Sunday, June 28, 2009

Japan Again

Well, we're back in Japan again. It's taken me a while to relearn this blogging technology on a new computer, so let's see how it goes. It was a rough day of traveling to get here. We had to get up at 4AM to catch a 5:30AM flight, so I got about 3 hours of sleep the night before. We had four flights to get to our final destination in Nagoya. Miraculously, we made them all, even with delays and cancellation of one flight. Still, it was 26 hours of traveling. Our long flight from Japan came from Mexico City. They let the people get off the plane, but quarantined them in a glass enclosure around the gate. We had to wait outside until they got back on the plane to get in to the gate area. With the swine flu hysteria, all the customs agents and so on in Nagoya were wearing face masks. I guess I would be too, if I had their job. Anyway, we haven't come down with anything. No intense cravings for bacon or anything.
We made it, but they lost one of our suitcases. We had about 250 pounds of stuff, so I was kind of glad they lost it. It wasn't anything we desperately needed, and they agreed to send it to Masami's mom's house when they found it. Still, another delay in a long day, filling out more paperwork. We had a crowd waiting for us as we left customs. Actually they were waiting for a Korean pop star. We got to see him walk right past us with his entourage and security. My plastic Samsonite suitcase with the FRAGILE stickers all over it was broken in four places, so we had to fill out more paperwork and Masami extorted some money from the airline. She's pretty good at that. They must have really tried to break the suitcase to do that good a job. Aren't they supposed to be gorilla proof? Not immune to the airline gorillas, apparently.
We stayed at Masami's younger brother's new house. We usually stay at his house with his family, since he conveniently lives in the Phillipines. Masami has a great relationship with her brothers as long as they're thousands of miles away. The wife and two boys have been living in the house for about 6 weeks. It still smelled new, like fresh wood. It was clean and uncluttered, too, which is incredibly rare for a Japanese home. It's a really nice house by Japanese standards, tall and narrow, with no yard, of course. The floors were pine and the kitchen had stainless steel counters and appliances that looked like they belonged in an airplane cockpit. The deluxe stove has three burners, not the usual two that we have here at Masami's mom's. The washing machine talks to you, and the bathtub tells you when the bathwater is ready via intercom to the kitchen. I don't think I could even figure out how to use the "Urbane Wind Ion Generating System" (fan). Masami's brother has a poster for the old Jacques Tati movie Mon Oncle, in which there's a house that has all these fancy futuristic gadgets. This house reminded me of that.
One of my favorite gadgets was the shoe dryer, which came in handy with the torrential rain of the rainy season here.

They had some of Masami's artwork that she had done as an undergrad at the Art Institute. I had never seen it, and was surprised that it was pretty good. Too bad she doesn't do artwork any more.
Masami's brother is living in the Phillippines on a three year project that turned into a five year project. I think this is the second project like that he's done, too. He does come home for a month a year and keeps in touch by video phone over the internet.
Theo had fun playing with his cousins. Actually, they mostly played on their Nintendo DSes, so it was more like parallel play, like preschoolers do before they learn to socialize. We also went to the ricefields to look for critters. It's a suburban area, but it's quite different from America. Japanese cities are pretty ugly, and Nagoya's about the ugliest I've seen. I don't think there's such a thing as urban planning in Japan. It's pretty random. The house was in a nice neighborhood, but there was a playground next to a machine shop, next to a tiny ricefield, next to an apartment building. We found tadpole shrimp, crayfish, and played in the mud.

Masami's other brother's family came over for the obligatory dinner and stayed about an hour (except for the son, who was at soccer practice).
We had a nice visit, and it was a good way to get over jetlag. We went to the science museum and the aquarium, and shopping at used shops (Masami for kimono stuff, me for Jinglish t-shirts). Then we were off to Kyoto for a couple of days, where I'll pick up with the next blog entry.