidewalks, big maple trees, songbirds, train whistles, brunch, and old friends.

    Some more highlights:

    • Accompanying Dad/Grandpa on a business call to Council Grove which featured two places of scenic and cultural importance: the Flint Hills and Dairy Queen.

    The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve south of Council Grove. All the grass! A site for sore Japanese eyes.

    Chip and Grandpa at the Council Grove DQ. Note the new yellow "sport cast."

    • Several trips to the playground.

    Hey cool guy! Uncle Andrew!

    • Lawn tractor wagon rides!

    In Japan, this would qualify as a full-size vehicle and trailer.

    • A trip to the farm to pick pumpkins and learn that animals are real. I could literally see Chip’s little brain processing the mind-blowing information that chickens are not just pictures in a book.

    They're real!

    Chip was very brave around the cow. Until it mooed. Then he sat down in the dirt and cried.

    Chip sticks the landing on the hay slide.

    I'll take this one.

    • Visiting Grandma Betty at her school library and getting to play with an entire box of remote controls, watching her hermit crabs (from a distance), and running around the school gym.
    • Twice the doting: a visit from Grandma Elizabeth, too!
    • Playing with our new old friend Alex.

    The trip was worth every second of plane travel it took to get there, which is saying a lot.

    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.

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