December 26, 2009

Observing Christmas Day in Japan

The day after Halloween, Christmas decorations went up. Our commercial center is as decorated as in any western country, and there's a park filled with people admiring the lights and Christmas tree (which will go down today, along with all the little mechanical dancing Santas along the main street, leaving just the lights, which will now be New Year decorations.

This is also the month of the bounenkai (forget-the-year-parties) which companies host for their employees. Picture groups staggering out of restaurants discussing where they will go for the 'second (or third) party. Most folks also get bonuses this month, so it's a shopping month too-- many for Christmas presents, even though they might have a difficult time explaining the meaning of Christmas, since perhaps only one percent of Japan is Christian.

To further mix things up, the twenty-third of December is a national holiday, the emperor's birthday-- but not Christmas day.

On Christmas Eve, bakeries and supermarkets sell very popular 'Christmas Cakes'. Restaurants benefit also, as they are full of young couples as it's a special 'date night'-- Christmas IS about love, right?

I don't mind the fuss, for if there were no commercial “Reason for the Season”, then there would be no reason for Japanese to ask-- even if it's only voicing a nagging question at the back of their minds, “What does all of this really mean?”

I go about I sporting a Santa hat and am regaled with “Santa!” wherever I go, while I happily give out printed Christmas messages-- about 300 this year-- that they eagerly take and read, assuming that, since I'm a Westerner, this is the accepted thing to do.

Wherever you are and however you celebrate this Christmas, may you have a wonderful love-filled day.


There was a gift to each of us left under the tree of life 2000 years ago by Him whose birthday we celebrate today. The gift was withheld from no man. Some have left the packages unclaimed. Some have accepted the gift and carried it around, but have failed to remove the wrapping and look inside to discover the hidden splendor. The packages are all alike: in each is a scroll on which is written, “All that the Father hath is thine!” Take and live!"―Frank S. Mead

December 24, 2009

Guided Tour of Christmas Lights by Andrew

Andrew was excited and wanted to share a video of the Christmas lights in the large dining and living room shared by the several families living here. I didn't have much to add since the nativity scene we used in China is in Tokyo-- but there was no lack for decorations, since they've been doing this for fourteen years and each year added something new-- this year the blue lights in the beginning of the clip.

This is my first attempt at posting a video, so please let me know if you have any problem viewing it-- Thanks!

December 22, 2009

Christmas Activities Update and What's Coming

There has been quite a gap since my last post-- sorry. Last month I was set to launch a second blog as a companion to this one. However, while this is still on the way, I was bushwhacked by a week of sickness and then onset of our busiest season.

I have to redirect the site in the next couple weeks-- before I have to pay for two more years of hosting. It will be a complete website, replacing, and will have several different 'areas' with permanent pages as well as the new blog.

The reindeer in the photo is Andrew. He has been performing with me quite often lately and is doing really well meeting and relating to people. His Japanese has also greatly improved-- mostly just by being with kids his age and joining in their activities. A Japanese family with ten kids-- eight still with them-- came to live with us in July. We also have two young ladies staying with us-- helping, just as I did last year, with our Christmas programs. So we've nearly filled up this former guest house/hotel's ten bedrooms.

I'll put up Christmas and New Year posts here soon-- including photos of our team visiting hospitals and old folks homes-- a dozen or more, three open-house events, and street performing... stay tuned!

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?—Bob Hope

November 07, 2009

Giant Hornet

Andrew had a science lesson today...

"I was taking down laundry, grabbed my sock and... Ouch! It felt somewhat like an injection or someone poking you with a needle, or a jellyfish sting, or something. I went into the house and told dad that I though that I had been stung, but I hadn't seen it. We went back out and found a wasp still in the sock and smacked it with a shoe, but it didn't smash it-- it's really tough. We held it with a clothes pin, since it was only stunned, and sprayed it with poison.

My hand swelled up really big right away. Dad put some medicine on it. Wasps don't leave their stingers, so we didn't have to pull it out, We looked it up on the Internet and found that it's the biggest hornet in the world-- and the most poisonous. More people (in Japan) die from it every year than from any other insect or even poisonous snake."

Here is a Wikipedia article about it.

November 05, 2009

Shizuoka Street Performers Festival

I was happy to find, when I first visited here almost a year ago, that street performing was not only accepted but very well known, since for the past seven years Shizuoka has hosted an international street performers festival and competition.

This year there were over 90 entries. We couldn't perform officially, since entries closed last January, but Andrew and I strolled about in our costumes and both enjoyed the shows-- we saw about fifteen-- only one-sixth of the total. We also performed ourselves, since we couldn't get far without someone stopping us to ask for a balloon or to take a picture of us.

Andrew is pictured here with 'PopEyed', a couple comedic acrobats from Australia. They told us that they love coming every year, as there is nothing in Australia to compare to this event.

I also enjoyed seeing others perform. There were so many ideas that I can stea... er... adapt for myself. Maybe we'll be able to participate more actively next year, since there are various levels or groups of performers-- from big stage to small and from street corner areas to to strolling acts-- like ours.

At the face painting area, we met two talented artists, one from Calgary, Canada and one from Texas--

The photo of a juggler with his audience perhaps gives you an idea of the set up of the 'intermediate', street level performing areas.

The whole event was very well organized and the audiences were fantastic and very appreciative.

Sadly, I missed my favorite-- Pippi, an American who lives in Tokyo, whom I first saw in Fukuoka and who has the most that I like to.. err... emulate. My own show is very similar-- without the make-up or nose and simpler, kind of a scaled-down version.

(photo from:

The view photo was taken on Tuesday, 3 November, the last day of the four-day event. It's looking toward Mount Fuji from where I live, toward the city of Shizuoka, spread out along the coast.

November 01, 2009

Rescued by a Tomato

Not keeping up this blog has frustrated me. Teaching English classes and teaching Andrew at home have almost totally absorbed my attention lately, with the few spare drops of free-time soaked up with reading the news, checking my mail and, recently, Facebook.

The time and energy spent on Facebook has been great for getting better connected with my family. However, I now realize that this motivation to communicate with my loved ones was what kept me blogging faithfully. I really enjoy blogging, so I needed to find a way to do both.

First, I evaluated what has been devouring my hours, munching my minutes and sucking away my seconds. The next big use of my free time was the website 'Lifehacker' and related articles and links-- all in the name of living better and faster and yes, 'saving time'.

'Good, better, best. Never let it rest. 'Til your good is better and your better is best.” St. Jerome

Of course, some of it was work related, but a great deal was just thirsting for knowledge-- information overloading, brain stuffing. As Solomon said, three thousand years ago, “Of the making of many bytes, there is no end; and too much data burns the brain.”-- or something like that. I needed an kind of an informational Noah's ark to save me from the data-flood-- like the round, red one that goes 'brr-ring'... pictured above.

While setting up Andrew's curriculum and schedule, I found and tried a few methods to increase his focus, concentration, self-evaluation and motivation. Simply put, to get more done in less time-- just what I needed too.

One method seemed to be just what we needed, “Pomodoro”, Italian for 'tomato'-- named after the tomato-shaped timer used by the developer of the system. The idea is to set a certain number of set periods of time (25 minutes is suggested and what we use) for uninterrupted work, followed by a short break. There's a lot more to the planning and record-keeping and do's and don't's, but that's basically it.

Forcing myself to schedule all I do will, I hope, limit the attacks of the black hole time gobblers when my will is weak. If I'm at least partially successful, you should see my regular posts come back to life.

Stay tuned. Bruce

If you are interested in how it works, you can find the details here and here -- where you can also get a free PDF of his book.

May 09, 2009

Beautiful Faces of Motherhood

Happy Mothers Day!

These photos are of my 'mothers'. These twelve 'whoa-man' super-moms have certainly touched my life-- mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers-- and they represent all of the special mothers in my life-- including the new moms that I meet nearly every day. Thank you. You're wonderful!

Why are they so beautiful?

This article found on the Activated Magazine site explains:

Beautiful motherhood

To children, no one in the whole world is more beautiful than their own loving mothers. Young children don’t think of their mothers in terms of fashion sense, great taste in jewelry, or perfect hair and nails. They also don’t notice stretch marks or gray hairs. Their little minds are oblivious to those things that tend to skew adults’ perceptions and expectations regarding beauty, so they’re actually better judges of what makes a woman truly beautiful.

Where do children find beauty?—In the eyes that convey pride in their achievements, in the lips that encourage and instruct, in the kisses that make small hurts bearable, in the soothing voice that puts them back to sleep after a bad dream, in the wrap-around love of a soft warm hug.

Where does such beauty come from?—With motherhood comes self-sacrifice, but from self-sacrifice comes humility, from humility comes grace, and from grace comes true beauty. A mother embodies life, love, and purity in the giving of herself to her children, and in these she is a reflection of God’s love for His children. This is why I believe that nothing makes a woman more beautiful than motherhood.

--Saskia Smith

April 12, 2009

Easter Fact-- not Fiction

In spite of recent fictional, masquerading-as-fact media spectaculars, there still remains no point in the history of the world more pivotal, and which affects more lives and thoughts, than the life of Christ and its accurate depiction in the Bible books of Matthew, Mark and John-- the Gospels.

Accurate, or useless.

Just as Christ-- if judged by his own words-- was either the Saviour of the world or a madman. Either Christ rose from the dead or, as the disciples wrote, 'We're fools'. For the disciples, almost to a man-- along with many a woman-- gave their lives for what they professed to be true-- that Christ lived, died and rose again on the third day.

He Lives!

"I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead." —Thomas Arnold, English historian (1795-1842) See Here.

Irenaeus, writing about A.D. 180, confirmed the traditional authorship... "Matthew published his own gospel among the Hebrews in their own tongue, when Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter's preaching. Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel preached by his teacher. Then John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned on his breast, himself produced his Gospel while he was living at Ephesus in Asia." The Case for Christ, By Lee Strobel

(Photo: Cherry trees blooming near our home in Yaizu, Shizuoka, Japan)

March 17, 2009

As a lame man to his cane, so is a bald man to his...

[The riddle's answer is at the end of this post]

My dad-- a.k.a., 'The Silver Fox'

I was going through the photos in my computer-- about 8,000 of them-- and was sorting some old photos of my dad. Dad had gray hair from my earliest memories, although at first only at his temples. I thought it looked great-- and it still does, into his 80s. So I never minded the thought of going gray. However, things didn't develop quite as I expected.

My first hint came in India, when a serious eight year-old Phil told me, “Dad, you're not bald, you just have a really tall forehead.” I hadn't even thought about it, but, after checking in the mirror, I discovered that there was a very good reason that my hair had become increasingly easy to comb.

Then, a few years later, a friend introduced me to a barber shop cheap enough to indulge myself in a 'store-bought' trim. The old East Los Angeles shop actually looked new compared to it's owner, who proceeded to give me his standard '50's cut-- in the early '90's.

“You know, he told me loudly, “if you part your hair on the other side, you can cover up most of this here bald spot.”

“Bald spot?” I squeaked-- an octave or two higher than I'd have liked.

“Oh, yeah.” I mumbled, as I observed my high forehead approaching a bald spot -- both clearly visible in the mirror he'd lofted to give me a view.

My surprise, apparently, came primarily as a gift from heredity. For example, all my mother's sons are brilliant beacons of baldness. 'Male baldness pattern' is mostly inherited from one's maternal grandfather-- with some influence from one's father. Therefore, you can probably relax, dear sons, your grandfathers both kept their hair. However, my dear daughters' sons...

Have I missed my my top thatching? Not much-- except for the lack of insulation in winter and extra sunscreen in summer. Nor do I mourn as the brittle final product of each fading follicle passes into history; and as I slowly pass from balding-- to bald.

Me, a.k.a. 'The Shiny Fox'

Answer to the riddle:

'As a lame man to his cane, so is a bald man to his cap.'

February 20, 2009

Trains, Planes, Buses, Automobiles and Sleeping Sitting Up

After thirty-eight days, 22,000 miles (36,000 km) I'm home. I traveled by car six times and by bus five times, but over 10,000 miles was by train – fourteen segments, eleven of them overnight. I slept in twenty-three different beds-- and chairs-- preparing to publish my new book-- an illustrated edition of 101 Positions for Sleeping in a Chair.

Though intense, the trip was surprisingly easy and very pleasant. I was, of course, thrilled to see my parents, and most of my children and grand-children, brothers and sisters, their children-- and friends-- for the first time in many years for most.

Thank you, dear family, for making me feel so welcome and taking such good care of me.

Oh, and I don't want to forget the many folks that I met along the way. If you've managed to find your way here-- it was a pleasure and privilege to meet you-- so many people sharing so many stories and smiles.

Everyone-- please-- let's stay in touch. I always answer my email and have a large stockpile of stories and photos to post in the days ahead.

So come back and visit, Bruce

To visit thirty-seven family and friends in fourteen locations scattered all over the States, I zig-zagged for a month though twenty-eight states, mostly by train, from San Diego to Dallas and on to New York City, then to South Florida, back up to Washington, D.C., across to Seattle and down to Los Angeles-- with visits in West Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, Nevada and Arizona.

Due to hurricane damage to tracks running along the Gulf of Mexico-- between New Orleans and Florida-- all cross-country trains are being routed through Chicago, forcing the non-circular route that I've marked on the map.

Top photo: Flagstaff, Arizona Amtrak station at dawn, February 7th, 2009.

January 15, 2009

10,000 Mile Loop

That's a comedy performing team that Andrew and I met on our way to Tokyo on January 10th. That's Mount Fuji in the background.

I'm posting today from San Diego, California, the start of the rail-pass portion of a one-month trip around the United States. I flew in yesterday from Japan and will be in trains, buses, cars and planes for much of the next 30 days-- mostly in trains-- about 12 days-- and another three days in the others.

The other half of the trip will be my stops in twelve cities at the four corners of the US. From here I will go to Dallas, on to NYC, West Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Seattle, Las Vegas, Nevada, Flagstaff, Arizona and Twentynine Palms, California. I'll be vistiing my parents, and many of my children, grandchildren, and brothers and sisters and a couple friends- twelve cities in all.

I always invite the folks I meet to visit this blog-- so, welcome! I'm not sure how soon I'll have the photos and details of this trip posted here, so please explore and bookmark (Control-D in Firefox, 'Favorites' in Explorer.)

And to everyone in my big 'loop'-- see you soon!