What do you think the most famous icon is in the world?
For me, it is the Barbie dolls (recently).
The dolls are selling in the world and it is very popular from children to adults. I think even your grandmother may have at least one doll. In my case, I didn’t have a Barbie doll when I was a child. I didn’t like her face and it looked scary to me.
But things changed since I started “Mercari” last year. I think I have turned into an amateur Barbie dolls collector. On Mercari, the online shopping platform, there are so many kinds of Barbie dolls. I’m always surprised by how many kinds of Barbie dolls people have in their collections!
Recently I bought a total of 10 books to learn about Barbie’s background. Here are 3 of the books that I want to share with you today.
「バービーと私」(“Barbie and I“) by Fumiko Miyatsuka
Barbie was born in Tokyo in 1958. An American clothing designer, Ms. S. Johnson was sent from Mattel Inc. to Japan in 1957. She stayed at the Imperial Hotel Tokyo for a year and created the foundation of Barbie. Her assistant was Ms. Miyatsuka. I learned the history of the birth of Barbie in Japan and the challenges Ms. Miyatsuka faced in creating the first Barbie.
I enjoyed this book very much. I didn’t know that Barbie was born in Japan. By the way, Barbie and her boyfriend Ken broke up in 2004 but got back together again in 2011.
「永遠のバービー」(“BARBIE Forever”) by M. G. LORD
I learned about the birth of Mattel Inc. and the American mass culture in this book. It’s a thick book and it was a little difficult to read. There are so many names and people appeared in the book. If you are not familiar with the American culture, it is hard to keep track of the names and understand the significance of these people.
Barbie has many occupations, from high school girls to astronauts. She doesn’t have parents. Even though she is only a teenage, she has her own gorgeous mansion. She can be from any country. Her boyfriend Ken is only like a decoration in Barbie’s social circle. He has very little influence on her life.
「バービー からはじまった」(“It started with Barbie”) by Yukiko Chino
This book is about how the author started to collect Barbie dolls through internet shopping. She wrote about how fun internet shopping, like eBay, is.
Recently I tried to buy a Ken doll (Barbie’s boyfriend) on an eBay auction. It was the first time I tried to bid something on eBay, but eventually I lost the bid. This Ken doll was made in Japan in the 1960s. Vintage Japanese-made Barbie dolls are very popular and expensive. It would be very exciting if I could win the bid and return this 60-year-old vintage Ken back to his home country.
“May the Barbies be always with you”
I think most girls, whether in the old days or modern times, grow up playing with dolls. They learn how to take care of themselves by taking care of their dolls, like learning how to comb hairs and change clothes. Moreover, they could learn about human relationships while role-playing their stories and playing with their friends. Barbies teach us that girls can become whatever they want to be. Their opportunities are limitless, just like the many different versions of Barbies.
When those little girls become teenagers, they give up playing or simply forget their dolls, because they are really busy in their real lives like Barbie herself. Some people go back to playing with dolls after they become adults. For me, it was when I started “Mercari.”
I’m so relieved to learn that I am not the only person obsessed with Barbie dolls. There are many Barbie fans in the world, all the time. These three books taught me a lot about Barbie and what Barbie fans look like.
I want to thank all the Barbie’s fans on “Mercari” to share their books with me. Without “Mercari”, I would have never realized the existence of these books.
Small joy (but a big one) !!
May 28th was my first day returning to work after the lift off of the state of emergency.
I was happy to meet my students at my cram school. It’s been about 2 months since I met them.
Reading aloud is banned in the lesson
There is a hand cleaner at the entrance in the classroom.
We all have to wear masks. The window in the classroom was kept open.
Before the pandemic, it was common to ask students to read aloud vocabularies or sentences after the teacher. Now this behavior is banned to prevent the spread of the virus.
Some students totally forgot English.
In the last 2 months, students were getting online lessons instead of in-person lessons. I was hoping that it worked well for students.
What day is it today?
How is the weather?
What month is it?
When I asked some questions to them, some students totally forgot.
Moreover, I couldn’t hear their voice because of their masks.
Well, it’s not your fault.
It must have been a while since you last spoke English. I understand you had a tough time. I will help you to get you interested in English more than before.
Let’s prepare well for the future.
The pandemic has dramatically changed the way we live. Doing things online will be more common. Using English will be even more common because we will have to communicate online with the rest of the world in English. Let’s prepare well for the future.
When you use translator, it feels like there is a wall between you and the listener, because you have no option but to blindly place your trust on the translator. You feel powerless and worried that your true message cannot be translated properly.
「ジム・ロジャーズ大予測」(”JIM ROGERS’s big prediction”)
A book store in my town reopened this week since the government restriction has been lifted recently.
I bought a book called 「ジム・ロジャーズ大予測」(”JIM ROGERS’s big prediction”). Jim Rogers is a famous investor. This book was published for his special interview about the coronavirus crisis.
He has a unique and interesting theory.
He always says “If you were a 10 years old Japanese boy, get out from Japan and buy a gun to protect yourself.”
“Invest in North Korea. Buy the land of North Korea.” blah-blah-blah
This time, I learned 3 things from this book.
You should open bank accounts in foreign countries.
Cheap yen and inflation will lower the value of Japanese yen in the future. Assets and pension will no longer be reliable. You should open bank accounts in foreign countries. If it is too much trouble, buy foreign stock, bonds or ETF.
You should definitely invest in agriculture in Japan.
Japan produces very high-quality agricultural products. It is important to increase production and promote these products to world-wide as the main marketing strategy. Farmlands in Japan are very cheap and in large supply. You should definitely invest in agriculture if you have the money to do so. The future looks bright if you can gather enough young people or foreign workers to work in this field. Retired people may also be part of the workforce.
It is actually a good thing that the Olympics is cancelled.
The Olympics is not meant to provide significant economic benefit to the general public. No country was ever saved by hosting the Olympics in the past, because of the huge debts involved. Instead of worrying about hosting the game, I think the Japanese people should worry about paying the debts afterwards.
On May 14th my investment fund was closed.
I can’t sell and buy anymore in the fund. The day was that Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped $516. The market is fluctuating heavily recently but it is getting better since March. Although my fund was closed, I feel good. Because I did my best. I sold most of my stocks in 2 months.
It took me 6 times to finish selling all of stocks in 2 months.
I wanted to minimize the risk so I decided to sell my fund at different timings. In total, it took me 6 times to finish selling all of stocks. I couldn’t sell at a good price sometimes, but I think I did okay. Although I lost some money in my investment due to the covid-19 pandemic, I learned about the world trend by reading up on when to sell my stocks. I kept an eye on the world’s economic and political situations from the number of the death of covid-19, Trump’s twitters sometimes and etc. My friends also gave me a lot of advices.
Actually, I enjoyed a lot to check the market and to find out why the market went up and down.
I felt that I am more involved with the world more than before.
Now, since my investment has closed, I don’t have anything to do with the fund.
I am satisfied that it is all over now, but I also feel a little sad.
Things are connected to each other, you are always going to be involved in this network.
One thing I realize is that life is not at all under your control.
I didn’t want to sell at this time but Covid-19 changed the market completely. My investment company forced me to do.
I didn’t care much about the world trend but then I was paying so much attention to it because of the fund account closure. Things are connected to each other and as long as you are part of the world, you are always going to be involved in this network.
My account closure pushed me to pay attention to the world. Instead of waiting to be pushed, I think I should act proactively myself before the next big change.
↑The Sakura Tulip Festa is held every April. This picture was taken in 2018
800,000 tulips has cut off to stop visitors from coming
My home town is in Chiba prefecture. My parents live in Sakura city in Chiba. The city was grabbing headlines recently since it has cut off 800,000 tulips to stop visitors from coming, in an effort to stop the spreading of the coronavirus.
The Sakura Tulip Festa in Chiba
The Sakura Tulip Festa is held every April near the paddy fields and the riverside. Visitors can walk in the field of thousands of tulips and see a huge Dutch-style windmill in the area.
Although the festival was canceled this year, many people came to see the flowers. Then Sakura city decided to cut the full boom tulips.
I was sad when I knew the story from the internet news and TV news. Because I have been there many times and the place is very close to my parents’ house.
It turns out that my family was also part of reasons
After I learned the news, I phoned my mom.
My mom said “Yes! It’s sad. We were lucky. We visited there last week with your brother’s family before the tulips were cut down.”
Well, it turns out that my family was also part of reasons that the tulips were cut down.
I can understand that everybody wants to see beautiful flowers under the spring sunshine.
We can learn how valuable life is by looking at the lifeless tulips.
At the same time we can learn how valuable life is by looking at the now lifeless tulips.
I’m wondering if other countries would do the same like that.
The flowers sacrificed themselves for us.
Let me add just one more piece of information. The first economic bubble burst in the world was caused by tulips.
↑The Sakura Tulip Festa is held every April. This picture was taken in 2018
Let’s sell your books on mercari.
Recently I spent a lot of time at home, due to the state of emergency and stay-at-home order. So, I read many books to kill time. I finished a really good book named「ぼくはイエローでホワイトで、ちょっとブルー」(I am yellow, white and a little bit blue). It was quite a popular book and was sold out on Amazon. I figured that many people would love to read it. So I decided to put it on mercari, which is an online shopping app, and see if I can share the fun with the next lucky reader.
The books were sold immediately.
When I posted 「ぼくはイエローでホワイトで、ちょっとブルー」on the app, the book was sold immediately (right away). The book is an essay with the subtitle “The Real British Secondary School Day”. It was easy to read. I was interested in learning the lifestyle of students in England.
Actually, I have sold some books on mercari in a month. Because everybody is staying at home and has a lot of time to read books after the state of emergency was declared.
The other day I sold 「AI vs. 教科書が読めない子供たち」(AI vs. Children who can’t read textbooks) in an hour.
I also sold 4 old cook books, one of them was 「アリス・ウォータースの世界」(World of Alice Waters). Although it was 1900 yen, it was sold quickly too.
Other books I sold was an art book.
We have too much time on our hands
Whenever I received an order, I mailed them in 24 hours.
I have enough time to do it.
I imagined my customers wanted to get the books as soon as possible.
Because everybody stays at home and wants to kill the time.
COVID-19 has changed the way we work and live.
We are in a state of emergency, from April 7th 2020, because of the COVID-19 in Japan.
My lessons at the cram school were cancelled.
All students at the cram school, from elementary to junior high school students, are getting online lessons through Zoom instead of in-person lessons. It is a new experience for the students and the cram school.
As for my husband, he has started “teleworking” (work from home) on April 10th.
COVID-19 has changed the way we work and live.
What is the good side?
On the bad side, we might lose our jobs. We cannot go to our workplaces and meet up with our colleagues and students. Even though the internet can somehow connect us together, it is still not as good as face-to-face in person communication. We are always stuck in the house. We cannot enjoy the beautiful weather of the Spring. We get less chances to exercise.
On the good side, new experience is always exciting. We get to learn new things, and practice new techniques. Learning how to use Zoom is a new experience. Even re-learning how to wear a mask properly is a new experience. I believe working from home is convenient for most people.
We can take this opportunity to reflect on ourselves. There are places that we miss going to during this “mini lockdown”. This allows us to re-discover what we truly like about places like schools, workplaces, restaurants and shops.
No matter how tough or how difficult the environment is, it is our mentality that matters the most.
Stay calm and positive. And one day, this will be over.
I may wear a cloth mask in the future.
Last month, the Japanese government announced that they will give 2 masks for each household.
Since paper masks have been sold out at stores for a long time, nowadays handmade cloth masks are very popular.
People simply cannot wait for the government to take action. They are so slow.
At first, I thought I wouldn’t wear cloth mask because it doesn’t look good.
But more and more people are starting to wear cloth masks recently, and I found that some of them look quite nice!
I have changed my mind. I may wear a cloth mask in the future.
Do cloth masks work just as well as paper mask?
Anyway, don’t you worry about whether cloth masks can protect you from the virus?
I found a good movie from Tomoaki Okuda, who is a professor at Keio university. He had an experiment about how much small particles can be captured by a cloth mask with paper towel.
The result is quite surprising. If you use up to 6 layers of paper towel, you can block almost 70-80% of the small particles. That means a cloth mask may work just as well as a surgical/paper mask.
Professor Okuda also uploaded a few videos in his channel. While you are stuck at home, you should check out his other videos to learn more about masks.
His channel is here ↓
How many weeks or months we haven’t seen masks at stores?
Some people don’t wear masks recently. They probably don’t have any mask left.
My parents-in-law sent me some masks.
My parents-in-law sent me some masks which were made of paper or cloth. The paper masks were sold at some shops and cloth masks were handmade by somebody. I am grateful to receive their thoughtful gift, even though I think they also need masks just like everyone else. Since they belong to the high risk group, I think they need masks more than I do.
But there is just one tiny problem. The cloth masks are too cute for me.
Handmade cute cloth masks are very popular.
The other day, I gave a propolis toothpaste and alcohol hand gel to my kimono teacher, because I heard that they are good against the virus.
Then, just in case, I asked her if she wants any cloth mask, because she usually doesn’t wear a mask. She gave me a lovely smile and said “Yes!” She seemed to like the cute design on the mask more than the toothpaste and alcohol gel. Then another young woman came to us and said “I want to it too!” So I gave another cute cloth mask to her.
I found that handmade cute cloth masks are very popular among young and senior women.
I’m happy that these cloth masks eventually found their right owners, because I might not use them otherwise.
I got an unhappy letter last weekend.
According to the letter, my investment fund will be closed in May.
I was very disappointed because now it is a terrible time to close a fund.
The market fell so much since the coronavirus has been spreading around the world. Actually, I’m losing a lot of money in my investment.
I am really shocked to get the letter.
I can either sell all my stocks now which are at such low prices, or wait till May when the fund is closed. It is difficult to sell because the market is fluctuating heavily these days.
But yesterday I sold 20% of my stocks. Fortunately the US market soared yesterday. I was lucky yesterday but I don’t want to go through things like this. They are very stressful.
I think I have to deal with this a few more times until I finished selling all of them before May.