Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Year

New Year was lovely, as usual. In fact it was pretty much like New Year last year. We have grown old and set in our ways. We do the same thing every year. We go to Okaasan's place and watch TV, visit the local shrine, and eat too much.

I showed Okaasan my new toy (the Palm with wireless keyboard) and she was fascinated as well as utterly confused. She drew a picture on it for me, of a cat-like dog, because it is the Year of the Dog. (Or perhaps the year of the Cat-like Dog.) I showed her how the wireless keyboard worked, and she tried to use it. The Palm does not have Japanese fonts installed so she had to type in English. This was a problem because she doesn't know any English, so she got the New Year's card I'd given her and copied from that.

It took her a good ten minutes to type "hhhhhaaaaaapppppyyyyyynnnnneeeeeewwwwwwyyyyyyyeeeeeeaaaaaar," hunting for each letter and holding the key down firmly. She thought it was funny that it didn't turn out looking quite right, and didn't quite get the point of having the letters all over the place like that so you had to hunt for them. I demonstrated for her how much faster it is to type than to write.

She was astonished. She put her nose right down to my fingers as I typed away, and watched them like a hawk, as if she thought they were going to suddenly fly off my hands. She stayed down there for so long I started to wonder if she'd inadvertently fallen asleep. She hadn't. I typed:

"I'm showing Okaasan how to type. She is hypnotised by my fingers. She is staring at at them as if they're magic, amazed by the whole thing. I don't think she has ever seen anybody touch type before.I can't stop now! This is a pen. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Help! When is she going to stop staring at my fingers?"

When I stopped she stared at the screen of the Palm, marvelling and wanted to know if what I had typed was actually words. I assured her that they were, and pointed to the bit that said, This is a pen.

"Zis... is... a ... pen!" she read, and gazed at me, all astonished delight. Then she frowned and looked at her fingers, and looked up at me hopefully.

"But if I did that, like you," she said, wagging her fingers, "It wouldn't be words, would it," she asked. I agreed that it probably wouldn't be, and she sighed and looked disappointed. Okaasan has great faith in the power of technology, and I think for a wild moment she had believed that maybe, just maybe, my magic machine would cause her to write in English if she tapped the keys at random fast enough.

After we had watched Kohaku (terrible, as usual) we watched the countdown and then The Man and I went for a walk to the local shrine. We don't usually go quite so early, and when we got there we discovered crowds of people lined up waiting to get in. Usually there is only a handful of people when we get there later.

There are some trees outside the shrine, and when I looked up I saw this:

"What's that?" I asked, and we stared. At first I thought it was fortune papers, which people tie to trees in the shrine grounds after reading them. How did they get up so high? And why were they coloured? But they turned out to be balloons. The shrine is just behind a stadium, and in the stadium they sometimes blow up balloons and then let them go all at once, and they fly all over the place. I guess a lot of balloons must have been let off on a windy day recently. The trees looked festive.

Rather than standing in line the Man and I headed off to find a coffee shop so we could wait until the crowds had gone. We knew we wouldn't be able to find a coffee shop open, because we do this every year (usually after our shrine visit), but we went anyway. It's a part of our tradition.

We walked and walked and walked. No coffee shops were open.

Eventually we came back to the shrine, and there was still a line. I suggested going up the road the other way, where there used to be a coffee shop open at this time. It hadn't been open for a few years now, but you never know.

We went, and it WAS OPEN!

Inside, the middle-aged woman snoozing at the counter greeted us, and we ordered coffee. We chatted a bit. The Man said we hadn't expected the shop to be open, and asked what her hours were. She said she opened at nine in the morning. I said,

"When are you open until?" and she replied,

"Oh, I'm very healthy. I'll keep going for a long time yet."

It was just like talking to Okaasan.

The coffee, freshly made, was truly horrible. How is it possible to make a fresh cup of coffee taste so bad? But at least we got to sit down for a while.

Back at the shrine the crowds had gone and we were now too late for the shrine maidens. I'd wanted to take a picture of them like I did last year, to see if it was the same people. But they were packing up already, although one of them kindly rushed off to get me some sake. "Just a little," I said, and he almost filled the cup. The rest of the shrine visit went just like last year's. I took a picture of the dog, since it is the Year of the Dog.

And then we walked back to Okaasan's house. I was giggling most of the way. The Man said it was the sake, but it wasn't. It was natural high spirits. Also, he is very funny. Sometimes just looking at him makes me laugh.

We got back at around four, and after watching some more TV went to bed.

In the morning, well, afternoon, we had the traditional New Year food, which Okaasan had prepared.

It wasn't just fish. I took a picture of what I thought was the whole spread, but then Okaasan kept remembering things she'd forgotten, and we'd already started eating, so you'll just have to imagine the rest. In fact she kept bringing out more and more food, some of it totally unsuitable, and we had to stave her off. She can be very persistent when it comes to food.

In the afternoon we came home, and since no New Year would be complete without some funny English, here it is.

A pachinko parlour:

And a place for foodies to din:

Happy New Year!


BerlinBear said...

Sounds lovely! A very happy new year to you.

Robert said...

I love to din... one of my favorite pastimes.

Now did I read this correctly? You all were up until 4? I barely made it to midnight before a wicked migraine sent me scampering for bed. A lousy date I'd have been!

tinyhands said...

I'm verly slowly getting around to wishing everyone a Happy New Year. It's your turn- Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to lots more fun stories from you.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post very much, as usual! =)


Wiccachicky said...

Tell Okaasan that eventually we'll have a universal translator and then the magic machine really WILL speak English! :) At least, I'm hoping we'll have one eventually because I want one.

Happy New Year!!