July 26, 2010

Summer Nosh

Midnight Run to Funairi Hospital
Just as the monsoon rains were nearing their end in mid-July, Elena got sick with a recurrent fever that seemed most virulent late at night. The poor girl tossed and turned for a few nights in a row, not sleeping well at all. One night around 0200 she passed 40 degrees, our threshold that initiates a midnight run to the Funairi Hospital’s nighttime emergency clinic that specializes in pediatric care.

Naomi and I responded to this health crisis as the “diverging duo.” She stayed with M at home, and I packed Lady E. into our car for the trip to the hospital.

It was the middle of the night, very dark with low-lying clouds, few other cars sharing the roads, and with none of the normal city racket. I kept the windows down, it being warm, with moist air swirling in. Our car hissed along the still-wet streets. I felt like I was in a Michael Mann movie—the streetlights blurred with the pastels of the convenience store neon. One major anti-cool factor was that instead of Massive Attack or Billie Holiday or such, we were merrily bopping along to “Old MacDonald” as I tried to buoy our sick little daughter’s spirits and help her forget her yucky tummy.

Elena was definitely sick and she puked in the fairly deserted emergency waiting area, but the doctor was great. He didn’t figure out the cause of her illness, but he politely did a few tests to reassure us, and Elena recovered a few days later. One of those things.

Like most parents with young’uns, our midnight runs to the overnight clinic, while infrequent, are always more memorable than the day visits. Why is that?

Neighborhood Summer Festival
Every year the local community association hosts a summer festival in our neighborhood. A cul-de-sac in the middle of the area’s commercial heart is roped off, dozens of small food stalls and toy vendors line the sidewalks, and various entertainment groups are invited to perform.

Saturday, July 17 was the Rising Family’s public debut. We bundled M into her special car seat/carrier stroller and plunked Elena onto my shoulders, and off we went for merriment. Since the rainy season’s torrents of rain stopped it has become blistering hot very quickly, and we can’t stay out too long. Nevertheless, strolling around the food stalls and greeting a few friends along the way was a great morale-booster. Elena had fun, Naomi enjoyed being outdoors and walking, Marina drooled adorably. And everyone slept very well that night!

The next day, as part of our tag-team parenting style of late, just Elena and I went out to see the action at the same festival. She was excited because her soft-touch daddy would likely buy her lots of crap food such as cotton candy, French fries and so on. (I did.) I ran into a few foreign comrades, lots of friendly neighbors, and I had a few cold ones with a fellow-traveler American friend who was also minding his kids. It was just plain fun.
I’ve lived in various apartments in this neighborhood, called Ushita, since the mid-1990s. I was never particularly interested in these local festivals prior to the arrival of our kids, but now I view them as a great way to revel in some family fun. Does that mean I am becoming a “real” member of the community…hmm. Jury’s out on that one. But my life has become PG-rated and I can’t say I don’t like it.

July 11, 2010

Vote Kan-Toe

I’ve decided to seek a mandate from the people of Japan to govern by creating a new political party, forming a new cabinet under my leadership and, ultimately, becoming the Prime Minister. Why? Many pundits have opined about the revolving door of Japanese PMs over the last few years and the country’s need for a strong leader who would not be constrained by conventional political rules and party faction infighting.

What better candidate than an itinerant foreigner with absolutely no ties to politics or government?

Moreover, I share many of the qualities and quirks that catapulted recent PMs into power:
- average Japanese people often have no idea what I am talking about when I speak with them due to unintelligible diction
- I have serious trouble reading Japanese Kanji characters
- questionable decision-making skills and chronic money problems
- tone-deaf to the concerns of the people around me
- wear out-of-date clothing that cause people question my connection with contemporary society
- as a gaijin, I am considered an alien, certainly originating from “out there”

Yet I am confident I have the vision and courage to lead Nippon into the future. The Kan-Toe (in English, the Canada Party) has been formed under the slogan “Maybe We Can.”

Today is the upper house election in Japan, destined to be a landmark in the electoral history of this fine island nation. With five PMs having come and gone in the last four years, I think the time is ripe for the polity to choose a bright, shining maple leaf-hued vision of the future. I am escorting my lovely wife to a local school where she will cast her ballot as part of the democratic process. Thus, I’m sure that I will get at least one vote—but I’ll have to make outrageous promises to get it: "Maybe We Can."