Friday, December 21, 2012

Today I learned...

If you blog, have you ever looked at the "stats" page? it's crazy. Today I learned there are people in Tajikistan, India, Malaysia, and Russia reading my blog. What?! I don't know people in ANY of those countries.

It's both inspiring and humbling. Here I am going more than 2 months without posting an entry and there are people from the far corners of the world reading my dinky little blog.

Makes me think I should get my booty in gear and write more often.

Skinny Santa Visits the Play Group.

Today, Santa came to Nishioka (our little corner of Sapporo, Japan). Not the fat jolly guy you'd expect, though. This Santa was a skinny Japanese man. It didn't matter too much though. The Nishioka play group was filled with joyous squeals as Santa danced, sang, and passed out presents.

Even my little one, only 8 months old, was quite taken with this Svelt St. Nick.

That is until it was time to take a picture with him.

We managed in the end to get her calm enough to snap a pic.

Santa was sure a treat today. The main fun, though, was getting to spend time with Jilly's new friends (and their mothers).
Jillian and her friend M-Chan, born only 2 days apart. 

Being part of this weekly play group has been a great experience for me. It's nice to be connecting with neighborhood women in the same stage of life as me. I think we've even made a breakthrough. They've stopped referring to me as Chiyo's mom, and instead use my real name. I, in turn, get to use their given names too! Such a silly thing to be excited about, but I feel like it means I've made it to the inside of this group, rather than just being a foreigner watching from the outside.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Only in Japan: 3 Signs of Autumn

Image source: Trip Advisor

I love Fall. It is by far the best of seasons. Maybe it's because I lived through the death-heat of Fresno summers for 26 years and fall was always a welcomed relief. Or maybe because my birthday is snug in the middle of fall. In any case, I LOVE FALL!

The other day I realized fall had snuck up on me. I went for a walk and ::BAM:: Autumn! It's probably because the signs of Autumn are so different here from what I'm used to. Of course there's the typical changing of leaves, and crisp air, but there are no Halloween decorations on every house, no Fresno Fair, no Pumpkin Spice Lattes. It got me thinking, what are the signs of Autumn in Japan. So with out further ado, I bring to you 3 signs that Fall has come to Japan.

1-The familiar song of the sweet potato truck.
No ice cream trucks in Japan. But they do have guys who drive around singing through a speaker, selling roasted sweet potatoes. We've yet to purchase any, but I hear they're great. Maybe I'll send Stephen down next time I hear his song. 

2-Everyone starts wearing long sleeves and jackets. 
Yes, I know this is typical in the States as well. It's cold; you wear warmer clothing. But here, it seems like the change in clothes has more to do with the date on the calendar than the temperature on the thermometer. October 1, rain or shine, everyone puts away the short sleeves and shorts in favor of long pants, long sleeves, jackets, scarves, and hats. This year, there have been a few very nice, warm days after the 1st. The kind of days where a pair of jeans and a short sleeve shirt are perfect. Yet, we're are the only two people crazy enough to buck the trend and dress for the weather, not the calendar. It usually makes for very funny conversations with every person we see. 
"Eeehhh, samukunai?! (aren't you cold?!)"
"No, it's 75 degrees and sunny. Aren't you hot?"

3-I plugged in my toilet.
Yes, you read that right.
Without central heating, the bathroom can get mighty chilly and who wants to sit on an icy throne in the middle of the night. Not the Japanese! That's why many toilets here are heated. (LOVE IT!) I leave the seat unplugged through out the spring and summer, but once the temperature dips, our favorite appliance gets plugged in.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jillian's Foot: An Update

Jilli's been such a trooper through this whole clubfoot ordeal. Although, I guess it's the only reality she knows, so she doesn't have much to compare it to. 

Her last cast came off in late June. We were so excited to have access to both feet for the first time since she was a week old. 

At that point, the doctor fit her for special shoes that would act as a brace to keep the newly stretched muscles and tendons from shrinking back to where they were. She's been wearing the braces 23 hours a day, every day, since then. 

I was worried at first about how the braces would affect our daily life with Jill. I knew it would be better in the cast for things like baths and play time, since we were now free to have some bare feet time each day. 

Other things though, like diaper changes and clothes, were new territory. Turns out, other than not being able to wear footy-jammies, the bar hasn't been too much of an imposition. And now I have a handy-dandy handle bar to assist in diaper changes. ;)

We've been amazed watching her play while wearing her brace. Her tummy and leg muscles must be getting so strong from all the leg lifts she does. 

She even figured out how to use the bar as leverage to roll over before most babies do. Other things, like finding her feet, took some extra time. But I'm sure now that she's discovered them, it won't be long before she's trying to unstrap her shoes. 

At our last doctor's appointment, we thought we would get the go ahead to move to only night and nap wear. After looking at her xrays, the doc said, "everything looks normal, but let's be extra cautious and keep the bar on 23 hours a day for a few more months." We're not sure how much of this is typical Japanese cautiousness, but even though we're frustrated, we're following doctor's orders and keeping the bar on. :/

We're all anxiously looking forward to FINALLY being graduated out of the bar during the day. I feel like Jill is trying to get mobil and having bare feet would really help her out. Although, I'm sure she'll manage even in the bar. This kid is a go-getter!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Providence and the Play Group

As I look back over the events of the past day and months, I can't help be amazed at God's hand of providence.

Jill woke up earlier than usual from her first nap. After she ate, I tried to Skype my mom. Since she was in a meeting, I thought we should take a walk since the weather is finally turning nice again. I usually only take a purse with a diaper, travel wipes, and a burp cloth rather than my whole diaper bag when I take a walk to the park. Today, I decided to bring the whole bag, even though I only planned on being gone 10-15 minutes. My plan was to go to the park across the street and let her feel the grass, but when we got there I realized the ground was too wet from yesterday's rain. I changed tack and headed to the park a little further down the road where there is more sunshine to dry the ground.

As we neared the 2nd park a women and her 8 month old daughter rushed to catch up to us. 
I met this mom 2 months ago at the park near my house. I was there on a whim and she and her daughter sat with us to chat for a few minutes. 

She recognized me as I was walking. She even remembered my daughter's name and was excited to see Chiyo-chan (Jillian). After chatting our way down the road, past the park, I discovered she wanted to invite me to the neighborhood play group she was walking to. 

I knew this play group existed, I just didn't know where it was, or when it met. I learned the Japanese name for it on Wednesday and was actually looking it up online when Jill woke from her nap this morning. 

As we were walking, the mom told me about how she moved here last year and really wanted to make friends. This was going to be her first day at the kids' club and she was embarrassed to go alone. She was happy she saw me and that I wanted to come too. 

At the kids' club there were dozens of other moms with there kids. Babies and toddlers filled the rooms.  It was wonderful watching Jilli interact with the other babies. I sometimes worry she doesn't get enough time with other little ones since she's the only person under 13 years old at our church. Jill was gentle and sweet as she touched there other babies' faces and hands. She even showed off her giggles and rolling. 

Offering your hand to be chewed on is the international sign of friendship among babies

Before we left to get home for her nap, another mom came up to me to ask if I lived in the building named "LaForce."  I do, and it turns out, so does she. She and her 1 year old son live two floors down and have the parking space next to ours. Go figure. 

The play group meets ever Friday, a 4 minute walk from my apartment. I am so excited to go back again. I feel like a genuine connection is being made, and to think, if Jill had slept for her whole nap, or my mom was free to Skype, or the grass was dry enough to sit on, I never would have gone. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I've taken PB&J for granted for too long. It's just so basic in my mind that I forget it's a novel treat for Japanese. 

For September's culture class, we taught about school culture: lunch ladies, "A+"s, jungle gyms, detention, etc... But the highlight of the day was teaching these housewives how to make "American box lunches."

We scrounged supplies from various stores around the neighborhood to make a quintessential "cold lunch." PB&J, carrot coins, goldfish crackers, chocolate chip cookies, and a juice box. 
Not nearly as pretty as Japanese boxed lunches, but it tastes like home and that's all that matters. 
The reaction was one of surprise, confusion, and delight. When I asked what they thought of the lunch both women agreed it was "mezarashi" (new, novel, strange, unusual). Never before had the ladies eaten peanut-butter AND jelly together on a sandwich; only one or the other.  The carrots also were met with skepticism. Although they ate them, I think it was out of politeness. Perhaps raw carrots for a snack take some getting used to. 

Over all the box lunch was a hit. One student bagged up her leftovers to share with her daughter. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

In A Land Without Target

Since we've been living in Japan, there have been many occasions when we needed to purchase something and we had no idea where to find it. It usually is something simple like cleaning supplies, or miscellaneous household goods. Nothing too bizarre. Yet, we are often stymied when it came to where to look.
I would ask myself, "If I needed "X" in the states, where would I go to find it?"
The answer is always the same: "Target"

But of course, there is no Target in Japan. :(

Don't get me wrong, we've managed okay and been able to find most everything we've looked for. It just took extra thought to do so.

Most recently I was looking for a picture frame for a gift and thought, I can't be the only gaijin to have no idea where to find stuff. So incase there are any fellow confused gaijin reading this blog, I bring to you

"Where to find stuff in a land without Target."

Nitori is great for furniture and miscellaneous household goods. Its pretty much a one stop shop for things to get your apartment set up. They even have example rooms, like Ikea, to give you ideas.  The prices are very reasonable too. Unfortunately for us, we didn't realize going to Nitori was more economical than going to the secondhand stores. And unlike the secondhand stores, when you were done shopping at Nitori, all your stuff matched! We've even found for things like hangers, its cheaper to shop here than the 100 Yen shop.

Go to Nitori to find:
Furniture, household organization stuff, laundry accessories, bedding, curtains, rugs, hangers, picture frames, decorations, dishes, etc...

any denki (electric) store
Last winter we quickly realized not having neighbors on the floor below us meant our apartment was much colder at night than the previous year. We needed an electric blanket and we needed it NOW! Only, we were at a loss about where to find one. I searched Nitori since they had become my new go to place for home goods. Unfortunately, out of the many blankets they carried, none were electric. I was so happy when I stumbled across them while wandering the local denki store. I probably should have guessed I'd find it there. After all, denki mofu (Electric blanket), denki ya (electric store).

Here are some other things you can find at a denki store like Yodobashi Camera, Kojima, or K's Denki:
light bulbs
computers and accessories
cameras and accessories
printers, printer paper, and ink
blow dryers, curling irons, flat irons
headphones, speakers, music players

100 Yen Shop
I like the Dollar store in America, but I LOVE 100 yen shops like Seria, Daiso, and Can-do. Our local 100 shop has become an invaluable resource for kids' English class, craft parties, and other odds and ends. It's hard not to come away with a basket of stuff when you walk through a 100 shop. My favorite 100 Yen purchase has been my dishes. 18 months and still going strong.

I can't even begin to list all the awesome stuff you can find at a 100 Yen shop.

Shimamura, GU, & Uniqlo
Clothes, clothes, and more clothes. If I need clothes at a reasonable price I head to one of these 3 stores. Now, given, I'm much bigger than the Japanese these clothes are designed for, but for the most part I'm able to find stuff that fits for not too much yen. I've even managed to find shoes that fit my big ol' American feet at Shimamura. It was a happy day indeed!

I should probably add that I'm in no way being paid to advertise for these stores and my opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect other A2 missionaries.  Although I'm sure one or two share my love of 100 Yen shops. :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Culture Class: 4th of July

Stephen has been teaching a monthly American culture class to his English students in Chitose. In the past he's talked about things like St. Patrick's Day, Easter, and Mother's Day. Each lesson shares the historical origin, modern celebration, and vocabulary & phrases that go along with it.

This month, the class was focused on Independance Day. 

When Stephen's mom visited, she brought lots of fun red, white, & blue goodies for class.

The ladies we're blown away by our modern celebration of our nation's independence. 

So much red, white, and blue!
I made blue raspberry jello and topped it with whipped cream and a cherry to be festive. I was pleased to learn that they enjoyed their first bites of the classic american dessert. One student even asked me how I made it, asking for specific ingredients. "Did you add lemon juice?"
I smiled and explained that Jello is the easiest dessert in America; just open the box and add water.

Our students showing off their treats
Jillian made an appearance in her 4th of July finest.

a very patriotic diaper change :P

Besides all the sweets and laughter, my favorite part of the class was discussing the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

It was interesting discussing how the idea of being created equal by God shapes American culture. We decided this line has a lot to do with why Japan and America are so different. In Japan, even the language is structured around the idea superior and inferior. Showing respect is a very important value. Americans are often seen as disrespectful from a Japanese perspective because we interact very informally with our superiors and people older than ourselves. After discussing with the group I think we do this because at the core of our national identity, we see all people as equal, not more or less important, and our language and interactions reflect that. 

I always have such a great time with our Chitose ladies. I am eager for the day when they recognize that they too were created by God. I'm looking forward to our next culture class and what truths we can share!

*If you have an idea for an American culture class, leave a comment. We're always open to imput and ideas. :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

God's Got My Back

 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”  Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.  She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes,  he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.  News of this spread through all that region.
Matthew 9:18-26

It figures that the week my pastor gives a message on Jesus the Great Physician is the same week my back goes out.

On Sunday, I was so glad to understand the message. Like always, it was given in Japanese, but this week I felt I understood more than usual. As I was listening, I thought, I believe Jesus can heal, but I don't really have any personal stories to share in small group today. I feel like God was sitting up in heaven laughing, saying, "Child, just you wait..."

Now, I'm not saying God made my back go out to prove a point. I mean, He totally could have. But, no, I am sure this was going to happen regardless. (Too much up and down with the baby can mess you up.) I just feel like the message was extra timely in my life.

Wednesday morning, I was feeling a little stiffer than usual. Bending over to pick up the baby was a bit more of a challenge than usual. By Thursday, I was in tears limping to and from the baby's room. Pulling her from the crib was a force of will. The three steps from the crib to the rocking chair to nurse her took all of my strength.

I spent the morning literally praying through every step. Most of the prayers were something like, "Please, don't let me drop the baby." I even enlisted the prayers of my Facebook friends. (Those of you who prayed, THANK YOU!)

To make matters more interesting, Jill was in the throws of a growth spurt and wanted to eat more often than usual. Which meant I was mobile a bit more than I would have preferred.

For play time, I decided to lay on the floor with Jillian. It was great in theory. I got to rest my back and Jill got to play with Mommy. I say "in theory" because when play time was over, I realized I was stuck. It took me 10 minutes to get up off the floor.

Jilli didn't mind  a little extra playtime. She had Elmo to keep her  busy.

Thursday was the worst of it. Thankfully, Friday and Saturday have been progressively better. I feel like God has been gracious in answering prayers. I'm still not at 100%,  but each trip to the baby's room is a little bit easier.

I'm hoping to be better tomorrow to go to church and share my new story with my small group. Even if it is a week late.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Only in Japan: Poop Card and Other Government Paperwork

Anyone who has lived or worked in Japan will tell you that this is a country that loves their paperwork. It's the downside of their famed efficiency and attention to detail. In order to get anything done, there are myriad forms that first must be filled out, approved, and filed with the appropriate office. If it weren't for our A2 office staff, supervisor, church friends, Japanese teacher...... we'd be lost. It's is easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed.

Now that Jillian is in our lives, it seems that amount of paperwork has increased exponentially. But, in the jumble of paperwork I've submitted since Jilli's birth, the most bizarre has to be the poop card.

What is "the poop card?!" you must surely be asking yourself.

THIS is a poop card

Months and months ago, when I registered my pregnancy to get my pregnancy mark, I received a stack of paperwork to be submitted after birth. It was all pretty standard: birth announcement, application for birth certificate, stuff like that. There was was one form though that was to be submitted for her 1 month check-up. It had a list of different kinds/colors of baby poop with corresponding numbers. I was instructed to categorize my daughter's doo-doo and share the information with the government health center.

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. This is the country that brought us the literary classic Everyone Poops (Minna Unchi by Taro Gomi), and candy like the baby gave Stephen for Valentine's Day.
Everyone Poops.jpg
The (unintentionally) funniest book I've ever read of poop.
Photo credit Wikipedia

I assume the government wanted me to submit the poop card for Jilli's health check-up. Either that, or they were trying to give a little comic relief to my bureaucracy woes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jilli's Foot

When Jillian was born we noticed right away there there was something different about her left foot. We were referred to an orthopedic surgeon and were given the news that Jill had a condition called clubfoot. I won't get into the nitty gritty of the condition here, but basically it means the tendons and muscles on the inside of her left foot were shorter than the outside and needed to be stretched.

Jillian's foot at 3 days old

We were shocked to find out our perfect little girl would need special treatment if she were ever to be able to walk. 
But since nothing surprises God, we trusted that He was already at work.

Since meeting our daughter and seeing her clubfoot, here's how we've seen God moving:

*Clubfoot is a correctable condition if treatment is started right away. Jillian was in her first cast at 8 days old.

*We were referred to a leading clubfoot specialist in Sapporo. 

*We realized we live in a big city that has a specialist. We don't have to travel to another town like we would if we lived somewhere else. 

*Our doctor is an English speaker and can clearly explain procedures and progress.

*My (Kathryn's) mother is an executive in a large California hospital and has provided access to double check Japanese protocol for clubfoot against American procedures, giving us peace of mind.

Even in a cast she's stinkin' adorable!

Since getting the official diagnosis at 6 days old, Jillian has had 5 casts to stretch her tendons and muscles, and 1 surgery to release the tension in her Achilles' tendon. Surgery was uneventful (which is the best kind of surgery in my opinion) and Jillian is coping with the recovery and a new cast by snuggling with Mommy and Daddy all day. 

There is still a long way to go in her treatment. After wearing this final cast for 2-3 weeks, she will wear a special brace on her feet every day for a few months and then at night for a couple years. 

Even though the situation is not ideal, we are so happy that Jillian has every chance to grow up with normal use of her feet. In the mean time, we'll continue to seek God's comfort, provision, and plan through it all. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A day At The Park: Photo Post

One of the best parts of our job is getting to hang out with students. Just having fun and being goofy together goes a long way in building relationships and sharing the gospel.

After church recently, Stephen headed out with a group from church to see the cherry blossoms.

Enjoy the photos :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jillian Chiyo

Jillian Chiyo
ジリアン 千代
Just 1 hour old

You may have already heard, our daughter has made her entrance into the world. After lots of labor and lots of prayers, Jillian Chiyo was born on Thursday, April 19th in Sapporo, Japan. And true to her nick-name, she was a little peanut baby weighing in at 6lbs 3oz.

You may have also heard that we were waiting to share her name when she was born. Our friends and families waited (not always so patiently) to hear her name announced at her birth and it was Stephen's joy to call all our family members back in America and announce that she was finally here!

1 day old
Both of her names have meaning to us and were chosen to reflect the faithfulness of God in her life. 

Jillian: In the Chronicles of Narnia, Jill Pole is a girl who was strong and courageous. Hers is a story marked by faithfulness. In the book, The Silver Chair, Aslan gives her instructions and tells her to "remember, remember, remember the signs" that will help her on her mission. As we all do, Jill gets distracted, becomes forgetful, and acts selfishly through out the story. But even though she doesn't always remember, Aslan remebers her and faithfully guides her and her companions on their quest. 

Chiyo: It was important to us to give Jillian a Japanese middle name to help her be more connected to this country where she was born. Chiyo (千代 ) means 1,000 generations. The same kanji can be found in Deuteronomy 7:9 

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.


Through out my pregnancy with her, God has been showing Himself faithful to us and to her. He provided a clinic, maternity clothes, informational resources, friends, ministry opportunities, and so much more. We felt that God's faithfulness has and will continue to mark this little girl's life. 
5 days old

Friday, March 23, 2012

St. Patrick's Day, Hinamatsuri, and a surprise baby shower

We have been really enjoying teaching English classes this past year. 2 of our favorite classes are our Chistose beginner and intermediate classes. Once a week, we drive an hour to a neighboring town to teach 2 classes of women. Since they are all friends, we have begun combining classes once a month for a special lesson on American culture and fellowship time.

For March, we taught a special lesson on St. Patrick's Day. We were surprised that the women also planned on sharing a special March holiday (Girls' Day) with us as well during fellowship time. We were even more surprised when our Girls' Day celebration, turned into not one, but 2 surprise parties!

St. Patrick's Day

Sharing St. Patty's Day with these 4 Japanese women, was a treat. Stephen brought pictures of things like leprechauns, pot's of gold, green beer, shamrocks, and Lucky Charms cereal. We also were able to talk about the origins of St. Patrick's Day and St. Patrick himself.

My favorite part was teaching them some common St. Patrick's day expressions like "Kiss me, I'm Irish," and "Top o' the Mornin' to ya."

Our students reading a list of St. Patty's Day phrases

Hinamatsuri (Girls' Day)
After our lesson on St. Patrick's Day, we moved onto tea time/ fellowship time. The women quickly got to work setting out hinamatsuri decorations and foods.

For those of you like us, who didn't know about Hinamatsuri, it is the girls' festival. Every year on 3/3, families celebrate their daughters. They set out hina ningyo (dolls), eat chirashizushi, and drink white sake [with or without alcohol (ours was without ;) )] Our students brought the supplies to have a small hinamatsuri celebration, complete with food, (alcohol free) sake, and a small version of the hina ningyo that families display for their daughters. We were also treated to special onigiri (rice balls) made by an English student.

ShiroZake (white sake) and a very small version of traditional Japanese hina ningyo

delicious chirashizushi. Mmmm, oishii!

Enjoying a special redbean and chetsnut onigiri, hand made by an English student

Surprise parties:

Towards the end of our Hinamatsuri fellowship time, we got to celebrate all over again. The first surprise was for our English student, S. In honor of her birthday, the other ladies brought a cake and had us lead everyone in the "Happy Birthday" song.
S is by far our most gregarious student! Could you tell?

After sharing in S's surprise, Stephen and I were treated to a surprise of our own. Our English ladies had planned a baby shower for us!

We were touched by their thoughtfulness!

and I learned that rubber duckies are universally awesome!

I'm excited we've started this new monthly combined class. I don't expect every month to be such an extravaganza, but I am looking forward to spending more time with these fun ladies as a whole group.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cultural Difference at a Moms' Class

Getting into a group is one of the most important things you can do to minister in Japan. That's why when I learned about the new mothers' class at my city office, I jumped at the chance to participate.

The class brought together women from the same neighborhoods with due dates close together for conversation and lessons about pregnancy and motherhood. Of course, these classes were all in Japanese, but understanding the content was a bonus in my mind. I was going with the intention of breaking into the "mommy" group in my community.

The class itself was broken up into 4 teaching sessions and 1 postpartum play group scheduled for September. I was surprised how much I actually understood from the class. It's probably due to the text book (with pictures!) they handed out the first day. Well, that and the very kind women who helped the confused gaijin (foreigner) in their group.

new moms practicing diapering and dressing baby-dolls

Some of the information was old hat. Things like, eat proper meals that include all the food groups. Some of it was surprising, like finding out that fruit is on the "only eat a little bit" side of the food pyramid, rather than next to the vegetables.

During the class, I kept a running mental note about things to share with you all from my experience. so, for your enjoyment, I present:

"strange and interesting things I learned at "moms' class"

I've already mentioned about the food guide strangeness I encountered. I also was not expecting 10 pages of a 70 page book to be devoted to telling women things like "don't eat a lot of fatty and salty foods." In our discussion groups, I got the feeling that these women are terrified of gaining too much weight while pregnant. One woman said it was important to "not eat your favorite foods, so you don't get fat." And all the rest of the skinny Japanese ladies agreed that getting fat would be horrible. The lone American just kept quiet and thought about the candy bar waiting for her in her purse.

Pain relief:
In two of the four class sessions, a woman from my group was brought up for a demonstration. A strip of bleached cotton cloth was pulled tightly around her hips. When I asked my neighbor why, she explained it was for pain relief. Not being satisfied with that answer, I asked when one would do this. I assumed after birth, since I know the Japanese have a tradition of wrapping one's hips to put them back into place after birth. Nope, she said you do it before birth, to ease back and hip pain. I was under the impression that my hips and back hurt because my hips were supposed to move outward to prepare for labor.
I think I'll stick with tylenol, thanks.

Bathing babies:
Using life-like baby-dolls, moms (and some dads) practiced bathing babies

I was really glad we got some instruction and practice on this topic. Since I've never bathes a slippery little baby before, I'm going to assume everything they taught was standard procedure in the US also. One thing I was surprised to find out, though, was how frequently they recommend bathing your baby. When I asked my instructor, she said "Mai nichi" (EVERYDAY!) How dirty do these babies plan on getting? I thought rolling in the dirt was an activity for older toddlers, myself.
The advice does fit with the culture though. Japan is all about their baths. Whole vacations are planned around where has the best "Onsen" (public baths/spa). I'm sure my instructor thought Americans are filthy when I said most people only bathe their babies every other day or so (I think even this frequency is being a bit generous.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day, or Baruntine Day バレンタインデイーas it's called here in Japan, has always been a favorite of mine. From childhood, it has been a source of a much needed post-Christmas refill of my chocolate stash. Giving and receiving chocolate, sweets, cards, and gifts is what Valentine's Day is about, at least in the US.

Here in Japan, things are a little different. For one, the givers are limited to women, and the recipients are limited to men. (It's good to be a man in Japan on February 14th!)

Don't worry ladies, you have your own special holiday on March 14th called White Day (ホーアイトデイー ) to receive "obligation chocolate" ( giri-choco,ぎりチョコ) from all the boys you gave sweets to the months before.

Another difference is what is being given. I haven't seen too much in the way of flowers or cards, and Valentine's day dates don't seem to be too popular from what I've been hearing around the English class. In Japan it's all about the chocolate.

One very popular thing to do is to make "deco-choco" (デコチョコ) or decoration chocolate for male friends.

Here's a close up of some deco-choco I found through google.
(Photo source:

Another popular thing to do it to make cookies.

Here are some chocolate-raspberry heart cookies I made for Stephen and my English students.

Stephen had a doubly good Valentine's Day this year since there are two girls in his family now (me and the baby) to give him chocolates.

When I was at the mall recently I saw these chocolates and knew it had to be Stephen's gift from the baby-to-be.

Here's the display case...

Can you tell what it is?

How about now...

It's a line of chocolate called Unchi-kun うんちくん (little poop).

I have never seen something like this before coming to Japan. But what a fitting gift from a baby.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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