my oh-so-normal life

Location: California, United States

There are no random acts. We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind. (the five people you meet in heaven)

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Engrish III-Food

All the foods prepared by HORAI come out from our careful research, over half century of top flavors based on the Chinese gastronomy. A myriad of people, grownups and children alike, just love our characteristic menu, and have made HORAI’s name increasingly popular and famous. Our eagerness to satisfy the eating pleasure of people will be ever-lasting. For the sake of it, we will always keep the HORAI foods up-to-date in their taste and style in accordance with our customers’ preference. Your continued support of our BUTAMAN, SHUMAI, YAKI-GYOZA, and ICE CANDY will be highly appreciated.

Wonderful Dessert by Takarabune
Our theme for making cakes is “Good Taste”, to enrich relations among between people. Enjoy our cakes to your heart’s content, as they have each been painstakingly prepared.

Beard papa pursus handmade, freshness and deliciousness, and particular about the matrial and addition thing such as an antiseptic never uses for health. Shop original puff shell is surrounded by a little luxurious crispy pie and a feeling of appetite is new type

“Creperie” seen in town birthplace “France.” Crepe daily eaten in France. The patissier of “cocorico makes the dessert crap that enchant people even fashionable parisienne in the home. It sticks to the taste and it is gentle also to the body. We keep walking the one by using on the ingredient serested carefully so it is possible to eat at ease even for mall child and doesn’t use the synthetic preservation fee and the additive, etc. at all. It is our “crepes de cocorico” cocorico.
Of course, when So and I saw this and were reading it, we read one panel and then the other. If you do that, you come up with the line, "so it is possible to eat the child." Will wonders never cease.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Privacy: A Cultural Concept
Once when I was learning Japanese, someone told me that there is no native Japanese word for privacy because the cultural concept doesn’t exist. The Japanese use the English word with Japanese pronunciation, pronounced pu-rye-bah-shee.

There are times that I return to the hotel at lunchtime for a myriad of reasons. A few weeks ago, I told Sa that I checked the thermostat at noon and it was off, but when I got back from work, it was on. I had hung out the privacy sign, but I thought that the hotel staff was entering anyway. She asked me if I thought the thermostat could be automatically programmed to go on if the room got cold. (I always leave the window open to get rid of a bit of the stuffiness.) Well, it seemed unlikely, but, perhaps…

Today, I came back to the hotel around 3 and was lying in bed reading before leaving again. I had actually dozed off when the phone rang. I was surprised to find that it was the front desk. The hotel staffer told me, “I know you have the privacy sign hung out, but we wanted to perform the additional afternoon cleaning. Can we come do that or did you really mean ‘privacy’?” To tell you the truth, I was a little shocked. I told the man that I would be leaving in half an hour and asked could they wait until that time. I left, and when I returned, the garbage had been emptied, and the hand towel I had used had been replaced with a fresh one. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

I looked at the Privacy sign to hang on the door and realized something. While I had always noticed that PRIVACY was written in capital letters in English, the small Japanese above says, “Please don’t wake me (us) up.” So much for the concept of privacy.
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Very Clever Invention, indeed.

The green bit sticking out of the Starbucks cup is a little type of stick designed to keep the coffee from popping out the top when you get take-away. Very clever indeed.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Engrish? Or not Engrish?

I can't decide if it's Engrish, so someone who is very clever (and fluent.) Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 23, 2006


When I was talking to Sa about my upcoming daytrip to Kobe, I told her that I was planning on leaving Osaka around 9:30 a.m. She said, “Don’t go that early. Nothing will be open.” I asked, “The shrines won’t be open at 10?” She laughed and said, “If I think about going to Kobe, the only reason is to eat. I only think about food.” A girl after my own heart.

The last time I was in Kobe was in 1996, the year after the Great Hanshin Earthquake. At that time, there was construction everywhere, and I don’t really have any exact impressions of Kobe from that time other than being extremely busy. Ten years and lots of reconstruction later, the city has been transformed and is very nice. Kobe is actually quite compact, much smaller than I had remembered, and easy to navigate on foot. There are various shrines to visit as well as a traditional Japanese style garden. Then, of course, there is the famous Chinatown, filled with delicious smells, street vendors, restaurants, and lots of Chinese speakers giving it a very authentic aura.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Engrish II
Just a bit of amusement to break up your day...

The Japanese reads “Up Escalator.”
The Japanese reads “Down Escalator.”

On a manhole cover

My current favorite is a toss-up between the next two:

Does it make any difference that this is at the entrance to a Love Hotel????

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Beauty of Nature’s Leftovers

While everyone waits with great anticipation for the cherry blossoms to peak, there is a lot of disappointment when the blossoms begin to fall from the trees to be replaced with bright green leaves. But there is beauty everywhere in Nature, even in her leftovers. I watched as the strong spring wind blew through the cherry trees this weekend, and the result could have been mistaken for a snowstorm.
I find that seeing the fallen cherry blossoms cover the ground in light pink is one of the great beauties of spring. While the “peak” is gone, the leftovers are gorgeous.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Memories of a Life Past, Part II
和紙人形の先生・The Doll Teacher

The period of my life when I lived in Gifu was hectic. It didn’t necessarily have to be; it’s more that I chose for it to be that way. I spent most every weekend engaged in frantic activity, trying to make sure that I took advantage of the time that I would be there. I attended festivals, visited historic sites, went on cycling trips (the longest was almost three weeks), and jammed in time with friends. If I think about it now, it makes me a bit tired, but I am glad for all the opportunities I have had.

One activity that I participated in stands out among the rest. It was not only a hobby but a friendship. During the three years I was in Gifu, I spent many Saturdays at the home of the Doll Teacher learning how to make Washi Ningyo (和紙人形) or Japanese paper dolls.

I have fond memories of sitting in the classroom in her home spending hours making the dolls. The dolls are themselves gorgeous and don’t look like they’re made of paper, but the Sensei and her kindness are what made me determined to go as often as possible.

During my last months in Gifu, I would go at least once a week, often after work, in an attempt to make all the dolls in the collection. I succeeded, and it is something that the Sensei is proud of. I visit her each time I return to Gifu. This year she turned 80. It makes me sad as I see age mark her. I will always remember all the kindness she showed me, and she will always have a special place in my heart.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Memories of a Life Past, Part I

I have had the fortunate experience of living in many different cities and countries on several continents. There are many places where I feel comfortable and know well enough to call home. Sometimes I think this is a blessing; sometimes I think it is a curse. While it is wonderful to have so many places to “fit in,” it also leaves me with no true place to call home. There is always something missing in each place I go. Whenever I think about someplace I have lived and my friends there, it is difficult to imagine how things are different in my absence. For me, time has stopped. Despite that it is completely illogical, I feel that time shouldn’t start up again until I go back. When I go back and see friends, it doesn’t seem like time has passed. They are still the same people; I am still the same person.

Just before leaving for Gifu for the weekend, I hit the section of my current book called, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” It’s somewhat ironic. While I loved living in Gifu and it feels like home, I know that it is not where I belong in spite of the friends and the familiarity. My apartment building was condemned and torn down shortly after I left. Despite things in Gifu being more or less the same, my home is gone. However, my friendships have endured. The biggest difference for me lies in my friends’ children. H. has two daughters. When I first met them, the eldest was in sixth grade and the younger in third. Now the younger one is in her second year at university, and the older one has just graduated university. When I saw photos of the older daughter after she had started college, she looked like a grown-up, and I could still see her as a sixth-grader. I felt like crying.
Nagara River, Gifu City

Ju and I went to a Japanese bath near her house on Saturday night. As we approached the entrance, I noticed a Seventeen Ice vending machine. A million memories flashed through my head: bike trips throughout Japan with Tea, So in Nagano, working at Gifu City Hall, Japanese friends, their children, other foreigner friends, conferences, parties, adventures, millions of Japanese sceneries and cultural events, and on, and on, and on. I guess everyone feels like this at times in their life. You must give up certain things to have others, but at what cost? It is not an answer that can be measured on a scale. I know that I am infinitely better off today with the choices I have made than had I chosen to stay in Japan and/or Gifu. However, I will always feel that there is a bit of me left there. I hope my friends feel that bit and are glad for it.
Tea, this photo is for you.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Only in Japan

In this country, you can't get a drivers license until you're 18. Yet this is normal.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Club French Kiss
Gion, Kyoto

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Kyoto, literally, the Capital City, the ancient capital of Japan. There are many places that I love in Japan, but I really think that if you can only visit one city, Kyoto should be it. Kyoto is the “traditional Japan,” the Japan Westerners imagine. There are many temples and historical monuments, and there is a different feeling in Kyoto. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but I always feel a little more cultural, a little more traditional despite the trains, subway, and busses. While visiting the Golden Pavilion, I am awed by the sheer undertaking to construct such a palace.

Since the cherry blossoms were at their peak, Kyoto was thronging with people. The crowds on the Path of Philosophy at this time of year left little time for contemplation of other subjects.

However, the cherry blossoms were gorgeous. Everyone is saying that the cherry blossoms this year are more beautiful than those last year. They are unbelievable. There is no beauty like that you find in nature.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sober Girl has gone away.
Will she come again another day?

I wanted to introduce So to Sober Girl, so she was with me when I discovered Sober Girl’s disappearance on Saturday night. On Monday morning when So woke up, she told me that she’d been having nightmares about where Sober Girl had gone. Let’s hope she went to a partyPosted by Picasa

Sunday, April 09, 2006

ラブホテル・Love Hotel

In any Japanese town, you can find at least one “Love Hotel.” Given the lack of space and multi-generational living situations, these rent-by-the-hour hotels are a necessity in this country.
As we were walking from Nanba station to the Thai restaurant where we were having dinner, Sa and I had to cross through the Love Hotel Section of town. I have always seen Love Hotels on the outskirts of town, near freeway interchanges, so this was really interesting to me. A whole section of Love Hotels right smack-dab in the middle of the city.
Most are completely outlandish with various themes. Sa was telling me that love hotels have changed radically in the past ten years. It used to be that you had to bring your own food since there was no type of food service (despite the fact that all the rooms were equipped with karaoke.) Nowadays, breakfast is often included, and you can even get dinner sets. However, I still think the themes that they come with are great.

My favorite Japanese joke
ラブホテル10回言って。(Love Hotel 10-kai yutte. Say Love Hotel 10 times.)
You repeat this line several times. You can change how many times you ask your friend to say it, etc. Finally, you say:
何回行った? (Nan kai itta?) (How many times did you say/go?)
The joke here is that “itta” has two meanings: “did you say” or “did you go.” (So your friend says “25” or something like that, and you say, “Wow, that’s a lot!” Despite changing the form of the verb “to say,” I have never had anyone NOT fall for this joke. Including last Saturday night. Yes, I can still pretend that I am a Japanese high school student. Actually, I still do have the uniform. Maybe I should break it out....