Saturday, 27 November 2010


As I commute to work this morning (Tuesday's holiday meant the museum was closed Wednesday and I'm making up for it by working Saturday) I realized I missed #1 on my TILT the other day.

iTunes decided to spontaneously reinstall itself on my computer (perhaps just a new version but then it doesn't normally do the whole welcome to iTunes spiel) and in doing so discovered nearly all of the music it lost for no apparent reason months ago. (That was followed by me managing to wipe my iPod completely clear while only halfway through ripping my songs back to my computer) I had to redo all my playlists but apart from a few songs still missing, I have myTunes back! Am I going to try and figure out why they came back, or why they disappeared in the first place?


I don't want to risk loosing them again! As I was standing waiting for my train this morning, foot tapping to my favourite group, I was smiling from ear to ear.... It is good to have music that does that to you!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

FOOOOOD and drink

What am I loving this Thursday? Well the title if this post sort of gives it away....

- LAMB!! - I was taken out for a FABULOUS Italian multicourse dinner at a lovely little bistro on Monday night. The dinner was to thank my friend and I for all we did for the GS 90th celebrations. For various reasons two of the women in charge were not able to be involved much and the load fell to my friend, with me helping out a bit. The women felt bad so treated us to dinner and... WOW! What with my tomato allergy I was a bit worried when we got there and I found it had been preordered, but the staff took it in stride and not a tomato was seen in any if the nearly a dozen courses. The grilled lamb was divine and the mushroom and bacon pasta delicious. I was in a delirium if food coma for my entire train ride home and beyond.

- Margaritas! - Unfortunately work on Tuesday was horrid and then when I thought it was over a smelly old guy fell soundly asleep (could not be woken by any of my shoves) on my shoulder with his buddy beside him letting out the occasional ten decibel snore beside him. Luckily U was awaiting me in Tsukuba and took me out for dinner. He chose a pseudo Mexican restaurant where I washed away my crappy day with fruity frozen margaritas - proven to solve just about everything or make you care a whole lot less!

- Oden - stewed fishpaste balls and veggies and tofu may not sound all that delicious when described in English but there is something comforting about a steaming bowl of oden. And the packs for sale at the supearket make it SUPER easy too! I "made" it for U and I for dinner this weekend and he kept raving about how happy he was that I like oden.

Must run, I'm meeting a friend for shabu-shabu tonight!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Translation Loving

What am I loving this Thursday?

This article.

Totally. Made. My. Day.

I realize getting my translations aren't quite a matter of life or death, but I'm always for quality in translation!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Sarah-chan 2

U bought me a little poinsetta when we were out on the weekend. I promised to let him take it home after Christmas...!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Traffic Jam

Heading home today I got to the station and saw a huge mass of people standing around just inside the gates. "Awww crap," I thought to myself. "The train line is delayed, I'm going to take for ever to get home!" I groaned and steeled myself for my 40 minute commute to take three times longer as I waited for a train...

But I was in luck.

The trains were not delayed. I trotted up the flight of stairs and a minute or two later a train pulled up.

The huge mass of people? Were a line... for the escalator. Yup. The escalator. They were all lining up very calmly to stand on only the left side of the escalator as it went up a short flight of stairs.

Did I mention I took the stairs? (after having to push my way through the line that was snaking its way in front of the gates)

Friday, 12 November 2010

Friday is the new Thursday

TGIF and TILT all in one!

As I took the train to work yesterday morning I was dreading my day. Thursdays are my least favourite workday for a range of reasons, all made worse by frustration over my current project in that department - difficult and terribly tedious translations from bad photocopies of bad photocopies of 150 year-old hand written originals in a range of European languages (mostly French but also some English, Italian, and Dutch thrown in) Since I have no Italian or Dutch abilities and no dictionaries either, this is obviously a frustrating exercise.

The workday lived up to my expectations and I was both in a foul mood and struggling with a faint but annoying headache by the end of it. I wanted to cancel my haircut and go straight home but my bangs were on my eyes and I was looking generally shaggy so I set off. No sooner had I left the museum that I got a phone call from a friend. My advisor was having a dinner party at his place, could I join them. I was not feeling sociable, but agreed. A relaxing haircut (rather shorter than I had been anticipating but loving it!) later I was feeling much refreshed - the hairdresser-induced light headed bouncy-ness put a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

The ume-shu (bought especially for me by my advisor), fresh salmon nabe (hot pot), and crisp green apples replaced my light head with a very full (and VERY satisfied) stomach while spending a couple of hours with my advisor and friends cleared me of the last vestiges of my foul mood and reminded me of the importance of good friends!

(the four salmon steaks, two organic apples, and special chestnut desert (kuri mushi yokan) I was sent home with ensure that Thursday's loving will continue through the weekend!)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

E-i-e-i-o.... q!

This morning as I was racing out the door I went to close the open cupboard door and instead knocked my 100 yen store container of 300 q-tips. The container went flying, spraying q-tips everywhere. Since I was in danger of missing my morning train, however, I let them lie and raced off to the station. I realized quite quickly that something was odd with my left boot... but just catching my packed train I had no chance to actually do anything about it until I got to work.

Sure enough, there in the toe of my left boot was a q-tip.

Why do I get the feeling that q-tips are going to be showing up in the oddest of places for the next few months?

"Here a q-tip, there a q-tip, everywhere a q-tip...."

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Squeezing in a TILT

Its only just barely Thursday, so this is going to have to be quick to be done in time, and because it is past my bedtime!

Things I'm loving this Thursday:

- cake at work! On Tuesday there were chocolate covered slices of chocolate roll cake (chocolate roll cake good! dip it in a layer of chocolate?! double good!!) brought as an omiyage by one of my coworkers (I love it when my coworkers go to exciting, or rather yummy places!)

- work! While there are still some issues in one of the departments I work in, things are going really well in one of the other departments. We're currently finishing up a big project, so this has me checking in with various coworkers on and off all day, scurrying about, and checking details and putting it all together - all of which I really enjoy. So much more fun than being stuck staring at a computer in a room all by myself for 6 hours!

- my hot carpet!! With the weather getting cold I love sitting on the hot carpet with a knitted blanket round my knees.

- making plans for Christmas in Canada - I'm slowly getting in touch with friends and family and making plans for our trip back. I'm getting really excited but I think U is just nervous.

- knitting mitts - the size means almost instant gratification and I am loving the fuzzy softness of the yarns I chose (a couple of different yarns combined in an attempt to match a woven shawl I was given last year) (don't worry Umebossy, little O's baby blanket is nearly half done and I will be back to it soon!!!)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Rainbow round my shoulders

My year in India affected and changed me in many ways - one of those is my sense of colour. After a year in India fluorescent lime green and deep violet seem an obvious match, as do hot pink and bright orange. Japan is less known for it's use of colour (sure, kimono can have gorgeous colours of all shades, but one glance around the sea of black on my morning commute reminds me that modern Japan can be rather bland). I don't let that bother me, however, and although I'm a far cry from any type of fashionista, my coworkers often compliment my clothes - 9 times out of ten their compliment is colour-based.

So when I found balls of yarn online with gorgeous variegated colour from lime green through turquoise through royal blue, violet, pink, orange and gold, well I fell in love. I originally planned to just make a basic frilled shawl, but a few rows in I realized to my horror that the colours were mixing and it all looked horrible. So I ripped it all out and started again, this time trying out entrelac for the first time. I figured that knitting the entrelac squares would allow blocs of colour to develop and show of the gorgeous yarn... And I was right!

I found a lovely glowing gold to edge the whole thing, and inkjet admit I love it. I love throwing it around my shoulders on a chilly day, the warmth of the shawl is amplified by the warmth of the colours, and it makes me smile just to look at it!

Monday, 1 November 2010

A Pinch of Salt

I went to a funeral on Sunday - or rather I went to the wake. Some of my family and friends in Canada have asked what is involved in a Japanese funeral, so I thought I'd write a few thoughts on my blog... although apparently this particular funeral was a little "different."

My friend is the youngest of five, the only daughter born a number of years after her brothers. Her father was Taiwanese, growing up under Japanese occupation. He passed away nearly two years ago and, shortly after, his wife was diagnosed with cancer. She fought it nobly and didn't let it slow her down - she looked after her grandson, made niku-man and Chinese sausages from scratch, continued to write and illustrate kami-shibai (an old form of story-telling with pictures and text written on the back for the story-teller to read out), and, when hospitalized, kept busy making origami gifts (intricate masterpieces with multiple layers) for those around her. Right up until the day she died (rather suddenly but very calmly) she had been planning a special 20th anniversary party for her first kami-shibai story. In those two decades she has created numerous stories, all beautifully illustrated either by paintings or by collages of gorgeous Japanese textiles. She wrote about her family (four brothers welcoming a baby sister to their family, a grandson's special time with grandma, the magic in a mother's touch...), she wrote about the things around her and everyday things. That seems to be the appeal of her work - it resonated for so many young and old. She won many awards for her work, and had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances (the funeral hall was less than half the size need to accommodate all those who came to pay their respects). By all accounts she was an amazing person, and I am sad that I knew her only through her daughter, who is incredibly kind, unfailingly patient, and fiercely stubborn!

When we arrived at the funeral hall - U in a black suit with white shirt and black tie (not to be confused with the same black suit with white shirt and white tie he would wear to a wedding), and me in a black suit and black blouse (neck shockingly bare of the requisite pearl necklace!)... When we arrived at the funeral hall there were receipt-type forms for us to fill out with name and address, which we handed to the reception desk along with a special envelope (purchased from a stationary store or your local convenience store). The envelope (make sure to avoid the one with red writing and decoration used for weddings, and also make sure to chose the black/silver decorated envelope depending on whether the person has just passed away or for the Buddhist memorial ceremony some time after the death) is inscribed with the giver's name written in a special light ink (symbolizing the tears that were shed and mixed in with the ink - a multi-purpose two colour double-ended brush pen is also on sale at the convenience store). The inner envelope is inscribed with the giver's name and address along with the amount of money inside - ranging between 3000 and several million yen depending on the relationship with the deceased, social status, income, etc. The type of bills is also important - the crisp new bills used as a wedding gift are inappropriate at a funeral as it would suggest that you were prepared for, or even impatient for the funeral. Instead old bills are used, but this been clean-obsessed Japan, bills deemed too dirty/creased should be avoided.

Having handed over our envelopes we received a small slip of paper and, since the seats were all filled, were directed to stand in lines of four abreast to watch the ceremony. The ceremony started with the MC (a female employee of the funeral hall at a podium in the back corner of the room) reading a eulogy, then the eldest son rose to say a few words. This was followed by comments (tearful letters to the deceased) from friends, the second of whom performed one of my friend's mother's kami-shibai stories. At the average Buddhist funeral the family members would each light incense in front of the flower-bedecked altar with the photo of the deceased. Instead of incense, my friend's family had prepared white carnations and each person laid one at the table in front of the altar. Once the immediate family members had laid flowers then the important guests did so, bowing to the back-lit photograph and then the family in turn. After them it was our turn, two-by-two we approached the altar, white carnation in hand. What I hadn't realized, or been prepared for, was that the white marble "altar" was actually the casket - with a little window through which you could see the face of my friend's mother deep inside.

As we moved out of the room we were asked for the slips of paper we had presented earlier, and in exchange handed a thank-you gift (a gift box of instant coffee packets and a tin of cookies). We were ushered upstairs to a room of tables with drinks, sushi, and other food. Along one wall was displays of kami-shibai, with a sign encouraging us to pick them up and look at them. We had a few bites of food, admired the kami-shibai on display and then headed back downstairs. My friend and her brothers were standing by the door to thank people as they left. When we came down my friend hurried over, looking thin and drawn and very unlike herself. I let go of Japanese tradition completely to give her a big hug, which she half-returned. She is a very undemonstrative person, so I was rather surprised by this, but U says that when I gave her the hug she had, for a split second, a smile on her face. Evidence, I'd guess, of just how much she needed the hug. Before we either had the chance to break down, I told my friend to call me when things calmed down so we could get together, and U and I slipped away, climbing back into his car and driving home through the overcast night.

Oh, and the title of the post? Comes from the final tradition, one that U and I completely forgot about! Ooops...! Having attended a funeral, you have come in contact with the "pollution" or "uncleanliness" of death. To purify yourself you are supposed to have salt thrown at you before you enter your home - similar to the idea of the sumo wrestlers throwing salt about before a match, salt has purifying properties. That would be why the funeral hall had included a small packet of salt in with our thank-you gift.