Friday, February 12, 2010

Day out with mama and papa

Did I happen to mention that the beau's parents were coming to Tokyo to meet their very soon to be daughter-in-law? If I did, forgive my lack of updates - BM is still very much pregnant and not exactly going anywhere so I lazily figured an update could wait.

Since the beau was not able to take work off, we weren't able to go to the meeting of the families, but not for lack of trying. For weeks I tried to coddle the beau into taking work off so that we could join in this fortuitous dinner. If this was an anthropology study, I would be one hell of a participant-observer. Even when my begging fell on deaf ears, I considered all manner of devices to be in that room, if not physically, then at least in real-time. At one point I believe I was even looking at a tiny bug device on the internet that I dreamed of planting on the beau's mom while I listened outside in an unmarked van. Have we met? I am a gossip-hungry whore and was gagging to know how to navigate the etiquette minefield of two Japanese families brought together by unprotected sex.

The kind of Japanese societal protocol that would be on display at this meeting haunted my dreams for days and I couldn't help but lament at not being privy to what was sure to be one hell of an interesting cultural experience. I can only imagine the normal level of etiquette and thoughtfulness that would go into two families meeting for the first time, but couple that with a wedding a la shotgun and the ensuing drama, and oh, the endless possibilities! Not that among some families Back Home there wouldn't be some tension in this kind of situation, but I was dying to know how it would be handled by two Japanese families. Would there be self-deprecation and apologies exchanged for the general irresponsibility of their respective children?

Let me just say now that I attended the dinner neither in human form nor electronic, and all I have to go on now are microscopic crumbs of information the beau throws my way, much the same way you would throw food scraps to a starving and mangy dog, just to make it go away. Why he doesn't take a more active interest is beyond me. Last night over wine and cheese that created a dirty sock taste explosion in my mouth, the beau called BD a grand total of 3 times during the course of our conversation because I kept asking questions to which he had no acceptable answer. As a result of this, I have a much better handle on this situation and am now starting to look for pictures of what updo I will sport to the wedding.

I did have a very civilized day out with the beau's parents however, who will now be referred to as mama and papa. You should know this choice is not an arbitrary one, for that is what their children call them and what they now call themselves. Not a rare occurrence in Japanese families, but one I think is rather unfortunate, is the near complete loss of one's name once children are born. You become mama /papa, or okaasan/otoosan. Not only do your children refer to you by these titles but you refer to each other by them too, and even yourself if you are speaking in the third person. If the beau ever calls me mama he is going to get a healthy does of I ain't your mama so that we are very clear on roles. In case you were wondering, I try to avoid calling the beau's parents anything at all, which is quite easy in Japanese, but if I have to, I use okaasan/otoosan. They call me Geisha-chan or Whitie. *

But I digress as usual. The four of us started out with lunch and then I went to see kabuki with mama and papa while the beau took off like he was running from a forest fire. The kabuki-za in Ginza will be torn down in a couple months, so now is definitely the time to see it. Kabuki is not the kind of thing I like to see on a regular basis, but once or twice every couple of years keeps it interesting. I'd never sat through an entire program at the kabuki-za before (5 hours) but our close seats combined with the earphone guide (surprised and impressed me) prevented me from "resting my eyes" more than once or twice.

Kabuki was followed by dinner and drinks, 5 hours of them to be exact, at which time we all quite literally rolled home. There wasn't too much talk of BD and BM, mostly because mama and papa were to meet them the following evening. Mama was definitely worried about the kind of person BM is, and pressed the beau and I for details. The beau in turn, told them everything we had gleaned from the dinner with them last month, minus the hypothesized trajectory of BD's sperm. Mama and papa were fairly apprehensive about the meeting, so I hope that their fears have been somewhat allayed by now. They still seem to be in shock and not altogether approving of the whole situation, but as the beau said, there will be a grandchild soon, and that will probably soften any hard feelings. Papa also gave us a little pep talk about the wedding and said that he was counting on both of us to be there, yoroshiku etc. etc. Snark aside, I am touched that I will be included in the wedding, for it is anything but normal to have an unwed kimono-yielding whitie sitting at the family table. I have no doubt that while everyone will be polite, there will be some interesting conversational tidbits to dissect post-nuptials that relate to me being foreign, unwed to the oldest, in kimono or all of the above. I'm actually a bit nervous if you can believe it. Weddings here involve so much protocol and special etiquette and since I am not a true family member but being counted as one just mixes things up even more. I think I will just keep my mouth closed except for when a champagne glass is at my lips, a living and breathing doll.

The real gem of the evening has nothing to do with the Shotgun Saga but with mama and papa. They are now in possession of their first passports. Ever. When they told me that they had applied, I almost swooned, it was truly sweet. Since the beau and I announced our intentions to move overseas next year, they are getting prepared for visits. Their first passports. I have to repeat it to believe it's true. As someone who had her first passport and international jetset at age 2, it was humbling to hear and really put things into perspective. I am excited to take them to Canada one day and I know the beau is too.

That is about it on the Shotgun Saga front - stay tuned for the wedding in April and wedding preparation minutiae. For the time being, I am trying to turn my focus back to my own life, content not to be the centre of a saga recounted on some bitch's blog.



Céline said...

I really enjoy reading your blog !
You always manage to turn personal stories into something gripping for anyone interested in innermost Japan.
Thank you.

Tornadoes28 said...

Damn that's a good story. My two boys got their passports at the age of 6 months.

The Gonzo Mama said...

I've been reading your blog for the last two months, in preparation for my departure to Tokyo/Hiroshima/Hyogo/parts unknown this Monday.

While it's fascinating stuff, you've failed to answer my most pressing questions,which are 1) how easy is it for a vegan to eat in Japan if the vegan in question is an ignorant bitch who was too lazy to learn a lick of Japanese before her trip, and 2) is chewing gum frowned upon in Japanese culture? I'm a gum chewer by nature, and I may be hitting the pack a little harder than usual to curb hunger pangs if the answer to Question 1 is, "No one will feed you vegan food, ignorant bitch. Haven't you heard of Rosetta Stone?"

Anonymous said...

Hi Gonzo Mama, it can be quite tough to be vegan in Japan, but it's improving. Religion-wise they're essentially agnostics mixed with Shinto and Buddhist elements. So there's not a whole lot of Buddhism there and so not nearly as much vegan fare as you'd find in China or Indonesia. So vegan restaurants which got their start from Buddhist beliefs are going to be expensive.

However people are starting to pick it up for health reasons. Check out these sites

Tokyo Moe said...

OMG! Best post ever! I love your obsession about the "etiquette minefield of two Japanese families brought together by unprotected sex."

I am sure you will charm everyone at the wedding. Any word on BM's family? Do you think the wedding dress can accommodate the pregnant belly?

And, finally, please let me know how to say "whitie" in Japanese. I was a bit confused by your footnote, or just too dense to understand it!

sarah said...

hahahah shotgun saga

i laughed so hard some of my macha ice cream went down my shirt. i`ll save it for later

kathrynoh said...

Do you think if BF knew how much international entertainment he'd be causing he'd have been more careful with the condom?

Btw I really want to believe they call you Whitie. That would be awesome :D

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Céline: Thank you! I'm glad you find the stories gripping, I am certainly feeling gripped by the drama as of late, probably a little more than I should be!

Tornadoes28: It really reminded me that something as basic as a passport to my family and the friends I surround myself with, is a totally different animal for a family living in the countryside here.

Tokyo Moe: No word on her family unfortunately!! I am gagging to know what they are like and most importantly, how they will receive me at the wedding. I'm sure the wedding dress will be fine, she will be about 6 months along but there wasn't much of her to start with so... Sorry about the footnote, I meant that I was joking about them calling me whitie (OBVS- obviously).

Sarah: I love leaving snacks for later like that too! If you are ever in Tokyo let me know, I think we would get along famously.

kathrynoh: Quite possibly, but thanks to my discretion he will never know :) I kinda wish they called me whitie too, it would make for a cute cartoon.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Thank you Anon for the helpful information on vegetarianism in Japan!

Gonzo Mama: Hopefully you received the good advice from Anon before leaving for Japan (or maybe it is still Sunday there).

I imagine you have googled the hell out of it, so I won't bother sending you links. If you were coming to live, I would suggest learning about the basics of Japanese ingredients and of course, enough Japanese to articulate your dietary restrictions. However, I am assuming you are coming for a visit, in which case, I would check out some of the restaurants listed in the links below and for the rest, use a phrasebook to tell your server what you can't eat (will you have someone with you who can do this?) and try to go to restaurants where there will be dishes you can eat without asking them to be altered. As Anon said, it is getting easier but I think much of this has to do with knowing the language and being able to navigate a menu as you would at home.

Sorry this isn't more helpful, but if you're coming on a trip hopefully you can stick it out/find stuff to eat and not resort to chewing gum to curb hunger (that sounds awful!).

The Gonzo Mama said...

Thanks so much to everyone who offered suggestions and vegan tips for my trip to Japan!

We started off in Tokyo, then traveled to Kobe. We are leaving Kobe this morning for Hiroshima, then going back to Tokyo for two days before heading back home to the States.

If you'd like, you can follow along with my trip at