Archive for the ‘My Japanese Experiences’ Category

These days I video-chat with my mother in Yokohama a couple of times a week.  She’s 80-years old but pretty savvy with computer considering.  She can do most basic tasks on her iMac like emailing and doing research on the Internet.  So we’ve been using iChat for quite some time now, but when we connected via video-chat for the first time almost two years ago, it was pretty sensational.  As I use my laptop, I get to walk around my apartment as we chat and show her what’s going on.  The best part is that she gets to talk to the grandkids, the kitties!

Well, the best part just changed last weekend.

I happened to call her on the iChat around my midnight, which was late afternoon for her.  As we started talking, my mother proceeded to exit frame and re-entered with a tea cup and a small tea pot in her hands, followed by a cup of “mizu yokan (水羊羹)“ − a jello-like sweet made with sweet beans.

Whenever I stay with her in Japan, we always have an afternoon snack together.  It’s usually a strong green tea (煎茶) and some type of Japanese sweets (和菓子).  I suppose it is my mother’s routine with or without me. I just caught her during that time the other day. She quite contently showed off the yokan while I drool on the other side of the computer screen.  She grinned and said, “Oh, I wish I could push this thing through the computer screen for you!  Haha…”

That was a sweet little moment I got to share with my mom of a favorite Japanese pastime thanks to video-chat.


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My mother lived most of her life with cats, just like I have, until her last cat, Ojako, died about 17 years ago.   I had suggested they get a kitten or two at that time, but both said, “Nah, they’re going to outlive us…” Well, my dad passed away about seven years later, but my mom is still going pretty strong.  She could have easily had another cat or two well into their full maturity, but she wouldn’t even though she desperately misses having cats around.

Then I heard a while ago, there is this new kind of establishments sprouting around in Japan called, “cat cafes.”   It is where people who love cats but don’t or cannot have them can go to mingle and play with cats while having drinks and food.

On my last trip to Japan, I dragged my mother to check out one of those cat cafes in Yokohama.  It was called, “Café Leon.”  Leon was the name of a cat, who’s supposedly the owner of this café.  He’s a Munchkin, which I had never seen before with short legs and folded ears.

The sign reads, “Healing and Pleasure Cat Café is Leon in Yokohama since 2008.”  The café had a “cast” of thirteen cats, mostly about a year old and of different breeds.  Out of the menu, we chose a lunch special, which consisted of salad, lunch dish (I had a pasta dish, and my mother had a rice dish) , and a coffee or tea with 90-minute of play time with the cats for ¥1,980 (approximately $20).  Of course, they suggested we get a dish of treats for ¥100 each to get the kitties to come to you.  If we go over 90-minutes, it would be ¥200 for every 10 additional minutes.  The package goes from ¥600 for the first 30 minutes of only play time to ¥2,980 for the deluxe package with dinner, drinks, and whopping 120 minutes of kitty time!

It took us a while to figure out our favorites out of the 13 cast members, but by the time we left it was Musashi, the yellow tabby, who stole our hearts.  It was definitely “healing and pleasure” for my mother, I think.  Our tab came to about ¥5,000 ($50) for lunch, play time with kitties and a few postcards my mom bought.

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Kenny on Keihin Tohoku Line (京浜東北線に乗るケニー)

Kenny on Keihin Tohoku Line (京浜東北線に乗るケニー)

Kenny, my now husband, went to Japan for the first time almost 8 years ago to meet my terminally ill father.  We stayed at now gone Yokohama Prince Hotel (横浜プリンスホテル) right over Isogo Station (磯子駅), which had always been my station when I lived there.

When I was a child, Isogo was the terminal station for Keihin-Tohoku Line (京浜東北線). I remember Isogo Station in the 60’s when it was the only prominent building in our small town.  It always gave me a sense of something far away.  The train tracks that extended from there led to all kinds of unknown places.  Our town had grown tremendously since then, and a lot has changed.   The line was extended sometime during the 70’s to Yokodai (洋光台) then eventually to Ofuna (大船), which connects with a few other lines.    Meanwhile, there were numerous high-rise condominiums (we used to call them , “mansions [マンション]”) built around the station, and the population grew exponentially within a few years in early 70’s.

During high school, I commuted on this train south to Konandai (港南台).  Then during the couple of years at the Kanda Language School in Tokyo, I took train from Isogo everyday for an hour one-way.

I don’t miss the ride in the rush hour crowd, but I do miss being able to ride trains to get to places especially because I live in Los Angeles, where you would have to make an extra effort to utilize the public transportation system.

For Kenny, who come from Chicago where public transportation is also very well established, it was the most interesting part of his trip riding those commuter trains and see some interesting characters around him….  well, including himself.

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