The Secret of Communication

030000I got a call from my father the other day. Right after I said hello, he asked me a question: What does the English word “respect” mean? Oh, not again.

He calls me to ask this kind of question sometimes. As soon as he wonders something he calls me and ask questions without any introductory remarks or concerns that I might be in the middle of something. It is a pain in the neck. However, it tells me what is going on with him.

“What does the word ‘Manifest’ mean?”
“A public declaration of policies.”
Yeah, it is the time of an election. He must have watched the news on TV.

“What is ‘layout’ ?”
“A design or arrangement.”
He must be struggling with his PC.

“What is ‘Rumba’?”
“It’s a kind of dance style…”
It’s surprisingly hard to explain. Did he watch the electronic sweepers TV commercial? Or he might mean the song of Kiyoshi Hikawa.

By the way, it was the second time that he asked me the meaning of “respect”. It means “to hold in reverence”, I told you before, I said unenthusiastically. “What?” he asked. He has been slightly hard of hearing lately. Conversations with him sometimes doesn’t make sense because he hears things wrong. The other day in a café, he was embarrassed to tell a waitress that he doesn’t know such a person when she just explained to him where the sugar and milk were.

“So, respect means to hold in reverence!”
I raised my voice a little bit.
Now I know he is serious but he even sounds like he’s playing around by mimicking a famous comedian.

Let’s see.
“Respect means to look up to somebody.”

I tried to explain by changing words.
“What? I can’t hear well.”
This is hopeless. Now I feel as if I were the comedian.

“It means to hold in reverence or look up to somebody!”
I screamed out and repeated it. After the third time, he seemed to have caught my words.
“I see. I’ve been wondering what it means because I often hear the word ‘respect’. I got it. Thank you. See ya!”
He hung up.

Young Japanese people often use the word “respect” lately, I thought laughing a bit wryly. He is obviously not keeping up with English words, which are flooding all over. He seems to be interested in English but has no taste to acquire it. Several years ago, he abruptly said to me, “Native English speakers don’t use the word ‘shopping’, right?” There are a lot of Japanese-English words, which don’t make sense for native speakers, but shopping is shopping. Wondering why he said such a thing, I told him that English-speaking people use that word. Then he said wondering, “But this English lesson CD says ‘go sho–ppen’. I almost fell off my seat. The native English speaker’s pronunciation of “go shopping” totally sounded different to him. Unfortunately, the English lesson CD had no effect on my father.

038881However, there was this one time my father got to me. When I was in high school, he took me his friend’s house to see an exchange student from Australia. He must have thought it was a good opportunity for me to speak English with a native speaker, because he knew that I was interested in English. Squeezing out some English words in textbooks from my brain, I tried to communicate with the student. At first, it worked well even with my broken English, but soon I was stuck. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I just wanted to say “fly”, a insect.  But my pronunciation wasn’t right and she didn’t get it and was tilting her head down in confusion. Seeing me at a loss without knowing what to do, my father asked me what happened. I told him that I couldn’t pronounce “fly” properly. He said, “Silly you. You know what? What makes communication work is not words, but your heart.” Then, he made a gesture of a fly buzzing towards to her. “Oh, a fly! ” She made her eyes sparkle and understood what it was. That was the experience which was frustrating but also humiliating at the same time.

What my father said to me at that time is always at the back of my mind. Even with my own language Japanese, I feel that it is hard to communicate sometimes. Especially conveying something is a tough part. Whenever I am thinking narrowly or getting stuck by depending on words too much, the memory brings me back to myself. My father has no knack to learn English and can be really annoying sometimes, but as a matter of fact, I respect him.


Wonder of Being Born


The other day, when I was drinking with lovely old ladies, one of them told me a mystic story.

Before she knew she was pregnant with her second baby, her daughter ran up to her and abruptly said, “A baby is coming. A baby is coming in spring!” When asked about the sex of the baby, she answered “a boy”, and a baby boy was really born next spring.

Children sometimes amaze adults with a certain greatness comes which comes from their innocence. When the little girl was asked if the name of the baby was decided, she answered, “Doraemon!” The surreality which kids show in mind-boggling adults is amusing. The siblings are grown up now and they are so close to each other. We had a good time talking that the baby might have come at his sister’s call.

I hear that it is not a coincidence that a person is born. It is often said that they choose their mother before they are born. I once have felt that. It was when I experienced a regression therapy, which even traces you back not only to your childhood memory but to your previous life’s memory.


In my memory, I was not born yet and was looking down from a very very high place. Far below were countless numbers of sparkling grains of sand-like things. It was not a vision, but I could sense it. All of sudden, I chose my mother from the grains of sand with definite confidence that she was the one, and I flew to it as a slit of light. It was for only a moment but I was very hopeful and fully motivated.

The next moment, I was curled up in a womb. It was as if I was trapped in a spaceship, which was about to launch. Suddenly, I was caught up with the terrible feeling of regret. Oh no. What have I done? I was motivated to be born and live a life under the circumstance I had lost memories. But now I remembered how hard it was to live on this earth. It was too late. I was already locked on and couldn’t do anything but be born…… Then I lost the sensation.

Though I had tried various therapeutic things out of curiosity, I was not the type who easily got visions or sensations. So it was the vivid experience and the sense of exaltations I had when I found my mother and regret that attacked me was so real that I remember it well.

I wonder why I was motivated so much. I cannot agree more that I that a bird cries too late when it is taken. I cannot but laugh about myself who has lived up to forty feeling that way. A piece of memory from my early teen years come back to me.

If my memory is correct, it was in a scene of Seito Shokun!, a comic by Yoko Shoji. The heroin Nucky says in her speech: Babies are born with their hands clenched. They were holding happiness in them. But once they open up their hands, happiness flees away. Humans live to catch the happiness again with their hands.

I was so thrilled by the line and told my mother , the one I had chosen with total confidence, about the story. Then she said, “ You know what? You were born with your hands fully open.”

Right. It seems that I had picked paper, not rock when I was born.

Where on earth is my happiness?

The Lone Bus Tour

Bus tours seem to be popular lately. I heard there were various tours like visiting fruit farms, all-you-can-eat restaurant, outlet shopping malls and so on. It must be fun to go on a day trip by bus, I thought, so I did some quick research.

My memory of a bus tour07
I once went on an overnight bus tour when I was mid 20’s on my own. It was winter, and the tour’s main attractions were Shirakawago, Kenrokuen Park in Kanazawa, and Kani Nabe(hot crab pot) I was the only one who joined all by myself and everyone else were old ladies in groups. When I arrived at Shirakawago, a number of buses came, and lots of old ladies were getting off the buses, one after another. Being a much more popular site than I had expected, the one-way roads were soon full of old ladies. The overwhelming queues are my memory of Shirakawago. Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa was also occupied with old ladies. Wherever I turned, it was impossible to take a picture without old ladies in it. I had never imagined that there could be so many old ladies in this world and felt that I saw all of them to last a lifetime. That’s my memory of Kenrokuen Garden.

Then, Kani Nabe experience followed. The tables for big groups were at the corner of a spacious restaurant and I sat with old ladies from the same tour. Because I was alone in the group, a small nabe for one person was sitting on the table. An old lady who sat next to me asked me if I was alone and I said yes. It was the first and only time to have a word with others in the tour. While I was having the kani nabe quietly, I heard they were having so much fun complaining about their husbands. Is talking about their husband essential in their conversation? Everybody seemed to be enjoying complaining about her husband. That is my memory of Kani nabe, and the bus tour.


The atmosphere is exotic.


Overwhelming Hyakushaku-Kannon

Let’s hit the road!
It’s been more than ten years since I participated the bus tour last time. This time I chose a day tour titled “Hopping Stunning Early Autumn spots of Boso Vol.3! Feel like in Asia and enjoy all-you-can-eat seafood barbeque”. You can book bus tours even a day before. No fuss, no muss. Visiting two temples were included in the tour and that’s the reason I chose it. A couple days before, I had a dinner with a friend of mine I hadn’t seen for a while. I asked her if she would like to join me for the bus tour to Chiba, but she didn’t say yes because the tour didn’t sound too exciting to her. So this time too, I joined the tour all by myself.

It was a sunny day. When I arrived at the meeting place in front of Marunouchi building, the tour guide and the yellow bus were already there. Because it was a weekday, there were only nine people in the tour including myself. They were divided into two groups, one couple, and my lone self. The driver said he wanted more passengers to motivate himself, but I was happy enough with the small number of people. Let’s hit the road!


Great view from the montaintop

Nokogiri Yama Nihonji Temple
After having a bite at Umihotaru Rest Area on the way, the bus headed down to Nihonji, which I was looking forward to visiting. The temple was the oldest worshipping place in the Kanto area opened by Gyoki bosatu (Bodhisattva) at the behest of Emperor Shomu 1300 years ago. To be honest, I didn’t know about this temple. I was amazed to know that there was such a magnificent place.

As I was walking on the road between the precipices that made me feel like I slipped into some place in Asia, Hyakushaku Kannon appeared. Though it is a pretty new statue made in 1966, the gigantic figure is overwhelming.

We climbed steep steps to get to the observation deck on the mountaintop. Then I had free time for 90 minutes. Nihonji, with 33 hectares of land, is an excellent place for healing. Walking through its greenery, I felt like I was recovering from daily stress.

I went down the Sen-Gohyaku Rakan Do( the road of 1500 Arhats) to where the statue of great Buddha was placed. A lot of arhats were placed here and there. Though there were too many to appreciate each one, I found some whose presence attracted my attention: One arhat was praying with his whole heart looked decent. Another one looked like Enari-kun, a popular actor in Japan. Finding such statue was one way to enjoy the statues.


After taking a walk for one hour, I got to the Great Buddha. The Buddha is bigger than the one of Nara. It is 31 meter high, but before the repair, it was 37 meters high. Since it had a medicine pot in his left hand, it was the Buddha of healing. The big Buddha looked fantastic under the blue sky.

Even though I hadn’t known before, I was amazed to visit this place. It made me feel glad that I was there because I had been hungry for greenery.


Mantokuji’s Nirvana Statue of Buddha
We moved on to Mantokuji, which has a big Nirvana statue of Buddha. The 16 meter and 30 ton Buddha was lying down with a soft smile. The Nirvana statue is expressive of Buddha’s attaining nirvana with his head to the north. While it is generally said to sleep with your head facing north is for deceased people, feng shui asserts it brings luck. By the way, you are allowed to take a picture of this statue only when you or someone is in the picture. I was in the photo but trimmed myself because I am shy.

Oyama Senmaida (Rice terraces)
Next we went to Oyama Senmaida, which is designated as a beauty spot by Chiba Prefecture. Oyama Senmaida is made of about 375 terraced rice paddies on about 4 hectare steep sloping land. I had wanted to see these rice terraces. The land is covered with greenery. This kind of scenery makes me feel at ease.


Yummy Biwa flavor ice cream! 

The bus tour gourmet
The sight seeing finished early and it became a lunchtime. The all-you-can-eat seafood barbecue was this tour’s main attraction. You can choose anything from oysters, turban shells, abalones, scallops, shrimps, heads of yellow tails, etc. You can also make Kaisen don with a variety of toppings: tunas, sermons, tuna mince, squids etc. When you barbecue shells, you need to cover them with a basket, in case that they explode. I couldn’t help myself but order a beer paying extra. After a few days later, being asked about the tour from a friend of mine, I told her that I couldn’t eat as much as I had expected. She laughed at me to see the picture of the kaisen don saying that that amount was for three. Hahaha.

With my stomach full, I visited Yume No Hana Kan, a greenhouse that is full of leafy plants. Here I had tried a dragon fruit. I didn’t know that they were a fruit of cactuses. This place’s dragon fruits were grown without any disinfections. Its taste was like a kiwi fruit and tasteful. I like it. Luckily, I happened to see an owl on a perch, which sometimes comes this place. The form of owls is so cute, I think. The nocturnal bird looked sleepy.


Last of all was shopping at Michino-eki(roadside station). I was attracted to its name was shochu “Bocchi”, which is made from peanuts, Chiba’s specialty product. After harvesting, peanuts trees are piled out in the open and it is called bocchi. The shochu is named after it. Oh, that bocchi, not the other…

After stopping at Umihotaru again, we headed back to Tokyo. It was maybe because there were only few people, nobody was late for every meeting time, everything went smooth and we arrived at Tokyo earlier than planned. The guide was kind and I had much more fun than I had expected. Though it was a group tour, I enjoyed myself like I was traveling alone. No wonder that bus tours are popular. When I find another good one, I’d like to join it. If you are looking for a nice way to spend your day off, join a bus tour.


The sunset I saw at Umihotaru

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