Archive | January, 2015

Flu ‘probably’ hath arriveth

29 Jan

HA, and there you have it. I got called to the kinder at 11am to go and pick up a crying feverish child. Poor boy, he was beside himself. They had just come back from a 2km walk to pick leeks – as you do – and so I bundled him and a few leeks up into the car and took everyone home.

Influenza doesn’t show up until about 12 hours or whatever after the fever has started so I decided against taking him to the doctors this afternoon and instead got him to have some lunch, some meddy, lots of water, and a two hour nap with mummy rubbing his back. He’ll stay home tomorrow and if he wakes up with a fever we will be off to the clinic to get something stronger than pamol.

Then, at 3:30 I got a call from the school – Marina had a temperature. I asked how high. 37.1.

And no I don’t think that is a temperature. You’re temp would probably notch up a few points of a degree after a big bloody sneeze – or after eating too much lunch and then having to get down and clean the corridors – Marina’s cleaning job this week at school. They run the length of the corridors with a cloth. It is hard out and I’m pretty sure that doing that a few times would be the equivalent of twenty minutes of Jillian telling me ‘fear is just pain leaving your body’.

But because the flu is going round and the chances are her temp will go up I had to go and get her – so I told the school that I would like to pick up Shou at the same time. School had officially finished but they still tried to convince me to come back again in an hour to get him.

After reading to the first graders this morning I had to go to the principal’s office to fill in form saying I had read ‘Stop That Heist’ a LEGO book by Scholastic, that it was me reading it and that the kids enjoyed it. The principal was going on about how it is hard these days with the kids who get the flu vaccination because a lot of them still get the flu – but less severely and some don’t even know they have it and keep coming to school and spread it to everyone, including those who didn’t get the jab.

Man, you can’t win with the flu jab. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Anyhoo, I was going to stay up and watch the news to see if its Professor InSane in the library with the journalist or in the study with the pilot, but I’m just too tired and I think its time to snuggle in with the sick boy.



On the News

29 Jan

I am meant to be finishing off a translation. It isn’t due until Monday but the flu is knocking on the door and is now in all of the kid’s classrooms. None of them have it yet and I just hope that if/when they do they all get it at the same time as the school has a compulsory five day at home period and I really don’t want kids home for 15 days as it means 15 days I probably have to cancel English, 15 days I can’t faff round drinking coffee and scoffing bonbons while watching back to back re-runs of Project Runway and The Real Housewives of Cheshire, and 3 days of sick kids and 12 days of genki kids who just aren’t allowed back at school slash kinder yet!

So I am trying to ‘not put off until tomorrow what one can do today’. I obviously haven’t gotten off to a very good start as is evident by my drinking coffee and faffing around on the computer – bonbons…. where are the bonbons…?

I have just watched the news and while I don’t usually make a habit of doing Japanese news reports, two things caught my ear this morning..

  • Yesterday on my FB feed a friend posted about a Brazillian family in Japan who took their sick daughter to the ER. The young doctor did tests and then said she was good enough to go home and they could take her to a specialist children’s hospital the following day. It was close to midnight when they took her. The father wanted a letter of introduction for another hospital but the doctor said they had a system that didn’t allow them to give these out during the night shift. If it was an emergency she would have been admitted. The doctor deemed it wasn’t and tried to get them to go home because there were other people in need of more medical attention. I get all this. I get the doctor’s frustration at both the father’s insistence and perhaps somethings that didn’t get translated due to the father’s non fluency in Japanese. That said, I thought the father’s language was good enough to convey what he wanted. He was worried about his daughter and under no circumstances EVER should a doctor tell a patient and their family to ‘fuck off and die‘…. Well, in Japanese it was ‘kuso shine’. What I got from the news segment was that well, the father did take up three hours in the middle of the night and the doctor was frustrated. FFS. It could have been handled so much better. Take the family and sit them down and explain – you don’t need five doctors and nurses standing round. You don’t need the doctors standing there with their hands in their pockets talking as if they are talking to a five year old. He was a scared, worried father trying to get an answer in a language that wasn’t his own. He was doing well. The doctor was a twat.


  • Another segment was about how Japanese teachers are no longer telling kids off like they used to. Teachers no a days are afraid to tell children off in case the parents turn into ‘monster parents’. This fucks me off. If your child misbehaves it is up to the teacher, within reason, to discipline your child. If you don’t want your child being told off for being an asshole then homeschool them. If kids in my English class are naughty and don’t listen after a warning I make them sit in the corridor. This has only happened twice – to the same boy. One day the same class got me yelling at them and refusing to teach them. Yes, I told their parents, yes the next week they behaved. They showed an experiment whereby the got two child actors to be a pain in the ass in the middle of a shopping mall – to see if anyone would tell them off. NOBODY said anything until their male actor went in and told them. He just went over and told them it wasn’t ok to be throwing balls round and being silly buggers in a crowded place. A lot of the people there saw it all going down and when interviewed after said they thought the man was good for telling them off but that because they weren’t their own kids they didn’t want to say anything in case they cried or the parents then told them off. FFS. What is wrong with people!! Wrong is wrong. Turn a bind eye, don’t discipline your child, let them do what they want without consequence and just wait and see what kind of adult they become. Fuck, it seems as if some parents spend too much time worrying about trying to figure out the complex workings of their 8-year olds mind when really the kids need simple direction. I don’t mean beat them, I mean teach them that if they do something that is wrong there will be consequences and not a nice talk with mum over a cup of jasmine tea and a hug.

And you know what, that young doctor in his 20s probably grew up with parents who were only interested in his grades and if he ever said anything bad like ‘kuso babe shine’ (die you old bitch), they would just say ‘hey, that’s not very nice’. Can I just add that we found this exact phrase (with mama at the start) written on Marina’s pencil case a few nights ago. She had just gone to bed so we made her come back downstairs, kneel and scrub that shit off in front of us. God she got in trouble. Yeah, yeah, I then sat down with her and asked her why she did it – minus the Jasmine tea. She couldn’t remember, but with threats of soap in the mouth next time you can guarantee she doesn’t do that again.

Right, both these things really get to me and I better get off here or I’ll start writing in caps lock.



PTA Bollocks

25 Jan

I have just come back from a whole day of PTA bollocks. Every year the prefecture (and I presume all prefecture’s in Japan) have a PTA bollocks day where abut 6 schools have to give presentations on things usually to do with deepening the bond between parents and children. I think kizuna (bond) must be one of the most used words in PTA materials in Japan – it also just happens to be the name of the one and only karaoke place in Kunimi – a place where hub and I have um, ahem, consummated our ‘bond’.

The morning part of the PTA started with a traditional Japanese chant slash dance, slash funny man in a priest-type outfit, with a man beating a drum and saying ‘manzai’ after every so-called ‘joke’ that the priest man waving the Japanese fan said. This particular one is traditionally done in the New Year – in front of a vestling audience. He had to adapt it a bit to fit the PTA audience of course…. Not that this helped the fact it had absolutely nothing to do with parents, teachers, or any associations and I am sure the people that drove three hours to get there were stoked at having to waste an hour watching the ‘attractions’.

The second attraction was Marina’s old dance company. I saw the daughter teacher out front and she asked if I was actually truly back for good…??!! There have been some serious rumors going around about me actually leaving hub. Sometimes I wonder if it is just a conversation opener… “oh… so you’re really back for good?” – kind of like you would say, “hi ya, lovely day isn’t it.” But alas I have had it confirmed by a semi-friend that they heard I had gone back with the kids for good.

Hmmmm. Japanese whispers.

I will admit that it felt funny watching the dances that Marina used to dance and knowing how it was back stage and how much practice the girls would have put in, how many bobby pins the mothers had clipped on their aprons etc. Then I woke the fuck up and thought FFS, have been gone 6 months and these are exactly the same dances – bar the new hip hop ensemble that  is done by a different teacher – that was very cool.

Following the ‘attractions’ we then had to listen to approximately 11.5 ‘aisatsu’ (greetings) from various people including the mayor of Oita prefecture. I say 11.5 because inevitably there is always someone important who can’t make it and who has sent a minion to read their ‘aisatsu’ on their behalf.


The photo is shit because our area had to sit the furthest away because ‘we’ were the hosts. Not everyone could get in and my friend got turned away because there wasn’t a seat for her son. You would ‘think’ that at a PTA event in the middle of the bloody weekend that they would a) let kids in or b) have a room with someone watching kids. The table on the left is the people hosting the event and the  right table is all guests – mayor, education dept dude yaddah yaddah. They all have red roses on because well, they are guests and while in NZ the only people making money out of red roses to wear on your lapel are florist shops around the school ball season, in Japan there is a company making a lot of money out of fake red ‘distinguished guest’ flowers. The man standing directly behind the flag is the sign language interpreter. There were three of them taking it in turns.

The aisatsu were followed by a certificate ceremony and a hand-over-of-the-flag ceremony. Did I mention this was PTA? The head of the PTA for this area (man that hub used to work with who goes beetroot red after a teaspoon of beer but who continues to drink until he passes out) got a certificate in ‘thanks’ for the work the area PTA put in to host the event. The flag exchange was between him, the now PTA head, and the guy who will be the PTA head from April. Sometimes I just sit there and think about how this would so not happen in New Zealand that I have to control myself. I get why it happens here. Passing the responsibility over yaddah yaddah.

The last part of the ceremony, before the main guest speaker came on to compare humans to the wild squirrels and deer he helps save in Hokkaido, was the PTA group for next year’s event. They already have their flags and jackets and slogan all sorted. They also had two giant mushrooms – well one is a shiitake mushroom and the other is kind of rainbow colored so I can only presume its a magic mushroom??


The whole thing is predominantly males despite the fact everyone knows the mums go to most of the shit. At kinder level the mums do pretty much everything – and it is quite a lot. Nothing to take lightly I can tell you. Do you know how much organization goes into a group trip to the Safari with 32 kids, 40 parents, 7 grandparents, and 6 teachers? Inclusive of greetings, traffic safety, games and a goody bag? At primary school the mums go to most of the stuff but the dad’s hold the positions of power. Which I don’t mind cause being the PTA head at primary school is a pain in the ass, involves a lot of days off work, and a lot of public speaking. I think its the fact that hub said, when I was PTA head of the kinder two years back, “you do this and then at primary school I’ll have to do it cause it is always  dad” that fucked me off.

Anyhoo, then it was lunch time. I had a ticket for a bento – as did every one else. They all had our names on them and mine said Takahashi  – who was the person from our school who was meant to go today but who couldn’t. I got told to just register as Takahashi but damn, my husband works in the education department. Even if I don’t know who people are, the chances are that people from this area know me and know that my name isn’t Takahashi- I’m not trying to sound presumptuous  but it is just a fact of life when you are the only white person in a 50km radius. So I signed in as myself. Or rather, I said I was representing the elusive Takahashi-san, who I might add is a woman from the Philippines. Hmmmm. We could almost call ourselves an international school!

I found a friendly face, finally, to have lunch with. And then it was the afternoon section that involved two schools presenting their different um, presentations? The first school’s theme was getting kids to help at home and whilst doing so spending more time with your child and deepening the ‘bond’. It was kind of boring. I don’t consider ‘straightening your own shoes up’ or ‘taking your own plate to the sink’ as ‘helping’. It’s your own shit. Do it, and no, if you are 8, I will not praise you for this kind of help. This is expected. If you do stuff above and beyond your own shit, like cleaning the bath, then yes. Thanks

The second presentation was on trying to increase communication between children and parents. It was quite interesting I guess. So much so that I only fell asleep and hit my head on the back of the chair once.



Day of the Dead

23 Jan

Last Saturday was the 25th anniversary of hub’s father’s death. Well, actually it was Monday but Saturday was the day we had the priesty slash chanting slash relatives in suits slash bentos and sake thing. Every year on the actual day hub will place a couple of one-cup sakes at the alter and we will all sit in front of it and pray. Hub usually goes to the actual grave too and would have spent a few hours the weekend before weed eating around the grave and polishing the headstone.

Houji however aren’t held every year. They are held every 7 days after the death of someone – up until the 49th day. They are then held the first year, second year, and then in four and then six year intervals – I think. Up until 32 years after the person has actually died – then you can stop inviting all your relies over, buying them all an elaborate bento, giving them a gift and paying a priest a few hundred dollars to chant.

This post is mainly for my own recollection – as the next one is in 6 years and Granny K, if all the stars align, will be in a home and thus I will be left in charge of all things death anniversary related. Actually truth be known, as long as she is of genki body and sane mind I don’t mind if she is still here but (crosses all crossable bits) I just don’t want to be bathing her and spoon feeding her because we didn’t get her on the vestling home list in time ya know!

The Houji was set to start at 11 and while I had the house clean and we had moved the dining room table so we could put the compulsory heated carpet and kotatsu down, there was still stuff to be done. IMG_6565 I was in the middle of getting all the shit done, making the kids look acceptable and was about to jump in the shower at 10am when of course Granny K’s younger sister and husband had to arrive a whole hour early. Faaark. Fortunately hub promptly sent them off to pick up older sister from the home. I jumped in the shower and then had to wriggle round trying to get my black dress pants on that I haven’t worn since last April. Granny K’s brother and wife arrived next IMG_6575 He is a priest too so came in his priestly garb and got to sit next to the priest doing the chanting – although actually we all had a book to follow the chanting but in terms of priestly hierarchy for the day he was second in command.

There were 11 guests in all, including the head priest who walked from next door with his bag of chant books and folding seat five minutes before said chanting was beginning. Eldest brother brought up the rear and once everyone was seated – Marina and Shou included (Ryu refused) the chanting got underway. It lasts about 45 minutes and is pretty much at the top of ‘shit I don’t want to be doing on a Saturday’ but really, you can’t get out of it. Fortunately I had to make sure the kids stopped jumping on the beds upstairs and answer the door to the restaurant Granny K had ordered the lunch obentos from… IMG_6579The chanting stops and then the priest talks abut the deceased for ten minutes or so and they all reminisce, I presume about the fun stuff and not the fact he was an alcoholic who sat drinking at home all day while Granny K biked to the local underwear factory to sew for their supper before coming home and looking after three boys and catering to his every whim.

It was then time to get the long tables out – which were set out in a コ shape with the end table being in front of the alter and at which the two priests sat. The guests sat in order of importance at the table beside uncle priest, while Eldest brother, Granny K and hub sat at the table to the left of the head Priest. The old biddies sat at the kotatsu table at the other end. I was self-relegated to the kids table in the other room.

The obentos came with chawan-mushi (steamed egg pudding) and a soup, but Granny K had still insisted on making her own miso-shiru and cooking up enough white rice to keep Unicef in business for a week. Yes, the obentos had rice in them but according to Granny K you can’t not offer hot rice or the gates of hell might openeth and swallow you uppeth. So she told me to get the rice. I went to the rice cooker and low and behold she hadn’t turned the fuckin switch on. I try and baseball-style sign language this to her because I don’t want her feeling like a fool in front of the other women. She can’t understand my signs for rice cooker, cold and twat, so I have to tell her, to which she immediately declares it the worst thing in the world and god damn that Marina, the fool, I TOLD her to tell you to put the switch on at 10am.

I think now it is, by womb association, my fault that the guests have no hot rice. I promptly turn the switch on, apologize to the masses, and retreat to swear obscenities into my bento at the kids table. At least it was yummy. IMG_6582Had I been a proper Japanese wife I would have been in pouring beer and sake, offering cups of green tea and generally just fussing while my obento goes noticeably uneaten. As it happened though I stayed in here, making sure dishes were washed, there was a bottomless pot of green tea, the boys were eating their lunch, the beer was cold….. while Marina was honing her Japanese wifey skills by doing what I ‘should have been’… IMG_6583As lunch was drawing to a close Granny K got Marina to (read as, where the fuck is your mother, she should be doing this) hand out the ‘thank you gifts’ – cause lord help you if you don’t give out thank you gifts. I was quite happy to do it and hovering around in face, but by this stage everyone was so enchanted by Marina that it would have been a complete let down if I had done it. Granny K had ordered locally made sweets which I’m not sure I’d be less or more pleased to receive than the washing powder that got handed out 6 years ago.

Other notes to self for next one.

  • remember to get flowers for alter. Doesn’t matter which. Granny K just got the cheap ones from the supermarket.
  • When the incense gets passed around during the chanting sprinkle a pinch of ‘stuff’ into the bowl with the incense, put hands together and bow, then pass on to next person. Get Shou to sit by the door so he can get out if he needs to, as opposed to him loudly declaring the smell and smoke is going to make him throw up – which if he had – would have been all over the back of the priest.
  • Remember to air the cushions out for at least two afternoons before the day. Then line them up with the white cover cushions for the chanting and the other cushions for lunch time


  • Ask hub about the envelope leaning up against the alter. Hmmm. I presume it has money in it but not entirely sure how much.
  • On the money thing – the priest got 40,000 yen, which hub took to him the following morning.
  • Obentos – the kids were 1,500 yen and the adults 3,500 yeah each.

Right, that’s all I can think of at the moment. Let’s hope I can pull it all off in 6 years. Must. Practice. Japanese. Wife. Skills. SDGH&QL

Let’s Influenza

20 Jan

Most years I spend quite a bit of time, lots of tears, once or twice some brute force, and more often than not  at least 10 dollars on treats on the way home, all in the name of getting the flu jab.

And by brute force I mean half cajoling, half pulling 5-year old Shou out from under the doctor’s table and yelling at the the thick doctor to stop waving the fucking syringe around and just hold his arm and inject it all ready!

Adults get one jab, children get two – between two and four weeks apart depending on where you go. We usually get it at the start of December.

So, this winter we didn’t get home until midnight on the day all the local clinics close for the New Year break. By the time we got settled back into life in the land of the rising son, had the eldest brother for New Year and made the kids get through as much homework as possible, it was January the 6th and reports of people with the flu were already out within a 10km radius of here.

I thought it was probably too late so left it. Thought we’d risk it and let fly to the wind (or whatever that saying is) and see how we went. You here everything – people getting the jab and still getting the flu, like twice, in one season. People  not getting the jab and surviving in a house full of people who all got the flu, like twice, in one season.

Then I started getting vestlings telling me I was being irresponsible – well it was mainly just Granny K. So I rang the local hospital and got told that it was hard to tell if the jab would even be effective, what with being in the ‘season’ already. She seriously couldn’t say whether I should do it or not, and at one point even said that there was really good drugs these day for the flu so … ….

So what? I don’t do it and the kids get the flu but it will be OK and we get the drugs and they are temperature free after 37 minutes and running round like idiots for the compulsory five days they have to be home.

Or, we do it, and we somehow miss the flu, even though it’s pretty much knocking at our door already.

Or, we do it, and still get the flu cause we didn’t do it in time and  well, repeat above about good drugs and kids running round.

I rang them last Friday at like 3pm and they said I could get mine and the kid’s first round if we got there by five but that it probably wasn’t a big deal if we didn’t do it.

So I picked the kids up at 4pm – lucky for Shou as he was getting kept back and not allowed home until he could recite his times table up to 9. Saying you are going to get the flu jab though, well that gets you out of anything.

We get to the doctors and Marina loudly announces (cause she can’t not loudly do anything) that we are all ‘going to the doctors to get influenza’ – quite possible actually considering the waiting room is usually a warm haven of coughing vestlings.

Shou says he wants to go first but ‘isn’t prepared’ when the doctor goes to jab it in, squirms away and gallantly pushes his 5 year old brother into the hot seat.

He mans up, cries, gets snot in his long hair, and then is fine. We finish up, pay the 100 dollars it cost for all of us – at least half of which ‘should’ come back – and then drive home past the conbini for treats.

In Japan, well, the doctor, hub and Granny K at least, they say that you shouldn’t have a bath after an injection. So it was early nights for the kids.

And trying to get them to all be agreeable in two weeks time will be harder, but surely they are half vaccinated now?

That said, half the soccer team are away sick and the Junior High had whole year closures for a week and all their brothers and sisters are at our local school so me thinks it is a matter of time.

Tis the season for getting shit done as soon as it arises or else you’ll have three sick kids in succession, possibly followed by a hub who thinks he is on deaths door, and not get anything done.

Off to translate.


Mamma bear and the three …

13 Jan

Marina wasn’t too keen on going to soccer tonight and getting her to do shit in the one hour we had before going was. pain. ful. Well to be honest getting her to eat wasn’t hard. She even ate all her salad while Ryu just refused, even after I said he was getting it for breakfast if he didn’t, and I caught Shou trying to put some grass and leaves (what he calls salad) in his pocket to presumedly flush down the toilet…

But damn the homework. She had a good half an hour – like with no fuss, no rubbing out, no whining, no toilet trips every two minutes so she can ‘have a break’ and sing songs while she pees. But then she starts all of the above and sometimes it can seriously take seven minutes to write one fuckin letter. She had an hour at after school care where all it would appear they actually did was play with dead birds, quite possibly rank with avian flu, and write in permanent marker on their foreheads.

She finally started crying and said she wasn’t going to soccer and wanted to do karate instead. I said that she had chosen soccer so had to do it for at least three months – pretty nice of me I think as with dance I stupidly told her a year! Or perhaps I’d learnt my lesson 🙂

Off she went and when we got there I saw HTB boy and one of the other two boys who had been not overly nice to her the week before. I was going to go up quietly and say “hey bro, mess with my daughter again and I’ll break your fuckin neck”, but I zipped my normal face over my mamma bear face and instead opted to, in an overly loud voice, say “hey, you two, can you guys teach Marina some stuff tonight. I know you’d be really good at that and she was a bit upset after last week. Yoroshiku ne.”

I know, right!!

Patting myself on the back too. What bloody restraint.

Especially as two seconds later, after Marina had come back to me for a hug and kiss, HTB boy ran round like a demented tasmanian devil exclaiming that two girls had just kissed, two girls had just kissed…


This is exactly why I want to be able to go out with coffee Chiemi and my other good friend on the lash – so I can vent about this kind of shit. But when my friend suggested we go out I said, good idea, am well looking forward to the three of us getting together – to which she replied she had already invited HTB boy’s mum 😦 Faaaark.

But I guess if she really is hard of hearing after all I might still get away with a few remarks.

Must remember to zip normal face up before going out.




First day of school

9 Jan

Yesterday was the first day of term 3, and Shou and Marina’s first day back at hard core Japanese school in over 6 months.

The walking bus time and changed from 7:30 to 7:15 because it would seem that after we left for NZ the group kept being late for school – probably because I wasn’t walking with them anymore and telling them to stop being silly buggers, turning around, falling over, picking up stones yaddah yaddah. They have to be at school by 8:15 so they now have an entire hour to walk 2km.

I would use the words retarded and snail but really it isn’t even High Tiger Boy’s fault anymore. It is the 6th grader and leader of the group. He has PCD, or Pace Control Disorder, which means he either walks stupidly with one foot directly in front of the other, or runs. The group goes from a jog to a domino effect with everyone eating the randoseru of the person in front.

Anyhoo, getting my 3 kids ready, as well as self, and out the front door and into the car by 7:10 was a challenge. I kept having visions of our time in NZ when quite often I’d still be in peaceful slumber at that time – with the kids having gone into the lounge (all carpet, no ninja floorboards), to watch TV. Yesterday Ryu and I split up from the group and went a different and slightly longer way and still bet them by 10 minutes. Today we stayed with them and we all arrived at 7:45.

After dropping Ryu off at the kinder next door yesterday I popped my head in to the primary school to say ‘Hi ya, we’re baaaaack’ – only I got trapped and ended up leaving with a one day PTA prefectural-wide meeting on January 25th, a Saturday English class on Feb the 14th and 15 lots of 20 minute reading to the 1st graders…. …. What the fuck just happened?

This is after being asked by the 6th grader -from-the-walking-group’s grandmother (raises him), to organize the kodomo-kai (children’s club for our local area – i.e.: the 7 kids that walk together) end of school year event. She is in charge this year and I do the books, which really just means I keep a tin with about $12 in it and a notebook in the filing cabinet. I said OK, because I couldn’t really turn her down.

All in all I came home with a lot of shit on considering all I had set out to do was walk the kids to school!

The kids had a great day however and both did their homework without fuss – making me wonder why they put me through what they did during the winter vacation. Neither of them finished that homework but it seems the teachers weren’t too strict on them. Marina wasn’t quite as excited after coming home from soccer last night – saying that High Tiger Boy was running round calling her ‘dassai’ (uncool, stink, nerdy, etc). He laughed about it this morning so I reprimanded him in front of his mum, who seems to not give a shit or be hard of hearing.

Right, I’m expecting a coffee visitor so best get the machine on.