We spent last week at the Country House in Fukushima. I got up, went to work, and then came home everyday, but Wife completed several home projects. She had Mr. Electric Store Guy come over and up the amps of our house. When winter set in we would blow a fuse everyday. Mr. Electric Store Guy told her that our house actually had more power coming in than most houses, but since we have the heated floors we were using up too much juice. Solution: more juice. He also tossed in some extra phone jacks. We had been running an Ethernet cable down the hall to my computer. Wife was less than pleased with this arrangement, so she would unplug the cord, wrap it up, and leave it next to the computer every morning after I left for work. I would come home and unwrap it, walk to the living room, and stick it in the modem every evening. No more of this insane time wasting.
We had arrived at the house to a shock. The glass on a sliding door was busted. Fortunately, the doors are double-paned so the delicates of the house were protected from the elements. The hole was suspiciously round, and when Shacho told us that his 8-year-old daughter had been whacking golf balls in our yard, we put two and two together. Said daughter was no where to be seen last week. Shacho told us there was also a hole in their Christmas tree. They have a flocked artificial tree that Shacho shipped from Nashville outside on their deck. It snows everyday, so they could have gotten away with a non-flocked one. A non-lit one would be a good idea, too, as this one is unambiguous about INDOOR USE ONLY. But it was out last year, and it’s out this year. And it has a golf-ball sized notch in the flock. I have no idea why she is out with clubs and a bucket, when I have offered to teach her Stratego, but what are you gonna do. So Mr. Glass Store Guy dropped by with his gold-capped tooth, and popped a new window in for us at the end of the week.
Wife went apple tasting one day with shacho’s wife. Mama-san wanted apples to give to people for New Years. The apples in Fukushima are particularly large and delicious. So she had planned to drive up to Fukushima with Oji-san’s 92-year-old sister, Oba-san, and go apple picking. Mrs. Shacho’s family has an orchard. But Shacho told us that since the snow had started, there were no more apples to be picked. So Mama-san called Wife and told her to send apples, but first make damn sure they are tasty. So Wife and Mrs. Shacho went to the orchard for a taste.
When Mrs. Shacho picked Wife up she gave her an envelope.
Wife had been to the post office the day before to send Christmas cards and some packages to the old country (mine). The Japanese use a service called EMS for international shipping. At most urban post offices you ask for an EMS slip and Mr. or Mrs. Post Office Guy grabs one out of the drawer and slides it across the counter, apologizing for taking so much of your time. Wife asked for an EMS slip in the Fukushima post office, and Mrs. Post Office Guy asked her to wait. She went in the back, went into another office, came out, whispered to the manager who looked up in surprise (why…I’ve always heard tell, but I never thought….not here…), went back into the other office, and came out with a document that was not an EMS form.
“I humbly beg you esteemed forgiveness, but we do not have any EMS forms. If you could please suffer the inconvenience of filling out this inferior form, I will acquire EMS forms and fill them out in your august stead. I will then mail the receipts to the home honored by you and your truly fantastic family’s presence.”
Quote Wife, “Ooooookay.”
Just so happens that later that day Mrs. Shacho was in the post office. At the post office they know where we live, and they remember our address because I receive what must seem like more English mail than the US embassy, and they can see from Mrs. Shacho’s postal business that she lives next door. Wait a minute! I have an idea.
“You are obviously a busy and important person, and it pains me to trouble you with my wretched business, but if you could find it in your noble heart to bring this shabby envelope of worthless receipts to the one you are lucky enough to call neighbor, it would honor my descendants for generations too numerous to count.”
“The post office gave me these to give to you.” One of the least formed sentences in any language.
In the yard of the orchard house was a dog house with a Husky in it, a pile of carrots for the Husky to enjoy, and a cow house with a cow in it. Wife thought the cow was a pet. But the hobbit couple who run the orchard explained that she earns her keep by making baby cows, and they sell them. One at a time.
They had actually saved two trees in anticipation of Mama-san and Oba-san denuding them of apples like a pair of tiny, but unusually energetic, elephants. But they didn’t come because of the snow, and now the snow had ruined the apples. Don’t feel too bad for the apple hobbits; Mama-san is just about to get on their good side.
Wife tasted and approved of the apples. So she placed Mama-san’s order of 36 boxes of 33 apples each. This is 12 bushels, or about 45 pecks. Almost all of them were to be shipped from the orchard. Wife had most of the addresses, but she needed a few more, so she called Mama-san. Mama-san refused to give the addresses over the phone as the kanjis were too complicated. We don’t have the situation in western languages where the spelling of a word is so subtle complex that it cannot be explained and simply must be seen. But this happens all the time here, and it’s fun to hear them try to work it out.
“OK, you got your moon with a hat on. There’s a bound insect on the left.
“Like in ‘rainbow’?”
“’Rainbow’ without the construction. And a binding like in ‘stanza.’ That part is under a sideways eye. And in the next one there is a bone with a woman under a rice field.”*
Wife called her dad; he told her the addresses, and the kanjis were not complicated at all. So most of the apple boxes got shipped, and 6 were put in the car for me to drive back to Kamakura. But before Wife left, they had a gift for her, a combination thank-you gift for buying so many apples and a New Years gift for near family. Any guesses? A sack of apples. Probably a peck and a half. Now don’t get me wrong. These things are as big as softballs and absolutely delicious. But how many freaking apples can a guy choke down? Recently Wife has been craving McDonald’s hamburgers, and I think this is due to the heightened apple consumption of the previous week.
It does, however, bring a tear to my eye to imagine that my child is being made of McDonald’s hamburgers.
*This is an actual kanji, though I picked one that was more interesting to describe than likely to be used in a name or address. My dictionary has it as “Skull (esp. weathered).” They have a separate word for a weathered skull! And it’s not like one of the characters means weathered and the other means skull. They just mean weathered skull together. Check it out