# Pi Day in Japan, a Math-lete’s Dream!

### “Curves:  the loveliest distance between two points.” ~ Mae West

William Jones, an 18th century self-taught mathematician, was the first to realize that the decimal 3.141592…, the number approximating the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter, never ends, but continues on randomly without any repetition. “The exact proportion between the diameter and the circumference can never be expressed in numbers,” he wrote. He recognized that this important proportion needed its own symbol, and thus began every math-lete’s love affair with pi….

Saturday, March 14, 2015, was “National” Pi Day, a sometimes rational celebration of the irrational figure that describes the most sublime feature of circles. National Pi Day, although wholly unofficial, is a holiday that, in my opinion, serves three important if not incongruent purposes. For fellow mathletes like me, it’s a chance to celebrate a love of numbers naturally found in nature, proof that god in whatever form you believe (or not), is a geometrician. For those analogs challenged by this digital slant of the world, the holiday offers at the same time a chance to partake in the more literal if not delicious culinary desserts of the same-sounding homonym. And here in Japan, it coincides with the celebration of “White Day,” the Far East’s formal equivalent of Valentine’s Day, but this one only for the lady-folk. See White Day for a full explanation of how Japan interprets the West’s day of love and lovers.

But this particular year hosts no ordinary Pi Day. In fact, March 14th of this year marks a once-in-a-century occurrence: at precisely 09:26:53 wherever you happen to be (local time), the date and time will read 3.14.15 9:26:53. I hear you asking, “Whoop-dee-do Basil, what’s it all mean!?” Those ten digits are exactly the first 10 digits of pi! This rather random coincidence ignites passion across the globe, and for most of us, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime affair worthy of marking in some odd fashion or another.

Crop Circles even enjoy Pi, or so it seems….

But what’s so special about the non-edible version of pi that seemingly connects so easily to so many people? It’s not like differential equations (i.e., calculus) are on anyone’s hit parade, or that a statistical two-tail alpha test of significance rocks everyone’s boat. No, pi strikes a chord with people of all backgrounds, educations, and cultures. Part of its allure lies in its very simplicity, infused with the mysterious flair of things supernatural: a circle, nature’s simple shape of infinite perfection, is defined by something that can never be known with complete precision, so much so that we represent it only as a symbol. Pi is not just irrational, it’s transcendental, and its infinite value holds true no matter the circle in question.

Almost everything is in Japanese

Of course Pi Day every year coincides with “White Day” here in Japan, a fun-filled day of candies and gifts for girlfriends and wives (may they never meet), which Jody and I celebrate in style and excess in some surely rational approximation of what the Japanese irrationally may or may not do. It’s hard to even know what you’re buying when everything is in Japanese, none of which can easily be read (even the Google photo-translate feature fails miserably). Thank goodness for the samples which are openly displayed in most stores! Most of the photos featured here are from the gifts Jody received this White Day as small Far Eastern Flirtations reminiscent of my growing love for and steadfast commitment to her since first meeting back in the late summer of 2010.

White Day presents for Jody

And in that meeting there is even deeper meaning for us personally, one more delicious than pie, more intriguing than the most sublime mathematics, and certainly something worth celebrating often throughout the year. Our own personal Ultimate Pi Day, one of Epic proportions and profound meaning. You see, when Jody and I first met, it was for a “pie date.” Let me elucidate.

Flowers on White Day

Meeting online through Match.com in early 2010, Jody and I had corresponded on and off for about 6 months prior to her transfer from Cuba to Pensacola, Florida, which happened later that summer. We were certainly interested in each other, but the timing of Jody’s arrival combined with my own schedule and our uncoordinated travel plans proved a challenge that would frustrate any attempt in jump-starting any type of relationship.

White Day Wrapping!

But I was eager to do just that. Besides being a woman with almost every quality I was searching for, and certainly there was clear and unambiguous chemistry present, Jody’s curves – from her enticing bluest of blue eyes, to the arc of her smile, to the sexy arch of her foot, to her fertility doll geometry – her curves come close to outstripping the very transcendental nature of pi itself! As Mae West so perfectly stated, “the loveliest distance between two points is a curve,” and Jody’s are any mathlete’s dream.

Spring Time Happy Joy Chocolates

Jody had arrived in town while I was away on a business trip, and the day after my return she was traveling up north on a couple of weeks of leave. While she was to be on leave, I was starting my own much-needed vacation, a 3-week trip to New Zealand to skydive, ice climb, and do other things extreme. It turned out that we had only one night consisting of just a couple of hours to try and hook up…but not for that kind of pie (wink). If we didn’t get a chance to see each other on that particular Wednesday night, it would be about 5 weeks until we had a chance to see each other again. Neither of us was willing to wait.

We made plans to meet, and since she lived way out in “west-west Pensacola” (Beulah, FL), and because of the limited time we had to dedicate to a first date, we decided to meet locally for pie. Jody likes pie (and ALL kinds of desserts as it turns out!), and commented that she had had a hard time finding any good pie while stationed for the last 18 months at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Favorite Framed Photos for Jody’s Office

So, I chose a local diner mid-way between where we lived. It was an easy place for Jody to find in the dark back roads of quasi-Alabama, and an easy drive using simple primary roads. I believe we agreed on a time around 9 pm, and upon our arrival (we were both early – a good sign!), we found the diner closed…of course. Pensacola is a small, conservative town, and many local businesses close down early. This Mom & Pop joint was no exception.

White Day Far East Flirtations

Cracker Barrel was nearby, an eatery sure to have delicious homemade pie, but it too was also closing. In that part of town there are not many other options. Being out on a first-date, I needed desperately to leave a lasting impression while doing my darndest to woo this woman. I had a feeling that boyfriends, past, present and potentially future were part of her travels plans starting the very next day. Luckily for me, there was a Ruby Tuesdays nearby, and although I’m not one to turn to chain restaurants for food or value, this was one place that stayed open serving dependable, late-night dessert. We were quickly seated at a table for two, and our great love affair started right then and there, blossoming over the pie we were served. A truly epic Pie Day for the books.

Like my fondness for Jody, pi/pie days of every flavor have all become even more magically intoxicating. And as surely as pi continues on and on forever, so too does my love for this woman called “Wife.” Happy White Day Jody King!

At least there’s chocolate with booze!

Now, if we only could find really GOOD pie here in Japan! (wink)

Happy White Day, Wife

# Far Eastern Engagement

### “あばたもえくぼ, Even pockmarks seem as dimples.”  ~ Japanese Proverb about the timeless nature of Love

“I noticed no one has toasted to the newly married couple yet, so please, raise your glasses.  Although the standard toast in Japanese is Kanpai, meaning “cheers,” instead I chose to toast with banzai!  [see my related banzai blog]  Contrary to popular belief, banzai! is not associated in Japan with death and destruction.  Literally it means “10,000 years,” but is most often used to imply something like to live forever.  So, to Adam and Naomi, may your love for each other live on forever.  BANZAI!”

So went the toast at my daughter’s wedding two weeks ago in South Beach, Miami.  My daughter, having lived for four formative years in Okinawa as a child, tween and teen, retains a very strong affinity for the Far East and my current island home.  As a youngster, her name “Naomi,” a common Japanese name, and her inherited Asian-Pacific-Islander traits made her look the part.  She had wanted to marry at South Florida’s famed Japanese Morikama Garden in South Florida, but the venue turned out to be much too expensive and difficult to schedule, let alone work with.  She remained, however, intent on keeping an Asian flare to her nuptials.

Kokeshi Japanese Wedding Dolls

In Okinawa, due to the constant turnover of the military personnel here, the Japanese have translated their traditional kokeshi dolls into “Sayonara Dolls,” where the body of the doll is wrapped in a large and long scroll for people to scribble their farewells on as someone readies to transfer away from the island.  Well, there is wedding version of the “scroll doll,” a Japanese bride dressed in white and silver wrapped with the same type of scroll, which is just about the perfect guest book for a Far-Eastern inspired wedding.  We hand-carried one home (although I failed to get a photo), and even though the scroll is over 70 centimeters long (well over two feet!), the entire parchment was filled with love and well-wishes by the end of the evening!

We also purchased a geisha head/hair-piece known as a kanzashi for Naomi to wear with her dress.  Although we remained unsure of the exact color palette of the wedding and wedding party (my daughter is not very specific!), and we were purchasing our items in Okinawa with only the cell-phone picture approval of the bride (thankfully Naomi is in no way a “bridezilla”), what we did manage to hand carry home worked perfectly.  Sure, it’s not nearly as ornate and, shall we say, impressive as the actual ones worn by the geisha or maiko of Kyoto, but neither did she share (fortunately) their rather dramatic makeup!  Worked into the intended’s hair style, the piece was a delightful accentuation, helping to highlight both the colors of the groom (red accents) and her Father (pink accents), who was giving her away.

Nothing says Japan like a Hello Kitty wedding cake!

Naomi herself decorated Japanese fans for all the women in the bridal party, and if we had only known this was part of her plan, we could have purchased some truly wonderful fans during our recent trip to Kyoto.  In any case, the fans were a lovely added touch, and actually were pragmatically utilized in the South Florida afternoon summer heat and humidity during my daughter’s outdoor ceremony.  Thankfully, the rain had already moved on, something Naomi was very worried about since witnessing my and Jody’s beach wedding getting completely rained-out back in 2011.  “Its good luck if it rains on your wedding Naomi,” I said to her in her room as we watch the storm clouds over South Beach.  She, looking at me in not an unmeasured amount of sarcasm mixed with concern, did not buy my argument.  But then again, neither did I; “But then that’s what they tell the losers who get their wedding rained-out to make them feel better,” I continued with a knowing smile and a wink.

Finally, Jody had the wonderful idea of ordering a collection of 1,000 paper origami cranes for presentation to the newlyweds.  After some research online, we discovered that it is traditional for the father of the bride to gift her and her groom on their wedding one thousand folded origami cranes held together by strings, known as 千羽鶴 senbazuru.  In Japan, the crane is the bird of love, life, and good fortune, a truly magical creature in their culture.  It is also believed that whoever possesses 1,000 origami cranes will have a wish fulfilled.  Marriages, like the cranes, require patience, perseverance, and dedication.  The cranes are all held by strong and sturdy square knots.  On top of the senbazuru was a traditional Japanese wedding card – actually a money gift envelope – tied with a very specific knot.  This particular knot is so tied not to ever be undone, and celebrates an occasion that should only happen once in a lifetime, both ideals a fitting tribute to what marriage should and can be.  Presenting the cranes to Naomi and telling of such Japanese traditions and legends really tied the whole Asian-theme full circle.  Thank you Jody, for such a wonderful idea, and for working so hard to make sure this important element of my daughter’s celebration was so meaningful and memorable.

However I have to say the highlight of the evening for me personally was picking my daughter-bride up at her room, hugging her hard in the midst of the clamor and confusion of a whole slew of panicked brides’ maids and female family members, calming her nerves just before the processional, walking her proudly and unhurriedly down the aisle, and giving her away to her now husband, Adam.

Calming a nervous bride just before the processional.

The bride (and her father) appear!

Arm in Arm Father and Daughter

Naomi was taken from me during her formative teen years, and for many since, we both have found it hard to find our ways and connect back to each other.  I am so thankful that my daughter wanted me there and so involved in her wedding after so much time has passed…and has been lost.  Even though I was suffering (unknowingly at the time) severe blood clots and was in great discomfort and pain, I would not have missed that afternoon and evening for the world.

# And I Think to Myself, What a Wonderful World….

Jody and I back in September 2010 when I had a Great, Big Secret

### “Do all things with love.”  ~ Og Mandino

###### And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

I friend of mine recently “liked” a comment on Face Book, not an unusual action in the days of over-indulgent social media.  However, what is unusual about the comment on her page, a response from me to a posting of hers, was from early October…of 2010.  Do you realize how hard it is to move that far backwards through your wall?!?

Jody knew it too, hence the coy wink

As you can see, in it I divulged my growing devotion and desire to be with Jody.  Permanently.  Of course this “liking” comes on the heels of Valentine’s Day (VD), a quite romantic if unlikely notion.  But what makes this so very abnormally doubtful is I have no idea what possessed A to reach so far back into her FB postings to see or find this particular entry…if she was, indeed, even looking.

It is, as I like to say, another example of how the universe unfolds pretty much how it should.  From my wedding vows, said to Jody more than 13 months after I proclaimed to A that I would indeed marry Jody:

“We are all children of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
and have a right to be standing here, in absolute love.
And whether or not it is clear to those here today,
no doubt for us, Jody, the universe is unfolding as it should.”

Vows at our Alter of Naval Aviation

A sentiment NOT associated with Jody, but my earlier mistaken marriage.

Jody and I have decided to adopt the Japanese approach to VD, and trust me, it does not involve the double-barrel shots of penicillin to the buttocks – been there, done that, “butt” (pun intended) the t-shirt had to be burned for infection control.  Rather, Jody is (hopefully) going to get me chocolates, we’ll walk down the block for a local and wine-infused dinner, and then stumble home to continue our celebrations.  In March, I get to return the favor, and then some, during “White Day.”

Here VD in Japan takes an interesting turn away from the West:  women traditionally do all the giving.  When chocolate companies originally started pushing the Western idea of VD in Japan, they focused on women as sole givers.  At the time, Japanese women were quite conservative in voicing affections, so the rather novel idea of surrogate chocolates was immediately and widely embraced.

###### And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

However, as a new tradition not yet ingrained in culture, customs surrounding Valentine’s Day in Japan have shifted.  In more modern times, women do give chocolates as a gesture of love.  But before you get too overly excited about receiving chocolates from a Japanese woman, realize that they also give chocolates to work colleagues and male friends – called giri-choco, literally “obligation chocolate” – as a gesture of thanks or friendship.  The concept of giri is very Asian; it is a mutual obligation that the Japanese follow when, if someone does you a favor, then you feel obligated to do something in return.  In this sense, it is not unusual for a woman to buy 20 to 30 boxes of chocolate at several hundred yen each (several dollars) for distribution around the office and to other male friends.

There’s a Hooters in Japan??

###### They’re really sayin’, “I love you.”

Conversely, for that special man in her life, a Japanese lover can choose from various types of honmei-choco (“sweetheart” or “true love chocolate”) of much higher quality (and cost) than the obligation sweets.  And, even more recently, home-made treats have become even more popular, along with gyaku-choco (“reverse chocolates,” men giving women chocolates), and tomo-choco (“friendship chocolates,” very popular between young girlfriends).

Another New Trend: Heart-Shaped Pizza!

It’s clearly become a very popular day in Japan; more than half of Japan’s annual chocolate sales happen during February and March, when “White Day” occurs.  “White Day” was created in Japan in 1980 to help soften the guilt of males who received VD chocolates.  Exactly one month after Valentine’s Day, men who were lucky enough to receive sugar-infused gifts are given the chance to return the favor.  But, in a sexist twist that seems to have not been lost in translation, the expectation for these return gifts is to be of higher value than those purchased by women!

###### And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Selfie at the Alter

No matter how you elect to treat your own VD, please strive to root your life in compassion and love.  It is a utopian ideal, but one worthy of our attentive focus and best effort.  To Jody, I rededicate my life to the You and the Me in Our Us, and finish this Valentine’s Day with the closing stanza of my wedding vows when I did indeed marry you, not so secretly:

“In the face of the sham, drudgery, and broken dreams of the past,
You have made the world – my world – a beautiful place.
Be we cheerful this day as we always strive to be happy.
I love you Jody, my Desideratum, my desired thing
Wife from this day forward.”

Yes! I DID marry that girl!!

# Easy Chair

“The discontented man finds no easy chair.” ~Benjamin Franklin

“A house that does not have one warm, comfy chair in it is soulless.” ~May Sarton

“One who sits between two chairs may easily fall down.” ~Proverb quotes

Easy chair. If you’re 3. Or apparently Japanese.

We should be about 10 days away from finally receiving our household goods from the States (knock on wood; see Castaway).  But that doesn’t do us any good right now.  Although I started out this move quite firm in the belief that things are just things, and stuff is just stuff and is wholly replaceable, that isn’t exactly true.

Not entirely.

The first – and only things I’ve written about missing so far has been our Love Jug.  And the second, and quite possibly only other thing worth mentioning is, quite honestly, our Easy Chair.  Well, it’s actually a chair and a half.

Our beloved Chair 1.5 in the center background

There’s a scene and symbolism in the movie Phenomenon (1996) that concerns the importance of chairs to life.  In it, George appears to be magically and mysteriously transformed, suddenly endowed with strange powers.  The transformation, however, was short-lived and due to a brain tumor, which George ultimately passes from.  As George is approaching his terminal end, there’s a discussion in the local bar about it all:

Banes: [speaking to Doc about George’s transformation] “He never really changed at all.  Isn’t that right Doc?  I mean he never really got any smarter.  [after a long pause without a response] Doc?”

Banes:  “We… um… we broke up.”

Doc:  “Really?  That’s too bad, yeah.  Now George has a love at his side and she is sticking with him.  You know why?  Because he bought her chairs.  That’s pretty smart to me.  You ever buy Lisa’s chairs?”

Banes:  [discounting the whole notion because he can’t comprehend the symbolism] “Doc’s real drunk tonight.”

Doc:  “Every woman has her chair, something she needs to put herself into, Banes.  You ever figure out what Lisa’s chairs were and buy ’em?

[Everyone pauses in silence]

Doc:  “Nope.  But, you’re right about one thing, George never changed.”

Our Chair – everyone should have one

No, it’s not a stripper chair….

Jody and I cemented our relationship in this chair; in it we poured and put ourselves, together.  It is one of our first co-purchases, a major item that already hinted at the longevity and closeness of what was to turn quickly into a marriage.  It is the centerpiece of not just our living room, but of our time together.  It fits us, and more importantly, it fits us together.

Cat Refuge.

It nurtures us as a couple, and reminds each of us to nurture the other.  I cannot tell you how many nights I’ve spent laying across Jody’s lap watching a favorite show.

Alex sleeping with me on Otto

I cannot count the number of times Alex our cat (Cleo’s brother, who went missing quite a while ago back in the states) would hold Jody down in this chair and force her to nap.

The cats, while financially supported and raised by me, really belong to her…. Alex likes Otto.

It has hosted Christmas gifts, been kind to our party guests, and served as a refuge for our animals.  It is, in physical form, symbolic of our relationship.

A fabulous Christmas host. And Jody’s not bad, either.

And Otto, well let’s just say Otto serves naughty purposes rather well (he says “Hal-lo” with a wink and a Dutch accent).

Naughty things have been known to happen. It’s Otto’s fault.

The stories our Chair could tell….

Currently we are on a sterile, BLUE, American folk-art inspired, government purchased and supplied sofa that not just exfoliates our skin, but provides the physical equivalent of a chemical peel.  The cat will have NOTHING to do with it.  But in an ironic twist, it manages to highlight every single piece of cat hair within a 10 meter radius.  Let’s just say we are dang tired of just managing with our temporary seating provided by the lowest bidder….

Yuck.  And soulless.

It’s true that this place is no home.  Not yet.  It remains soulless, without our one…and a half…warm, comfy, chair, where neither of us has to attempt to sit between two sofa cushions to be one.  Ten days, and we will once again be content.

# Do Sweat the Small Stuff

“From small beginnings come great things.” ~Proverb quotes

“When you drink the water, remember the spring.” ~Chinese Proverb

So, with the majority of our stuff still firmly rooted in the states (see Castaway), I’ve decided to, every once in a while, focus on the smallest things that I find myself missing the most.  In other words, I think we all should actually start sweating the small stuff.

Just make sure it’s the little things worth sweating. In other words, a year from now when you look back upon your life, what will matter most?  It won’t be our household goods SNAFU….

A couple of years ago I bought a book for me and Jody as either a Valentine’s Day present or anniversary gift; don’t hold that lapse in memory – it’s a small detail!  The book is You Still Give Me Butterflies: Feel Like You’re Falling In Love…Again by Laura Corn.  From the book itself, “There’s nothing like brand–new love.  It takes your breath away.  It makes your heart race.  It feels like butterflies inside you, all taking flight at once.  BESTSELLING AUTHOR LAURA CORN is back with two dozen fun, flirty, romantic and sexy surprises for committed couples.  The Red pages are For Her Eyes Only, and the Gold pages are For His Eyes Only….”

A Cuteness-Based Japanese Approach to Saving

Each Chapter focuses on inspirational ideas, complete with “secret” instructions, clues, or invitations to play printed on beautiful butterfly cutouts for him and her contained in sealed envelopes, which will tell how exactly to prepare a breathtaking romantic surprise for your sweetheart.  The idea is to exchange cards every month or so.  Not only is the card a love note, it heralds a delicious surprise is on the way!

Jody handed me a butterfly and lead me into the kitchen.  It was a simple, yet brilliant idea:  THE LOVE JUG.  The idea:  recognize, enhance, and generate acts of intimacy between us.  The execution:  a glass candy-jar, decorated with instructions and icons of love.

Our Love Jug!!

So, every time we do something intimate for each other, we pay into the Love Jug.  And this is important:  intimacy does not equal sex; intimacy starts in the mind, and is inherent and best recognized in the smallest acts done for one another.  Anyone can buy a card on Valentine’s Day, and anyone can go out to dinner.  But what about a love note in her lunchbox, or cooking her breakfast, or writing her a steamy sexual fantasy, or hell, even doing domestic engineering chores so she doesn’t have to?!?  The amount deposited is rather unimportant; spare change at times, dollar bills at others, maybe a tax return or refund from an overpaid account.  Change hitting the glass vessel results a very distinctly audible announcement.  However, it is the sword-drawing echoing “sha—RING” created by taking off and putting back on the thin metal top as it slides against its glass coupling that is wholly unmistakable and so totally audible throughout our home.  Either sound alone is enough to bring a smile to your face and warmth into your heart.  It is the sound of intimacy.  And it happens often with our Love Jug.

We committed to this idea for just over a year, maybe 15 months.  We decided the focus of the money would be for a yet-to-be planned overseas vacation as a graduation present for ourselves once we both finished our graduate degrees.  We settled on Scotland, and when the Love Jug was cashed in, we were amazed to find that we had almost \$1,800!  And while it’s almost too tempting to focus on the numbers – how much is that a year (\$1,440), month (\$120), week (\$30), and day (\$4) – it is much more important to realize how amazing that such small but frequent acts of intimacy and love accumulate so quickly in our lives.  What a difference this small idea has had in our lives…all for the “cost” of less than a foo foo coffee at Starbucks a day.

Yeah, those will work. But our way is a lot more fun!

And out of the over 6,000 pounds of “stuff” coming our way in seven weeks (hopefully), right now I miss our Love Jug the most.  Thank you Wife:  you still give me butterflies!