Saturday, 30 May 2015

Breastfeeding in Japan (the Good)

Sakura and Breastfeeding
 This disclaimer applies to everything I ever write, really, but I'm going to make a special point of restating it here~ these are my experiences, and do not necessarily reflect the situation for others or in other parts of Japan. With breastfeeding in particular, I think my experiences in a rural area with a relatively high birthrate may be very different to the situation a tourist may encounter in Tokyo, for example.

Cricket is fast approaching three months old. In that time I have nursed him on a train, in several parks, in an onsen, in a PTA meeting and during a Buddhist service in a 450 year old temple. Not only have I had no problems whatsoever, if he gets the least bit restless when I am out with him I can guarantee that within a few seconds an old lady will appear with one hand squeezing my breast and telling me to hurry up and get it into the baby quick-snap! Everyone I have encountered has had a very positive attitude towards breastfeeding, and the facilities available just about everywhere are fantastic:

One of several small "private" feeding rooms in a department store. The pillow is provided.
A nursing lounge in the same department store. This one has room for a pram and picture books for older children to read while waiting for their younger sibling to finish nursing. There are twice-weekly lactation classes offered here for free.
Although the best baby care facilities seem to be on the kids' stuff floor of department stores, all major shops or government offices have them. Even the garage where we had our brakes done recently had a big comfy nursing lounge. The other thing I am really loving about the baby care facilities in Japan is that they are offered to men, as well. Men's toilets come with changing tables, there is always a gender free toilet with a changing table too, and some large department stores have "daddy care" and "mummy care" rooms. In the mummy rooms you can breastfeed freely, while I guess the advantage of the daddy care rooms is that guys don't need to feel as self-conscious (on one occasion when I met a dad by himself in a baby care room he was quickly mobbed by curious mums who wanted to check out his diaper changing technique and tell him how great he was, which I am guessing would get old very quickly).
Lovely clean changing tables and nappy vending machines
Feeding chairs for toddlers, hot water and microwave, and pamphlets on various services for young families
In terms of social acceptance, facilities and general ease, I think Japan is awesome for breastfeeding. Getting established in the first week after birth was another story though, and I'll write about that in part 2.
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Friday, 29 May 2015

Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras

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I'm so excited to be able to tell you that Leza Lowitz's memoir is now available for pre-order (the release date is July 1st). I shared some excepts a few years ago and have been waiting to read the rest. There is so little information in English on adoption in Japan that a book like this is a real treat. Here's a link to the book on Amazon: Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras 
And here is the official blurb:
At 30, Californian Leza Lowitz is single and traveling the world, which suits her just fine. Coming of age in Berkeley during the feminist revolution of the 1970s, she learned that marriage and family could wait. Or could they?

When Leza moves to Japan and falls in love with a Japanese man, her heart opens in ways she never thought possible. But she’s still an outsider, and home is far away. Rather than struggle to fit in, she opens a yoga studio and makes a home for others. Then, at 44, Leza and her Japanese husband seek to adopt—in a country where bloodlines are paramount and family ties are almost feudal in their cultural importance. She travels to India to work on herself and back to California to deal with her past. Something is still not complete until she learns that when you give a little love to a child, you get the whole world in return.

The author’s deep connection to yoga shows her that infertile does not mean inconceivable. By adapting and adopting, she transcends her struggles and embraces the joys of motherhood.

I've reviewed the book for another publication, so I wont say too much about it here, except that it is well worth reading.
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Thursday, 28 May 2015

Murderers Just Don't Say Good Morning

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A man in Osaka murdered his neighbor this morning, killing her in front of her one year old son. The media pack which assembled immediately began interviewing the other residents of the apartment building about the nature of the murderer~ "I hear he didn't give set greetings (aisatsu)," a reporter asked, "is that so?" "Yes!" The neighbor replied. "He never returned greetings."

In 2005 I was having dinner with a professor of law who taught at a prestigious university. He was telling me about a case with a particularly violent offender. During interviews with the man's family it turned out that his mother had never said "welcome home" (okaeri). "No wonder he became a criminal" my acquaintance exclaimed vehemently, "he never learned the most basic thing about living in society!"

In 2011 I was teaching at a junior high school in a low socio-economic status area with a number of pretty troubled students. There was violence, teen pregnancy, kids cracking open beers on the front steps of the school, that sort of thing. The principal made a speech to the assembled student body about how if they just worked on their greetings, their lives would change for the better.

These experiences are why, when I started watching the TV drama "あいしてる” and a kid came home from school without saying "I'm home" (tadaima) I knew he was going to get into serious trouble. Sure enough, episode two and he'd smashed another kid's head in.

Aisatsu, guys. Don't mess with the greetings.
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Friday, 8 May 2015

Things I See When I Run From Zombies (flashback Friday)

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I'd read great things about the Zombies, Run! app, but my phone is too old an crap to run it. Last year I discovered that I can use the 5k training version, and since I can't actually run further than a block without collapsing in a gasping heap it was probably the better choice anyway. So, I loaded up some tunes and headed out. While most of the episodes are timed and will just interupt your music when the time is up, the prologue episode goes by songs. This was a bit of an issue... what was estimated to be a 45 minute work out took me an hour and a half. My playlist contained Iron Maiden, Amon Amath and Blind Guardian~ the guitar solos alone are the length of a whole pop song! Still, I loved the app and I loved exploring my neighbourhood. I saw so many awesome things on that first day that I was hooked (it was that time I encountered a wild pheasant). As soon as I got pregnant the running had to stop (I started vomiting 12 hours after conceiving and didn't stop until just before his head emerged), but here are some pictures from the couple of months I kept it up.

Misty farms
Caution: snakes
Stabby bamboo of death
Bloody moon
I had no idea there was a shrine in the middle of that patch of trees
So Cyberpunk- Koi under and oily film in what looked like an abandoned gated community
Early sakura
Oranges rotting on a tree before falling into the well. A sweet, sickly odor fills the still air. Zombies are close.
Old roofing tiles reclaimed by nature
I swear I heard moaning behind me...
Definitely a zombie lair
Hiding in the walls, perhaps
Wild wisteria
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Thursday, 7 May 2015


Who is this vision of grace and beauty I hear you cry? Why, `tis none other than my darling sister Verity, who regular readers may remember from the Very Awkward Tea Ceremony. And why are you dazzling us with this delightful image, you exclaim? And furthermore, why do you use this irritating writing style? Well, the answer to both is, basically, sleep deprivation. Allow me to elaborate, dear reader. Caring for babies is time consuming, and further complicated by dogs and a (more than a little challenging) big brother. Yet, we do not face these challenges alone, for a gift beyond price has been given us by the mostest bestest sister to walk this green earth. Despite having an MA thesis to finish and a wedding fast approaching, she has flown halfway around the world to wash my dishes and hold the baby while I pee. It is a kindness I can never repay nor thank her enough for, and for the rest of my life my greatest prayer for others will be: may you have a sister in your life half as kind as mine.

Many thanks to Helen of Inn by the Sea for giving me a kick back into blogging with the "five days challenge". The idea is to post five photos, one per day for five days, and to write a story or poem to go with each photo. For each day that we post we are supposed to invite one person to participate.

I'm inviting Mim and Cheese of Two Lof Bees to join in. Dudes, if you would like to participate, post a picture a day for five days and write a story to go along with each photo. Your story can be fiction or non-fiction. It can be a short paragraph, a page, or a poem. Each post, please select one person to carry on the challenge. It's just for fun, there's no pressure to join in ;)
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