Japan! Answers edition

There have been a number of questions in  the comments on recent posts, and I’m never sure if anyone goes back to check to see if there are answers, so I figured I’d answer them in an actual post.  Starting with the most recent and going backward:

Brandy asked: “You are all so cute bundled up! Is it very cold?” 

It’s been in the 40s- mid 50s for the last couple weeks. That’s not cold for a lot of people (and obviously not for all the pantless girls running around), but I’m a cold weather wimp. As for the bundledness in that particular picture, it was threatening to rain that day, and I’m fending off a cold and trying to keep the girls from getting it, so we took extra bundly precautions.

Jimmie asked: “I’m also kinda wondering why we’re not seeing some photos of YOU in Japan! Hahah! I mean it is Japan, right? Isn’t it true that most people there are very honest?”

I would have absolutely no compunction in handing my camera to almost anyone here. Everyone has been very kind. I’m just not photogenic and have never met a picture of myself that I like.  But just so there’s more than one, here’s another one. 518



Jimmie asked (I love your questions, Jimmie!):” As for the Tiny and the paparazzi… I was wondering just what experience you (and the girls) were having with being a *foreigner* in Japan. I know it can vary from place to place, but I’m quite curious how you’re handling it.”

It’s been a fascinating experience. I’ve never been somewhere with such a homogeneous culture, and it’s been really interesting to consider the ramifications of that homogeneity.  (Case in point- when I tried to explain to Zoe about how everyone here who is Japanese is ethnically Japanese and their families have always lived here, and that people in the US are all different ethnicities, she just stared at me, completely uncomprehendingly, and said, “But they’re all American!”. )

We are very obviously foreigners, and people notice the girls all the time. Zoe in particular realizes that, and just asked me yesterday, “why does everyone like me here?”. They’ve been given candy or little gifts on the train a couple of times by very kind older men and women.  The other day at the garden we passed a group of about 15 older folks who had been picnicking, and as we went by Tiny chirped “Konnichi wa” at each couple. They just about fell over themselves fawning over her.

At the same time, we are in Tokyo rather than in the countryside, and there are a fair number of other foreigners around, so I think most Japanese here are used to it. If it was just me without the girls, I doubt I’d get a second look.

From my side, it is interesting being in a position where I understand relatively very few signs and almost nothing that is said to me. Again, everyone is very nice, but it’s clear that the reason we can’t communicate is because I don’t speak their language. (Does that make sense? What I mean is that I’m in their country, so it’s my fault I don’t know their language, and I know that, and so do they, and they don’t feel guilty about not speaking my language. ) I tried to call Toys R Us this morning to see if they had something in stock, and couldn’t find out because the person I who answered the phone didn’t speak English, and I couldn’t ask for someone who did. “Konnichi wa, Eigo hanasemaska?” (Hi, do you speak English?)” is the most I can pull off on the phone. I’ve encountered a fair number of people who can speak a little bit of English, and a few who speak it very well, but for the most part I’m working off of context.

All that being said, everyone has been entirely nice and kind, and we’ve felt absolutely no animosity at all.  And luckily there are a lot of signs that have English, and I am always so grateful for those!

This isn’t a question, but I have a comment- Jimmie said, “However, I see my trip(s) to Japan as a series… not just one. I’d like to go as a tourist and stay in a hotel in Tokyo or something and get all that stuff out the way. Then I’d go again but stay with someone in the residential prefectures. Then I’d go again and travel to the countryside regions away from the city. In all 3 Japan trips is what I would like to do.”

We are so incredibly blessed that we’re here for so long. (I almost put “lucky”, but luck has nothing to do with it- it’s all to do with Bruce being brilliant at his job.)  I could see being here for a week and trying to hit all the major points, but especially with kids, we would miss out on seeing so many things that we’ve been able to experience. We would especially miss out on the amazing museums and on the subtle differences between the different shrines and temples.  Next week we’ll be able to get out of Tokyo and go down to Hakone, which I am so excited about, but even being here for so long we won’t be able to get to Kyoto or down further south to Hiroshima or up north to Hokkaido. And we’re not even trying to do grown-up things here like nightclubs or karaoke. You (Jimmie) could do a lot in a focused 2 week trip, but that requires having 2 weeks and the associated money for a trip. (Though that might end up being less that multiple plane tickets.)

Terry said, “uh-oh It looks like Zoe picked up the Japanese peace sign habit.” 

Yeah, we introduced that, we couldn’t help it. 🙂 And the Japanese people who see them do it love it.

This picture has no peace signs in it, but I don’t think I’ve posted it here before, and it seems fitting.


Jimmie asked: “Hey, are you guys gonna do the KFC Christmas dinner tradition since you’ll be in Japan?”

I don’t know- probably not, since you have to reserve your meal ahead of time and we haven’t yet. I always manage to forget that people do “Christmas dinner” until the day before Christmas or so, so I’m not sure what we’ll do. (I should think about it, seeing as I’m thinking about it. 🙂  ) Christmas day isn’t a day off here, so if we wanted to go out to dinner plenty of places will be open.  Christmas Eve falls on a national holiday, so most people will have that day off and not take off Christmas. Bruce is taking off Christmas and some days afterward.

Going way back, Mike asked, “I wonder why some of the tree trunks look like they have a mat wrapped around them?”

I have no idea, but I wonder that every time I see them. Most of the trees at most of the gardens have them.

That’s all the questions I can find in the comments- if you have any others, feel free to ask, and I’ll do my best to answer them. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Japan! Answers edition

  1. Totally cool that you took the time to answer some questions for us.

    As for how you look… you are just as pretty as ever and I’m sure Bruce would agree!
    Hell, I remember you *before* the kids and the husband… back when you had long hair, hahah!

  2. My newly married wife, Gail, came over to the computer and asked, “What are you reading?”

    “It’s Maryanne’s blog from Japan. Look”

    And thus, I ran back through all your photos and now she’s up to speed and eagerly awaiting your next post, too. I told her how I knew you through Joe and Dottie back when you worked in their store and all that. In my mind you’re still that very young, fresh-eyed girl behind the register at Atlantis. Lord, how the time slips away from us. Life is precious. I’m sure you’ve heard of the horrific events over here in the states about the elementary school children. It rips your heart out. Tiny and Z are blessed to have you and Bruce. Hug them a little tighter today.

    See ya’ back in the states.

  3. Yesterday I went searching for that post to see if you had commented, but couldn’t find it. Thanks for posting here. Love the panda people!

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