Monday, 24 October 2005

True colours

Now it might surprise you to know, but there are apparently one or two cultural differences between Japan and the UK, some of which you may not even have considered. Being a quite-a-few year veteran of these shores, I can often spot these, but even I was surprised by this one, but then when I thought about, not really. Anyway, if you sit a class full of little Japanese kids in the same room a class full of little English kids and ask them to draw a picture of a sunny day in the country side, the English kids will invariably colour the sun in yellow (mainly because that is what colour it is. But the Japanese kids won’t, they will colour it in red (as they believe it to be so). Now I think this is odd, but the bit that made me think ‘maybe it’s not so odd’, was the fact, of course the Japanese flag, the hinomaru, is, of course, a red sun on a white background.

Ok, so that might explain why Japanese kids would draw a red sun, but it does of course beg the question, why is the Japanese flag a red sun on a white background? Every Monday I have to get up early as I am office cover for that morning and in the depths of January of February this usually means I am up just as the sun is rising so can check upon these things and can state, in my experience, the sun has never risen red on a white background. Orange? Yes. Red? No. Beautiful azure blue? Yes. White? No. (Actually, on these days, I have been known to get up a little bit earlier just so I can watch the sunrise in all it’s glory, as it is quite a spectacle. Even better is that on these days, when the air is so crisp you could spread cottage cheese on it and call it a diet, Mt Fuji is usually crystal clear. Watching the sun rise and the colours of the mountain change, from pre-dawn rose, through orange to yellow and then white is just amazing. I would take photo’s to post up, but I fear it would scarcely do the beauty of it all justice.)

But back to the flag. Having had a quick check on Wikipedia it appears that the whole rising sun may be to do with the Emperor being the descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, which I suppose is as good a reason as any to have a particular design for your flag, but doesn’t explain why they went for red rather that a more realistic colour like yellow, for example. But that is not all. Apparently if you then asked the same class as before to draw a night time scene, the English kids would, so I am told, leave the moon white, whereas the Japanese kids would all colour the moon yellow. Now this one I had a little more trouble with as, thinking back to when I was a kid, though that I would go for either white or yellow, so didn’t think it was too big a deal. But the tv show that the Guru saw all this on thought it was all too weird to be believed – “what, those crazy foreigners colour the sun yellow and leave the moon white? Oh ho ho ho, what crazy, misguided and, in the end, plain wrong kind of crazy not Japanese people they are”... could quite possibly be one way it was all described.

Maybe it is all just a colour thing. I know I’ve written before somewhere about the traffic light thing they have going in Japan. For those who don’t know this one, Japanese traffic lights have three colours – if you are foreign they are red, yellow and green; if you are Japanese they are red, yellow and blue. No one seems to be able to fathom this one, but Japanese absolutely swear by it, blue, the colour is blue. If you show a Japanese a piece of card coloured the same colour as the go light, they will call it green, but on a traffic light it is blue (generalising, as I tend to, massively as I go). Just weird to me, but hey, we’re all different.

Last weekend, the one just gone, was adventure number 864 for the young ‘un as we spent our first night away from home, not including hospital visits, which don’t count. The reason for this was that the Guru had her Junior High School reunion on Saturday night and it was just a bit too far for her to get to and back, so we went to stay with the in laws for the night. As this was Marcus’ first ever proper night away, you can imagine the preparations were somewhat akin to the south of England 2 nights before D-Day (would that make it B-Day? Ho ho ho…oh never mind). 2 rucksacks, a pushchair and a baby sling were all required to make sure that baby and parents moved successfully from Kawaguchi to the folks place over near Narita airport. It was also useful as it is the same route we will be tacking at Christmas before heading back to the UK, but then we will have considerably more stuff and be somewhat more fractious, I suspect. Anyway we got safely to the in laws place and even managed to get seats on the train, which was a surprise.

Then, after an hour of faffing, I was left to fend for myself with in laws as the Guru departed for the bash. I was not looking forward to this too much as a) my Japanese ain’t good enough and b) their English isn’t much better; but luckily we had two props to help smooth the way. First, babies and doting grandparents get on like a house on fire, especially when baby is in totally focused ‘aren’t I cute’ mode, being a model of all the good things that babies do, like smile, gurgle, look excited, not shit everywhere etc. and second, we were saved by baseball, as it was game 1 in the Japan series with Chiba, where we were, at home in front of a baying audience (and, if you are interested, it was 11-1 to Chiba in the 8th when the game was called due to fog. Now what I don’t get about this is that Hanshin, losing by 9 runs admittedly, might have turned it on in the last two innings and wrestled the match away from Chiba, Umpires decide that Chiba win when the game’s not finished? In the playoffs Chiba was winning a game 4-0 and in the bottom of the ninth the Hawks scored 5 to win – could Hanshin have done the same? Now we’ll never know, though Chiba did go on to win game 2 on Sunday night 10-0, son perhaps the right call...)

Anyway, all this is a roundabout way to get to the point, which was, as far as I can remember, the little ‘un woke up screaming a couple of time during the night on Saturday, something he’d never done before. Now it could be that he was in a strange place that he didn’t recognise and this freaked him out. Hmm, but could also be teething, as he now has two front teeth, both the lower ones, and does like a good chew on dad’s fingers as they are longer and can get to those hard to reach back gums. Or, it could be because he is now moving onto solid foods. Now, for his mid morning feed, he is getting mushed up veg, watery rice gruel stuff and, just this week, weird fishy protein space food, or something, which he seems to be enjoying, well, enjoying spreading around his mouth. But the cute thing now is that he spends most of the time pretending to chew things, open and closing his mouth, as if to practice eating. Of course it makes him look a guppy fish at feeding time, but hey, if it makes him happy...

Oh, and as for Presumin’ Ed’s two essays: "The comfort women issue compels us to politicise the very concept of history. Discuss." – er no it doesn’t as the Japanese courts don’t care so we can just ignore it like they do; and "Can and should feminism transcend the modern nation-state paradigm?" what? Er transcend in what sense? Define the terms of the essay how you want them so you actually write a piece about British tactics at the Battle of Trafalgar, far more interesting.

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