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September 16, 2017


Swollen joints, achy muscles, a bad reaction to meds, and cabin fever have had me feeling grumpy, frustrated, and anxious. I don't like this disconnect from my body and not knowing if I will be able to do something that was easy for me to do just a few days earlier. I don't like the uncertainty of what is happening and when it will stop. I don't like feeling ill. I don't like a lot of things about this current situation, but I have a good acupuncturist, an interesting assortment of Japanese probiotics, and a daily gentle yoga routine.

The silver lining surrounding this dramatic slow-down is that I have had to be very thoughtful about my daily activities. I haven't been able to do what I normally do when we arrive at a new duty station which is to sign up for an overload of volunteer duties, go on tons of cultural outings, and actively attend every possible social function in an attempt to find new friends. And I think I might actually be letting go of some of the guilt or self-judgement that was an active motivator in the past for pushing myself beyond healthy limits. That's a big shift for me. Is it an age thing? or just being too tired to care? or a sign of some seismic self-care growth spurt? I don't know and I don't really have the energy right now to analyze it too much, but I do know that I adore the reliability of Japanese vending machines and the joy of finding quirky little spots to rest while enjoying a can of Royal Milk Tea. 

Izumo-Taisha And A New Collection

September 6, 2017


 On our way home from a fabulous weekend in Matsue, we stopped at Izumo-Taisha Shrine, the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan. In addition to its age, the shrine is famous for being a spot where all of the gods gather each October and it is home to Okuninushi no Okami, the central deity in Japan's creation myth. He's also known as the god of relationships and when believers approach Izumo-Taisha they clap four times instead of the usual two time. Twice for themselves and twice for their partner (or desired partner). 



Couples come to Izumo-Taisha seeking special blessings for their relationships. Some place special requests onto little wooden placards or little slips of paper which are hung/tied near the shrine. Another way to get a blessing is by having a priest sign and place a special seal inside your temple/shrine book (shuin-cho or goshuin-cho). It felt right to get a shuin-cho from this important shrine which also happened to be the first one we have visited since our return to Japan. We searched for the small building (they are usually on the side of the main shrine or temple) and near the stand that sells the wooden placards and religious charms.



After waiting in a short line, it was our turn and as we watched the young priest use a steady hand to mark the date and location in our book, Camille said it reminded her of our letterboxing book. I hadn't made that connection at all, but I do love it. This idea of having a physical reminder, especially one as beautiful as Japanese calligraphy paired with an official temple seal, to remember our visits really struck a chord with me. Now we will just have to be sure to keep it in a safe place AND remember to bring it with us on our travels. 



Roller Slides, Garbage Sorting, and Unexpected Bliss

September 1, 2017



Roller slides, natural beauty in unexpected spots, adorable cars, endless vending machines, local summer festivals, and friendly greetings: we are thrilled to be back in Japan. The past few weeks have been a crazy blur of getting settled, battling jet lag, dredging up my very rusty Japanese skills, late night bike rides, and savoring the tastes and smells of a place that feels both familiar and foreign. 

During one of our first weekends here we were on the hunt for garbage cans. I know that probably doesn't sound like a very appealing cultural experience, but it turned out to be quite an interesting one. Garbage sorting is an exact science here and requires a very precise system which also means we needed to find trash cans (and bags) that would work for our new house (which has very limited storage). After a long morning of discussing/measuring various options, we decided to hit one of the local beaches. 

We found a lovely little cove with stunning mountain views. It was hot, but the water was clear and refreshing and we were also lucky to snag a spot in the shade. I am usually the one who hunkers down with my book on the beach just happy to take in the view, but on this day I couldn't stay out of the water and I found myself wishing I had a raft or a float. As if reading my mind, an older Japanese man climbed out of the water to hand me an innertube. I was initially kind of stunned by the timing of it and then felt a bit uncomfortable taking his tube from him, but he insisted and he headed  off to walk his dog along the beach. Without another second of hesitation, I plopped myself in that tube and allowed the tiny waves to wash over me. After all of the stress of moving and the exhaustion of adjusting to a new place, those moments in a borrowed plastic tube on the Inland Sea of Japan were bliss, pure bliss.

A few days later I dragged the kids out of the house and introduced them to the joys of Japanese rollerslides. This was a fancier one with it's own tram to get you to the top of the small mountain and even had little pads you could sit on to protect you from the hot metal and bumpy ride down. I didn't make as many trips down as the kids did, but I did enjoy the views and the fun of it all, especially seeing the kids' reactions. Simple, bumpy, sweaty, summer joy. 

Having done a number of overseas moves, I know that the next few months will continue to have their bumpy moments, but I also know that seeking out and relishing the good moments will be important for all of us. We are happy to be here. Happy to be feeling a bit more settled each day. And happy to embrace all of the adventures that are waiting for us. 



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