The skies

In Houston, we have clouds that hang low, low in the skies, appearing to be mountains in the distance.

In Loma Linda, they have real mountains… and I love it.

However, it keeps making me feel like I’m in Japan and am suddenly on the wrong side of the road, and the wrong side of the car, and I need to fix it immediately… (because that’s the only place I’ve ever had real mountains)

Post-a-day 2019

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Milk-buying debacle

I was thinking the other night about buying milk in Japan.

It wasn’t an easy task initially – I looked up the right words to find and everything, because nothing was super obviously milk in the store, and because I had been told that there were various types of cow milk sold in Japan.

And so, having looked up my info, I went to the grocer with my words to recognize real ‘milk’, and I was confident in my chances of finding milk.

You see, I thought this one section was the milk.

And I was right… mostly… it was the milk section.

But it was also the section for many other beverages of various similarities and differences to and from milk.

I don’t drink milk, you see, so I had always just bought the almond milk, which was easy for me to figure out.

But, when I was making pralines as a gift for my weekend host family, I needed milk, so I went and bought one that was ‘100% natural’ (or something much like that), because that was what I had learned as the differentiating factor in the weird milks versus the good/real milks).

The pralines were good, but a little sweeter, thinner than I’d expected – it was my first time making them myself, though, so it was easily a possibility that they were just always like that for the recipe I was using.

A week or so (or less) later, a friend was over, and I offered her the carton of the remaining milk (which was kind of a lot), and she accepted (remember that I don’t drink milk).

Somehow, it comes out – I think she might have poured herself some milk or sniffed it and then poured it to check or something – that the milk is really off… the color is totally wrong, and it is definitely not milk.

(Actually, I think it was more than a week later, and so we’d figured the milk was bad, and she was pouring it out in the sink… or maybe that wasn’t how it happened… I’ll have to check to see if she remembers…)

Turns out, it is juice – 100% natural juice suddenly makes much more sense to me than ‘100% natural’ milk – and it makes perfect sense about the pralines having been a little off.

I was actually surprised the pralines were any good at all, let alone quite delicious, seeing as how I had filled them with some juice mixture instead of milk!

We had a good laugh over our sudden discovery.

I was sure, therefore, to look up the specifics of milk cartons when I was making pralines a second time, this time for a goodbye present for all my local friends and my coworkers.

Fortunately, it worked out properly this time around, and the pralines were even more delicious, and they totally blew people’s minds (because pralines are definitely not a thing in Japan).

Post-a-day 2018

Teeth

I was thinking tonight about a recent opinion I heard (I think I heard it, anyway, but I might have read it) about teeth in the USA.

I think it might have been from a comedian, and he was contrasting Japan’s (or a country’s with a similar situation) teeth with those of the USA… in Japan, everyone’s teeth are different, and very noticeably so… in the USA for his first time, he noticed that everyone has the same teeth – orthodontia’s being standard has removed the individuality and the personality of people’s teeth here.

I had never thought of straight teeth being a means of stripping one of his individuality or personality.

Even now, though, months into digesting this idea, I find that I still want my teeth fixed up with orthodontia – I still want those straight pearly whites.

For me, I notice teeth in people… when they are bad teeth, it is difficult to see anything else… when they are good teeth, they kind of receive a mental check mark, and I move onward, seeing more of the person…

For me, clean and straight teeth allow for me to see more of a person… the crooked or stained teeth end up being a distraction.

Certainly, those shiny bright white teeth are also a distraction, because they are just so totally unnatural-looking… but that’s not the kind of teeth I’m aiming to see and have – those are a bit absurd (Think Ross Geller in that episode of “Friends” where he gets his teeth whitened, and they end up in a room with blacklights, making him extra freaky.).

Nonetheless, I still have that mental space reserved for preparing myself a way to have orthodontia and a tad of teeth whitening at some point in my life… I want my personality to show in other ways, not from the teeth I never would have picked, you know?

Yeah… something like that

Post-a-day 2018

Bilingual Ballet

I found myself thinking of (and, of course, missing) my ballet class in Japan.

I was the tallest by a lot, and it was mostly older ladies (not old, but definitely older), and everyone was super sweet and happy and even a bit giddy every class.

And the teacher and I had an unwanted but accustomed distance-by-language-barrier, because my technical Japanese was utterly iffy, and her English possibly below that… that is, we had this distance until the night that we delightfully discovered that we both spoke French rather fluently… then we got on quite comfortably, and even more familiarly than I did with any of the others, because we could say so much to each other now.

I had always asked on occasion for the teacher to repeat something she’d said or done (in Japanese, of course), and I continued that…, but now I could and would ask for clarity at times when I still wasn’t certain what the goal or instruction was (if you’ve ever done ballet, you can understand how important it is to understand what muscles are doing what in a movement), and that part would be in French.

All in all, Monday nights at ballet class were always great, and I miss them now, especially with it getting cold outside (that was when I’d first started going to the classes).

Post-a-day 2018

Japan all around

Japan is on my mind and in my life right now.  Recall that I watched the film “The Last Samurai” a few weeks ago.  I then watched it with the director’s, Edward Zwick’s, commentary the other day.  I had a cry-fest the first time, and was utterly touched and in love with samurai even more so than I already had been – I’d respected their skills and revered them as a whole function of class – and then I had a mind-whooshing wonderful exploration and discovery with the second, specifically leading me to appreciate even more the talents and passions of 渡辺 謙 Ken Watanabe*, the man who plays the lead samurai in the film and who plays ‘the Japanese English-speaking character’ in almost every Hollywood film these days – a man I’d already appreciated for his acting skills in “Inception” and other Hollywood films**.  And so, here I am, weeks after first watching the film, and I’m still thinking about the samurai, and I’ve added 渡辺 謙 (Ken Watanabe).

Therefore, when selecting what to wear for today that was unique and warm – the weather is suddenly chilly here, though it was genuinely hot and humid two days ago – I settled on one of my haori (use 羽織 to search online and get the right pictures on Google), the sort of winter jacket piece for kimono***.  The half turtle neck I usually wear with it was unfindable, and so I selected something else that was the same color, but textured really neatly (and then found the other shirt, but preferred the textured one, anyway).

That’s all my own conscious doing.

Today at work/school, the classroom we were using for the yearbook class for which I was subbing was an English classroom.  I happen to sit in a student desk, instead of the teacher’s, and what is directly in front of me?
This:

image1

I asked the students what book possibly was being read that had this on the board, and they concluded that it was a history book.  That is, students had merely used the board in the classroom during a free period, and had put up notes in preparation for a test or quiz in history class that was on that time period.  I was totally ready to read whatever novel it had been for English class, though… Oh, well…

And then, this evening, I found myself sitting in a coffee shop with my mom – her having the intention to read and I to work on my paper for school, but both of us kind of just chatting and catching up on things for the first almost-hour – explaining my outfit to her, one that she has declared to be genuinely great in terms of style and in terms of how it looked on me (and which multiple people had done throughout the day, including people who never comment on my outfits, which was really funny and cool all at the same time), and it turns out that the textured shirt I’d selected, though I hadn’t realized it when I’d selected it, was also from Japan.  I’d just remembered that I hadn’t worn it yet, but had been wanting to for a long time, and just hadn’t found the right situation and clothing combination, and had genuinely forgotten that it, too, was from Japan.  My mother, as we chuckled about the specific funky shop where I’d bought said shirt, then says that, ‘See, there are things you really liked about Japan.’

I agreed with her entirely, and mentioned how I know I want to go back and visit plenty; I’m just not so sure about ever even considering living and working there again.  However, I’ve just had a lot of Japan on my mind lately.  Learning about 渡辺 謙 (Ken Watanabe) and his language situation for the filming of “The Last Samurai”, made me consider whether I could be that kind of person in Japan, in Japanese film.  I have a natural tendency to pick up on accent quite well, and Japanese was no exception to this for me.  Could I go back and model and act successfully?  It’s definitely possible, but is it very likely?  Could I get the visa to give it a go, even?  Hmm… These are the thoughts that have been on my mind the past few days (though not for the first time).  I want to go back to Japan, but I also want to have something to do while there, even though I’ll only be visiting, technically.

And so, I suspect that I’ll just keep this all in mind, and, eventually, I’ll find a way back to Japan (and have a spectacular time while there).  Perhaps, either here or there, I’ll find a way to meet 渡辺 謙 (Ken Watanabe).  Maybe he’ll let me do an interview with him.  That would be stellar.  And possibly a really good idea.  Hmm…  Well, we’ll see.  For now, I’m just surrounded by Japan, intentionally, unintentionally, and even from outside sources… and I kind of like it…

🙂

*Yes, the Japanese version is with the last name first, read Watanabe Ken.  And I tend to say it that way now, though I didn’t do it intentionally and I didn’t used to do it.  I guess it is just automatic for me now, after having lived in Japan, to say a Japanese name ‘Japanese style’, so to speak.  In my head, every time, I say “Watanabe Ken-san”, but I already tend to leave out the -san with people who don’t understand it, and so the same happens with 渡辺 謙.

**When hearing what Edward Zwick had to say in the commentary of “The Last Samurai”, it had me question if that film had been 渡辺 謙’s (Ken Watanabe’s) first real role in a Hollywood film, thinking that it quite likely must have been.  I found it amazing, because I feel like I’ve known him as an actor for so long, that it must have been before 2003 that I first saw him.  After some consideration, though, I realized that, seeing as how 2003 was 15 years ago, it did actually make sense.  Sure enough, after dong a bit of checking, it seems that “The Last Samurai”, in 2003, indeed, was his first Hollywood film.

***Fun Fact: Kimono literally means “wearing thing” or “thing one wears”.

Post-a-day 2018

The Last Samurai… again

I’m not sure that I have ever watched a film with the director’s commentary, but tonight I did.

I discovered the other week, when I’d watched “The Last Samurai”, that the commentary was likely to prove exciting and valuable, and so I kept it on the list of to-dos until I had the time finally tonight to watch it… and I was right: It is spectacular.

I grew up in a world of theatre, often sitting next to a spectacular director, having him ask me questions and tell me little important tidbits about everything he was doing throughout rehearsal and preparation (and everything else, actually), and then, at other times, sitting with my mom as she worked on costuming or props for a show, and sometimes working on sets, myself…, and so I have not only an eye for many things in theatre and film, but also an extreme appreciation for what it takes to accomplish different aspects of a production.

Combining that with my experiences and understanding in Japanese culture, I found Edward Zwick’s commentary beautiful and deepening for the film’s overall power and impact… he and his crew were no surface-level group, but intentional, informed, respectful, committed, and honest workers in the task of making this beautiful, respectful, multicultural film.

Thank you, all of you, for all that you did in making that film. 🙂

Post-a-day 2018

The Last Samurai

I just watched the film “The Last Samurai”, and it was the first time I’d seen it all the way through, as well as the first time I’d seen any of it post-Japan (remember that I lived in Japan for a while).

I balled my eyes out over and over and over again, and mostly for things I never would have considered before having lived in Japan.

As Katsumoto-San says, ‘There are many of our customs/traditions that seem strange to you… Yours are the same for us.’

And now I see both sides of it all, and I wonder at how anyone could consider that only one side to anything in life is good enough, satisfactory enough, adequate… for anything beneficial to anyone or anything.

It can be terrifying, but seeing through the eyes of ones we don’t understand creates a solution to any problem, because, as Ender Wiggin said, once we understand our enemies, we can’t help but to love them.

Post-a-day 2018