Friday, July 31, 2015

A Different Kind of Celebrity

First off, Welcome to those who may have wandered over from the ExpatBlogger!  I'm finally an official part of the crew and I hope to do you justice with silly doodles about naive Americans in Japan.

Just a quick doodle today, I'm trying to get out the door to go to a meet up with some other expats, because sometimes you just need to have someone to speak English with for a few hours.

There's a Mercedes-Benz dealer by our house.  I pass it on my walks back from shopping, and today I witnessed the end of a sale:

I didn't take his photo because other people already were, he clearly just wanted to get in his new car and drive away, and I didn't know who he was other than knowing he must be very good at what he does to have a brand-new Mercedes.  But golly gee was he HUGE.

There was recently a Sumo wrestling expo in Nagoya, and while we weren't lucky enough to score tickets, both The Mister and I have spied Sumo wrestlers around the city.  I mean, they're hard to miss really.  Apparently it's a cultural tradition to have your baby be held by a Sumo Wrestler, as it blesses your baby to grow big and strong.  I wonder what it's like to be a Sumo-dude just going about his business and having strange women run up to you and insist you hold their baby...  I've seen it happen a few times and it makes me chuckle.  Until the baby turns it's head to see the gargantuan stranger holding them and freaks out hard.*  Then I usually have to turn and walk the other way because COME ON that's hilarious.

What's your coolest celebrity sighting?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson:
わあ、其の 男の人は、大きです。
waa, sono otokono-hito wa, ooki desu.
wow, that's a big man.

*I like to believe that one of these babies repressed the experience and that's how Godzilla lore was born.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Multiple Things With no Discernible Segues.

We survived the #phoon!

Which is mostly due to the fact that #phoon hit land way west of us, so mostly we just had some wind and a bit of rain.  Don't worry though, there's another one headed toward Japan as I type, and as I've been told on many occasions for many different Japan-related things: It gets worse!*
So... at least eventually that will be an interesting blog post.



At the grocery store yesterday, I was picking out some pork, when an older woman started waving in my direction.  I looked behind me, as if she was trying to get the attention of the pig meat back there.  When I determined she was, in fact, trying to get my attention, I quickly walked to her to see what was up.  The elderly are revered here, and as a member of the community it is everyone's responsibility to help them where possible.  I thought maybe, because I am a tall American, she might need help getting something off the shelf she was next to.  So I said hello, and asked if she was okay.

She motioned for me to come closer.  When I bent down, she pet my head and told me I had pretty hair.  Afterwhich she smiled, turned, and wandered away.

I... don't know how to respond to this.  I know she meant it as a compliment.  I know that.  But I can't help but feel that she treated me as one would a cute dog, patting me on the head and then moving along.  I am a human being, and no matter what culture you are a part of, invading a stranger's personal space to condescendingly pat them like a pet is flat rude.  Just because I don't speak YOUR language doesn't mean that I have the intelligence of a puppy, so I would ask not to be treated as one.

I don't know.  
What would YOU do if someone 
randomly pet you like a dog?  
Tell me in the comments!

At first I thought they aerated the ground at the park.
Then I realized each of those holes is where a cicada came up!

The cicadas have emerged!  If you aren't familiar with cicadas, they are large, loud bugs that live dormant underground for years and years and then somehow sync themselves with all the other cicadas doing the same to emerge from the ground at the same time, shed their underground skin, climb into the trees, and then sing until they find their mate and... well then they die.
they come, they mate, they die.
For as loud as they are, I find them pretty fascinating.

That video is the park near our house - the scratchy noise in the background IS THE CIDACAS, and it's deafening.  There's also the shells of the ground-stage of Cicada in that clip.  They climb up a tree then split down the back to come out and transform into these beautiful creatures:

photo from google search, though it
could be easily duplicated here.

samurai beetle.  how awesome is that!?
A: very awesome.
Something about big bugs makes me more intrigued than squicked out.  I think maybe it's because they're easy to spot and generally slower.  Cicadas don't bite, they won't harm me.  Samurai beetles are another great example - they're so COOL to me.  But if it has more than 6 legs, or it's fast (like roaches, centipedes or spiders), it's a big serving of Nope with a side of Nope-sauce.

What are your feelings on bugs?  Yay or nay? Tell me in the comments!

There is, however, a unique phenomenon that I've experienced in regard to Cicadas that I'm a bit over:  The Semi Bakugan ( 蝉爆弾 ), or "Cidaca Bomb."  That's when you find a Cicada on it's backside on the sidewalk.  You think "oh, it must have mated and died already."  And then it momentarily buzzes to life, making an almighty racket and scuttling over a few inches by flapping it's wings against the pavement.  And because you expected it was dead, it startles the hell out of you.

I was a victim when I took this photo.


Last anecdotal thing for today?
How, you may ask?
actual phonetic spelling of the noise that I made involuntarily as it happened.

I was sitting in a chair.  And I leaned forward to grab a pencil on the table in front of me, and then the spine gnomes thrust a white-hot poker into the lower left of my spine.

Okay, so more likely that small lean was just the straw that broke the camel's back, and what actually trigged it was my decision to not take a cab home from the pet store after buying a 40 pound bag of dog food.  I ended up hailing one when it started to rain on my walk, but I'd already made it half-way home.  In any case, I've never thrown my back out before, but I can tell you if you ever manage to do such a thing, you will know INSTANTLY that it is exactly what's happened to you.

Have you ever thrown out your back?  
Was it a more harrowing story than mine?  
Tell me in the comments!
(also if you have any tips for getting back on your feel that aren't already listed... hook a sister up.)

Thankfully for me, The Mister has been good with fetching me ice packs and helping me get out of chairs as if I was a broken 90 year old woman.  And the critters are, of course, are happy to practice their craft as professional cuddle aids.  So I should be back up and running soonish.
one of them is trying to mooch onto the corner of the heating pad
behind my back. the other is trying to give me enough
puppy dog eyes that I don't notice him taking over the whole mattress.

today's little language lesson

kyukyusha o yobukudasai.  watashino senaka ga totemo itaidesu.
please call an ambulance. my back hurts a lot.

(I looked it up last night just in case, but I'm sure now I'll be fine, no worries!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Not so much the heat, it's the gosh darn humidity.

You know the saying "the calm before the storm?"

The aforementioned calm.
We're in the middle of that, though it would have been nice if someone had prefaced that calm includes mind-scrambling humidity along with calm skies.  People don't even wait at crosswalks here - they wait in the shadows cast by nearby trees so as not to stand in the direct sunlight and turn into human raisins.

Until that light turns green, I shall wait here in the shadows.  Like Batman.
(I'm batman.)
(no I'm not, but wouldn't that be awesome?!)
I have reached a point of being legitimately mad at the weather.  I know weather is a non-human entity without emotions or blame.  But I yell at it in the mornings when I first walk outside and my hair instantly frizzes.  I curse at it as I walk to the train station and feel buckets of sweat pooling at the small of my back from a 5 minute walk.  And earlier today when I realized I had rubbed my upper-lip raw from my "sweat towel*," I flipped the heavens a double-bird.  Much to the confusion of the Japanese folk milling about me (who seem, by the way, to be totally unaffected by the swamp-consistency-air).

no caption needed.
*sweat towels are exactly what they sound like - washcloth size towels with pretty designs that everyone here carries in their back pocket to wipe away sweat-staches during the humid-months.  Outside that season, they also double as hand towels for when you use a public restroom that does not have any paper towels to dry your hands.  Which is every public restroom.  They're very handy, is what I'm saying, and I have two that I keep in rotation.

This past Saturday we celebrated Oktoberfest at the central city park.  Yes you read that right.  The "October" part is apparently lost in translation.  So we celebrated Oktoberfest in July, and watched a whole lot of Japanese people get incredibly drunk, because, hello, in this humidity you are dehydrated the second you walk outside your home, to say nothing of standing in the sunlight for hours dancing and downing beers like it's your job because it "keeps you cool."  I stuck to water, which is not because I fancy myself better than anyone at this event, but more because I'm old now and prefer not to feel like all those people felt the following morning.  It also meant I was sober to be able to fully appreciate a legitimate German Lady Yodeler preform.  Which was immediately followed by... THE CHICKEN DANCE.

It was like being back home in Wisconsin for Polkafest.  With more "Kompai"s**

**Kompai = Cheers!

Then Sunday The Mister and I headed out to a going away party for a few of our Mexican friends.  Fun fact: after we lived in Mexico for a year, we managed to end up in Japan at the same time as some of our friends FROM Mexico!  It was an interesting start to our time in Japan by speaking Spanish.  Let's be clear that any party with the Mexicans is a good time.  This party was an afternoon cook-out though, which meant we were in a park, in the sun, standing next to a lit grill for hours.  I was a few pounds lighter when we got home, which is pretty unusual for any party where Mexicans are cooking the food, let me tell you.  But sweat weighs a bit you know.

So I say all of that to set up that I am more than ready for the humidity to break already.  I would take anything in exchange.

Anything except maybe a typhoon.

Yeah, hey, so that's a thing that's coming down the pipeline.  Typhoon Nangka, which is part of a pack of Typhoon-level storms, has been gaining strength and barreling toward the Southern coast of Japan, and is scheduled to hit Nagoya later this week.  Sounds like a party.

Um... I wont' say I'm not a little bit nervous about the 'phoon.  If there's a silver lining for us, it's that the main storm will hit much further west of us, in Osaka.  We expect significant flooding and winds, but Osaka-area is bracing for... let's just say they're bracing for a not as good an outcome.

Then there's my awesome Japanese teacher, S-san.  Because instead of a normal lesson this week, she asked what I knew about Typhoons, and took the time to calm my fears and give me good prep advice.  The two biggest things she shared:

1.  As a part of the Nagoya Community, it is important to take responsibility for the safety of others during a storm.  Specifically this means that everything on our 11th floor balcony needs to come inside, because otherwise it will become a wind-borne weapon.  Since I use our balcony more like a garden instead of the traditional Japanese use of a place to hang laundry... our living room looks like a bit of a jungle at the moment.
Our indoor jungle, complete with screen door that feel off it's tracks
which is going to double as a Bubba-guard for the next few days.
On the plus side, the lavender is going
 to make our shower smell AMAZING.

2.  Go grocery shopping.  Sooner than Immediately.
I went to the grocery store straight after my lesson, didn't even stop back home to drop off books (that part was maybe a mistake in the hauling-everything-home department... but I "Hulked" it out).  The store was quickly filling with people intent on getting to the best produce before things were picked over and the storm took away options.  I ended up walking back past the grocery store later in the day with Mac, and witnessed people stuffing their cars full of dry goods and canned food like they had just left a Costco.  Let's remember this is usually a population that does daily grocery trips and keeps purchases in that department frequent, but small.

So now we've got a fridge stocked to its gills with foods (we don't really have a pantry, but what space is available on non-refrigerated shelves is also full).  Our living room is a recreation of the amazon, give or take a basil plant.  The Typhoon, if it decides to stay on schedule, will reach us Thursday night, and be gone by Friday afternoon.  Hopefully that'll be enough time to finish prepping for the house party that I was planning on prepping for ALL WEEK.  Woo!

How do YOU deal with humidity?  
Have you ever experiences a Typhoon?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson
私の汗タオルはどこすか? 私の顔が殺到しています。
watashino ase taoru wa, doko desuka?  watashino kao ga sattó shitteimasu.
Where is my sweat towel?  My face has flooded.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Doing American-type things, American Style.

We went to the Navy Base for the 4th of July!
Sort of proof.  Sort of because this is a Japanese boat, but we share the base with Japan.

You know what that means?
During an American holiday, we were surrounded by Americans.  Who spoke American English.  (I mean, just English is amazing, I'm not picky on dialect.)

It was a great time.  Our first overnight stay together somewhere other than our apartment since arriving in Japan.  It took us so long because we had to find a pet care solution that was okay with big dogs.  Pets here are so small that even the few pet "hotels" I found that would agree to take Mac were not anywhere near equipped to care for him.  Aka tiny tiny crate that they would stuff him into for the entire time we were away.  No thank you.

We ended up finding a pet sitter.  Which is a great solution for 1 or 2 night stays, but we'll have to figure something else out down the line for longer vacations.


The Mister has been to the base a few times now for Reserve weekends, but this was to be my first time on the base.  Packing had to be done carefully, as we took trains out there, so we weren't about to lug suitcases.  Backpacks it is.  And since we're only going for one night, we shouldn't pack too much... leave enough space and we could check out the commissary... As predicted I overdid all and everything so I looked a bit like I was going on a 4 month hiking expedition on the train back, but I overall I'd give that a thumbs up.  Because I came back with a whole bunch of new pants and underwear that fit my curvy American frame.  Score.

We learned a few fun things this past weekend.  Would you like to know about them?  Of course you would, that's why you click on these blog posts.

1.  I, KpMcD, get horridly motion-sick on bullet trains.
Which is, you know, not good news when bullet trains are literally the #1 best way to get around this country.  Related interesting news, I have broken my streak of refusing to use Eastern Style toilets because I was out of options and time... but I have still not actually used one for their intended purpose...

2.  Japanese people use forks and knives as poorly as they believe all Americans use chopsticks.  And it was real fun to watch.
We went to a steak house for a meal, because 'Murica, that's why.  The Japanese folks also eating there gripped their utensils like cavemen, and it made us giggle.

3.  The Mascot for Cosmo World - home of Japan's tallest ferris wheel - is named Cosumo.  It took us a couple tries asking folks to get that information.  But now I own a Cosumo key chain.  So that's a win.
Also we totally rode the ferris wheel, which did not make me more sick.  

4.  If you are married to the Mister, you can jokingly point at a big stuffed animal at a carnival booth and say "win me that!" and then before you know it, you have to lug a giant stuffed Tanuki around with you the rest of the weekend.  I am not complaining.  He is an adorable Tanuki.  And he was won on a Skee-ball machine, so we named him Dai-Skee.  Daisuki, pronounced the same way, means love in Japanese.  We're that adorable couple that makes people vomit, I know.  But I had already vomited that day, so I figure me and karma are even.
Dai-Skee, with Bubba for scale.

5.  If you are from the Midwest US, the attraction at Cosmo World named "Aisu-worudo" (Ice World) is really just like walking around in the fall if you forgot your jacket.  You will be amused instantly by the Japanese people who go through this attraction acting as if they will die of hypothermia at any second.
1st: the decor inside Ice World.  
2nd: after we exited the attraction, we immediately got icecream, which came with these little doughnut bears on top.

6.  Taco Bell is not Mexican food (we didn't learn that, we knew that), it is 100% Americana.  And when you've been traveling all day and are tired but hungry, a run for the border is satisfying in an almost carnal way.  We could have cried with joy over grade J beef.

7.  Terminator Genisys is a supremely stupid movie.  But it was in English?  No.  No it's still super stupid.  But we understood all the very convoluted words to describe why Arnold looks so old as an invincible robot, so that's a bit of a plus I guess.

8.  There are some amazingly beautiful Temples all over Japan.  We got to see two before returning to Nagoya Sunday, and they were awe inspiring.
We we able to witness a Shinto wedding ceremony while we were at this temple,
though I didn't take pictures out of respect for the couple.

These three little buddahs... I can't.  they're too cute,
and just hanging out on the side of a path.

9.  You can pay $.20 (20 yen) to go inside the Daibutsu (Giant Buddah).
The Mister said it was a bit claustrophobic inside.  I was happy to just witness the grandeur from the outside.

10.  If you pay extra, you can get into the reserved car on the bullet train with a seat that reclines and personal space that keeps one KpMcD from horking.  So we will do that all the time always now.  The More You Know.

All in all, 10 out of 10 gold stars, would travel again.
What would you do if you got 1 weekend of Americana 
(or your home-country) goodness after a 6 month stint without?
  Tell me in the comments!

In unrelated news, Mac earned himself a submission to DogShaming yesterday by murdering a bag of flour.  This is noteable because it is a 30 minute walk to the place that sells large bags of flour, and bags of flour are heavy, and I had literally JUST lugged that bag to the house then left for 10 minutes to buy carrots.  Thankfully I had purchased two bags, so my mission to bake was not thwarted today*
"The kitchen door didn't properly latch.  ...mmm, flour. (note his nose.)

Still- success!

*fun fact: The Mister and I just now have discovered that if you have made more cream cheese frosting than is needed for your carrot cupcakes, you can dip walnuts in there and chow down.  and we needed you to know, because it's amazing.

today's little language lesson
Shinkansen wa watashi ga byōki ni narimasu
The bullet train makes me sick.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Doodle Dump (3)

Happy Friday!

Sorry for the late post, I lived life like a normal person this past week, so I was struggling to find something particularly noteworthy to discuss here.  And so instead I leave you with the side-by-side stories of the TWO high fives I received from Japanese folk this week.  High-Fives are not a Japanese thing, so these were both magical gifts, and they both made my day(s) in their own special ways.

Also mad apologies that I either need to invest in a larger scanner or a smaller sketchbook.  I will work on this.

HIGH FIVES: Grocery Store Vs. Evening Mac-Walkie
click to embiggen.
Quick Context for the left side:
when you grocery shop in Japan, you carry a basket, and after your make your purchases you take that basket to the tables set up past the register so you can pack your groceries into a bag.  Then you place the emptied basket in a collection stack so they can be recirculated.  This little girl is clearly in the "I wanna help!" development stage, so though I didn't draw her, rest assured I didn't just approach a little girl who was all alone.  She was pumped to be able to help her mom put away the basket, so after I smiled and got smiled back at by mom (so I knew she wasn't going to be alarmed at a foreigner interacting with her child as some Japanese folks are), I offered my basket to the kiddo so she could do it all again.  The high-five was more because I completely forgot what country I was in for a second, but she was all about it.

Quick Context for the right side: 
These three guys were all walking together, but Shiro was just being a butt, and deserved to be shamed a bit.  Everyone had a good laugh at his expense.  :)

Have you ever walked into something 
(or witnessed someone else walking into something) 
because you were too busy on your phone?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson

i-tei rutokoro o mite kudasai!
Watch where you're going!