Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thank you and good bye 2013

I had another great year in my "year of the snake" 2013!  Taiga turned 3 and started talking even more.  I don't know who he gets it from but the kid doesn't stop talking.  :)  I'm happy to say that he enjoys speaking in both English and Japanese and can switch back and forth quite naturally.  He started nursery school and has made new friends.  Every day he sings us songs and dances around the house.  Here's one of his dances.  http://youtu.be/KDzJaaICbjQ  He also loves playing with his cars, trains and legos.  My favorite game to play with him is "wrestling".  Aki has gotten better at playing ukulele and has continued to cook us delicious and nutritious meals.  Our school is on year number 8 already and holding steady.  I'm enjoying teaching our students and working part-time at the universities.  I'm trying to stay in shape and my goal is still to play basketball with Taiga as he grows up.  The best part of 2013 was going back to CA in the summer and seeing family and friends.  Let's have the best 2014.  Good health and happiness to all in the year of the horse!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Rumina & Roots

I want to introduce you to one of the most famous and successful people from Odawara, Rumina Sato.  He is a fighter and the owner of Roots Shooto Gym.  Shooto was originally formed in 1985 as as a particular fighting system derived from shoot wrestling.  Shooto rules have evolved and their events are now true mixed martial arts competitions (MMA).  You can win your opponent by either knockout or submission, but a fight can also end by a referee stoppage or a judge decision. 

Rumina has won a total of 45 professional MMA fights, 18 by submission. He won the Shooto Pacific Rim Lightweight tournament on March 11, 2005.  He is also thought to have had the fastest submission victory in MMA history when he submitted Charles Diaz in a mere 5 seconds with a flying armbar. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MjdAQxXQ4Y 

I joined Rumina's gym in April this year.  Before starting, I was going to another gym for a few years but started to get bored of the same old routine.  At Roots, you can learn juijitsu, grappling, MMA or striking.  The instructors are all excellent (Rumina, Tsuchiya, Ken, Nobu, etc.)  Learning martial arts is extremely hard for me and I leave the gym sore, sweaty and beat up.  After 6 months, I'm still very much a beginner.  But I am learning SLOWLY.  If you want to learn self-defense or just get in shape, check it out.

Listen to my interview with Rumina.  And watch Rumina show some of his moves!


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy 237th Birthday!

It was 237 years ago that America (the USA) claimed its independence from Britain.  Our Independence Day is also known as the Fourth of July or simply July 4th.  In July 1776, the population of the US was 2.5 million.  Today there are 316 million. 

Independence Day celebrations usually take place outdoors.  Family and friends gather together for a barbecue.  Old Glory (American flag) is displayed at many homes and red, white and blue decorations are put out.  In the evening, fireworks are ignited.  I have fond memories of watching the fireworks from a tree near my house or driving over to my Aunt Catherine's house as she lived just a block away from where they were shot from. 

I miss the celebrations now that I live in Japan but fortunately for me, summer festivals in Japan often have a great fireworks show!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Children's Day in Japan

It's Cinco De Mayo Day (May 5) in the states.  In Japan, it's Children's Day (changed from Boy's Day in 1948).  We celebrate it at our house by putting up koinobori  (carp streamers).  Carp are considered the most spirited of fish and because of its strength and determination to overcome all obstacles, it became the symbol of hope for boys to succeed in life.

We also eat kashiwa-mochi, which is a rice cake stuffed with sweet red bean paste and wrapped in an oak leaf.  The oak tree is considered sacred, and because old leaves do not fall off until new buds appear, they are a symbol of a continuous family line. 
We also display the samurai dolls in armor.  Since ancient times,  the armor, helmet and sword of gogatsu-ningyo have symbolized the hope of physically protecting boys.

The day ends by putting shobu, the Japanese iris that somewhat resembles a sword in shape, into the hot-bath.  The word shobu, although written with different characters, implies striving for success.  Shobu-yu is also said to have a medical effect.  It was believed to purge human bodies of noxious vapors. 

So happy Children's Day (and Cinco de Mayo)!  It's a public holiday here.  We enjoyed a nice day at the park.  :)    

Taiga wearing kabuto (samurai hat) that mommy made.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

My brother's visit

Wish this was my bathroom!
Care for a swim?
2 cousins hanging out!
View from our room

Waiting to see Captain EO
2 cute mice!
Fathers and sons in Atami
There's nothing like having family come visit!  My older brother, Kevin, and his family just left for California.  Our boys are just 3 years apart in age and it was fun watching them play together.  Luckily young boys tend to like the same things (cars, trains and games), so they got along very well.   This was also a vacation for us too.  We got to stay at the Ritz-Carlton with my brother's family compliments of his hotel points.  A beautiful sunset and view of Mt. Fuji could be seen from our 50th floor room.  After dinner, I enjoyed a dip in the pool and jacuzzi all by myself.  Nothing like Puttin' on the Ritz!  We also enjoyed staying at Disneyland, Atami and Ginza.  After all that fun, it's always hard to say goodbye.  We miss them!  Hopefully one day my younger brother and his family (4 kids!) will visit us too.  :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Year of the Snake

Unlike the Western Zodiac which is divided into 12 months, the Asian Zodiac is divided into 12 years.  Each year is named after an animal:  the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and boar.  All Japanese people know the animals of the zodiac, so they can cunningly guess your age by asking you what animal you are.  People whose zodiac sign is the same as the year's sign are called "toshi-otoko".  So this is my year as I was born the year of the snake.  I think being "toshi-otoko" brings good luck.  12 years ago, I met my wife when I was "toshi-otoko"!  I wonder what lucky thing will happen to me this year?  By the way, people born the year of the snake are said to be profound thinkers and have tremendous wisdom.  They often have a good temper and are financially secure.  OTOH, they can be vicious and vain.  The next time the "Year of the Snake" rolls around, I will have completed 5 full cycles of the Chinese Zodiac.  This is a very special birthday in Japan known as "kanreki".