Sunday, February 24, 2013

Remembering a summer festival -- 20 years ago

 As I write, it is a Sunday evening in February, and I'm sitting with a hot cup of tea next to me and the heater on under the table. I am uncovering memories that date back many years as I go through boxes of photos..tonight I am reminded of an August festival at the day care center (hoikuen) that our second daughter attended.

I'm not totally sure what prompted the tongues hanging out, but I love how the sisters were sticking close together.

I also wonder what had happened to prompt the younger one to look distressed and the older one to have such a shocked look on her face. Sometimes I think they should get medals for surviving the years we put them into settings where they didn't have the language and cultural understanding.

It looks to me like the teacher had a firm hand on the younger daughter.  And I am totally impressed that our oldest one was wearing geta--the wooden sandals.

Part of the festival involved contests...apparently the parent child watermelon contest. Looks to me like those Americans are doing pretty well.

I think they won!

And then it was time for parents to eat and meet in the middle...

This was a public day care center, and so we couldn't always be sure what religiously cultural experiences our daughter was having.  There were a few days we held off having her attend because we knew they were doing a visit to a local shrine, etc.  

What amazed us though was the effort the staff went through to try to accommodate us as Christians. One time they were having a ninja party, and when we came they were particularly proud to point out to us that they had made a cross on the front our our daughter's "ninja outfit" (made out of a black garbage bag.)

Summer festivals are typically when Japanese carry portable shrines through their neighborhoods. In this case, the kids had made "portable shrines" out of cardboard and craft materials.  But they wanted to be sure that we saw that ....

they had put a cross on the top...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Are we ready? Disaster preparation...

We had a booklet from the city of Tokorozawa (our home town) in the mailbox this week.  It was a Guide to Disaster Preparedness.  It is full of illustrated reminders and advice about being ready for an earthquake, volcano eruption, flooding and landslides, electrical storms, as well as terrorist attacks and major infectious diseases like SARS.

Included in the book is a separate map of our city, showing the building damage risk for an earthquake in our area. It correlates with map in the booklet showing earthquake intensity across the city.

While most of the booklet is in Japanese, they have labeled various important information in Chinese, Korean and Japanese, as well. This is the legend for the map above.

Other pages are only in Japanese, but the illustrations would be helpful for non-Japanese speakers.  Here the recommendations are to get under a table or desk (top left), turn off any flames (gas cooking or heaters), open doors (a shifting in the building could make it impossible to get out); and to be ready with your disaster kit, listening to the radio for instructions.  This is only one of multiple pages...  There is a page with a list of what you should have in your disaster kit and advice on leaving emergency messages so people outside your area can call in to get your status.

The booklet goes on to show us how our city is ready to help in case something happens.  We are instructed on where the local designated evacuation sites are located, where we could go to get water and meals,  along with primary transportation routes, etc.

The last half of the booklet shows maps, district by district. Our house is the "gold star" and we are not too far from a major evacuation site and center.  Actually, while I hope we never have to use the system, we live in a pretty good location! The city hall is on the other side of our train station, and we are within a five minute walk of two different evacuation sites.

In a few weeks, we will mark the second anniversary of the great earthquake and tsunami in Northeastern Japan. For those of us who experienced it or been a part of serving those who did, there will be moments of remembrance and a season of grief for the great losses. Hopefully there will also be thankfulness for those who have seen the faithfulness of God in the midst of the disaster and recovery. Keep in mind that this is an ongoing experience for people though--aftershocks continue. One friend who just moved into the "zone" said there were three earthquakes last week. The frayed nerves trigger fear every time the earth starts moving. People living in the tsunami zone are re-traumatized when a tsunami warning comes over the loud-speakers. A few weeks ago school children and parents were not able to be reunited until tsunami warnings were lifted following the Solomon Island Earthquake (2/3).  The physical and emotional toll continues.

Please be praying for those who serve directly in the area. May they know God's peace and comfort as they care for and encourage one another and those who have lived through the disaster.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Advertising Campaign Follow-up

Last month I wrote about the advertising campaign from the Seiyu grocery chain, and asked for reflections on what it might mean. Several foreigners talked about being shocked at seeing the ads and wondered if that was how Japanese viewed them. On the other hand, several Japanese used the word "cute" to describe it.  This left me confused.

Last week, a friend of mine in the States asked to use the blog in an English conversation class she has with Japanese women. It was a perfect group to have look it over and respond.   Here are some of their thoughts:

  • A theme I noticed throughout the advertisements was the term "Deluxe."One of the women thought the ad was based on a magazine columnist and transvestite entertainer, Matsuko Deluxe.  Since his name is Deluxe, the reference would be clear to many Japanese.


  • Here is this entertainer on the most recent Mr. Donut advertisements

  • The advertisement also featured a pleasant and plump foreign woman. One of the students said that the first impression of the woman is that she is cute.  Maybe they don't want to be her, but she is likable.  They also thought her cuteness is similar to the Kewpie doll on Kewpie Mayo.

  • One theory about her being in curlers was that she is having a good time at home.  Since the economy isn't that good, people can buy things cheaper at the store (than going out) and stay home and enjoy the "deluxe" life.

  • The students said the last photo of the woman with 3 baskets looks like she is rich.  They thought she was wearing fashionable clothes (my friend said she thought they were old--her students said they were retro/cute) and since she has a lot of food, life is good.

  • When my friend told them that Americans would be offended by the image of an obese woman eating chocolate, they didn't seem to understand why.  Their discussion included several ideas. Perhaps it was because there aren't many people like that in Japan, so the model doesn't seem real. She is more like a character.  On the other hand, in the US, there are many  overweight people and the image implies they are fat because they only eat junk food.  

Since this was a group of Japanese ladies living in the US who hadn't seen these ads before, they had fun talking about this and interpreting the meaning. The week before they had just discussed a Superbowl commercial.  They concluded that the ads would never work in each other's countries.

I have to agree!