Whispers of autumn

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One of my friends is what I call ” a lay-researcher and scholar”. She loves to study- anything and everything. One day last year she came over with this copy of an ancient almanac that is used in Japan. It is based upon the Chinese almanac but it has been modified to fit Japan’s seasons.

The almanac revolves around the four seasons of Japan. I found it to be very interesting and it is giving me much insight into cultural aspects that I never really thought about before or had the opportunity to learn.

The almanac is based on the Chinese lunar-solar calendar. Besides the 12 lunar months (moons), the year is also divided into 24 solar sections as determined by the path and position of the sun. Each “section “lasts around 15 days and they help farmers to plan their planting, harvesting and other activities.

The sections describe the seasons, weather, and changes in nature.

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The 15 sections are further divided into 3 more sections- totaling 72 in all.

The book pictured above is the almanac wheel- in book form.

Being a nature- lover I found this almanac fascinating. Not just that but- helpful to learn about the nature that surrounds us here.

The top most photos ( which should be in the opposite order- sorry) are pages from my almanac book ( a gift from my friend) . They show the start of autumn. Notice on pages 124-125 you can see the dates ( which are written Japanese style – the ” long way” from top to bottom) 8-12 ~17. The pages tell of the seasonal changes that normally happen within these dates. The dates fall in the autumn season. The very first whispers of autumn start to be heard around the 7th of August.

Pages 124-125 tell of the higurashi- an autumn cicada ( semi). There are several kinds of cicada in Japan and they emerge at different parts of the summer. The higurashi emerge at summers end signaling the first inklings of autumn in the air.

There are many different haiku that are associated with the 72 sections of the almanac.

Higurashi means- “evening cicada” or in another dictionary ” clear toned cicada”.

.日ぐらしの涼しくしたる家陰哉
higarashi no suzushiku shitaru ya kage kana

a cicada
cools it down…
shade of the house

.日ぐらしやついつい星の出やうに
higurashi ya tsui-tsui hoshi no deru yô ni

a cicada chirrs–
there! and there!
stars appear

The above poems are by Shinji Ogawa ( I think)

aki mo haya sono higurashi no inochi kana
Already autumn, And time for the cicada To spend its last days
Yosa Buson

Today, as I walked home from a long trip to the store I noticed changes.

I saw the tips of several momiji were starting to fade, their leaves no longer bright green. Some had tinges of orange already.

I noticed the sun was different. The light wasn’t as bright and the shadows fell differently.

Indeed- whispers of autumn.

I always imagine this time of the year as two women sitting together under a tree in a field. One, the Maiden of summer sits in her bright yellow dress printed with sunflowers. Her companion, a beautiful older woman, clothed in robes of deep russets and oranges and golds, her grey- streaked hair swept softly up and away from her delicate face. Both sit and share cups of tea while the Maiden of summer recounts days of sitting beside cool mountain streams, dangling delicate toes into sweet rushing water during the heat of the day. She laughs as she remembers evenings filled with fireworks and the smells of yaki tori and roast corn.

Her companion nods and smiles and as she reaches for her teacup, a small, cool breeze blows tiny dried leaves into a miniature whirlwind. Her eyes scan the forest beyond the meadow. As her glance lingers over delicate leaves they turn, ever so slightly, a subtle shade of gold.

They linger like this for a while until it’s time for the Maiden of summer to bid farewell to her companion….

I love these times… when we can see the changes happening. The time when the Maiden of summer and her companion sit together and enjoy each other’s company. Each bringing their own subtle beauty to the fields and woodlands.

I look forward to the next several months. We are so very fortunate in that our season of change is long and gradual. Time to slow down and savor each precious moment.

Obon season is upon us.

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Obon- the season of remembering our dearly departed.
Depending upon where you live in Japan- Obon is celebrated in either July or August. In our area it’s August 13,14 and 15.

I have to say, I love Obon season. It is a time when we have many family gatherings. There is lots of activity happening -from visiting relatives to pray at their family butsudan ( a type of mini- shrine or family altar) to bonodori ( dances) and going to the cemetery.

I know- it sounds morbid but it isn’t, really.

During Obon the butsudan is laden with offerings. Usually food and drink. It is common to see fresh fruit beautifully arranged in cello- wrapped baskets, small bottles of sake, beer, juice or whatever the departed loved one enjoyed while they were alive.

The stores have mountains of displays at this time of ” perfect” looking fruits specially packaged for Obon. There are also piles of colorful sugar flowers.

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They are also for placing on the butsudan. The general rule is – you place whatever the departed was fond of. I’ve even seen cigarettes.

Special lanterns are placed next to the butsudan during this time.

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They aren’t cheap. I’ve seen price tags of 200$$ and upwards.

If it’s the first Obon season for your loved one ( hatsubon) things get expensive. The butsudan is elaborately decorated like in the first smaller photo. You will have a house full of friends and relatives for three days and they come and go at no particular time so you must be ready to receive them virtually at any time throughout the morning, afternoon and evenings for the Obon season.

You will also have a ceremony with a priest that will be attended by family and friends ….with food. Lots of food.

Of course you’ll have refreshments ready for all the guests that visit during the three days.

As I said, it is a huge expense. Your guests will come with a money offering though, to help with expenses.

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I don’t know what others give but we usually offer 30 for relatives for a hatsubon and around 20 for friends that have a hatsubon.

This is also a time of wearing colorful yukata or cotton summer robes ( they kind of look like kimono) and geta ( wooden Japanese sandals).

Not every home has a butsudan. The butsudan is usually kept in the parents home or in the home of the eldest son or daughter( if there isn’t a son) and it will hold the いはい ( Ihaii) of all the deceased family members. The いはい is a name plate that is crafted at the time of the funeral. There are different materials they are made of but they are all basically like the photo. I’ve seen some lacquered black and the names painted on in gold.

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The ashes are never kept at home. They are brought to the cemetery and the neck bone ( which is believed to hold the ” spirit” of the person during life) is brought to the main temple- wherever that may be for that particular family. Our family main temple is in Kyoto.

As a matter of fact- ashes of the deceased are treated with utmost care and reverence. They can never be separated or divided up. When my dad died my sister, my mom and I each got a small portion of his ashes in a small urn. I don’t talk about that here because it seems to be rather tabu.

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Pictured above is a lively bonodori.

We have a hatsubon in the family this year- at a cousin’s home. We will all go and help with the massive food preparations and such.

Last weekend we had to attend the 49th day of death for the same relative. There are auspicious days on the ritual calendar. I don’t pretend to know what they all are but I know that 49 days after a person dies there is a special ceremony where relatives and friends gather at the deceased’s home with the priest and sutras and prayers are chanted.

I always find these interesting. I observe them from the ” foreigners” point of view. Last Saturday I observed the priest. He seemed to be genuinely dedicated to his calling. I could tell by carefully watching him. I watched as he meticulously and carefully sat in seza – sliding onto the zabuton in a reverent and ritualistic way. I watched as he deftly changed his silk outer robe, sliding one arm then the other out of it and ever so carefully folding it and placing it on his satchel. He took out the ” priests apron” and donned it just as cautiously- as if it were a holy thing, and not just ” a piece of cloth”. He then picked up his sutra booklet that he had laid aside on the butsudan, and touched it to his forehead. Closing his eyes, he bowed to the butsudan, laid the sutra book on top of his outer robe that lay a top his satchel. I saw he used the satchel as sort of a small shelf or table to hold the sutra book. I saw that several times before at different rituals. As he lit the two tall capers, one on either side of the butsudan, and he struck the bell, everyone fell silent and got ready for the ritual.

I didn’t understand the words of the sutras but I heard in the priests tone of voice he chanted them with all his heart. He was the same priest that presided over the funeral. He will be the same one that will preside over the Obon rituals.

Anyhow- these things are interesting to me. I don’t understand many of them but I don’t judge any of it. I just observe and do what I can to help . I never just sit. I always try to lend a hand. Many times I’m not exactly sure what needs to be done so I take over the dish- washing. That’s ok.

So next week we will be very busy. Actually I’m already busy. Tomorrow is shopping day for Saturday’s ” let’s learn Saipan island cooking” day that we are having for the parents of the kids we are taking to Saipan on a student exchange. We leave week after next. There is lots to do!

And… We have a typhoon headed our way… And possibly more if those two that are hitting Hawaii come towards us.

Hopefully not- life in Japan never stops- not even for typhoons!

Summer fireworks for the dogs….

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About two weeks ago we received a post card in the mail. Well..I should say our dog received a postcard in the mail-an invitation to the summer fireworks festival on the grounds of his beauty-shop / dog hotel / dog playground. Since it is too far for him to walk (his legs are too short) and he doesn’t drive, so he asked us to come along. ;)

What a fun atmosphere! The staff worked hard to provide a lot of fun for everyone. There were BBQ pits set up with roasted corn, sausages, squid, and BBQ sticks. They had a teppan going and were making yakisoba. There were fresh tomatoes and cucumbers on sticks, ice-cream and snacks, cold tea and beer and other refreshments that you could purchase.

Our little dog Chibi was beside himself with all the activity and all the other dogs!

I had no idea everyone (every dog) would be so “dressed up”.

There were dogs with dyed hair and bows and yukata! Yukata are summer robes that are often mistaken by “foreigners” as kimono. Yukata are simpler and made of cotton.

Do you see the dog with the pink tail? She was so cute! Her tail was so fluffy and when she walked around it seemed more like she was strutting!

The playground was full. Chibi does not always mind his manners so we thought it best not to let him run around in there….no telling what may have happened.

What really made me laugh was …dogs in strollers! Now that’s pampering your pooch!

We hung around until it got dark, watched a few fireworks and then took Chibi home. He yammered and pulled on his leash the entire time we were there…while most other dogs behaved. That’s our little Chibi….we love him but he has no manners. He was totally exhausted when we got him home. Not to mention me and “papa”.

Fun experience. Now that we know what it’s like we plan on gussying chibi up next year! No stroller though- he will have to walk…

Jabuchi-family summer camping and things as they are.

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This post will be two-fold. I want to tell you about our family camping trip but I also want to give an accurate description of Jabuchi campground so that others planning a trip there will know what to expect. There is not much information about it on the web in English-so I am hoping this post will help someone decide if this is the right place to stay for their camping experience.

Long post but I hope you enjoy the stories…..

Our long awaited family camping weekend has come and gone. Funny how it seems like it takes forever for an anticipated event to arrive but, once it does, it passes by ever so quickly.

I try to practice being mindful so that I can savor the moments. I tried to do that on this trip. I say “try” because I’m not always successful every moment.

Several days before the camp were spent in a flurry of activity. Well, at least for some of us. Some of us women that is. We went shopping-what a food haul! Wow. I was wondering what army we were going to feed. I spent a half day before -cooking up several batches of island-style coconut tityas (tortillas). They are eaten with chicken kelaguen-another island favorite. I BBQ’d the chicken at camp and made the kelaguen there. It was a HIT.

Any way-we got all the shopping and preparing out of the way and like I said-there was a LOT of food. I’m used to camping a bit different so this whole experience was one that I had to just accept and make my mind up that I was not going to sit and compare it to my many past camping experiences.

I grew up camping in the wild with my dad. We used to pack his old canvas tent, propane camping stove, old army cots and sleeping bags, canned food and sausages and some of mom’s home-made German sourdough into the old green station-wagon and head up into the north woods. There was no toilet or let alone “bath”. We dug a hole for a toilet and jumped in the lake to take a bath. We even camped in the dead of winter. Taking a bath was done with a damp washcloth inside the tent next to the gas heater.

We gathered firewood and buit ourselves a campfire and dad had one of those tripod things that you could stand over the fire and attach a cooking pot to.

We roughed it but it was a blast!

This camp was much different than what I was used to. First off -we stayed in a (luxury) cabin.

There are eight of these nice cabins and three smaller “huts” (wood buildings with nothing in them but a sleeping room) that sit along a river up in the mountains not far from Mt. Hiko in Miyako. The cabins are right along the road. They aren’t set into the mountain. The road isn’t that busy so that was a plus but I”l be honest and say it was a disappointment that I had to get over. I was hoping for more of a rustic environment-but, that’s the way it was so I had to just accept it. The area is quite beautiful though.

The campground is owned and operated by the government. It is very well maintained as you will see from the pictures. It is definitely not rustic camping.It is more of a get-away spot for people who want to be out in nature but -not really. I guess you could say it’s for city folk who want to camp but not be inconvenienced.I think it is also great for people who have little kids and want to “camp” but don’t want to be totally stressed out doing it.

The inside of the cabins are beautiful but in a simple way.

The cabins have a sleeping loft with five futons that are slung over the half wall. Downstairs is a small mini-kitchen with a single electric cooking burner, a rice cooker, a microwave, a hot-pot to heat water and a small fridge. There are a few pots and pans and some plastic plates, cups, bowls..etc. The cabins have wall AC units and a fan. The tub/shower room is very nice (very clean) as well as the toilet room and wash-basin area. All were very, very clean and well maintained.

The upstairs loft can sleep about eight to ten people comfortably. We had a few more up there. It was cramped. There were about eight more people sleeping in the kitchen area. We had quite a large group.

The futons are THIN. Really thin. I felt like I was sleeping on the hardwood floor. I think I slept about two or three hours. I woke several times during the night with a (child’s) foot draped over my body or my head. Not ideal but-that’s the way it was so I lay there trying to enjoy the sounds of snoring and campfire smoke smell that clung to hair and shirts remembering the laughter and fun of the evening.

Each luxury cabin comes with the use of a beautiful BBQ pavilion.

Along one wall is a long concrete sink with several faucets and a counter area. This is where all the cooking was done-and cook we did…ALL day. BBQing and chopping and making all sorts of “camp food”. Honestly- I’ve never seen so much cooking at a camp before! Despite the cooking for an army-everyone seemed to be enjoying it. Everyone helped with something and had fun while doing it.

We had an armed camp guard that made sure there was no loafing around. (lol)

We didn’t stand there and cook all day, some of us played in the river with the kids or explored the area. Some preferred to sit at the BBQ pavilion nibbling and drinking and chatting and watching us play in the river.

The river is cool and incredibly clean. The rocks were beautifully worn from thousands of years of water rushing over them. There were so many little fish! I noticed that the thing to “do” was to bring a small plastic fish tank and a butterfly net. Dozens of kids were excitedly scooping up fish and dumping them into their plastic aquariums. All the fish were let go again later.

The campground was full to capacity. It is usually booked full for the season well in advance. I was thinking that the cabins might be a nice place to lodge if you had a group that decided to go hiking on Mt. Hiko because of its close proximity. That would probably be fun. I’ll have to keep that in mind next time the kids come out. That would make the hiking trip that much more fun and special. I have no idea when the season closes for the cabins. Some of the cabins here aren’t open all year round because of the snow/road conditions. Either that or they aren’t worth keeping open because there aren’t many campers at that time.

The roads coming up here are narrow and get snow-covered during winter. They aren’t plowed either. Next to that guardrail it goes straight down the cliff.

I enjoyed walking the little path that went the length of the cabin area. There were several giant Japanese swallow-tailed butterflies. I tried to take a photograph of one that landed on a flower. It fluttered up over my head and around again and almost landed on my face.


There were many different species of butterflies – everywhere!

The kids were spying on the wild animal that was lurking beneath the next door cabin…..

What a ferocious animal it was too!! We hid behind the BBQ pavilion so that it would come creeping out from under the cabin and we could get a picture of it….

Jabuchi is also famous for a small waterfall. If you follow the path down towards the office area you will come to a set of steps that lead down the side of the hill and into a cavern-like place where the river cascades down in two gushing “falls”.

It’s actually a really cool place. The water falls into a rather deep pool and then flows on downstream rushing over rocks and boulders and centuries-old crevices sculpted into the rock by the force of the water. The falls area looks like a large basin that was carved into the surrounding forest and if you look up a canopy of trees encircles the basin and makes it seem as if you are in a bowl-looking up through the trees. Off to the left is a small thin waterfall. A single thin stream of water that falls down upon a large rock that has also been shaped by the constant pressure running over it. This small, thin waterfall was magical. I don’t know how to describe it. It was this beautiful anomaly that was mesmerizing to behold.

I wish I could have captured the essence of it in my photograph.

w3It is difficult to tell from the photo but the distance from the rock to the top of the cliff where the water comes cascading down is actually quite high. If I took a picture with someone standing up there -they would appear pretty small.

There was a path that led up into the forest for a bit. It was not very long at all. The stairs led up and around and down to the other side of the river and a few cabins that were nestled beside the falls. I wanted to get some pictures back there but the cabins were occupied and I didn’t want to intrude.

Part of our “package” included a campfire. No, you can’t make your own campfire. Within walking distance, up the road a bit is a fire pit. The “office” will build a campfire for you that you get to light. They collect and pile all the wood for you and kind of stand back and supervise to make sure no one gets hurt.

As soon as it got dark we all hiked over to the fire pit for our packaged campfire experience. If you want a campfire it costs an additional 4,500 yen (around $45).

But…what’s a family camp without a campfire?

It took a while to get the fire going-but I think the men had fun engineering that whole thing-adjusting the wood and fanning the embers as they started to glow. A group of kids from the neighboring camp ran over and offered sparklers to help-throwing several lit sparklers into the middle of the wood pile.

As our fire began to consume the pile pf wood we had a lot of fun sharing stories-some ghost stories (of course…what’s a campfire without ghost stories) and wild animal stories. My brother in law (who had a “few” under his belt) wanted to know how the American Indians danced around their campfires (he had seen it on TV) so I made a show of teaching him (and a few others) a mock Indian fire dance complete with whoops made my slapping my hand over my mouth…it was fun and hilarious as they all joined in. I was then taught Japanese fire dancing. It was just a lot of silly fun.

The cabin area took on a different personality at night. Who knew what creature was lurking around some dark corner or staring at us with luminous eyes from deep within the forest?

Now, all the kids needed to hold someone’s hand to run back to the cabin! Who knows? That man-eating cat could be hiding behind a rock ready to pounce!

One by one the kids were taken into the cabin to have a bath and get into summer pj’s. Futons were spread and spaces were claimed…and before you know it the sounds of little snores could be heard. Speaking of snoring….hubby and I were sitting in camping chairs on the left side of the BBQ area with our backs to the hut that sat next to our BBQ place. Suddenly we heard several loud snorts that for a moment we honestly thought were coming from a wild boar. The mountains around here are full of them and they can be quite dangerous. Our eyes grew big….hubby got up to inspect and I saw him cocking one ear and walking towards the hut…could there be a wild boar hiding under it getting ready to charge us?

Everyone in the BBQ hushed…holding our breath we watched as my brave husband fearlessly crept towards the next door hut….

…then I noticed that the window was open. The snorts were coming from within the hut that was occupied by several old men who we had seen having an “old-man’s camp”. Their BBQ area was on the opposite side of their hut-I had seen several cases of empty beer and sochu bottles stacked up-lol. It looked like they were having a grand-old man’s time. BBQing sausages and drinking and laughing.

No worries-no wild boar was about to come charging. We all had a good laugh and carried on with our “camping”.

Long about midnight, as soon as the tub room was free, hubby and I went in and had our nightly bath. It is common here for couples to bathe together. Most tub rooms are large and can accommodate at least 2-3 people. Bathing is a family affair here in Japan. It is wholesome and “clean” (no pun intended) and for us a wonderful time of sharing. After a long hot day of outdoor fun the bath was relaxing and wonderful. We donned our camping pj’s and went up to the loft to see about finding a place to crash for the night.

The next morning-as soon as I noticed the sun coming up over the trees (which must have been before 5 am) I made my way downstairs, carefully avoiding stepping on slumbering campers, and brewed a big pot of coffee and then returned to the bath to sooth my aching bones from sleeping on a hard, thin, futon.

Gosh, drinking that cup of coffee while sitting outside on a cool rock over-looking the river was… delicious!

Little by little everyone helped to pack up the camping “stuff” that was just everywhere. The cabins have a check in and check out time. Check in is at 1pm and check out is at 10am. The big cabins with the bathrooms and such are around 148.00 a night. Something like that. We shared all expenses as a family and it came to $80 bucks a family. Not bad at all considering all the food we had and the cabin expense (plus the campfire).

We packed and hauled the supplies back up to the cars. Most of the group went to a river for the day to let the kids splash around. Hubby and I went our own way….we got lost for several hours on the way home. I mean that literally. We had NO idea where we were. After several stops to ask two farmers, an old lady tending her garden and a young gal waiting outside an ancient looking train station we were able to negotiate the small country roads until we found the bypass that led us home. We were lost in the Japan countryside and it was glorious! We actually had a wonderful time being lost.

Of course I took pictures.

We actually had a wonderful time. New experience for me and I enjoyed it. I’m thinking of several possibilities for this area…retreats and such. My wheels are turning. :)

Here are some more pictures that are right off my other camera-unedited in any way.

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Off to the next adventure!

The giving tree is giving again…

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For those new to my blog-in order to understand this post you may have to back track a bit to this post:

The giving tree

So since that day we’ve kept obosan trimmed. Not too long ago hubby actually took a saw and cut him really short because as soon as the warm weather starts he just shoots up-branches sprouting every-which-way.

There are three trunks that grow out of the same root system and they form sort of a triangle. One day hubby came home with a triangle-shaped piece of wood and nailed it to the top of the three longish trunks.

I thought-what in the world….

He says- “bird feeder”

“Bird feeder?”

“Yep”

I looked at those three sticks with that triangle piece of wood nailed to the top and I just bit my lip. Not really my style but, well, I’ve learned over the years to just keep quiet about certain things.

I mean-I can’t have everything my way. I want my husband to do things around the house that he thinks look nice or are fun and creative. My mom was the sort who controlled everything. Dad never really had a say in anything and I saw sometimes that he felt uncomfortable in his own home. It was not till they were really elderly and mom stopped caring much-that he got his own space in the basement.

So..I looked at it and said

“bird feeder”

We bought some bird seed and sprinkled a little on the top of the triangle shaped piece of wood and that was that.

I kind of forgot about it. Well-I mean…I putter in the garden everyday, almost, but I just ignored-“the bird feeder”.

Spring came. Everything started sprouting and blooming. One day I went out to the garden and I saw that Obosan had started sprouting little leaves all around that triangular piece of wood. I thought to myself…”humm, that may look interesting”.

Sure enough, branches started to grow. They came sprouting out all around that little piece of wood to form a tiny forest of branches….and no sooner had they begun to sprout leaves when the birds took notice.

We have the best time early in the morning, peeking from behind the curtains, coffee cup in hand, watching the birds have breakfast!

I’ve been keeping the branches trimmed so they don’t grow out of control.

It’s the neatest little “natural” bird feeder I’ve ever seen!

Hubby is so proud of it and it gives him so much JOY! Me too. :)

The giving tree is giving -again!

I’m going to find a cute little sign to hang from it. I’ll think of something creative.

My little garden is always changing. We have had SO MUCH RAIN that some of my flowers just died-drowned I think.

The ones that I have out there now seem to be tolerating all this rain.

I’ve also started a couple of little water gardens.

I’ve got some climbers out there and mostly just easy to care for plants.

I wonder if we will have a summer or we’ll just continue on slogging our way through clouds and rain all they way to fall.

Cultural exchange day

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I – along with several other “foreigners” were invited to participate in a discussion with local townspeople.

The topic was centered on what it’s like to be a foreigner in Japan. Our experiences, things that surprised us when we first got here, how we manage to cope with living in a foreign country..and more.

To be honest, when I was first invited to come I thought
“oh, no. I’m going to feel like a monkey in a zoo”.

You see, sometimes it’s hard always being “different”. Sometimes you just want to fit in. You want people to stop craning their necks as you walk past. You want little kids to stop surrounding you while you try to shop…trailing behind you parroting “harro, harro, harro”!

You want the counter person to look at YOU and speak when you try to ask a question, not your husband, who just happened to follow you into the yarn shop.

Most of the time now I don’t think about it anymore. I noticed that about myself just recently. When I first got here I had a phobia about going out alone. I didn’t really want to admit that but, it’s true. It was so hard being stared at, so hard always sticking out.

Especially when you are an introvert. Introverts do not want to be the center of attention. I’m not trying to sound full of myself. I sure hope I don’t come off that way.

I don’t even think about it anymore. Things are familiar now and I’m at ease here. People still crane their necks and stare. Little kids still tag along behind me in the mall at times but now I can speak some Japanese and that helps.

So anyhow-I decided to be a good sport and attend. I’m really glad I did because it was actually really fun.

The room was packed. By the time we got started they were breaking out extra chairs for people that were still walking thru the door.

I was really surprised at how many people wanted to come and listen to us and share their thoughts and ideas.

They called this a “love, peace and friendship” conference.

Represented were: America, Canada, Jamacia, Korea and Saipan.

Some of the questions solicited funny answers. One of the “foreigners” in our group said he was most surprised by the wash-let toilets here. Most toilets, no matter if they be out in public or at home, have a bidet. The first time I used one it was a little intimidating-lol.

I said I was most surprised by how genki the elderly are. Genki can be used in several different ways but here it means that the Japanese elderly are fit and active and generally in great shape. It isn’t unusual to see a seventy year old cruising around on their bicycle. Our eighty-four year old neighbor still rides around on his moped. Often when I go hiking some elderly person passes me up on the trail!

We sat up at the front for a while and answered questions and then we were each assigned to sit at a table and chat with everyone sitting there.

Aside from being fun, I thought this was also important. It was important for us as foreigners, I think, because it gave us a chance to be heard as a group. It gave us a chance to meet many of the town’s people and it gave them a chance to talk to us!

Many said they have seen us around and wanted to talk, to say hello and welcome…but were too unsure or shy or afraid to! Most could not speak English very well so they had been afraid of a communication fail. This was a really fun way of introducing us to people who we otherwise might never have had the chance to meet.

There was one ancient lady at my table-the cutest little thing..she was thrilled to be able to talk to me and ask me questions about my life. I was so happy to give her that joy.

Everyone else that was there had a similar experience.

I got to meet some new “foreign” friends too!

I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone. I think that’s the only way to go forward. When I let go of my anxiety and preconceived ideas and thoughts I always have a good experience. Had I let my “monkey in the zoo” thoughts deter me it would have been a shame, really.

Chotto soko made ちょっとそこまで

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Chotto soko made-ちょっとそこまで
“just down the road” “just out for a bit” “no where in particular”

We’ve had nothing but rain. Rain, rain and more rain. We really have not had much of a summer so far. As a matter of fact-I have to keep reminding myself that it’s already about the end of midsummer. Part of me keeps waiting for summer to arrive!

Come to think of it-I have not even heard the semi singing their shrill song. Semi-Japanese cicadas are one of the signature sounds of summer here. It’s actually been very strange not hearing them. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with them. I love hearing them during those first hot days of summer because then I know that summer has officially arrived. After a while when more and more of them have emerged from the earth the sound is deafening. Really. There have been times when I actually have to plug my ears because my eardrums feel like they are going to pop from the vibrations.

I think I heard one so far. Kind of worrisome actually.

The typhoon that came thru our area took an abrupt right turn and puttered and sputtered on down below us. We didn’t get much of anything from it. Rain and a little wind. We had already been soaked through and through from all the rain we’ve been getting since the beginning of spring.

So, today, when I saw that the forecast called for sunny skies and temps in the high 70’s to low 80’s no one had to tell me twice to grab my trekking shoes and rucksack and hit the road!

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With the rainy weather we’ve had I’ve barely gotten out of the house. I decided today I’d leave early in the morning and spend the entire day walking at a leisurely pace up to one of my favorite places- Ryokyo waterfall by the entrance of some of the hiking trails that go up the mountain.

I packed up a quick lunch, filled my water bottle and hit the road. The only chores I did was a load of wash. Everything could wait! I didn’t want to waste such beautiful weather on chores when I could do them another time.

I took our android tablet with me and used it to take pictures. The photos are raw-I didn’t edit them at all.

It takes me about 45 minutes to walk up to the falls if I walk at a brisk pace. Today, I took my time. I wanted to see everything! I took time to notice little details.

I’m glad I left early, I didn’t want to care about the time today. I just wanted to relax and enjoy the beautiful day.

I wanted to enjoy wanderlust and I did. I felt myself let go and just be. To really just fully be in the day-not just physically but mentally. I didn’t want it to be one of those days where my mind was thinking about chores that needed doing when I got home or things left undone.

I didn’t have that problem today-the glorious day pulled me into it the moment I stepped out the door.

The rains had left everything so green!

Everything, the fields, the trees the rice paddies such a deep emerald green. It was so refreshing to my senses. So calming.

Cottage gardens were bursting with produce.

The walk up to the falls is always so charming. You have to walk through the end of town a bit but after you pass the Eneos gas station you are pretty much in seventh heaven.

I never tire of Japanese architecture. I love the old-style roofs on the old farmhouses.

I walked past the ancient pond, serene and still. Several ancient koi swam up to greet me as I lingered at the ponds edge listening to bull-frogs and watching ducks paddle lazily as dragonflies darted here and there over the water.

I paid a visit to the newly rebuilt shrine. The old building had burnt to the ground last year. It was really a shame. The old shrine building was several hundred years old.

There are all sorts of little lanes and paths that beg for exploring.

You never know what delight you’ll find when you wander down one of them.

I visited my friend up at the waterfall. She lives in my “dream house”. Her home / quaint little coffee shop is located at the bottom of the falls area. The air is filled with the sound of rushing water from the falls and gushing river.

She planted dozens and dozens of hydrangea bushes that line the road leading up to her place.

We chatted a few minutes and then I wandered around in the falls area and walked for a bit in the mountain.

I ate my simple little lunch slowly while listening to the sound of the waterfall, watching little bits of “something” (from the trees) falling from the tree-tops.Whatever it was, it was beautiful -swirling gently through the filtered rays of sunlight that shone down through the bamboo and pine trees. I watched as clumps of it floated down stream.

I noticed a brown snake decided that it was a nice day to sun bathe.

There are some cabins in the woods that belong to the local town. They are rented out (cheap) during the summer months. There is usually a crowd during the month of August when the Obon holidays come around.

I made my way back home. Down the mountain path. Down the road past the ancient pond and the koi who once again greeted me to say “see ya later”. Past the Torii gate to the shrine. Past Eneos and into town.

My little dog Chibi was glad to see me as I stepped into the genkan.

I’m really hoping for some more nice weather. I have many more adventures I need to go on….next week calls for rain…again.

Typhoon Neoguri- coming up our way

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We’ve been tracking this storm for the past few days.

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Since moving here we’ve had several typhoons blow through. None of them hit our area very hard at all although, there was some greater damage around other parts of Japan.

I’ve lived through some pretty mean storms on Saipan. The worst one was Super Typhoon Kim in 1986. She packed wind gusts of around 210 mph. The storm took 15 hours to pass us and caused catastrophic damage. We had no power or water for four months. We were lucky. Some areas took much longer to have services restored.

We’ve also had many smaller storms that us locals call ” banana typhoons”. Named so because they are only strong enough to knock over a few banana trees. So far all of the typhoons we’ve experienced here have been banana typhoons.

The worst part of the storm being huge amounts of rain – O-ame ( big rain).
More like torrential rains that cause extensive flooding and landslides.

We’ve been having torrential rains ahead of this storm. The rivers are maxed.

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It’s making landfall in Okinawa as I write this.

There are some storm chasers there that have been giving sporadic reports. ICyclone They are hunkering down on Miayko-Jima.

We shall see what this storm will bring us. I checked our bug-out bag yesterday and made sure it was up to date. In a while I’ll go outside and start securing all of my garden stuff. I’m going to try and figure out a way to secure my climbing rose.

It’s incredibly humid. We’ve had absolutely pouring rain for the past several days and today we’ve got the sun peeking through heavy cloud cover as this storm makes its way up to us. If this keeps up I’ll go for a walk after chores are done.

Stay safe people of Japan!

Getting ready for the Saipan trip and more…

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Yesterday was the second of several “training” days that I’ve volunteered to do for the BOE. We are taking a small group of children to Saipan next month for a home-stay- student exchange trip. I was asked if I could teach the kids a little about the culture and customs of Saipan.

The first weekend in August I’ll teach their mothers how to cook local (Saipan) food. We did that two years ago and it was a huge hit.

Next weekend I’ve been asked to participate in a question and answer session. I guess, from what I understand, the kairanba (I could be spelling it wrong in English) went around the community advertising a question and answer session between locals and “foreigners”. The kairanba is a community newsletter that goes from house to house.

I was told that there will be a few other “foreigners” there-but I’ll be the only woman.

My first thought was to decline the offer to attend but, then I thought,”be a good sport”.

Anyhow-it might be fun. I’m just wondering what sort of questions I’ll be asked. I’m going to have to remember to temper my responses to difficult questions. The older I’ve gotten the bolder and more outspoken I’ve become.

Weekend after that we are going camping with the family. Something I’m really looking forward to. I hope the weather holds up as we’ve had nothing but non-stop rain the past few days. Apparently there is a typhoon on the way.

I love the way the rain makes the rice fields and the area look though. So green and lush.

We have had a really cool wet summer so far. Japan’s hottest month seems to be August so we could still be in for some scorching days. Last year it seemed that one day in late may we woke up to scorching heat that got worse and worse. We had about a week (only) of “rainy season” and went right on into a full blast, hotter than hot, summer. I’m thankful for the relief this year. Japan has some of the hottest weather I’ve ever felt in my life. Summers can be down-right miserable with high heat and higher humidity. Right now I’ve got the windows open listening to the rain and I’m wearing a light sweater.

We have barely used our bedroom AC so far. That means a lower power bill-fine with me.

Nothing like a hot cup of coffee on a cool rainy day.