28 May 2011

Lovespoons

When I visited Wales in 1999, I bought a Welsh traditional lovespoon (below). A few years later, I added another one to my collection. The lovespoon is a wooden spoon decoratively carved; its history goes back to the mid 1600's. A young man would create it as a gift of love. Each spoon is decorated with a wide variety of symbols, and creating one would demonstrate that the young man had the skill to provide for a family. Each symbol on the spoon would have a specific meaning; bells for a happy marriage, a cross for blessed union, hearts for love, a horseshoe for good luck, a double spoon for togetherness, a lock for security etc... I instantly fell in love with a simple lovespoon with some hearts :)
my lovespoons
©i-ADNES
During the 794-1185 (Heian period) in Japan, polygame was common. Upper-class women would keep indoors, and commonly hide their faces from the men's gaze. They talk through a screen or hide her face by fan. If a man heard good of a woman and was interested in her, he would peek through the fence to glimpse her, and would send love letters and poems to her. To be successful, a man would need polished writing skills and a good sense for love. A man visited his lady's house for three nights in a row, it meant getting married to her. If he couldn't manage three nights, it was like a one-night stand. The ideal wife possessed these qualities:
  • Nobility
  • Good looks
  • Good personality
  • Well-educated (literacy and performance skill)
  • Ability to be a good mother
The ideal husband possessed these qualities:
  • Nobility
  • Artistic ability
  • Academic excellence
  • Faithful
  • Having promotion opportunities
  • Good personality
It was likely that men were often surprised or disappointed in their woman because she wasn’t his type; after all, he can’t see her clearly until he met her in person - by candlelight or moonlight! It was a kind of blind date! He would have had to form a mental image of her. In the historical novel 'Tale of Genji', the chapter ‘Suetsumuhana’ describes how the woman Suetsumuhana was quite unattractive and extremely shy. The amorous prince Genji fell in love because of her beautiful voice and the way she plays the musical instrument - but when he saw her in person, he was surprised because she had a ugly hook nose and that of red with cold. Can you guess what happened next? Genji fell out of love and Suetsumuhana had a crush on him, but he suppoted her life by a feeling of pity.

kai-awase (the illustratted story from 'Genji', the chapter ‘Suetsumuhana’)
It's the toy that women in the court played with.
it was said that the shells were good for their marriage life,
because each shell has only one partner.
©i-ADNES
Anyway, even after a man and woman got married, they didn’t live together; the man had to commute her house. What a stressful life for a woman! They didn’t have the right to choose their husbands and to ask for a divorce, but despite this I think women at that time were basically happy. People didn't live long, and didn't have many amusements like today, so having a romance must have been much more exciting and wonderful. It’s wonderful for every generation, though.

Although the styles of expression of love are different, I like to get in touch with the souls of ancient people through traditional things.

25 May 2011

Sendai City Museum – the Pompeii Exhibit

I went to the Sendai City Museum yesterday to see the Pompeii exhibit; ‘Vivere a Pompei’. The Museum usually displays items related to the Date family and the history of Sendai, but the permanent exhibitions and the restaurant are still closed due to the earthquake. The exhibit features many objects excavated from the ruins. It was supposed to be held from 10th February to 8th May. As a result of the earthquake, it closed once but reopened from 29 April and will run to 5 June, by courtesy of the Naples National Archaeological Museum. I think some collections must be damaged by the earthquake, but if so there's no evidence of that - the exhibit seemed as if nothing happened. Honestly I’m surprised this exhibit reopened, because we still have small earthquakes everyday, and as every collection is valuable from a historical perspective, it must have been hard to make a decision to continue the exhibit.

As everyone knows, the Roman city of Pompeii, near modern Naples in Italy, was buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The city was destroyed, but we can have a real image of their wealthy life, amusements, cultures and society through excavated objects, preserved in the ashes. Life in Pompeii was really amazing; tools are almost the same as our own, rich people had private bathrooms in their houses, and they had central heating for baths. Houses contained fountains and floors and walls decorated with mosaics.

As I viewed the items used by these ancient people, I could almost hear the lively various sounds from their daily lives.
 
Sendai City Museum ©i-ADNES
©i-ADNES
 

24 May 2011

Lovely Conversation

This is my sister and her 8 year-old daughter's conversation;

"What nationality is i-ADNES (me) ?"
"Japanese, of course, she is my sister, why?"
"because she speaks Japanese as well as English."

She is interested in English language and has been learning it from native speakers :)

23 May 2011

Innocent words

- 'Why don’t you get married?'

- 'Please have a baby; I want to have a young cousin, because I’m the youngest now.'
- 'Just having a baby is ok.'

These are my nieces' words, every time they ask me. I'm divorced, but they don't know about it. My family act deaf. Never mind, they are innocent, but sometimes it's sharp for me :p

22 May 2011

Tsunamis in Sendai

According to the news, there is an old document that indicates the Sendai Plains were devastated by a similar big tsunami in 9th July, 869. A professor has found trace of the big tsunami in earlier times, and it is clear from geological surveys that the big tsunami hit the Sendai Plains about 2000 years ago as well. That means that such an event happens once every thousand years.

In a thousand years time, none of us will be here. In the distant future, I wonder how different the coastline will appear?

21 May 2011

Panda

The world’s oldest panda, ‘Ming Ming’ (a female), died aged 34 from kidney failure on 7th May, 2011 in China. She was taken to London Zoo in 1991, but she couldn’t build a successful relationship there, and returned to China. She loved eating and exercised too little, was unlucky in love, had no children, and spent most of her life alone, like many modern women. It is said that the average life expectancy of panda is 15 years, but she lived more than twice as long as the average!

In Japan, two giant pandas have been in the spotlight recently. The pair - Bili (the male) and Xiannu (the female) - arrived at Tokyo Ueno Zoo on 21st February, 2011, and they were given new names. Bili became 'Ri Ri' and Xiannu became 'Shin Shin'. The new names were chosen from over 40,000 suggestions from the public. The Tokyo metropolitan government is renting the pandas for about 79 million yen ($950,000) a year, for ten years. The payments are helping to rebuild a Sichuan panda sanctuary that was destroyed by the May 2008 earthquake, and also to fund Japan-China joint breeding projects.

The zoo’s first pair of pandas arrived in 1972; they were called Kang Kang and Lan Lan. When I was young, I went to the Tokyo Ueno Zoo with my family, and stood in a long queue to glance at the pandas! There was very little time to see them, but it was nice. I had a soft toy, mug, fork and spoon in the shape of a panda. The panda is a lovely and cuddly animal.
Ueno Zoo ©i-ADNES

20 May 2011

The Suffering of Fishermen and Farmers

Many fishermen lost their ships when the tsunami hit; but some have returned to their job at sea, like before. Every time they try to trawl for fishes, they get piles of rubble or their nets become tangles. Sometimes they have to turn back without being able to fish due to the threat to shipping; just turning back causes costly losses for them.

Some farmers have returned to their rice paddies to plant rice later in the year than usual, but most of the rice paddies are unsuitable for rice planting due to contamination from salt from the tsunami. Some farmer evacuees in Fukushima have had to leave farm animals they regarded as family. Sometimes their animals have to be put down.

Tohoku is known as a production area for rice, and boasts a fishing industry. I think it is inevitable that Japan’s food self-sufficiency will suffer because of the disaster.

18 May 2011

Beautiful Moon

Look up at the beautiful moon and think of the ones you love. I can see the moon shining more brightly as if it would pull me in. The moon is always there :)

15 May 2011

Hawaii

Fukusima is well-known to non-Japanese because of the nuclear crisis; but this place holds many more wonderful memories for me and my family. One special place is Iwaki City - in that city, there is a house my grandfather loved, where is surrounded by rich nature. Also there is a place that makes you feel like you are in Hawaii: the 'Spa Resort Hawaiians (former Joban Hawaiian Centre)'. It held the water park with water slider, hot spring park, and hotel etc. And you can see the enthusiastic Hula Dance and Polynesian Show. When I was young, I visited there twice with my family. It was the first Hawaiian-themed resort facility and theme park in Japan. Hawaii was the dream islands, because Hawaii was the place most Japanese wanted to visit at that time. It was an exotic, distant place - unlike nowadays. I didn't know much about Hawaii, but the hula dance was beautiful. I also remember the beautiful shells at the shop - I'd never seen such shells before, and I wanted some of them.

The resort has a long history; it started in 1960, before my time. It was a small coal mining village, facing unemployment as oil became the new primary energy resource in Japan. The mining company developed a plan to use hot springs from the Joban Main to provide heat for the Hawaiian Centre. The Fukushima Governor authorised the Japan's first technical school for Polynesian dance (flamenco as well). It is known as a successful village regeneration. The story of the hula dancers was filmed in Japanese in 2006. 'Hula Girls' was directed by Sang-il Lee, and the film was awarded a prize in Japan. It's based on the lives of the hula girls, describing how the girls was dedicated themselves to learning hula dance, to save the mining village. Another theme is the conflict in the minds of the old people of the village against the new tropical culture.

I travelled to the real Hawaii in November 1995 with my childhood friend. It was a reasonable package tour; the flight connected Sendai Airport to Honolulu through Hokkaido. We created a plan in advance and enjoyed our holiday very much. The first thing we did was shopping, shopping for "bikini". Buying bikinis was one of our purposes in Hawaii. In fact we didn't have swimwear but had already booked a scuba diving activity for the next day. So it was a 'must' thing. We struggled to find a perfect bikini more than we expected. Each bikini was too big for me! We visited many shops and finally got fitting colourful bikinis at a boutique in the nearest hotel!

We joined the scuba diving underwater tour with our instructors the next day. It was our first diving experience, and I was excited and a bit nervous. Honestly I can't swim very much but my friend can swim very well. When I was young, I attended summer swimming school for two weeks. We had a 25m swimming test on the last day, but I felt was in pain during the test and stood up in the pool on the 20m line. I failed with only 5m remaining...

Anyway, we put on tightened sweat suits, carrying oxygen and weights around our waists (mine was heavier than others), and put on our goggles. We swam underwater; there was another world under the sea. It was very beautiful. We couldn't see rays or turtles, but we did see many beautiful fishes. When I held out my hands, small colourful fishes were dancing on my palms. It was so lovely. More people joined the tour, and we held the hand of the next in line. I had thought that the next person was my friend, but I knew later that she was near the surface with the instructor, because she couldn’t relieve the pressure in her ears at first, so it doesn't matter whether you can swim or not. Well, the next person wasn't my friend... it was a man and his arm became tangled with my breathing tube, so I compressed my lips tightly and bore up. When we got out from the sea, I couldn't stand up by myself as gravity and the heavy weights took effect... 2 or 3 men helped me to stand up, but I think I felt a little awkward...

Our hotel was like a lovely pink palace; Royal Hawaiian Hotel which is located in the waterfront Waikiki Beach. The hotel had a private beach, pool and a lovely garden; we spent a lot of time wearing new bikinis on the beach and in the pool. Our room had a garden view. It was nice - we could see tropical plants and flowers; outside the windor, tropical birds sang songs we had never heard before. We also enjoyed shopping, eating seafood and drinking tropical juices like guava, and cocktails like chi-chi at night. On the last night in Hawaii, we dressed up for dinner on a cruise ship and had a great time with a delicious dinner and music band.

After I returned to Japan and went back to work, nobody believed that I had travelled to Hawaii; even after I gave out Hawaiian chocolates, they teased that I went to Spa Resort Hawaiians, not the real Hawaii, because my skin had a lobstering effect at first - but didn’t tan very much. My family didn't believe that I had dived into the sea, because we left cameras and other equipment at the hotel room, carrying just minimal cash for the tour, so we couldn't take any picture of us in the water to prove it. That's was many years ago, I think Hawaii has changed quite a bit since then, but it is a great memory for me.
 
©i-ADNES
 

14 May 2011

Commemorative Stamps

Y Briodas Frenhinol; this means ‘The Royal Wedding’ in Welsh.
 
I received the commemorative stamps of the royal wedding on a special envelope and with a lovely brochure in English and Welsh. The Royal Mail has presented a commemorative stamp collection, and my boyfriend ordered it for me :) The postmark is witty; it’s very royal!
©i-ADNES

Treasures

Lately I've been thinking about my treasures. I mean not the treasures in my heart, but items I own. What's the most precious item in my possession? I've spent my life in my room, surrounded by my favourite things, and I've always taken this for granted.

Some evacuees from Kawauchi Village, inside the 20km exclusion zone of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, were allowed to temporarily return to their home on 10th May. They wore protective suits and masks, had walkie-talkies, a plastic bag and dosimeters, and got on a bus. Only one person from each household was allowed to take part (two were allowed in exceptional circumstances). They could spend up to two hours in the village, and were allowed to bring out only one plastic bag (70 x 70 cm) of personal belongings.

I think it's hard to select the property you want to keep within 2 hours. If I were in that situation, what would I save: valuable goods, objects of memory, clothes?? Items for the family?

If it were you, which items would you save? What treasures would you want and need to keep?

8 May 2011

Two Months Later

Almost two months have passed after the earthquake disaster. That was an awful, shattering event, but it is now steadily receding into the past. The time just flies by. Actually I feel like I skipped the rest of March and entire April - as if they never happened. After the transport networks went down, we were afraid about the food and water supply each day, and we were uncertain how long it would last. It was totally terrifying. We were desperate to restore the food supply at any cost.

However, life is back to normal in the city centre and suburbs. The bullet train and subway have restored full service. Sendai Station and some buildings are covered with sheets, but most of the repair work hasn't started yet; carpenters are making all-out effort to build temporary housing for those who lost their homes, following the arrangements by local government.


Sendai Station (9 May) @i-ADENS
Some of the evacuees are still in shelters but some have started to move in the new structures a bit by bit. People who live areas which unaffected by the tsunami have also taken the initiative towards recovery. They are also struggling against uncertainty. They have homes, but some of them are cracked and damaged, or appliances such as the TV or fridge were broken by the earthquake and strong aftershocks. They need to repair their homes - not an easy task for everyone.
Our house is not exceptional in this respect. The foundation of our house was cracked and it’s leaning a little bit. My father wore a shocked face. He had invested in the house for a long time since he was in his 30's. With the money he earned, he purchased a piece of land, and built a house long ago - but the house was damaged by the 1978 earthquake. He paid for repairs out of his pocket, but some years later, the posts suffered termite damage. He paid for repairs again and built extra rooms, but the house was damaged again by this earthquake and its aftershocks. It's almost the same as the original damage in 1978. He was supposed to spend the rest of his life with my mother peacefully and pleasantly, in this house. We always tell ourselves that we are lucky the house wasn’t swept away by the tsunami; and all things aside, we are alive! Fortunately we've bought earthquake insurance, so it could cover the cost of repair.

I'm happy now. Not 100% but I'm glad to have a normal life. The event changed my way of thinking and made me appreciate the mundane things in my life. I don't need to have lots of luxury items anymore (although there are many appealing items in shops… :) ).

7 May 2011

Tickets for the future

Since the earthquake occurred, every plan has been up in the air. My boyfriend is English, and he was supposed to visit me this spring, but cancelled visiting because public transport (the bullet train and subway) had broken down, as well as the uncertainty over the nuclear crisis, the food and fuel supplies being disrupted, and the damage to my house. I made him worry very much while phone was disconnected, but he always understands and supports me from a long distance. I was glad he tried to call me again and again; he was only the person I could talk on a cell phone at night of 11 March.

I am supposed to visit him this summer, but I couldn’t think about booking an airplane ticket to London for a while, even I want to go there, because everything was uncertain, I felt a sense of guilt, and I was confused about my feelings. Honestly, I’m still not sure whether I should go now, but my family and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel; the worst ordeal is over, so I made up my mind to visit him this summer to take a step forward.

Yes!! I got the tickets to London at last!

5 May 2011

Height

'Tokyo Sky Tree' is currently under construction in Tokyo. The tower will have a height of 634m, one of the world’s tallest towers in 2012; it's already taller than Tokyo Tower (333m), which is modelled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower, but never in my life to Tokyo Tower. Most junior high school students from Sendai visit Tokyo for school trips and go to the top of the tower; but my class didn't go to the top, because we ran out of time. We just had chance look at it briefly from the bus window. Our bus guide said 'This is Tokyo Tower, then, let’s go to the next destination.' and moved on in a hurry. It was only a few minutes.

People have built tall towers and buildings from ancient times, such as the Great Pyramid of Giza (146m) in Egypt. Some countries have built skyscrapers, as if they are competing with each other for the heights, like the tower of Babel. Why do people build really tall buildings? They must provide a high ratio of rentable floor space per land usage, and they must also be symbols of the city's economic power. However, I prefer to stand on the ground. OK, I admit I’m afraid of heights, but I always go to a high place. I don't know why - because it's there?

George Herbert (1886-1924), who was an English mountaineer, attempted the summit of Mount Everest. His famous response to the question 'Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?' was 'Because it's there.'

Yes, because it's there, and I know the view from a high place is beautiful and air is clean, everything is wonderful (if the weather is fine). Where did I go? The Sunshine 60 building (239.7m), Yokohama Marine Tower (106m), Fukuoka Tower (234m), AER (145.5m) in Japan, BA London Eye (135m), St Paul's Cathedral (111m), York Minster (60m), Scott Monument (60m) in the UK, Eiffel Tower (320m), La Grande Arche de la Défense (110m) in France, etc. Honestly I was scared sometimes: climbing up the mesh stair steps in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and to getting on a transparent lift (you can see right down to the ground!) in Grande Arche.

As you may realise, such heights are enough for me. If you go to Taiwan, China, the UAE, the USA etc, you can see many skyscrapers. As of 2011, Buri Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates is the highest building in the world at 828m, but by 2016, I'm sure the records will have changed again and again. How tall can buildings go? I’m not sure whether I’ll go to Tokyo Sky Tree, but it will be definitely the new tourist spot in Tokyo.

3 May 2011

Royal Wedding

The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on 29 April, 2011 attracted worldwide attention. This news was not a surprise, because the couple had been frequently in the news over the past few years. I am pleased to hear this happy news.

In spring 2003, I was in Edinburgh. My friends and I took a day trip to St. Andrews. We secretly hoped to see Prince William, because he was in the university there at that time, and we were looking around as we walked towards St. Andrews Castle. In particular, one of my friends, of about his age, had an ambition to be the first British princess from an Asian country (though it was just a dream and she knew it was unrealistic).

The weather was nice; we passed the time idly, sitting on a bench in sight of the Castle. Nearby, people were making arrangements for a wedding party. Later in the day, the castle was closed for the wedding party, so we left. Men in kilts and ladies in beautiful clothes began gathering around the castle. We saw three generations of men; father, son and grandfather wearing the same kilt that has been passed down in their family - the 'clan tartan'. It was very Scottish, and a great sight.

I think Kate's wedding dress was simple and elegant; it really suited her. Women dream to find the perfect wedding dress for the special day, one that seems chosen by fate - even a rental dress. But the most important thing is that the wedding is not the goal of happiness itself - it’s just the beginning of a new phase of life. This is a quote from the Christian Bible which is often used at weddings; Corinthians 13:4-8a "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but regoices with the truth. It always protects always trusts, always hopes, always preservers".

The wedding of Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako on 9 June 1993 was also impressive. For me, the news of this wedding came as something of a surprise, because Naruhito hadn’t been the subject of gossip items for a long time. Eventually he found a perfect lady. Princess Masako formerly worked at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is highly intelligent. She wore a traditional Japanese ‘junihitoe’ at the ceremony and also a white wedding dress for the parade. 'Junihitoe' was really elegant - in the past, only court ladies could wear it. ‘junihitoe’ means 'twelve layer collar robes' - people in the past enjoyed the arrangements of the layers of colours.

Royal weddings always seems like fairy tales, a prince and a princess, white horses and a carriage, guards and the public watching, waving flags. But in reality, Prince William and Princess Kate must have felt happy and also huge pressure as the future of the British monarchy depends on them.