Sunday, March 27

I went for a walk instead...

street light

...of checking the news and the earthquake reports and the fallout reports. I feel obligated to keep tabs on the nuclear crisis, being the captain of my little ship but it is taxing. We must continue to seek the positives to balance so many negatives. So I took a little break and explored the neighborhood in the company of Mr. Bird, who likes to whistle in my ear.

long shadows

"Fake conversations on a nonexistent telephone
Like the words of a man who's spent a little too much time alone"
(from A.B.'s song Effigy)

I want to press on with my pre-disaster plans. I think I can manage it but occasionally little dots of doubt threaten my vision, like the kind you get when you rub your eyes too hard, and at these times I become blind with worry. Equal parts skeptical and naive, I can only hope that I am right in believing that I am not putting my crew in danger by staying in Japan.

I don't think I am. If things get bad, I suppose I could always try to get myself deported.

In the meantime, I prefer to wander the streets under blue skies, the wind blowing pale pink petals across my path.

Thursday, March 24

Catfish Dreams and Other Things

i want a catfish for a pet.

I read today that we are in the midst of a mega-catastrophe. I'm not sure the word catastrophe needs to be supplemented by "mega".

I made two grown men cry this week and I only returned to work yesterday. I think the intimacy of privacy lessons breaks down the brave mask that daily life requires. You can't work and talk about the poached elephant in the room. So you just pretend to ignore it and discreetly check the internet or your cell phone hoping that a miracle would have happened while you were distracted by work and the elephant will recover and walk again. Only every time you check in on it, there is a new blade hacking away at the poor thing.

It is very hard to be human.

Jason and I want to do something. Something physical, something direct. This feeling is, I have discovered, associated with being American. We are action takers, I have been told, always wanting to jump in and fix things. It is one of those cultural trappings that you think is just a universal human element. I first became aware of this aspect of the American "nature" listening to this episode regarding the work to rebuild Haiti.
I may be wrong but I really do think that this goes beyond the cultural confines. I heard that there are survivors who are feeling this desire so keenly that they are easing their pain by sweeping one small spot over and over. For hours. I understand that desire to do something, anything at all.

Jason thinks that we should go up there after all the radiation stuff is over and help them farm their land. Help plant the rice plugs, help bring in the harvest and tie the rice to dry over bamboo poles. I like his idea. It doesn't involve much talking, just working hard to rebuild this land that we love.
One of the men I made cry told me that it is probably going to be 10 to 20 years before it is in any livable state. That's a long time.

First though, let's hope for a miracle to kill the nuclear plant quietly and safely. It's like a rabid dog in it's descent (keeping with the animal analogy theme), trying to snap at everyone before it crashes. I am tired of it and its beta rays and neutron beams and contaminated water. It's too sci-fi and intense, we can't mourn properly until it is put down. We need an Atticus Finch to step in with his shotgun and put it out of its misery.

Saturday, March 19

No, We Are Not Leaving Japan

In the past few days, we have had to question our perspective of the situation here after hundreds of expats (mainly those in Tokyo) have decided to evacuate Japan, with the assistance of their respective governments. Now, I am no fan of radiation but I do watch and listen carefully and from what I understand, it isn't going to be so dangerous outside of the designated evacuation zone. For those nuclear power plant personnel who remained, for the firefighters, the policemen who are in there battling the alpha and gamma rays, yes, it is terribly dangerous. They are risking their lives for Japan and deserve a ticker-tape parade that stretches the length of Honshu. For the overstressed victims of the tsunami who are stuck in the region, of course it is alarming. But for those of us outside of the zone, even in Tokyo, I think some of us are overreacting. The government of Japan, the IAEA, the WHO, even Greenpeace say the the real effects of this nuclear emergency are not as drastic as people seem to conclude they are.
And now it is coming out that some of the nearby spinach fields were contaminated, milk may have become contaminated. Yet seriously folks, do you think that anyone in the area is thinking about harvesting spinach? Have you seen the pictures of the destruction around the plant? And how would anyone get the contaminated food out of there? They can't even manage to get basic needs supplies to the victims who are now suffering new dangers of starvation and illness due to the lack of food, fuel, medicine, and water due to the broken infrastructure combined with crazy panic buying. They are now saying that the total missing or dead may reach 20,000. 20,000. How many people are going to be seriously affected by nuclear fallout compared with that terribly serious number?
The attention needs to be redirected back to the true victims of this catastrophe.
Japan needs people now more than ever and we plan to stand by the land of the Rising Sun for as long as we can. We came to Japan for the same reasons people migrate to any place: for better opportunities, for adventure, for a global upbringing of our children. Japan has given us this and so much more. We have come of age in Japan. We have been the beneficiaries of such kindness and generosity that I could have never imagined prior to landing in Tokyo six years ago. It is our home now and though we will always be Americans, we are a bit Japanese now too and we will stay here with our brothers and sisters and help rebuild our adopted homeland. To leave now, when there is so much to do, when tomorrow has so much promise due to the collective strength and will of the people, even to consider it breaks my heart.
Today we went to Meijo Koen and were happy to discover many other families had broken away from their TVs to do the same. It was a gorgeous Spring day and you couldn't help smiling as people tossed frisbees and played tag. It was warm enough that we recovered our sense of smell and the sweet fragrance of blossoms was almost startling after our long winter. On the way out of the park, we came across this early blooming sakura. Everyone who passed by stopped to stare at the pink cherry blossoms bursting forth. One lady paused beside me and said, "When I see the sakura, I see Japan".
As horrible as the events of last week have been, it seems only fitting that such destruction should occur before the first days of Spring. It is a time for rebirth and Japan will rise from the flames stronger and wiser than before, a phoenix perched on the branches of a cherry tree in full bloom.

Thursday, March 17

Quiet hope

first sakura
just a regular scene
In the shadow of the cherry blossom
complete strangers
there are none…
-Kobayashi Issa

Rising Sun

Wednesday, March 16

An Inventory

We have:
portable radio
portable stove
vinyl sheets
plastic bags
several bottles of drinking water
several bottles of cooking water
several bottles of sports drink
cans of beans, tuna, spam
beef jerky
instant noodles, instant soup, instant rice porridge and oatmeal
dried wheat gluten
dried fruit
random snacks
cell phones and chargers
first aid kit

three happy and healthy kids
two adults, one who is more mellow than the other
two hamsters, both crazy
plenty of love and hope

I spent the morning in a sort of stunned amazement when we visited the nearby shopping mall to gather our usual supplies (plus a little extra, just in case). It seems that all of Nagoya already did their little extra shopping because the shelves were emptied of the sort of things you might need in say, an earthquake, or perhaps a nuclear disaster. We are really far away from Fukushima but I guess the fear of the radiation spreading is rather strong.
Or perhaps it had something to do with the small earthquake last night in Shizuoka. My money is on the latter because it seems to have thrown a few logs on the long smoldering collective fear of the Tokai Earthquake's approach. The Japanese have been waiting for the Tokai Earthquake for decades and it refuses to come. When it does decide to show, it is expected to peg its epicenter in Shizuoka. Which happens to be the next prefecture (a designation of land that falls somewhere between a county and a state) over from ours (Aichi, by the way). I admit, the fear of the Tokai Jishin (Tokai is the region I live in and Jishin means earthquake) is infectious. Not enough to make me stay under the table all day long but does make me wish I had just a few more bottles of water. You know, just in case.

Monday, March 14

Notes from the (Un)affected

"In this world
we walk on the roof of hell
gazing at flowers" — Kobayashi Issa ...

It seems strange that the cherry blossoms will bloom after the tsunami. It feels like everything has stopped and yet the moon and the sun appear to be changing positions as usual.

The only way to understand how I feel now is to reflect on the national tragedies that hit my own land: 9/11 and Katrina. It is similar to 9/11 in the way that the bad news won't quit, similar to Katrina in the horrific scenes of destruction. Catastrophic in every possible way.
The difference here is the aftermath. The way the Japanese people are holding up and holding each other up. The held-back tears, the shared handkerchiefs if there is no more strength to resist the grief. All the reporters here comment on the calm manner of the survivors, the way they rally each other, encourage each other and themselves to ganbatte.
These are the qualities that have kept us here and will most likely keep us here.

"A world of trials,
and if the cherry blossoms,
it simply blossoms"

"Ours is a world of suffering
even if cherry-flowers bloom"

-both by Issa

I have no pictures to share because I am too busy watching the news and worrying about earthquakes and nuclear fallout to take pictures lately. I am sure you understand.

I would have taken a picture of our earthquake supplies ready at the door so you can later laugh at my overly cautious nature, but it is too dark since we are saving electricity. We are actually going to bed early because we aren't running the heaters and it is much better to be under the warm covers.

Earlier we had a little scare when our cell phones alerted us using the Early Earthquake Warning system that there was to be a big earthquake in our neighboring prefecture. It turned out to be a false alarm but it was the first time it had ever sounded and it rattled me. Jason ran and fetched Sebastian home and we just tidied up and waited. Sebastian's cell phone also sounded so he was aware of what was happening.
The EEW system has proven to be effective so far so just because we were lucky to have a false alarm today, doesn't mean I have lost faith in it. And today's gave us a nice rehearsal.

We've been nothing but honest with the kids because that is the only way to be, even in the face of such utter tragedy. It is only fair that they know what they are up against.

We went downtown to take care of some errands and stock up on batteries and gas canisters for the little portable stove. It was business as usual in Nagoya but the mood was definitely somber. We have noticed a shortage of bottled water, flashlights, and lighters at most stores. There was a long line at the gas station this evening, but that could have just been normal. There were only 5 people in the grocery store though and at 6 pm, that was completely abnormal and eerie.

I'm trying to keep my Facebook page updated with any news that Japan-based people could use, so you are welcome to find me there more regularly than here. Though most of the time I am watching NHK or checking the earthquake reports.

Tomorrow I have to go to a graduation ceremony at work. Then I am off for a week, thank goodness. I am going to try and distract myself with sewing and preparing for the start of the new school year. Things that go beyond today. Good things, small things, things that I have some control over.

I'll check back in within the next two days. Thank you for all your kind support and prayers for Japan. And for us. Much love to you and yours from us lucky ones, here in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Take care of yourselves.

Friday, March 11

I'm speechless

We're okay

We felt it and will probably feel aftershocks, but we are okay. It felt like a ferry ride, rolling and gentle here. Not like it was up north. Here is the most reliable source for updates: Japan Meteorological Agency.

Hope everything is stable and well where you are.


Thursday, March 10



This is one of our once-a-day macrobiotic meals. Yes, we are still only managing to eat 1/3s macrobiotically but some is better than none, right? In April I get a new schedule and hopefully it will mean that I will come home before 8:00 on most nights. Hopefully. Our crazy jigsaw schedule does not give a lot of space for whole foods cooking. We do what we can and sometimes, that really is all you can do. Very zen of me, huh? It comes from living in Japan for too long and reading all the messed up Engrish on the tee-shirts here.

I will tell you that after we all eat a good (and this is defined on a learning curve, believe me) macromeal, then we all seem really happy. Light and joyous. So much that it makes you wonder why you ever eat the other stuff at all. It reminds me of when I get tipsy from too much New Year's champagne and start laughing at how tightly wound I am when I am not drinking champagne. Of course, eating more macrobiotically actually does make you happier whereas drinking more champagne results in something less pleasant, so perhaps the analogy is skewed. Hopefully you can see the direction my sleep-deprived brain is trying to steer you.

When I eat well, I feel well. I suddenly understand missionaries because I want to be one, spreading the gospel of macrobiotics with grains of brown rice. I know that it sucks to be preached to, that I can easily be labeled a hypocrite with my coffee and pocketful of sneaky-chocolates. I think the urge to give sermons about the wonders of eating well comes from the heart, so please don't throw stones at me. It is a knee-jerk reaction. The joy that arises is so pure, so plentiful, it must be shared.

I'll give you something for putting up with me and my macroranting. Here's the recipe for that tofu you see up there, smothered in negimiso sauce. You can omit the sugar or replace it with brown rice syrup, if you like. It's very tasty and very easy, especially since you can make a batch of negimiso and keep it in the fridge for a while. You can put it on all sorts of things but we usually slather slabs of tofu with it then throw them under the grill. It's our go-to main dish for those late nights when I don't get in before eight. Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 9

Maybe May


This is one of my favorite sights. To you it may look like laundry, to me it looks like possibilities. What you see here drying in the lovely morning light are different cuts of fabric, each one selected with a different purpose in mind. I have really returned to my love of sewing since we moved to Nagoya. It may have something to do with my workplace being three blocks from the Otsukaya. I can easily spend many hours and much yen squeezing through the crowds of shoppers and stacks of fabric there. It is the same feeling I get when I visit art stores, libraries, or my favorite bookstore. I get infected with the prospect of a creative act, even if I still can't manage to find the time to complete even the most promising creations. If you are experiencing a drought of inspiration, I encourage you to go to the supply store of your choice. Sometimes the well needs to be replenished.

I have been flooded with inspiration lately and the energy and time to see projects through. It is very satisfying and I have discovered in the wake of such rushes that I possess a surplus of products. Products that may as well be sold to someone who may want them. On May Day, I will be opening an Etsy store. I figure that in doing so, I am embracing the holiday by celebrating the labor of love.

In the meantime, I also have to finish my first postcards for the Handmade Postcard swap. They are due to be posted on the 20th. I have my design and have started the stamps. It is so fun to have a project like this on my plate, amongst the several non-enjoyable projects I am also tackling these days (read: work-related. humph.)

Right now, I have to go break in my new cutting mat, if my luck continues and the babes keep snoozing. Hope everything is bright and sunny for you and yours. Take care.


Tuesday, March 8

And we're back

Hi. Sorry about the silence. We've just been, well, being.

Here are a few things that I, the neglectful reporter on this here blog, omitted from sharing, just out of pure laziness and distance from the computer. I am unabashedly lazy in the winter.

We enrolled this kid in kindergarten. He starts next month.

Hina Matsuri came and went. It was fun to eat pink foods and maybe some year I'll dress Colette in kimono like they did in the good ol' days.
hinamatsuri treats
our hina

This guy is going into second grade next month. Mindblowing.

We have quite a few things crammed up our sleeves these days...

Many good changes are on the way, including more of this lazy reporter trying to strike a healthy balance between my analog life and digital life. I want to connect and share good things like birds hiding in plum trees but without becoming a cyborg. I'm sure there is a middle path I can navigate that crosses through both lives, I just need to find it.

Hope you are all warm and wonderful.