48 Following


A Home for Hamtaro and Other Stories (The Adventures of Hamtaro, Vol. 1)

A Home for Hamtaro and Other Stories (The Adventures of Hamtaro, Vol. 1) - Ritsuko Kawai The best pet name of all time goes to a hamster named "Towel". He belonged to my neighbor's kids in Japan. Space is tight over there, so pets are small. When you see dogs, they're small dogs. In fact, if somebody told me that nobody in all of Japan owned a St Bernard, I'd believe them, because I think the biggest dog I ever saw there was a Cocker Spaniel. According to my completely nonscientific observation, cats, birds, and fish are all more popular pets in Japan than they are in the States. And then there's hamsters. They're like the gateway pet for teaching little kids how to take care of something, because they're small, they're cute, and they're cheap (the hamsters, not the kids). Emphasis on the cute, which everybody knows counts for a lot in Japan. Whenever hamsters make an appearance in manga, the illustrators play up the cute factor to the point you have to shade your eyes to keep from turning into a pilar of sugar: So, back to Towel. My neighbor Ogi-san's daughter, Yuki, got a hamster when she was eight. Originally he had a different name, which I never quite caught. It doesn't matter, so I'll just say "Fred" here. Yuki's younger sister, Manna, was kind of obsessed with Fred. Her big thing was wondering whether Fred was warm enough. At this point, I should explain than most Japanese don't heat their entire homes during the winter. Ususally, most of the house is kept very cold (like in the 50's F, for most people, but some families keep it even lower, like just warm enough to keep the water pipes from freezing). Typically just one or two common rooms will be heated, but even then only to like the low 60's F. At my in-laws' house, it's common to be able to see your breath in the bedrooms in the winter. You're expected to compensate by just putting on a lot of blankets (although I always wake up with a cold nose, because I'm not going to put my face under the blanket, for fear of being smothered). It's kind of a cultural quirk, but understandable in a country that has to import every last drop of heating oil. Knowing all this helps explain this chart: It also helps explain why a three year old would be excessively concerned with whether her sister's pet hamster was warm enough. Fred lived in the girls' bedroom, in a little cage in the corner, and I'm guessing you could probably see his little hamster breath during the winters. To reassure Manna that Fred was warm enough, Ogi-san put an old dish towel in Fred's cage, as a blanket. Every night before she went to bed, Manna would make Ogi show her that Fred had his towel, and Ogi would reassure her by pointing and saying "See? Towel." [Towelru arimasuyo.] (Oddly, the Japanese borrow the English word for towel, and make it "towelru". It seems like something they should have their own word for, but nobody consulted me.) The bedtime ritual became:"Towel?" "Yes, Towel." ...and Manna eventually conflated the word "towel" with the actual hamster. Everybody thought this was funny, so they started calling the hamster "Towel", and forgot his original name.And when I moved from Japan, that is why I bought Manna this book.