At least, in the sense that I’ve moved home. And in the future, because there is the chance that we could return to Japan, I would prefer to start fresh, a new and different time to live in Japan.
But I’m never really done. Yesterday, I cleaned out a box of mementos and school crafts and cards and souvenirs from Japan and every other piece prompted me to tears. Some things I put carefully to the side but others, especially things I had not seen since they were placed in the box 2 years ago, hit me hard with waves of memories. In many ways, I’m still living in Japan and always will.
This goal progressed from the innocent me posting about words and numbers in the Japanese language to a record of our days and experiences in a faraway country, the people we met, the things we saw, the emotions we felt. It truly became a goal about living in Japan. I am eternally grateful for the entries I made here.
I lived in Japan.
I can post this here because I know you will all “listen” and those in my real life won’t see it. I can’t talk about these things with them, haven’t even mentioned it, actually, because I fear that they will only counsel us according to their own needs and wishes because, for the most part, they haven’t shown any real interest in what Japan was like, they haven’t listened to what we’ve said and have, quite often, put us down with cries of, “You’re in America now!”
Last Monday, Todd found out that someone has backed out of a Japan assignment and the company needs a replacement ASAP because the associate was set to leave in June, and Todd was their first choice, mostly because we’re already really trained and ready to go. They don’t even know that we’re already studying Japanese again and we haven’t unpacked all our boxes! They want a decision within a week. Todd was excited. I was excited. But I was also annoyed…actually, there are so many emotions that we are dealing with this week. Honda made us come home early, no negotiations, and we came home early and bought a house and did A LOT of work on it and are looking forward to spending the summer here and working on the outside: it needs paint and new downspouting and a myriad of other things. Not to mention how excited I was to not only have a garden again but a huge garden. Will is signed up for summer t-ball, Sophie’s ballet recital is at the end of June…We’ve come back to our life here and made the best of it, as people do…what else would you do? And now Honda, because they need someone, because of their poor planning (a whole other discussion) is desperate to jerk us around again, to manipulate us and send us back…
But how desperate are we? Because I would like nothing more than to set foot in Japan again and call my friends and tell them I’m back and see them. I miss them so much. But what do you do? I left them once. I hugged them in painful tearful goodbyes and thought I was leaving them forever…and if we go back, I’d just have to leave them again in two years. The pain of those first partings is still with me.
I asked Sophie the other day if she’d like to live in Japan again, thinking she’d respond with an adamant No, as she has certainly made friends here…but she said, Sure. There would be no problems for Sophie and Will. They both are already advanced beyond their grade levels here in America and moving to Japan would only strengthen their language skills, social skills, thinking skills. I would be sad for what they would miss in the U.S., but not worried about their academic needs.
I asked my friend Elizabeth how much rent she pays, not telling her that I’d not charge her much more if she lived in my house for 2 years (she’d keep it hyper-clean)...
I lean toward not going back but everyday, I am pulled in both directions…everything has stalled: I haven’t unpacked a box for a week, I wonder if I should plant the seeds for the garden. Once again, crippled by indecision.
I know it sounds like the easy decision is to go back but there are also so many layers in making the decision, so many what ifs and maybes…I could ramble on for pages here and never get any closer to making the decision…
Summer festival. The last Sunday we were in Japan, the neighborhood festival was held at the park down the way. The day was full of interesting activities starting out with watermelon-smashing. Here is Will after his attempt.
When you don’t have a lot of it, you have to put things like your soccer field anywhere you can find the room. So…a roof in Shibuya!
As part of the beginning of the end in Japan, some friends and I planned a trip to Tokyo this past weekend. Katie, Nadine, Reiko and I headed into Harajuku Saturday morning to a studio where maiko or geisha makeovers are done. We pushed through the crowds of Japanese and tourists alike, all gawking at the cheap wares for sale and crowding into McDonald’s to see what it tastes like in Japan. Finally at the studio, quiet reigned. We chose kimono and poses and then were escorted to a room to get our makeup applied. What an experience. I’ve spent time being made up for theatrical performances and this certainly reminded me of those experiences but it was much more involved. First, the artists studied our faces and then applied a wax all over. Then cold, white makeup was put all over except the very backs of our necks. Red highlights were applied to eyebrows and eyelids and a pink flush accented nose and cheekbones. Fake eyelashes, some lipstick and an hour later and we were ready to be outfitted. After they bound us all up until we couldn’t breathe anymore, we maneuvered some stairs and wigs were plunked on our heads.
After the photo session, Reiko and Nadine took pictures of us in our kimono in a little garden and we went back inside to lose all that weight. I was rather used to it by then though the removal of the wig did make my head suddenly lighter! I can’t imagine wearing all that everyday…
For dinner, we met 5 other women at a Mexican restaurant. Though the drinks were expensive, we had a really good time. Afterward, we headed to a drag show at the Black Swan in Kabuki-cho. Wow. The women (men?) performers were so beautiful, I thought for a while that someone had made a mistake and we were simply at a stage show. But no…introductions and announcements were made and it was discovered that one performer had returned from Thailand only a month earlier after getting a final operation to become fully a woman. They were unbelieveably beautiful and feminine.
Though it rained yesterday, we did manage to head to Shibuya and sightsee a little, shop and eat.
The stress of planning this and working out the details drained me and today I have been a little down. The reality of our leaving is hitting me…I’m back to being a little sad and not wanting to think about all I have to do and all I will miss…
Some friends found canned water the other day but I was more excited to discover this pudding in a can. I shook it up and cracked it open and poured sweet (sweetsweetsweet) pudding down my gullet. It was the consistency of runny tapioca…and did I mention sweet? I was really glad I’d saved it for dessert instead of just some random snack because it gave me a sugar high from hell. I mean, it was really oishii but really, really…sweet.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. And though I got breakfast in bed, I didn’t sleep in and the experience was altogether quite rushed. We all dressed in old clothes and drove about 5 miles or so out of town to a rice field to plant rice. Yes, this is how I spent my Mother’s Day and it was wonderful!
It was already pretty warm out there by 8:30 but we rolled up our jeans and listened to the announcements (I’d like to be able to tell you what they said but it was all Japanese so I only understood about half of it myself…it didn’t matter as we just followed the rest of the rice planters anyway!) First they demonstrated planting by hand and then they filled up the tractor. The flats of rice we’d all been caring for at our homes for the past few weeks were slid on to the back of the machine which carefully picked off 3-5 little sprouts and deposited the clump in the wet mud. Seriously. It was amazing. Then, we all jumped in to get to work. Some waded right into the mud and put in their own tiny clumps and some lined up to ride on or even drive the tractor. I was so happy that Todd got to drive the tractor. I know he loved it as he could compare planting rice with planting corn and wheat and beans the way he and I grew up (no, I’ve actually never driven a tractor…) Will and Adam rode on the tractor with Todd and Sophie and Colleen rode with Jeff.
After I got pictures of the tractor-driving, I jumped the fence and stepped down into the mud myself, barefoot. It was warmer than I’d anticipated and it sucked at your feet. Some wore special rubber boots that were gathered at the top to prevent this but the barefoot way is actually more traditional…and more mudlicious.
Mostly adults worked to fill in the edges of the field with sproutlings while the kids played with some baby ducks and caught frogs. I planted myself into several corners and finally gave up to rinse off and get some cold bottled green tea. Oishii. It was just what I needed, what with the slight hangover from the girls’ night out the day before. Soon, the field was finished and they made some announcements and lunch appeared before us: daikon and cabbage salads and wonderful onigiri. I tried the red beans and rice with salty sesame seeds. Perfect.
Before we knew it, there were more announcements and we found ourselves with a crate of 2 baby ducks. Several families were to take the ducks home and care for them until the next time we meet in a few weeks when we’ll release the birds into the field to be natural weed eaters and fertilizers.
As usual, the Japanese were gracious, patient and helpful. I only wish we could be here for the whole process including the harvest in the fall…
I also wish I could attach some of the pictures I took but we’re down to the one computer that has no camera software on it. :( I’ll come back and put some pictures with this when I can!
At Sophie’s school, the students serve each other lunch. The one time parents visited, we ate in a cafeteria but for every day lunchtime, a cart with the pot of curry or spaghetti and salad and milk cartons is rolled into the classroom and the students line up to receive their meal. One student is designated to be the server and she wears a little white coat and hat and dishes up the soup or katsu to her classmates on their tray and sends them back to their desks.
At the end of the week, this students stuffs her coat and hat in a white bag and brings them home…for the mom to wash! Just one more thing in the collection of bags and shoes and hats and handkerchiefs and scarves and mats the Japanese mother of school-age children has to wash every week…
This link is to the Rement website. Rement is a toymaker that produces perfect little miniatures of Japanese (and otherwise) life, specifically food and sometimes furniture. Yes, I started to collect these but it got overwhelming. I just love this one of the school lunch. What are they eating today? Donburi? katsu? ramen? doria? how perfect are they?! The balloon says, “Minna de itadakimasu!” or something like, “Everyone eat!” (Itadakimasu roughly means something akin to: I am grateful for this food.) Note the little white jackets and bags hanging on their chairs… On second thought, I might have to get this set…
Today we went fishing with teachers and families from Will’s school. This was an accomplishment for me because it was way out of our box to try to find this place let alone spend the morning attempting communication in our broken languages and then determine what we were expected to do. But I am so glad we did because what a blast we had!
For sanzen en (a little more than $30) we got 2 fishing poles and a spot at the edge of a little pond. We set up our portable picnic table (fortunately always in the back of the car), baited the hook with pieces torn from a blob of what looked like, well, poop, but was probably some sort of soy meal, and cast our lines into the line-crowded water.
And waited. I think Sophie thought she would catch a fish immediately. Eventually she and Will and I set out for the toilet leaving Todd with 2 fishing poles. Sure enough, when we returned, he’d caught a fish! and, with someone’s help, had managed to get it into the net at his feet.
We caught 4 fish in all (I caught 2!) and then the farmers netted the pond and let it spill open on the ground where everyone jumped in and grabbed at the remaining fish. Even Will, after staring at his friends grasping at the flopping trout, finally stepped in and snagged 2. Todd’s searching the Internet right now for how to clean and cook them. The teachers were grilling some on site – whole fish on the stick – and everyone else was walking around munching on them but neither Sophie nor Will wanted to try that.
I haven’t been fishing since I was little kid when all we caught were bluegill in the farm pond. Despite the cold and crowd, it was so worth the trip and the trouble today. I can’t help but think about all the experiences we’re giving Sophie and Will that they will take for granted. “I went trout fishing in Japan!”