One For the Grandmothers

Apologies to those of my readers who visit this blog to read about life in Japan and see pictures of it. No updates for two weeks, and all you get are a bunch of pictures of my kid and boring details about my recently-mundane life.

About that mundane life…it has been nothing aside from completely normal since the calendar turned over, and I love it. Ray has been healthy, as have Chieko and I. It’s been snowing nearly every day, as it should during winter. The Patriot’s lost against the Jets, but do I really care that much? I reserve my heartbreak for the Red Sox.

And hence the blog void from me. Nothing interesting to say in the least, and no good pictures to prop up the lack of words. Unless we consider Ray, who is up to all sorts of things these days.

Here he is performing his litany of tricks for Nanny via Skype.


One of his favorite activities these days is pulling all of his books off the bookshelf.


At least he “reads” them once they’re on the floor.


You wanted to see his face? Drool.




Ray has also learned how to rapidly climb up on things like the sofa, and in the case of the above photos, the kotatsu. He face planted off the kotatsu a few months ago (which I think I chronicled here) but the trauma has worn off I guess. I was poised to grab Ray should he take another dive off of the table, but he was in control of his element this even.

The only other noteworthy thing I can mention is that we bought plane tickets back to the US for next month. We finish work around Valentine’s Day, and a week later we’ll be in the air. Last year when we went Ray was sleeping 18 hours a day and was totally easy to take on a plane. This time around…I have no idea what to expect aside from assuming it will probably suck. I am officially soliciting advice on flying with 1 year olds.

And on that note, it’s 1:30 in the morning. No work tomorrow due to our school administering entrance exams, but I should get horizontal nonetheless. Good night.



Kanazawa In December




It’s certainly no Niigata in December, or any other time of the year for that matter, but Kanazawa can do alright under proper circumstances. I’ve toyed with all of these pictures using the Flickr editing tools so if they look grossly unrealistic please let me know.

Otherwise not a whole lot happening here. Two weeks of vacation have seemed like an eternity, which is a great thing. Our schedule is full of holes (i.e. days off) for the rest of the semester, which ends in the middle of February. We still have two more days, and although I have all of my lessons planned for a few days once get back, I can’t in the least recall what I am doing in my classes. Part of me is looking forward to heading back to work recharged and sprinting towards the (temporary) finish line, but another part of me is wary and unwilling to forget how INSANE the weeks leading up to the New Year were. But it’s all pointless really; we go back to work on Tuesday.

I had another beer making experience the majority of the day today. You can click over to Bill’s blog at the bottom of the page and probably read something about that. I haven’t invested in all of my own equipment yet, but I appreciate learning about the process from him before I fully get into. That, and since it was but a few months ago that I convinced my wife that I NEEDED a new bicycle, I would be pressing my luck to argue that I also NEED a few hundred dollars worth of beer making equipment. Although, she would get a lot more enjoyment out of the beer than she does from my new bike.

We have no plans for our remaining days off. I will watch (American) football tomorrow and Monday, and have offered to assume all care of Ray since Chieko has been so generous in letting me out to pursue my own pleasures for such vast swaths of time recently. I would also like to get to they gym tomorrow since I’ve somehow managed to eat and drink like a fat/drunk horse for two weeks and am miraculously only a kilo or so above normal. Not bad at all, but must right the ship in the coming days.

I’ll sign off now since I really didn’t even have this much to say but have somehow spewed it all out; things would surely go downhill were I to continue. Hope all is well where ever you roam.


Nothing but unabashed Ray-love in tonight’s (read: this morning as it’s past midnight) post.

We left Niigata amid heavy, fluffy snowflakes and pleas from Chieko’s mom to stay just ONE more day. In principle I had no objection to the idea. In reality, shit has been nuts in our lives recently and I (my wife seems to be faring better than me) need some time to build up a stock of stability on the home front before we go back to work.

I assured her that we have a slew of 3 day weekends coming up and we will be back soon.

The drive home was uneventful. The snow let up as soon as we tunneled our way out of the valley where Chieko’s parents live. Kanazawa met us with its trademark sleet as we rolled into town, the sun back over the ocean threatening to cast a rainbow on the cloud-strewn mountains near us, but never quite getting it done.

Ray has slipped into a frightening trend of staying up close to midnight every night, most probably because that’s what his parents are doing (and then some), and letting him sleep late so we don’t have to get up. Must get the pendulum swinging in the other direction before next week.

At Chieko’s parent’s house we spread a couple of futons on the floor of what was her bedroom when she lived there. In the past I have consistently woken up stiff as a board given the thinness of the futons and sack of beans that stands for a pillow. Given a bit of my back-channel gaijin complaining, coupled with bringing and leaving my own proper pillow, conditions have improved substantially.

In addition to my newly-thickened futons, the winter temperatures also bring an abundance of puffy blankets and comforters to keep us warm. Ray found all the fluffy, puffy goodness quite enjoyable, particularly when I picked him up and plunged him atop it all. If I were a year old child, I imagine this type of thing would forge a memory or two.




The Local

I couldn’t tear myself out from under the kotatsu last night when 12 o’clock eventually rolled around, so we swung by the shrine this afternoon so Chieko could pay her respects to the new year. I mostly just took a bunch of pictures.

There was nobody manning the shrine, as is normal pretty much all the time except for New Year’s eve, but the sliding doors weren’t locked. I’ve always wanted to take pictures of this shrine, especially on a cold, snowy New Year’s eve when it particularly picturesque with soft light emanating from the front door and filling the inside along with candle light. Oh well — maybe next year.

The shrine sits atop a small hill, and the stairway leading up to it is always an icy, treacherous mess this time of year — great for carrying small children. The old dude in this picture was filling up a water bottle from the spring at the bottom of the shrine, which is usually reserved for cleansing one’s hands before entering the sacred ground.



There’s quite a bit of clutter inside the shrine, all of which has some relevance to the town and it’s people. The most eye catching thing are the threads of paper cranes hanging from the ceiling.




I will catch hell for posting this picture of Chieko but I told her I was going to do it, and I think it is a lovely picture of her and Ray.



Finally getting some pictures of the shrine was the highlight of the day for. I don’t generally take much interest in religious buildings/sites in Japan or anywhere else, but this particular shrine holds some intrigue with me for some reason.

We also went to visit a friend of Chieko’s, and also her aunt and uncle. That was all after I slept until 11 this morning and spent a sold 3 hours sipping coffee and perusing the internet while the snow continued to pile up outside.

I’m heading for Tokyo bright and early tomorrow morning, which means I will have to wake up before 8 for the first time in days. I’m very much looking forward catching up with some old, good friends there. Back to Niigata on Monday and we’ll drive back to Kanazawa the next day, giving us a good week at home to chill out before reality intrudes back upon our currently blissful lives.

Before I go, on a completely unrelated note, I bought a great iPhone application today called Baby Monitor. As you can surmise, it monitors your baby. You leave the phone in the room and if the baby makes any noise, it calls whatever phone number you choose to alert you that the baby is awake. I bought it because this house is huge and our bedroom is up on the second floor, far far away from where everyone hangs out in the living room. There’s no way to hear Ray crying if he wakes up after we put him to bed, as he did last night. So even if you have a baby monitor in your house or apartment, this thing is great to take on the road with you. Admittedly it’s useful lifespan is limited unless we keep popping out babies and forgetting our monitor when we go places, but tonight I am thankful that we have this nifty app.

OK, not sure when the next blog post is coming, so until then stay well whoever you are.