Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Many years ago, I took a course in family therapy. One of my teachers kept saying: information lies in difference. What she meant is that you find out about yourself by discovering that others are different.

In that spirit, our lives here are full of such differences, from small to large, so I anticipate a bunch of posts which simply show difference.

Such as how red peppers and lemons are usually wrapped at the grocery store:

or the styrofoam netting that cushions delicate fruit:

if these peaches look big, they are. Peaches tend to run about 25 to 50% bigger over here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Presiding Bishop of ECUSA visits Tokyo

A talk by the Right Reverend Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori in Tokyo on September 23rd, 2009: From Right to left, Rev. Iijima, the president of the National Christian Coucil of Japan, Rev. Koshi-ishi, moderator of the National Christian Counsel of Japan, The Right Reverend Katherine Jefferts Schori,Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, a woman whose name I did not catch, and Peter Ng, partnership officer for Asia and the Pacific in the Episcopal Church's Office of Anglican and Global Relations (AGR)

Rt. Rev. Schori participated in the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Anglican Church in Japan (Nippon Sei Ko Kai).

To me, most interesting was the questions that the Japanese church brought to one represents the church in America: questions about peace making in Asia and the Middle East, the role of the church as advocate for such issues in US policy, and the presence of the US military in Japan.

A dish lover's find

There are many amazing things to find along the "kitchen" street, Kappabashi Dori. This last time there we discovered a store that smelled like my grandmother's attic, and was packed floor to ceiling with china and pottery. Greg nicknamed it the "Crazy Man's China Emporium," cause you almost had to be crazy to get through the aisles and it was certainly packed with China. Listen for the sound of my foot hitting a pile of dishes in this clip.

We bought some bowls and plates.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Setting up my Amazon.jp account today.

The books are more expensive. Richard Russo's "Bridge of Sighs?" $10.17 on Amazon, ¥2616 ($28) on Amazon.jp. Still, its cheaper than sending stuff from the US.

You can buy alcohol at the Amazon.jp.

Once you get out of the English language books on Amazon.jp, they really don't expect to serve the english speaking community. But its fun to click around anyway.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Italian food

Yesterday I went to a PTA coffee where I two women who invited me to join them for lunch. Rita is Italian. She has moved every 2 years in her adult life, and has lived in Paris, Rome, Milan, New Jersey among other places. Mariko was raised in Kyoto and sent to California as a teenager to go to an American boarding school. She married a Navy officer who is working at the embassy. They have lived in Japan twice and a number of years in Fairfax county Virginia. Clearly, the three of us have a lot of moves between us.

Rita suggested an Italian restaurant. Once there, Rita carefully surveyed the menu and then suggested what we should order. We started with a sampler of Mozzarella--three kinds. It was about he freshest mozzarella I've had outside of the North End of Boston. Yummy.

Still, something amusing about the fact Rita told Mariko what to order, so she could translate it to Japanese for the waiter. The wait staff would deliver the meal and tell us, in Japanese, how to eat the food that is Rita's native fare.

Mariko said she would take us to a traditional Japanese restaurant for lunch next time. I offered to do my part too: MacDonald's and then follow up with a Starbucks.


I don't think I've ever seen this extremely purple plant before. The other thing to note here is how even tiny spaces are used for plantings. This is a very narrow walkway next to a train track.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Making Church Connections

Yesterday I visited the "God box" of Japan (reference is the building in New York City that has housed church and church related organizations, nicknamed the God box). Our UCC missionary, Jeffrey Mensendiek, was kind enough to meet me in Tokyo and take me to lunch and then to the National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ).

The most charming thing is how church related offices look the same here. Namely, there stacks of paper everywhere. Boxes of paper, stacks of newsletters, piles of paper. It warmed my heart and made me feel quite at home.

One of the concerns of the NCCJ is Article 9 of the Japanese Peace Constitution. See this document. You may be hearing more about this.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Learning the Alphabets

So the first thing to notice is that I said alphabets. Plural. There are 4 that are used. Kanji--those characters borrowed from the Chinese (most of them have two possible readings--I won't go into that now). Then there is the Hiragana, the letters used to represent Japanese syllables. Next, the Katakana, a another syllabary system that the Japanese use to represent words borrowed from other languages. Then there are the occasional uses of Latin Alphabet and numerals. Writing in Japanese uses all four of these mixed together.

(This borrowed from Wikipedia:) Here is an example of a newspaper headline (from the Asahi Shimbun on 19 April 2004) that uses all four scripts: (kanji (red), hiragana (blue), katakana (green), and Latin Alphabet and Arabic numerals (black)):

Finally, there is the Romaji--that is japanese words written with Roman characters. Its transliteration, in effect. At least I don't have to learn this alphabet. But the Japanese don't tend to use Romaji for anything of import. You really only find it in the guidebooks or texts that are trying to teach English speakers how to speak Japanese.

Andrew's Japanese teacher mentioned that you have to learn 94 new characters to master Hiragana and Katakana. That is my goal. That is what they will teach Andrew by January this year.

The average high school graduate would know about 2000 Kanji. I'll be happy if I learn about 50.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I swear I picked the color of this chaise completely independently of the color of the blog.

Come and visit. We'll take your picture in the chaise too!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Compared to East Coast US cities, Tokyo is not very tree-d. In fact, it is a concrete jungle. But every now and then you happen upon small spaces that are beautifully landscaped. This one is just off the famous and congested teen shopping street, Harajuku. It is next to the Admiral Tōgō Heihachiro shrine, also a beautiful place.