Sunday Morning 3/8/2020: Week 7 in Japan

It’s raining today, but spring is coming!

It’s Sunday morning in the Land of the Rising Sun . . .

Brett declared this past week that unless he and I walk at least a mile each day we will die (hyperbole much, Brett?), so we have been out every day, rain or shine, getting in our mile, but usually doing two or more. This past week our walks have all been very local, but we have discovered some beautiful and interesting places in our neighborhood, some less than 15 minutes from our apartment. To plan our walks, we both bring up Google Maps, and then look around our neighborhood for something that looks interesting such as temples, shrines, or parks, decide together what we’d like to go see, and then map how to get there and back. Brett has a better sense of direction than I do, so he’s usually the leader when we go out, but I put together a walk this past Tuesday that took us to two Buddhist temples and a small neighborhood shrine and actually got us there with only one wrong turn (he got us home though). We get two miles every day we go over to our son’s to help with the grandkids.

We spent all day Wednesday through Friday with the grands and it was frankly exhausting. Brett sat with C and monitored him as he did his distance learning, while I spent time with a rambunctious three-year-old (who was home last week with a cold). K & I had a good time, but because of my old knee injury, I am unable to get down on the floor which limited what she & I could do (i.e. no Duplo or blocks for me). We still had a good time, she was a good helper, and we also worked at getting her to use more English as it is just about ready to come bursting out of her. I can understand most of what she says in Japanese, and she understands my English, so we communicate pretty well (she teaches me Japanese too – this week I learned the Japanese word for hippopotamus is kaba). Anyway, Brett and I left every afternoon feeling quite worn out! We’ve been mentally preparing ourselves for the next couple of weeks as we’ll be there every day again.

She loves to make faces! This time it’s with her Hinamatsuri snack and Minnie headband from Grandma and Grandpa.

Neither Brett nor I is dealing as well with the low furniture here as we have in the past. Everything – sofas, chairs, beds, etc. – is closer to the floor, and getting up and out of things is proving to be harder on our joints than it has been before. The sofa in this apartment is a big improvement from the slippery chairs we lived with last year and is super comfortable to stretch out on, but when it’s time to get up it can be very painful. It’s also hard on my lower back. Brett pretty much sticks to sitting at the dining table because those chairs are a little higher, but they’re still lower than chairs are in the U.S. We know it’s just one of those Japanese things we have to deal with when we’re here, but wish it was less uncomfortable (and painful) at times.

It may be a little hard to see in this photo but the sofa is probably around 4 inches or so lower than a U.S.-made sofa. Getting off this one is hard on my knees.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m still falling asleep quickly and not getting much reading done. I’ve had reading slumps like this before but always pull out of them, so know it will pass. I’ve cut way back on my caffeine consumption, so that’s the most likely reason I’ve been falling asleep so quickly. All the walking helps make me sleepy too.
  • Listening to: The rain is dripping away outside this morning, and Brett is puttering away in the kitchen, making coffee. We’ll probably go out later today, but for now it’s nice to be inside!
  • Watching: Brett and I finished up Season 4 of Better Call Saul – now we’ll have to wait another year for the fifth season to arrive on Netflix! We’re going to check out a couple of new Netflix series this evening and see if we like any of them.
  • Cooking: We’re having crab and avocado sandwiches with clam chowder tonight to use up some leftovers ingredients from the California roll salad. I’m going to use the Crockpot a couple of times this week, to make barbecue pulled pork for sandwiches (which we’ll have on two nights, with coleslaw), and to make slow cooker ham and cheese casserole, which we’ll have for dinner instead of breakfast next Saturday. We’ll also be having CookDo mabo dofu, and curry with tofu and vegetables on two other nights. If our grandson sleeps over on Friday we’ll go to Mos Burger and count that as our dining out; otherwise, we’ll go somewhere else – there are so many good and affordable restaurants in the neighborhood. 
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I don’t think we accomplished anything special this week other than getting out every day for a walk, even when it was raining. We also made it over to our son’s on three mornings to help our grandson get signed on and started with his distance learning sessions. Some of the kids in C’s class have little to no parental supervision during the day and Brett says it shows, so I’m glad he’s willing and able to sit with C, answer questions, and keep him on track with his work and assignments.
  • Looking forward to next week: Because we’ll be helping out with the grandkids again all next week, we haven’t made any plans. We’re talking about visiting the Maneki Neko temple on Saturday with our son and family as they think the kids will find it fascinating. We’ll have a Plan B though if that doesn’t happen.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We both started off the week thinking we were coming down with something (colds, not the coronavirus – we had stuffy heads and sore throats but no cough, respiratory issues, or fevers), but those thing disappeared on Monday and we’ve felt great all week. Our walks took us to some interesting and beautiful places in our neighborhood that we probably wouldn’t have discovered otherwise and we’re looking forward to expanding our range in the future. We had another fun sleepover night with our grandson – we baked a cheese pizza, went out for Baskin-Robbins, and played some games. K came with over as well but just stayed for dinner. On Thursday evening, after walking around and checking out several places (in the cold and wind), we ended up eating ramen at a shop just around the corner from our apartment – we were welcomed heartily, and the ramen was delicious! (The Hiroshima place turned out to be somewhere we did not want to eat!). Finally, I lost an earring at our son’s place last year (which was never found – it’s believed to be buried deep in their sofa), so my DIL surprised me this week with a new pair of blue and white ceramic earrings, my favorite colors! They also presented us with a nice bottle of wine for helping out last week.
    The small ramen restaurant around the corner from us has just three tables and seven counter stools; it’s very cozy and inviting.
    There is no waitress – ramen or other items are ordered using a machine. You put in money and then push a button for your choice and hand the ticket to the chef. Thankfully there are pictures for some of the many varieties available.
    We each chose ramen topped with greens, a slice of tender roast pork, and some nori (seaweed). The broth was meaty and delicious, and pork tender enough to break up with our chopsticks.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Although we overspent on groceries this past week, we did have three other no-spend days and on the days we did spend it was less than ¥500. We spent only ¥1500/$14 for our ramen dinner, half of our weekly dining out budget, and used our miscellaneous funds to pay for ice cream with the grandkids on Friday evening. After our first week in March we are well under budget!
  • Grateful for: Brett’s “walk or die” decree has made me appreciative and thankful for all there is to see in the area around us, and how nice it is to walk through our neighborhood’s quiet streets. Most of our walking though is to and from the station to get to our son’s place and back, but on the weekends there are lots of places we can walk in our neighborhood. One of the reasons I’ve always loved being in Japan is because every time we step out the door we go on an adventure. Even after years spent living here, and multiple visits, there’s always something new to see or discover, something to ponder or try and figure out, something to learn. 
  • Bonus question: What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten in Japan? Although there are things I don’t like, I don’t find much of Japanese food weird (although others might). However . . . back in 1982, during our first tour in Japan, I went to a dish festival in the pottery town of Seto and bought what I thought was yakitori (grilled skewered pieces of chicken, basted in a sweet soy sauce) from a street vendor. I hadn’t been feeling very well and thought yakitori would be a “safe” dish. I took my first bite and it crunched. That’s interesting, I thought. Maybe I got some bone in this piece. I took a second bite and it crunched again. So I looked at my skewered meat a little more closely and realized I was eating . . . baby birds! I could see little wings! And beaks! GAH!! I threw it away and later found some nice, safe noodles to eat. A few days later I told my English students about what had happened and learned that these baby birds (sparrows) were quite the delicacy and I had been lucky to find them. I still think NO WAY.

We continue to stay cautious and we’re staying well, knock on wood. The number of cases of the coronavirus here has slightly increased, but we still know that things could change quickly. What we are concerned about these days is our upcoming flight schedule and whether some of those might have to be changed or canceled. We have to leave Japan in April, so we’re not thinking of canceling or changing that flight, but trips beyond that are a concern, and I’m already worrying whether Wellesley will hold a graduation ceremony this year, or whether it will be safe for us to travel to New York in May to see Meiling (or go to the theater). So far there have been no announcements about us not being able to enter anywhere or having to stay in quarantine because we’ve been in Japan, but we are keeping a close watch on that and will adapt to whatever happens. 

On a happier note, because of the warm winter here, cherry blossoms are due to blossom earlier than usual this year. The latest calendar has them starting on March 19, and in peak bloom on March 23. We do plan to go out to a couple of special locations to see them this year, but again will be careful about train trips, crowds, etc.

That’s all for this week! I hope it was a good one for you, that you’re staying well, lots of good things are happening, and you’re looking forward to the week coming up!


10 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 3/8/2020: Week 7 in Japan

  1. Love the hidden courtyard and sad puppy ( so cute) Regarding the picture of the old house, do the Japanese have anything like a historical society that preserves old neighborhoods. It’s amazing what you’ve been able to find by just walking around your apartment


    1. That courtyard was an amazing place. We almost walked past it, but we saw the one sculpture and then kept seeing more and more. We didn’t venture too far up it as we weren’t sure if it was a public lane or private, but the homes there were big and beautiful.
      The puppy statue was sitting on the step of another home that we walked past – so cute!

      When we first were told that we shouldn’t travel, we worried there would be nothing to do, but we are having a great time finding things in the neighborhood, and are grateful now for the chance to get a closer look.


  2. These photos from your neighborhood walks epitomize “slow travel” and the beautiful, small details of life. I particularly love the “making efficient use of small space” photo. So lovely and well-thought out in a space that could so easily be ignored. Thanks for sharing!

    My grandfather used to say that a walk a day was mandatory as “the legs are the first to go.” I wish I’d listened to him when I was younger.

    What do you use for counting steps?

    We are definitely living in interesting times!


    1. That little garden really caught my eye, and I wish we were going to be here to see what it looks like when the little tree leafs out. Houses here are so crammed together, but most people make an effort to create a little bit of garden space somewhere, and most of them are lovely (and efficient uses of the space they have).

      We use the heart app on Brett’s iPhone (my phone is usually in my purse and doesn’t count accurately), but I always end up taking more steps than Brett because my legs are shorter. I’m actually the faster walker though – I like a good brisk pace most of the time while Brett is more of a stroller. We rarely actually walk together for that reason – I’m usually a few paces ahead of him. We’re a good team though, and are always finding different things to show each other.


  3. I am headed into DC in two weeks to see our cherry blossoms with the grands. Love this season.
    Love your neighborhood pictures. The weather is finally breaking here, so we will head out for a long walk tomorrow. Spring is long overdue!
    I have my figures crossed that things will calm down soon. This is simply CRAZY time. But, it is what it is.


    1. The DC cherry blossoms are ahead of the ones here, in spite of the very warm winter Tokyo has had. Spring is almost here too – didn’t need a coat today. I can’t wait to see them – I used to wonder what the big deal was about cherry blossoms in Japan, but once I was here for the season I got it. They are positively breathtaking.

      Crazy times is right. We’re watching the dollar fall against the yen – our rent will be nearly $100 more this month because of the current exchange rate. I guess I should count our lucky stars for the lower price our first two months.

      We are keeping our fingers crossed that while the virus can’t be stopped in the U.S. that enough vigilence will “flatten the curve” for cases and things won’t get out of hand. I wish we didn’t have to travel next month, but I think we’ll be OK – we are already taking steps and the airline is as well.


  4. Just catching up on my blog reading amidst the insanity of selling our house. That pic of your granddaughter made me laugh out loud. I don’t know what it is about second kids, but she seems to have some of the same traits as our second grandson. Super cute and feisty! 🙂

    I hear you on the lower seating. I am finding that type of thing harder and harder on my knees as I age. We have gone to all “comfort height” toilets in our house, and when I run into an old (lower) style in a public restroom, I wonder how I ever thought that height was normal. 🙂


    1. I’m flattered that you came here when you had time to read! Insanity doesn’t even begin to describe all that goes on when you’re selling your house. Here’s hoping for a quick offer from a solid buyer!

      We will be at our son’s every day now beginning tomorrow, so I will be handling that little pixie every day for the rest of the month! And have to sit on their uncomfortable sofa. I had to laugh about the toilets – the one in our apartment is higher than the sofa!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love how the Japanese have different celebrations for festivals and seasons and such, like the doll display. They were out when I was there. Also like adventuring and finding random new sights.


    1. The Japanese traditionally have been very attuned to the seasons. They use less A/C then we like, but think that one should experience the heat and humidity of summer a bit (to a degree – they’re not crazy); likewise the cold of winter. Their clothes are attuned to the seasons as well versus the actual temperature, although that is changing a bit now. There are always festivals here – I try to avoid them because I don’t like the crowds that attend. I used to say that the most fearsome word for me in Japanese was matsuri – “festival.”

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