Saturday, January 29, 2011


The photo is from 1921.  In the back of the photo, my grandmother wrote that a friend of her husband took the photo.  She sent it to her birthplace and addressed probably to one of her relatives in Takasaki.   The relative must be her big aunt who was running their silk dye business, and the friend was Ishii-san who was my grandfather’s best friend.  My mother’s family just settled in Osaka, but they didn't stay there long.

My grandmother on left made all the clothes for her daughters.  My mother said she was embarrassed when she went to Takasaki, Gumma prefecture.  No children there wore western clothes then, she said.  My aunt said opposite.  She said she was proud because her clothes were unique, and she was the only one wearing such clothes.  They had different points of view.  So, they headed to different directions.

Nevertheless, my mother appreciated her mother’s talent. She said that once on the way home from school, a woman stopped her and asked from which department store she bought the clothes. She replied her mother made them. The woman didn’t believe her. She went home and told her mother about it. Her mother said the woman could have searched for a label. When my mother told me this story, I felt her respect and appreciation to her mother.

My aunt went to Meguro Doreme, the best or the only one dress-making school in Tokyo.  All her clothes were her creations including heavy coats.  My mother went to the house of a traditional kimono-making teacher and trained herself in making fine silk kimonos.  It takes much experience to cut a fine silk roll.  It isn’t only expensive but each unique design must match exactly at seams.  It will be disastrous if she makes a slight mistake.  Most of her kimono-making students made yukata (cotton kimono) only.


This kimono must be one of her graduating projects in kimono-making.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mother's Father

 in Osaka with his father

Mother's Mother

the second from right
in Takasaki

the leftmost

the left woman
probably in Tokyo

in Shanghai

Thursday, January 27, 2011


On Monday, I went to Santa Clarita by train to see my aunt and cousin.  She is in a convalescent home.  I want to upload many photos to show them and other relatives, but for some reason, the photos I take come out crooked or ended up partial.  Maybe there is something wrong with my eyes. 

The photos below are from 1955. Their house was in Senzoku, Tokyo.


My aunt isn’t an aristocrat, but she is in spirit. She hates the word "obasan." I do, too, to tell you the truth. So, in my family and relatives, we call her Ruri chan. Her maiden name is Yamada Ruri.

Once we were looking at this photo together.

I said, “Aren’t those flowers dandelions? I never heard anyone make a flower arrangement with dandelions!”

She smiled and said, “Anything is okay.”

She doesn’t go by the tradition like my mother. She is right. Her free spirited arrangement is quite charming and still makes me smile.


I wanted to play with dolls.  Guns and helmets didn't interest me.

My favorite time was to play with baby Risa. I used to climb up to their large armchair and sat down. Then my aunt would say, "Do you want to hold Risa?"

I nodded. Risa was better than any dolls I had. She lives in Hawaii with her family.

The dress I wore that day was yellow with black stripes, and the belt was black patent. My aunt had taken me to a store earlier and told me I could choose any dress I wanted. I looked around. I spotted a lacey pink dress like a decoration cake. After that, for some reason, I couldn’t look that way. I became frozen. She took time and asked me multiple times which dress I wanted. I tightened my lips. Time went by. I didn’t have the second choice or third choice. The pink dress was the only choice. I was desperate. I moved a little. My hand touched the dress in front of me.

“You like this dress?” she said and lifted up the yellow dress.

I gazed down. So she bought it.

That was long time ago. Now I think back, the dress looks quite sophisticated for five year old girls in 1955. I’m glad I wore that dress rather than the pink-decoration-cake like dress. I guess it always works out at the end.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Introducing Kurarika

On one of Ashok’s web sites, I introduced “Kurarika.”

It is the name of a senior-volunteer-run science program in Tokyo for primary schools.
Take a look at the following site and follow the photos and my translation as below.

Photo 1 横浜市立荏子田小学校でくらりかの理科教室が行われました。
This day, Iida Kazuhiko san, the blogger, made a visit to a Yokohama public elementary school and conducted a science experiment.

Photo 2 4年生の理科の時間で、レモン電池の講習です。1クラス35名の教室を午前と午後2回行います。
This photo shows a science period in a fourth-grade classroom. Children learned how to make battery using lemon. One classroom consisted of 35 students, and we conducted two classes that day, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

Photo 3 今日は給食を子供と一緒に食べました。4人グループの所に入れてもらいました。すき焼きでした。
We, volunteers, had a school lunch with the students. A group of four children let me join them. The lunch was sukiyaki.

Photo 4 給食は片付けるのが大変です。汁や牛乳は残さず飲み干します。牛乳パックは内皮を剥がします。
To clean up afterward wasn’t easy. We all drank up to the last drop of our soup and milk. We removed the inner layer of the milk package and separated.

Photo 5 午後もう1回、違う組の子に講習を行いました。4年生になると応答があり、中々面白いです。
This photo shows the afternoon class. It was quite exciting.  When children reach this grade, they become more active in asking questions and response.

Photo 6 校庭の白梅が満開でした。
A white plum tree was at the height of its full bloom.

Photo 7 1時間半×2回 立ちっぱなしで少々くたびれました。
One class was one and a half hour, and I managed two classes on this day. I was on my feet the whole time. I was a bit tired.

* The blogger had a major surgery not too long ago. He is still under the care of his doctor.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tree and a Plate

The oak tree near the old San Dimas Station 

These are mixture of things.  Some people call them junks.  There is no particular theme,  no design in mind.  The center plate is there because I couldn't find the place to store.  Once, I placed it on the window, it made its permanent home.  That's all.  I forgot why, but I promised Dorraine I would upload this plate.  It's the 50th anniversay plate my grandfather received from his university which he used to call it Kuramae.  The picture must be the original campus. 

no design in mind. 

Bolsa Chica

A German friend of mine gave me a ride to Hungtinton Beach. 
                    She is fun to talk with.  I wish I can talk in German.  I shall not forget
                    this day and our conversation. On the way there, we stopped at Bolsa Chica,
                    ecological reserve.  When I see birds, I have to click my camera. It's so relaxing
                    to watch them and the water.

I don't know the name of this bird, but she looks like some kind of heron. 
It is similar to the ones I see in Yokohama, but I think her beak is longer.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Two Technologies

Some readers might know already. But I haven't seen in the English-language newspapers about these two technologies which will help the whole world. So, I decided to write about them.

First, my knowledge comes from this article I found.

Have you heard about manganese crust? The mineral deposit is lying about 3000 meters below the sea. I heard about this a while ago, but I didn't know the details and the names of all the minerals and technology to get to it.

Because I was responding to Ashok's blog, I just researched it. And I was surprised to find out that the company developed the sensor to get to the mineral deposit is located in Minami ward in Yokohama where I live when I'm in Japan. My home town won't be nameless anymore. It's like San Dimas. People usually never heard of it when they ask me. It must be a small company, but obviously, it owns the top world-class technology of its kind.

Those minerals such as a rear earth, platinum, cobalt and so on that are found in the deposit can be used in IT equipments and the next generation of cars. The Japanese government will be spending over 6 hundred million yen for research and development, and their estimate of 20 years to make it marketable seem to be able to shorten. This must be a revolutionary in many ways.

Second is CAS. Luckily, I found an English site. This is also revolutionary in the way we can eat, enjoy true flavor, and energize local economy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Kana Shodo Teacher is in Vietnam

I've been looking at many beautiful and interesting photos of Vietnam at the following sites.   And I just realized that the blogger, Iida-san, has been uploading those photos as he is travelling  right now with his wife.   Here are five of the series so far.

Below, the fourth photo from the bottom, Mr. and Mrs. Iida posed as Emperor and Empress of  ancient Vietnam.

They started their travel on January 3rd.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Meetup in San Dimas

Last Saturday, I read my first draft about my embarrassing Xmas story among the supportive members of Coffee House Writiers' Group.

Christine is giving us beauty tips.  I'm kidding.  smiles.

Clayton Brewing Co

I like their soup and coffee.

Yes, you have to hike to get to us.


The writer is making passionate comments.  It was another great meeting.


Below, I'll show you the ranking of my blog so far.  It's interesting to me.   "Kana Shodo" surprised me in the past, but now the pageview of "American Kana Shodo" shot up to 52 today after only a few days.  For my blog, this is huge.  So, I decided to share this. 

Readers, thank you for taking time reading my blog.  I've been writing also in Japanese at  And the number of pageviews has been going up there also.  I'm glad to know some people are interested in those subjects, and reading both.  I appriciate your comments. 

Kana Shodo Part 1
Jul 4, 2010, 19 comments 154 Pageviews

Hiragana in Ballpoint Pen
Apr 20, 2010, 16 comments 144 Pageviews

Names and Preference
Nov 11, 2009, 6 comments 112 Pageviews

Beginning Japanese: Lesson One - Bonus One
Nov 22, 2009, 8 comments 75 Pageviews

Lie, Stupid, Starving
Dec 2, 2009, 27 comments 64 Pageviews

American Kana Shodo
Jan 7, 2011, 2 comments 52 Pageviews

Everyday Plumbing
Dec 28, 2010, 13 comments 28 Pageviews

Morning Glory and See-Through
Jun 29, 2010, 9 comments 26 Pageviews

More Photos Part 3
Oct 3, 2010, 18 comments 23 Pageviews

More on Impure Japanese Syllables
Jan 26, 2010, 3 comments 19 Pageviews

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Benefits of Rain

Jade-Green Moss in San Dimas

 When I returned here right before Xmas, I said to a friend of mine,

"The song, 'Never rained in Southern California' has to change."

 It's been pouring like June in Japan, but the temperature is Japanese December.  But air is fresh.  Mountains look magnificent.  Yesterday, I spotted the above site as I walked through the downtown.  How many people here appreciate the beautiful green moss?  It was shining green.  I touched it.  It gave a healthy bouncy feel to it.

Heavenly Bamboo and Tea-Green Moss

Before loading the photos, I took these three pictures.  They are the corner of my backyard.  Once, one  chanoyu teacher made a visit to my home.  She lives in the area she has never seen moss.  She looked at my yard and surprised to see some moss.  It wasn't this green then, but almost all year around, my garden shows some moss at this corner.  I think it's because San Dimas is pretty close to mountains, we probably have more rain than the rest of Southern California.  So, I'm blessed with moss even though I live in Southern California, and right now, I'm dreaming that a small tea house can add joy to my retirement after I stop going back and forth between two countries. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

American Kana Shodo

Cliff from the Coffeehouse Meetup sent us this link this morning.
Thank you, Cliff.  It's wonderful.  This is similar to Kana Shodo.
I hope to show you more crazy Kana desings later on.  Right now,
I don't have any photos to show you.

Kana is written as かな in hiragana, and 仮名 in kanji. 
仮(ka) means temporary, not permanent, and 名(na), names.
仮 is written also かり (kari), and kari can also be 借 which means "to borrow."
Borrowing is temporary.  Kana were created from kanji, so we often say,
"We borrowed kanji to make kana,"when we talk about the origin of kana.

Also 仮想 means virtual.

So,  仮 is opposite of real.  It can mean fake.  Ian Hideo Levy ( wrote a book titled "仮の水.”  It's a story about his experience and thought being in China.  A narrator buys a bottle of water there, but it isn't drinking kind.  I was reading the book before Xmas in Japan, and had to return it to the library before finishing.  So, I haven't read it all, but I think he meant it as a metaphor and included the meaning of fake.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Kana Shodo Part 3

Brushstroke by Iida Kazuko Sensei


Uguisu no kasa otositaru tubaki kana

A wabler's hat
made it fallen
was the camellia

(Japanese bush wablers are tea green.)

translated by keiko amano

The first line from right: Uguisu no
Uguisu is a Japanese bush warbler. It sings a beautiful song, and its feathers are tea green.

The second line: kasa
Kasa is umbrella. Uguisu no kasa means “The umbrella of an Uguisu.” If you have seen camellia, you know what Basho meant by it. See the photo below.


The third line: Otoshitaru
Otoshitaru means dropped. As I mentioned many times before, the Japanese language naturally do not have the Western concept of subjects. So some people might say the subject of this haiku is a camellia, but technically speaking, there is no subject although the focus is on camellia. Because we have no plural/singular concept, you can form an image of a camellia among many other camellias around. How you vision the scene is up to you. Also, I want you to look at si (し) of otositaru. Doesn’t it make you see and feel as though a head of camellia is being descended? And then ru (る) at the end is a cute ru which was copied from a 1000 year old text. That ru looks to me simple and honest, not as sophisticated in form as the current ru (る).

The foruth line: tubaki ka (tubaki is in kanji)
One of the reasons I love this particular art of Kana Shodo is that Iida Kazuko sensei chose only one kanji. I think it is effective in design. It’s the only accent, and it’s appropriate.  椿(camellia) is made up by 木 (tree) and 春 (spring).  Camellia blooms in winter.  When we no longer spot colors in fields and hills, the colorful gorgeous flowers appear before us and fool our vision.
 And ka following tsubaki is not the same ka as the ka of kasa. This contrast is a device in design. It gives a different feel, gentler and less revealing, perhaps self-effacing. And this is an abrupt ending of the fourth line because this "kana" is a full ending. By leaving "ka" only in the fourth line and sending "na" to the fifth line is similar to splitting one English verb with two syllables into two. Crazy? Not in Japanese! In fact, crazier the better in my opinion. And no hyphen, of course. About crazier sho, if I find one sample on my mind, I'll show it to you.

The fifth line: na
This Na came from 那. It’s difficult to recognize it if you have never leanrned Kana Shodo. But a bit of mystery to audience is good, don’t you think so? If we figure the whole thing by the first sight, we have nothing to ask. No question, no conversation. The fun in Kana Shodo as well as any other Japanese traditional arts is in conversation. Just ask. We might not get right answer, but we always learn something.

Lastly but from the first sight,  we appreciate sho 書 (calligraphy) from a distance just like any other paintings.  The tranquil overall balance is deceiving.  As you probably found out by reading above, there are unusual twists and turns in compostition and a mystery in it.  And each person has unique thoughts about it.   What is your view?  How do you feel looking at it?  Rebb said once that it looked like crying when she saw a text from Genji Monogatari.  I thought her view was right to the point.  Those ancient characters cry and keep crying for sad events as well as happy occasions.  "A wet sleeve" appears quite often in poems and stories.  We might laugh, definitely including me, but "tradition" is like that.