Sunday, July 23, 2006

The daughter bows her head in penitence

The daughter bows her head in penitence.

2006 July 23 Sunday.

Yesterday, Saturday, my wife, Murasaki Nishikawa, had occasion to have words with our daughter Cornucopia, who is aged two.

"Who pulled all the tissues out of the tissue box?" demanded my wife.

"Cornucopia," said Cornucopia, with a beatific smile.

My wife responded in uncompromising terms which made it very clear that this act of vandalism for the Cook-Nishikawa household. My wife then, quite properly, demanded that Cornucopia apologise.

"Gomen nasai," said Cornucopia, apologizing in polite Japanese.

She accompanied this apology with a bow, a bow quite well done, I thought, her hands at her sides and the head dipping low. This was the first time that I had ever seen my daughter apologise and, up until that moment, I had had no idea that she had mastered the art of bowing.

Generally speaking, Cornucopia has been quite good recently, though she has evidently failed to internalize the lesson of the last book she borrowed from the library. This book, her choice, the one book she selected from the shelves, is an obake book, a book about an obake, that is, a spook.

The book is called NENAI KO WA DARE DA. Which translates as WHO IS THE WAKEFUL CHILD? (No question mark in the original title, perhaps because Japanese, formally speaking, does not use the question mark, even though question marks are used in Japanese novels and other documents.)

We see various night scenes, including a tick-tock clock which, just like the one my wife and bought in London on Portobello Road, goes "bong bong bong!" when the mood is upon it.

Then we see the obake. And the child, the nenai child, the "doesn't sleep" child, which is clutching some kind of toy. The obake snatches up the child and carries her off into the night sky, taking her to the world of the obake clan. We gather that the child is never going to get home.

I was a bit shocked by this brutal ending, but my daughter is a big fan of this book, and, when her mother dropped by at the library on Saturday, two more obake books were delivered into Cornucopia's hands.

Not having internalized the message of exactly what happens to bad children who don't sleep, my daughter woke me recently at about five in the morning by kicking me. My wife was surprised, later, to find me sleeping downstairs on the couch.

In the morning it was discovered that Maisy mouse had unaccountably vanished from the upstairs bedroom and was nowhere to be seen. My thesis was that Maisy was snatched by the obake, but the mouse later turned up tucked in under the rattan stand which sits in the upstairs bedroom, one of the things I bought from the junk shop.

Today, Sunday, we went to the library as a family, with Cornucopia opting to walk, holding one of our hands in each of hers.

At the library she borrowed two books, one in a format which I have never seen outside of Japan, twelve sheets of cardboard in an envelope, a large picture on one side and text on the other.

En route, Cornucopia spotted a kyuri, that is, a cucumber, which was stuck up on a little stand outside a gate. I told my daughter that it was a food offering for the spirits of the ancestors, who return to this world once a year during the obon season.

My wife corrected me. The cucumber is not a food offering. Rather, it is a mode of transport which the spirits of the ancestors will use to travel from and to the world in which they now reside.

"Transort?" said Cornucopia, who is currently operating in vocabulary soak-up mode, catching and repeating just about any new word you say in her presence.

With this in mind, there are certain things I try not to say in the presence of my daughter, but sometimes the effort of self-control is difficult.

On the way home, Cornucopia gathered up three pieces of fruit. Ume. Plums. These, unripe but fragrant, are scattered along the roads between our house and the library.

Cornucopia, who had walked to the library, also chose to walk home again. We returned to the house with my laundry, my work shirts and one pair of black trousers.

Today, at home, my wife put me on the scales. My weight was down a bit a couple of weeks ago, but today it had recovered to 69.6 kilograms, a weight which I am comfortable with.

A cool and cloudy day today here in Yokohama, with no rain, though there has been catastrophic rain elsewhere in Japan, particularly in the southern island of Kyushu, and our TV screens have been dominated by disaster scenes. Just like New Zealand, Japan is an extremely steep and mountainous country, and, when it rains heavily, parts of the landscape tend to launch themselves downhill in the form of the landslides which, in New Zealand, we refer to as "slips".

One of the good point of our location, high up near a ridge, is that we are nowhere near one of Japan's typically flood-prone rivers, and it is impossible for our house to be inundated, even if the ice caps do melt.

As I type this blog entry, I am listening to Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE OF THE MOON through a pair of magnificent headphones which are plugged into my computer. I have my daughter Cornucopia to thank for these headphones. She recently discovered them inside a big red paper bag while she was looting stuff from inside of a cupboard in our one traditional Japanese-style tatami mat room.

These are truly magnificent headphones which, at my insistence, my wife and I bought when we acquired our stereo, some years back. We bought that particular stereo because it was small enough to just fit into the cramped space we had available at the place we were living in at the time, in Hiyoshi, which is also in Yokohama, and not far from where we live now.

For some reason we ended up never using the headphones, but they are coming in handy now because, just yesterday, I trashed my cheap computer earphones when I somehow got one of the earphones caught one of the castors of the sitriser in my personal room. And, when I tugged the gadget free, the entrapped earphone got destroyed.

I plan to get a replacement set of earphones at Best Denki on Friday, unless I can locate the old earphones which I have, I think, somewhere in my personal room, probably (if it IS in my personal room) in the box of electronic stuff (wires, cables and connectors) which is sitting to my right under a heap of other stuff, including the big tramping pack that I used to use back in the days when we went hiking.

Having the music blasting into my ears at such high quality is like rediscovering music all over again. Though I am careful not to have the volume up TOO long. I'm not sure how long I'm going to live for but, at this stage, I'm reasonably confident that if I go and trash my hearing then I will live long enough to regret it.

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