It’s almost impossible to think about, but we have only 10 days left to go in Japan (counting today)! We haven’t figured out how we’re going to accomplish it, but on May 14 we and all our luggage will head out to Narita Airport and leave for the United States in the late afternoon. We’ve seen and done everything we wanted to here and then some, spent loads of wonderful time with our son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, eaten all the food, accomplished everything else we set out to do while we were here and even a few things we hadn’t planned on. Our three months in Japan has been everything we hoped for and more.
We’ve had a relaxing and not too busy week: we returned from last weekend’s Golden Week getaway on Monday evening; unpacked, did our laundry, and rested on Tuesday, visited the Tokyo National Museum on Wednesday; Brett went to his calligraphy lesson on Thursday; and on Friday we did a self-guided walking tour of the Yanaka neighborhood. A little later today we’re going up to Saitama Prefecture for a visit and lunch with our daughter-in-law’s parents, and are looking forward very much to seeing them again. Because of Golden Week every place we’ve gone has been quite crowded, but we decided that’s just part of the experience.
One of Brett’s and my big jobs this summer will be to inventory all of the things we’ve been traveling with and get rid of or store what is unnecessary and replenish or replace things that are needed. For example, my trusty Skechers have to be replaced – the memory foam soles that were so comfortable at the beginning of our travels have completely broken down, the inside fabric is falling apart, and both pairs are now quite uncomfortable. I must have taken nearly a million steps in them though. I think I have worn the pair of clogs I brought along all of two times, so they will go into storage and be replaced with a good pair of walking/hiking shoes for treks while we’re in England. I also have a couple of jackets that have turned out to be impractical, and can see that a lightweight rain jacket would take up less space and get used more, so I’ll be on the lookout for one of those as well. Some of my clothes I’m just plain sick of at this point and want to swap them out, but thankfully I still am happy with most of them. Brett is in a similar position and wants to change out a few things and add a couple of things as well. We’ve started on a list but will get serious about it all once we’ve settled into our Portland apartment later this month.
This morning I am:
- Reading: I finished up another one of Susan Spann’s mysteries, Blade of the Samurai,. Because of the amount of historical detail she includes, I was able to appreciate much more many of the things I viewed at the National Museum this past week. I am still waiting for a couple of books to come off of hold at the library but was able to download a book by one of the authors, Cross and Burn, by Val McDermid. She’s a new-to-me mystery writer from Scotland. So far the book I’m reading now is a real page-turner and I can’t wait to read more of her work (and she has written a lot).
- Listening to: Our grandson slept over with us last night, so he and Brett are chatting right now. We’re getting ready to go up for lunch with his other set of grandparents in a short while. Otherwise it’s very quiet here – not many people outside. The sun is shining brightly too – it’s supposed to up to 77º today!
- Watching: I watched a couple of favorite movies this past week on days that I wasn’t too tired or reading: The King’s Speech and Lincoln. This week I am going to choose between Doubt, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game and Apollo 13. Neither Brett nor I have missed not watching television while we’ve been in Japan, and at this point doubt we’ll get a television again when we finally settle down.
- Cooking/baking: I’m not sure what we’re having tonight as I’m fairly sure our DIL’s mother will feed us well for lunch. The freezer here is now cleared out, and we’re going to start stopping by the grocery store each day to pick up what we need for dinner rather than do a weekly shop and end up with any leftovers.
- Happy I accomplished this past week: I had a lot to write about after last weekend’s travels, and got four blog posts done. Writing is a genuine effort for me (I am never satisfied), so I’m glad I was able to get last week’s posts done in a timely manner. Even though we were tired, Brett and I both were glad we made the effort to go to Ueno Park to the National Museum and to the Yanaka neighborhood. Believe it or not, even after all my time in Japan, this was my first trip to Ueno Park! Other than those things, I don’t think I accomplished all that much other than the regular everyday stuff I do around here.
- Looking forward to next week: We are heading back to Yokohama again to visit the Sogo department store food gallery in the basement. We want to buy a package of bird cookies, and a kind of Japanese green tea “pudding” I love, made with kudzu starch as the thickener. Brett has his final class and will take his first calligraphy exam this coming week! We’re also hoping for better weather this week too – we’ve had quite a bit of rainy weather this past week, including a major thunderstorm yesterday. What we’re not looking forward to is dragging out the suitcases toward the end of the week and getting started on the packing.
- Thinking of good things that happened: Our visits to the Tokyo National Museum and the Yanaka neighborhood were the last two items on our list of things we wanted to see and do during our stay in Tokyo. I think the only thing we missed out on was our visit to Shinjuku, but it will be here when we come back. We’ve heard from all three of the girls this week: Meiling is getting ready for her last set of finals; WenYu is currently in Florence, Italy during her spring break (and eating gelato every day); and YaYu is finishing up her first year of school and not looking forward to her finals. We stopped at a shop selling traditional Japanese sweets when we were in Yanaka to pick up a small gift for M’s parents, and the shop carried another one of my favorites: mochi filled with red bean paste and wrapped in a fresh, aromatic bamboo leaf. They were every bit as good as I remembered them.
- Thinking of frugal things we did: We didn’t spend much this week – just two small trips to the grocery store, the present for M’s parents and mochi for me, and a stop for lunch when we visited Yanaka. We have done a good job of eating out of our refrigerator and pantry this past week and had no food waste. Both of us are very happy with our April spending totals, and hope we can keep it up in May, although we have some big grocery shops to take care of in Portland as we set up for the summer.
- Grateful for: Both Brett and I are extremely thankful for our son’s generosity throughout our stay in Japan, and for the wonderful time we had with them last weekend on our getaway. We are glad we have been able to give back just a little by picking up and watching our grandchildren in the afternoons, a pleasure for us and a small way to make their lives easier, especially with our daughter-in-law returning to work outside the home.
- Japanese word of the week: yada やだ. This is an expression my grandchildren use over and over, and although I understood it to mean “no” or “don’t” more accurately means “I don’t like that!” or “I don’t want to!” Children often use it to mean “Stop it!” Yada is often compared to the word dame だめ, which generally means “wrong,” “no good,” “useless,” or “hopeless.” Dame is usually said to stop an action immediately, especially when said to children.
Ten days to go . . . I almost can’t believe it. I’m pretty sure from here on out it’s all going to fly by, and the next thing we know we’ll be on our way out to the airport. It’s all been wonderful though, the visit of a lifetime and I would do it again in a heartbeat!
I hope all of you had a very good week, and that plenty of good things happened for you!