Journal

 

Wednesday
Feb142018

New URL

For the latest blog posts, articles, and other writing, check out my new website herehttps://www.aonghas-crowe.com/

Friday
Jan122018

So When is Shogatsu Over?

Ringing in the new and tossing out the slightly old prompts an age-old question, one similar to Christmas trees in the West: when should you take your Shōgatsu decorations down?

Check out my latest article at GaijinPot and find out.

Sunday
Dec312017

Shime Kazari

When you live forever in only one part of a country, it's easy to assume that the way things are done in your region are the same nationwide. It took me two decades to realize that sansha mairi (visiting three shrines at New Year's) was a custom limited to Fukuoka. 

Similarly, the shimé kazari, a New Year's decoration placed above the entrance to homes and buildings, varies from region to region. Shime-kazari is said to originate from shime-nawa (twisted hemp and rice straw rope placed at the entrance of shrines to indicated a sacred space) and meant to keep misfortune and unclean spirits away and greet Toshigami (年神), the gods and ancestors brought with the new year.

 

Saturday
Oct142017

P.K.

Asked several groups of young women if they could give me some common and not so common Japanese abbreviations.

Old standards, of course, include OL (Office Lady), OB (Old Boy, as in an alumni network), and TPO (Time Place Occasion).

Recently popular ones are CA (Cabinet Attendant, i.e. stewardess) and KY (Kuki-o yomenai, referring to someone who can't read the mood of a situation; someone who just doesn't get it.) Not sure when flight attendants started being called CAs here. For the longest time they were called stewardesses, or "succhi" for short.

Newer abbreviations are rather funny. My favorite, though, is PK.

"PK?" I asked. "PK, as in penalty kick?"

The girl laughed and said, "Yes, penalty kick." I could tell though that she wasn't telling me the truth.

"C'mon, what does it really mean?"

"It's embarrassing."

"Yes, but, you brought it up."

"パンツ食い込み. (Pants kuikomi)"

"A~h so~~~."

I don't recommend googling that when you're at work.

Monday
Oct022017

Bloody Catholics

“Look at ‘em! Bloody Catholics filling the bloody world up with bloody people they can’t afford to bloody feed!”

              --from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

 

When I was a kid--I couldn’t have been more than six--I asked my parents why they’d had so many goddamn children. I was Number Eleven myself, and Number Twelve had come into the world recently. It was in my mother’s arms, as new as the furniture in the living room that had also just arrived. The timing of the two was so uncanny that it wouldn’t have surprised me if my father had replied that we kids had all been promotional giveaways, my little sister having been thrown in for free when they bought the furniture at Ethan Allen.

What he told me, however, was no less remarkable:

“When two people, who are in love, sleep in the same bed together, babies happen.”

My parents, who still hugged and kissed each other after nearly twenty years of marriage, were clearly in love. Even a six-year-old could see that. What’s more, they slept together every night in a giant king-sized bed. Why, if you put two and two together, naturally you got twelve. A year and a half later, Number Thirteen showed up.

Now, compare that with the bleak conjugal life of my paternal grandparents and you’ll understand why I found what my father had told me had so convincing.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, so much so that most of my earliest childhood memories involve them.

Let me tell you, hardly a day went by when my grandmother and grandfather were not squabbling and bickering about something. I remember my grandmother would get so fed up with her husband’s grousing that she’d turn her hearing aid off. Out of earshot, out of mind.

On top of that, Grandma and Grandpa slept not only in separate beds, but in bedrooms that lay at opposite ends of a hallway. It made perfectly good sense to me then that the two would have only one child: my father.

Now that I'm in my forties, and a father myself, I understand that Catholicism probably played just as big a part in my parents' fecundity as that big bed of theirs.

Thursday
Sep072017

School Lunch

My wife visited our son's elementary school today to attend a lecture about kyūshoku, or school lunch. The presentation ended up being more interesting than she had expected.

In Fukuoka City, there are 144 elementary schools (grades 1-6) with a total of 80,077 students. The schools are divided into five blocks to prevent shortages in ingredients as almost all of them are sourced locally from within the prefecture.

To my surprise, each school has its own kitchen and a staff of up to 8, including licensed nutritionists. (I had been under the impression that a central kitchen was being used.) Vegetables are hand washed and hand cut. Although most dishes are made from scratch, some of the items, such as today's paozi (steamed dumplings), are prepared in advance by third party producers.

The lunches, as I have noted before, include many international dishes as a way of introducing kids to other cultures ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and World Swimming Championship that are going to be held in Fukuoka.

Today's lunch included a Chinese style stir-fry, paozi dumplings, bread with locally grown fig jam, and milk.

Each meal costs on average ¥243 ($2.23) and contains about 530 calories. Meals for junior high kids contain 640 calories; those for high schoolers, 740.

And, no, the food is not gluten-free and may contain lethal quantities of peanuts.

Thai-style Gapao Rice and Japanese-style White Stew

Pork and Beans, Raisin Bread, and Cabbage/Kelp Stir Fry

Fish flavored with Sesame, Miso Soup, and Rice

Wednesday
Aug232017

I Luv FUK

Happy to say that this is now a thing. Check it out.

 

Friday
Aug112017

Kampai! is Out!

A very, very nice surprise this morning.

My latest work, Kampai, has managed to break the top ten in Japan. 

I'm not crazy about the cover, to be honest. And, the final product is very different from what I intended to write, but, but, but, there's still a lot of interesting information thrown in with anecdotes of my life in Japan. A Kampai! 2 is in the works, and may come out perhaps next year.

Lemme tell ya, this has been perhaps the most productive nine months of my life. In addition to the dozen or so articles I have written for a number of different sites, mags, and journals, I have pumped out:

a new novel (A Woman's Hand), rewritten another (Rokuban), gotten half done on a third (A Woman's Tears),

two works of nonfiction (Kampai, Boys Have Dingdongs),

a collection of essays and stories (🖤 FUK, due out soonish),

a photo collection (Covered), 

and, two textbooks (Speak Up!).

(Phew!)

I hope the next 12 months will be as productive or more.

 

For more on my writing go here.

 

Wednesday
Jun282017

Yasukuni, it ain't

During a long run in an unfamiliar corner of town this morning, I came upon a broad set of stone steps, flanked on either side by massive stone lanterns.

Thinking it was the entrance to a shrine, I climbed up the steps. To my surprise, I found a number of monuments dedicated to those who had died in modern Japan's wars and foreign engagements from the overthrow of the shogun and restoration of the Emperor to power, known as the Meiji Restoration (1886), to the Russo-Japan War (1904/5), the Manchurian Incident (1931), and on to the Pacific War which ended 72 years ago this summer. This sombre memorial to Japan's militaristic past is not listed on the map, nor were there any signs outside of the premises indicating what awaited visitors at the top of the stairs.

 

 

 

I will return in the summer during the Bon Festival to see if there are any special ceremonies taking place, like those which occur every year at Gokoku Jinja.

 

For more on "Tani Park", go here.


Wednesday
Jun282017

Month of No Water, indeed

Funny, but this year (2017) June truly has been the "Month of No Water" for Fukuoka. It has for the most part been nice and sunny since the start of the rainy season was announced on June 6th (aka. Roll Cake Day). Although we did get some rain last weekend--why is always Sunday--it looks like we are in for another dry spell.

Meanwhile, the dam level in Fukuoka prefecture is down to the mid 50s, or 30 to 40 percentage points lower than where it ought to be in a typical year. Some dams have fallen to as low as 18%.

If things don't improve anytime soon, we may find ourselves in a serious pickle. It won't be the first time, though. Back in the summer of '94, one year after one of the coolest and wettest summers that caused rice shortages throughout Japan (Remember that?), we had one of the driest summers. If memory serves me correctly, water had to be rationed for over a month.

At first water service was cut off from, I believe, 10 in the evening until 10 in the morning. In those days, I worked from about 9am to 9pm--don't ask--meaning I had one hour to shower, do my "duty", wash clothes, cook, and clean up. It was hell. After several weeks, water service was expanded a bit. And when a big typhoon hit, all was back to normal again. So, hurray for typhoons!

 

For more on why June is called the "Month of No Water", go here.

Tuesday
May092017

1000 Words

 

Students going through a list of the 1000 most frequently used English words to check which ones they were unfamiliar with discovered that four words "eat", "nature", "then", and "through" had all been included in the list twice.

One of the students commented, "The person who made the list must have been really tired."

"And hungry," said another.

 

Sunday
May072017

Boys Have Dingdongs


 

Boys Have Dingdongs & Other Observations is a collection of about 150 mostly silly, occasionally moving conversations I had with my sons from the time they started speaking until the elder one graduated from kindergarten.

Although I originally intended to save this collection until the boys were twenty, after reviewing them during the spring break I decided that now was as good a time as ever to go ahead and publish it. The reaction from my son--he ended up sleeping with the book in his arms--told me that I had made the right choice.

Dingdongs is available as an ebook and paperback.

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Apr272017

Japanese Literature Survey 2

Create your own user feedback survey

Friday
Apr212017

Japanese Literature Survey 1

  

Create your own user feedback survey  Create your own user feedback survey

 

Tuesday
Mar142017

Chodo Kono Takasa

    Six years ago, Tōhoku was hit by a massive earthquake which triggered tsunami up to 40.5 meters in height. To give people an idea of how high the seismic sea waves were, Yahoo! Japan had the above memorial banner hung on the Sony Building in Tōkyō's Ginza district. The red line, which reads chōdo kono takasa (ちょうどこの高さ, "exactly this height"), gives a powerful reminder of how high the destructive tsunami was.