Hubby got a temporary job. It’s a 4000 square meter floor in a DIY center down past Yokohama. They’ve got ten days to get it done and he’s the glue guy. I’ve seen him do it. He glops the glue from the can onto the floor, then uses a glue spreader to even it out. The installers come trotting along behind him laying the wooden tiles before the glue dries. The assistants run around opening boxes of tiles and collecting the trash. It’s almost poetry to watch. (Actually, he said two of the guys are idiots who stand around with their thumbs up their noses, so he has to open the boxes and deal with the trash. Oh, well.)
I don’t have much work this week (and obviously I’m putting off what I do have while writing this) so this means I’m a housewife. (Or is it domestic engineer?) I actually cooked dinner last night! Two loads of laundry this morning, cleaned out the crisper (there was something green and slimy that may once have been neigi), tidied up the papers, write the blog then off to the gym to avoid the hottest part of the day. He has spoiled me rotten by taking care of the housework for so long, but I think I can remember how to do it. (Do I use parentheses too much?)
Just got a call from an agency I hate asking me for a voice sample and I don’t have one right now. (I do have one but it’s on DAT and I don’t think anyone even has a player for that anymore.) (Pardon my parentheses.) I glibly lied that I would make one just to get the woman off the phone.
Thank GOD it’s finally raining. Yuck that I have to go to work, but yesterday was 97 degrees with full on Tokyo humidity. My head melted right off my neck and made a big mess on the floor.
One of the publishing companies I work for is producing prototypes of English versions of their pre-school materials for sale in the States. The materials are of excellent quality, but we keep having problems. One is the angle on potty training. There’s an animation of a character going potty. He produces a poop, talks to it, then waves bye-bye and flushes it away. In a picture book, there’s a fairly graphic illustration of how one gets plugged up if one does not go potty. I keep telling them you can’t show poop in stuff for kids in the States. I know it’s prudish and silly, but a taboo is a taboo.
Japanese are much more open and realistic about body functions than Americans. For example, you don’t have to excuse yourself when you sneeze. If you blow snot all over the table, that’s a different story, but sneezing is a normal thing that everyone does and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
This is changing, though. Although most people, especially men, still slurp their noodles (see yesterday), people are starting to excuse themselves more. One thing that has changed dramatically is men peeing on the streets. During my first couple of years here, I saw more guys’ thingies than I’d ever seen before, but that seems to be mostly gone. Some traditions deserve abandonment.
It’s Obon season for the next few days. There aren’t any actual holidays, but traditionally people return to their hometowns to commune with their ancestors, and since hardly anyone is actually from Tokyo, a lot of people bug out, maybe for ancestors, maybe just to escape the heat. At any rate, the streets are quiet and lots of places are closed. Fortunately, the noodle shop was open, because I wanted sarada udon, which is cold noodles with salad on top. Very refreshing, and it comes with a choice of Matcha au Lait, which is iced green tea with milk and sugar (blech!) or iced coffee. I don’t know how they make it, but one sip will cross your eyes and put fur on your tongue. (Lesson learned: If I want coffee, there’s a Starbucks down the street.) Also fortunately, there was only one slurper and he was a few tables away, so not too annoying.
It is traditional to inhale great gasps of air while eating your noodles, the louder the better. Some say this makes them taste better. A while ago, a group of us went out for soba after class at the dojo. Everyone was chattering away, and then someone asked me how I feel about slurping. Everyone suddenly shut up, all eyes on me. I said, “Well, at first it bothered me. It goes against all of my training. But I’ve kind of gotten used to it, and it is a part of Japanese culture, so who am I to judge? I really wish people wouldn’t do it when they eat spaghetti, though. That drives me nuts.” Everyone nodded soberly, clearly making mental notes to stop slurping their pasta.
Here’s something funny: I noticed that most of the Japanese women I know who’ve married foreign men have really weird family names, like Motegi, Nammo, Kunigami, and my all-time favorite, Bogakiuchi. On the other hand, most of the Japanese men I know who’ve married foreign women have boring names, like Kaneko, Suzuki and Sato. I don’t actually use one. Eda is a fairly common family name, so I just use one name, like Cher or Sting. Most people don’t know my family name, or assume that Eda is my family name. I was once being introduced to a group of people and the guy doing the introductions said, “This is Mrs. Ayumi Ide, Mrs. Setsuko Koizumi, and Mrs…uh…Eda.” Hubby occasionally gets called Eda-san. He just shrugs.
In this morning’s puzzle was the clue “Fried vegetable dish”. I thought, crossly, “How am I supposed to know what’s trendy in food these days?” The answer worked out to be tempura. Oh…well…I know what that is. Another clue was “Thin mattresses”, answer “futons”. And another was “Green soybeans”, answer “edamame”. So there you have it. Is today some sort of Japanese holiday nobody told me about?
It’s hard not to be cross these days. Summer has reared its ugly head and it’s painfully hot. I call this Yes-I-Love-You-Too-Don’t-Touch-Me weather. We’re still not supposed to use our air conditioners if we can help it, so I’m damp and sticky and, yes, cross. I think I’ll go eat some tofu and mutter obscenities.
I heard that the northeast States are sweltering these days, which is ironic, and I’m a big fan of irony. We were all worried that Tepco wouldn’t be able to provide the electricity we’d need to turn on our air conditioners this summer. There were dire warnings of possible wide scale outages, but so far at least, this is the mildest summer I can remember. Typhoons keep pulling cool air down from China, so we’ve only used the airco a couple of times. There was one summer about 20 years ago when rainy season kicked in around mid June, as usual, but continued until the end of September. Lettuce cost 1000yen, when you could find it at all, and we mostly subsisted on imported cabbage and broccoli, not my favorite veggies.
More irony. It’s almost a year since we moved. I’ll never forget the date: August 17, the hottest day, in the middle of the hottest week, in the middle of the hottest summer on record since 1936. It wasn’t that the temperature was all that high, it just got hot and stayed that way for a really, really long time. I think there must be some sort of power balance in the works that I don’t understand, but I’m grateful for it.
Good punching class today. There were only four of us: two newbies, one a young, tall guy, the other an old lady, and another woman I don’t like. (She’s kind of a bully. She does an overhand thing with her straight punches where it feels like she’s trying to knock my arm out of the shoulder socket. And she gets this look on her face sometimes. I can just see her on the playground with a smaller kid in a headlock, pounding on the poor kid’s face. Sensei used to partner me with her all the time until I discussed this with him. I figured he’d understand since he got started in karate because he was being bullied at school.)
So I ended up partnered with the guy, which was fine by me, but as many of them do, he got a quizzical expression on his face as if to say, “What the heck am I supposed to do with this itty bitty foreign woman?” After a couple of minutes of punching, the expression changed to, “Gee. This itty bitty foreign woman could probably beat the crap out of me if she wanted to.” It was fun.
As I was getting on the train yesterday, a group of tired-looking women and a whole bunch of kids were getting off. I noticed a little pink backpack on the shelf above the seats and there weren’t any other kids around, so I grabbed said backpack and handed it to one of the women. If that doesn’t earn me a few dozen brownie points, I don’t know what will.
Weird week so far, one of the ones where I’m working for a bunch of different clients doing a bunch of different things and having to reprogram the brain for each one. It’s hard enough remembering which hat to put on in the morning without having to change hats several times during the day, and I don’t even like hats.
Yesterday I had to go to an editorial meeting at a big company that I won’t name. Let’s just say they make soy sauce. We finished my part of the meeting, which has to do with editing the current issue of their corporate masturba…I mean…”quarterly intercultural forum for the exchange of ideas on food.” The second half of the meeting is planning the next issue, which has nothing to do with me and mostly entails a couple of gasbag foodies flapping their jaws about meaningless details nobody cares about but politely pretends to…I mean…experienced food professionals graciously sharing their wisdom with us for which we are deeply grateful. I was busy writing this and not paying attention when suddenly the woman next to me asked how I feel about oden. I couldn’t help making an icky face. I like kamaboko, which is rubbery steamed fish cakes, but for oden, they boil it in dashi until it’s the consistency of watery marshmallow. There are also big hunks of smelly, squishy daikon which has been robbed of all of its crisp appeal; various shapes, sizes and colors of konnyaku, which is basically stiff, flavorless jello; and hard boiled eggs, the only part of the whole production that I can enjoy. All convenience stores sell oden, which means I have to avoid 7-11 in the cold months because the smell of theirs is particularly repulsive.
Being the only foreigner at the meeting, everyone was interested in my opinion. Fortunately, the icky face made everyone laugh.