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…)
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…)
When I came to Osaka six years ago in June of 2012, I experienced my first Kansai summer. At the time, it was also my first encounter with heavy humidity. It seemed novel then (rain.. in summer?!), but later after making the move to Japan, I would discover the ills that a humid summer can bring.. including heat rash, swollen mosquito bites, and typhoons.
Summer has never been a particularly favorite season of mine, especially when it means staying indoors due to heat, rain, or both. Yet, despite the downsides of a wet and sticky season, there is something about summer that is both drowsy and electric, punctuated by the popping of 花火 (hanabi: fireworks) and the buzz of insects.
It seems fitting that as I write this blog post, the rain streams sideways against the window glass, and my ears are full of the sounds of overflowing gutters.
However, it was 3 years ago, while living in Asakusa in Tokyo, that I first began to describe the feeling of an island summer, as sampled below.
I remember hearing once in a movie a reference that unlike Japan, Ireland is not far from America.
This line made me laugh. Although the movie was referencing the east coast of America, which is in fact nearer to Ireland than Japan, I think that many people (especially Americans) have the sense that Japan is very far and inaccessible compared to European countries.. even though for those on the west coast, it may be easier to reach.
Other misconceptions I’ve encountered include that Japanese people eat teriyaki chicken all the time, or Panda Express-like dishes. Many people also confuse Chinese (or even Korean) culture and customs with Japanese, or think that it must be hard to get around in Japan because of the language barrier.
Before coming to Japan and later moving here, I was guilty of similar assumptions! So, I would like to share a few common misconceptions about Japan, and some insight into what Japan is really like. (more…)