Tag Archives: christmas

Diary: Festive Goodtimes at Tsuchida Cottage (w/ drum set and banquet & pals)

3 of us, always

This re-cap *should* be a few days ago, but some things get squished between others and sometimes time for documentation to take a break. That said, a quick recap of a busy few days around Christmas time.

Note: Christmas is *sorta* a thing in Japan as a starting point for New Years (which is the big deal). Some people evidently order chicken from a chain resto, others exchange gift, there are Santa decorations around, not much of the religiousness and folktales. Anyhow, this is technically my 3rd straight here at Tsuchida Cottage. The first was pre-Ichiro and i ordered in food and stoked out M and F in law and wife with prezos and established some traditions of sorts with a tiny tree and a roaring fire.

Last year 2020 we had a strange errand to do in a nearby town (concerning an abandoned crumbling house, a missing uncle and other conundrums) coincidentally on Dec. 25. Me, wife and Ichi all got terribly ill :( and with the passing of F-i-L’s mother, the tradition dictated a sedate New Years as well. So this year, i wanted to set new traditions, and holy smokes we did (and of course i took on too much) and show my thanks to in-laws and buddy Mac and his lovely GF. We also invited some friendly ladies to join our festive board.

Anyhow, was several days of prep during which i was *struggling* and then Dec. 23rd was Mae Mae’s rehearsal at our home which was a great chance to use our unique floorplan to full effect with the whole band fitting in easily and i even sat in on drums!

Then Dec. 24th was a big one… i’ll let myself take over for re-cap.

stealth mode and not

Enter in blue, Exit in red #StealthMode #Santa

Just back from my naturalistic Santa Claus performance at the nursery school.

I’m so custom made for this. And at 5 foot 9 with a 32 inch waist, I am a “big guy” 🙂 I told the kids I eat lots of vegetables to keep trim (after i joked that I only eat reindeer)

Each of the students got their own bit of special attention with eye contact, a few kind words, and a present. lots of kids wanted to touch my uniform or my beard as well.

Of course many photos were taken but because of the kids in them, can’t really share them. Soaked in all the dopamine goodness I could.

method actor (and cheeseball)

A few kids cried, our little guy looked at me with a look of bewilderment, all the kids got a special Santa convo and a present & my 2+ months of beard growth allowed me to be truly authentic and bring some joy – indeed, I am truly a method actor :-).

The kids asked some questions but fortunately I had clever answers.

Yes, I will have this gig as long as I want it. #NeighborhoodSanta

Meanwhile back at home

front room, ready for goodtimes
Ryoko doing her elfing

Then on Christmas eve, we wrapped and laid out gifts for Ichiro (after a day of prepping food). He was noticing all the changes in the house with trees and lights and different foods and was wide eyed at it all – and doing the cutest hand gestures to emulate the blinking flicking lights.

calling baba and gigi

Christmas morning, in-laws came over and over hot bevvies with opened gifts. Ergo:

Ryoko and I received matching pyjamas! So warm and cozy and cute. Thrilled.

M-i-L received a puzzle of 4 generations of her (Fujii) family visiting the matriarch at an elder’s home with Aunt, Cousin from Nagasaki, cousin’s 2 little girls, wife and Ichiro in the middle of all the ladies. (recap of outing). We also made a puzzle for great granny, aunt and cousin.

F-i-L received an Adidas track suit made for lounging around (chilly) Japanese houses. We loves to hang at the computer and follow Shogi (a sort of complicated chess) matches and this will comfy and handy for forays outside to check weather and laundry etc.

Ichiro was loaded up but most importantly with a drum set (yeah it seems like i got it for me but really…)

Booking studio sessions tomorrow, pre-order to get signed copies of his debut EP “Flyin’ the Flannel” by Viking Samurai, Ichiro Stanley / papa will be at the merch table with fanzines & headbands

So much fun to set it up and now we have my sorta kit (floor top, high hat, snare) and his in the front room along with piano, baritone ukulele, electric keyboard, and basket of percussion.

Ichiro with mouth fulla orange

Then back to the kitchen… for a final manoeuvres. Kitchen is not my wheelhouse but timely advice from brother Anders and buddy Lance alleviated the anxiety and fortunately magic wife had helped prep most of the stuff the day before (including gravy and eggnog!) and we laid out stuffing (made with homemade chicken stock, mushrooms, baguette, celery, carrot, onion etc), a turkey (which turned out perfect somehow), brussel sprouts (acquisition thereof chronicled elsewhere) with bacon from R’s alma mater, broc/cauli mix, a variety of bevvies, etc.

Snapshots of food follow – self-explanatory (for time being at least):

Buddy Mac came with wine and a pork belly (see above) from his freezer where i shipped the turkey, sausages, and ham. We cooked it on site for the almost-final course.

Ryoko had tracked down some fancy charcuterie too. It all turned out great with pleasing conversation and interestingness as most of the foods were “first time” for attendees.

Oh we used some of my Mom’s “fancy china” and had ordered silverware and cloth napkins for proper table service for 8-1/2 diners (^ see above gallery if curious).

The woodstove was cranking the whole time as was Charlie Brown Christmas music followed by a variety of Joni Mitchell, Cowboy Junkies and Iron and Wine.

Mac and Manami stayed over next door and had breakie (pork belly scramble) and fancy egg nog coffees next morning. Then i collapsed :) Fortunately most the dishes were done night before by elves while i was in bath with Ichi.

Was all so great which is why i am remembering it all here. Pardon brevity, good night.

Diary: Seeking Brussel(l) Sprouts, Finding Lobster (+ other festive prep)

Memo: Today, i am *braving* the wilds of Okayama (our minor provincial city) in search of brussel sprouts, yams (not sweet potatoes, *yams*), celery etc for festive goodtimes.

As you will notice in the dispatch i sneak a mention about Ichiro’s Christmas present and yes, discuss my magnificent Santa Claus beard as i am clearly *A Method Actor*.

clearly a method actor

Updates:

The Japan Agricultural outlet was almost bloodsport of grandmothers jockeying for produce. Survived.

Somehow I came home with celery that’s over a meter long, a daikon radish almost the size of my leg, and a whole lobster + intended brussel sprouts & variety of potato/tubers.

tubers, various – and squash

One note, 95% of our groceries come in a weekly delivery service from the co-op (not a cute little neighborhood co-op but like a national co-op) but some more obscure/specialty things required a little bit more adventuring. I really don’t leave the house aside from the post office, hospitals and nursery school.

Festive times impending at Tsuchida Cottage / arborist wife perks equals Christmas tree, cut yesterday (from private land by Oka-san) – its sappy and prickly (and rare!)

Feeling really grateful for a well -timed, well-received – very welcome and unexpected gift that is sparking up the Festive season with Transit goodness. Beside the sweet Translink sweater came a scarf and toques

PS will get a picture with the 3 of us in matching @TransLink toques soon.

Finally:

daikon and celery measured upon request (90+cm)

and tree “installed” with wooden braces, heavy rocks/stones in a crockery vessel (which recently held umeboshi)

Bailey’s Irish Cream arrived by courier, Kahlua acquired, cutlery ordered, various schemes considered. Bill Janovitz’s Christmas shuffle playlist tested. Carry on.

Happy Merry, All the Festive, Every Joyful

Happy Merry
Any Festive
Every Joyful
All of the Moments

Peace – Health – Happy
to all of us, all of you

Ate nabe stew, warmed by woodstove, bath then slept

Fondly from Dave, Ryoko & Ichiro Stanley Thorvald of Tsuchida Cottage, Okayama, Japan on a usual Friday, Dec. 25, Reiwa 2 / 2020

Tradition is what you are doing in the present tense. Every moment a spectacular event. You are a miracle, truly, enjoy. (& If you ever forget, we’re here to remind you.)

an original for the biographers and collectors

Note: Dec 25, out n about (with treasures) on a quest

Today is regular Friday here on Japan > we are on a mysterious mission {explain later} but along the way, saw an old rolling stock – ran the trams from 1910-1962 / lot of change witnessed in that period.

Ichiro & Ryoko with classic tram car in Saidaiji (on a special quest)

Anyhow, point is: these are my treasures. Xo

Riff: Ghosts of Festive Losts {Christmas Any/no/elsewhere}

Sometimes you feel like a person left in the “lost luggage” room… You sit, you wait for the person to come ~ sometimes someone comes by but for another reason and you just sit and you wait. Eventually, a train comes, sometimes you find a seat, sometimes with window and you go.

Ghosts of Festive Losts – you wait, sometimes miracles arrive or ring or you are just lost (Lanka 2017)

Other times, a friend is someone who comes to help you for a rather different purpose than the “help you seek“ yet somehow, maybe unbeknownst to you & them, they help & you appreciate, admiration is mutual, then each drift into life, better than before, or at least different.

I’ve spent more Christmases {or whatever} either working jobs, in hospitals, lost alone, holed up in hotels, hiding in cabins, or movie theatres, on road hitching, or with strangers etc. than have with family or familiar. Best stories. Fortunately none in jail. Hear you if alone.

Tradition is what you are doing in the present tense.

Every moment a spectacular event.

You are a miracle, truly, enjoy.

Diary: Santa Land at Community Centre

Background: Just doing a Santa gig at a little local community center in Tsuchida, Okayama… Not a lot of kids around here it seems so… not sure what to expect exactly > just is going with the flow. Figure it’s my “job for life” now that I live here and I’m the token neighborhood guy with a beard.

Preparation: Giving the chukka boots a little bit of black polish (after removing some salt stains with vinegar), then a little buff up to go with the Santa Claus outfit tomorrow.

Of course, I won’t actually be able to wear the shoes into the event (will bring my own red and black check slippers though) but well, doing what I can to be a top-end Uncle Christmas for the kiddos.

Also pulled out some old gold wire rim glasses – just not doing what I can to look sharp.

With various precautions (temperature checks included), the kids won’t sit on my lap but instead, stand a respectful distance away, bow likely (at the grandeur of my beard no doubt), cry possibly, state their wishes maybe, and I will nod approvingly and wish them each well on their life.

There will likely be a few snapshots. Note to self, early start so prepare coffee and/or cocoa in advance.

OK, back to the boots before I make a mess of things. (update: mess = yes)

PS These little boots are what I wore stomping around the Himalayas a bit… Kind of as a “protest to yuppie Mountaineers“, and out of respect to so many Nepalis who carry obnoxious tourist’s load around the mountains wearing off the rack regular old clothes, as such wandered through the villages with these on my hooves.

Re: tomorrow morning’s “Uncle Christmas“ gig… Made a “Santa’s own family photo album” to take along in case any kids question the backstory. Includes: Santa as a young boy with beard etc. plus “Santa on vacation“ with the mayor. Includes pictures of mom and dad and Christmas in Jamaica.

+ Practicing Q&A with appropriate “in-character“ Japanese answers including which honorific pronouns and whatnot to use.
I mean I’m doing it, might as well go all in, as usual.

As I understand, there will be some sort of singing, storybook and then the kids will chant for Santa, at which time I will enter with a bag/box of presents > they’ve advised some sort of dancing, however I will sit during that part and tell the kids how adorable they are and ask appropriate questions about their recent behavior, thusly adjudicating the worthiness of gifts. 

Then, I will interact with the children in a cautious safe manner.

Stay tuned…

Here we go

Quick stroll over to kominkon

Ohato gozaimasu – now on-location in “stealth mode”, temperature checked, masks, so many cute kids…

Foggy morning like a Gordon Lightfoot song

Assisted by my R & I.

Also have Insta camera but seems no shortage of cameras here.

(Limited photos due to well, kids etc.)

I am appropriately medicated but could use one more coffee.

Moms & kids assembling here at community centre.

Windows open for max fresh air. 6o C, no one minds, bundled up.

Warming up with some movement & music.

I have elected to use my “foreigner elective card” and sit on a chair – I almost always do the floor sitting but right now, playing it safe… I may not be able to stand back up :)

Standing by for cue / note: specs circa 1996-7 when an internet company geek in Olympia, dress-up times like this is why I keep items. Could not see very well but #methodacting requires such sacrifices

Also, have used beard as a wig creating some sort of Santa Mullet

Resplendent and shimmering (note ordered the “luxury/deluxe” Santa outfit but it is decidedly mediocre, lots of flair but was hoping for higher end fabrics – geez, I’m needy!)

It’s technically not breaking & entering when you have a magic key. Just making sure my backstory is all in place when kids ask how I get in without a chimney to be found. (thanks S)

Rolling into the community center like no big deal… (Note the coordinated uniglo slippers) / Also walkingstick made from wood salvaged from the Fukushima incidents (thanks R)

Update: Slayed – My study at the Strasburg Institute paid off with my naturalistic performance as a trimmed up Santa Claus, old and weary yet doing all right.

Each child received a custom monologue based on their appearance, age, personality and shyness level.

Gift bags were provided.

Yes, a lot of the kids were a little surprised, a few cried but all left feeling better about themselves I think. Complements (sincere) are the most precious (& free) gift.

Reminded each kid to be sweet to their parents, say kind words to others, take good care of their health and I will see them next year.

Explained my trimmed up figure as a diet of natto and umeboshi exclusively.

Told them I was off to Kurashiki next.

Had a notebook with a map of the nearby seto-ni-ki (inland sea) on the cover and told them I was keeping notes (with a comically oversize pencil from the McMenimin’s Kennedy school in Portland) as to who were the good kids and whatnot.

Found this child particularly amusing and appealing.

I suppose *technically* Santa isn’t it supposed to choose favorites but I did. He was a bit confused, like “I know this dude but something seems *off*”

Oh, the kids performed some sort of freeform dance with colourful pom-poms which was unexpected.
 

Of course made a few other minor observances while on location i.e.: karaoke machine in the closet (for SFK)

Noted a lovely persimmon tree on the walk home

I did a stealth exit and back at the cottage warming up the bath and wishing there was a hockey game on. Received a gift bag which seems to have a bottle of tea and some sort of box… Let’s hope it’s chocolate.

[Update: was not chocolate, some sort of crackers, I broke the rules and ate in the bath – 2 hours at 44-45 °]

All the parents seemed super happy and I will do this every year forever, somewhere or another.

Afterward (with C.B.): I went to the gig in sort of street clothes and participated in the opening singing blah blah blah stuff (keep in mind I’m the only fella and only foreigner there) and then went and changed and came back in to the complete astonishment of the children.

That said, I kind of love the idea of rolling through the neighborhood in the outfit… Maybe head downtown and just act like it’s no big deal

Next year we can do the “foreign Santa renegade day out” / Rampage the streets giving away ¥100 store things

So much fun! I’m going to do this every year forever in Japan.

Gripe: Cvd Christmas, cripes & gripes

Dec 2020 / annotation:

I think I’ve spent more Christmases or whatever either working jobs, in hospitals, lost alone, holed up in hotels, hiding in cabin or movie theatre, Chinease restaurants, on the road hitching, or with strangers etc. than have with family or whatever. Best stories. Fortunately none in jail (so far).

Can miss 1 (or more). Carry on.

Cool Yule You Lovelies (with Mom)

Cool Yule (Mom ca 1964)

Note: the plaid anorak, the sunglasses, the hair, the smile – love love love all of it Mom (so much like you sometimes)

#daveo50 ~ 1977 / 50 years > days > photos

#daveo50 ~ 1977 / Surrey, BC, Canada

Project: Upon turning 50 years old on August 16, 2020, Dave Olson (me, hello) is posting a photo (or maybe photos) a day / per year – starting with 1970 with intent of chronicling existence through various primary evidence sourced from studio portraits, class photos, ID / passport photos, or occasionally other “casual/group/random” shots when the above don’t exist in my archive (note: not “artificial intelligence,” really me, pulled from shoeboxes, journals, wallets and whatnot – diligently scanned and dated via glasses and haircuts, lightly annotated).

Continue reading #daveo50 ~ 1977 / 50 years > days > photos

Diary: Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing in Okayama, 2019

Christmas isn’t really an “event” in Japan, more of a marketing campaign and a prelude to New Year’s Eve which is laden with tradition, nostalgia and routine. It’s kinda my speed as i am def turned off by rampant commercialism quasi-religious sabre-rattling which comes around. 

Regardless, with new family (and more family arriving in 2020) i wanted to wrangle a bit of festiveness – also acknowledging been a long while since i had vaguely “regular” christmas and while this was atypical, established some new routines, scratched an itch… after all, with the turmoil in my life the last years, there is admittedly some misgivings and rather tough emotions which come around during all this hoolpa. Most importantly, got to show love and respect for wife and in-laws. 

PS You can see a bit of building up for Christmas and read a riff between a friend and i about this holiday in Japan in: Diary: Christmas Forthcoming / out n about and at home in Okayama, 2019

What follows are a few poorly-photographed artifact of activities from Dec. 24 – 26 JST. Carry On!

First off, Dec. 24 (christmas eve) we made dinner of grilled mackeral, squash, pickled cucumbers and tsukemono carrots, greens, miso soup, tea, rice, lotus root, and whatnot. Yup, not off to a very traditional start – ha!

Christmas morn, we opened our stockings (pictured above) purchased from a 100yen store ($1), nothing but the best! and enjoyed toast with cream cheese and my kaki (persimmon) jam which i am always talking about, and nashi (pear). My sock had snacks, Ryoko’s had expired 35mm film and a necklace and snacks. 

Then we went to post office (one of my fave activities of course) and i wore a Santa cap (borrowed from Ryoko who wore at Mae Maes Christmas concert) to the amusement of the post office staff and the kids at the grocery store which was our next stop. Folks are stocking up for New Years time during which many stores are closed or scaled back hours and folks generally wanna hunker down. 

Then we picked up a pre-made feast from a great lil cafe called Sakura-mi we had ordered a while back when we went on a little lunch date. Here’s the café’s post box.

And i got to make a fire in the wood stove. So yeah, post office and fire making in the same day! Pleased. 

Took the grub home and set up at parent’s house (next door).

Continue reading Diary: Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing in Okayama, 2019

Diary: Christmas Forthcoming / out n about and at home in Okayama, 2019

Some kind of phone… possibly from a battlefield or remote office

We headed out on some errands to return the felt sheets used in the tea ceremony at assassinated Prime minster Inukai Tsuyoshi’s home to a strange little office in a corridor with the cigarette smell cemented into the cracked linoleum floors which all evoked the lost Showa times.

Along the way, a saw some shops, ate ramen, developed film, checked out cameras and whatnot. 

First though, along one of these covered shopping arcades which i totally dig (how does Vancouver not have these everywhere?), continued my rather absurd documentation of phone boxes.

I would call you but haven’t figured out where to buy a phone card. Also noting these “midori denwa” (green phones) are abundant and in beautiful condition but i (not shockingly) never see one in use. 

PS Did someone call a doctor? #joke My friend in Adelaide Australia made the snap into a fun cartoon-y image. I might do this with all photos in future. 

Continue reading Diary: Christmas Forthcoming / out n about and at home in Okayama, 2019

Post’d: Festive Cards and Greetings, batches away!

Batch 2 of festive greetz away from the main downtown Okayama postoffice!

And technically, this post box is just for mailing New Year’s cards within Japan, so the pedantic ones amongst you need not point this out… Festive display made for a pleasant photo.

The overall count was smaller than batch one however several bonus super-deluxe envelopes of treats in the mix.

Destinations include: Germany, UAE, Scotland, Sri Lanka, … and the usual USA / Canada locations.

Such fun applying the stamps and interacting with the post office staff as so many folks are in preparing and mailing New Year’s cards.

This lil elf dropped off 80-ish new year cards into the hopper.

Continue reading Post’d: Festive Cards and Greetings, batches away!