Japan’s Emergency Alert System

The rains, they just don’t stop.

Japan floods: 11 missing, 500,000 to evacuate after days of torrential rain in Fukuoka and Oita


Kumamoto on the left and Asakura on the right.

The JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency) says that this is historical…”Biblical proportions” if you will…and as I sit and write this it is still raining. We aren’t done yet.

And…typhoon season has just arrived.

As of now there are 11 people dead. I read another report that said 20. Who’s right? I don’t know. Only the dead and their families know that answer.

Yesterday we went to the in-laws home to see how things were. I am just ever so continually thankful. The house is located very near the river which had crested. The water from the sewer overflow came up to the genkan but not in the house. My brother-in-law had placed a barrier along the driveway entrance and it helped I guess.

The JMA emergency alert system went off twice on my phone this morning. Japan has a wonderful emergency alert system that I am sure must save lives.

It is a standard part of every mobile phone-I think please someone correct me if I am wrong.

I took a few shots from my phone this morning so you can see what it looks like.

I can’t really read the Japanese well so what I do is I scan the alert message with my google translate app on my ipad. It takes me a minute or so to read it but at least I get the message.

This gives everyone that has a mobile phone the chance to get to safety. Even if you don’t have a mobile phone someone around you does!

The weather report for as far into the future as my weather app goes says…rain. The damage is unbelievable already. I can not even fathom what more rain will do. There has been so much devastation and death already.

Crops in this part have been severely damaged / destroyed. We just finished planting rice, summer vegetables and fruits.

As I type the rain just keeps falling….at the moment pounding harder, coming down in buckets.

My husband is researching how and where we can volunteer to help. Help do anything. Help those in need. I don’t know what we can do but we will find out. I can’t just sit here and say “praise God we are safe”. To me being thankful equals action -we need to get out there and do something to help those who have been devastated by this.

I know that we aren’t alone here in Japan with our disaster. In every corner of the globe it seems that is all there is…disaster in every form.

I am most thankful for the inner peace that I have. Peace during the “storm”. No matter what kind of storm may be raging.

Update: my husband called a government agency regarding volunteerism- they said it’s too dangerous yet to allow volunteers in however they are setting up a system whereby we can donate money and later on relief items. I’ll keep you posted on what we will do. 

The Spring Countryside

We have barely had a spring here this year. It has been really cool, rainy and seeing the sun was a rare event.

When the sun was out (like today) then the particulate matter was through the roof and I wasn’t able to go outside. It’s such a shame -our area is so beautiful but in recent years we have had a problem with pollution blowing over from across the ocean. Today’s PM reading was 170!! That’s basically off the charts. I have asthma so even a moderately high reading is unhealthy for me. Today I would have needed a WW2 gas mask. People run around in flimsy little surgical masks when the PM is high but they don’t do much to really protect you. The stuff gets into your eyes, your hair…everything.  It deposits a fine yellowish grit onto everything.

I hide indoors with the windows shut.

BUT about two weeks ago we had such a nice day so I threw my chores aside and hit the road. Gosh did that ever feel good! I walked 11 kilometers.

What a perfect day-sunshine and moderate PM readings.

The fuji was in bloom and I didn’t even realize it until I came up over the hill and there it was-cascading down the trellis in the old playground. Because the spring has been so gloomy I haven’t been out much to really notice.

I wandered down the road just enjoying the gardens. I think that is one of my favorite parts about living in the countryside-the cottage gardens.

Usually located right around the house or in the sunniest spot on the property. No home is really complete here without some form of vegetable patch.

I saw that the clover was also in bloom. The rice farmers plant a crop of pink clover in the rice fields as green manure. Right before planting time it will get cut down and plowed under.

I stood here for a long time watching big chubby bees drifting from flower to flower while dozens of butterflies played tag.

May 5th is boy’s day and I saw several houses already flying the carp…

My husband told me that these are extremely expensive. Some sets cost up to $10,000 USD. I have no idea why anyone would want to spend that much on carp flags. The are pretty though.

There are several old farm houses that I love looking at. I hope that I don’t make the occupants feel uncomfortable when I stand out on the road for several minutes and just stare at the house. I’m fascinated by the way they look. They remind me of old fairy-tale homes.

Just look at this old place.

It looks like one good sneeze from the farmer could reduce the place to matchsticks. He still parks his tractor in there!

Here are a few shots from the other side. I wish I could just wander around there and take photos. I’ll just bet there is some interesting stuff laying around!

Wildflowers were in abundance along the roadside,in hedge-grows and creeping from crevices in old stone walls. Actually they were just everywhere!

As I got near the foot of the mountain I noticed these interesting plants. I have no idea what they were. They kind-of looked like some sort of bamboo.

This little lane looked so inviting to me. For some reason it brought back childhood memories.

I passed by this gate that I’ve never noticed before.

It took me about 45 minutes to reach the foot of the mountain and the waterfall.

There is a different sort of beauty up here. A rugged and wild kind of beauty.

I spent a little bit of time listening to the powerful sounds of the river and the waterfall and then I slowly made my way back home.

There is a fence along the way that I always look forward to seeing because it changes with the seasons.

I’ll leave you with a photo of it….






Hina Matsuri, Rickshaw Rides, Planting and WIP

The weekend was busy!

On Friday a group of us gals visited the historical home of one of the five coal mine kings of our area. This entire area was once a wealth of coal mines owned by 5 men who are known as: The Five Kings of Coal Mining.

One of them was this man-Santaro Hori. In the photo he stands proudly with his wife, daughter and son. His villa is still standing and well cared for. The family has donated it to the town as a historical landmark and museum. He was a very wealthy man-multi millionaire in his time-during a time when that was an impossible dream for most.

His former home is usually not open to the public-at least not the entire home. They do hold classes in some rooms. You can take a Japanese patchwork class or origami classes. I believe they also have Tea Ceremony lessons.

During Hina Matsuri the home is opened to the public and you can walk through it. There are no furniture left in the home but it isn’t difficult to imagine how grand it must have been.

Before I continue I have to tell you that I had a “catastrophic failure” according to my computer when I was transferring the photos of the house from camera to my laptop. Indeed-I accidentally erased ALL of them. So….here is a link to a post I wrote last year about this home. You can have a look at the photos I took there. It really is a beautiful home–>Touring Saijikan.

At any rate- the gals and I decided to view the Hina Matsuri display there. The first collection you come across when you visit is the patchwork display inside the over 100 year old storage building turned display room.

I love looking at all the wonderful handiwork. So beautiful! There were a couple of ladies on hand giving demonstrations in ball making.
The balls have a Styrofoam base and the material used are all vintage kimono scraps.

Very interesting to us crafters! We left the patchwork display and went on to view the Hina Doll display which was pretty much the same as last year’s display-fortunately you can view the display on last year’s post.

This year I learned something that I didn’t know last year. I remembered wondering what this was:

I thought it was a chute of some kind. Mrs. NI said-chute? Oh,no. This is an indoor access to the window shutters. This home was “state of the art” back in the day-they didn’t have to go outside to close the shutters. They could do it from the inside of the home. She demonstrated for me-she works here as a volunteer so it was okay.


We walked along the beautiful corridors down to the doll display. The home is so lovely!

The kimono display marked the entrance to the display room.

And that marks the end of the photos because the rest are deleted!

We decided to visit two more places that had Hina Matsuri festival displays-the local coal mining museum and another smaller museum in town.

As we were leaving the historical home the local rickshaw driver was outside and asked if we wanted a ride! There were free rides today for the ladies! So…why not? We hopped on board and away we went!

Actually it is such a shame that I lost all those photos because the coal mining museum was awesome. I had never toured a coal mining museum before and I was fascinated by the old photographs. What a grueling job that must have been. I saw photos of men, women and children who worked in the mines. I was shocked at many of them because they worked completely naked. The women had a covering on their bottoms but the men were completely naked. I asked -why? I was told that the mines were extremely hot and being naked was the only way to bear being in them. Things changed later on and safety requirements were established requiring clothing and safety equipment. The equipment is on display and all I can say is-having seen the breathing apparatus needed I would never want to work in the mines. It was quite horrific looking.

It was an awesome day and I learned much about the past history of this area.

The following day was absolutely brilliant and I was able to get out into the garden and get some work done. I got some lettuce planted.

I got the snow peas in the planter boxes and I potted a few pansies.

Very satisfying!

I’ve also been working on a load of crochet projects! Not the best photo-sorry. I just threw them in a heap onto the tatami!

We are definitely in early spring here-such a fun time of year!

Spring Activity

Early spring and all the lovely activity that comes with it lifts the spirits!

Let me tell you first about an activity that I’ve discovered since moving here. It isn’t just a spring activity but it is easiest for me to participate in during spring……gathering sansai.

Sansai is the Japanese word for mountain vegetable – wild edible plants found in the fields, river banks and woodlands of the Japanese countryside. There are some interesting facts about gathering and using sansai BUT I’ve just written an article for Taikan Japan on that subject in my new series for them: At Home in Rural Japan. When the article is released soon I’ll share the link here -don’t want to be a spoiler.

For now-just come along with me as we forage for nanohana. When I took you on the walk down to the shrine and historical home a while back I shared a photo of a single stem of nanohana, one of the harbingers of spring. They are beginning to pop up everywhere now and this is the perfect time to forage for them. You can buy them cut and neatly packed at the farmer’s market but it is so much more enjoyable to wander the little country roads, dirt paths and fields gathering them yourself. This is what I have been doing almost daily.

Donning my garden apron and a light jacket, basket in hand I set off for my secret spot where I’ve discovered a small field of newly sprouting, tender nanohana.



They are best picked when they look like this-rather like mini broccoli heads and in fact they are closely related to the broccoli family.

Walking among the spring grasses and ferns I savor the freshness that spring brings. I’m listening for the sound of the uguisu which will soon be heard singing through the valley-the loveliest bird song I have ever heard. A swarm of the tiniest of winged insects hover over a patch of snowdrops as I tread gingerly through the little patch I’ve found. I am overwhelmed with gratitude at what the Lord freely provides for me and I take only what we will eat for dinner tonight.

It is such a lovely day so I decide to wander a bit. Down by the river the ume trees are almost in full bloom and they look lovely draped over the river banks.


The bare trees you see here are sakura which are now full of buds and soon this humble river bank will be as glorious as any grand riverbank in Japan. We have already planned our hanami party. This year we will have a small BBQ on our patio so that mother and father in law can sit comfortably and enjoy viewing the sakura that are all around our home.

The path that runs along the riverside is inviting with its elegant carpet of moss and I wander down along the river’s edge until I reach the farm road at the end. There is a stunningly beautiful old farm house that sits right on the corner and as I look up I see a white Japanese heron perched right on top of the roof.


I watched it for quite a while-it never moved. What an interesting and beautiful scene. Standing for several minutes-I admired the home and wondered how on earth they kept that huge tree so beautifully manicured. It is quite expensive to have that done professionally. As I walked past the front of the home I laughed when I noticed that the crest on the roof-top edge was…a crane! The crest is located on the four corners of the home on each level of roof.


My wandering took me past a few old farmhouses and down to the small lake. Soon the trees along the lake’s edge will be full of nesting heron. I guess this is actually not a lake but one of the many rivers that run criss-cross through our area and all of Japan.


It was time to return home and prepare for dinner. Nanohana are easy to cook. I soak them first in a large basin of water-rinsing and changing the water several times. Then I boil them for about 2 minutes, drain them and refresh them in cold water for around 30 seconds.

The entire plant can be eaten-flower tops, stem and leaf.



After that they are squeezed to removed the excess water and cut up in to about 1 inch sized pieces. Seasoning is simple-I drizzle them with sesame oil and citrus soy-sauce. Today I added small crispy dried and fried fish. Really delicious.


My vegetables cooked -I set about placing the few wild flowers I foraged into vases around the house. The little wall vases are just darling. I found them the other day at our local Daiso of all places!


Now onto the next activity- sowing my flower seeds and nursing them until they grow into seedlings and the weather warms enough to put them into the ground.


Old Houses

Our narrow little lane seemed a bit wider today. I noticed that some of the brush had been cleared from the side. Upon closer inspection I saw what had been hidden under a tangle of vines and bamboo grown out of control.


The old house had been buried under thick vegetation for years. In the six that we have lived on this little lane it was the first time that I had seen more than just the toilet pipe sticking out of the bushes.


This is what the first homes built in this area looked like.


There is no insulation in the walls. They were hot in the summer and cold in the winter. There is one next to it that is still in fairly good condition on the outside. At least twice a year I see a group of elderly folks cutting the grass and cleaning up around yard. I’m sure the house isn’t habitable anymore. A while ago I saw a mother cat and her kittens had made a home here as she was carrying them one by one inside through a hole in the wall.


Right across from our house there is one of these old homes.


It’s been two years now that Mrs. K has passed away. She had lived here all her life and was almost 90 when she died. Often when I am in the front garden in the morning my gaze rests on her home and I remember her beautiful voice as it came lilting into my garden. She was a karaoke teacher and used to practice singing  in the early morning.

Part of our house still has these type of walls- as the original home was actually one of these. It had been remolded a bit many years ago. The newer part is about 45 years old…the older parts 70 or so.

Hubby and I were chatting this morning over tea. He recalled his childhood winters. Of course there was no central heat in the house.  The ofuro (Japanese soaking tub-or bath tub) was not attached to the house-you had to walk a bit across the yard to get to the wood slat shack it was housed in. There were gaps in the wood walls and the winter wind whistled in making bath time pretty chilly in cold weather. He remembered one winter there were little piles of snow inside along one wall where the wind had driven snow through the cracks. When he was old enough it was his job to start the fire and heat the water for bath time.

How starkly opposite of how I grew up and yet here I am…living in rural Japan…without central heat all these years later. Life is interesting sometimes-isn’t it?



Cold Has Come (and 0ther odds-n-ends)

After hauling the laundry out of the washer my hands were numb. The washer sits outside of the ofuro (tub room) in a little tin-roofed mudroom type area that is attached to the house. Temps have been dropping into the 40’s and 30’s. Not bad I guess if you live in a country where homes are centrally heated-unlike Kyushu Japan.

The first year here was hard. Mornings were the worst. The alarm would go off at around 6am and I’d have to use all my willpower to make myself get out of bed and face the freezing kitchen. Before leaving the bedroom which has an electric heater / AC type wall unit (too expensive to put into every room) I’d don sweatpants, knee socks, a long-sleeved undershirt, sweatshirt,  neck warmer , long fingerless “house” gloves, slippers and my sweat jacket.

Once in the kitchen I hit the power button on the kerosene stove and then the coffeemaker switch. After I fired up the gas stove to cook breakfast things heated up pretty quick. There is a thermometer on the kerosene stove that registers the indoor temp-most mornings during the winter the room temp is around 10-12 degrees c-about 50 degrees F. Last winter it was around 8 degrees c for a while or about 46 degrees F.

Most mornings before the kitchen heats up you can clearly see your breath when you talk or exhale just for the fun of seeing your breath in the kitchen.

You can always see your breath in the toilet room. Thank goodness our toilet seat is heated.

Nothing much has changed except that we are used to it now. Except the freezing cold tub-room. You never really get used to that. No heat at all in there. There is a technique to surviving taking a bath in the winter. The trick is to get into the hot tub as fast as possible and sit in it until your body is heated. Then getting out and scrubbing down isn’t so bad-it’s almost a relief when you are super heated from the hot water. The Japanese ofuro is hot-really hot. Specially in winter and now I understand why. Sure feels awesome on a cold winter’s day. I still think it’s funny how steam rises from your entire body when you first get out of the tub.

So the days have become cold now and we are wondering how much snow we will get this year. This area doesn’t get much but, it does get cold. Rumor has it that this winter will be a very cold one with more snow than usual.

At the moment we are at the end of our extended autumn. The ginkgo trees seem to be at peak and the leaves are starting to fall off.



My inner child loves shuffling through the golden leaves on the way to the store. I never get tired of shuffling thru autumn leaves nor of the earthy smell that rises up from the chilly ground.


The photo above invokes feelings of sadness-not sure why.

Our front momiji will soon be bare. It didn’t “autumn” nicely this year like it usually does. It went red quite suddenly and developed a scraggly look. Perhaps the scorching summer had something so do with it.


Hard to believe that in a little over three weeks the New Year will be upon us. Local grocery stores are starting to display New Year decorations. Actually they are more than just decorations, they each have a cultural and traditional significance.

Pictured below is a bin of shimekazari-sort of a wreath you hang on the front door.


I wrote a blog post a while ago about the meanings of the Japanese New Year decorations:

Shimekazari, Kagami Mochi, Kadomatsu and the kami

Just for the fun of it-a quick snap of our local grocery store. It’s kind of a mini-department store with groceries on one side and clothing / blankets / carpets etc on the other. There is a pharmacy way in the back and a new 100 yen section too. This is my usual go to store-about a 15-20 minute walk from the house. In the center they set up some tables and chairs and you are welcome to buy pre-cooked bento or a sandwich and eat at one of the tables. I actually do that sometimes. Makes life interesting and sometimes I end up meeting someone new. People are curious about “foreigners” and often approach me with questions. Now that my Japanese is better I don’t mind.


We have yet to secure a ryokan for our annual family New Year. Several years ago-since we moved back to Japan actually, MIL decided that she wanted the family to spend the New Year holidays at a traditional Japanese inn where no one would have to cook. Cooking traditional foods is a huge part of the New Year celebration in Japan. Each dish has a special significance (post to come later). It is quite a lot of work for the womenfolk.The menfolk have the task of keeping the plastic tubs full of ice and beer and drinking it.

This year hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) are full across Kyushu. We may have found something in Nagasaki but- not sure. Everything is up in the air right now and one possibility is that our home turn into “ryokan” for the event. Not something my husband nor I really want but if there is no place else to go then that might be a possibility.

And just a postscript: for those that don’t know-I have a separate blog where I blog about my Christian faith and related issues Ordinary Faith


Higan-the Autumn Equinox

The day of the autumn equinox is a holiday here and I’ve always loved that because Autumn is my favorite season.

There is a saying in Japan:

“The summer heat or winter cold doesn’t last after Higan.”

Higan is said to be a turning point in the season and it is- as far as I have observed.

Higan or Ohigan is actually a Buddhist tradition observed on both the spring and autumn equinox. It is similar to Obon. It’s a time when families visit cemeteries to pay their respects to ancestors.

I’ve noticed that it is also a time when merchants turn the tide from summer to autumn wares.

I love it simply because it is the official start of Autumn.

The equinox, when summer officially hands over the keys and bids a final farewell. The last threads of summer were washed silently away in the mist. Not even a leaf stirred. There was no sound except for the ever present caw of the giant crows-karasu.


Even the scarecrows stood reticent guard over the elementary school rice field as  giant black karasu sat perched above on the electric lines…. eyeing up the persimmon trees that were now dotted with orange fruit.

As I walk about town I see that several of the persimmon trees have already been ravaged by the birds. During this time of the year it’s best to avoid walking under a persimmon tree. There are several that grow up over the walls above the sidewalk. Smashed fruit and bird-droppings smear the old concrete walks beneath them.



It seems that Higanbana have sprung up everywhere over the past few days. A sure sign that autumn has truly arrived. In ditches, lining the edges of rice fields and poking up in clumps in hedgerows and road-sides. Their spindly red blossoms add bright autumn color to our landscape.


This is also the time when moon viewing is at its best.


There is actually a moon-viewing festival here. Everywhere actually. It is a Japanese traditional festival called Otsukimi that usually takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month of the traditional Japanese calendar which is different from our modern calendar.

Otsukimi dates back to around the year 710 and was mainly celebrated by aristocrats who held moon viewing parties and read poetry, drank sake and generally had a great time out in the cool autumn evening.

Observing Otsukimi is wonderful. Traditionally round white mochi (rice dumplings) are eaten during this time and it is common to see decorations of the full moon hanging in the night sky while rabbits below pound rice into mochi. Americans talk about the “man in the moon” but Japanese say there are rabbits on the moon. I had no idea until some friends in ladies group explained the meaning of the rabbit/moon motifs.

first day of Autumn
my heart is pounding wild
Ah! The full moon

Matsuo Basho

The big cemetery across the valley reminds me that Higan is here. A week before the spring and autumn equinox the huge Kanji character “dai” is illuminated on the mountainside.

I can see it clearly from my back garden.

The “dai” blazes across the valley as the harvest moon illuminates the tops of now fading azalea leaves. A slight cool breeze gently stirs the faded bamboo sunshade as crickets chirrup from one side of the garden to the other. Sitting quietly in the dark I smell the earth and the tangy aroma of autumn fruit.

It is good to be alive but it is good to be reminded that everything changes.

The Local Gym- What A Surprise

Several months ago I decided that I wanted to do more to try and keep myself fit and healthy. I looked around our little town for some sort of gym or health club and I found that we had one. Just one. The facility has a gym and two pools so I thought okay, I’ll go have a look. 

Hubby and I ran over there on a Saturday afternoon to ask about pricing and to have a look at the facilities. 

I have to say that I choked a bit when I saw their price chart. They have a strange system here. The plans that were affordable for me were set up with strange hours- you had to choose a certain three hour block of time in which to use the facilities. Thing was they have all manner of classes and programs running so, on certain days, you might not be able to swim ( that’s really what I wanted to do) because there was a class being held in the pool. 

After some hemming and hawing I ended up choosing the ” eight days a month” plan. I can use the facilities at any time of day for a total of eight days a month. They threw in Sunday’s as a free day. So basically I can go three times a week- if they aren’t closed for cleaning or a holiday. 

I used to go to Gold’s Gym in Saipan – any time any day for $35 a month. I’m paying double here for eight days. 

Anyhow- I got a membership and I love being able to use the pool and gym again. 

I was a ” gym rat” and if you know anything about being a gym rat you know that there is a whole other culture in the gym. You worry about having the right clothes and accessories. Everyone is strutting around showing off their muscles and such. 

I didn’t really know what to expect and I was in for a total surprise. 

That first day that I walked into the gym I looked around and thought- humm, must be senior citizen’s day today. I seemed to be the youngest person there and I’m over fifty. If I took a guess I’d say the general age group present was between 60-80. I noticed that they were a pretty spry bunch! 

There were several grannies walking side by side on treadmills watching a local sports event on the huge wall mounted screen. A couple of grandpas were laughing and joking while leisurly pedaling stationary bikes. 

In the corner of the gym a stretching class was being held and a mixed gender group of elderly folks were concentrating on the teacher’s instructions. 

I wandered back to the free weight area and thought about my routine when I noticed a man with one leg on the press machine. When he was done he grabbed his walker and made his way over to the next machine. 

I felt like I was in the twilight zone. The only gyms I’d ever been in were filled with young, scantily dressed patrons. That fit the description of no one in this gym. 

Actually- it was such a relief and I thought- I’m always coming on senior citizen’s day! 

After my workout I wanted to try the pool . They have a fantastic walking pool. I watched as about a dozen or so elderly folk walked, bobbed and floated around and around the 19 meter pool. 

I was kind of self- conscious walking across the mat floor to the pool as everyone was watching me. I could hear whispers of ” gaikokugin” ( foreigner). I made my way gingerly down the steps into the pool and was greeted by several folks saying ” Konnichiwa”. I nodded and returned the greeting. 

I walked round and round with the group – surreal. Not a young person in sight. 

Soon everyone started gathering in the corner of the pool. I had no idea what was happening so I just kept right on going round and round. About the third time ’round a little old lady in a flowered bathing suit and pink swim cap flagged me down and said to get ready for ” teacher”. Teacher? Yes, teacher, it was time for walking class. 

Walking class? As soon as I asked ” teacher” came bounding into the pool and after greetings and bowing we commenced ” warming up” for walking class. 

Walking class was like nothing I’d ever participated in before. ” Teacher” led us is a series of various walking exercises with everyone going at there own pace. There were some who bounded right along and others who gently floated doing the best they could….at 82 years old. 

One old man, I call him the smiling ojiisan ( grandpa) – he just bounced and bobbed along with the biggest grin on his face! You could tell that he was having the time of his life! You could also tell that he was popular with the little old ladies… 

At about the third set I was pushed ( gently) to the front of the line because I was faster than everyone else. 

Class ended and after cool downs and bows and thanking the teacher for teaching -we were dismissed. 

I left feeling amused, surprised and relieved because I found out that it wasn’t senior citizen’s day. This was a normal day! 

As I left the facilities I saw the pool group sitting at the tables in the lobby eating bento lunches. 

My husband said young people don’t have the time nor the finances to go to a health club.  Wow, well… Okay then. He was right- the gym and pool are always crowded with seniors. I’m the young person! 

Now I have many friends at the ” club”. I’ve gotten to know the ” smiling grandpa” and many little old ladies. All lovely people! It’s no longer a strange place for me. It’s become familiar and part of my life here. A place where I’ve met friends and have integrated just a bit more into the community. 

I had quit going for a time but realized that was a mistake. I do much better when I stick to a regular exercise program. 

Walking around Japan

You may or may not have heard of the Japanese island of Shikoku. In case you don’t know, the “mainland” of Japan is made up of 4  islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu.

There is a famous pilgrimage on Shikoku that thousands of pilgrims have walked and continue to walk.

This website–( http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/) has great information about the pilgrimage.

If you haven’t seen it- the PBS show Sacred Journeys had a special about the “Shikoku 88”. You can watch the full episode here:


And one more link I’d like to share will take you to a WordPress blog called Grace is Walking Around Shikoku-a personal account of having walked the pilgrimage:


There are several personal accounts written by those that have walked it. Tales of a Summer Henro by Craig McLachlan comes to mind. It’s so-so but I did enjoy reading about his experiences.

Oliver Statler’s book on Shikoku, Japanese Pilgrimage is excellent but it seems to be out of print. I managed to order a used copy on Amazon Japan.

Just a note-I can’t seem to insert hyper links that’s why the raw links are posted.

BUT-this post isn’t really about the Shikoku pilgrimage. What got me thinking about it was my dream of walking it while I was walking around town on Friday. I walk everywhere because I don’t drive in Japan. I do drive but, not here-exactly why is a story for another blog post.

So, I walk everywhere. I walk to go to my various appointments in town. I walk to do my shopping. I have the cutest little shopping cart on wheels-total necessity here for us house-wife types.

I also walk just to wander. Those are my favorite walking times. During the rainy season I can’t really do that much because we get sudden torrential rains accompanied by thunder and lightening and you really don’t want to get caught walking around in “O-ame” (torrential rain).

On Friday I walked to the pool / gym center and then I decided to walk up to Trial. Trial is the Japanese version of KMart, I guess. There is no version of “Walmart” here.

I wear a sports band so that I can keep track of my kilometers and such. Friday’s total walk was 6 kilometers, almost 4 miles. That was just walking to the pool, the store and home. It just happened to be the start of the hot and sweltering Japanese summer-meaning it was the first really hot day. The humidity is around 89-92% during the summer months. I’m always drenched.

Friday’s walk was a challenge, the humidity was around 90%. As I was walking up hill to Trial I kept thinking-what if I was walking the henro trail? Henro is the Japanese word for pilgrim. In order to complete the pilgrimage in around 45 days on foot you need to walk at least 25-30 kilometers per day. I was having a hard time just walking to Trial with my light backpack that I carry my swimming gear in.

On the henro trail you are carrying a pack on your back that contains everything you need for at least 45 days. Could I do that? Maybe?

I don’t know. My hip started bothering me on the way home. I’ve had it checked out a few times but they have no idea what it is. It’s most likely my scoliosis. It’s Sunday and it still hurts. Could I walk for 45 days straight 25-30 kilometers a day?

You might be thinking-why on earth would you WANT to?

That’s a good question. Have you heard of “wanderlust”? The urge to travel or wander. The word’s origins are German, from the word wandern to wander + Lust desire, pleasure.

I’ll admit it-I am a wanderer. I have been since childhood. The reality of it is that I can’t just wander around this planet at will, coming and going as I please always in search of new adventures. Wouldn’t that be grand though?

Yes and no I suppose.

The thing is wanderlust lives inside of me like an unquenchable fire. Now a days a full day of trekking to nowhere in particular seems to satisfy that wandering urge inside me for a time. As I age I realize what I can and can’t do and if I don’t realize it, my hip reminds me.

But…the Shikoku 88..now that would be an experience. There are so many pilgrims wandering around there. I dream about walking and sharing experiences. Talking story while sitting in some road-side shelter or at a temple tsuyado after a long day of walking. Sharing a cup of tea and a mikan received as settai (alms) from a stranger. Slurping udon in a hot noodle shop and listening to stories of the trail as told by the owner while a greasy dust laden fan whirs softly on the counter.

I could wander freely for 45 days. A structured wandering. A safe wandering.

I thought about it as I walked home Friday. I took the back road that runs in-between a narrow bamboo thicket and rice fields interspersed with cottage gardens. The wind blowing through the bamboo trees made a unique clacking sound. I heard chanting and as I turned my gaze across the flooded rice field towards the ancient temple on the hill, the priest began to strike the temple bell. Two white cranes, startled by the sound, looked up from their insect hunt and flapped their wings.

Stopping for a moment, I smiled. I’m not unaware of what’s happening on the planet. The evil and terror but, here in Japan, I can wander. I can enjoy the beauty and wonder of this beautiful place.

Maybe I’ll forever be the pilgrim of short pilgrimages. Leaving early in the morning after chores are done to return home in time to cook dinner. Kind of a part-time pilgrim.

By the way…because so many people emailed me and asked me not to turn off comments they are back on. I just may not have time to respond to your comments right now but you are welcome to tell me what’s on your mind….



Patchwork Curtains and random scenery

There are times when I feel completely exasperated with things. Like right now. It’s silly stuff, nothing big really.

I’m sure the ladies (maybe a few guys) will be able to relate.

I really want to fix up our home a bit but there are so many issues….to move or not to move is the first and foremost issue. At the moment the move is on hold as Okasan has made a miraculous recovery and it seems no one need panic right now. Anyhow-we really would rather not move now…and then move again in the future.

The second issue is finances. We really don’t want to pour a lot of money into a place that we know is temporary.

But…….it’s driving me nuts not to be able to do much. I mean, it’s a great little old Japanese house. It needs repair in some areas that we must take care of or else we won’t be able to use a room or two. The wood used for the flooring was really thin plywood and it’s spongy in areas. If we don’t fix that soon we will fall right through the floor into the crawl-space under the house.

I made some very simple plans for a small organized sewing / craft area. There was furniture in the home and I kept a big wardrobe that I’m going to put shelves in to make it more functional. I’m really big on using what I have.

The wardrobe will be the central piece and plywood work counters will be made around it-or on the side, depending.

I’ve also stumbled upon several websites with tutorials and ideas on using fabric to spruce things up. I’ve fallen in love with patchwork curtains! I looked at them and I thought….hummm….what a cute way to brighten up rooms. I have some plans to make a few for open cabinet cover-ups and table skirts.

Pinterest is my friend. Have you done any cheap redecorating? Any ideas?

The pictures in the slideshow below are random “out of the car window” shots I took today on the way to the doctor’s office. They are raw-unedited and sorta blurry….but the scenery is beautiful!

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