The Return (お帰り)

I distinctly remember the rain on my last day in Japan, May 13th, 2013. After a few weeks of lounging around Kris’ spacious Kamigaya apartment, it was time to finally say a sad farewell. It wasn’t all terrible; I was Malaysia bound, with 8 weeks of travel ahead of me. Nonetheless, I will never forget saying “Goodbye” for the last time at Haneda airport.

In June of 2016 I finally returned. After years of dreaming I would someday return and practicing my Japanese, I made it back.

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Shopping Spree in Tokyo

We finally got paid. What was the first thing we did? Karaoke, then shopping in Harajuku and Shibuya. Obviously.

I bought some much needed work clothes… and some play clothes too. Our friend Kris (remember him?) showed us the back alleys of Harajuku. It’s off the beaten path, with plenty of affordable, often more fashionable shops. Some of them carry second-hand items, but you would never know it. The Japanese are known for a) shopping a lot and b) taking really good care of their clothes. Most of the second-hand stores had items I would still consider new. Continue reading

Barbecue!

Saturday, many of the local ALTs got together for a good, old fashioned BBQ. The Japanese love to barbecue, but they do it slightly different. So, since it was Memorial day weekend and all that, we decided to skirt the social-norm for once, and have a nice, western-style BBQ. On the menu: Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, Hamburgers in hotdog buns (when we ran out of burger buns), shish-kebobs, and, of course, yakisoba. Yea, we got as close to Western as we could with it. Continue reading

Golden Week: Second Half

At Yokohama Chinatown

After a rather disappointing day of lessons on Wednesday, I was really looking forward to Golden Week part 2. Carolyn and I were off to an early start on Thursday morning to head into Chiba-ken. The plan was to meet our friends coming from Mito-shi (the capital of Ibaraki-ken) and spend the day seeing some of the historic cities in Chiba-ken. As it turned out, the weather had other plans in mind. It was raining, a lot. About half way there, we get a call to meet in a different city and end up loosing an hour of driving time. We stopped through Moriya-shi to grab our friend Becky (remember Becky?). After a long, rainy drive, we ended up in Kamagaya-shi where we met up with our friends. Thus begins the story of Golden week, part 2.

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Mono no Aware (物の哀れ)

This past weekend was all about “mono no aware.” This idea is a very important part of Japanese culture, and the aspect that I respect the most. It literally translates to “a pathos of things.” Basically, appreciate the things in life that are fleeting or impermanent. The best example I can give is cherry blossoms. They bloom once a year and only last about a week. That is why hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is so popular here. The Japanese have a festival for nearly everything that is notoriously short-lived.They have plum festivals, peach festival, cherry blossom festivals, and even snow festivals. It’s always about taking the time to enjoy life, because it is truly, very brief. So, I invite you to try “mono no aware.” This weekend, gather a group of friends an family, take out a picnic blanket, and go celebrate the most beautiful, yet brief, part of spring in your town. This idea stretches beyond physical things, but you get the jest of it. Continue reading