Risshu- Autumn’s Arrival

There is an old Japanese agricultural calendar that is still acknowledged in many places around Japan.

The ancient Japanese calendar divided the year into 24 and then 72 separate “seasons”. I found it fascinating. I also found it to be very accurate.

In olden times a lunar calendar was used, based on the waxing and waning of the moon, which meant that the position of the sun and the dates on the calendar would gradually shift out of sync. It is possible that the 24 season calendar was a way to compensate for this, and provide a calendar that satisfactorily depicted the changes in the seasons which matched with daily life.

And beyond that, each season of the 24 season calendar was then divided again into three more, to create the 72 season calendar. Each of these 72 seasons lasts just five days or so, and the names of each season beautifully depict the tiny, delicate changes in nature that occur around us, year in year out.

“Spring Winds Thaw the Ice”, “The First Peach Blossoms”, “Damp Earth Humid Heat”, “The Maple and the Ivy Turn Yellow”.

Copied from the 72 Seasons app-

As a “nature lover” I found that following along with these mini-seasons brought me such joy and opened my eyes to the subtle changes one might otherwise not notice or really think about.

The beginning of autumn happens around August 7th or 8th on this ancient calendar. While that may sound off-I guarantee you it isn’t.  This is something that I became aware of before I even knew about this ancient calendar. I began to notice that right around the first week of August the old sakura tree across the street began to show signs of Autumn.

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Sure enough it was the same this year. This photo was taken August 7th of this year. Right now the tree is about 45% yellow.

Just a couple of weeks ago I noticed that the sunlight was different. It had lost it’s stark brightness and cast a more subtle light across my kitchen windows.

I had such a lovely treat. On the very eve of risshu I stepped out into the garden after dinner to view the moon and was kept company by a koogori- an autumn cricket. The very first one that I had heard this year. How fitting that he chirruped for me on the eve of the first day of autumn.

I’m quite confident in calling it a “he” as only male crickets chirrup.

The rice fields have begun to fade, the emerald green seas slowly fading to gold. Soon the valley will be filled with the hum of rice harvesters.

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The gardens are winding down and planting of winter vegetables will begin soon.

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I see all that is left are the late summer vegetables. The crows are happily picking through what the gardeners have left behind in compost heaps.

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My tomatoes are winding down. I think this might be some of the last I will glean. The late summer / early fall peppers are in full swing. That was the very last eggplant that I managed to get off of my one plant.

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The evenings and mornings are beginning to bring cool breezes. This evening was so lovely that we decided to grab a bento from the local convenience store and drive up to Fukuchi Dam for an impromptu early autumn picnic. As the sun slipped lower in the sky we felt the zansho or “last lingering heat of late summer” dissipate as cool breezes blew down from the mountains. Had we been wet from a swim in the dam we would have been chilled.

We saw that the momiji trees are starting to turn and looked forward to the mountains splashed in autumn color.

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The dam was so peaceful and calm. Such a wonderful blessing amid all the insanity right now.

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No one else was up there. We had the entire area to ourselves. In nice weather there are usually several joggers / walkers here. It’s a good distance around the perimeter of the dam and an awesome place to exercise. The entrances to several hiking trails are also found throughout.

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We are praying for peace and cherishing each moment….

Here is the APP that has been created so you can follow along with the 72 seasons.

Just a note….

A while back I had a comment from someone and the comment went something like: “it must be nice to have such an easy life”. 

Many times I’ve thought about that comment and many times I wanted to say this-my past has been filled with pain. I’ve suffered severe abuse on many levels from childhood and on into my previous marriage. For the first 35 years of my life there were many times when I tried to will myself to stop breathing because I didn’t want to continue to live. I even attempted suicide. 

I’m writing this to those of you who are  perhaps suffering abuse in some form. Don’t give up. Personally I prayed and God healed my life. The healing process was a long hard road but without the supernatural help I don’t know that I could have made it out of that darkness ” alive”. 

Many don’t want to hear that or believe it. That’s their choice. All I can say is that I found truly- nothing is hopeless. Nothing. There isn’t one life that cannot be redeemed. 

The life you read about here on this blog is a life that was redeemed. Not just my life but my children’s lives. It didn’t come easy. I had to crawl forward at times. 

But here I stand today- a shattered life made whole. 

So if you have ever read my blog and felt ” envious” of my ” easy life” just know that my life now is a life made beautiful from ashes. 

I just wanted to say that because I don’t want my readers to think I’ve lived some fairytale life. Well… Perhaps Grimm’s fairytale….

From the Hermitage

As I said in a previous post I live the life of a part-time (accidental) hermit.

According to the dictionary:

a hermit is a person who lives in seclusion from society, usually for religious reasons.

The definition is interesting to me because I never really thought much about hermits and their reasons for living that way before we moved to Japan.  After about three years of being here I noticed that I just sort of naturally slipped into the lifestyle without trying. Not on a full-time basis of course. I wouldn’t want to live that way all the time. I don’t think we were meant to live solitary. I enjoy the relationships I have with my husband’s family. I also enjoy the friendships I have.

However, I don’t spend a lot of time with “people”. I’m guessing that I spend 80% of my time alone-well, at home with my dog. Unless I am out at the farmer’s market or just exploring the countryside.

A good part of my time is spent at home-at the hermitage. And while I’m not a part-time hermit specifically for “religious” reasons I do spend a great deal of the time praying – praying while I am working in the garden or doing other chores. Praying while I am working on a crochet project or while cooking. Sometimes the prayers are just thanking God for everything that we have and all the blessings big and small.

Today was such a day.

After I got hubby’s breakfast and bento cooked and him out the door I made myself a wonderful breakfast of banana and blueberry pancakes and enjoyed them while looking out at the garden.

I could sense the subtle change of sunlight through the bamboo shades. That subtle shift of brightness that signals the wee beginnings of the season change to the observant.

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 This morning the semi were all over the garden as I worked to clean up the yard and cut down the cucumber plants. Their bodies act as thermostats. When the sun shines hotter they vibrate louder.

I noticed that some sort of pest had invaded the cucumbers so it was time to cut them down. Just as well. We have eaten enough cucumbers for now.

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There were all sorts of critters outside keeping me company. Dragonflies are my absolute favorite.

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Parched brown grasshoppers are in abundance. Every time I moved several of them scattered, hopping straight up into the air. I was bombarded several times.

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This praying mantis was shy and hid behind the wood trellis while I cut down the cucumbers. It came out after I was done but scuttled back to its hiding place every time I came around.

I noticed the faded wreath on our garden gate and made a note to take if off and redo it for autumn. I always put a seasonal wreath on the old little gate. Several times I have been puttering in the kitchen with the window open and noticed little old ladies stopping to admire it. This one is a bit neglected and it’s time for something nice. Especially if it gives little old ladies so much pleasure to see.

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I had a lovely and simple lunch of tomatoes and coconut flat bread with a glass of ice-coffee.

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And then I got to work removing the rest of the seeds from my sunflower heads.

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I wonder if I can freeze them so they won’t get buggy. I want to save them for the birds this winter.

There are so many semi (cicada) “shells” stuck to things in the garden. As I observed one I thought…soon…the empty shells are all that will be left of them as the summer fades to autumn and crickets take their place in the continuous symphony of the planet.

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After a nice shower and a little rest I decided to sort out my latest “work in progress”. This is a colorful and eclectic afghan that I am making. It will be the first item that I make for “us”. I have given away every single thing that I have ever crocheted. This one will be for our bed.

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I allowed my mind a rest today. Mother-in-law has surgery on Monday. We have a typhoon on the way…but I didn’t worry about any of it. Everything will be okay. It will be just as it should be.

xo

Contemplative Mountain Cafe

Sometimes when you have a lot on your mind it is refreshing to get away to someplace peaceful to think -or not think as the case may be.

Last Sunday we did just that. The past two weeks have been spent running from one hospital to another. Hospitals are not fun places to have to hang out so- when Sunday came along we decided to drive up to Hikosan mountain-one of my most favorite places around these parts.

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The drive up takes you through a narrow little valley that winds up into the mountains running from Fukuoka prefecture into Oita. Several rivers run through the valley criss-crossing, narrowing and widening as they forge their way through.

Some of this area was hit hard about three weeks ago when we had such heavy rains. This home was gutted by the river as it quickly crested and overtook its banks. We passed by several homes that had been destroyed or badly damaged.

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We could see that there was still much debris to be cleared out and hauled away. The river bed was piled with logs, pieces of furniture and other objects all tangled up into heaps. Huge triangular concrete breakers had been thrown about like Lego. It was just a real mess for several miles. We talked about how much effort was needed to try and get things cleaned up and the river bed made safe again.

We wondered if it could be done before the next big storm. As I write this there is a strong typhoon headed our way-Typhoon Noru.

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It was sobering to drive through the area. My husband commented on how terrified people must have been at the sound! I never thought of that until that moment. Can you imagine having your home right there near the river and hearing the roar and ear-splitting explosion like sounds of tons of rock, wood and debris come crashing through? With water everywhere evacuation must have been a nightmare.

We fell silent as we drove on past and began to climb higher into the thickness of cedar and bamboo forests. I know that both of us were thinking about the past two weeks and what the future may hold for us.  Driving through there was such an awesome example that despite the storms of life, we needn’t worry. Everything passes and in the end it will be alright. The sun will shine again.

I was surprised to see that autumn was silently announcing its arrival on the tips of momiji trees. Momiji are the famed and beautiful Japanese maple trees that paint Japan in autumn brilliance.  This is higher elevation and is much cooler than the valley floor below. But still…it seemed early for the trees to be tinged in orange already.

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Nearing the “top”, which isn’t really the top of the mountain just the place where the cafe is located, the scenery becomes spectacular.

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We just love this little cafe. It’s perfect. Perfect for us anyhow. There are never really many people there when we stop by which is usually on a Sunday afternoon. I’m sure they have traffic here and there but Sunday afternoon is when folks are on the mountain. This is a hiking area. People come by bus from other prefectures and areas around Japan to hike the famous Hikosan mountain. I have hiked it before-spectacular! Tough hike though.

In the hiking areas you’ll notice stands like this filled with “sticks”. These are hiking sticks you can borrow if you don’t happen to have one.

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Back to the coffee shop-

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Such a wonderful little place. Great coffee and lovely desserts. They also have lunch items on their menu. They don’t offer a lot of variety but we don’t go there for the food. We love it because of the atmosphere.

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The owner told us that there are several amateur photography groups that visit and have coffee. She showed us a couple of albums that had been given to her as gifts-awesome photos. The group that gave her the album just happened to be from our little town.

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We enjoyed coffee and a sweet treat- set against the backdrop of such a serene setting and talked about what things the future might hold.

As I said before it seems that soon our lives will change as we move into the role of caretakers for elderly and ailing parents. This was something we always knew would happen and accept these coming changes joyfully.

I think my husband was concerned about how felt about it. It’s a huge life change and will require much. It will require letting go of many of our earthly possessions as the home we will possibly be moving into just does not have room for much “stuff”.

Honestly-stuff doesn’t matter much to me. I have heard folks mention that they “just couldn’t” part with things they have gathered over the course of 30 years or so. Frankly, I can’t wrap my head around being so attached to material things. I’ve never been a person that cares much for material possessions because I see them for what they are. Many times they just get in the way of living life to the fullest.

It’s just stuff. In the end it won’t mean anything. Where your heart is -there your treasure will be.

What I really value are relationships and this is what will be strengthened and nurtured as we make decisions about the future.

Monday is the big day. Mother in law has her surgery. Cancer is mean-it takes no pity on an old woman.  This particular cancer is aggressive but she wanted to fight so-we said-we will all stand behind you. We aren’t sure what the outcome of the surgery will be but I am praying for the best.

We are holding father-in-law up also as he battles Parkinson’s and tries to comfort the wife he loves.

This is life. This is how it goes.

The thing that I am most thankful for right at this moment is the peace I have in knowing that no matter which way things go for us personally- it will be okay.

In the Garden Today

I finally got out in the garden today. How awesome was that! After sitting around for two weeks my knee felt well enough today to get outside a bit and do some light garden work.

Sweating was awesome. I like a good sweat once in a while. Cleans out the pores and detoxes. It was scorching hot but I got out there early enough that the UV wasn’t so high. I think I was outside by about 8:30.

The semi were absolutely screaming already-as you can hear in the video. That loudspeaker you hear is the recycle truck. They come by on Friday morning and collect the bigger items like broken AC units, bikes and such.

I had an absolutely fantastic time pulling weeds, picking tomatoes, setting up a little birdbath and hanging the bird-feeder.

I talked to the Lord the whole time I was out there. I was very aware that having good, strong and healthy knees was a true blessing. I thought about people who don’t have them. People who suffer continually without hope of recovery in a few months.

I think about things like that. I’m grateful to the creator for the health that I have when I have it.

I took it easy today. As I told a friend…I went slow. So slow that a snail zipped by me and laughed. The doc said two months to full healing so that’s what I’ll go by. I’m just happy that I can do little things.

As I was picking tomatoes I spied a semi (cicada) watching me.

There were also several huge butterflies that kept me company. Luckily I didn’t meet that giant hornet that has been lumbering around the cucumbers. I think today, even if I had, it would have been okay. Really. I was just so glad to be outside for more than just a quick watering down of everything.

Everyday the garden produces this many tomatoes. Every other day I get a couple of cucumbers. Just enough for us to consume with nothing wasted.

While I’m inside and not puttering around cleaning or something I’ve been working on sort of an eclectic crochet piece for our bed. Just about everything I make is a gift for someone. This will be the first item that I am making for us.

As you can tell this post is sort of a random collection of things that have been going on around here. Which isn’t much really….. considering.

We do have a new pet of sorts.

She has taken up residence on the kitchen sliding door-in between the glass and the screen. I got a start when I opened the curtains and there she was. Actually I jumped. I made sure that she was on the outside of the glass and not on the inside.

She is actually as big as she looks.

She’s a huntsman spider. They don’t bite unless you really provoke them. They are actually pretty harmless to humans but they look scary. Believe it or not- since moving to Japan I have made my peace with spiders. I was absolutely TERRIFIED of them before. So terrified that if I saw one my automatic reaction was a blood-curdling scream. It was an automatic reflex.

But …I dunno…since coming to Japan and learning about spiders from the point of view of the Japanese culture I have made my peace with them and they with me. They still kind of give me the creeps at first glance but after I am aware that one is around I’m okay.

My husband named her Sharley.

Every Japanese house usually has a huntsman spider living in it. For sure the old houses. They help you by eating the bad bugs…right?

Hubby is such a sweetheart. He saw this pretty summer noren while he was out. He cut it for me and hung it in the genkan.

Last night I sat and made a list of all the things that I could do this summer instead of my usual exploring and wandering about in my spare time. It is amazing what a positive attitude can do for you. When you are upset I think your brain shuts down preventing you from thinking clearly. Right now I have a list of at least a dozen things that I can do while my knee heals. As a matter of fact I’m not sure if I will have time to do them all.

I have to say that this comes from prayer, reading and meditating upon scriptures and then putting that into action.

The Lord sustains me. He always has. Always will.

It’s not about religion. Not at all. It is about the power of a living God at work in a life that yields to Him out of love.

Pushing Past the Hard Stuff

It has been a little over a week since I fell down a mountain trail.

I’ve had to adjust to hobbling as a new way of walking. My right hip is starting to bother me because I’ve had to shift my body weight. I was starting to have hip problems before my accident. I have to be in a leg brace for two months. Can’t exercise my left knee. I’ve had to come up with other ways to exercise. I’m trying to avoid gaining too much weight. Excess weight irritates my scoliosis.

Don’t worry-the post gets better. Promise.

So I was standing there in our terribly hot kitchen yesterday morning. Old Japanese kitchens are notorious for being absolute ovens during the summer. Combine an old gas table top stove with zero insulation, no central AC and 85 degree heat plus sky-high humidity at 7:00am and you have a recipe for heat exhaustion.

As I was saying, I was standing in the kitchen feeling a little miserable to be honest. Easy enough to do and I know most reading this can relate. Something bad happens that restricts your normal way of life for a while and it brings out your true colors.

Fortunately though we have a choice.

I whispered- “I don’t want to be like this, Lord”. Meaning-I didn’t want to be miserable. I know that choosing to be miserable is always the first step on the downward slide to worse.

Putting your faith into action can sometimes be hard. The hardest thing seems to be pushing past that first negative thought. For me -that’s the key. I’ve seen it time and time again. I push that first negative wave of emotion out of the way and hurry to grab hold of the Master’s hand.

So that’s what I did. A simple prayer for help. The answer came in the ability to continue to stand there in that hot kitchen, uncomfortable, in pain…and cook my husband’s breakfast.

I roasted fish. Made miso soup, boiled the komatsuna and seasoned it. Put his omelet together and measured his rice. As I set all of it on the big red tray I thanked the Lord that I could.

Some of you reading this might say that you couldn’t do that. Yes, you can. He isn’t a liar.

Philippians 4:13

” I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. “

It doesn’t say “I can do some things..” it says ALL….ALL things.

Either we believe it or we don’t.

But doing it always requires something of us. Therein lies the real choice. Are we willing to change? Are we willing to do what is necessary so that He is able to work in us and though us?

In that hot kitchen, sweat pouring, knee aching…I asked the Lord to give me the grace to serve my husband. To serve him with a whole heart because I knew he was hurting worse than I was. His mother thought she had won the battle with cancer but she hadn’t. She has now begun the fight of her life. The fight for her life.

So many times I have prayed – how do I tell them of you here Lord? In this land of a thousand gods? How do I convey to them that YOU are God? The true and living God that has promised us resurrection from the dead into life everlasting.

Again and again He reminds me it is in the quiet ways. The self-sacrificing acts of love. Of laying aside “me”. This is how I show them. This is how I reflect His love and miraculous power of change.

Sounds grandiose. It wasn’t meant to be. It took me years to learn this. I still struggle at times.

But not in that hot kitchen yesterday. I didn’t struggle. I let go. Gave it to Him. Carried on in the business of serving as if I was serving Him. Because in reality, I was.

 

When it isn’t something you feel comfortable with…riding a bike.

I got an email response from a good friend I met through blogging. She wrote a post about biking to work on which I left a comment. That started a whole email discussion about why I don’t ride a bike around these parts.

After reading my email she responded by saying…”you should totally blog about this, it’s fascinating”.

I have to warn you-a part of this post may seem a bit discriminatory. I assure you that is not my intention. I’m a writer. I write it like I see it. If writers tried to be politically correct about everything then they wouldn’t write honestly.

So, a little about why I don’t ride a bike around these parts…..

We have mirrors in some places like- the bigger roads. Big round convex mirrors that help folks see what’s coming around the corner.
However, we live in the countryside- lots of tiny side roads that can barely fit even one car. Those have no mirrors and those are the roads people come shooting out of at speeds far beyond what someone with commonsense would consider safe.
Sometimes they stop. Sometimes they don’t.
Many times they come to a screeching halt so if you happened to be passing in front of them, or almost in front, you’d suffer from shock thinking you were about to be hit. You might suffer cuts and abrasions because you jumped out of the way or flew off your bike not knowing if they were going to stop.
As a matter of fact you can’t even really be sure a driver will stop at a stop sign.
It’s a tricky game around here.
 From what I have observed first-hand the general “rule ” for red lights seems to be- you have 10 seconds after it turns red to go thru it.  Not legal but it’s normal for people to race right thru the red after it has already turned red.
I have no idea where the cops are.
Like I said- I wish it was safer here. I wish that motorists would have common sense and not be so selfish, thinking of only themselves, and not the safety of the general community around them.
We live on a road that is a “2-way” but– only one car can fit on at a time. It’s a narrow little lane actually.
The oddest thing- people can’t seem to ” back up” very well here so they race up or down it because, again, the rule is whoever is more than halfway down or up doesn’t have to back up.
My husband was coming up one day and another driver had just entered the road so she had to back up. She literally tried for 10 minutes and could not back her car up straight enough to avoid falling down the hill. It was only a few feet that she had to back up. There she went…slowly back, cranking her wheel all the way to the right and causing her tires to veer dangerously close to the drop-off that would have sent her plummeting into Mrs. K’s house. We could see her inside the car, faced contorted, feverishly trying to get her car to do what she wanted.
When we saw that she was crying….my husband got out of our car and backed her car up.
This is actually a normal thing because I can see it right out my kitchen window. Drivers that can’t even back up a car. Women drivers, they seem to have the issues with driving. Why? I don’t know. But this is what I see.
When I’m walking on our narrow little lane and I see a car come roaring towards me  I literally jump in the bushes because there is literally only about a foot of space between me and a car. Less if it’s a truck.
And, they are flying….as I said, no one wants to have to back-up.
I used to yell at people to slow down but no one cares about some crazy foreign lady screaming at them.
In the hot months women wear huge floppy hats with brims that come down to their shoulders and hang dangerously low over their eyes obscuring vision. They don’t take them off when they drive. My husband said that he can not believe that this is allowed- driving with clothing that obscures vision. You read about accidents in the local paper where people have been hurt because of things like this.
When I see these floppy-hat clad women barreling down the road-I get out of the way.
The bottom of our road has been missing the mirror for over a year- typhoon blew it off. We found out it isn’t the government’s obligation to put it back. Some of the mirrors are purchased by neighborhood community groups.
Here is how it works- neighborhoods are divided up into sections / groups. Each group elects a leader. The members of each group pay a ” nenkaihi” or a group fee / membership fee that is collected twice a year- over $100 for us.
 This is not a government activity it is part of the old ” tribal” ways and still practiced in the small country towns.
What each group does with their money is up to them. One thing our group did was put a mirror at the top of our road but the bottom is governed by a different group. Hence no mirror. One group does not tell the other group what to do with their money.
All that to say- mirrors on tiny roads are not a priority here.
The roads that I would be on most of the time are narrow. So narrow that there is no shoulder. Some of the roads go alongside the river. There is no guardrail to keep anyone from plunging down the over 100 foot embankment. I can’t even imagine trying to stay on the road while a huge dump-truck roars past me.
Vehicles generally do not slow down for bikers or pedestrians. Not around here. My husband does-thankfully.
So, taking into consideration that I haven’t been on a bike since I was a child and the fact that there are so many dangers I’d face I think that I’d rather walk or take public transportation.
Too bad because I really wanted to get a bike when we moved here. I’m not saying that riding a bike isn’t safe in Japan. I know many that live here and bike and do just fine.
What I am saying is that in our area it isn’t the wisest choice. I know a few people that have been hit while riding a bike in Japan and…I don’t really know that many people. A few weeks ago a 40 year old man in our neighborhood was hit and killed.
Interestingly I read several articles about bike accidents and fatalities in Japan before I wrote this article. I had to laugh because the articles were so biased towards the cyclists. I read through the comments and agreed with most of them. The problem is not all about “reckless cyclists” it is a failure to provide a safe environment for people riding bikes.
A comment left by bloneintokyo on one of the articles:
“58 percent of the 790 respondents said they cannot abide by the traffic rules while cycling because of bad traffic conditions.”
If they are talking about the difficulty of riding in the road, then this is true. There are spots where it is positively dangerous for cyclists to be in the road because there’s too much traffic and just no space for cyclists to ride alongside. I nearly get sideswiped about every week, and It can be really scary. In those cases I can’t really blame cyclists for wanting to be on the sidewalks at least some of the time. Police should be taking this particular violation on a case by case basis, at least until there is better infrastructure for cyclists.”
Anyhow-
I guess this summer  I’ll be spending a lot of time at home. My MRI showed torn but not severed ligaments. There is also a chip in the bone. Thankfully I won’t need surgery. The doc fit me with a nifty knee brace that I have to wear for two months and along with rest and ice, I should heal up by the beginning of October.
I did want to spend more time on my writing……

SUMMER

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Art by Kazo Oga

Delicate glass wind chimes tinkling softly while old women fan themselves, engawa doors rolled wide open.

The cicada raise their song in tune with summer’s heat. A curl of smoke keeps mosquitoes at bay.

We look forward to ice-cold watermelon for dessert.

 

(this is a seasonal note-regular posts below)

When hiking goes wrong…

For a while now I’ve been trying to find a hiking group to join. Japan is full of hiking trails. If there is a hill or a mountain you can bet that there is some sort of trail on it. 

From past experience most all the trails that I have been on in Japan are steep. With the exception of Hiraodai- a karst plateau- just about every trail leading up a mountain goes seemingly straight up and straight down. 

I joined a group hike today. A friend who lives at the foot of a mountain that is full of trails – invited me to join her group.  We all met in the parking lot of the local convenience store at eight AM. It took a good hour or so to reach the base of a small mountain where we were supposed to meet the leader of the group and a few other members. 

We waited. Thirty minutes. No leader. 

After an hour contact with the leader was made. I never found out why they were late but it was decided that the four of us that were waiting would just start up the mountain. 
The trail began a slow ascent, wide at first and then narrowing into a steep, rocky and root-filled path. We went slow and despite that it was 90 degrees, it was an enjoyable trek. 

About half-way up the terrain changed a bit and the trail opened up into a small meadow teeming with butterflies! We dropped our packs and took a few minutes to enjoy the beauty, eat a snack, hydrate and chat a bit. 

Through the meadow, across a stream and we were back on a steep incline. The trail had an awesome balance of trail variation and our slow pace made it a fun hike up. 

We reached the summit in about two and a half hours. Great view at the top! 

At the summit we met the leader and other group members and ate our bento lunches. 

I was having a great time …..

Until… 

The leader decided to take a short-cut on the way down. 

The very beginning of the short-cut was pretty. We tromped along a grassy path flanked by tall pines. Just lovely until we turned a bend and I saw with trepidation that the trail from then on was basically a near vertical drop. One of the steeper descents I’ve had to make. 

This one was booby-trapped. The extreme vertical slope was filled with damp mossy rocks that were covered with a layer of  damp and decaying leaves. All of that was piled atop slick mud. 

We’ve had a lot of rain recently. 

I surveyed the trail and thought – I’m sure we will turn around and descend the same trail that we used coming up. 

But we just kept going…. down. 

Two minutes of descent told me this was a knee buster. 

It was so steep and slippery that it was all I could do to keep myself from falling. At one point the lot of us had to grab the overhanging branches and inch our way down so that we wouldn’t slide down the mountain in one big mess. 

I was not enjoying it at all. It was slick and dangerous. 

My point was proven as  my hiking boot connected with a slick rock. I tried to avoid falling but the severe vertical slope, my pack- which had shifted as my body began to twist in slow motion as my feet went airborne, and the fact that there was no place to ground my hiking stick proved to be too much. 

At the instant that I heard the loud POP I hoped with all my might that it had been a stick, snapped by my crashing body. 

But there was no stick. 

The moment you realize that you just blew out your knee half-way down an excruciatingly steep mountain is a defining moment. 

I was thankful that I had the foresight to pack pain meds because ” you never know”. 

Yep. 

I don’t really remember the rest of the descent but I do remember taking constant deep breaths and repeating ” you can do this”. 

Why the leader decided to have us descend that steep and dangerous trail is something I will never know because I won’t be hiking with them again. Had we gone down the way we came up we would have been just fine. It would have been an enjoyable day for all. 

My knee? 

It’s bad. Really bad. The hospital is closed today and tomorrow. The emergency room is for real emergencies and it’s expensive so- I’ll have to wait. 

I was so happy that I found left over pain killers from my oral surgery. 

Lesson learned I guess.