Japanese Culture: Japan In New York
Japan in New York: Family Karaoke Reunion in the Year of the Rabbit
Joanne G. Yoshida
"Are we really doing this?" my daughter asked, as we walked up Manhattan's Second Avenue with a bag of groceries to ring my mother's doorbell.
We both giggled and pinched each other, and I said "Yes, we've really just travelled half way around the world from Japan to surprise her Grandma". We couldn't wait to shout "Surprise!" and to see the look on my mom's face when she opens the door to find that we were in NY.
Until this year, my mom had travelled to Japan every year in the Spring since my daughter was born 12 years ago. This year we made the plan to meet her in Tokyo, but the Tohoku Earthquake struck in the North East and it soon became clear that she was not going to go ahead with her trip.
My daughter Y couldn't envision a spring break without seeing Grandma. Especially since it is a special year for her, the year of the rabbit. It was perfectly safe and peaceful where we live in Kyushu, and it could be a great chance for my mom to visit again with my Japanese family and see our friends and neighborhood here. We began to see things in light of the recent tragic events - after seeing so much loss and devastation, we felt extra appreciative and didn't want to postpone seeing her Grandma (my mom) while we can.
Spring vacation had already begun. It looked to me like we wouldn't see my mom this time, until Y's almost-twelve year old heart spoke louder than my adult voice of reason, and we booked a flight on Korean Airlines to New York for the Thursday of that week (we called on a Monday). We would have just a few days before Y's school started again, but it didn't matter. We went for the moment, and decided to keep Y's promise that she would make Grandma French Toast over Spring Vacation.
It was the year of the rabbit after all. We'd hop to it and be there.
We decided that was to be a surprise from all the family, especially Grandma, and told onlymy sister who lives out of NY since she would have to make some plans in advance with her work schedule if she wanted to see us.
Our plane landed in JFK on Thursday night. To keep to our secret mission, we stayed in a hotel that night. Took a cab to Shake Shack first to discuss the details of the french-toast breakfast. We 'd buy ingredients in the morning on the way up to my mom's apartment, and arrive at her door by 9am to ensure the best chance that she 'd be in. All set, we continued on to the hotel, unpacked some rabbits that accompanied us, and went to bed.
We accomplished our mission in the morning, laughing like two April Fools on April 1st, 2011, and caught a great expression of surprise on my mom when she came down to open the door and saw the two of has on her doorstep all the way from Japan. We all hugged and went up to make the French Toast, gave my mom an "I Love Japan" T-shirt, and basked in the surprise-come-true, and joy of the dream-like moment.
There was little time before we 'd be on our way back to Japan, so we continued to do things in a spirit of spontaneity and called our family to meet for a Karaoke Party in midtown.
We reserved a room at Duet 48 and amazingly all family members agreed. We are not a family who usually sings together, but the amazing thing was that everyone got there, and everyone sang, like it was perfectly natural. I believe the decision we made to hop to NY inspired all my family to say Yes to the out of the ordinary suggestion of trying something new. Everyone arrived in a flash, completely agreeable to the meeting place, without concern for travel or moving around other engagements.
It turned into an afternoon of great fun, as my sister entered in tunes from the Partridge Family to the Kingston Trio, and my daughter sang J-pop with rabbit ears popping out from her hairband. We could re-unite with family, sing our favorite songs, and share a bit of our Japanese culture.
I sang and danced with my Dad for the first time in my life, and my mom smiled with joy as she got into a Bob Dylan duet with another family member. I sang both "Saboten no Hana", and "The Stranger". For those two hours the universe conspired to shine on us as we passed the mike around in that E. 48th Street room.
The whole weekend reminded me that when your heart wants to do something, the distance between countries vanishes and I found that Japan and the US are only a heartbeat away.
Suggested Japan in New York Links
Saboten no Hana (Japanese folk song by Tulip)
Book Hotel Accommodation in New York Here