Sitting On a Hill

When the opportunity arises, I like to head out for a walk to a nearby park that has one of my favourite places to sit. The park is one of the larger public green areas nearby and has an immense grassy area where a thousand kids can run around like the little maniacs they are and never come into contact with another person. In the northwestern corner of this park is a rather tall hill that rises 53 metres above the neighbourhood, where two massive cylindrical tanks exist to supply the surrounding buildings with fresh drinking water. On the top of this hill, less than 10 metres from one of the half-million litre reservoirs, is where I like to sit and watch the clouds go by.

Looking North

Despite the stereotype, there are actually quite a few parks and green spaces in Japan. So long as a person isn't living in the very centre of a bustling city, there will be a decent-sized park no more than half a kilometre away from their home. In my case there are four, all of which have decent hills to sit on, but none are quite as secluded as the one I tend to frequent. When I climb the hill, often with two cans of vodka and some sort of snack, there is never any disappointment from finding that someone else is sitting there.

Looking Up

I've invested a lot of time learning while at the top of this hill. No subject is off limits, but I generally stick to the standard topics of philosophy, religion, history, and — when I'm feeling particularly isolated — Linux1. The lack of distractions and human interaction makes it possible to completely lose oneself in a podcast, book, or YouTube video2. Why this spot isn't one of the most popular places to sit, I simply do not understand.

Looking Down

The one downside to this location is the lack of protection from rain and bright sun. Despite being surrounded by trees, there are none immediately south of the sitting spot, which means that part of the hill is forever drenched in sunlight during the daylight hours. This can make it rather hot during the summer, limiting the amount of time I can spend there. Of course, because it's open to the sun, it's also wide open to the rain. I've been caught on a couple of occasions sitting on the hill when a rainstorm begins3, and it's no picnic. A little pavilion at the top of the hill would be ideal, but would probably attract more people. One must take the bad with the good.

If I'm lucky, this secluded area will remain "my spot" for the foreseeable future. Working from home means it's more important than ever to escape the house and just relax somewhere different from time to time. There are certainly other places and other parks where I can loiter while losing myself in a podcast, but none quite so peaceful.


  1. Listening to some of the Linux podcasts is like being in a room with friends. Sometimes it's important to just sit around and geek out about tech, debating the pros and cons of systemd, the fate of the Linux desktop, and just about anything else that most people using a computer would not care one lick about.

  2. I "cheat" not having a phone with data by using a corporate-supplied iPad with 4G.

  3. Not all rainstorms in Japan announce themselves. Sometimes a sky can be dark for half the day, then rain like a typhoon for 5 minutes before clearing up completely.

Getting Better

Over the last couple of days there have been some pretty decent updates to 10Centuries that have resolved a number of bugs that people have — and sometimes haven't — reported, as well as a couple of features that made sense to bring back from v4 with some logical updates. There are still a number of areas that need to see some attention, but the platform is inching towards being a better system for anyone who might want to use it. Hopefully by this time next week we'll see the return of the main landing page, which will include such necessary features as the ability to create an account.

Clearly I was a lot less prepared for the migration to v5 than I had originally thought.

That said, with the weekend here, a lot of the core development will need to come to a stop. Coding on the weekends is incredibly difficult given the people vying for attention, and family time is something I generally look forward to, so unless something is broken or a really quick job, there won't be any new features until Monday at the very earliest … and I'm okay with the delay. Although it's strange to say, I might be getting better at being offline for much of the weekend.

Last August, when Reiko shattered her phone and she had to use mine for a while, I made the conscious decision to be offline a little more often. While having a mini-tablet with an always on network connection was nice, it didn't make sense to pay $50 a month for the phone and data plan. I work from home, which means that my devices are either connected directly to the network via CAT6 or connected to the WiFi. When I go out for a walk, I'm out for less than an hour. If I can't be offline for 1 out of 24 hours a day, then there's a problem.

As one would expect, there was an adjustment period where I had to remember that random trivia questions that popped into my head couldn't be quickly researched while walking Nozomi. Not having the ability to check the global timeline on 10C or post an update was a little annoying. But all of these things were relatively easy to overcome1. Right now I have no plan on picking up a SIM card for the phone, nor do I see why I should pay crazy rates for data and the very occasional phone call. For my current use case, a phone plan is just bad value.

Without the digital tether, I find that when I'm with the boy or Nozomi, I am more present. The phone is now just a camera that plays podcasts when I'm not at home. Inside the house the unit is also good for messaging, reading RSS feeds, and using the browser. This is ultimately a good thing as it means that I have the opportunity to focus a lot more on what I'm doing rather than what's going on elsewhere. Being present is important, particularly given how rare it seems to be in this part of the country.

Not everyone can go without a phone, nor should anyone ditch their digital devices just because there has been some positive results from this change in my life. Being able to spend more time with the family is great, and not being distracted means that when I sit down at the notebook I can focus more on writing code or working with databases, but I'm just an edge case.


  1. I'll admit that I sometimes "cheat" and bring the corporate iPad out, which has a data connection. This is generally only done when I'll be away from the house for more than an hour so that I can deal with some limited problems at the day job should there be any server trouble.

Perspective and Optimism

Earlier today I decided to dig into the movie collection and watch something that I haven't seen in years, The Search for Spock. This movie was not one that a lot of people found as exciting as Wrath of Khan or as funny as The Voyage Home1, but is one that falls right in the middle of my favourite time period in Star Trek lore. As I was prepping the download, I looked at the artwork and remarked at how young everyone looked. Considering the movie hit theatres in 1984, this ought to be expected, but the crew of the Enterprise, NCC-17012 have always been much older than me. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were both 53 when this movie hit theatres. Deforest Kelley was 64. I'm not that much younger now than they were back then.

McCoy, Kirk, and Spock on the Set of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

The endless march of time means that we will all one day, hopefully, meet or exceed the age of our heroes at certain points in their careers. It's an odd feeling … as though the potential I thought I had in my youth never fully materialised due to laziness or naïveté3. At the same time I'm optimistic that there is still time to accomplish some more good, leaving the world a slightly more interesting place than it was when I arrived. Star Trek III was in theatres 35 years ago and people around the world can still enjoy it today. What things will I create that can stand the same test of time?


  1. Yes, yes … "the one with the whales". Thankfully it was given a proper title.

  2. "No bloody A, B, C, or D" … but I really, really liked the Constitution Class Refit. To this day, the "Enterprise-A" remains my favourite of all the fictional vessels to carry that name.

  3. Knowing me, it's a combination of the two; an optimistic procrastinator.

7.7db

When I stay up late to complete "just one more thing" before bed, I tend to find myself sitting at the work desk until half past one in the morning. This time of the day is unique in that I am, for all intents and purposes, the only person in a neighbourhood with 144 houses who isn't asleep. I like to go outside at this time of night, gazing up at the sky and seeing more stars than I thought was possible from this part of the country. Constellations are clearly visible, as are any planets that might be bright enough for the naked eye. Occasionally a thin, bright light will streak across the sky. The neighbourhood is absolutely lovely when all of the street lights go dark after midnight.

Inside the house is just as peaceful. Reiko, the boy, and Nozomi are sleeping soundly by this time, making it possible for me to really focus on a complex problem as much as an exhausted brain is capable of. The solitude is nice … but I wish it were more quiet.

In my home at any given time there are three fans that I can perceive as running while sitting at the work desk, which is in a walled-off corner at the southwestern corner of the house. There's the refrigerator fan, which seems to run even when the compressor does not. There's the shower room fan, which runs 24/7 to reduce the risk of mold building up, and then there's the wall fan next to the stairs that lead to the second floor, which is located at the northeastern corner of the house. The living room door, which separates the southwestern and northeastern corners, is very much closed.

Being an audio geek, I took out my good microphone and measured the number of decibels produced by these fans and found that when all three are on, the workspace is subjected to 13 decibels. If Nozomi, who sleeps under my desk, is snoring, then the number shoots up to 27. When the fridge is not running, the other two fans register just 9 decibels; which works out to about 1.5 decibels quieter than my breathing1. The sound is forever present, like the sound of processor fans and hard drives in a server room, only far less soothing2. Circulating fans have their purpose, but the hum they produce is little more than a preventable byproduct of their ultimate purpose.

How quiet is the house when those fans are off, though?

The question is certainly worth answering. After flipping the switches and returning to my work desk, I held my breath and measured the number of decibels. The meter read between 7.4 and 7.7db; the same volume as very light breathing from a sleeping puppy three metres from the microphone.

For most of my life I have lived in loud places. If it wasn't the neighbourhood that produced the noise, then it was family members. After moving to Vancouver the volume dropped a bit, but it was still possible to hear planes and distant highway traffic regardless the time of day. When I arrived in Japan the volume of everything was overwhelming — even in the rural countryside. Cars, trains, distant pachinko parlours, and the like would generate an endless background hum that a person just learned to ignore. This house in this neighbourhood, though, is different.

At 1:30 in the morning, when the fans are shut off and I'm just listening to the sound of a breathing dog, I can stop for a couple of minutes to just embrace the absence of noise.


  1. I would love to find an objective way to measure the volume of the high-pitched sound that the mind "hears" when the environment is quite enough. Silence can sometimes be quite deafening.

  2. Yes, I find the sound of servers and workstations very comforting to listen to. I like to listen for certain repeating patterns in the hardware, then try to match the sounds to what sort of computational task is being performed.

18,767

Randolph recently wrote a post about being a writer as a direct response to yesterday's post where I outlined my desire to write essays in order to be better able to discuss and think through complex problems. My lack of confidence in being able to adequately articulate my thoughts were cast aside as absurd and the constant juggling of priorities to make time for writing was identified as a common problem. Randolph strikes me as a person who spends a great deal of time in their head, just as I do, which means that making time to write cuts not only into thinking time, but into the myriad of tasks and responsibilities we've taken on. In an effort to encourage my self-improvement attempts, they suggested using Drafts for iOS and macOS as a jotting tool where ideas could be quickly noted and saved.

They go on to say:

I have an app on my phone (Drafts for iOS, which has a macOS version as well), in which I write a little bit about a certain topic on a regular basis. Each thought is in its own document, with some context. You always want to add context because you’ll forget what you were thinking otherwise. […] Eventually there will be enough content to write an essay, complete with references.

Very true. By writing a little bit on a topic and saving it in a file, ideally tagging it with keywords to better support search later on, it becomes feasible to amass a large collection of ideas surrounding a topic or group of topics. This is something I've been doing since discovering Evernote in 2009, and continue to do with Byword on iOS and Typora on Ubuntu Linux. In fact, this has been going on long enough that I've amassed 18,767 partially-written blog posts, many of which are written or edited on the same day and subsequently abandoned for a "simpler" topic. Not a day goes by where I don't discard two or three blog posts, often right near the end of the writing process, simply because they don't "feel" right.

It's annoying.

Random Blog Posts

Randolph is 100% correct, though. In order to become a better writer — or better at any skill — a person must continually grind through the process with the understanding that most of what they produce will not be up to their own expectations. We are our own worst critic, after all. I've been writing software for a quarter century and still learn new things on a near-daily basis. I've been cooking meals for even longer and am often surprised to learn a new way to prepare eggs or something seemingly just as basic. Cognitive writing is something that I've been doing longest of all, at 34 years … yet I still see the words in front of me as a semi-coherent rambling.

My first memories of "serious writing" were in September of 1985, when I was just six years old. I was in the first grade and my teacher, Mrs. Stamphler, assigned us the task of writing a diary about our summer holidays. I had just spent six months in a foster home while my parents went through a divorce and my father worked desperate hours to pay down the bills and gain custody of a sister and myself. I was still adjusting to all of the changes that had occurred in such a short period of time and decided to write about that. My foster family's name was Nevan, so I would often refer to them as "The Nevans". They were incredibly religious and we would often attend church during the week. Occasionally I would spend time with my sister in the Sunday School class but, more often than not, I would be up in the pews with all of the adults, listening to the minister deliver his sermon. The topics were always way more complicated than I could follow, but I do remember what he said about the trials of Noah, the trials of Job, and how Judas may have betrayed Christ, but he was not as evil as modern teachings would have us believe. I was six years old and writing about this stuff — poorly — in an effort to make sense of the changes I had witnessed, and I remember a lot of the details to this day probably because I wrote them down.

The diaries and journals never stopped. I would write them year after year, much like I do this blog. Occasionally there would be gaps where I would not write, often because of boredom or a feeling that I had nothing to say. As I entered puberty there was the embarrassment of recording semi-coherent thoughts that basically translated into "my parents aren't fair" or a popular Skeelo song. Regardless of the absence, though, I would feel the need to grab a pen, sit down, and write. Just as I do now, decades later, as evidenced by the almost 19,000 incomplete blog posts sitting idle and awaiting bit rot on my computers.

The reasoning is simple: writing helps us think.

For most of my life people have praised what they perceive as my intelligence, but I've never bought into it. I've taken IQ tests and received triple-digit scores, but this isn't really a sign of being "smart". IQ tests measure a person's ability to solve problems … or so I perceive. "Smart" people make dumb decisions all the time, and "stupid" people have often been some of the most honest, down-to-earth humans I have ever met. Solving problems is a crucial skill that everybody needs, but there's more to the human experience than overcoming challenges. Writing is generally where I get to explore this other side; where I get to examine multiple aspects of the same situation in order to come to a better understanding of the whole.

This isn't always the case, as evidenced by many of the posts on this blog. Most people in the world will never visit the places I've written about, and fewer still will ever get to meet my dog, yet these are things that I record on this site in order to preserve the memories and etch them more concretely into the mind. These personal posts are important to me, but they're not quite what I'm hoping to accomplish with my writing. Not by a long shot. Hence yesterday's posts on essays.

I said this in a social post earlier today, but I'll repeat it here:

When I look in the mirror I see a nameless Pakled who wishes so much to be a Jean Luc Picard.

The Star Trek references are important, not only because the stories shaped a lot of who I am and how I see the universe, but because it very succinctly encapsulates where I feel I am intellectually from where I want to be. The Pakled were portrayed as a cognitively stunted species that (somehow) existed with a very surface understanding of everything around them. They were not particularly good engineers, explorers, manufacturers, warriors, or … anything. In the TV series they were shown as being incapable of higher-level reason. In the books they were a little more methodical, but no more than a six year old trying to scam extra cookies from their parents. Jean Luc Picard, however, is the ideal.

Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the flagship of the United Federation of Planets. Well read. Well travelled. Well educated. Eloquent and respectable. Jean Luc Picard was the ultimate role model for the teenage version of me. To this day, this fictional character is someone I look at with awe and respect. He could go into any situation, see past the chaos, and bring about order in a just fashion. He made mistakes. He learned from those mistakes. He grew as a person. What's not to respect about this?

When I look at my writings, be they unfinished essays or published personal posts, I see the gulf that separates where I am from where I want to be. The ideas are scattershot. The paragraphs don't flow. The sentences run on or contain imprecise grammar. The words — adjectives in particular — are clumsy and unsophisticated.

To be a better writer, I need to find mentors or, barring that, educators to emulate until my own style matures enough to convey ideas coherently. I need to seek out criticism, then learn from the actionable critiques that can lead to better, more specific writing. More than this, though, to become better, I must think better. This requires more learning, more reading, more listening, and more discussion. The first three I can do on my own thanks to the power of the Internet. The fourth I can also do online, but only if I publish ideas to be discussed.

Randolph says I'm a writer. 18,767 incomplete posts suggests otherwise.

Nine

Nozomi on the Bench

My puppy dog turns nine today and doesn't look a day over five. Silly as it may seem, I want her to receive a present with every birthday. She was given a new sleeping cushion when she turned three. Two years ago, because she was feeling a little left out after the boy arrived, I brought her for a walk to her favourite park, surprised her with some nice treats, and didn't bother her too much with photo requests. This year … she'll likely be bored as I'm in Tokyo for the day. All is not lost, though. Nozomi always gets her walks so long as there isn't any rain and I'll see that she gets some cucumber with dinner as it seems to be her favourite vegetable by a wide margin.

This weekend she goes to the groomers for a bit of a trim and I'll see to it that she gets a nice treat afterwards.

Essays

Despite not being particularly good at the skill, writing is something that has been near and dear to me for as long as I can remember. There is always something that needs to be written down, be it something as trivial as a note or as complex as an argument. Over this past week I've had the opportunity to get a lot more reading done than usual and, as a result, there are a number of topics that I would really like to write about. The problem is that these are complex situations that will require a good amount of research before I can even think about penning an essay on the subject. Where in the world do prolific writers find the time?

Writing With Style

Essay writing is not something that I've done too often on this site given the lack of focus on any set of topics, and I'm not about to start. That said, I have been kicking around the idea of writing essays on current events with a different site, as this would allow a clear separation of content.

One of the things that I like about writing longer pieces, particularly those that require a bit of research, is the opportunity to better formulate thoughts around a subject. Sometimes I'll begin writing a piece with one idea then discover halfway through that the original position or understanding was incomplete or incorrect. The act of slowing down and really thinking about the subject made it possible to better examine the situation and draw a different set of conclusions. Being able to come away from a piece of writing a little more more informed than before is a wonderful thing, after all. So it's with this in mind that I've created a new folder in the notebook and have started making notes and planning arguments on various topics from reneging on historical treaties to imposing belief systems on others.

What I plan on doing is writing three or four essays to start with, working out the tone and style of the pieces, then aiming for a post a week. My goal with this additional writing project is to develop a more complete understanding of the complex decisions that need to be made to address current social and cultural situations. If anyone else finds value in reading the words that wind up getting published, then I'll consider that a nice bonus.

Five Things

Nineteen years ago the Nuwaubian Nation expected that the planetary lineup in our solar system would cause a "star holocaust", pulling all of the planets toward the Sun, incinerating everything, and ruining an otherwise lovely day. I remember hearing about this on a nighttime documentary discussing Nostradamus and other "doomsday" predictions some time around '93 or '941. This memory has persisted a little more stubbornly than others from that time period, probably as a reminder that the end of the world will not be foreseen by fringe religious groups.

That said, it's time for another list …

Irregular Heartbeats

Reiko and I both suffer from occasional palpitations and, while these do not happen with enough regularity to make wearing a medical heart monitor worthwhile2, their frequency does seem to be increasing. I've done a little bit of digging around online to see what sort of options are available for us to monitor ourselves and it seems the most recent Apple Watch3 has the simplest, most comprehensive heart monitoring software for the price. While I've not seriously considered an Apple Watch before, being able to show a doctor a series of ECG charts to aid in a diagnosis could very well mitigate future problems.

More research is required.

Green Fingers

Earlier today I was out in the yard, pulling weeds from the ground, and thinking about what sorts of plants I'd like to see added this year. Both Reiko and I agree that we'd like to have a tree, though it's location is still a topic of debate, and we'd like to have a small vegetable garden. What struck me today was how much I enjoyed being down at ground level to make the small plot of land around our house a little more presentable. While I don't know anything about taking care of flowers, bushes, and trees4, I would be interested in learning. Heck, this might be a good excuse to learn a new set of Japanese words. My speaking ability has seriously degraded over the last year or so as a result of working from home.

Pulled Strings

Last week the Mazda broke down and we were told to go rent a car5 for the month or so that the vehicle would be in the shop, awaiting a new transmission and ECU from Hiroshima. The best deal I could find for a month-long rental was about $32006, which is simply out of the question given that most non-commercial vehicles sit parked for the vast majority of every day. As a result, the family and I have resorted to using the bus when travelling more than 3km. This isn't impossible, though it does increase complexity when trying to plan around bus schedules and walking speeds.

Imagine my surprise when we received an email on Friday saying that a courtesy vehicle has been found and that we can use it for a couple of weeks. Last night around 9:00pm we received a "Plain Jane" Mazda Flair. This is very much appreciated, as it gives Reiko something to drive to work.

Excessive Footnotes

Sometimes when I see the number of footnotes at the end of my blog posts7, I wonder why I don't just write "mini-posts" that say the same thing as the footnote (with more detail and perhaps some pictures), and link to that. Occasionally these annotations are little more than digressions, but sometimes these could be expanded out into a post of their own. By going the route of having a series of detailed mini-posts, it becomes possible to have multiple blog posts pointing to the same reference point without there being a need for copy/paste. More than this, any update to the mini-post would benefit any future reader who might follow the link.

But then a blog might become a …

Personal Wiki

There are almost 100,000 items on matigo.ca going back to 20068, when I actually thought that a Synology box sitting on top of my fridge would be sufficient to run a website. A lot of blog posts have links to previous articles. Some social posts link to blog posts. Many social posts link to other posts across the system. The more I think about it, the more I wonder when a personal website tips the scale from being a traditional blog, to a non-collaborative — or semi-collaborative — wiki. Properly structured, a wiki would be an interesting way to catalogue a life.

This concept will need just a little more thought to organize.


  1. Not sure why, but documentaries on Nostradamus and future predictions always fascinated me as a kid.

  2. These are generally worn for 24~36 hours and not much longer. Hospitals can't just hand heart monitors out like they do prescriptions.

  3. The Series 4 Apple Watch is the most recent model as of the time of this post.

  4. I grew up on a vegetable farm, so know how to work with all the standard veggies one might find in a North American house. We had pine, maple, and willow trees across the property, but these were either for decoration or have been growing since before Canada was a country. My mum did try to have flowers a couple of times, but they tended to get lost in the weeds pretty quick.

  5. Generally people get discounted rates through their auto insurance provider if they signed up for this benefit, which increases the cost of insurance by about $60 a year. We chose to not get the coverage given that the car was essentially new and that car problems generally don't result in being without a vehicle for 30+ days. Oops.

  6. The estimate was 363,500円 for the smallest car with zero features.

  7. I say this knowing full well that this blog post has an arguably excessive number of footnotes as well.

  8. I don't count the very first chronological post as a start date for anything but my life outside the womb.

Hekinan's "Private" Akashi Park

Today was the last Saturday of Golden Week, which meant a lot of people are wrapping up their vacation and making the return trip home. Monday is still classified as a national holiday to mark Children's Day, but this will not stop many large organizations from resuming normal office hours to recover from a full week of downtime. So with a lot of travel-weary people on the roads and trains, it seemed natural to wake up early and take the family 90 minutes south to the tiny city of Hekinan to enjoy playing around in a "private" amusement park.

The Park Train

明石公園 (Akashi Park) calls itself a "private" amusement park because the only way people learn about it is through word of mouth. It will not be found in any travel magazines, nor are there any advertisements at train stations or other places where people might congregate. The park's website is even comically bereft of information. Reiko learned about the place completely by accident by reading a blog post on page 4 or 5 of a Google search while looking for some activities that the boy might enjoy. The pictures looked nice, the weather forecast seemed almost too good to be true, and we were all up to visit a new place to have a little more fun before the crushing summer humidity blankets the country in an inhospitable sweltering heat for a third of the year. Armed with the boy's stroller, some bottles of water and tea, a handful of onigiri, and our cameras, we hopped from train to train in the morning to get down to Hekinan City with enough time to enjoy the activities before "nap time".

The trip was oddly uneventful in a relaxing sort of way.

Once we got to the park we were struck by the lack of people. Typically there would be thousands of people crammed into an amusement park like Akashi. We saw maybe a few hundred. Lines for the various rides were all under 10 minutes in waiting time, and most were letting people on almost as quickly as they walked up to the gates. This isn't to say the park was empty or that rides were half-full, because they weren't. The park staff were just really efficient at ensuring people didn't wait very long.

The Ferris Wheel

The first trip of the day was on the park's mini steam engine, which followed a loop around the east side of the park. The boy generally enjoys trains, so jumping in line to ride yet another train after 90 minutes of full-sized trains made perfect sense. Afterwards we made our way to the Ferris Wheel, some mini-bumper cars, the carousel, and the pedal-powered monorail. Our favourite ride, though, was the airport tower.

The Airport Tower

For this one we had to wait about 15 minutes as the line was rather long, but it was worth the idle time. After getting strapped into the planes, the boy was more than happy to push the buttons that would raise and lower the faux aircraft via hydraulics.

Between rides we stopped for lunch, had some ice cream, and even changed a diaper. All in all, this was the most enjoyable excursion the family has had this past week and it didn't cost us an arm and a leg. Public transit for Reiko and I came out to about $30. Lunch consisted mostly of food we brought from home plus some onigiri and drinks that came out to $8. The ice cream cones worked out to $6 together. The rides cost a grand total of $12.

An entire day of fun for about $561. And to think that before we learned aboutt his place we had considered going to LegoLand where three people just entering the park would have cost about $100!

Hekinan is not a place that most people would think of when looking for a place to bring a 2 year old child, but Akashi Park is worth the look. When the boy is a couple of years older, we'll likely go back to enjoy some go-carting; the one thing we did not do today.


  1. The total cost was close to 6,000円, which works out to about $56 USD

At the Zoo

Before today, the last time I was at a zoo would have been at some point before 1991. The exact date is long forgotten, as school trips tend to be about experiences more than anything else, but I do remember the smell of the school bus and the ceaseless noise of classmates who were way too happy to be on a field trip. This changed today when Reiko and I decided to bring the boy to the Higashiyama Zoo in Nagoya, where he would get to see a bunch of animals up close for the very first time.

Nagoya's Higashiyama Zoo - East Gate

This spring has seen the boy get quite a bit of exposure to crowded places, which he's long been uncomfortable with. At first it was weekly trips to the mall, where he would get to eat in a busy place with an endless number of distractions. Later we brought him to busy park grounds where he'd get to share space and toys with others. Last weekend we brought him to the アンパンマンミュージアム1 in the next prefecture over, where he seemed to enjoy himself thoroughly. Today's visit to the zoo was going to be a continuation of the boy's introduction to life in Japan, and it couldn't have gone better.

A lot of young kids can be quite quiet and shy when out and about. This has certainly been true with the boy, who is unrestrained and loud at home or in the car but silent and reserved when in public. However, over the last couple of day trips, he's been able to loosen up and enjoy himself while visiting new places. He loves to dance and sing, so seeing him do this outside is a good sign.

One of the other benefits of having him explore a crowd is seeing just how different he is from other kids. I sometimes get frustrated with his desire to touch darn near everything he sees, but the fact that he doesn't throw objects, (intentionally) spill food on the floor, or cause trouble is a great thing. He sees other kids jumping off chairs and fighting over some small object and tells them — to no effect — to stop. At some point he'll likely start testing the boundaries of what he can get away with while outside, just as he does at home. Until then, I'll enjoy his good behaviour and look forward to bringing him to more places.


  1. The Anpanman Kid's Museum, which is more a place for parents to spend money than for kids to learn anything.