Sunday Morning 5/10/2019: Week 12 in Japan

We’re going to miss this little pixie so much! She is such a happy, even-tempered and contented little girl.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Today would be my traditional Day of Doing Nothing, where Brett and the girls take care of all the chores and wait on me hand and foot, but this year there is too much going on for that to happen (and no girls around to help Brett). We’re relaxing at home now, but in a little while we’re heading over to the park near our son’s place for a picnic with them. Yesterday we handed over the few last things we had in the cupboards and refrigerator to our DIL so the apartment is ready for cleaning and last minute packing on Monday.

This is it though – our final Sunday in Japan. What an absolutely wonderful time we have had here! We are so, so sad about going but have enough to do before we leave on Tuesday that we hopefully won’t sink too far into melancholy. The only thing we are looking forward to leaving behind is our apartment. While the location has been superb, and the apartment clean and the kitchen well-equipped, it’s otherwise been a somewhat stressful place to live with very uncomfortable furniture, funky decor, and a so-so bed and bathroom. We realize that the apartment we had originally requested may have been too small to host Meiling and her boyfriend when they came, but it would have suited us far, far better in the long run. We’re apparently leaving at a fortuitous time as well as a new house is being built right next door (and I mean up close next door) and the construction noise during the day is becoming annoying. There are also other noisy tenants in the building now, including a group of some rather loud American college students.

Doing some homework at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s – we’re going to miss our fearless skateboarding boy too.

But, we’ll be back to Japan soon – we already have plans to come at least for a month in the fall of 2020 to be here for our granddaughter’s fourth birthday, but hopefully we will be able to stay longer. We had once dreamed of being here for the Olympics, but have now rethought that idea: we don’t really want to deal with the huge crowds along with Tokyo’s sweltering summer head and humidity.

Walking through the wetlands at the nature park in Saitama Prefecture last weekend. It was lovely the day we visited but I imagine the park would be beastly during the summer humidity.

Everything is ready for us in Portland – we will be staying in one Airbnb for three nights when we arrive, and then move to our long-term rental in the west hills on the 17th. Before we move over there, and in between bouts of jet lag, we will shop for food and supplies for the summer and take care of a few other errands on the east side of the city. YaYu arrives late at night on the 17th, and will be with us until the 25th (I think) before heading over to Japan for the summer. Meiling’s graduation happens mid-June, and Brett’s sister will hopefully be able to join us for that and stay with us for a few days. Brett is planning to continue his calligraphy lessons throughout the summer, and we both intend to sign up for Japanese lessons – our time here has shown us how woefully inadequate our language skills are. We are also going to somewhat try to be tourists in Portland this summer, and visit places and do things we normally never did there, or at least didn’t do very often.

Anyway, this morning I am:

  1. Reading: I finished two Val McDermid mysteries this past week (I read Broken Ground in two days!) and am now just about finished with The Library Book by Susan Orlean. I’m not sure what I’m going to read next.
  2. Listening to: We’re enjoying a very quiet morning – there’s not even a sound outside. The leaves aren’t moving on any of the trees either which means it’s going to be another hot day. It’s almost hard to believe how bitterly cold it was when we arrived back in February, and we’re now wearing summer clothing.
  3. Watching: Remember all those movies I planned to watch last week? I didn’t watch even one of them because I was too busy reading! I’m hoping I get to watch Crazy Rich Asians once again on the flight to the U.S. – love that movie!

    The only thing missing on my plate of pancakes from Butter was actual butter! The squares on the right were crème brulée, but Brett took my ice cream and syrup (in the back) and I somehow ate all the rest – it really wasn’t as sweet you might imagine. Brett and I are both going on a carb moratorium when we get back to the U.S. though. The only reason I’m still able to fit into my clothes now is because of all the walking we’ve done here every day.
  4. Cooking/baking: There are no longer food nor supplies in the house to do any sort of cooking so we have been eating out the past few days. We had okonomiyaki, Japanese savory pancakes, on Friday evening; McDonald’s last night (one more Teriyaki McBurger for me) because we were feeling tired and lazy; and tonight we’ll probably pick up a bento somewhere or maybe get one last order of takoyaki. We’re going out for sushi tomorrow evening, will have something from the bakery on Tuesday morning before we leave the apartment, and finish our Japan eating odyssey with lunch at Narita before we depart.

    Brett’s final calligraphy work product after four weeks of instruction. The characters represent the four seasons.
  5. Happy I accomplished this past week: This past week has been a series of chores necessary for moving on and we’ve mostly gotten them accomplished; thankfully there are just a few more small things left to do. We’re down to the last few items to fit into the suitcases and we have our fingers crossed that everything will fit. Brett had his last calligraphy lessons and did OK on his final work product. It has been a challenging endeavor for him because he has to use his right hand (he’s left-handed) but he enjoys it and is looking forward to continuing to learn. I also found and booked an Airbnb in Portland for us to stay in when we return to Portland next December to get us through Christmas there once again.
  6. Looking forward to next week: The only thing I’m looking forward to next week is that I will be able to once again understand what people, signs, magazines and newspapers around me are saying. I am not looking forward to the jet lag I know is coming – I think it’s going to be brutal this time.
    We enjoyed getting together with M’s parents last weekend. (And yes, I am growing out my very curly hair, and am in currently in my “old lady pouf” stage.)

    M’s mother’s garden is even more gorgeous this week as everything is in bloom!
  7. Thinking of good things that happened: We had a wonderful time last weekend with our daughter-in-law’s parents. We started out with snacks at their home and toured her mom’s beautiful garden (she’s a master gardener) before going out for lunch at a restaurant in the countryside. Afterwards we spent some time walking through a lovely nature park and wetlands near to the restaurant – it was an all around great day. Brett and I had a fun trip to Sogo’s food gallery in Yokohama on Tuesday. We bought a few items and then finished with fancy pancakes for lunch. The restaurant was named Butter, but I think butter was about the only thing I didn’t get with my pancakes! We were so glad to have finally eaten at the okonomiyaki restaurant last Friday. We have walked by it nearly every day we’ve been here and alway said we’d eat there “one of these days.” The restaurant was small but the food was fantastic and I’m sad we didn’t get to eat there more than just this once.
    The okonomiyaki restaurant had a nice old-school ambience.
    Our okonomiyaki getting started on the griddle, with the pancakes topped gererously with cabbage, ginger and chopped shrimp. That mound was then topped with several larger shrimp and pork belly slices. The cook expertly flipped the pancakes a few times as they cooked and didn’t spill a thing!

    The pancakes were finished on a hot metal plate before a scrambled egg, seaweed, sauce, mayonnaise and dried bonito flakes were added on top. The pancakes were then served to us on a wooden charger.
  8. Thinking of frugal things we did: We’ve done an outstanding job of using up all the food we had here in the apartment if I do say so myself. Very little went over to our son’s. Last Wednesday Brett went to the grand opening of a new 7-11 store that opened just down the street and scored some nice discounts on several items that we have eaten this past week or used for our grandson’s after-school treats. I reserved a hotel room for an overnight stay near Eugene for Meiling’s graduation and saved $40.47 off the price using my Expedia reward points. And, we’re leaving with a daily spending average for our entire time in Japan of $45.75 per day which makes us very happy (currently $43.75/day for May).
  9. Grateful for: Both Brett and I are so very, very thankful for the extended period of time we have been able to spend in Japan near our son and his family. It’s been all that we hoped for and more.
  10. Japanese word of the week: sayonara さようなら. While sayonara means good-bye, it also carries a sense of finality, and is used in situations where one will never be returning or not for a very long time, much like the word farewell in English. Sayonara is often used casually in Japanese speech, but you really don’t hear it much in regular conversation. We will be using the more informal jā matane when we say our goodbyes tomorrow, which means “see you again soon.”

Tuesday is my 67th birthday and Brett has been joking that I will get to enjoy it twice this year – thanks to the miracle of international travel it will be Tuesday morning once again when we arrive in the U.S. Not funny though – on Tuesday here we’ll be running the gauntlet to get out to the airport onto the plane, and all we’re going to want to do once we get to Portland on Tuesday is sleep. Oh well, there’s always hope for a special birthday next year!

I’d like to wish all of the moms a wonderful, wonderful day today! I hope everyone had a great week and that lots of good things happened for you, and that you have a great week coming up. See you back in the U.S.!

14 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 5/10/2019: Week 12 in Japan

    1. Thanks, Joan! Yes, I’m looking forward to getting together . . . hopefully it won’t take too long to recover from the jet lag this time.

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    1. I am dreading tomorrow and the jet leg after . . . but we are almost ready to go. Today’s our last full day here – it’s almost hard to believe. I’m still hoping we can visit Japan together with you some day!

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      1. I would love that. You’re going back next year, right? My friends are definitely thinking of a trip next year now. My bestie’s husband died last week, and her sister-in-law in January. She and her brothers are half Japanese and have never been.

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      2. Yes, we’ll be going back next year, just not sure when right now. We’ve talked about going for three months again, but in the fall so we’re there for K’s birthday. We may go back earlier though – Japan has changed their visa restrictions and we can now visit 90 days out of every 180 (like the Schengen Zone), so will not be limited to just once a year.

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  1. Happy Mothers’ Day! And Happy Birthday! The food always looks so good! And your little dancing granddaughter is darling. Your grandson is growing up….ours is too. We are amazed by what a little man he is starting to be. Anyway, it’s wonderful that you got to spend all that time with them. Great memories.

    I hope the trip is as easy as possible and that you get to see Crazy Rich Asians again. I haven’t seen it, but now I will have to find it. I heard it’s great, but didn’t get to it yet.

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    1. Boy are we going to miss the food here – everything has been so good, from restaurants to convenience stores. It has been a carb-fest though and we need to make some big changes once we get back to the U.S.

      It’s all I can do not to burst into tears right now when I think about leaving. We have made so many wonderful memories with our son and DIL and strengthening the relationship with the grandkids.

      Crazy Rich Asians is a frothy, fun love story, perfect from start to finish. I have yet to tire of it and hope it’s available again on the plane going home.

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  2. What a fabulous time you have had while visiting your family! You certainly kept busy and how wonderful to have had the special time with your grandkids…

    Enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians on the way to Cabo recently and really enjoyed it!!

    Safe travels and hope your jet lag subsides quickly!

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    1. We were busy in Tokyo! It could be tiring at times, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was so hard to say goodbye but we know we’ll be going back.

      I can find no fault with any part of Crazy Rich Asians – it’s great from start to finish. That’s probably the reason I never get tired of it no matter how many times I watch it.

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