Archive for January, 2013

Finally Kyushu

2013年 1月 10日

My first desires to visit Kyushu (九州・きゅうしゅう) arose in 1989 after hearing personal tales of Kagoshima (鹿児島・かごしま) from a native. Since moving to Japan in 2004, additional tales of Kumamoto (熊本・くまもと) and other Kyushu regions trickling in have given me a longing feeling, or more accurately – a lacking feeling. More recently, receiving foods and hearing of Nagasaki (長崎・ながさき) from one of the officiants at our wedding has planted another reason drawing me there.

We have visited her many times; however, she lives in Chiba (千葉・ちば) which is in the opposite direction. We joked about taking a trip together to her hometown, but getting everyone together never seemed practical and it just remained a dream. Japanese tradition has provided us with opportunity. Our friend got pregnant and still, in many households, the pregnant daughter returns to her family home to have the baby. On New Years Day she delivered her son after almost two full days of labor and they are both resting and recuperating now.

My wife is busily checking ways to get to Nagasaki during the three-day weekend in February. We have been surprised at the expense, but there is some hope of finding cheaper options. It will be a struggle for us as we have some financial difficulties and we are trying to fly to America in June as well after a three year absence; however, it looks like our chance so we must find a way.

It would be nice to see the Sakurajima volcano in the south, or the wild forests of Kumamoto, or remote Saga, but those dreams will have to wait as we will probably be bound to Nagasaki for our brief stay. Ancient new year celebrations will be held at that time though, so we are interested to view customs from another region.

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Irresistable

2013年 1月 9日

Mutton Chop 1Normally I like my hair trimmed short and my beard nicely groomed around the mouth and jaw; however, being a white man in Japan, I am often recruited to be Santa at parties and such. Anyone knows that kids are clever and wearing a fake beard is just inviting the little investigators to invoke accusations of being an impostor. Stemming that tide as well as possible, I often grow out my beard in December.

Sort of tangential to that, I also relied on “hair mascara” in the past to whiten the beard and my eyebrows – to really sell that image. This season, I used no artificial coloring, but found that two years of married life have given me enough whitening.

Recently a friend linked a video about how to shave a beard. One key point was to resist the temptation to play beard games. I’ll just come right out and say, I have never and probably never will be able to resist the play time.

Mutton Chop 2Once all the parties had ended my better half pressed me to take action in the facial hair reduction realm. I hollered out from the vanity announcing that I had trimmed off the cheeks. Delighted responses came back from the kitchen. I made an appearance and for awhile she was cheering with delight; that is, until she really noticed the sideburns. Don’t worry, they are completely gone now, but I made her immortalize them with the camera before hacking away.

Seven Grass Porridge

2013年 1月 7日

Today is the Seventh of January which is the traditional day to eat nanakusagayu (七種粥・七草粥). Seven Spring greens are gathered and cooked into a rice porridge. Traditionally these greens are:

  1. seri (芹・セリ) – Japanese parsley, dropwort
  2. nazuna (薺・ナズナ) – Shepherd’s purse
  3. gogyo (御形・五形・ゴギョウ), also called hahakogusa (ハハコグサ)
  4. hakobera (繁縷・ハコベラ) or hakobe (ハコベ) – Chickweed
  5. hotokenoza (仏の座・ホトケノザ) – from the Chrysanthemum family
  6. suzuna (菘・スズナ) – Turnip greens
  7. suzushiro (蘿蔔・清白・スズシロ) – Japanese radish greens

As I wrote last year, the flavor is very grassy and not so popular with children. I think this is one tradition that is slowly vanishing. Even my wife, who had to maintain these traditions for the children under her care, has forgotten it this year.

Perhaps we really need to find ourselves a plot of land to grow things. Had I been preparing these in the garden and talking about them, surely it would be on her mind.

To Life

2013年 1月 4日

Happy New Year! 2013 is the year of the snake, which is my year according to the Chinese zodiac.

I’m not much of one for resolutions; however, this year I have resolved “to live”. First, let me alleviate fear in any of my panic prone friends: I don’t have some kind of terminal illness. Simply I have been battling personal conflicts which have been horribly demoralizing. Over the past several years I have been struggling to rectify the situation; yet, some troubles are extremely persistent.

My hope is that my two largest struggles will be coming into check this year, but that was my hope last year and the year before. Even if things move on the path I hope, it will be six years before the main struggle is gone. Over the last year or two I have felt myself shrinking away from life and have come to the realization that even if the trials are festering I need to live and grow.

Some people viewing from the outside might look at all the things I have done and think that I have been rising above the troubles; however, it is easy for me to see the things I want to improve and change and realize how much time was lost in the last couple years doing nothing.

One clear sign is the number of posts on my blog. When I am feeling depressed or uninspired, I generally don’t post. Other creative outlets have also suffered in this time. Looking forward to my year!