Friday, June 18, 2010


Things Japanese

It's basically summer now in Japan, which means that seasonal decorations are changing. Gone are the cherry blossoms (plastic or natural) to signify spring. And in their place: watermelon, fireworks and . . . goldfish. Why? Because in the summer time, it's fun to catch goldfish as part of a matsuri.

Here are some people catching goldfish--I took this photo a number of years ago when Gordon and I went to the Gion matsuri in Kyoto. And since then, it just seems like the goldfish is everywhere as an emblem of summer. It makes sense. Japan is so hot. The goldfish live in nice cool water.

And this year, all of the sudden, I kept seeing ads for "goldfish jelly." And finally, I found some for sale in the Takashimaya in Nagoya station. The jelly packs come in a "net." I had to buy one. I ended up eating it in the Kansai airport, convinced I couldn't take it through security. Honestly? The flavor was okay (no, the fish weren't real). I think it probably tastes best chilled. And really, the whole point is that the jelly is cute to look at.

Everywhere I went, Ewan and I were well taken care of. There was, in the women's bathroom, a little chair where I could "park my child." Here is the chair.

Here are the directions--bilingual, you will note. As a mother, I am actually quite adept at going to the bathroom while carrying a baby. Fortunately, I had Ewan in the stroller most of the time, so I didn't have to demonstrate my dexterity. But oh for a baby parking place in the bathroom stalls at home--and on a plane!

People deplore the decline in manners in Japan and the fact that it is quite possible to ride a train with a small child, and for someone not to get up and give you a seat as they would in the old days. I don't know. These things are sort of like comparing the standard of service for airlines. United *used* to be so great and now is just trying to make a buck. Well, Japan is still pretty great when I think of what life is like in the US. Look at the following, for example.

That's right--it's an elevator just for babies and the the elderly. And it was even policed by a woman in a blue suit. Granted, it was also in a very high end department store. But I'd never see this at home in New York, where an asshole of an attorney cut in front of me in line at the airport precisely because I had a baby and looked like an easy target. And did I ever let the United Airlines agent have it when she proceeded to route a group of people in front of me for the same reason.

I'm generally fascinated by elevators in Japan. Almost all the train stations now seem to have them. And of course, the design is so practical and so much better than the pee infested steel traps of the New York subway. Not sure if you can see from this photo--but the train station elevators are all curved, with two sets of doors. You go in, naturally curve to the right, and then exit through the opposite doors. The boxy elevator is sculpted to allow for traffic to flow.

The elevators are also almost always glass, so you rarely feel claustrophobic. It can be a trip to be in one of these things, and to pass by floors, and to see the innards of a multi-storied building. That's a photo for next time.

I'm not too sure what to make of this trend. These are fingerless gloves, designed to keep the sun off of your arms. Of course, gloves like this don't do anything to protect hands. I suppose that the gloves are lighter than wearing a sweater over a short sleeved shirt and in that sense are practical. I meant to check some out in a store, but never got around to doing so.

No, these are not baby clothes. These are dog yukata (summer kimonos). I found this rack at a 100 yen shop, which I guess means that even dog clothing for Japanese puppies is made in China.

Japanese hotel breakfasts are still the best, most nutritious food you will eat in the morning. No cardboard donuts, or pellets from a plastic dispenser. No dried out toast that is advertised as "continental breakfast." Just, real food. Generous portions too.

There is a trend here. I cannot leave Ewan alone in a department store before he is surrounded by women (Okay. I didn't leave him completely alone. He was with my mother). It happened in Beverly Hills, and it happened here in Nagoya. One minute I was shopping for something and the next thing I knew, a group of women in kimonos had gathered around my son, who was very happy for the attention.

He is going to be trouble.

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Some of my NYC public school students who are really into anime and manga wear those fingerless glove/arm warmers. Some of them also "read" Japanese fashion magazines, which is where they may have picked up the trend.
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