Sunday Morning 4/21/2019: Week 9 in Japan

Spring has arrived, and azaleas are in bloom everywhere.

Wishing a Happy Easter to all who celebrate! And, for those celebrating Passover, chag Pesach sameach!

The design on the back is the same, but with the colors reversed.

The grands colored eggs yesterday and had a small egg and candy hunt this morning (we supplied the egg dye and some Japanese Easter-themed KitKats). In a short while we are going to get together with our son and grandson for lunch in the Hiroo neighborhood to celebrate Brett’s 69th birthday, which is today. When we were at Tokyu Hands the other day I bought him a lovely, big, blue and cream pillow cover that says “Hokusai Japan” in beautiful calligraphy. Hokusai is one of Brett’s favorite artists, and is also a play on our family name, so I hope he’ll like it. Plus, it will easily pack into his suitcase when we leave Japan, still a consideration these days.

This week definitely didn’t turn out anything like we hoped for or planned. On Tuesday we were going to head to Shinjuku to check out Bingoya and a couple of other places, but I woke up with a sore throat and feeling deeply tired, with absolutely no energy to do anything or go anywhere. So, we stayed home – Brett picked up our grandson from school on his own while I rested all day. Thankfully I was fine on Wednesday, but we still decided that other than our usual pick-up duties we should stick close to home. Brett went to his shodō lesson on Thursday, and on Friday we were ready to get back out there, but instead we were up early to watch our granddaughter for the day – she has a very bad cold, so couldn’t go to her hoikuen. Yesterday we stayed close to home again and took care of some errands in the neighborhood, did three loads of laundry, and cleaned the apartment. It was a nice week off, and we’re hoping to do the activities and errands we missed this coming week but we may need to watch our granddaughter another couple of days so will work around that if it happens.

Brett and I had a nice day out running errands yesterday, and ended with a coffee and juice break at Starbucks. As is typical for a Saturday, the neighborhood was crazy busy with long lines everywhere, but today will be even more crowded. Oh, and I can’t believe this guy is 69 years old today!

I found some clothes here that fit! For the past few weeks I have had my eye on a lovely full cotton skirt at Muji, and yesterday I finally decided to try it on . . . and it was too big! Actually, the skirt fit but the look of it added another 20-30 pounds on my hips, so . . . nope. I love Muji’s simple clothing – it’s all made from natural fibers and favors a loose, comfortable style – so I poked around while I waited for a dressing room, and ended up buying a lovely black linen sleeveless shift (size L), and a light grey French terry topper (size M/L) that I found on the sale rack. I know that not everything they make would fit me, but it was gratifying to discover that there is at least one place in Japan where I could find some things if I had to.

Edinburgh has been on my bucket list for a long while . . . and we’re going at the end of September!

YaYu will be coming over to England in mid-October to spend a week with us (fall break at Bryn Mawr), so I reserved a stay at an Airbnb in London for the three of us – we’ll spend three days poking around London before heading back to our place in the Cotswolds. Brett and I also picked out dates for our visit to Edinburgh, and I made an Airbnb reservation there – our apartment is just a short walk from Edinburgh castle! I still need to make train reservations for the trip up to Scotland – fellow passengers from England on our Australian train trip recommended we ride up from Kings Cross station in London as that trip has the best scenery – but that task can wait until later in the summer. I also purchased YaYu’s plane ticket to come to Portland in May. She’ll spend 12 days with us before heading over to Japan for the summer.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished We Were the Lucky Ones (a great read), and am now reading Heart: A History, by Sandeep Jauhar. It’s filled with all sorts of interesting information about things like advancements in heart surgery, changes in the treatment of heart disease, and how the heart came to be seen as the core of being human, among other topics.
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying a quiet morning here, just reading and writing with our cups of coffee. I absolutely love mornings like this!
  • Watching: I watched The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix this past week – very creepy and scary at times. I loved it! The backstory of the family dragged on a bit too much for me at times, but the last episode brought it all together. Apparently there’s going to be another season in 2020 – yeah! I’m thinking about watching Beyoncé’s Homecoming tonight.
  • Cooking/baking: Since we’re going out to lunch for his birthday celebration, Brett and I will probably just have leftovers tonight. There’s yakisoba from last night, or we can make quesadillas. I did buy a small orange poundcake at a nearby bakery for his cake, and we’ll have that with ice cream tonight.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: I went through all of the several ziplock bags we carry that hold things like medication, toiletries, etc. and reorganized and downsized those to give us more room in our suitcases. I’m glad to have gotten the Airbnb reservations done for this fall, and have YaYu’s flight to Portland taken care of. Otherwise I don’t think we really accomplished anything.

    We had a delicious lunch with Eriko and her husband Jun and son Joe (I love how he’s showing us his food – 110% boy). The cacio e pepe I ordered was just like I had in Rome.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a fantastic Italian meal with my former student, Eriko, and her family on Sunday afternoon, and got ourselves caught up with what’s been going on with each other. In spite of this not being a stellar week for us in many other ways, the weather has been glorious and quite warm. We’ve even had to open the windows in the apartment a couple of times to cool things off, and have not had to turn on the heater for a few days. While the cherry blossoms have now almost completely disappeared, the dogwoods and azaleas are blooming, so there’s still more beautiful color around. Meiling had her first job interview the other day – she thought she did OK but not great, but was happy that her resume was interesting enough that the company wanted to interview her. However, on Friday she was asked to do a second interview so now we’ve officially crossed our fingers!

    Dogwoods are now in bloom all over!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This wasn’t a particularly frugal week, although we didn’t go crazy either. Our daily spending average though is where we want to be ($50.07) so we’re doing OK.
  • Grateful for: I adore spending time with our grandkids, and am so thankful we have been able to have so much time with them. I had a wonderful time raising our own four children, but at the same time I am also thankful that that part of my life is finished. Brett and I live very simply and minimally now, and I am happy not to have to deal with all the accoutrement that comes along with kids (toys, clothing, books, paper, art supplies, and so forth), the food and other childhood issues, and all the scheduling that goes along with having children in the home (school, extra-curricular stuff, etc.). I just don’t have the energy I once did either – I had a good time taking care of our granddaughter on Friday, but even though she was sick she almost wore me out!

    Even when she’s sick she still is full of energy!
  • Japanese word of the week: Chigau 違う. I had always understood this word to mean “wrong,” and I often overhear it in conversation which seemed strange. I’d always thought it meant “you’re wrong” or something similar, but in fact chigau has several meanings, such as “to be different or differ,” “another,” or “something else.” In conversation chigau can mean “that’s not how it is” or “that’s wrong,” with chigau being a softer word than “no” is in English. I’d heard it said that having the word “wrong” equaling “different” was a cultural link to Japan’s homogenous society, so that no one stuck out, but there’s been pushback on that interpretation. Anyway, I feel like I have a better understanding now of chigau and how and why it’s used (not that I’m confident enough to use it properly).

Just three more weeks in Japan to go! Next weekend we’ll be visiting Hakone with our son and family for a two night stay, so I won’t be posting until we get back. Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, so we’ll get to see Mt. Fuji up close, as well as many other interesting sites in the area like Lake Ashi and the geothermal valley. Hakone is noted for their natural hot springs, and we’re looking forward to taking a couple of good soaks while we’re there (although the water is so hot in places that I once actually burned myself climbing into a tub!).

I hope you all had a good week, had lots of good things happen, and are looking forward to next week!


18 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 4/21/2019: Week 9 in Japan

  1. Happy Birthday Brett. I hope your granddaughter feels better.
    I visited Edinburgh when I went to England, Scotland and Wales. I remember the crown jewels at the castle, not nearly as impressive as the Tower of London crown jewels but I really enjoyed the day. My families clan tartan is called the Cochrane Special. Not very pretty but I passed on the opportunity to buy a sample and have always regretted it. It’s a special order and I was never able to find it again. Can’t wait to hear all about England.


    1. K’s other grandmother will be watching her tomorrow, but we will probably watch her again on Tuesday – hopefully after that she’ll be well enough to go back to her hoikuen.

      Edinburgh has been on my bucket list ever since I read my first Ian Rankin book – Edinburgh is actually more like a character in his books than a setting. My family (Conn, from my maternal grandmother) belongs to the Hay clan so I hope to find something to bring home – maybe a scarf?

      We love being in Japan, but are already looking forward to our time in England. Hopefully nothing crazy happens while we’re there, although the new Brexit deadline occurs a month before we leave.


  2. Happy Birthday! My husband is two months behind. It is a great time, isn’t it?
    My daughter and her husband leave for Scotland in a week. They are just doing the Isle of Skye.
    Glad you got your reservations. Now that Rick Steves is running a series on Scotland–and tons of tours–reservations in the smaller towns seem to be getting short!
    Enjoy your time with your family. Lots of memories storing up.


    1. An early happy birthday to your husband! We are flying back to the U.S. on my birthday, but Brett reminded me that means I will get to have my birthday twice!

      We are super excited about the Airbnb we reserved in Edinburgh – apparently it’s almost always booked due to its location (and amenities), but the exact days we wanted happened to be open so I snapped them up! I don’t know if we’ll get out of Edinburgh while we’re there or not – we’ll see.

      If I even start to think about leaving I get choked up – heaven only knows what it’s going to be like to actually say goodbye.


  3. In that we are currently in Metro DC with our granddaughters, I feel your heart pain. I don’t have many sad spots in my life, but living on the opposite coast from my sweet girls is definitely one of them. Thank goodness for Skype and FaceTime, though, which really do shrink those many miles in between visits.

    We have Scotland on our list for year after next, so I’ll be very interested in how your AirBnB there works out. We’re thinking a month there, ideally, as I so want to get up into the far northern regions.including the Shetlands due to much enjoying the BBC series via Netflix!


    1. I can’t even think about saying good-bye without choking up now. We have had such a good time with the grands, and have wonderful memories to bring along with us until we see them again (we already have dates to return in 2020). My DIL is great about sending lots of pictures, although now that she’s working we may not get as many. YaYu will be here this summer though to watch the kids, and my big request is that she sends us lots of pictures.

      I wish we could spend more time in Scotland, but with YaYu coming and a road trip into Wales and Cornwall, four days was all we felt we could afford for now in Edinburgh. I have a feeling though it’s only going to wet our appetites for more Scotland!


  4. Happy Birthday Brett!
    We went to the Cotswolds 2 years ago and it was our favorite trip, by far. We did a walk through this company:, which we got from Jane at Crabapple Landing, and it was just AMAZING. Even if you don’t do one of their official walks, be sure to ask your host about the walking trails – they go up to run down castles and through the back of estates and orchards. All of the fields have a right-of-way reserved through at least one side that are reserved for public access – so you walk along the old rock stacked walls, with the animals (cows, sheep, etc.) and through some crazy fences. It’s just amazing.


    1. We are hoping for good walking weather in September and early October while we’re there as we’re pretty sure though November will be too cold and dreary for walking. I’m investing in a good pair of walking boots this summer! Thank you so much for the link – I will check them out!


  5. Happy birthday to Brett! He definitely doesn’t look 69. That’s the exact age of my father, who is still incredibly young at heart as well. And, your granddaughter is absolutely adorable. Love the Minnie photo. My parents were here for a week & it was so nice having them around. They always miss the boys when they leave.


    1. I know you are happy to have your parents there, and I thought it was interesting that purchasing their airfares and giving them money was cheaper than putting the boys in camp! I so wish we could stay longer, mostly because of family, but we also are enjoying our life in Japan. Saying goodbye next month is going to be awful.

      Brett has always looked young for his age – I keep telling him it’s unfair (because he also has long, thick eyelashes and strong fingernails), but he got the good genes. His two younger brothers both have gray hair and look much older than Brett (and I do). Our son seems to (thankfully) favor Brett – at 40 his hair is still thick and dark, and no wrinkles either.

      Our little girl LOVES Minnie Mouse! Our DIL gave her the stuffed animal, our son gave her the hat, and we gave her the purse. She is an absolute pistol, but one of the happiest, most cheerful toddlers I’ve come across in a long time.


    1. He has always looked young for his age while I got gray hair in my 30s, and started getting wrinkles and sags early on as well. So unfair! He is a great travel partner though, but wants to settle after we finish in England. We’ve agreed that any and all trips after that will be for one month in one location – it really makes a difference.

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  6. Catching up on my reading finally. Happy belated birthday to Brett…everyone is right. He doesn’t look 69!

    Edinburgh is wonderful – I’m sure you’ll love it. My first husband was Scottish and we honeymooned in Scotland and London. Loved Edinburgh Castle and still remember the dog cemetery – not sure why but that really struck me as sad. I’m sure Edinburgh’s changed a lot but I loved it. I bought a kilt (mini-skirts were in) but the shopkeeper talked me into a shorty. Needless to say, it is long gone. LOL.

    I completely agree that grandkids are great AND I don’t have the energy to parent kids anymore. Guess that’s age appropriate, as my dear friend says. I’m sure it will be very hard to leave them.


    1. I have wanted to visit Edinburgh ever since I read my first Ian Rankin book – he makes the city one of the characters in his books. The Airbnb we rented is just below the castle with a five to nine minute walk up. I do have some Scots heritage, through my maternal grandmother, so have been researching our clan (Hay) and hope to pick up a bit of tartan when I’m there. I had a kilt in high school (Stewart tartan) – a short one that I loved. They were a thing for a while.

      We have been watching our granddaughter for two days now and Brett and I are worn out! Our grandson is home today as well which just adds to the energy. They’re good kids but very, very active. Hopefully both will be back at their respective schools tomorrow – we are happy to help out but we already need a rest.


    1. I am happy to say that he was thrilled with the pillow cover! He said he’s looking forward to having his own special pillow for reading or napping.


  7. you probably already know this, but we have a Muji in Portland now! At the old Meier and Frank building downtown. And I love their simple clothes too (haven’t bought any yet though)!


    1. Yes! I am looking forward to visiting, and will definitely be checking out the clothing selection. We are going to be staying on the west side this summer (West Hills) for a change and plan to spend more time downtown and in the NW for a change.

      Would love to have a meetup if you’re interest! Let me know and we can set something up!


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