Friday, October 29, 2010

All this, but no octopus ice cream

It hits me every time we return home. This time was not unique. Call it part of required re-entry shock. Coming back for 6 weeks of home assignment travel is landing in the land of a million choices.

The day after we arrived here in New Jersey, we needed to stock the refrigerator with some essentials for living. So, off to the supermarket. What's the big deal? The big deal is that EVERYTHING is BIG. And there are a million of them. You name it, the supermarkets here have a million different ones to choose from. But you knew that already. And I thought I did too.

I knew it was going to be tough going. I grabbed a cart, gripped the handle, and steeled myself to focus on the immediate the task. It was no use. The bakery section emitted a siren's cry to my long pie-deprived stomach. Turning the corner, I nearly wept at the selection of cereals. A whole aisle. Incredible! And the boxes could last for days. Steering hurriedly into the next aisle, I hunted for garbage bags. Again, the variety and selection nearly overwhelmed me. JUST GARBAGE BAGS! It took every bit of jet-lagged resolve I had left to not leave the aisle without something. But the ice cream finally did me in. Just a box of vanilla ice cream. A simple thing, or so I thought. There were 17 coolers of ice cream of every size, shape, variety and flavor known to man.

Aaahh...but Japan has one up on the States in this are. My local supermarket in Japan has octopus ice cream. Yes, it's true. Click the photo as proof. It would take a whole post to explain this.

Still, I am again left speechless by the land of many choices and large sizes: my country. It's just that after being gone for a while it all seems so incredible again.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Welcome to fall in Japan. A season for school undokai, that is, athletic competitions.

When I was invited to the undokai for the child of a church member, I anticipated something of a smallish scale. My experience with undokais had been 50~60 people or so gathered in a park to watch and cheer on their kids as they run relays, jump hoops, pull tug-a-war ropes, and so on. Imagine my surprise when the undokai I had been invited to involved 3000 adults and some 300 kids.

With this many involved, it's pretty hard to include everyone without injury. Yet the kids marched in formation, danced in rhythm, and did various group-oriented athletic activities that could only be possible in group-oriented Asia. The day was a great cultural study. Take a look at this short video of the kids dancing in formation to the music. You have to see it to understand.