Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Difficulties of the Demanding Daughter

Okay, if you have a daughter, which we do, then eventually you move into the world of clothing wars. I understand that. I did grow up with a sister in the house, and I do have a couple of clues as to how the girl's life thing works. But my concept was always that clothing wars start later. Not right now.

Maybe, say, at age nine. Miss Nine has to go to school and there's a big problem because she only has twenty-five dresses, so she has absolutely nothing to war, and, no, the red one, that's out of the question, because she wore that only last week, on Wednesday, and all the other girls have plenty of nice clothes, so why doesn't she?

Nine, maybe. But now? At age three. Of course not.

Thinking thus, I was startled this week to hear three-year-old Cornucopia set up an insistent wailing chant.

"One piece! One piece!"

She insisted that she would wear her beloved one piece. But her mother insisted that she wouldn't. Because it was cold. As it was, cold in the aftermath of typhoon number four, the largest storm to hit Japan in fifty years.

Typhoons always come approximately from the south and end up heading off in a more or less northerly direction. As they depart, they typically drag in masses of tropical air from the south, so the stereotypical day after a typhoon is a day of blue skies, intense sunlight and glorious heat.

But for some weird meteorological reason, which was explained on the TV weather news, but which I didn't understand, this typhoon, while heading north, has caused cold air to be dragged in from the north-east, making the aftermath both cold and wet, adding to the discomfort of the survivors of the big earthquake which hit on Sunday 15 July, killing nine, damaging a nuclear power station which (very alarmingly!) was not designed to cope with an earthquake of this magnitude, injuring hundreds and forcing thousands to flee their home as refugees.

We, attempting to travel north to Gunma Prefecture on that Sunday, had our 1110 train delayed until 1125, and had our terminus switched from Deepest Gunma, the place we had been planning to go directly to, to Ota, where we had to change trains.

It ended up being a long day, and on the Monday, when we woke at 0630 on Monday morning at my mother-in-law's house, we were all tired. But daughter Cornucopia, the human alarm clock who had roused us, insisted that we get up, now, now!

I was tired and suggested we go back to sleep, but my wife concurred with Cornucopia. Who, about one hour later, was complaining that she was sleepy, and wanted to go to sleep.

On the Saturday, Cornucopia had been complaining that she had a belly ache. The rain of the incoming typhoon had started to fall in our part of Yokohama, so my wife told Cornucopia that she'd better not be kidding, and then we headed off to the kids' clinic, which is not where we live but a train journey distant, at a place called Myorenji.

We had no appointment, and the clinic was crowded, so we had to wait for hours, literally. Eventually, Cornucopia, having grown tired of waiting, declared, triumphantly, "Naotta!" Meaning, hey, guys, my prayer to Lourdes has done the trick, I'm cured, so can we all go home now?

Just after that declaration my daughter's name was called, so my wife took her in to see the doctor, who said there was nothing fundamentally wrong with her, just that her stomach had gotten cold because of sleeping without her haramaki, her stomach warmer (not to be confused with a harumaki, which has almost the identical pronunciation, but which means spring roll.)

That Saturday, I was tasked to play with Cornucopia as the rain fell and my wife did the vacuum cleaning. We played picnics with Cornucopia's plastic cooking set, and, when we were ready to do pretend eating with real plastic food, Cornucopia insisted, very strongly, that we say grace.

She then began to recite the Christian grace that she always says (in Japanese, of course) before partaking of food at the Christian daycare center she attends. Yielding to her demands, I said the only grace I know, which goes "For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful."

The bottom line is that we have in our household, now, someone who is very much a person, in some ways quite the young lady, and who very clearly knows her own mind.

The typhoon whimpered past us without giving us so much as a single buffet, because our house sits in the elbow of a ridge which comes in from the west then makes an angle and heads north. Snug in that elbow, we are sheltered from winds which come from the south or the east, and the typhoon, as it passed over us, always had its strength either to the south or the east.

Even when our house has taken the full fury of a typhoon, we have never had any structural worries. Most houses in Japan are built to code and can ride out the power of the actual wind without trouble. Catastrophe strikes when steep hillsides, saturated with water, destabilize and take the avalanche route downhill, and this was what happened in the south of Japan during typhoon number four, wiping out roads, destroying rail links and sweeping away a random assortment of houses into the bargain.

We have a similar phenomenon in New Zealand, landslides which we refer to as "slips," which have an identical geological cause: the terrain of New Zealand, like the terrain of Japan, is dominated by fairly young hills and mountains which, being steep, have not yet eroded down to the point of quiescence, and are inherently unstable.

Apart from the typhoon and the earthquake, there has been no major news here in Japan apart from the recent elections, which I haven't been following. What I have been following is the latest sumo tournament, in which it looks as if the new Mongolian yokozuna (grand champion) is going to win the Emperor's Cup for the second time in a row.

In household news, I have finally gone and done something I've been thinking of doing for some time. I've bought a second-hand Japanese-language Windows XP computer and have set it up for my wife to use, replacing the computer she has been using for some years now, the very first Windows computer I ever bought, which has sixty-four megabytes of RAM and runs a Japanese-language version of Windows 98, and operating system which Microsoft no longer supports.

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