March 2005 Archives

the wait

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Some of you may remember that even in the urban jungle of Tokyo, I trained and worked hard to enable my cats to go outside. And this was living on the 5th floor of an apartment complex with no gardens whatsoever.

My current living situation is a little better, but also similar. I live on the 3rd floor and there is a back door to a small garden through the garage on the ground level. I slowly had to train the cats again; at night, I open our front door, walk down to the garage, open the back door and let them out. Waka is still spooked by the various noises and now rarely ventures out, but Kats will whine at the door until I let him out and he'll run down ahead of me.

I leave both our front door and the garage back door ajar (thank you to my housemates who allow me to do this!!), and once the cats are home, I have to go down and close the garage door. I basically need to be waiting for them.

Most times, Kats stays out about an hour and comes back up. But every once in a while, something will perk his interest and he'll be away for 3 or even 4 hours.

Needless to say, I get worried. On the one hand, I'm happy for him to really spend time outdoors and explore all he wants. On the other hand, I can't wait to get him in my arms again. Every time, faithfully, he does come home and nudge me. I hug him immediately. I can't help but worry until he comes back, but the immense pleasure I have when I see him again is the reward.

Tonight Kats went out for a long time. I sat up waiting. Now he's back, and we'll all go to bed.

[my god, I am such a cat lady! At least Dav balances me out so I don't dedicate my whole life to them! Seriously, did you notice all the cat pictures I have by my desk in the previous post?? Click on the photo to see background details]

a tiny dare

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During dinner last night, my 2 housemates made a dare that if I wore a certain t-shirt to work, I'd get a back massage. I wore a cardigan for most of the day, but always with enough open to show the "...uck li..." When I walked in this morning, Ginevra immediately recognized the shirt (being the super cool gal that she is). But I also had to wear my shirt, sans cardigan, during a meeting...which I did. No comments from anyone. Curious. Ezra did waltz into the meeting with a camera for evidence (2nd picture).

Now that it's near the end of the day, I'm a bit more comfortable so I had Ginevra take a pic of me. Can you read the t-shirt?


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For Christmas, Kimi (bless her heart for knowing me so well), gave me the best gift: a wine opener. Many people know that I'm horrible at opening wine bottles. I've been seen holding the bottle between my legs pulling and heaving at the cork. I've broken corks and had to give up on bottles...

But this 'machine' from Kimi is the most amazing no-fault, easy-does-it, corkscrew opener. I had my doubts, but it works so fine. I can open a bottle elegantly without holding my breath and pulling with all my might. In fact, Emerick caught me at dinner at home when I pulled out the cork with one (1) hand and was proud as can be!!

The set comes with a wrapper cutter and plugs for when we don't finish the wine. The perfect gift that is coming in handy indeed!

[ps. the shadows in the product photo are of Waka and Kats who were curious...]

Bunny Time!

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There was the most fantastic bunny party last night. I can't believe I've never been before since it's been going on for several years. Went with Elida, Sean, and Emerick.

Elida came over beforehand with a bag full of accessories and we spent several hours debating what to wear, cutting out pink cloth, and sewing together our bunny outfits. At one point, since I'd never been before, I was worried if in fact the party was really about bunnies and whether we'd show up all decked out for nothing. But my gosh, we were tame compared to the amazing variety of costumes we saw! Every bunny had a personality and it was hilarious to see what people came up with. And what a fairy-tale of a theme; to have a huge warehouse of gorgeous bunnies, bunny bands, bunny fashion shows, bunny games, bunny food, etc. Totally worth it!!

Emerick decided to go last minute, so I had him put on an old pink hat I picked up a thrift store years ago. He looks good in anything!

Elida and me at home before leaving ... proud of our pretty last minute concoction of an outfit.

A poor crucified bunny, and a scary blue hunch back bunny.

Around midnight, Sean and Emerick were 'caught' by the bunny patrol because they didn't look bunny enough. They got dragged to the make-over area, were guarded so they couldn't run away, then placed in front of a gleeful make-up artist. They look real thrilled with their whiskers, no?

They had various musical shows for entertainment, and goodies on a table in a bunny bowl and a sheep bowl. All the details of the party planning were fantastic.

Bumped into Jason from work, which didn't surprise me. He had a tux and looked like a very swanky bunny.

Click to see video

Click to see video

Click to see video

The videos are hard to comprehend, but they are of a dance by Madame Bunny, a bunny band, and the main dance floor when giant plastic green balls were bounced around.

Emerick took pics with his high-quality digital camera so I'll get copies and post better pics later. :)

Family time!

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Friday night, Ian invited me over to stay at his place. The plan was a slumber party, watch Tyler's little league skills in the morning, then a movie. Family time that can't be beat. As we were driving to Alameda where he lives Friday night, Izumi called to check where we were. I got the feeling the kids were tired, but hanging in there cuz they wanted to see daddy.

But when we got there, I walked in and the living room that was dark suddenly lit up, a video of Hello Kitty dancing to Happy Birthday came on, home-made decorations came into my view, and Izumi, Tyler, and Julia were jumping up and down. Ian began belting out Happy Birthday. What an awesome surprise! [It's actually a bit early, but I am so touched and happy!]

On the table, there was a cute paper cake that Tyler and Julia made. Tyler spelled my name and drew pictures of cats on it. Julia pasted on butterfly stickers. Wow, their memory: they obviously understand I love my kitties and Julia must have noted the blue butterfly I wore at the company Christmas party. As we chatted into the night, Julia dozed off on the sofa. So cute.

This morning, we watched the little league team. It was really nice to see all the parents out and dads playing catch with their tiny 5 year olds. It was pretty hilarious to watch since the kids didn't quite get what was going on. Ian and I caught 2 basemen discussing bumble bees even as someone was batting. One time, a runner went after to catch a ball instead of running. It is a confusing game to learn!

Then we watched Robot at a fantastic local Alameda theater that is in a converted old church. There are sofas galore and was a very warm neighborhood place. The guy who sold our tickets, got our popcorn and ran the film was one guy! I'll have to get you the name of it later.

Now I'm off to preparing for the bunny party tonight ;)

Neat Adaptive Path party

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Joined fellow Six Aparters at Adaptive Path's 4th anniversary party. Right around the block from our office, a taco truck serving yummy free food, and an open bar. That's a party to go to, I say! Nice to see my brother there too mingling and enjoying himself. No need for real name tags, so the Adaptive Path folks gave out creative ones.

I'm quite proud of the last photo. Can you tell who he is? He *is* part of the solution!

The strangest coincidence

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Lately, I've been experiencing the most amazing coincidences, and I love them for the quirky twists they bring to me. But tonight was weird.

I went to dinner with Elida whom I love to talk and hang out with. After dinner, I suggested we stop by one of my favorite bars, the Odeon Bar. I love that place because every time I go, no matter what sort of crazy event they have going on, I have a blast. Tonight, however, we walked in and there was a different crowd. A little, shall I say. Then I find a big screen with the words "WordPress." Whaaaaa? Then I see people I recognize from the - eeek! B-l-o-g-o-s-p-h-e-r-e. So I poke Niall Kennedy (a good old friend at this point with our intersecting careers) and he tells me this is a party for WordPress for its 100,000+ downloads and announcement of its incorporation. AND, he was just hanging out with my brother at a conference at Stanford.

Congratulations to WordPress!! But sheesh, I *really* came here to hang out with Elida, expecting some weird band to be belting out cover songs from the 1980s using pots and pans.

Blogging is everywhere!!

The cool thing was we also met up with a friend from the Dive Bar crowd who told us about a neat Bunny party this weekend. Elida and I are *so* there!!

Obachan too!

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And of course I got to see my grandmother too! Here is my mother, my grandmother, and me.

to share a bit more...

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I'm back in SF. I've been more into my emotions and family, and wanting privacy, so I haven't posted much. It's weird. Showing my daily life seems so natural, yet at this very intimate moment, and out of respect for my grandfather and family, I want to keep the funeral private.

For my brother and Dav, who were not able to be there, I took many camera photos and even videos of the priest doing his rituals and chant. Wanting to show what I see is a strong desire, so I discreetly documented the 2 days of rituals and the funeral. But I won't post it here.

However, I do want to share a bit, and I've been asked to describe about the funeral process. Photo-wise is as follows:

  • The entrance of my grandparentís house all decked out in funeral decorations. It was freezing, but the funeral company planted various flowers. The lanterns say, "The Yaginuma Household." Anyone seeing black and white lanterns knows that means a funeral.

  • My mother adjusting her kimino for the funeral.

  • Preparing the charcoal ink, used in calligraphy, for the priest who will write my grandfather's new name on a special wooden block. In Buddhism, when a human passes away, he becomes a spirit and a disciple of the Buddha. In essence, he returns to his spiritual path. My grandfather's name was 柳沼清作 Yaginuma Seisaku. As a spirit, the priest gave him the name 瑞岳清穏; Zuigaku Seion. The characters mean auspicious, male-like, "sei" from his original name, and gentle.

  • The plum Ume tree blossoming. My grandfather was quite the gardener, and he made sure there was always something blooming or beautiful to look at no matter what the season.

  • My uncle and cousin sharing a good time during the dinner after the funeral. This whole experience brought the family very close together. We dropped everything but what mattered: family, reflecting life, and appreciating each other.

  • My dad and I taking a walk on the morning of the funeral. We almost got lost, but reminisced about the memories the neighborhood brought us. I got severe spring allergies after innocently walking around without a mask and medication. I paid dearly!

  • A daikon garden my dad and I passed. My, what big daikon!

  • My mother and aunt getting dressed in a black kimono. My mother actually borrowed the outfit. But my aunt had one with the crest of the family she married into and my aunt-in-law had her family crest kimono that she had inherited but never worn before. My grandparent's neighbor kindly dressed them as it's impossible to tie the obi knot by oneself. Putting on a kimono is not simple.
  • About the funeral:

    I realized how important funerals are. The process of many rituals really does help one adjust to the new reality. The priest came over and did about an hour of chanting and giving incense. Family members gave incense as well as guests at the wake. From an outsider, picking up bits of incense, putting it to your forehead, then placing it gently on a burning block, then praying, might seem weird. And this is in addition to sitting seiza style for an hour as the priest chants. But if you grow up with that, it's full of meaning. And doing that for my grandfather helped me realize he really passed away. The neighbors came and distant family members came. It was truly a shared experience.

    Once my grandfather was prepared for showing at home, he was never left alone. His children took turns staying by his side, but the last night before the funeral, we all spent the night there. It was like camp a bit, since there was little room and we put down futon wherever there was space, but we shared this last night. I think it's special to have this time at home with the person who passed away, to be able to grieve just with family for as long as you need.

    For the actual funeral, we had another long priest led ritual at the house. The priest wore a pretty magnificent outfit and had a horsetail looking tool that he swished around several times. The rituals were so complicated that he took the time to explain to us about what we needed to do. Once that was done, the men of the family carried the box with my grandfather to a special car and we all drove to the crematorium. There, we waited an hour, then were presented with the remaining bones. It may sound strange, but I think it's actually very healthy to have a ritual where family members pick the bones with special chopsticks and gently place them in the final vase. The crematorium officer explained certain bone parts so we knew what we were touching. The throat part (Adam's apple) is the most important and then the skull is placed at the top. We also placed my grandfather's glasses inside.

    Even in a vase, he will remain at the house for 49 days until he is put into the cemetary. Then on various dates having to do with "7" there are more rituals. So in the end, he's certainly still with us, even though in a different form. For me, I've already given incense here in SF and said, "hey there" to my grandfather.

    As soon as I arrived, my mom and I went to visit my grandfather. Right now he's in an open wooden casket and will be cremated on Monday. Someone must always be with the body and the family has been taking turns staying with him. Part of me wants to blog about what a Japanese funeral is like, since it is quite fascinating and full of rituals. It's also interesting to be a part of the preparations. But I know you'll understand that I'd feel way too weird to blog about the details.

    What I wanted to share was how he died. This is an aspect that brings tears to all of us, because it seems perfectly how he would have wanted it all to happen. He died suddenly and peacefully, while taking his evening bath before bedtime. But what we think about is how last fall, he changed the tatami mats in the house, so now they are beautifully fresh and perfect for the funeral. We noticed he had just weeded the yard last weekend and gathered a pile of leaves from the back of the house, so it was all clean. That night, he ate dinner and washed all his dishes. And just before getting into the bathtub, he turned off the kotatsu heater and the gas for hot water. This was what he did all the time, but in this way, he took care of everything necessary before leaving us.

    And the saying goes if you die in a bathtub, that's the fastest way to heaven (or wherever it is we go) because you are all cleansed and ready for the next world.

    As Ian mentioned in his wonderful post about おじいちゃん, he didn't want to cause any fuss.

    I didn't realize how important it is for family to be able to see his face in a casket. Otherwise, I'd be in denial and convince myself he was just snoozing and would wake up and ask for tea.

    I woke up this morning to an email from my mom to my brother and me that our おじいちゃん, our grandfather, had just passed away. He was 87. His name was Yaginuma Seisaku, although I've called him おじいちゃん my whole life. It took a while to sink in, but by the time I got myself to work, I had decided that I had to be there for the funeral. I thought I had myself together, but the minute I saw my brother, tears swelled up.

    I am most lucky, as Six Apart has been very understanding and helpful. I have a flight leaving tomorrow morning that will get me to Tokyo in time. And equally important is that I will be there for my mother.

    I am also lucky that I can search my old TokyoTidbits and find entries of my grandparents and reunions. I am glad おじいちゃん is part of my blog life!

    There is so much to say about おじいちゃん. He experienced Japan during a time of rapid change, the war, and the occupation. He and his siblings were raised by his mother only, which was a rare thing back in the day, and he was the eldest son, so he worked for the family and protected her. I remember him telling a story about how proud he was when he was able to afford a family plot at the cemetery. He was only 20 years old and it was quite an accomplishment for him to do that. By the end of his story, both he and I were in tears.

    He was a rather traditional man, but when my dad came along and swept my mom off her feet, he accepted. Although we had met our grandparents as babies, my first recollection of meeting them was when I was 8. Both my grandfather and grandmother were most warming and welcoming, and even though we couldn't communicate to each other since I didn't speak Japanese yet, I felt close to them. He never made either Ian or I feel we were different.

    I remember sitting around a table as Ian and I tried to teach him English words. We were eating celery and giggled over his attempts to pronounce the "l' and the "r". He laughed along and repeated it with glee.

    I want to write down everything I remember of him so I can pass it on to my kids one day. I think I'll do that on the plane ride over.

    This will be a difficult experience. Every time I've gone back to Tokyo, I've visited our family cemetery to say 'hi' to my ancestors. This will be the first time to go for a funeral so close to my heart.

    This was a picture of Ian that Tyler (his son) drew of him. Ian showed it to me, and we were both baffled by the crazy eyes and frog-like semblance. I imagine it must be one of the neatest aspects of having children; to have them look back at you with the most honest eyes, and tell you about life as they see it.

    Dav and I have wonderful renditions of ourselves that Tyler and Julia created for us this past Christmas.

    Dav is wearing me, and I am wearing Dav (see his ponytail?)

    Tyler's art is brilliant. Looking forward to Julia's.

    Second Life continues

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    Remember Second Life? Real life has been quite busy so Dav and I hadn't met up in Second Life for quite some time. Tonight we did. And to my chagrin, I had forgotten how to move around (plus, there seemed to be computer glitches). I was supposed to meet Dav at our 'home' but instead of flying, which is super quick, I had to walk (over hills and through rivers). Finally, Dav IM'd me asking where the hell I was. So he told me the keys to get me flying...only thing is it didn't work very well, so I kept having to fly through trees, getting stuck behind walls, and getting lost between buildings.

    Finally, I arrived on a building top next to our home (thus the religious symbol that our neighbor seems to have gigantically constructed). And to my pleasant surprise, Dav had bought me butterfly wings and butterfly jeans! I love them. But when I put the wings on, I somehow managed to push enough keys to make myself fall off the building. And I've never seen my avatar do this, but I fell flat on my face...WITH my butterfly wings. I can't help but wonder if Second Life is smart enough to make fun of people like me. I mean, they didn't have to show me falling on my face!

    Click on the pic to enlarge. Dav has a new outfit too! Now I guess we'll go on dates in Second Life since he's in Brazil.

    p.s. Notice my bunny slippers? :)


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    Here are pictures of Amy and Keisuke, and their 1 year old Woodstock, lovingly called Putz, climbing up my pants. The rest of the pictures are of a beautiful walk Amy and I took at Powell Butte Park. Can you see Mt. St. Helens in the background?

    Those close to me know the story of Amy and me, but I don't think I've had the occasion to introduce Amy here. The simplest story is that we met in nursery school way back when we lived in Essex, CT. And we've remained friends ever since. That's over three decades! It's hard to explain, but perhaps we were close in our past lives, so once we met this time, maintaining our friendship for life was only natural. All I know is that she is a true friend and we've been blessed with such a special relationship.

    What's really cool is that Amy speaks Japanese! After I moved to Japan when I was 9 years old, we kept in touch. I visited once in junior high, and she visited me in Tokyo during high school. When she went to college, she began taking Japanese language courses, ended up doing her Junior Year Abroad in Tokyo, then came to teach in Japan through the JET Programme. By then she was speaking Japanese very well.

    So in addition to having our history, we can also share the 2 cultures we love.

    Now check this out: she currently teaches kindergarten at a Japanese immersion school in of the few such programs in the USA (the one where my college buddy Michael's son attended; see below). I've attended her class before and she is an amazing teacher. It doesn't surprise me that over 90 students try to get in her tiny classes each year. Parents stop her when they see her around town to say either they are grateful for how she taught their child, or that they are praying that their child can get into her class. She's been interviewed in books, and here is a cool article done by the George Lucas Educational Foundation on the program she is a part of. View the video clip included cuz it shows her teaching in action!

    And finally, the best part of all this is that she met Keisuke, who is a junior high teacher at the Japanese immersion school. They make the perfect cute couple!

    Dinner at the Walcott's

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    I went to college with Michael and we've always had many similarities. He and Allison met in college, married, and now have 3 beautiful boys. Michael warned us to be prepared for the commotion of 3 boys, but they were so well-behaved. We had a wonderful dinner all together and caught up on life.

    Amy and Raven came along too.

    Michael and Allison are both half-Japanese like me. Their sons go to Japanese schools. And the real cool thing is Amy was the kindergarten teacher of Caleb...since she teaches in the Japanese immersion school here. All by coincidence...or not? I love such connections!


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    We got to go inside a decommissioned submarine. Very cool, but unbelievable living conditions. Hard to imagine 72 crew members on there. And the smell of the diesel fuel plus the engine noise would make me go nuts!

    At OMSI

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    To see their Animal Grossology exhibit. Cute.

    Good 'ol Portland

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    Drove by my old college, then went to a gigantic fabric store where Raven and I bought material to make our planned twin pink-fur-playa-princess outfits. I also got some cute skunk material. Psyched to start working on the costumes!


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    Visiting this weekend. Hanging with Raven tonight and will meet Amy and Michael tomorrow. All good friends with special memories. Great to be here.

    Jetlag catching up

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    Poor Seki-san. He has had non-stop meetings for the past few days. International business trips are always packed with many agenda items. With jetlag, you basically don't sleep. Otsukaresama!

    My work buddy

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    Where I work is pet friendly so folks can bring their dogs to work. I love walking down the hallway and bumping into a dog. Only thing is, I get jealous cuz I'd love to have my cats with me when I work too. But they're super shy and would hate me if I brought them in. Besides, they've never seen a dog.

    Tonight I had my laptop open and Mr. Kats joined me. Although he has his regular "I'm bored and just want to nap" look, he seemed to dig my laptop. I dig his paws. Aren't they so cute? I can't help pushing on his paw pads all the time.

    Dav, you asked how the cats were doing, so you can't say I post too much about my cats!

    Dinner in the rain.

    Waterfront Restaurant
    San Francisco, CA 94111
    GPS: 37.799465, -122.39722
    Street Map / Image Map

    Posted via MMM@Garage Cinema Research

    *** So I came home from a dinner with Nob Seki and Ginger, and attached the second picture later just for fun. Do want a more table-like way to add in photos. But my gosh, the quality is horrible. Sorry!! I still wanna keep all my testing up for you to see. Thanks for your patience!