Alone but not lonely. On being a part-time hermit.

Something I’ve mulled over for a while now was to write more candidly and openly about life here. So far I’ve only been brave enough to give tid-bits. A glimpse here and there of life here. I guess I always hesitate because I didn’t want it to seem like I was looking for advice or help.

I’m definitely not.

I have several reasons for wanting to blog more candidly  and all of them have to do with the writing craft. I’ll just leave it at that.

On with the post….

Confession: I live the life of a part-time hermit.  I actually thought of starting a blog entitled “The Accidental Hermit” but I’ve never really been successful at starting another blog. I always end up back here.

I didn’t plan on living semi-secluded it just sort of happened upon moving here. Have I tried to broaden my “horizons”? Yes.  Am I unsociable ? Not in the least. Do I enjoy part-time hermitude ? I do now. I actually think it fits me perfectly as I consider myself rather eccentric. My husband agrees.

I’ve come to accept the way things are and I’m content now.

I wonder about how many other foreigners find themselves “accidental” hermits in Japan. I doubt that I am alone. It’s just…Japan. It’s an awesome country, really. I love living here. I can completely understand how they have managed to isolate themselves from “outsiders” for so long. In general, and this opinion is only based upon MY personal experience as a middle-aged foreign female with no children living in Japan– I’d say that most indigenous in these parts do not exhibit the willingness to get to know others who are different (as in foreign). They don’t even carry on casual conversations with each other.

They aren’t unfriendly, actually. But it doesn’t seem like genuine friendliness it’s more like curiosity about a stranger in their midst. Taking the time to cultivate a real friendship seems to be rare. In six years I have found two that have actually gone beyond the curiosity stage. But not very far beyond.

I mused about this fact as I was standing in line at gate 14c in Atlanta waiting for my flight to Nashville. We were a small group of passengers waiting for “zone 2” to board. We didn’t know one-another but in that good ole’ American way we struck up a conversation standing there in line. It just really hit me–that never happens in Japan. Strangers do not just strike up conversations with each-other. My husband and I have talked about this fact many times.

Becoming a part-time hermit in Japan wasn’t really that difficult. Since it’s such a big part of my life I thought-why not start blogging about it? Might be interesting for some to read about.

More from the PT Hermitage later.

PT= part-time

 

 

Healthy Eating-Japanese vegetables

This is a shot of a typical grocery haul for us. Notice all the fresh vegetables.

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I was surfing the net not long ago and came across a photo of a typical grocery haul by a family in another country and I was startled because the table was piled high with packaged foods, junk foods, sodas and other non-nutritious foods.

It made me think about how really fortunate we are to live here. Healthy eating is not something out of the ordinary, it’s the norm. At least for us, in this area.

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This is a picture of my typical breakfast: a grilled fish, scrambled eggs with onions, spinach, mushrooms or some other vegetable. Vegetable miso soup, komatsuna-wakame (mustard cabbage and seaweed) with a vinegar and sesame seed oil dressing, 50 grams of rice from our farm-topped with grated daikon radish in the photo.

Hubby eats the same. We wash it down with hot green tea.

This is kind of a typical Japanese breakfast. Add natto for hubby (I can not get past the smell).

I really enjoy cooking with all the wonderful vegetables from the farmers market.

Fresh spinach gets par-boiled, drained and squeezed. Then I cut it up and top it with dried, shaved bonito (fish).

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Eggplant ready for grilling…..

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Lovey vegetable miso-soup. Ingredients are Chinese cabbage, carrots, onion, wakame (seaweed). I use kombu dashi (a broth made from seaweed) as the base and then I add 2 tablespoons of miso paste. Healthy and hearty!

 

 

Our Church here in Japan

Last Sunday our pastor held a special service for the children that attend the kindergarten that is attached to the church. The children are mostly from non-Christian homes- Japan is 1% Christian. For the kids to even be attending the kindergarten in the first place is awesome.

If you talk about “Jesus” around these parts most people have never heard of him or have sort of heard of him. They know absolutely nothing of the Bible much less who Jesus was. Not long ago I had someone ask me if Santa was the Christian god. Really.

Our pastor has his work cut out for him trying to explain Bible stories that are so culturally different people can’t imagine what he is trying to tell them. Even in their own language. Many times there are no direct translations of words so it’s hard to get the point across.

On Sunday pastor stood in the front and had big colorful picture teaching cards that he held up in front of him while he told the nativity story to the children and some parents that came.

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Without visuals it is really difficult to try and tell children about the various Bible stories. Pastor did a great job telling the story with a fantastic animated voice. The kids really listened to him. So did the parents.

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It isn’t easy for Japanese to become Christians. Their culture and  religion is ingrained into every aspect of their lives. That’s all I will say about it. Things are the way they are here and I have seen that God is blessing this church.

Christians now a day spend too much time arguing over what is and isn’t the way to lead others to Jesus….and not enough time loving. There is a lot of love in this church. It isn’t the kind of church I imagined God would pick out for us but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it is where we belong. It is an Anglican church. Many things are different from what I am used to but that’s OKAY-the point is we have fellowship with other believers in JAPAN. We concentrate on loving each other and helping our community where we can.  I’m thankful.

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Japanese word of the day–Ganbatte….

Ganbatte- a very common and deeply meaningful word in the Japanese language. It can be used in many different situations. It conveys a spirit of – do not give up, persevere… Etc. one of the many things that I’ve come to love about living in Japan is this spirit of rallying around those who are facing difficulty. I’ve faced many trials while living here and when friends and family know of my difficulties they bolster me up by saying ” ganbatte!”. They don’t say- ” oh, poor you” or ” I’m so sorry” etc… Oh, no- they rally behind you and hold you up and tell you to be strong and endure! Don’t give up! Keep going! — when I understood the deeper meaning and intention I grew to love this ideology — it’s not just a ” word” there is a whole positive and supportive spirit that is behind it.

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.