Sunday, January 15, 2012

Well prepared

Junbi ga ii

What do people who celebrate Christmas with a live tree do with the tree? Do they chop it up and leave it out for the trash? Use it for firewood?

In Japan, there is a designated method of disposal for New Year decorations. They are burnt in a traditional bonfire. The ceremony is called "dondoyaki" or "dondonyaki"  in Pumpkin Prefecture (other names in other areas include but are not limited to "tondoyaki" "dontoyaki" and "sagicho" but they all involve burning New Year decorations) and it usually takes place on January 15th or thereabouts (adjusted these days so that it falls on a weekend and everyone can take part). 

The week before, local kids will come knocking at your door to collect your New Year decorations and two-eyed daruma dolls. Their loot will be placed in a great tower, with straw mats and firewood added for form and flammability.

Our local dondoyaki took place in the park the Pumpkin Prince and Princess frequent. The fire department stands by, just in case. 

This is my neighbor. She came prepared with dried squid skewered on twigs. When the bonfire settles, she'll roast the squid to eat. Others came with mochi (rice cakes) on sticks, and sweet potatoes in tin foil.

Here they are, getting ready to light the fire. Not all the darumas have actually earned their second eye. Many (o.k., nearly all) were bought and given two eyes just for today.

Ready, set!

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn....

It only took a minute or so for the blaze to reach full force. To be honest, until this moment, I thought the Fire Department was kind of overkill. Now, I am glad they were there.

After the blaze settled down, everyone who came prepared roasted their squid and mochi. Eating food cooked by the dondoyaki flames is supposed to bless the person with good health throughout the year.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I am glad you are around.

Anata ga ite yokatta

I think I caught a watered down version of the flu. I was achy, I had a fever, I felt like I'd been run over by a car. But it only lasted a day and a half. I think it was the flu, but I'm not sure. I didn't get that test where they stick a piece of paper up a nostril and see if it changes color. I didn't even go to a clinic or hospital. I got vaccinated last fall, so it was probably watered down by that, if it was the flu. Which I think it was. But I am not an internist, nor do I play one on TV.

But that's not the point. The point is that I felt awful for a day and a half, and I was completely useless. And during that day and a half, the Pumpkin Daddy bought me ice cream and udon, and kept the kids fed and played with them and did the laundry and vacuuming.  And when I felt better and told him thank you for everything, he totally blew me off. And he's tall. And looks good in random articles from Eddie Bauer.

And he always does the laundry. And the vacuuming.

And I am so lucky to have him. All the time. But more than usual this weekend.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year decorations

oshougatsu kazari

We had a Christmas tree (since we don't have a fireplace, we needed to make a place for Santa to put the presents) but we put it away. The only holiday decorations in the house right now are these.

The small ones on either side are what the Pumpkin Daddy brought home from his holiday party at work. The large one in the middle is an arrangement my mother made from orchids she got from her neighbor and some things in the garden. The pine (matsu) are symbols of longevity. The clustered red berries are called manryo and which mean "ten thousand ryo," ryo being a large unit of currency in pre-Meiji restoration Japan, and the red berries surrounded by leaves are senryo, or "thousand ryo." The obvious reference to prosperity in their names makes them popular as New Year's decorations.

My mother insisted on bringing them on the 30th of December, as opposed to the 29th or the 31st, because 

1) The 29th has a 9, or "ku" in it. "Ku" means suffering, making the 29th unlucky.

2) Bringing them on the 31st would mean they would only be there for a single day before New Year's Day, making them unlucky.

Japanese superstitions are based on puns. We're punny like that.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Shin-nen no houfu

1. Clean desk at work

My 8th grade English teacher used to have this sign that said "a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind." Which may be true, but a cluttered desk devoid of flat surfaces is not very productive. Which leads us to...

2. Write something on it.

Obviously, I don't mean write something like "I heart Alex O'Loughlin." I would like to write something technical that would help others with their work, and I can put on my CV, because...

3. Reassess career plan.

I am on the career track I wanted for myself right after graduation, before I understood the Dark Side of this job. Right now, staying with the Dark Side is the lesser evil available to me. I'd like to see if there is something less sinister I can realistically attain. If not, I'll stick to the Dark Side as long as they will have me. It's not like we're sucking the blood out of babies (though we hang with people that do...kidding, but not 100%...)

4. Continue to get up early every morning.

About a year ago, my BFF mentioned she got up at 5:30 every morning to run. So I tried it. While I am not a runner, getting up early gives me time to do a short Pilates workout, or do little things around the house, or, (gasp!) research work stuff. It takes effort, though. I have to fight and conquer the desire to stay in bed (otherwise I just play alarm clock tag for an hour), remember to have all my clothes laid out the night before (otherwise I just stand in the closet in a kind of daze for an hour), and stay away from the computer (I get sucked in by e-mail and Facebook checking) to get anything out of it. But worth the effort.

5. Limit late night lapses into junk food to once a week.

This is a carry over from last year. It has become a habit, probably like the way others smoke.

I can think of so many other things, but these five are probably what is realistic for the time being.