Mrs. Ishii-isms and the sneaky Mr. Takahashi

First of all, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have sent notes of support about this whole eczema thing. I want to stress that I'm doing much better - I just should have gone to the doctor sooner - wishful thinking on my part. I am in high hopes for Kyoto and feel that I may even be able to wear socks! Please don't worry about me, it was not my intention, I just wanted to keep all concerned parties informed.

Now, on to the good stuff. I've compiled a short list of either common phrases Mrs. Ishii uses or ones used singly that were just too priceless not to share. Keep in mind that Mrs. Ishii is 80 years old this year, and built much as you would expect a Japanese mountain woman to be built - short and stocky (though she certainly was thinner in her youth) and extremely capable. The woman is a Shetland pony. She plays golf ("old-people golf" according to Mr. Takahashi) and does aerobics. For the past ten years she has sat down once a week and studied the Tale of Genji, when she finishes she goes back to the beginning. She places freshly cut flowers from her yard or a neighboring field in nearly every room in the house and pickles a mean plum. And, she mutters to herself in Japanese almost incessantly.

  • "Junior Michael Jackson-san cute." (In reference to the Jackson 5 clips the news casts were showing last week after the King of Pop met his untimely end. Side note: the only clip of the Jackson 5 the news casts I saw seemed to be able to obtain was from a "Motown Still Lives" infomercial and included "ABC" remixed with a new backbeat and interspersed with pictures of the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and Bel Biv Devoe)
  • "But he turn white!" (Also in reference to M.J., apparently she hadn't seen much of his transformation over the past, oh, three decades.)
  • "19 course hole. My par 81. Not so good" ("old-people" golf)
  • "tomorrow after tomorrow" (as in the day after tomorrow)
  • "my make" (this is applied to everything from pickled plums, pickled radish, the pizza sauce she made pizza bread with for breakfast one day (not kidding), grape and raspberry jams, various puddings, tofu, miso paste, yogurt, tempura, and dressings)
  • "my pick" (often is heard in close proximity to "my make," and usually references fresh cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and the infamous "wallaby")
  • "eat-a-ducky-mas" (this isn't how it's spelled but it's how I remember what we say before we eat, it's not exactly like that but pretty close)
  • "goat-cheese-so-sa-mah" (ditto for after eating)
  • "hiy, hiy, dozo, dozo" (probably the one single word she says most to me and is translated as "please" when offering something as in "dozo dozo practice" or "dozo dozo eat")
  • Her rice cooker plays Amaryllis when the rice is ready (for those in the know)
And, as promised, the sneaky Mr. Takahashi...

Apparently there's a Doctoral flute candidate in one of the Carolinas or possibly Georgia that is focusing on the Suzuki method and Mr. T's pedagogic style. In May, this person sent Mr. T 30 questions (in English) about his teaching style, to which Mr. T's response was basically "eh, no." So the candidate went back through Mr. T's old articles and the introductions for the first three Suzuki books and lo and behold was able to answer all but 7 questions. Mr. T asked for my assistance in checking the grammar in his responses and for keeping them as short as humanly possible - he's really not giving this guy an inch!

(Another side note: this was where I first noticed the similarities between my father and Mr. Takahashi. Dad would totally be willing to help, but only in a way that made the person have to think harder than they were planning to! Additionally, (and this won't mean much to those of you who don't know my father) they both have the grace of tall thin men who tend to gesture a lot with their hands and also get totally worked up over the things that excite them. Mr. T is also always impeccably dressed and seems cool and impossibly dry given the heat and humidity that hangs around this time of year here.)

For example, one of the questions asked about how Mr. T teaches phrasing. Now, this question is worthy of a dissertation all on it's own in many respects, and when the two of us read the question we both looked at each other with that slightly perplexed, put-out look that people get when they just don't know where to begin. Mr. T's response, "I have them play the way great opera singers sing." Which is absolutely the truth from what I can tell in my limited time here, but man, throw the guy a bone. (Mr. T just chuckled gleefully when I called him sneaky.) A more obtuse answer to another question about tone color came in the form of "Tone color is created by the vibrative membrane of the lips."

There was only one phrase that I know did not answer the question at all, but Mr. T liked it so much that he refused to change it (and I liked it too, it's just an example of a literal translation of the word "imagery" into a Japanese word that I don't think quite means the same thing). If this Doctoral guy knows what's good for him, he'll leave it be too.

Q: "What is the role of imagery in your teaching?"

A: "To teach is to touch a life forever."