Friday, September 22, 2006

Countdown to Tokyo - D Minus 1

Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts

I really like giving gifts to friends and relatives, particularly unexpected gifts and especially to the younger set. There is magic in a kid who has been giving a gift to open. Couple this with Japanese etiquette which, to my understanding, encourages one to take gifts when visiting a person’s home and this means I HAVE to go shopping! Shopping for a gift is a wonderfully horrible experience. There are so many decisions to make before you go shopping. What is the occasion? For whom is one shopping? Should I bother to shower before I shop? All very important decisions!

In this case I needed to purchase gifts for Nobuyuki and his wife and their four-year-old son. I tackled Nobuyuki and his wife first as I had far too many ideas on gifts for Ayumi. The one rule I set for myself was that the gift had to have something to do with Texas. Above and beyond the inordinate amount of pride I take in being Texan (I wish Texian was still considered proper), I like to give unique and meaningful gifts. Or, you know, booze.

In this case I resisted my urge to buy one of those stuffed armadillos drinking a Lone Star and decided the safe route would be to buy Nobuyuki and his wife a coffee-table book about Texas. This has the advantages of showing off the beauty of the land I love, being a fairly inoffensive gift, and allowing Nobuyuki’s wife, Akiko, to practice reading English. Apparently she is a HUGE Harry Potter fan and is planning on buying the next book when it is released in English rather than waiting for the Japanese translation. On the down side it is a rather innocuous gift and does not have the humor value of the drinking armadillo. (A gift which I did not succeed in convincing my mom to give to my new in-laws when we went to Korea in April. If they had asked about the significance of it, my plan was to tell them it was a primitive Texian god. I know, I am not a good person.) It just occurred to me that I should have inscribed the book! Damn! (Impotent Shaking Fist of Rage ™ GO!)

With the easy gift out of the way I had to wrap my head around shopping for a four-year-old Japanese boy. One would think with my penchant for LEGO, comics, etc. I would be the perfect person to shop for a kid, however I beg to differ. In this case the restrictions I placed on my shopping severely hampered my efforts. I knew from emails that Nobuyuki and I had exchanged that Ayumi likes Star Wars, dinosaurs, baseball, and stag beetles. There may have been more but I did not feel like digging through my email at this point and this list should be enough. Ideally I wanted to combine something he liked with something from Texas. One of my initial thoughts was to dig through my collection of fossils and give him something I had collected from my grandparent’s or uncle’s places. I discarded this idea due to his age. I then kicked around the idea of getting him some Astros memorabilia. Perhaps a jersey or something along those lines. I discarded this idea as difficult as best as I have no idea how big four-year-olds actually are. Finally it came to me. A stuffed armadillo! What four-year-old does not like stuffed animals?

My brilliant plan to get a stuffed armadillo ran in to many more snags than I thought possible for such a simple quest. Target? No stuffed armadillos here. Wal-Mart? Nada. Toys-R-Us? Nothing. Hell, even the three Texas stores I checked in around downtown were 100% stuffed armadillo free. The Texas stores! I finally found one at the Houston Humane Society store downtown with virtually no time left. This armadillo coupled with the UT hat will have to be a Texan enough gift.

We shall see.

Tags: Travel, Japan

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