Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We went to USJ....

Last weekend we joined friends in a trip to Osaka for USJ. What's USJ? Well, it looks like this at night....
And this during the day....
Yep...Universal Studios Japan.
A little slice of Americana right here in the Kansai area.
Oh...maybe not the REAL America...
Big rides.
Snoopy land.
Alek held hands with his friend, M-kun. Is this sho-shoku kei? I'm not sure..very sweet though.
In Snoopy land, Hugo did a wii game where you can pretend to hit the ball, and then the video shows Snoopy catching it in his mouth, or Charlie Brown drops it...it was cute.
If you're heading this way, my advice would be: Don't go to USJ on a weekend. Especially not when it feels like 100 degrees. And especially not when it's the last weekend for "Kansai residents get one free kid for each adult ticket."

There were long lines for Every Thing. Bathrooms, ice-cream, Elmo shows, psychiatric help, and especially the rides. We bought "express passes," but after the first too-scary ride, the 7 year olds just wanted to hang out and shoot rubberbands in the street. (As a result, Max got to go on Spider Man three times using the other kids' tickets!) Seems to me that USJ has not quite found the right market for kids age 6-8.

Oh well...live, learn, and sweat.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thought you would enjoy this....

Here's the trash can we saw at the barber's a couple of weeks ago.

Last day of school :o(

Last Friday was the last day of school.
We're sad.
Partly because now we parents will have less time to work.
But mostly because we loved school!
The night before, Alek and Hugo were literally crying about it. It was hard to say good bye. (They are in the 2 week summer program right now, but it's not the same).

The last day of school was just as hot as the first.
That's right--time to start complaining about the weather again. It's humid.
Off they go....

The last afternoon, there was a concert for parents...the kids showed off their musical lessons. Grade 1 did a Frere Jacques round, with handbells.
Max's grade did an arrangement of a song that, according to the music teacher, Max wrote the melody for, and the class did the arrangement. Max has a tendency of Not Telling Mom and Dad Important Things like, "Oh, by the way, I wrote a song for the concert."
The dance club did a dance to Thriller. (Alek is on the far left.) Same costumes as Maypole. But, the girls looked a little too scary. .. I had some Ring flashbacks.

(Hugo was in this club, but he preferred to read manga rather than practice the dance...)
In between acts, there were awards, thank-you gifts to the teachers, and slide shows for the 2 teachers who were leaving. (Max's teacher was busted for looking like Orlando Bloom.) Our boys shared a special prize, given to a kid at each of Japan's international schools who did the most to promote Japanese culture. The teachers decided that our boys were great explorers of food, travel, manga, language, and everything. And they're right--our boys really have jumped in with both ashi! We are so proud of them.

Then we had to say good bye to the amazing teachers and friends!

Alek still has his Thriller game face on.
Here's Alek with S-san, the man who gets your bike out, puts it away, sweeps the sidewalks, and gets your soccer ball off the roof. He's the best.
What's better than a little soccer in the dirt when it's 95, and your parents won't stop talking?
Bye-bye school....we'll never forget you!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I already miss our tofu shop

Here's our neighborhood tofu shop. They make t0fu fresh every day, the way it's supposed to be. In the morning they set the scum outside to cool in that blue box.
My boys like to have the fried tofu in their lunchboxes. The place smells amazing. Kind of like wood and soybean mist...very healthy.
Even though this place seems old-fashioned because they do everything by hand in small batches, they also have a digital photo frame and one of those cell-phone bar codes hooked up.

They also have this cat. We call her Tofu-Kitty.
I don't think she eats tofu. I saw the guy feeding her a breadstick today.
She also doesn't look old enough to be a mommy, but she had babies last fall. At least, I think that's what the lady in the tofu store was telling me.

Do you Cool Biz?

This is the post-Fukushima life in Japan. We are keeping the aircon at 28C, or 82F, to save energy.

In a "mind over matter" marketing move, it's called Cool Biz.

Here's the sign from our karaoke box:

Cool Biz also means that you don't have to wear a tie and jacket to the office. I saw it myself in Tokyo last weekend: All the businessmen were commuting in shirtsleeves and open collars! Craziness.

Of course, this is a good move for everybody. Americans tend to freeze indoors in the summer, but we'd all save a little bit of money and CO2 if we turned it up a notch....

But maybe not 28C. My office is at 27C and it feels really really hot....

Wholesum fam-lee fun

We went out for a little karaoke last weekend. Just the five of us in this box. It was sort of a big room for us.

Darrin started us off with some Billy Idol.
The boys like to do all the Michael Jackson songs.
We also sang some Queen together.
The guys got tired of not knowing the songs, so we switched to the 'Traditional' list. We got a kick out of how well the videos went with the lyrics.
Well, sometimes they get it right.

For the record, Darrin wouldn't let me do any ABBA.

There should have been two extra people with us: Our friend Aaron, and the lovely Aunt Lisa!! We think Aaron would have sung Tears for Fears first. Lisa probably would have sung Wham. Are we right?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Toto, we're not in Wal-Mart anymore.

I will miss the Kyoto shotengai, or shopping streets. I think you would be amazed at how many tiny shops this city has. Most of them seem to be run by octogenarians, and in Kyoto at least, they seem rather unconcerned about making a profit.

Here is a sample of what I see on the walk up to my boys' school.
Video store.
Books/magazines/comics. Home of Koro-Koro Komiku, to which my boys are addicted.
Senbei shop...
(home of soba boru, our favorite cookies:)
Funky bag/homeware shop.
Hana ya san....
Laundry clips, bath mats, bits of rope, trash bags, bento supplies, ant traps....

Toys (and a decidedly surly toyseller).
Obaachan tops.
Obaachan pants. Some would be short on Max.
My favorite coffee shop, staffed by developmentally disabled adults.
Shisheido cosmetics store, home of these bags.
Kimono shop, and stuff made from extra bits of silk.
Yakitori takeout!
Jammies, pillows, and futons.
Fish shop. I wouldn't want to pass this while pregnant.

Fruits and veggies.
And stuff to serve it on.
Or grow your own.
New little vegetarian cafe. It smells great in here! And they have taco rice. The best.
Recycle shop with various second hand appliances...
Target, Ann Taylor, and Gap seem especially homogenizing compared to this, ne?