Challah

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My first-ever handmade challah.

I observe the Shabbat (Sabbath) beginning Sundown Friday to Sundown Saturday. For a long time I have wanted to try baking challah- not that we must have challah on Shabbat it isn’t a commandment. It’s just that I think that a loaf of challah is so beautiful and makes the Shabbat dinner table look so pretty.

There is also a lot of symbolism in challah that I think reminds us of why we observe the Shabbat.

It takes a while to produce a loaf. Bread-baking takes time but that’s ok because I didn’t want it to be a fast activity. I wanted to take my time and savor the process.

Some of the things that I thought about this afternoon while I was preparing my challah:

There are seven basic ingredients is challah: flour, sugar, water, yeast, eggs, oil,  and salt. The number 7 reminds me that we are commanded to rest on the 7th day.

I made my challah into a three strand braid. The three strands reminded me of this scripture:

Ecclesiastes 4:12  And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

The number three also reminds me of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.

The bread itself reminded me of the command to remember  Yeshua’s sacrifice and resurrection. It also reminded me of the scripture:

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, “It is written: ‘A man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “

This particular recipe called for 6 minutes of kneading so I embraced that part of the process and used the time to pray. I think I went a bit over time in kneading. I had a lot to pray about.

I also spent time contemplating the upcoming month of Elul and the 40 day period of repentance and introspection until Yom Kippur- the Day of Atonement.

The table looked so beautiful tonight-so much so that my husband asked many questions. This “loaf of bread” was the catalyst that opened up some very good discussion about faith.

I used to think that participating in rituals like this was not necessary and actually they aren’t. Our salvation isn’t based upon whether or not we bake challah on Shabbat. However, today I found that this task of mixing and kneading and contemplating ….it really enriched my Shabbat. I could see that it gave something to my husband also- who is just in the beginning stages of learning this new faith.

I adhere to the Shabbat, Feast Days and other mitzvot alone here. There are many ways we can observe the Shabbat even if we do not belong to a congregation.

I just read an excellent blog post about observing the Shabbat alone-you can find it HERE.

 

 

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

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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. 

Thankful for…..

Everything. I’m just thankful for everything. Having seen many different things on my trip last month and now being back “home” I sense that I am much more content than I was before I left.

Much of it has to do with my personal spiritual life and studies…which I won’t go into here. ( I heard several of you breathing a sigh of relief..lol)

Yesterday was the American Independence Day and I celebrated my freedom with a few Japanese lady friends. We ate watermelon, cornbread (because I brought a mix with me) and I taught them “flag facts” and a bit of history about the day.

I was really surprised that they were so interested and had a great time. I gave them little gifts of American Flag parade “wavers” bundled up with some Japanese hanabi or basically sparklers.

It poured rain the whole day. It poured even harder today! We had such a loud peal of thunder over the house I thought the windows would crack. There are warnings around the nation for flash floods and landslides…I heard people were evacuated.

I always wonder how many people have bug-out bags or some sort of emergency kit? Which reminds me, I need to get into our bug out bag and see if I need to change out the clothing. We have a fairly good sized bug out bag that I stock with various items including our passports and important documents. I also include at least two changes of clothing for each of us and I update them according to season. Don’t want summer clothing in there for a winter emergency and vice-versa.

I looked outside during one downpour and I saw a dragonfly desperately clinging to a bare branch. I grabbed my camera and took this amazing photo of it. The branches were shaking from the rain so it isn’t perfectly focused….but still it’s an awesome photo. Reminds me of a fairy-like creature.

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My garden has positively exploded. The tomato vines have covered the little side windows in the engawa.

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Today I opened the window and plucked off a few tomatoes. Funny. At least I didn’t have to go out into the rain.

A little girl that comes to my house for English was shocked by the size of my sunflower. This was actually planted by the birds! I’m going to save the seeds and plant them in pots. I’ll have pots of giant sunflowers at our new home!

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Speaking of our new home I’m actually getting excited even though the actual move is a ways off. Pinterest has been a huge help in gathering ideas for the interior. I already know what style I want to decorate it in and I’ve got several boards loaded with pictures to help me. Someone asked me how far the home is from here-it’s actually not far. It takes me about 30 minutes by trolley to get there.

I’m usually there Monday’s and Thursday’s for a community class that I teach at the community center.

On Monday the library at the center had their Tanabata decorations up.

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They also had some artwork drawn by the local elementary school kids “We are the World -Only One Frower”…..hummm…yes, “R” and “L” are tough to understand here.

I was in the garden again the other day and noticed this awesome bug lollying around on my ajisai bush. The myriad of insects here always fascinates me. This one was really awesome although he flew off the second I took his photo.

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I learned early-on to never touch any of them. We have quite a few that will leave you with a nasty sting. They look harmless enough though. I have learned not to “bug” any of the bugs.

This week also had me back into the routine of cooking hubby’s breakfast and bento. He was a bit forlorn when I was gone. Today he hugged me and said how thankful he was that I was home.

Ha.

I know he loves me for more than just my cooking though.  🙂

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Hodge-podge post but it’s real life around here.

Travel and Transitions….

I just returned from almost a month of awesome family time! The photo above is my daughter’s back yard. They bought a beautiful home in the states. It’s situated in the deep countryside surrounded by forests, rivers, farms and lots of wildlife.

Deer were everywhere.

It was such a (reverse) culture shock for me to be in a home with such a huge front and back yard. It’s so big that they have created their own family campground down at the lower end of the property-complete with a pool, campfire pit, horseshoes and more! It was such an amazing time and actually quite unexpected time. My daughter surprised me with a round-trip ticket for Mother’s Day.

The trips back and forth to the states seem to be getting longer-either that or getting older makes the trips harder. For the most part the travel went well although I have to say that the “long-haul” between Korea and my first port of entry into the USA was hard–13 1/2 hours non-stop to Atlanta is a long time for me to try and keep relatively still. Thankful that my daughter booked me in isle seats the entire flight. Getting up often helps my leg cramps.

At any rate-I’m home and from the looks of it things as they were when I left are not what they are now.

I try not to reveal too many personal family issues on my blog because the privacy of my family matters to me and it matters to them so please bear with me as I attempt to reveal what the future holds without revealing too many details. I apologize ahead of time if you ask questions that I don’t fully answer-for the sake of privacy.

There have been times where I have blogged about the possibility of us moving from this lovely little cottage home at the foot of the mountains into what is actually our home located about thirty minutes away in a smallish “nothing really happens there” town-which is actually my husband’s hometown.

This little cottage home belongs to my brother in law’s wife-actually it belonged to her parents but they passed on several years ago. We knew when we first moved to Japan that this home was only transitional as eventually we’d have to move into our home in the little town of “nothing much happens”.

While I was in the states the pages of our lives seem to have flipped forward to the next chapter.

In short- both of my husband’s parents have had a sudden and rapid decline in health. So much so that at a family meeting it was decided that they can no longer care for themselves. Very soon they will be moved from their (our) home in the town of “nothing much happens” to a situation where they will be safe. That’s all I can really say about that for privacy’s sake.

So-that means the time has come where hubby and I need to start preparing to move into a very small home in a very small town.

Interesting.

Interesting because recently I have really become fascinated by “tiny homes” and sort of a hobby of mine is pouring over photos and videos of tiny home living. I’ve got lots of ideas floating around in my mind about how to make the most of a very small space.

And believe me, the home is very small. Like-really small. I’m guessing that it would be considered apartment sized in the USA. Small apartment. My kitchen here is large compared to the narrow little kitchenette in our home. My mother’s apartment in the senior apartment complex that she lives in has far more space than our tiny home has. The narrow little kitchenette in our home is SO small that if I am standing at the sink and my husband passed behind me our bodies would touch-and I’m not a very large person. It has just about zero work counter space. And I mean zero. There is a teeny little area-I’d say about a foot and a half square-next to the cook top that MIL used for prep work. Other than that-no counter space.

But….I have ideas. Thankful for all my tiny-home interest lately. Thankful for Pinterest too.

There is no garden either. At least not on the property. First of all- there is no space for a garden and the teeny-tiny bit of space that is around the house is concreted.

I do envision plants in pots though.

My father-in-law has a very large proper garden plot that I could easily access by jitensha -Japanese style bicycle. It would probably take me ten minutes to bike over there. He’s been wanting me to take over his garden for a while now anyhow.

Most of you that have been reading this blog for a while now know that my faith plays a major role in the way I view life and it’s changing situations. I have come to learn that it is best not to hold onto “things” tightly. You only end up miserable when your happiness and contentment centers around your “stuff” and having that perfect living space or awesome vehicle or hefty bank account.

Or whatever-fill in the blank.

Some of you probably don’t know that several times in my life I have literally lost or had to give up all my “stuff”. That’s just the way life was dealt to me. It wasn’t because I didn’t work, made bad decisions, had some sort of destructive addiction…nope. Every single time the loss was created by a situation that was totally out of my control. I look back now and I am humbly thankful for all the practice I’ve had in having to make major adjustments in life. I’m thankful that I was able to walk through fire and come out the other end not even smelling like smoke.

This situation we are heading into is going to be balanced with things that I like/love and things I don’t like and may hate.

I know though, in the end, it will all have been for my good so, keeping that in mind, I move forward with a positive attitude.

Yeah…I’ll miss my mountain view and garden and walks. On the other hand they might even be more special because I can take the trolley here and be walking around in my favorite places within 30 minutes. I can still have little “get-away” adventures and visit friends and such. It’s not a big deal and will actually make for a special adventure day away from the town of “nothing much happens”.

I will be further from friends  but…in our new town-to-be we have many connections because most all the family lives there. I already have many opportunities waiting for me and we don’t even live there yet. There will be colorful characters to write about and the every-day life of a small town where everyone knows everyone will make for some awesome blog posts!

You know that festival? We will literally be living in it when it happens. Some of those big “floats” will pass pretty much right in front of our house.

There are lots of kids in the neighborhood. I like kids. I miss having kids around.

We will never miss another rice planting or harvesting season again because the family rice fields are within walking distance.

I could have replaced everything I wrote above with something negative but, I ma making a decision to steer clear of any negative thinking. Life is change. Make the best of it. Nothing ever stays the same.

I will end this post with a short garden update. I left to a modest garden and came home to exploding growth!

The corn that I didn’t think would grow is still plugging along.

The tomatoes have gone bonkers. I really need to get in there this weekend and tie up some of those leggy arms, cut out some of foliage. The sunflower that the birds planted has shot straight up!

The cucumbers are doing well! I’ve got bell peppers over on the other side that are growing well too. Hubby did the best he could-he is NOT a gardener so the fact that everything is still alive and well is great. It’s a bit over grown but I’ll get it back into shape soon.

That was my little harvest from just the few minutes I spent out there. There were more tomatoes but they were really cracked open because they should have been harvested already.

The forecast calls for rain so I guess I’ll have to get out there in-between the showers.

Well…it’s now a little after 7am-been up since 4. Jet lag. Going to go see about getting another pot of coffee on and then get about my day.

peace all

Ladies Group Party

Today was the annual LG holiday party.  This has gotten to be the highlight of our year. I met these ladies the year we moved to Japan and we have been meeting weekly ever since which is actually something rather out of the norm around these parts.

Christmas isn’t really a holiday here and truth be told I’d rather not put up a tree and such but it really blesses my guests so I go ahead and decorate the artificial tree we bought when we moved here. I set up the little snow village under it that I’ve had for years. That village brought my grandchildren so much fun when they were little. Gosh how they loved playing with it.

Memories…

We always do this party as a pot-luck with a gift exchange “American style” by writing our names on slips of paper and tossing them into a box-and then drawing out a name. You buy a gift for the person that you “drew out of the box”.

Japanese stye gift exchange is somewhat different- it goes like this- you buy a gift for a set amount and bring it to the party or gathering. All the gifts are placed together and numbered. The numbers are also written on slips of paper and put in a box and then everyone draws a number out of the box. The number you draw out is the number of the gift that you “win”.

I’ve seen some strange things happen with Japanese gift exchange. Once a friend of mine “won” a pair of men’s socks. I asked her…so, what will you do with them? She said that she would re-gift them. I dunno-that’s no fun. Our group has really come to love the “American” way of gift exchange. The first year that we did it they reported that shopping for a specific person was much more fun and it made the event special.

img_6620_editedThey always enjoy the tree and the decorations. I cleared the regular table out of our TV tatami room to make room for our party. This is an 8 mat room-kind of standard size. Rooms in Japanese houses are multi-functional. It isn’t unusual to clear out a room to make way for a gathering.

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Opening  the doors between the tatami room and the kitchen makes the space bigger. Our old home is very simple but I love it and I’m really thankful for it. The white “thing” in the right corner is a kerosene heater. I had two on today to keep the rooms warm.

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The cozy clutter of a old-style Japanese kitchen that I have honestly come to love. It’s comforting to me somehow.

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One of the ladies brought a mashed potato Christmas tree salad she fashioned. Under the broccoli are mashed potatoes!

My gift was awesome. I was given this interesting kanji book that I love!

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It shows a kanji on one page and a picture of what the kanji means on the other page.

The kanji below is “moon”- tsuki.

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Then there is “shadow” – kage.

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Here is “person”- hito.

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In the gift bag was also a little glass plate panted with pretty flowers.

We always have some sort of activity- this year Mrs. A taught us how to make this little basket. Harder than it looks. I made the green one.

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At around 3:00pm everyone left and I began the clean-up.

Our tatami room, the party set up put away.

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Now for the set up of the kotatsu table. The rug goes down. Then the chairs. After that the kotatsu table frame.

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Next, the blanket is put on the frame.

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Last, the table top gets set on top and we have a cozy place to sit in the evenings which- is where I am writing this post!

We have a typical old home where nothing really matches. The rug doesn’t match the blanket and the curtains (in the other room) don’t match anything but that is one of the things that I have let go since living here- the need to be “perfect” and coordinated. At one time in my life that was something that used to stress me. Not any more. Actually-I suppose we could have things that matched but I buy things that are in our budget-meaning the things that are all coordinated are far more expensive. We are trying to live as minimalist as we can-because we enjoy that life-style. There is a freedom that comes with being satisfied with what you have. We love our cozy little space.

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Just sort of today’s diary post…nothing fancy. No eloquent words- I’m too pooped for anything fancy tonight. Wonderful day today…I’m blessed and very thankful.

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A Frugal Christmas…

We celebrate Christmas. Although history and Biblical scholars say that Christ was not born on December 25th – it is the day that the Christian world celebrates our Lord’s birth. You may or may not agree. That’s OKAY. For us, having moved to Japan which is around 1% Christian it gives us an opportunity to share Christ with others.

We do give gifts to our grandchildren and our children….of which we have MANY. The last I counted we had 28 grandchildren with one more on the way. We try to give everyone a little something. This year is a bit more difficult than other years so I decided that the gift theme is “It’s a Daiso and homemade Christmas” !

Daiso is the Japanese version of the dollar store but WAY better. You can actually find some cool, fun and interesting things at Daiso.

I’m also crafting things. Each item has grandma’s heart woven into it. I found some inexpensive blanket material that I put a crochet edging around. I’m going to make little flowers to sew to the four corners.

I used a roll of Caron Cakes and made a crochet bag. When I was in the states my grandson and his wife sent me a surprise package of several rolls of the “latest” yarn fad..Caron Cakes..love it!

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Ive got a scarf in the works from another roll of Caron Cakes and I’m making tea wallets…that’s just a start. Every bit of spare time and then some will be spent in gramma’s Christmas workshop.

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Even though it takes a lot of time and hard work I love making gifts for my family. My daughter told me a story about one of my granddaughters. I had made her a crochet bag several years ago and she hauled that bag everywhere telling everyone that her gramma made it for her and that there was no other bag like it. She valued it because I made it. That really touched my heart. It made me think of the old days…when handmade items were treasured.

I have several items that are hand crafted by my mother and my aunt. Every time I hold these items I recall memories of them. My aunt is no longer living but her memory lives on in my heart and through the items she lovingly made for us.

Christmas decor has caught on here. We were at the farmer’s market last weekend and they had this big display at the entrance.

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The mall has a huge tree set up with lots of decorations through out the halls and stores.

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We like hanging out at the mall during this time of the year..gives us a feeling of “normalcy”. My husband loves Christmas. It was through celebrating Christmas throughout the years that he learned about Christ and after years of thinking, watching and praying privately (I had no idea what was going on in his mind) he decided to give his life to Christ.

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of advent so we are looking forward to celebrating it with our church family at Christ Church.

Life has changed so much from when we first moved here. So many blessings have been given. I am truly thankful.

 

Obon day 1-2016

Last night’s bondori was fun! It could have been quite different but, I’ve learned something these past five years. I’ve learned that if you want to make friends, enjoy your life here and be a part of what is happening around you then you have to make the effort and you have to step outside of your comfort zone.

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We ate an early dinner at our favorite “cheap” family restaurant Joyful and then we headed to the in-laws house so that MIL could “dress” me. I could probably put on the kimono myself but there is no way I could put the obi on alone.

The yukata obi is different from the formal kimono obi. There are two short videos if you are interested to see what the difference is- Part One  Part Two.

After I was dressed I helped hubby put his obi on which is a really long piece of material that is wrapped tightly around his hip / belly area. It is wide enough so that it holds the yukata closed firmly. My MIL hurried us along and I could not get photos of this whole process, sorry. In the photo below you can see our yukata airing out in the tatami room. My husband’s yukata and obi are on the right. You can see his obi is very long. I’ve got it hanging over the laundry pole. It’s a normal thing to air out the kimono and such in the tatami room after use. I learned these things from my MIL. I suppose every family does things differently but this is how I was taught. Later everything will go to the cleaners and then returned to the kimono closet at my MIL’s home. She has dozens and dozens of yukata, kimono and all the accessories.

My yukata was cute-shades of blue with purple dragonflies. 

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airing out the yukata
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yukata closeup

My obi was a shiny salmon color. The other things you see hanging are the various ties and wraps that go around you before the obi goes on. 

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The best quick shot I could manage as MIL was shooing us along to get going! This is taken in my MIL’s tatami room. You can see part of the family butsudan (altar) in the background.

At any rate, we got dressed and hurried off to the social hall in the village where my husband was born. Every village has such a social hall which is used for various community events. The bondori is held for all those in that village who have passed away that year.

Dozens of shoes, geta and zori were piled in the genkan and we had to step over them gingerly to remove our geta and find a place to stash them where we could find them later!

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A rather blurry shot of the genkan. I was trying not to look like a “tourist” by taking photos and it was a hurried shot. 

I looked into the altar room and there were at least eight photos on the altar. Photos of the deceased are placed on the altar along with offerings of fruits, cans of beer, soda, sake….  (more in my previous post about obon)

Incense smoke and the sound of chanting drifted out of the altar room and mingled with cheerful greetings exchanged between family who had not seen each other for years. Besides New Year’s, Obon is a season of reunions. Family tend to make trips back to the ancestral villages and homes to pay respects, pray and visit loved ones. 

Children in yukata darted about and played happily while the adults first filed into the altar room to pray and then find a zabuton (sitting cushion) and a space at one of the long Japanese tables. Snacks, beer, sake, cold tea and sodas were passed around and the atmosphere became quite festive. Soon the taiko drum started pounding and I could see through the windows that the dancers had begun their circle.

We found a spot on the floor at one of the tables and I could see that hubby was really enjoying catching up with cousins he had not seen in years. We just moved back five years ago so there are several close relatives that live in Tokyo and other far-off places around Japan that he has not had the opportunity to see yet. Last night it seemed like they had all come home. Everyone crowded around him so I moved myself to the end of the table to make room for “all the men”. 

Next to me was my SIL whom I love dearly but, she seemed to be in a miserable mood and just kind of sat sullenly. After about ten minutes I knew I had to make a move. It was either that or be really miserable sitting in “seiza” in my yukata and not moving for two hours while my husband caught up with relatives and my SIL sulked. 

Just a note-hubby does not ignore me at social gatherings but I also don’t expect him to dote on me.I have learned to “carry my own”. 

So…I politely excused myself and headed out to the dance area! I didn’t know anyone out there but I knew that they knew who I was–the foreign wife of Ma-chan (hubby’s nick name). That was good enough to put me at ease. I watched the dancers for a few minutes and it was not long before one of them came over to me, took my hand and gently pulled me into the circle…and there I stayed for two hours! It was so much fun! I don’t know all of the dances but all the women pitched in and called out moves …so that I could learn. I took a short clip of them before I joined them. My hubby is the guy who is smoking. He followed me out for a few minutes and then went back in when I started dancing. It makes him relaxed and at ease knowing I manage to fit myself in to situations and find my place.

It wasn’t always like that though. I have had my share of sitting and sulking in years past. Funny though, as I age and become more sure of my purpose in life (heavy stuff-I know) I have more confidence in just getting out there, making friends and joining the group. Turns out I stayed out in the dance circle for two hours! Hubby and FIL spent some time sitting on chairs and watching us dance. Many others had joined the circle later on.

The program was: dance several songs, take a “drink and wipe yourself down with a towel break” and then dance again! It was around 98 degrees outside and everyone was completely dripping in sweat!

The people that are all wearing the same yukata are part of the dance group that performs at these kind of events for this village.  There are many such groups all over Japan in every village. 

Actually I’m thinking of joining this group.

Earlier, as we were leaving MIL’s house there was a similar group out in the road that was performing the obon dances for a family in my MIL’s village. I shot a quickie as we were getting into the car.

We had such a great time last night. I think it was really the first obon where we had so much fun with family.

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Our “selfie”. The yellow lighting made my totally silver/white hair look blonde again….ha.

Tonight we have another bondori to attend however… we have decided to wear western clothing. MIL is tired and I don’t want to trouble her to dress me. I really need to learn how to dress myself….don’t I? I came away from last night inspired and encouraged because while I do need my husband’s help for many things here I also want and need my own “life”. I need and want to make friends on my own, step out on my own and be a part of the community without him having to set it up. Actually, I’ve done that in so many ways already…but it’s always inspiring and encouraging when I do it again…! 

Funny thing is -I’ve always considered myself an introvert….perhaps I was wrong about that.

OK…time for a NAP so I can recharge for tonight’s dancing!

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Sweltering natsu….

I figured since we had relatively mild summers the past two years that we were due for a scorcher. I was right. Our temps the past two weeks have been in the upper 90’s and over a hundred with the heat index. At the moment it’s 107 degrees F. outside. I’m sheltering in my tatami room with our big ole’ clunker AC humming. I actually haven’t used it too much but this heat is extreme.

Yesterday I had to get out of the house. Playing hostess the past month has left me little time for myself. I spent the first three days after the kids left just cleaning and getting the house in order. Yesterday I had a free day. I woke up early, got my chores done and set out on foot by around 9:30 AM. It was already over 100 at that time but the need to wander was overwhelming and I decided to brave the heat.

Actually, when I slid open the kitchen window at 6:30 AM and the singing of hundreds of semi blasted through the screen I knew it was going to be a really hot day. A quick check of the thermometer showed it was already 92 degrees.

I dressed as cool as I could, took plenty of coins for the vending machine and set off-camera around my neck.

I have to say-thank goodness for Japan’s love of vending machines. They are everywhere-even in places where you would never expect a vending machine to be. By the time I finish one drink-the next vending machine is usually in sight.

I wanted to see the dragonflies. This year there are just hundreds and hundreds of them…swarms everywhere you look. Taking the back road I walked down to the rice-fields because that’s usually where they hang out. I wasn’t disappointed! There were clouds of them buzzing around. Several came and landed on my hat and shoulder…they sure are friendly little things. Very curious too as they were swarming around me as I walked. I tried hard to get photos of them but they don’t stay still for longer than a second!

No one else was around…not even the ancient gardeners that tend the little cottage gardens nestled between the paddies. It was just me, the dragon flies and thousands of singing cicadas in the sweltering heat of summer. The rice fields are now emerald green. According to my Japanese weather almanac this is the time of year when foliage is at peak green…and so it is.

I wasn’t far from the farmer’s market so I thought I’d take a stroll over there and see what was going on. Besides the usual seasonal vegetables and fruit there is always something else to see and experience.

Today the main attraction was the Kakigōri (shaved ice) stand. Kakigōri is a shaved ice sweet treat that is flavored with different kinds of syrup and /or sweetened condensed milk. Sometimes it contains azuki-a sweet bean paste. It’s similar to a snow-cone but the ice is of a different consistency. It’s “fluffier”-the only way I can really explain it.

There was a long line at the stand.

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This lady snuck in on the wrong side….

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The ice-cream stand wasn’t crowded at all. I lucked out…I’m not a fan of Kakigōri -no waiting at all for ice cream. Japan’s soft cream is the best I’ve ever had. There is a green tea shop not far from here-up in the mountain. It sells the best matcha ice cream ever. That’s my favorite…matcha!

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The market was fairly crowded today.

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Little old ladies with their rustic sales counters -selling fruit and veggies from their backyard gardens looked all but wilted in the heat.

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I wandered around and stopped by at a few stands to say hello to friends and chat for a moment about how hot the summer was this year! Of course that’s the main topic of conversation now…and the number one phrase floating around is…”atsui des ne”! It’s hot!!

I always wonder about things like this …dried fish and seafood…especially when it is so hot out. I saw a few flies landing here and there….note to self: do not buy any of these products here.

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Stopping by the vending machine to stock up on cold green tea before hitting the road again I decided to take the back road home and stop by the local temple.

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Sitting in the shade of the temple bell tower a thousand semi sung in the height of a summer’s afternoon. It was around 110 degrees F by then.

I realized, sitting there, that I missed these hot days of summer. The past two years it was as if summer had passed us by. These hot, sweltering days of natsu (summer) are the days that I have come to associate with this season …the heat and everything that goes with it. It felt right…the heat, the insects…all of it. I had that feeling you get when you finally come home after being gone a while.

By now I had little rivulets of sweat running constantly down my back. There was a constant drip from my forehead and chin that left little wet splotches on the stone steps.  My cold tea was now lukewarm.

The trees were getting a trim today. Through the branches I could see someone carefully pruning the top most branches of an old cherry tree.

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I sat silently…dripping sweat on the steps and appreciated it all. I mean I deeply appreciated it.

Taking the little path home instead of the noisy road…all I could think of was how wonderful a cold shower would feel…

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Where has July gone?

Whew! We had quite a busy month of July! This is the second summer that we played host to kids and grandkids come to visit us.

From the minute they landed in early July “grandpa” and I were quite the busy grandparents! We took them sightseeing, shopping, visiting. We went to the zoo and to the mountain shrines. We rode the monorail and more.

The first few days after they arrived it poured rain and it was a challenge to keep an active two year old busy! Soon the weather cleared and we were able to get outside.

Not much to this post other than to say….we are getting around to getting back to “normal” whatever that is!

Here are just a few photos of places we visited and things we did of the hundreds that I took while they were here. There is also a photo of the in laws at MIL’s 80th birthday party.

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