Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Fall Close-up

It's been getting colder and we've pulled out the electric blanket to warm the bed at night. But midday, in the sun, can be sunny and warm and beautiful!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Musings on multi-language services

I'm interested in visitor services in museums, particularly multi-language services or services for minority groups (ie foreigners in Japan, new imigrants to Canada, Indian communities in the UK, or Hispanic communities in the US). I feel strongly that, especially when these minority groups are residents (regardless of length of residency), such services can be useful in creation of a sense of belonging for the minority group, establishing mutual understanding and improving relations with the larger community, and a host of other benefits apart from the basic truth that, despite linguistic and or cultural differences, minority groups are residents too, and deserve to be recognized and treated as such.

So I'm always delighted to discover a Japanese museum offering such services, or advertising that it offers such. So when I discovered that the Edo-Tokyo Museum ( mentions multi-language services on their Japanese language "barrier-free" page, I was impressed... until I realized the conceptual placement of multi-language services within those offered by the museum... The page has three divisions of services - those for individuals with physical disabilities, those for visitors bringing children, and other. Multi-language services (the audio guide for the permanent exhibition, offered in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean) are the last listing in the first group.


車椅子OK 貸出場所:1階・6階(無料)
白杖・杖 OK 
盲導犬・聴導犬・介助犬 OK 
点字表示 あり 

On one hand I can understand this placement, as the preceding listings are for various types of information in Braille and touchable exhibits for blind visitors. Listing a Japanese audio guide (presumably predominantly for blind visitors) among these services makes sense. Listing foreign language audio guides with the Japanese also makes sense. But I can't seem to shake the feeling that being a non-Japanese speaker is being equated with a physical disability... Being a foreigner in Japan (whether or not you speak Japanese) can sometimes be compared to having a disability of some sort (linguistic? cultural?), and services for foreigners in Japanese museums are often included in services referred to as being for those with disabilities or in a socially weak position (a specific Japanese term that doesn't translate well into English) - along with services for (the increasing number of) elderly or (the decreasing number of) children/parents with babies. 

So why does this placement bother me? I guess I would prefer the listing of the Japanese and foreign language audio guides to be separate, with the foreign language guides having a listing of their own under the "other" heading, showing that they are recognized as a resource for a certain group of visitors. I would like to think that a Japanese audio guide for blind visitors would be designed differently than foreign language audio guides (more so to as to be able to respond to the needs of blind Japanese visitors!). But does it matter? Does the placement of these services within the museum's page actually matter?

It is interesting to note that in English (, the page becomes "Visitor Information," with a section entitled "Services (Free-of-charge)." Five separate services are listed - two of which relate to multi-language services (volunteer guides, audio guides), one to physical disabilities (borrowing a wheelchair), one to visitors with children, and the final being an "other."



Volunteer Guides 1F 6F

The volunteers can give visitors museum outlines, help school teachers make plans for educational visits, and act as guides for the permanent exhibition. Our volunteers include English, German, French, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Russian speakers, though guides in some languages are not available on some days.
We may not be always able to assign a guide to you. Reservation should be made as early as the 10th of the month prior to your planned month of visit and no later than 2 weeks prior to your planned visiting day. Depending on guide availability, we may not be able to answer your request. Enquiries should be made to the Volunteer Office. Hours 09:00 to 15:00

Guide earphones 1F 3F

The earphone receiver enables you to tune into the guidance narration. You need to make a deposit to borrow an earphone. It is refundable.

Wheelchair service 1F 5F 6F

Wheelchairs are always available on asking.

Baby carriages 1F 6F Nursery room 1F 5F

Baby carriages are available. Small tables for changing babies' diapers are provided in the Women's restrooms on 1F, 3F, 5F, 6F and 7F.

Coin lockers 1F 3F 7F

Insert a 100-yen coin to use the locker. The coin is returned when you open the locker.


Friday, 16 November 2012

What I learned at work yesterday... (or reason #74563 why I love my job)

In the expanses of Japanese-controlled Manchuria, trains were the major source of transportation of just about anything. The company history of the Southern Manchurian Railway Company includes a fare and tariff chart that lists the prices for various types of items.

In the early 20th century it cost 30 sen (100 sen in 1 yen) per mile (not km, which is interesting as Japan is most definitely metric now) to transport dead bodies. Children were half price (just as live children riding trains in Japan today). Passengers (live ones, sitting in passenger cars) cost considerably more, depending on the class of carriage they chose. Cremated remains cost significantly less, the same price as small (live) animals such as chickens or dogs. In addition, dead bodies could be left at stations for periods of time up to six hours (although this was later extended, with a fee being charged per every 24 hour period the body was held by the station).

I was told all this by a delighted coworker, who rushed to make copies of the pages from the history so she could use it in some later research. We giggled over the painstakingly detailed instructions and rules (and complete lack of hiding behind polite euphemisms as would be common in modern society, especially here in Japan), ignoring the obviously sad message, that the railway likely carried a fairly large number of bodies, especially during the war.

Either way you look at it, however, how can you say historical documents are dry and boring?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Baby A

And stiiiiiil more knitting!

This is a late one, I made a baby blanket for the first baby of a good friend in Canada last year. "Baby" A took her first steps last week and is thus now a toddler not a baby, so I figured I should get on posting about her blanket!

Her mom is a crocheter and a sewer, and little A has plenty of knitters and other crafty people in her life, she had at least two other handmade baby blankets to be wrapped in when first born! But I am a firm believer in not ever having too much knitting wrapped around a little baby! Her mother is a dear friend and a very colourful character, so I went for a rainbow blanket, with the hope that little A would grow up to be just as warm and loving and colourful as her mom.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

(Not so) Wordless Wednesday - A Tale of Two Waters

A while ago I realized that the tap water (and the coffee) at work were upsetting my stomach. And the water (and coffee, and soup, and... and...) at restaurants in the nearby area had the same effect. So I stopped drinking the water and grudgingly began buying bottled water.

A couple of coworkers have told me they find the water at work has a funny smell or taste, but nobody else seems physically adverse to it. The area is, however, known to be a water source in the event of a disaster, so it is likely being held and stored somewhere, hence the funny taste/smell and likely my troubles.

Then, late this summer I was forced to realize that the tap water at home (and coffee, soup, and just about everything I cook!!!) was not agreeing with me. Not to the same extent as the water at work, but still it could not be ignored. After trying various options (the Brita filter had no effect, endless cases of bottled water were a pain to purchase, the local grocery store's water was no good...) we ended up with a water service.

A week trial proved the water past the Sarah stomach test so we signed up. We rent the base and purchase (free delivery) 12 litre bottles of clean and filtred water. The best part is that the water comes out either chilled or hot (85-90 C) and with the sudden dip in temperatures U and I have been enjoying endless cups of tea and herbal tea.

I'm still not happy I can't just drink the tap water, but am very relieved to have it all be water under the bridge!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Baby Knitting

More knitting!

Early this year there seemed to be a baby boom around me, coworkers, friends, friends of friends... So I turned to my knitting needles made up a couple of sets of booties/mitts/hat. They were super fast since they were small - and amused me to no end as U endlessly said "those are tiny! Are you sure you shouldn't make a bigger one? Is the baby actually THAT small?"


The blue set went to a coworker who's wife gave birth to a little boy, and who was going to be receiving a whole batch of hand-me-downs from a relative with a baby girl. My coworker joked about his son being dressed endlessly in pink, and I decided I to do what I could to offset that...

And the green set went to the friend of a friend, a fellow blogger who had her second child earlier this year and who, while I've never met, is somebody I've followed virtually for a while now and who I wanted to reach out to.

Sets like these may not be used by a parent nearly as much nor as long as a blanket, but they are fun to knit and oh so adorable...! I may just have to pull out the yarn and make another one just in case another friend announces she is pregnant...

Monday, 12 November 2012


I finally finished the mammoth afghan for our sofa, or at least the knitting component. But that left me with a dilemma - what to knit? I didn't have any baby knitting that needed doing and thus found myself digging through my yarn stash. I didn't get any inspiration as to a project, but I couldn't stop petting two skeins of handpainted yarn in a glorious soft silk/mohair mix. Soft and ever so pretty - a mix of blues and purples and pinks. Not really my colours, so I knew I'd be knitting and gifting, but absolutely gorgeous and after endless months of knitting with rough wool in dull dull colours, it was a delight to knit, sadly a short lived one as it knit up in no time!

I ended up with a cowl/scarf that is soft and light and pretty and about to be put into a box and mailed off to a wonderful friend who I have not seen in far too long. I hope she enjoys it half as much as I enjoyed knitting it!