The Birthday Present

J's birthday isn't until June 13th but I just had to take advantage of the sale at the local shopping center. Our credit card is issued through this chain of stores and they give us a 5% discount in addition to the special Spring Sale prices. I found an adult bicycle for 7,999 yen and went ahead and bought it. It was the last one in stock, so I felt lucky.

The actual purchase took a while as there were forms to fill out for registering the bike with the police (so it will be returned to us if it's found in some obscure place) and the clerk had to complete a thorough pre-sale inspection. We talked while he made various adjustments and filled the tires a little more and I told him how it was a present for my daughter who would be very pleased to have her first new bicycle. He took my credit card and went to another clerk at the cash register. When he returned, giving me my receipt and card, he told me that he had marked the bike down by 499 yen to an even 7,500 yen because it was a present and that he'd like to throw in some 200 yen reflective name stickers for the birthday girl. I arranged to pick up the bike the next morning, as I was on my own bike and couldn't push the new one home with my groceries too.

Now I had to figure out how to hide the bike until J's birthday. Our building has free bicycle parking outside, behind the building, and 2,000 yen per year parking in the basement parking lot. Our old bikes are all out behind the building but I paid for half a year to get a slot downstairs for the still new bike. I left the girls home with S when I took L to his kindergarten bus stop on Saturday morning and walked to the store near the station after sending L off. I rode the bike home (gently) and into the new slot downstairs. The tires have been wiped clean, the key and manual hidden in S's study so now I just have to keep my mouth shut until the middle of next month. We'll wait to put the name on until after J's birthday so she won't accidentally find the bike downstairs among 40 or 50 other bikes.



I left our sliding glass doors to the balcony open to air the apartment out for an afternoon visit from J's teacher. I returned from my errands to find two pidgeons trying to build a nest against the wall under the dining room table bench. Apparently S had shooed them out once and gone back to his nap. I shooed them around the table and out again and cleaned up the twigs before the teacher arrived, glad they hadn't had time to lay any eggs.


Sad News from Home

I learned today of the unexpected death at 45 of the former town historian, D W on May 6th. I remember hearing him talk about the landscaping plans at the local historic spot, the manse of the town's founder, as he researched authenticity and worked hard years ago and also remember enjoying his contributions to the Republican on the town history which I received by seamail far far away. I suppose it's too late to mention any schoolgirl crush I may have had on the gentle and earnest student of anthropology and archaeology. His contributions to the understanding of local history, even after moving down south, are not small and I feel that his death at 45 is such a waste.


Golden Week

Golden Week

We closed the English school for a week because of a series of national holidays collectively known as "Golden Week" in Japan. Families make plans months in advance to travel during the extended vacation. The news reports 60 and 70 mile long traffic jams on the major expressways around Tokyo. We decided to relax around home rather than brave the crowds and special holiday price increases in Hakone or some other tourist spot.

So far we've cycled, splashed in a stream, had a picnic, eaten out (Chinese) and gone swimming. S was too tired from the Saturday cycling to go swimming on Sunday, so I took the kids to the indoor, heated, public swimming pool with two water slides and a circulating pool where we tried to visit in January. L was too young and too short for the slides, but he had a great time drifting around the circulating pool with me while his sisters were sliding.

The children went on and on about the fun they had so S decided we should go again today so he could see this wonderful place. There weren't too many small children, as there was a rule that people using diapers on a daily basis are not permitted in the pool area. There is apparently a nice play room where the grandmothers can stay with the babies while the rest of the family splashes around.

Dinner at a Hiroshima style okonomiyaki restaurant on the way home was good entertainment. The kids loved sitting at the grill/counter watching the the cute young man fry noodles and mountains of shredded cabbage to be sandwiched between a savory crepe and a flattened and spread out fried egg and slathered with brown okonomiyaki sauce. When the "pancakes" were ready, they were placed in front of us on the grill for us to chop away and eat in small portions as the whole pancakes were too big to fit on the small plates we'd been given. The children were excited about eating right off the grill and we managed to finish the meal with no burned fingers or spilled water.

We only rent videos or DVDs a few times a year, so "Monday Night at the Movies" in the Sugio home was appreciated. They watched Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of
Azkaban." Tonight they are camping on the floor of the English school with S, a few blocks away from here. They carried blankets and pillows down the street after they brushed their teeth at home.

Tomorrow is probably KARAOKE day and then off to the local hot springs before dinner in the restaurant near the station where we went with Mom and Dad after our picnic last month.