Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, January 05, 2009

What I Didn't Do This Winter Vacation

So...what didn't I do during my winter vacation?

I didn't do nothing.

I don't mean that in the rough, vernacular sense of, "I didn't do nuthin'." It's a literal double negative. I didn't do nothing. And nothing was precisely what I'd needed and wanted to do most. There were actually a number of things I'd hoped to do during my oh-so-short break, and I wound up not being able to do most of them. Nothing topped that list.

Part of the problem is the fact that we are still a family in mourning. The death of my mother-in-law last summer means all celebrations are out for a full year. That especially means the New Year (though Western observances like Christmas are strangely immune, as I've mentioned before). As in most Asian countries, the New Year is the most significant event of the year here in the Land of the Rising Yen. There are all kinds of special activities, seasonal dishes, traditional practices, seasonal decoration, etc., just as there are for Christmas in Western countries. This year they were particularly conspicuous by their absence. We had our annual Christmas celebration, though it was a bit muted, and after that it was virtually business as usual except for the fact that we were off from work. Heck, we didn't even have the usual mountain of New Year cards. Logically, you'd think the lack of all those New Year preparations would make things easier. Quite the opposite.

The week leading up to New Year's Day is cleaning week. Just as there is Spring Cleaning in the West, there is New Year Cleaning here. Usually we have to weave it in with the extensive New Year preparations, which puts limits on how much can be done (especially when my MIL's health started taking a turn for the worse, because it meant we had even more to do). Not so this year. Except for the two days I spent in Tokyo for the All Japan Selected High School Orchestra Fest (well-meant fanfare with some squawks in the back), I was totally free and open, so my wife and I really socked it to our house. I mean we seriously socked it to it. As in we replaced several items of cheap, old, barely-usable furniture which was just in the way (which I then had an absolute blast dismantling and burning), sorted out the entire family's wardrobe, and threw out a ton of stuff. My wife scrubbed down the kitchen and everything in it while I waxed and polished every inch of the house and repaired (or replaced) a whole bunch of things that were loose, dangling, in danger of landing on hapless heads, etc.. Meanwhile, my son was busy (not) doing his winter homework, and my daughter was obsessively (not) studying up for the entrance exam of Ye Olde Academy. In other words, they were no help at all. It was just my wife and I, and we spent five full days, as in early morning till late at night, at it before we finally said, "Fuggit," and moved my father-in-law's house!

We took a bit of a break on January 2nd, but there was still plenty to do. There were still odds and ends of repairwork that needed doing, not to mention a bit of shopping. I also did some much-needed maintenance work on my computers and studio.

Fortunately, on the 3rd we only spent a little over half a day cleaning FIL's house, mainly because we got fed up with listening to his complaining. You see, he doesn't believe in house cleaning. He thinks it's a waste of time. All the time he and my MIL were living together in that house she never did more than a cursory vacuuming two or three times a month, which was why the place always looked terrible and smelled worse inside. However, when my MIL's health started leaving her bedridden last year, my family started doing housecleaning over there, and what we found was like a nightmare. There were massive accumulations of dust-bunnies, many of them clearly decades old. There were framed wall hangings whose glass plates were so covered with hardened dust and oil-stove grime as to be completely opaque. Then there was all that useless junk piled in every available space. Even with last summer's massive cleaning effort with the help of several relatives, we're still finding accumulations of dust and mold that look like they could shoot out tentacles and devour passers-by at any moment. We did our best to prevent such things. For all our effort, however, there was no gratitude whatsoever from FIL; on the contrary, he spent the whole time yelling at us to stop "wasting time" and do something more useful, like weed his garden. (The man simply can't handle people around him doing anything unless it's by his orders. He's that sort.)

That left just one more day, Sunday the 4th. And since it was a Sunday, that meant it was our regular housecleaning day. Never mind that we'd spent all day on the 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, and 1st cleaning. It was Sunday, so my wife insisted we clean house. At least we abbreviated the procedure to keep the afternoon free, but a good chunk of that afternoon wound up getting taken out when some well-meaning bastard soul brought over a massive chunk of slightly old (i.e. hardened), uncut mochi (pounded rice cake, a New Year delicacy), which we then had to saw apart...a monumental chore. After that my wife and I hopped in the car and went out on a very short "date" (i.e. shopping in Narita) while the kids stayed home to (not) study.we were back to work.

And on the 5th, today, we were back to work.

No, I didn't manage to do nothing. I didn't get new glasses, either. Nor did I get the cat "fixed". Nor did I wash my BLUE RAV4. Nor did I make those music sheets for the Flying Eggheads' bassist. Nor did I finish the three (now four) songs I'm currently working on. Nor did I finish weeding the front flowerbeds. Nor did I venture out to Tokyo, Yokohama, Makuhari Messe, or any of the other places I was hoping to visit. In other words, my checklist is sadly devoid of checks.

But at least the house is clean.

And now...a quick retrospective of the year 2008:

Best Moment: Having caricatures drawn of my whole family, including the in-laws, by a nationally reknowned caricature artist on the observation deck of Yokohama Landmark Tower. It was my mother-in-law's last trip anywhere, and the caricature of the two in-laws together is now a valuable treasure. I remember I opposed their joining us at first. I'm really glad I gave in.

Caricature kinen

(Runners up: Having a kid who never participates in any classes at all actually participate in my class. Performing at the Kashima Soccer Stadium and then watching my first pro soccer game there.)

Worst Moment: Witnessing the death of my mother-in-law.

Most Worthwhile Outing: The family trip to Yokohama mentioned above.
(Runners up: Climbing Mt. Tsukuba.)

Most Worthwhile Purchase: My Roland Sonic Cell together with Edirol/Cakewalk SONAR 7. It has completely changed my whole approach to composing, let alone recording.

(Runner up: The 14.4V power drill/driver I bought on impulse last summer. It was definitely a MVP during our New Year cleaning!)

Most Pointless Purchase: My wife's birthday present, yet another expensive handbag she'd requested...which turned out to be just a different-colored version of one she already had.

(Runner up: The handbag I gave her for our wedding anniversary...which was the "wrong size", so she rarely touches it.)

Most Amazing Present Received: The Roland/Edirol R-09HR wave/mp3 recorder my wife gave me for Christmas after misunderstanding my request. (I'd wanted something much simpler and cheaper, but no complaints from me!) This thing is awesome!

(Runner up: The box of cake mixes sent to me by Snabulus and Ladybug. Thanks again!)

Best News Moment for Japan: Knocking off the U.S.A. for the first time EVAR to win the Olympic gold in softball. The silver won in fencing, Japan's first medal ever in that sport, was nice, too.

(Runners up: A JSDF team from Japan being allowed into China to help with rescue efforts after the monstrous earthquake. (China has always fussed and spit every time anyone even suggests Japan's military participating in any kind of overseas activity. For them to allow it in their own country is a huge step forward in terms of relations between the two countries.) Gas prices dropping to lower than they were last year even though they virtually doubled during the summer.)

Worst News Moment for Japan: A state-of-the-art Aegis destroyer ramming a fishing boat in Tokyo Bay, killing its crew.

(Runners up: Electing a notorious right-winger prone to gaffes to the post of Prime Minister. Having almost all of Japan's top judo competitors wiped out in the preliminaries in the Olympics. All those tainted and/or mislabeled product scandals. (No, not all of those were from China! Not by a long shot!))

Biggest Hope for 2009: That our leaders will use their heads.

Biggest Worry for 2009: That our leaders won't use their heads.

But at least I have all of you to remind me that there are still lots of very good things in the world!

UPDATE: Here's a new track I just wrote and recorded, an on-the-spot, largely improvised acoustic number called "Live With You". I made it partly to test my new Roland/Edirol R-09HR digital recorder and partly because my blog friend Angele has been in poor spirits recently and seems to need some encouragement. More info on my Minstrel's Muse site.


  • But at least I have all of you to remind me that there are still lots of very good things in the world!

    No, you don't.

    By the way, you don't know nothing.

    I am glad you got some cleaning done, but getting ONLY cleaning done is a bummer indeed. Hopefully next year brings better things for all of you. Check off some of those boxes!

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 5:07 AM  

  • Wow, that's an impressive amount of work you got done at home. Obviously you've been working so hard out of the house that any free time must end up being put to some use, other than couch potato-ing.

    Your FIL's house sounds like my aunt's in London. My mother always gave it a spit and polish when she went to visit.

    I had to laugh a little bit when I read about your wife's handbags. I'd never ask anyone for a handbag, that's between me and my potential handbag, really...

    Good luck at work and at home in 2009.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 8:20 AM  

  • Snabulus
    I do too know nothing! (Hwuh...?)

    Well, thanks to my daughter taking the entrance exam at my school (today), school policy requires me to be off the premises while they're marking and deciding who to accept. I get a little extra vacation time to do some catching up.

    You're probably right about the not having enough time to do things, so free time gets gobbled up immediately. Unfortunately, FIL keeps trying to demand that we give our free time to him, too (e.g. weeding the garden, addressing letters he suddenly decides to send to 300 people, etc.) since he's soooooo "busy" (drinking tea with people) during the week. Time is our most precious resource.

    As for handbags, my wife definitely seems to have an addiction or something. I haven't yet gotten her a Chanel, Gucci, or anything really expensive (not that she doesn't try), but I've already gotten her a fair number over the years...and it's never enough.

    I'm the same way with musical instruments, so I shan't complain too much.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 8:59 AM  

  • I like the way you list down your retrospective of the year 2008 :)

    Believe it or not.. I always have a problem with handbags. I couldn't find a perfect one for me. Guess what? as for my daily handbag to the office, I've been wearing the same one since year 2002 and it's already need to retire but I just can't find a proper one. I need a handbag where I can put all my stuff - wallet, umbrella, handphone, digicam, chargers, even shoes since I'm using public transportation, I need to wear sandals in order to jump on and off the bus or during the rainy season then as soon as I got off the bus, I got change my sandals to shoes. But then the handbag should not to big because the public bus usually is very crowded which make me hardly to move when I use a big bag, then it should not eye-catching or branded coz' I have to make sure that no pick-pocketer can steal my stuff from my handbag... ah.. too many criterias to find a perfect handbag for me, hehehe....

    By Blogger Selba, at 12:57 PM  

  • Selba
    (Sits silently with mouth hanging open...)

    I don't think anyone makes a bag that can do all that! If the one you have now can, take my advice: KEEP IT!!!!!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:26 PM  

  • I'm listening to the song right now. It's very nice and I think it's so sweet of you to have "dedicated" that song to me!

    As for my state of mind, I think it's slowly getting better. I know it will be fine eventually. Somehow it always does, right?

    Thanks again for the nice thought =)


    By Anonymous ÅnGe|e, at 12:59 AM  

  • Thinking about visiting the homeland? No, scratch that, you are in the home land now. Middle Earth, then.

    By Anonymous Dave, at 8:50 AM  

  • Moody, just finished listening to "Live with You" and all I can say is "Wow!". I call that a successful test. More Please! :-)

    By Blogger Info Geek, at 2:09 PM  

  • Great little song there, very contemplative and good lyrics for Angele.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 4:04 AM  

  • I'm listening to the song... over and over again, so beautiful...

    Have a great one ;)

    By Blogger Selba, at 10:23 AM  

  • Wow...if I knew I'd get such a wonderful response for a simple acoustic guitar number recorded raw with a portable recorder (while I get hardly any feedback for the more complex, time-consuming works), I would've done a lot more of that long ago!

    Live and learn...

    I wonder if people would get mad if I recorded myself playing next to that little waterfall in Hamanasu Park. (Naaah..too cold!)

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 8:28 PM  

  • A couple could have time together for sharing some houseworks, also a pleasure moment to enjoy, isn’t it? Don’t have to shopping or a short trip...etc. :-p

    I hope you didn't act to be a Cinderella on Yr. B'day again. {giggling}

    By Blogger PinkPanther, at 9:58 PM  

  • Happy New Year.

    Had no idea that New Year's was such a big thing in Japan. Good to see you getting down and dirty as well... so many men don't bother.

    Love the picture of your family. I think your daughter looks more like you. I think I once said that your son does, but now... looking at it, I think he looks more like your wife. :)

    By Blogger Um Naief, at 9:09 PM  

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