Until about three years old, I used to live in a rented apartment in Kamimachi 2-chome in Kochi. Even though I was so young, I still have many memories of that time. Ever since I became conscious I always liked to draw. That was really a childlike action but I really wanted to draw some shape on paper. Sometimes I woke up and immediately wanted to express something on paper. For that reason my parents gave me a big notepad and a broad marker. I drew on it, discarded the filled paper and started on a new one. That gave me a lot of joy.
One day on TV I saw a quiz show. The showmaster had a flipchart and drew questions on paper and when that was finished he ripped of the paper and started fresh on a new one. That was the same basic system as my notepad with the big difference being size and that it was on a stand. That was really enticing to me because I always drew looking down but he drew standing up. And so I thought “I will do that!”. I really wanted to draw standing up and was looking for a suitable spot. I glued my notepad onto a “Husuma” (Japanese sliding door made of thick paper). For a short time I acted like a showmaster and was really happy until my parents came back into the room. “My god what has she done?!!” my mother cried out as though the world had ended. Of course it was a huge shock to her because it was a rented apartment and they had to replace the paper front of the door. For me it was a shock too because I had thought that my action was really good…
My mother cannot truly criticize me however. Later when I was a little older she told me about her childhood memories. When she was little she wanted to make a dress for her doll and so she cut off the lower part of her mother’s silk Kimono which was hanging there…. She did not elaborate any further but I can vividly imagine how angry my grandmother must have gotten. She was a really nice person but extremely emotional. That my usually easy-going mother still remembers this is a testament to the severity of my grandmother’s anger.
Yes it could be said we were misbehaving. But we had our reasons. Before scolding children, one should ask once “Why did you do this?”…
For my first Winter in Vienna my voice teacher told me that I had to wear a hat. She taught me that singing is not only specific to the throat and neck area but other body parts as well influence the voice. Therefore in Winter one should take care against the cold and keep the head warm with hats, scarves, etc. Ever since I keep that teaching to heart and in Winter almost always wear a hat.
I heard that long ago in Europe people used to wear hats not only because of heat or cold and neither purely for fashion. Hats were also used as protection against objects falling down from above. It is said that people used to throw out garbage from their windows onto the streets. Allegedly Beethoven used to throw rotten eggs.
In any case, European fashion design was often conceived as a total outfit including hats. Those designs are even nowadays quite fascinating to look at. When I first came to Vienna to live here, there were many hat shops. Influenced by previous customs and habits as well as the overall fashion flow, I suppose many people still wore hats. I often stood in front of those shops fascinated by the variety of design and colour. Sadly nowadays one hat shop after another is disappearing. The biggest shock to me was Oberwalder on Kärntnerstrasse closing. That was really a large store with all sorts and types of hats where well trained shop persons carefully presented and recommended hats to customers. I think that many tourists as well enjoyed buying things there. That shop to me was the symbol of “Elegant fashion city Vienna”. When that shop closed it truly was a huge shock to me. Recently the branch on Mariahilferstrasse closed down as well. Even on the internet the search for Oberwalder could not find any shops. I somehow get a feeling that old charming distinguished fashion of Vienna is being lost.
Today in Vienna there were again many big demonstrations against covid measures. Police helicopters could be heard hovering above which were most likely monitoring the area. For our health we definitely wanted to go for a walk and picked a route where surely there would be no demonstrators. So we somehow walked around the area of Margaretenstrasse which is not close to the centre and when we came to Kettenbrückengasse my husband suddenly noticed a plaque on a house with the writing that this is the house where Franz Schubert passed away. For many years I passed by so many times but never noticed it! Recently by chance we found a church where Schubert’s funeral ceremony was held.
Like today’s story, in Vienna it sometimes happens that looking closely, one discovers so many monuments and houses with a history relating to famous composers. I think it really is true that Vienna is “The city of music”. I grew up in Japan and famous European composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, etc. seemed like a myth to me. Here in Vienna however, one feels the history of European music so close and can realize that is in fact true. I think that I should be gtrateful for living in Vienna and I would like to try to experience this city even more consciously.
Today is the day of “Three Kings”. That is an important day for Christians. Children dressed up as the Three Kings go from door to door singing anc collecting donations for the church. My apartments never received those visits but the apartment where my friend lived had those visits every year. I saw on the street however children walking around in costumes several times. Because she is not from a Christian country, this custom was unfamiliar to her and she was even afraid of it. She said that she did not know how to behave towards those children. Therefore if her doorbell rang on January 6th she never opened the door…
Time passes and here in Vienna there seem not to be so many visits by Three Kings anymore. I suppose however that in the countryside that is still quited common. Today Christmas season ends and we have to say goodbye to Christmas trees.
I decided to have Japanese sweets for New Year celebrations. That is “Pocky”. Very popular in Japan and has been around a long time. Also ever since I have been living in Vienna this has been available at local supermarkets. Produced by the Japanese company Glico. The name used here however is “Mikado”. This name is derived from the game by the same name. I had not known about this game until I came to Vienna. Many slim sticks of the same length are shaken in a tube and then poured onto the table. Then each player removes one stick at a time without making any others move. If they do move, it is the next player’s turn. The last person to take the final stick, wins. Perhaps the shape of “Pocky” was associated with the shape of “Mikado” sticks.
I personally still have not played “Mikado” but I once saw somthing similar. When I started living here in Vienna, I took German classes at a language school. That school was issuing diplomas of Goethe Institute. Back then base level one or two, I do not remember exactly, showed videos for learning German. Each video contained a short story containing important grammar. What was strange and funny at the same time was that when the actors revealed those important grammar pieces everything in the picture froze. That was not a real frozen picture but rather the actors just remaining still and sometimes in the background cars were moving. The contents were sometimes surreal such as a professor’s son becoming a hippie for example. When had those videos been made, they must have been really old with the first ones even being black and white (but I loved those videos). Back to “Mikado”… In one of those stories there was a toy company which wanted to create a game for children and adults alike. They created giant Mikado, being even taller than adults themselves, with which they played but those oversized sticks looked quite dangerous. Always when I eat “Mikado”, I remember that video back when I started living here and I have to chuckle.
By the way when I am in Japan, I rarely eat “Pocky”. Maybe because it is so well known. Here in Austria recently many commercials have been showing for “Mikado” and often there are special offers in supermarkets like “Buy one get one free”. This time I got many New Year delicacies at a reasonable price. I think that living in Vienna I especially enjoy “Pocky” and I wonder if it really was that good. As far as I know, “Mikado” is perhaps the only sweets product from Japan that is widely available at many different supermarkets in Vienna. There is no other choice of Japanese sweets and so I bought “Mikado”. But I noticed how delicious it is! I get the feeling that it is really Japanese sweets and that familiar feeling fills my heart.
The start of 2022 in Vienna was really warm. The first day of January had a maximum temperature of about 15 degrees Celsius, the New Year’s eve was even the warmest one ever recorded! The weather is somewhat nice too. Even though it was a Sunday and still public holiday, some people were out on the streets and even sitting in cafes and restaurants. Many look happy and I hope very much it stays that way.
Today is the last day of 2021. This year started with much uncertainty. In April, we were supposed to participate in a concert at Suntory Hall in Japan. Rising and falling Covid-19 infection numbers made the whole global situation highly unstable. We were actually originally supposed to participate in a concert in May 2020 but due to the pandemic this was postponed to July 2020. It was however postponed again to April 2021. The situation did not improve sufficiently and the concert had yet to be postponed again, this time to July 25th of 2021! Because of Covid and strictly limited immigration into Japan, it was quite difficult to obtain a visa for my husband. After arriving we had to quarantine for a total of 14 days. During that quarantine, Tokyo again went into a state of emergency. So unfortunately we could not invite many guests. Nevertheless the concert went very well and a surprisingly big number of guests attended. I am very grateful to the organizers, their job was hard and their effort under exceptional circumstances was remarkable.
2021 is only a short while longer. Due to Covid-19 New Year parties must be very small and reduced. But walking on the street in Vienna, I do not see a real difference between years past and now. Many people are out and about and as usual street vendors selling lucky charms are there. Here in Austria for the transitioning into the New Year people give each other small lucky charms as presents. Yes, this year we are in real need of good luck!