Keeping Up With the Hayashis

Our extended family meets only twice a year, in the summer and during the winter around the holiday season.  Since the meetings are somewhat infrequent, we try to make the most of it, especially for the kids.  Haru loves her second cousins, especially Karin.  But with all of our busy schedules, unfortunately we can only meet at those times, with the occasional exceptions when we share the summer house together like we did last year. Haru also has 3 other second cousins, whom she rarely sees these days.   One is a boy, who’s in junior high school now, so is considerably older than the rest of the kids, hence probably can’t be bothered entertaining little kids.  The other two are twin girls, who unfortunately due to internal family issues, we probably will never see again      ….yeah    …really unfortunate  ….sigh.

At any rate, I always treasure these moments because I know I have a lot of fond moments of the my own childhood spent in Japan with my cousins.  But since my childhood took place in the  era of print (not digital) photography, when film, development, and print costs  were expensive, I don’t have too many photos of us as kids.  This is why I always carry at least one if not two or three cameras with me at all times.  I often get criticism (especially from both my wife and Haru) that I take way too many pictures (sometimes in the thousands for a single event).  But I think when Haru is much older, she will appreciate the efforts I have gone through to photograph, video tape, and write about her childhood.  At least that’s what I hope.

Over the weekend, we visited my grandmother’s house  like we always do when my mother is in town.   We usually make it an effort to tell everyone beforehand that we’re going so that the kids can get together and play.  And of course, it makes for great opportunity take pictures as well.  One of the advantages (if any) on getting together so infrequently, is that we can see how much Haru has grown in comparison with her second cousins.  Haru, being the youngest of all of the kids, had always been the smallest.   Around the same time last year, Haru was just past Karin’s shoulders.   Up until that point, Haru and Karin had been growing at about the same pace, so Karin was always a few inches taller Haru.  However, this year, it seems that Haru has all but caught up to Karin.  She was only about a half an inch shorter than Karin.  All kids grow differently and at different paces, so there is no telling how this is going to end up.  But at the rate that Haru eats these days (which is a lot…I mean A LOT), she might overtake Karin by the time the winter holidays roll around.

When we all get together, we usually all go out for dinner together (or order pizza, which makes life a bit easier).  The issue with all of us going out to dinner is that most restaurants in the area have a hard time seating all of us.  So often times we would have to hop around until we can find a place that can seat 13 people (preferably at the same table), serves food that appeals to small kids and adults (so McDonald’s is OUT), at a reasonable price (my grandmother usually flips the bill, so we don’t want to bankrupt her), and can do this all WITHOUT a reservation.  Yes, this is a tall order, and a tall order that many restaurants could not fill.

We hopped around to no less than four different restaurants.  At the first restaurant, we got to the point where we were all seated at our table, but then found nothing on the menu was too appealing, so we left.  Second restaurant, we got up to the restaurant where there was a large aquarium, where the kids had gathered and admired the fish swimming around.  As we were looking at and admiring the fish, someone decided we should find something else.  The kids were disappointed because they liked the fish and wanted to stay.  We get to the third restaurant where a staff outside of the restaurant door assured us that they had seats, the food was good, and that we would get a 20% discount off the bill.  Hmm…sounded fishy, but at this point, who cares… let us in!!!

All 13 of us were seated at table that was clearly for no more than 7 or 8 people at the most.  We were all crammed together and there was no way we would be able to comfortably eat our food (assuming that food for a party of 13 could even fit on a table made for 8).  The table next to our table was empty, so we asked is we could use both tables.   Staffer had to get approval for some reason, which I thought was silly.  But when we threatened to leave, all of a sudden it was okay.

We all rattled off what we wanted to the server, who was frantically trying to keep up with the verbal shout outs of random menu items that he was suppose to be inputting into his little order taking device thingy.  I figured that there was no way he was getting this order right, but it didn’t matter, we could sort it out later.  After having gone to two other restaurants earlier and walking around looking for a place that met our requirements, we were all pretty hungry and just wanted to get the order in.  At this point we would have probably have eaten anything, regardless of whether we ordered it or not.

20 long minutes later, we had already gone through 2 rounds of soft drinks and nothing of real substance had arrived yet; just the appetizers and side menu items.  Out of hunger, we all started ordering more soft drinks and smaller and simpler food items in the hopes that they might be able to prepare and deliver them more quickly.

Another 30 long miserable minutes later, we were on our fourth or fifth round of drinks, and still nursing a now stale and cold plate of appetizers.  My mother and aunt were really getting impatient and somewhat angry, which I thought was interesting.  Usually in situations such as this, I would be the first to lose my patience and start barking at the restaurant staffers for better service.  Perhaps it was because I was kind of already  full from drinking four classes of orange juice that I hadn’t reached my tipping point yet.  The same couldn’t been said about the ranting duo, who were really digging into the server, and demanded that our food be served soon.  The server frantically went back and forth to the kitchen, but had yet to produce any of the food that we had ordered, just more drinks.

Eventually, my mother lost and demanded the check.  If there was any time when I needed a bag a popcorn, this was the time, because this was a pretty good show.  She totally tore the server apart at this point, telling him that he had no right pulling us in without having the ability to serve us in a more timely manners, and went on to tell him off over and over again about how horrible the service was for making us wait over an hour for our food.  The server apologized profusely for the diabolical  service and handed us the check.  Now, this is where it got even more interesting.  Almost none of our food was served, so naturally it should have been subtracted from our check.  We even reminded the server before he served us the check that we would NOT be paying for anything that didn’t arrive.  He agreed…    naturally.   But when we got our check, NOTHING was subtracted.  As a matter of fact, not only was nothing subtracted, all of the items that we had ordered,  that I initially suspected had not been properly taken, was surprisingly on the check!  Wow, the server got our order right, so there was no real excuse for the lateness.

As the server looked on, we passed around the check to verify what items that should not be on the check.  We all scoffed and laughed at how he had the nerve to charge us for something that was never served.  We rattled off all of the stuff that was never delivered in a rapid fire session back at the server, who at this point looked like he was having the worse day of his entire existence as he crossed off the items of the check.  After we were satisfied that my grandmother was not going to be paying for something we didn’t eat, the server went away briefly and came back with a calculator and began removing items off our bill, as my mother hovered over him to make sure he got it right.  And as final kick to the groin, my mother then said, “don’t forget the 20% discount you promised us.”  The staffer barely looked up, and simply responded OK.

After the staffer recalculated the bill, the final price came to an unbelievable $200+ (with the 20% discount).  This isn’t $200 for food, but $200+ worth of appetizers and soft drinks.  We all groaned and voiced our grievances loudly calling the place a complete rip off right in front of the server and within ear shot of other staff and customers.  We were obviously gaining some attention by the other onlooking staff at this point.  My mother added a final stab to the chest by saying, “is this the way this restaurant does business?  Really shameful!”  I don’t blame her anger at all.  As a mater of fact, I don’t think I would have been so graceful and calm.   I think if it were me, I would have had the restaurant manager or owner involved and demanded that they knock off another $100.   Everyone who knows me well, knows that when I am dissatisfied about something, or when some kind of injustice is forced upon me, I will let EVERYONE know about it.  I never knew where I got this trait from.  I figured that perhaps I may have inherited this trait from my father, whom I never really knew too well, or perhaps I am just a grumpy person by nature.  But now I know where it comes from.  It’s a Hayashi-side trait.

The 13 of us, some of us still very hungry, some full from overpriced poor quality soft drinks and appetizers, finally found a nice place where we could get good prompt service, decent food, and reasonable price.  We went to family restaurant (similar to that of Denny’s).  Yeah, it wasn’t fancy or even nice, but it got the job done.  We should have went there in the first place, because at the end of the day, the kids don’t care were we go as long as we are all together and having fun.  In fact, I think the family restaurant was perfect because they have the kid’s menu and free drink bar.  Next time, we know.






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Chiba Summer House

Sadly, my grandmother has announced that she is putting the summer house in Chiba up for sale.   Apparently, maintenance expenses is taking a toll on her, and she doesn’t go there as much as she use to.  Admittedly, we don’t go out there much either.  Although its nice to just hang out from time to time and do nothing, the reality is that the house is in kind of out in the middle of nowhere  Most shops and restaurants nearby close too early (around 6 or 7pm), so we often have to drive into the next town which is about 40 minutes away.  Furthermore, there isn’t much to do there other than to do nothing (which can be kind of nice sometimes).  But, my biggest gripe is that my allergies act up almost every time I go there.  I don’t know if its because of all of the vegetation that surrounds the house, or maybe it’s because the place may be infested with ticks and house dust…who knows.  But for these reasons, I don’t really care to visit the house too often.

None-the-less, we decided to visit the house this past weekend, which sadly may be the very last time we ever go there.  Haru has been wanting to go to the beach to go clam hunting.  She had been talking about it for several days and looking forward to going.  I personally don’t care much for clams, but since I also have never gone clam hunting, I suppose I should try everything once.  And since my mother was in town, I guess it would be a good opportunity for a trip up there.

The weather was unusually warm for May, bordering on hot.  Haru had just finished up a day in the grueling heat participating in her first physical fitness day as a first grader.  We immediately came home, gathered our belongings and the dogs, and headed off to Chiba.  Aside from a small local supermarket, all of the shops and restaurants were already closed, and it wasn’t even 7pm yet,  We bought a few items at the only supermarket that was open, and headed up to the house.

The house was hot, humid, and stuffy, and the air was stale and dusty from  lack of use.  I could tell already that my allergies were going to kick in any minute, and I was going to have a hard time sleeping that night.  And sure enough, my eyes started getting itchy and the uncontrollable sneezing began.  As usual, I wasn’t able to use any of the furniture in that house because they were probably infested with live or maybe even dead ticks.  Luckily, I left my trusty self-inflating air mattress there the last time we were there, so that’s where I spent most of my time.

The next morning, I was awakened by Haru, who had apparently woken up really early.  I am not sure what time she woke up, but by the time she got to waking me up, it was 6 am.  Apparently, I had fallen asleep on the air mattress in the middle of the living room floor.  Haru was excited because we were taking here to go clam hunting, and usual, she wanted leave immediately.  However, since the beach area where they allowed clam hunting didn’t open until 11AM, it was way too early so I went back to sleep.

A few hours later, I woke up to restless Haru rampaging around the house.  A quick peek at my watch told me that it was only 9AM.  I figured that by the time I had my breakfast and got ready, it would be ready to go.  Haru must being going through another growing spurt, because she eats like crazy now, and I found that there was barely any food left over, despite having gone shopping the previous evening.  Since my allergies will still killing me, it was the perfect opportunity to head back to the supermarket and pick up some food as well as some allergy medication to soothe the sneezing.

Several hours later, we packed up the clam hunting gear and headed to the beach.  My mom decided not to go, something about being allergic to the sun -a concept that I am not entirely unfamiliar with, because I burn pretty easily as well.  Haru”s excitement level was on hyper drive.  Since she had woken up so early, I thought she would fall asleep on the way there.  No chance.  She was talking about clam hunting the entire 40 minutes of the trip there.

We finally got there.  It was somewhat of an odd place.  Nothing like a beach at all.  More like a really muddy shallow salt water swamp with millions of people  as far as the eye could see, shoveling and scraping the wet muddy sand looking for clams.  I knew already that this was going to be a long day for me, because I don’t particularly enjoy being at the beach, let alone a muddy crowded one.

Haru and my wife found a spot amongst the crowds of people and began digging into the muddy sand.  There was all kinds of marine wildlife swimming around.  We spotted some small crabs, hermit crabs, clams, shrimps, and fish.    It was definitely interesting to watch.  Haru caught small crabs and fed it some remnants of dead clam meat which it looked to enjoy eating.  It was a good lesson in marine life.

We shoveled, scraped, and dug for literally hours and managed to find a nice sized bucket full of clams.  After a while the excitement of clam hunting  had worn off and Haru seemed more interested playing with the crabs and hermit crabs.  I was thoroughly bored after about the first hour, but my wife seemed to be having a really good time digging by herself.  After about another 30 minute, Haru and finally convinced my wife that we were done and headed out.  Haru looked tired, and without the excitement of clam hunting to keep her away, I was sure that she we fall asleep in the car on the way back to the house, and I was right.  It only took a few minutes of driving and she was out like a light.

We had a quick lunch and a few hours rest before we headed out for dinner..  It was kind of odd having dinner so early, but we had to, since the restaurants closed so early.  We all went to small little seafood restaurant about 10 minutes a way.  The place has a nice few of the ocean, and the food is pretty decent too.


It will be very sad to see the house go.  Haru is also pretty upset about as well, and keeps saying that she will never forgive the person who buys the house.  Admittedly, although I have all kinds of issue with the place, it was always nice to know that its there if we just wanted to get away for couple of days.  Now, we may lose that, but I guess all good things come to an end eventually.












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