Thursday, December 29, 2016

NHK sends the link for Ohayo Nippon

I don't know if this will work for you but when I click on this link, the website appears.
The text is all in Japanese though I found if I click on the translation at the top, a rather strange translation comes up.

The first section is about Tokyo Union Church and the last part is Wally Higgins. I think what he said was a bit easier to translate ... at least makes a bit more sense. shutoken/ohayo/report/ 20161224a.html 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

53 years ago

Comments on my post from Sara got me thinking about all the changes that have taken place, just in Nerima where we set up housekeeping 53 years ago.

Today, Nikko and I took a walk back to the site of "Masumiso", the little two-story walk-up where we lived at first.

Several years ago the building was still standing. I had seen a sign on the wall advertising for renters.

I do not know what changes may have been made to those apartments over the years, but when we were living there, each apartment had one six-mat room, one four and a half mat room, a one-mat closet, and the last two and a half mat space formed a toilet, genkan, and kitchen.

One tatami mat is about 6'x3'. This picture was taken my first Christmas in Tokyo. Behind me the two sliding doors lead to the kitchen and genkan. In the left corner is my kitchen cupboard. The refrigerator was an ice chest that sat outside the kitchen door. There was a small sink ... no hot water ... and a small propane burner for cooking,

We had investigated several potential apartments but all were very expensive. The cost of this, including the propane, was 18,000 yen a month. Insurance was 2,000 yen. Paul was working for Hitachi at that time and it would have been cheaper to live in company apartments but they were far from his family and I was reluctant to face living up to company expectations.

With overtime pay, Paul was bringing home 20,000 yen a month and I was able to get a job teaching English at an English Salon in the Ginza area. Thus, we were able to survive as long as we were careful with expenses.

This picture was taken outside our door. The dog is "Merrily" who came to us from Paul's Uncle who was moving to South America. She lived with us many years and was buried under a plum tree in New Jersey, where we lived while Paul was in training at Banker's Trust in NY.

Behind Paul, at the end of the building where the stairs come up, was a big field and off to the left was another field. At the end of the field was a row of two apartments.

The fields changed produce from season to season, Cabbage, daikon, winter wheat, broccoli and sprouts and onions.  Along the back road was the farmer's big house and also a public bath house.

During lunch time, the sewer trucks parked along the back road. (stinky)The area did not have city water or a sewer system at that time. Our water came from a well that was turned off once a week for cleaning. Almost all the toilets in the area were indoor out-houses of the squat type. Hard to believe these days where most houses have modern sit toilets with even heated seats ... some with sensors that flush when you get up and many with washlets.
Depending on the time of year, the trucks came along with a wide hose that sucked up the contents... maybe once a month or more often in the summer. I was always a bit afraid one of my kids would fall in that hole. A wooden lid fit over the opening when not in use. Toilet paper did not come on a roll but one bought paper and cut it into pieces about the size of half a sheet of paper, and those were placed in a small basket beside the squatsie.

Now standing on the site, though the old wall remains, is a new house.

The streets are now paved and any trace of the fields, farmhouse, or public bath are long gone.

What fields that remain have mostly been turned into co-op apartments called "Mansions" or parking lots or warehouses.

 This is now the scene from where we turned up the stairs to our apartment.

This building on the left looks something like Masumiso but it is, along with the building behind, built in what was then fields.

All the area to the right was also fields, with the apartment buildings and public bath at the end.
Straight ahead was the farmer's house and more fields as far as you could see.

There still remain a few fields that are active, growing mostly a variety of vegetables. One was turned into a public garden with plots that households could rent to grow their own produce. Sadly, that area was turned into a huge apartment a few years ago. The plot behind it became a parking lot.

Our apartment was a short walk to Nerima Station on the Seibu train line and it was just a bit farther to the street where Paul's folks lived.  We often went there and used their bath, which was much nicer than being "exhibit A" at the public bath. I had a few private english students that came there for lessons. Their home was much warmer with a narrow hall separating the rooms from the outer windows and buffered from the cold with shoji-papered doors.

There was little insulation in those days. I remember watching buildings being put up with a layer of straw being plastered to the walls before the inner board was put in place. Most homes had small space-heaters but they were kerosene and dangerous so not used at night.

Other than doll bedding, the first quilt I made was pieced from scraps I got from a tailor who altered men's clothing. It was just a tied cover and not fancy but needed for warmth. There was never a photo taken, even of Merrily sleeping on top, and being mostly wool, it was given up long ago ... or what was left when the moths took over.

We lived in that apartment until 1965. During the Tokyo olympics, Paul was loaned by Hitachi to the Olympic Organizing Committee. Those were days of many changes and I did get to attend some of the events as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

My first daughter was born in February and kept at the hospital for a month because she was too premature. in going back and forth to the bus stop on my way to deliver milk to the hospital daily, I found a new duplex going up at the spot where we are now living. The rent there was 22,000 yen a month but it was just down the street from my inlaw's place. I could teach english in my own home so add classes and there was a real bath, a three-mat kitchen, and a three-mat room for a crib besides the six-mat bedroom. By the time my little one was released from the hospital, we had made the move. A new chapter had begun. We planted a flowering plum in the garden to celebrate and enjoy it still.

NHK did not walk to this site but they did get the story.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The rest of the story

Well, Saturday morning has come and gone in a whirlwind of activity. Friday was a National Holiday ... the Emperor's birthday ... and from early morning I had been off to Mochi - pounding with the Scouts.

I arrived exactly at 10:am as the opening ceremony had begun.

My Scouts are lined up along the back row.

The rice was steaming in trays, ready to be moved to the stumps for some active pounding.

The chip in my camera had been swapped out with another and there was no room left for more pictures, but the scene changes little from year to year.

At the tables by the flagpole, Cub Scout mothers were lined up, serving Mochi in all kinds of styles and the most delicious "Ozoni" a soup specially made for the occasion and worthy of several helpings.

(actually, it is one thing I look forward to every year).

Norie and Leia came in the afternoon and the cookie guru set to work making painted cookies with sprinkles.

Some went into a box to share with her friends, some went with me to the choir, and the rest piled on a platter for Sunday's dinner party.

Norie and Leia spent the night on Friday and were in position in front of the TV by 7:30 am.

It was interesting to see what the TV crew had picked out of three hours worth of filming to show. After a bit about Tokyo Union Church, there was a video of Nikko and me walking along a back street. Luckily they left out the part where I was picking up trash.

They played some of the clip with the Rice-store lady "Kanazawa-komiya-san" Having suddenly appeared at her shop with a camera crew and a reporter with no warning at all, she came off her usual warm friendly self.

Then there was some interview in a corner of my rather cluttered livingroom ... a bit of stitching ... and a bit of quilt showing and some chatter about the "early days" in the 1960's. I didn't record the program ... actually, I don't know how to use all the gadgets with only Japanese labels, but they said they would bring me a DVD and that can be copied and sent to the kids.

The rest of the interview featured another member of our church, Wally Higgins, who was my husband's best friend and has worked many years for Japan Railways, and probably has more knowledge of the railroad system than any other employees. He has an archive of historic photos.
I have a suspicion that he may be the one who got my name in the pot.

Today, the reporter called to ask my permission to post it to their web site. She would send me the link in a few days.

Tanya watched the program in far off Nikko and posted some pictures on her blog. (along with many very kind words)

The rest of Saturday was spent prepping for a big dinner on Christmas day. Having Christmas fall on a Sunday made the schedule that much tighter but we managed to make a pumpkin pie out of fresh kabocha and also a pecan pie before I had to rush out to my English lesson and then to the church.

The choir sang in two services Saturday night. and there was a special choral offering by the small group.
Though I have been fighting off a cold and cough, my voice held out enough to do my part.

It was way past my bed time when I returned but I could get the stuffing prepared for the turkey before turning in.  Sunday was an early start. I had to smile when, on my way to the train station, a lady living near the tracks came rushing up to tell me that she had been watching the TV Saturday morning and saw the first picture of me walking the dog and was so happy to see the whole show.

The rest of the day was a scramble but the food was ready when guests arrived...

Behind me, SIL Hiro, Leia, daughter-on-loan Kiyoe-chan, now famous Wally Higgins, Obachan (Paul's sister) and Kanazawa komiya-san (who came to share a chat with Obachan and dessert).

So, there it is ... not much of the story left to tell.

The dishes have been washed and put away, the turkey bones for boiled down and became a yummy soup

The official greeter finally could take off her regalia for another year ...

And now in leading by example.

(or maybe she is dreaming about turkey left-overs)

I hope you all have had a happy holiday ....

Now ... maybe a bit of time for some stitching???

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The "Rest of the Story" is yet to come

 School Holiday began a week ago.
I remember looking at time off as a time to relax and renew and have a bit of down-time.
Could my memory be slipping in my old age?

On the way home from school to the train station, I passed "Blue and White" and took this picture of the "tree" in the window with all the fancy coasters decorating the branches.
Some have really fine sashiko work and you can probably make out a few of my little round ones.

The dust is beginning to settle since the TV crew showed up a week ago.  What was to be two hours of filming, turned into three ... and then the crew showed up at the first service on Sunday to film the choir. In all, for a half hour show, including the church and two "old" members, there is going to be a pile of cuttings on the NHK floor. The other "elder" in the equation gave an equal amount of camera time.

They photographed a pile of quilts  ... the ones I keep in use, they did interviews about my early days in Tokyo ... interesting questions, not only about quilts, but the things I found surprising about life here ... like men peeing in the bushes along the narrow street and mothers pointing out the strange foreigner to their children. They were really curious about why I came and stayed.
Was it just an adventure? Or from my point of view, to be my real self ... I was expected to be different, being a foreigner, but after an early life of trying to meet other people's expectations and failing miserably, I was given free reign to just be myself, and loved for who I was ... ever rather admired for my unique solutions to daily challenges.

Oh, they wanted a walk with me and Nikko through the neighbourhood ... stopping to talk to the rice store lady (poor friend with no warning of what was going on). Then, as I thought they were done and we were walking home, I passed a few drink cans that had been tossed in the bushes along the street, and as usual I reached down and snatched them up to put in the proper trash. "Wait! wait! we want to film that"! Huh? toss the cans back and let them film me? Good thing I wasn't picking up cigarette butts or green gum!

O am glad to say they did not photograph the messy piles hiding in the corners. I was able to clear enough space and the quilts are slowly returning to their beds and resting spaces.

Norie came to serve tea and snacks to the crew with an agreement she could avoid camera time.

Now I have added the seasonal table runner and brought three blooming Christmas cacti down from my bedroom-greenhouse to be enjoyed during waking hours.

I think the tree-decorating fairy and cookie guru will be coming tomorrow to stir the pot.

Meanwhile, Nikko and I will go on with the day.

She is little concerned with how she appears on TV.

Saturday Morning Norie and Leia and I will turn on the TV at 7:30 am and see "The rest of the story".

Saturday evening and Sunday morning will be filled with song (if I can keep this cold at bay) and good food and friends will fill the spaces between.

Christmas Blessings to you all.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What have I gotten myself into now!

Progress is being made on the runner for the Women's Conference speaker. All is quilted except the words in the navy border. Then add the binding. I have one month left and that should be enough time to complete the task.

My friend, Amy Katoh of the "Blue and White" shop, was looking for blue and white coasters so I made a few from some yukata fabric in my stash and dropped them off a week or two ago.

When I passed the shop on my way to the train station Monday, there was a lashed bamboo "tree" in the shop window and the shop assistant was fastening lots of coasters as decorations on the tree. I will have to remember to take my camera tomorrow and get a picture.

The shop window along the street has a constant change of blue and white displays. New owners of the building are trying to get the shop to move but it is an icon of the area and finding a new spot in the area will not be easy.

And ... now the plot thickens. Today at church, I was interviewed by a lady from NHK who was looking for "old timers" to interview in a TV program to be shown on December 24th. Though ours is the church of the revolving door, there are a few who have been in Tokyo for even longer than I.

The lady was interested in my quilting. Indeed, there are plenty of quilted banners hanging around the church and I think only one has my name on the back. Even church members probably do not know where they come from or even that they are hand made.

Anyway, after an interview, it was decided the lady will come to my house on Tuesday ... to look the place over??? and they will film the interview on Thursday. Oh Boy! How am I going to get everything picked up and tidy by Tuesday morning? I haven't even had time to read the newspapers for the last three days! I will have to find a place to put things where I will be able to locate them in the future without stirring the pot and making things worse.

She mentioned pictures from long ago ... oh I have more albums than anyone could imagine ... and quilts ... well, I wonder how many I should dig out. Maybe if I pile them on the sofa they will hide all the other stuff. Then there is the dog hair! No way to hide that! I guess I had better un-plug the laptop and get busy.

The teacher I work with at school asked me when winter begins. With the first snow? well, we had an early snow a few weeks ago and it had been 54 years since snow came that early. Yet, the leaves on the ginkgo trees had not yet turned color ... or even the maples in my garden.
Well, a week ago, Wednesday, there was one ginkgo turned a golden color along Roppongi-dori where I walk on my way to school. This past Monday all the trees were dressed in gold, and this Thursday three were completely bare and three others with only a few scattered leaves. After  very gusty weekend, I expect the whole row will be bare and winter will have begun. After hearing of big snow in Ohio and Oregon and northern Japan, I am rather glad to see our brand of "winter".

Though this snow made the news ....

I am happy to have blue skies ... even with the blustery wind.

And if snow is to make the news ... this variety is preferred.