We have only one month left to go in Japan! When I wrote the date in the title, I realized that in less than 30 days we will be packing our bags once again, and hauling them out to the airport for our flight back to the U.S. on May 14. That’s as much as I’m going to think about leaving for now though because I know it’s going to be very emotional for us parting from our family here, and leaving a place we love so much.
This past week was mostly a nice, relaxing one for us: picking up our grandson every day from school, running our regular errands, enjoying the Todoroki Ravine Park, and going out to dinner with our son and family. Yesterday we headed down to Yokosuka to spend some time at the wonderful Soleil Hill family park with our son and family, and then do one last shop at commissary. The park, located in an agricultural area near Yokosuka, had all sorts of fun and interesting activities for the whole family, including go-karts, swan boats, several amazing playgrounds, an amusement park, and a petting zoo (we got to pet a capybara and some kangaroos!). The park was also decked out for spring with beautiful flower beds throughout the park. Getting on base though was easier said than done because it took us nearly two hours to get our son a pass to bring the car on base! Nothing was wrong other than there was a long, long line at the pass gate for some reason. It was dark when we finally left the commissary to come home, but the trip back was easy with no traffic, and we are set with food and supplies.
We received a surprise windfall this past week – a check for $1250 from Wells Fargo Mortgage. We sold our house five years ago, but apparently Wells Fargo had never given us back the mortgage insurance we had overpaid by several months (we thought we had received it in the settlement). In the load of forwarded mail from Brett’s sister was a check for the overpayment plus the interest earned on the amount over the past five years. The money more than covered our income tax payment this year, and the rest went into savings.
Anyway, this week I am:
- Reading: I finished Educated (couldn’t put it down), and am now reading We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter, a novel about an extended Jewish family in Poland that somehow managed to survive the Holocaust. It is based on the actual story of the author’s family. I’m still waiting for my books to come off of hold at the library.
- Listening to: Our little washing machine is going with a small load, but otherwise all is quiet here this morning.
- Watching: I didn’t watch anything this week – I was too busy reading!
- Cooking: We’re going out for lunch today with a former student of mine, and having tacos tonight, to finish up some leftover taco filling. We were going to have them last night, but we got home too late from Yokosuka and ended up eating other leftovers.
- Happy I accomplished this past week: I finally found a birthday present for Brett (his birthday is next weekend). The gift had to be something he would enjoy that would also fit into his suitcase, so it was a bit of a challenge. Brett filed our taxes yesterday evening – we waited until almost the deadline because we have to pay a small amount this year.
- Looking forward to next week: Brett and I are going to Shinjuku this week to visit Bingo-ya, a store that showcases Japanese folk crafts of all sorts, from pottery to dishes to fabric and more, and also to go out to lunch. We’re going to go back to the Sogo department store as well later in the week, although to one that’s closer to our house than Yokohama. We’re hoping they carry the items we want so we don’t have to make the longer trip.
- Thinking of good things that happened: Our visit to the Todoroki Ravine Park on Tuesday was one of the nicest outings I’ve ever enjoyed in Japan. It was a beautiful spot, and the weather was perfect. Brett’s enjoying and doing well in his calligraphy class, and we got him the necessary tools and paper at Tokyu Hands so he can practice at home between classes. On Wednesday evening we went out to dinner at a wonderful noodle restaurant down the street from our house with our son and family (we ate there last week with Meiling and K before they left). I enjoyed what I think is my favorite meal in Japan: katsudon, a breaded pork cutlet cooked in a soy broth with onions and egg, and then served over a bowl of rice. The meal came with a small bowl of handmade udon noodles, tofu, and some tasty pickled vegetables. Our DIL ordered the same meal and had this to say about the food: If this restaurant was near our house I would eat here every day.
- Thinking of frugal things we did: We did not spend a whole lot of money this week (well, until we went to the commissary yesterday), and have managed to get our daily spending average down to $48.61 for the month. We’ve also done a good job of eating up all the leftovers so there has been no food waste. I had been watching the J. Jill sales section for some warm pieces to take to (chilly) England this fall, and this past week ordered a sweater, sweatshirt and poncho at 40% off the sale price. The total for all three items was less than $100, including shipping, and like all J. Jill items they will last a long time. All my other clothing is hanging in there, although I will need to get new socks and shoes when we get back to the U.S.
- Grateful for: While we have greatly enjoyed the cherry blossoms this year, I am also thankful to see green leaves replacing the flowers – spring has arrived (although we had a couple of days of very cold temperatures this past week that made us wonder). The sight of fallen blossoms on the ground is a reminder to fully enjoy and appreciate all that is good and beautiful in life because like all things it will eventually change or pass.
- Japanese word of the week: mingei 民芸, meaning folk arts or art of the people. There is a great appreciation in Japan for the beauty of everyday objects and the arts and crafts of average people, things that are practical and can be used in daily life. Mingei are not “one of a kind” pieces of art but items produced in quantities by hand. They should be inexpensive, simple, practical in design, and are meant to be used and represent the region of Japan they comes from. There is a Museum of Japanese Folkcraft nearby us that I hope to visit before we leave. By the way, the kanji 芸 in mingei is the same as in geisha 芸者, which means person who does art.
We’ve got our fingers crossed that this week will be another relaxing one. We’ve made a casual list of things we want to get before we leave, and places we want to see (like the Museum of Folkcraft and the National Museum of Japan in Ueno Park), but we don’t want to feel rushed. Our time here has been wonderful, and we want it to stay that way right up until we leave.
I hope you all had a great week, and that spring has finally arrived wherever you are.