Owen & Oliver: The Brass Boys

Oliver & his Tuba

Both of my sons performed in the Senri Osaka International Schools Spring Concert on June 12, 2019. Music education is a focus of the school and is one of the best programs for international schools that I have seen. Many families in the community take classical music seriously and the school has produced many professional musicians through the years.

High School Concert Band Introduction

Owen and Oliver play brass instruments (trumpet & tuba respectively) in the winds program. The strong music program did not inspire them practice all the time, but they can sight read, play reasonably well and they have a stronger appreciation for music. The schools have different level of bands and both play in the intermediate levels. If we would have stayed, Owen would have been in the top level next year. Oliver took some time to find the right instrument, but eventually found the tuba and he likes it.

Oliver’s Turn

Girls On The Move

Nadia Awards a Medal to Ocean

Nadia annually leads an after school program called “Girls on the Move” (GOTM) with upper elementary girls. The idea of the club is to help girls build self-confidence by discussing issues that can negatively impact the lives of girls and women like body image, traditional feminine roles, discrimination, relationships, etc. They also train for a 5 kilometer run which is the culmination of the club. I see that the girls in the club learn they can overcome both physical and emotional challenges. This should help them as they move into adolescence and adulthood.

Oliver, Nene and I are happy we finished!

We hosted our final GOTM last Saturday at the school. It was nice weather for a run, cool and cloudy, but no rain or cold wind. The course goes through the beautiful Kita Senri Park to the Suita Fire Station and back. All the girls and some boys, too, made it back. It is a family affair with Owen, Olver and I playing support roles. This time I was the photographer and all of us were “running buddies” for the boys that wanted to join the run.

Alona, Ocean, Elina and Emma show off their medals

Nadia got a bit emotional during the award ceremony, which was good to see! She does a lot of good work for female students at the schools that we work in.

Ready to Start

Book Review: Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura

During my bouts of insomnia, I finished Inheritance from Mother (New York Times Review) by Japanese novelist, Minae Mizumura. Having lived in Japan the past five years, helped me enjoy the book at a deeper level than a foreigner coming at it without an understanding of the culture and modern life in Japan. It is several stories in one, all centered around the main character, Mitsuki Katsura. She is a part-time French language professor at a private university in Tokyo. I work for a private university foundation here in the Kansai (west) region of Japan. There are many “part-time” workers, which are basically “hourly-wage” employees, doing the same job as full-time employees, but making much less money and receiving less benefits. There are a lot of people in this situation in a variety of fields. I am not sure how many exactly, but it is a way for businesses to save money and employ more people.

Mitsuki is in her mid-50s and facing a lot. She is taking care of a selfish and demanding dying mother, contemplating divorce from a husband she finds is cheating on her and plotting to divorce her and she is coming to grips with her own old age, both in a financial sense and happiness sense. I agree with the NY Times review in that the book drags on a bit, it took too many chapters for her mother to die. I think because the book was originally released serially in a Tokyo newspaper, it stretched out many parts, but fortunately, each chapter ends with a provocative little “cliffhanger” to keep people reading.

As my uncle and mom always say, “getting old sucks” and the book a good read for diving into the details of caring for sick parent. Mizumura the author, goes into the family background, giving an overview of each character through the generations of family. The book also gives insight to life here, especially the part that people outside Japan don’t know about. I also liked reading about long marriages. I’ve been married for over 20 years and feel lucky that I am still in love with my wife. Many marriages, and as I have been hearing from friends here, many marriages in Japan, older husbands and wives live separate lives and are together for financial reasons only.

The book does end on a hopeful note and it gave me encouragement that people can continue to grow and try new things even into their “old age”. I found the book in our school library and it was translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter. I would like to thank the Japan Foundation for funding the publication of the book.

Moving Day

Amidst the Chaos

I was happy to get back to work today after an exhausting Sunday. The moving company came to our house to pack our belongings to send to Tashkent. It was a bit stressful, deciding what we are shipping, what we need for the summer and what we will be getting rid of. We have done this exercise before, but it is never easy, especially with 5 people in our household. We lived in Japan for 5 years, so we have accumulated possessions, not as much as most Americans, but we still managed 140 boxes. This included a basketball court, 6 bicycles, book shelves, etc.

The container will go via sea to the port of Vladivostok, Russia. From there it is a long train ride to Tashkent. Kent, the owner of Fukuoka Soko Movers, advised this as the best and safest route to Uzbekistan. It should take 2 to 2 and 1/2 months. It left our house on June 9. I will update this post on the arrival date.

In Front of Our House

I like things about an empty house. I am valuing each individual item more because of scarcity. When you have one pot and one frying pan and one glass, you notice them more rather than our usual state of overabundance. We still have three weeks in the mostly empty home before we leave Japan.

Owen Attends Prom 2019

Owen, Harry, Ryo and Yuki in front of the Osaka Central Public Hall

Nadia and I enjoyed the prom probably more than my son Owen. The Osaka International School annual holds prom in the first week in June at a hotel. Owen is in grade 10 and this is his second prom. Together with some other parents, we rented a limousine for Owen’s friends. The parents took a lot of pictures. Our children are growing up and high school prom is one of those events that mark the passing of time for parents, as our children are children are entering their teenage years (we have two teens and one that thinks she is a teenager). It is so rewarding to see the succession of events as they proceed through school and eventually leave us :(.

Owen with his date Do Hee at our home

Prom is an old American tradition, beginning in the 1800s on the university level in the north east. Graduating classes held a “promenade” or formal dance to help the students polish their social skills. I taught the boys how to put on a tie and it is funny to see them squirm in their formal wear. The tradition of prom eventually passed down to high schools and after World War II, many proms moved from being held in the school gymnasium to nice hotels.

In some ways Japan is a great place for teenagers. The conservative nature of the Japanese limits teenagers use of alcohol and drugs and other risky behaviors. It is quite innocent here compared to other countries.

As a leader in the school, I always try to attend prom as a chaperone and with my children now attending, it is extra special. We tried to stay out of way and help out. Nadia and I had a nice dinner afterwards and Owen went out with his friends after the prom. The prom started at 5:00 PM and ended at 8:00 PM, so we all got home at a decent hour.

Outside our house with the limousine

Beautiful Spring: Late May 2019 Journal

Journal June 1, 2019
Perfect roads, respectful drivers, beautiful scenery makes biking in Japan the best

The warm weather I think is hear to stay and with the longer days, I’ve been getting outdoors as much as possible. This is one of my favorite times of year with lots of fresh new green leaves, cool breezes in the evenings and mornings and bright sunny skies.

May ended yesterday and our time in Japan is winding down. We are leaving at the end of this month. The thing I will miss most about life in Japan is the ease of cycling here. Almost every morning I get out on the bike, at least for 45 minutes and it is so refreshing and a great way to start the day.

Journal June 1, 2019
Owen and Oliver keep Ocean’s booth active during the exhibition

In going through my photos to upload to Flickr, I notified photos from Ocean’s PYP Exhibition that took place in mid-May. She got a migraine during the performance portion and had to go home. After the performance, her classmates continued with their table demonstrations. Without Ocean there, her table was empty, but her brothers, Owen and Oliver, stepped in and explained her booth to visitors. It was so cute how they helped their little sister!

We are also saying our goodbyes to the community. Last Sunday our friends Sharon Almog and Cary Mecklem organized a farewell picnic in Kita Senri Park. I really enjoyed playing Ultimate Frisbee with the kids and laughing at some good conversation in the park. We walk through Kita Senri Park often to go to the train station or on Nadia’s run and we have a lot of fond memories there. It was also nice to spend the entire day outdoors!

Journal June 1, 2019
Surrounded by friends in Kita Senri Park

A Sublime Birthday!

I was quite emotional yesterday on my 52nd birthday. I think as you get older, you appreciate all the good things in your life. It was a full day with our school hosting our annual School Festival. It started with Ocean performing in her last elementary school concert. Her class sang the Chainsmokers’ “All We Know” which became my theme song of the day. She is so beautiful and turning into a woman way too quickly. As I always say, she is the best of the Kralovecs.

Watching my gorgeous wife Nadia making my favorite meal, pizza rolls in the afternoon was touching. My mother used to make pizza rolls, which was a neighborhood recipe my grandmother picked up from her Italian immigrant neighbors. Nadia described it aptly as the concept of a cinnamon roll, except substitute the bread dough for pasta dough interspersed with ground pork and baked with a strong red sauce. A hearty meal that I eat many less in one sitting than I did when I was growing up. She also baked me an apple pie, something my mom did as well, instead of a traditional birthday cake.

Two of my favorite pies for my birthday – pecan and apple!

Each of my children wrote me heart-warming cards and I got two Amazon gift cards. Our close friends, the Boocks, came over and the two families had an enjoyable evening. True to form after a big meal, lots of laughter and a few glasses of wine, I fell asleep. The end of a magnificent day for me. You are not supposed to tell anyone what your birthday wish is, but I don’t really believe in this. My wish was that I could stop time and relive yesterday anytime I wanted to. I am grateful for all that I have in my life. Thanks to everyone for remembering me on my special day!

Ocean’s card