A sense of community

In early November we hold a community sports day event. A range of games will be played every year, in which different age groups can participate. Since our first son was born, we have taken part in it. This is mainly because the fliers will be distributed from school or directly to families with small kids. I didn’t even know of these events before having a kid.

The events were organized by the local firefighters’ association, together with those women (mostly grandmothers) who have lived in the neighborhood for a long time. The elementary school principal and vice principal are to join us on the sports day (because it is held on the school playground).


(What is this competition called in English?)

As I grow older, I find these events of greater importance. You don’t actually have to know one another, but just joining this event can nurture a sense of community, and a sense of cooperation. Lots of Japanese citizens, especially younger generations, tend to believe in individualism, but that belief is based on their indifferent attitude toward others in the neighborhood. This sports day event, on the contrary, brings us closer to each other and mix different generations, something that I, when in youth, made every effort to avoid.

I started to learn English because that was the required curriculum. I developed the ability of the English language with a view to being as far away from the Japanese traditional mind as possible. Adopting American culture through English was the best way to keep my attention away from my own community. In my late 40’s, however, that impetus seems to be coming to a halt. I have finally realized how these traditions connect each one of us. I have finally realized that these traditions should be passed on to the next generations. I have finally realized how much we need other neighbors to live a good life.

One TOEFL Speaking question asks the test-takers to choose one thing (out of three) that they would want to do for their children. I did not understand this one choice for a long time: “to give children an opportunity to talk with a community leader.” I can imagine what it is like, but I have never had such an opportunity, nor have I ever known who the hell is our community leader.

Not anymore.



It is something everyone did in winter, especially in their New Year holidays: kite-flying. I fondly remember what I was doing in my childhood as I saw my son enjoying this tradition. We just happen to have a large park in our neighborhood, where no obstacles surround it, and fewer people gather there on a cold day, so he was running around with his kite without worrying about bumping into other strollers.

kite flying

His kite was not of good quality, for he made it himself at kindergarten. It is just a square plastic sheet with a thread tied to each of the four corners. Contrary to our expectation, it was streaming well in the sky.

My question is: Will this tradition remain in the future when my son has grown up? Maybe in the countryside, and maybe not in the city. Lots of people are talking about loss of traditions. TOEFL, therefore, makes use of this topic to ask test-takers to respond to “Will paper books vanish as we have advanced technology?” “Will traditional skills be of little use because most of them are done with the computer and technology?” Affirmative answers may be a little easier to write, since you can describe how things are being eliminated by advanced technology. However, I would personally like to say No to these questions (even at the actual test center). Traditions are things that we had fun with in our childhood and things we should cherish for the future generations. I sometimes wonder if change is always a good thing.

Good old traditions

One important event for us parents this week was the rice cake-making ceremony at my son’s kindergarten. We were asked to help kids make rice cake (well, to tell the truth, we made it for them, and they ate it for lunch). For parents like me, it was quite exciting, too. I just wondered when was the last time I pounded glutinous rice like this? It should be more than 40-odd years back, when I was also in kindergarten. Even in those days, at home we used a rice cake (mochi) maker.

Machines and technologies do a lot of chores for us, but while the task is being done, what do we do? Probably, we use another machine to get other jobs done. With a smart phone in one hand, we listen to music, check email messages, play online games, and most importantly, log onto SNSs. School, in the 21st century, means a lot in keeping our good old traditions from vanishing into thin air.


My children do not watch the TV shows that we (their parents) prefer. It is usually the parents who yield, so we end up watching Doc McStuffin, Handy Manny, and other Disney shows. Yesterday was just about the same day, so I was ready enough to turn the channel when I turned on the TV. However, my son, as well as my daughter, suddenly got glued onto the show. It was “the first errand I ran.” Parents ask their child to run an errand and s/he achieves the goal without parental guide or assistance. Children have to cross the street or buy items from supermarket all by themselves, so this type of reality show would be impossible in other countries where safety and security are not considered given.

The child we accidentally started to watch had lost most of the money because she had bought many other things than was asked. But now, she has to buy something additional. My son got excited and said, “She’s got no money! Oh! boy Oh…Wait! I could use a credit card! Yes, that will solve the problem. Got to let her know!”

He was really into it.

The show may cater to those parents who raise or have raised children of the similar age, but it is the children that showed more interest. They can fully empathize with those kids on the show. Empathy does work.


Somewhere between work and pleasure

Many of my friends know that I start to work at 3:00 in summer, and 4:00 in winter. Today at 5:30 a.m. my work was again interrupted by my three-year-old daughter. She got out of bed, crying, and was at my door when I realized she was standing there. Said she couldn’t sleep without me by her side. I carried her to the bed, put her to sleep, and then got back to work. But that didn’t last five minutes. She was there again, crying. We repeated this exchange a couple of times and then, I gave up. I lied on the bed beside her for an hour. She seemed so peaceful and secure.

Seems to be a big waste of precious morning hours? Not in the least. On the contrary, I treasure every moment of this kind of happening. Sooner or later, she will not need me any way (instead she will ask her boyfriend to do the same, I wonder). Until that day comes, I will do my best to enjoy parenting. I don’t think I am a doting father who can spoil his daughter. It’s just that I have fun with parenting. It is sure to contribute to my English ability, too. Without my children, I wouldn’t even try writing something to this effect. That alone is a great plus.

Effective vs Affective

I knew I was sick.

So it was in a sense a ferfect timing when my daughter had a cold and suddenly started coughing. I took her to the doctor’s office, where two of us were both patients.

I had developed throat irritation.

“Your throat is terribly reddish. I will prescribe a very strong medicine for you.”

Now I am feeling drowsy. I am sure this one seems to be working.
When we left the office, my daughter asked me one strange question.

“Why do women like men?”

“Why? Well, genders don’t matter. Some women like men while other women like women, but basically we like those whom we like, no matter which gender. But why?”

“Cus I love you, daddy.”

Sorry, Doc. But these five words are more effective than the best medicine you can think of.

Merry Christmas!

The Inch-High Samurai

I attended a long meeting at work, where I was asked to cooperate in the making of the textbooks. They need revising all the time of course, and this time, again, I will be working on the revision. That’s good, though. No matter how many times I had proofread before the completion of the first edition, it was not complete until it was actually used in class. Now that it was used, it is time to make it better by including the feedback from teachers.

OK, that was another addition to my schedule for this winter break.

By the way, my son practiced writing Japanese cursive letters (hiragana) by copying いっすんぼうし(Issun-Bohshi – The Inch-High Samurai). It is an old Japanese folktale in which a boy who never grew more than “Issun” (just about an inch) went to fight against a villain and won, after which a princess swung the gavel left with her by the villain, making the boy into a grown man to whom she got married. Son was still clumsy and was very careful in writing one letter. His writing IS very cursive 🙂 but that’s what everyone will go through. Very cute letters.