Recently I was asked to paint a picture of my surroundings with words, and this is what I wrote:
It’s been raining, frosting, and snowing on and off over the last few days, with bits of bright sunshine in-between. Outside it is silent, aside for the sound of a few birds, the peeping of deer, and occasional construction.
Now that the winter is beginning to wane, workers are busy trying to fix roads and mountainsides that were damaged last year during the heavy typhoons. There is also the infrequent sound of farming equipment on warmer days, as rice farmers begin to repair fences, and prepare fields for planting.
It smells like damp dirt. (more…)
The chill that signals the end of autumn has arrived in the mountains, and nearly all of our flowers have died or stopped blooming (aside for a stubborn rose plant, and a few zinnia). The cool air caused some of our late season tomatoes to drop off of the vine prematurely, so we harvested them green. (more…)
One of our neighbors is in his 90’s, and he continues to surprise us. Sometimes we see him walking around on his roof (doing repairs?), or sweeping leaves off the street that were blown in from a storm. His garden thrives. Certainly there are secrets to be learned from such a man?
In Japan, the elderly outnumber the young, and there are opportunities to soak up wisdom and experience that go largely overlooked. There are stories to be heard, too. (more…)
One of the advantages to living in the countryside is that many of our neighbors are farmers or keep big gardens, and there is a lot of produce-sharing in our community. Often, someone will show up at our house with bags or boxes of fresh fruit or vegetables that someone has collected for us to sample.
We have been given home-grown potatoes, bell peppers, squash, kale and cucumbers, to name just a few. This last weekend, we also had the opportunity to pick peanuts! (more…)
This morning was the first day of the season that felt quite cold. I spent most of the day shivering, until I finally put on leggings and a sweater in the afternoon. The chilliness made holding a cup of steaming coffee after breakfast seem all the more enjoyable, and the sun streaming through the windows brought the slightest bit of warmth to the otherwise crisp air.
Second to spring, autumn is my absolute favorite season.
I like wearing loose sweaters, feeling the sharp air on my face, and baking pies. I like eating steaming nabe (Japanese hot pot dishes, such as boiled cabbage with mushrooms and chicken), and wrapping myself in a soft, warm scarf (マフラー in Japanese).
Living in Japan means that the feeling of fall is also just a bit different from what I grew up with..
As a multicultural family, there are all sorts of cultural habits and holidays to adjust to create our own family culture.
My husband Masashi is native Japanese and also lived in Uganda, while I am from America. Our family is a unique blending of cultures and languages. His mother cannot speak English. My parents cannot speak Japanese (though my mom is learning it).. and at our home in rural Japan, we often speak a mix of Japanese, English, and “Japanglish“.
Beyond the background of where we grew up, we have multiple other differences, such as related to our educational upbringings.. and we’ve spent time living in both the Kanto and Kansai regions of Japan (which are different culturally, even within the relatively compact island country).
Some of my family members were also more recent emigrants from Europe (not hundreds of years ago as is the case with many American-European “mutts”, but within the last century), and bilingual. This means my family heritage is not fully diluted.
And it creates a lot of questions.. (more…)
(Pictured: a Mr. Lincoln rose in our garden)
I grew up surrounded by roses, and when my husband and I moved to the country, I knew that I wanted to grow them. Roses are my favorite flower because of their beauty, scent, and symbolism.
I love watching roses bloom, and appreciate that they are a very hardy plant. Even in Japan’s climate of sometimes extreme weather, our roses have continued to be healthy and bloom continuously throughout the months.
Yet, it seems wasteful that occasionally the heavy rain causes blooms to wilt. After this happened a few times, I began to think about ways that I could make the most of these favored flowers, even if preserving them indefinitely is impossible.
During the summer, our house is surrounded by frogs of all shapes and sizes.
There is the lone, fat frog dubbed the “guard frog”, who hides in leaves by day, and chills alone in the pond by night.. and there are dark green, neon lime, brown, and other small frogs that rest on the top of rose blooms, or climb up to greet me at the second-story windows.
Once I switched the window screen in our bedroom from one side to the other, only to find that I had accidentally let a frog indoors! (more…)
It is nearly time for the Obon festival (お盆), or Festival of the Dead. Obon is a holiday season in Japan that began as a Buddhist tradition of honoring one’s family ancestors.
My husband and I do not practice Buddhist customs or believe in the spiritualism of Obon. However, the festival is a time of reunion, as it is one of the few times a year when family can take off time from work. This year, our aunt, uncle, and sister on Masashi’s side will travel to visit. (more…)
A large area of Southwestern Japan was recently hit with record rainfall, and as of the last time I checked the news report, more than 90 people had passed away from this latest natural disaster, and dozens more were still missing. Rescue workers are working hurriedly to save more people as floodwaters rise, and landslides continue as the fragile, wet earth is exposed to more and more water.
Our county in Hyogo prefecture was one of several that received purple-level (the highest level) emergency warning, and although we did not have to evacuate, our alarms blared through the night at 11:30pm and again at 2:30am on July 6-7th as rain hurtled toward the ground.
It was the first time either of us had heard phone and radio alarms related to rainfall, which are usually reserved for severe earthquakes. My husband and I have lived through multiple natural disasters and dangers in Japan, including typhoons and earthquakes.
It can be easy to become desensitized to the grim death counts published by the media, or for each disaster to seem like yet another false alarm. (more…)