Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Love, love HONDA!

Our (beloved) Honda Odyssey had an oil leak, and with new winter tires needed and "shaken" (expensive car check) coming up soon, we decided to find a new car...

My husband looked on Yahoo and found a used car at an official Honda Used Car Dealer, very close to us. We went in and decided on it immediately (that was in late Nov.).

This past Saturday, we went in to pick it up, and say goodbye to our old one. :(

The new one is 10 years old and has about 83,000 km on it, but that is a lot fewer km than our other one had when we bought it. And the dealership fixed it up - it's SO clean and beautiful inside, and they did various work on it, that they say is worth up to about $2,000. We spent less than $4,000 on it anyway, so we thought this was pretty nice of them! It won't need a "shaken" until March of 2011, and it came with winter tires that are still useable for one winter.

Also, they quickly and easily arranged a car loan for us, which is a much better deal than our credit card, and when our insurance decided to get a bit difficult about the age of the car, they easily arranged insurance for us, too! This was all done so naturally and nicely, without any ho-humming or even the slightest weirdness about us being an all-gaijin (foreigner) family.

We came away feeling like we are really valued customers, even though we are just these random people that walked in and took a cheap older car with an accident history off their hands. They have already sent us a postcard with a photo of the whole dealership staff smiling and making peace signs, and also an elegant thank you card with a hand-written letter of thanks. And the car comes with a one-year warranty!

The only slight problem in all of this is that it will be very difficult now to avoid letting them do our "shaken" in Mar. 2011, even though it will probably be about $500 more than our local Idemitsu gas station, with whom we have built up a nice relationship over the last 1.5 years.

Anyway, we really liked doing business with Honda and I am so impressed with how seriously their company takes things like customer service & the reputation of their products. And they have a great attitude towards international communication, too (fitting for a huge international corporation). Yay HONDA!! (p.s. I come from a family of Honda-lovers -- my dad & his brother, both in the U.S., have been driving Hondas exclusively for more than 20 years!)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Health Topic: H1N1 (Swine) flu

I think our city was one of the first ones in Japan to have a proper outbreak of swine flu. The school had to be closed for 3 days in mid-September, but the teachers still went to work as normal. It was also one of the first schools in the city to be hit. We had a kind of seige atmosphere, with just teachers working in the teachers' room, all of us wondering if we had already contracted swine flu. In the end, only one teacher caught it. The kids returned in due time, in good health and spirits.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Okay, here are a couple more of the things from Jiji's jiyuuchou:

I couldn't scan Acorn Master in the end, but here are 3 more that did come out. This one is Ten-face.

Autumn Master.

Part of a random color drawing with various characters like SpeedDragon, DrD and UltraDragon.

More Jiji quotes

We have had a nice summer - with some new "pets", as always seems to happen. We kept a stag beetle for a couple of months, and just released it yesterday. The main reason I wanted to release it is that we have about 30 marine hermit crabs (from the size of a walnut to the size of a small pea), that Jiji and Dio gathered on our camping trip to the Shakotan Peninsula a week ago. They are a lot of work, as I have been trying to make a nice, clean environment for them. So King, the beetle, has been released back into the wild.

Jiji continues to give big brother Dio a run for his money, in the memory department. The other day, cool big brother (now a full-fledged teenager with long, straight-permed hair!) was asked to write "cereal" on the shopping list. He wrote - "cerial - the Greek name for the goddess Demeter" (something they are learning at school). Dad saw the misspelling and called to him to fix it. He erased "cerial", forgot what he had written the first time, got mixed up, and wrote "cerial" again. Dad called Jiji - "Jiji, spell cereal!". "C-E-R-E-A-L - what, Dio, you can't spell cereal?? What is this you wrote here, the Greek word for Demeter?" Dio - "Oh, so I couldn't spell cereal. I can spell lots of words!! How about this - can you spell Aphrodite?????" Jiji - "A...P..H..R..O..D.." (Dio is looking really worried now, and Mom and Dad are looking back and forth laughingly) "Y..T..E?" (Dio looks so relieved, and Mom and Dad are saying, "Ouch, he almost showed you!! Don't underestimate him next time!!" ) Jiji - "Well, I'm only 10 and I go to Japanese school, and I'm not even learning about that in school. Shkamo [and besides], what you wrote [about Demeter] was jiman [bragging] and a waste of space." I had to laugh at that... "jiman and a waste of space." :)

Another funny one recently -

Jiji - "Can I go on the com?" (computer)

Dad - "Kiss my ass!"

Jiji - "... I'll take that as a yes!"

Jiji's summer project (jiyuukenkyu) was a super easy project - his uncle (my husband's big brother) who visited us for 2 weeks had found a piece of driftwood shaped like the head and neck of a swan, so all Jiji did was paint it in white, black and yellow. The kids in his class liked it and started saying, "Aflack!" (with a quacking voice).

But Dio has had a really nice summer as far as projects. His school has no jiyuukenkyu, but he and a neighbor boy/classmate have been visiting our 81-year-old next-door neighbor every Weds. all summer, and are still continuing it now that school has started. He is teaching them how to play "Go", and they really like it!! He has also started trying to teach them various things about life and his own life, etc. (which includes almost having to fight in WWII, but the war ended when he was about 17 and just about to join) . He is a really nice man, and they enjoy their Go lessons. Then another neighbor, a lady about 50 years old who is into weaving, had us in her house briefly and Dio was looking with interest at her loom. So she invited just him over one morning for more than 2 hrs., and he wove a wall-hanging for our house! When I came home it was hanging on the wall in the genkan. She said his "souzou" was "juunan" (I think that was it - anyway his imagination is flexible) and he had a lot of ideas so it was fun teaching him. So, he has been having a lot of valuable experiences with our neighbors!

One more thing (since I know I will not be bothered to post for another month or more) - I want to test out my new scanner, to bring you the Acorn Master - a weird drawing by Jiji in his jiyuu-chou. The indispensible "free-drawing notebook", that they are allowed to have in school (for rainy days, I guess), and that he cannot do without. Just a minute while I attempt to work my new scanner...

Hmmm - this is taking way longer than I'd hoped, and I have to go and do some dishes etc.  So instead of the Acorn Master, here are two little characters - a fruit guy and a guy with weird eyes.

Hope this is not all too much "jiman and a waste of space"!!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

poems in typing

Jiji has been doing some typing practice recently. He goes to Japanese school and doesn't really get enough English writing practice, etc., and besides that, his handwriting has never been so good (in English or Japanese). I think it's a mild hand coordination problem - just his weak point, I guess. Ironically, the thing he writes the most neatly is kanji. I think it is because of all the straight lines. English letters and hiragana have curves and he seems to have more trouble writing them neatly. Anyway, if he can type then there is less pressure on us to improve his handwriting! So I have been letting him type for 20 minutes at a time. He loves it! Some of his best efforts have been:

June 3, 2009:

Monkeys eat apples. Elephants eat bananas. Dogs eat fish. Cats eat bones. Anteaters eat sweet stuff. Ants eat ants.

That was the food chain.

Detective Jiji.
Jiji looked for footprints.
He found handprints.
Jiji looked for handprints.
He found footprints.
Jiji is an inexperienced detective.

June 7, 2009 (this one's about our dog, Toby):

As black as eyes as black as a nose the thing he’s afraid of are pure black crows who am I typing to? Noone knows. That was a poem about Tobias D----.

June 17, 2009 (another one about Toby):

Big big whirlpools, robots grabbing scruffs.
Zombies grabbing paws, giant bugs chasing dogs.
A giant grabbing for Toby’s neck---.wu—wu—wu—wu—.
Toby just woke up from his nightmare whimpering.

He also enjoys playing around with the fonts, colors & sizes. The other day I thought it might be nice to see what all our family's typing speeds are. I knew mine more or less because I sometimes used to work as a temp in the States and England. Anyway, the results were:

Me - 74 wpm
Husband (I was amazed he actually took the test!) - 34 wpm
Dio (age 14) - 32 wpm
Jiji (age 10) - 4 wpm. It took like 30 minutes for him to complete the 1-paragraph-long test... he did it until the end, though! I told him he can try again in a year!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lovely Toby

A Valentine's Day post...

We all love our dog Toby, and have so many nicknames for him. Yesterday, I heard Jiji saying, "Hello Toby my little Love Fuzz Bucket." My husband calls him things like "Love Penguin" and "Captain Cuddles." I call him "Tobiliboo" or "Herr Toblepooper", etc. We make up many new nicknames all the time, in a similar vein.

Valentine's Day news from kidland...

My big son recently had to do a standardized test involving writing a fictional story (among other things). The start-off picture was of a shadow of a man or something. He made it into a Valentine's day story, which also involved a mysterious living shadow, and proudly told me that the very last word of the story was "love". I was happy he finished the story, because last year (or 2 years ago?) he took the same test, started a rambling story, got only half-way in the time allowed, and got a very bad score for that part of the test! This time I told him, "Just try to make it a *normal* story, and FINISH IT IN TIME!!" It sounds like it was maybe pretty good this time. He seems to have romance on his mind a lot lately.

Report from no. 2 kidland...

I was driving my younger son back from his karate class last night, with a Japanese friend from his class (3rd grade in Japanese elem. school). They went into Seiko-mart to get some snacks, and were talking about something. When they got in the car again, the friend, "Ryota" (who claims to be receiving about 5 Valentine's chocos from girls in their class!), said,

Ryota - "Nee, kitto... Mika ni 'suki' tte yuttara, Mika mo Jiji no koto suki ni naru to omou yo." (I'm pretty sure if you tell Mika you like her, she will start to like you, too.)

Jiji - "Sou? Doushite?" (Do you think so? Why?)

Ryota - "Datte, ningen tte souiu mon da." (It's human nature.)

Jiji - "So na no." (Oh.)

It just sounded really cute... does this mean he likes Mika now? Before, he liked Emi and Natsuki (names have been changed!)... All of them are small, cute girls, and Jiji is the second tallest in his class.

For about 2 years he was the tallest kid in his class, but on the last measuring day (in Jan.), he came home and said a girl classmate called Kokoro (=heart) had edged just taller than him, and he is now the second tallest! Everyone was surprised. He was happy to not be the tallest, for a change. I told him he is now entering the stage where girls grow faster than boys, and a few more girls might pass him in the next couple of years. Three times a year, they are all measured to the millimeter, and they figure out the exact height order for the whole class. Then they frequently line up or stand in that exact order, for a multitude of reasons (standing on bleachers to sing, standing in line to walk somewhere, etc.). So every child who is anywhere near either the shortest end or the tallest end will be able to tell you, "I'm the 5th shortest in my class," or "I'm the 3rd tallest in my class."