Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Manic Monday

Monday was always shaping up to be a busy day....
Two community center classes.
Finish at 12.50.
Jump on the train. Eat lunch.
Get to the airport by 2 pm to do three tourist business video narrations.
Come home by early evening to do dinner for Okaasan and reassure the cats somebody cares.
Drink a glass of Otaru wine. TV. Bed.
Those were the plans.

And then Okaasan's kotatsu heated table broke down.
First I knew about it was in the kitchen about 7.30 am.
Okaasan was making a cup of tea and wearing her pajamas and her hula dance skirt. Novel combination.

"I'm sooo cold!!! Is Yujiro here???? Where is he? I'm sooo cold, the kotatsu is broken!!! In the middle of the night my room was soooo cold, I couldn't sleep, soooo cold......"

A kotatsu is a heated table. Coffee-table level, it has a heater under the table and is covered by a big fleecy blanket. It has been the center of Japanese life for years, in a country where room heating wasn't common - whole families sat or lay under the kotatsu, ate dinner, chatted, watched TV, read New Year cards etc
Okaasan lives in her kotatsu. It IS the center of her life.
We gave her a sofa, we gave her a futon and bedding.
She doesn't use any of that. All day and night she is under the kotatsu.

Now broken? Or faulty?
My quiet....get-ready-for-a-busy-day morning vanished in a frenzy of kotatsu electronics checking - as I took it apart, tested it in plugs around the house, gave Okaasan a substitute table and showed her (again and again) that the room actually has alternative heat sources: a hot carpet AND a great big room heater.

Okaasan wasn't coping well with the drama. Of course: the important place where she lives, sleeping, eating, TV watching, peeing was disturbed.
She had coped with the crisis on one level: by putting on the hula skirt in the middle of the night to stay warm. But had failed to use the bedding in the other room (she just uses it as a clothes dump spot) OR to turn up the room heater above its usual 10 degrees.
On the room heater we've put a sign "10-15 degrees is ok" - when we first moved here Okaasan played with the settings constantly and often turned the room into a tropical zone, and as she sits in the kotatsu 90% of the time she doesn't need high room heating.
But with the kotatsu not working it would of course have been a good idea to turn up the room heating.
"But the sign says 10 degrees!" she explained....having taken the sign as a literal Do Not instruction from the heater manufacturer....

Between 7.30 am and going to work I learned a whole lot about kotatsu functions. Had the screwdrivers out and took the heating unit off the table. It worked 50% of the time. But that obviously isn't any good for the heating source at the center of Okaasan's life.

My Manic Monday didn't have ANY spare time to fit in a visit to an electrical shop. Friend with Baby kindly offered to take it somewhere local. I left the heat unit in a bag outside the front door and finally got out the door at 9.15 am to be a language teacher and video narrator.

Left Okaasan with hot carpet and room heating and multiple instructions that NO, you DON'T need to go downtown because now the room is warm (and a lunchbox delivery is coming, so you have to be here to receive it).

Oh...and throw into the rest of the day: a Hokkaido train service that groaned to a stop all day due to electrical faults. Hundreds of trains cancelled. I had to get to the airport by bus....4 hours of narration in a sound room that was actually the size of a telephone box - a chair and the microphone - and the director cues coming from a waving hand thru two windows across the office.
Know that film about the man trapped by a sniper in a New York phone box? That's how I felt. They let me out for air and water every few pages of narration...

But: fun to see behind the scenes of the airport - is every single woman who works there a former Miss Japan? And the translation company staff was a great woman I used to work with years ago, so we chatted and chatted.

Home finally by 7.45 pm with a box of KFC and just about enough energy to chat to Okaasan about snow and flowers and train services.

And Friend with Baby reports that the electrical shops don't know about the heater. I'll take it to bigger shops after work today....or buy a new heater.
Okaasan seems to have slept okay under blankets and with the hot carpet and room heater.
So, that was Monday.

Oh joy! Something to blog about :-)


  1. Time for a new kotatsu?

  2. What a day you had. So glad that Okasan was able to cope OK without the kotatsu. Hopefully you can just buy a new heating unit for the table.. (although I can't say that i have ever seen them for sale... maybe on Amazon or something) How exciting to see the airport from behind the scene. Nancy in Tokyo