Saturday, May 31, 2008

Department Store Heaven

I forgot about the department stores here in Japan! The other day I had to go to buy a watch for Sydney for her birthday and I wanted a specific Swatch watch. The best place to get a Swatch is at the Mitsukoshi Department store in an area of Tokyo called Ebisu. I took the train to Ebisu on Wednesday morning after having coffee with my friends Amanda and Michelle. Nothing of consequence opens in Tokyo before 11am, so morning coffee was essential before doing errands.

I arrived in Ebisu about 10 minutes before 11 and sat on a bench in the sunshine. (We have had the worst spring weather-wise! It has been very rainy and quite chilly. I relished those few minutes of brightness with my face lifted to the sky, eyes closed.) At about a minute before 11am I stood up and walked closer to the door of the department store. There were a few people milling about with me, studying the window displays which were elegantly done with the latest styles of clothes, shoes, and handbags. At precisely the appointed time, a man from the inside walked toward the glass door and with a flourish of the keys, unlocked the doors. He stepped outside and, holding the door, shouted, “irrashaemaseh!” This translates to “welcome, please come in and spend money!” The people filed in the door and along the main walkway of the store, there were salespeople positioned every few feet, all of them bowing and saying “irrashaemaseh” as the people passed. After about five minutes of this greeting, the employees went about their business.

In Japan, every customer deserves a proper greeting and welcome into the shopping experience. It is part of the national ethos to revere the customer.
Downstairs in the Swatch area, the salesperson hovered quietly while I surveyed the merchandise. When I was ready, he showed me several selections, letting me turn them over and over in my hand while I decided. I finally chose a multicolor watch with a second-hand to make it easy for Sydney to learn to tell time. He rang up my purchase quickly, asking if I wanted a gift box. He was a bit confused with I said that I would wrap it myself – I wanted to show it to Marc before wrapping – but he complied and put the purchase in a lovely shopping back which he taped shut securely before handing over to me.

It was such a quiet and civilized experience. If all shopping was done this way then the world would be a much happier place.

Monday, May 26, 2008

It's summer!

After an impossibly cold winter and rainy spring, it's all of a sudden showing signs of summer in Tokyo. It's hard to believe that in three weeks we will be back in the States for ten long weeks (email me for the schedule; it's too hard to explain!)

This past weekend, the kids put on their school play. It was quite a professional job with one parent who is an artist designing the sets. Another parent is a clothing designer and designed the costumes, while another is a movie director, so we will get a professionally done dvd of the show. The show was the musical "Shaharazade: 1001 Arabian Nights" and the kids did a wonderful job. There was not a missed cue or line in the mix. The elementary kids from grades 1 through 6 worked on it - Sydney was too young this year. Bailey had a small but pivotal role as the shopkeeper. He kind of brought everyone back to reality after the tales and he had the final lines of the play. He was calm and collected and did a wondeful job!

What I love most about Bailey is his diversity. He was just as excited about the soccer tournament last Wednesday and his violin concert next week. He's done so many wonderful things this year and learned so much. His Japanese reading and writing are coming along nicely as is his spoken ability.

But mostly I credit his teacher, Sainoor with giving him one specific gift that I hope lasts a lifetime: the ability to calm himself. Sainoor really has Bailey's number. She can see him out of the corner of her eye and if he is bouncing around, all she has to say is "Bailey take a deep breath." I have watched this happen. Immediately after she says it, he breathes in through his nose and out through his mouth and relaxes his shoulders. He emerges visibly calmer and can focus on the task at hand.

This came home to roost during the play. My friend, a Finnish woman named Riikka, came to find me before the show. She had been in charge of makeup. I had told her the story of the deep breath and it had impressed her. She told me that Bailey was like a jack-in-the-box before the show. She told him to take a deep breath and then he was able to sit down, sit still,and get his makeup applied. I was so pleased for Bailey that he has a tool like that to rely on in times of stress. I will encourage him to keep it up.

A few days ago we found out that Sainoor will be moving to upper elementary class (the Montessori school is organized in three year blocs so that there are mixed-age classrooms - ages 3-6, 6-9, 9-12) and since Bailey is moving up also, she will continue to be his teacher. Though we are sorry that Sydney will not have her as a teacher (Syd is also moving up to a lower elementary class for the fall) we are so pleased that Bailey will continue to have her influence. Sainoor has some challenges - she is the tough teacher at school and some of the kids are afraid of her (as are a few parents!) but she has done wonders for our child, and Bailey respects her and her methods. He works to please her, which pleases Marc and me, too.

It's been a wonderful school year. We have loved our first school year here, and look forward to seeing you Stateside all summer!