Sunday Morning 5/5/2019: Week 11 in Japan

What I love about Japan #3,692: This house has no yard, but a lovely garden has still been created out in front.

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.

The main building of the Tokyo National Museum – there are four more.
We visited a special exhibition of treasures from Tō-ji temple in Kyoto. This sculpture is from the 9th century, and is a National Treasure of Japan.

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.

From the Imperial Household display, a magnificent porcelain plate.
Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan, and their small population currently resides in the north, on Hokkaido. The applique and embroidery on these coats are exquisite; the fabric is hand woven and dyed.
An old corner building in the Yanaka neighborhood has been turned into a shop.

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.

    There’s a lifesize statue of a blue whale outside of the national science museum in Ueno Park.
  • 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.

    We gave up counting all the old temples and shrines in Yanaka.
  • 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.

    We’ve been happy to ignore these for the past three months.
  • 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.

    Mochi wrapped in fresh bamboo leaves – very delicious!
  • 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.

    We ate a late lunch at a ‘fast food’ tempura restaurant near Yanaka, and got lots of tasty food for the two of us for just $15.
  • 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!

13 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 5/5/2019: Week 11 in Japan

  1. Love all the movies you mentioned and would watch any of them again in a heartbeat. I have never seen Brothers & Sisters, so I am watching that…only about 10 years late. ha!

    I love hearing from all my kids in one week. Sounds like your daughters are all doing well, which is always a happy realization for me.

    We finally got sunshine this weekend, and I need to start puling weeds in my garden before the rain comes back. We’re having a wet spring, and the garden has various weeds – different ones flourish depending on the rain/sun levels. But they all do well and need to be controlled. Luckily, flowers are also beginning to sprout and our juneberries are about two days from full bloom.

    The life sized statue of the blue whale is pretty amazing. They sure have some great museums in Japan.

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    1. I passed out last night from exhaustion so no movies yesterday (Sunday evening) – maybe tonight!

      If you love gardens and gardening you would have loved our DIL’s mother’s garden. So much beauty in such a small space. We saw it just before most everything is ready to burst into bloom. It’s been such a pleasure to be here in Japan and watch spring unfold before us, although we’ve also gotten a taste of the hot summer weather that’s coming and are sort of glad we won’t be here for that.

      Our brief taste of Ueno Park makes me want to go back: there’s a whole temple complex, the famous zoo, and lots and lots of museums to visit. I can’t believe I never went there before, although we lived a ways out of Tokyo and every trip into the city was a major effort – being so close to everything this time has really made a difference.

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  2. The time seems to have gone so quickly – even for someone just reading about it. You’ve inspired me. I think the being in one place as a base for a period of time is the way to go.

    Your family seem to have caught your travel bug too! Florence. Lovely.

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    1. For us the time has passed just about perfectly – not too fast and not too slow; we are beginning to feel that it’s time to move on although we will greatly miss our family here (I choke up just thinking of saying goodbye).

      Extended stays, we’ve discovered, are the way to go. I don’t think we’ll ever travel again where we can’t stay in one place for at least three weeks, but hopefully longer. We’ve enjoyed every place we visited, but there has been so much difference in the depth of what we experienced in the longer versus the shorter stays. Plus, we appreciate having time to explore our neighborhood, and take time off to rest and recharge if needed. What a difference that has made versus go-go-go all the time!

      Our middled daughter has falled in love in Florence, and now she’s on to Athens for a few days before returning to classes!

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  3. I have sent the link of your blog to a friend. You got me yearning to seeJapan and although I prefer solo travel, I think, it would be better to have a friend to visit Japan both for companionship and money saving. Thanks for sharing all the beauty and intriguing things so well.

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    1. You would definitely save on lodging by sharing lodgings with someone else. In my opinion, Airbnb is the way to go here too versus staying in a hotel as you can prepare some of your own meals in your lodgings.

      If you decide to visit I recommend coming in the fall – good, cooler weather and the fall foliage can be just as lovely as the cherry blossoms (although that’s a great time to visit as well). I hope you decide to come – Tokyo and Japan are wonderful places to visit. Busy, crowded but clean and safe.

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  4. I’m finding myself feeling sad about your departure right along with you both, because, well, grandchildren. And I have been likewise inspired to give slow-go travel more consideration going forward. I can see the many benefits after following along with you these last many months. Ironically, we are home for the next four months for a variety of reasons, the longest stretch since retiring eight years ago. It will be challenging for this rolling stone!

    Good things: We enjoyed a 40 minute FaceTime session with our four year old grandaughter yesterday, chatting about thunder and if it was scary, and playing Simon Says. So fun! Plus, we had a spontaneous dinner out with my oldest daughter, my niece, and their respective sweeties at a very fun and trendy fast-casual chicken joint called The Crack Shack. Feeling full of contentment this morning as a result of both things.

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    1. I can barely think about saying goodbye to our grandchildren, and our son and DIL – we have had such a great time here being close to them and being able to see them so frequently. I think our three-month stay here was one of the best things we planned on our extended journey.

      It’s funny you mention being “rolling stones” – that’s how we feel, and we like the nomad life. After this, I don’t think we’ll travel anywhere where we can’t stay at least a month. The difference in experience versus shorter stays or tours is immeasurable. The longer stays are more relaxing and give so many chances to dig a little deeper into the place you are.

      I’m pretty sure we will be doing lots of FaceTime this summer, although the time difference is an issue that we’ll have to work around. I am going to miss those kids so much though. We’ve got one last sleepover planned with our grandson, and a get-together next Sunday for Mother’s Day, and then we’ll pick up our grandson for the last time on Monday and say our goodbyes to the family that evening – we head to the airport on Tuesday noon. What a time we’ve had – I am so very, very grateful.

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  5. I can’t believe your time in Japan is almost over! I’ve loved following along with you. I think the time spent with your son’s family has been so special & impossible to recreate without the longer travel period that allowed you to really integrate into their routine. Such a great opportunity!

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    1. We are so thankful for the time we’ve been able to spend here, for being close to our family and, as you say, integrate into their routine (although it’s been quite hectic for us at times). As sad as we are about leaving and wish we could stay, we’re also feeling a bit that it’s time to move on to the next stage for a while.

      Will you be in PDX any time this summer? I’d love to get together if you do make it there!

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  6. You write beautifully! Yours is one of only two blogs I take the time to read and keep up with. Love your writings! Thank you

    Ingrid

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