A long train ride

Tokyo (Credit: WordPress)

En route to Tokyo. I often find long train rides a great time to catch up on some pleasure reading, studying, knitting or crocheting, and self-reflecting. I’ve done some studying and read some more of the Pete Walker book, both of which left me in great space for self-reflection.

So far I have been lucky enough to experience the gaijin (外人, がいじん) seat” phenomenon, which has left me with space to spread out and relax and do a bit of knitting.

Nippori Station

I transferred trains at Nippori and continued on to the Ginza area of Tokyo. I’ve been there twice before, but never on my own. In fact, as I travelled, it dawned on me that this was the first time in a long time that I have travelled alone.

During my journey, I came to realize that, since I began living in Japan, I have always been surrounded by people who care about me (even minimally).

It’s a very comforting thought, i.e. not being alone in the world.

Rooftop nature, Ginza area

Cities overwhelm me–Tokyo, especially so. There is so much of everything: people, buildings, cars, and the rushing to experience all that man can make. Even nature feels manufactured and customized for convenience. I couldn’t wait to get back to my small countryside-city.

Still, I had a very good reason for going to Tokyo. And, to be quite frank, I felt and still feel nothing but gratitude for having been asked to go.

Ginza area

Now, I am back in Hitachinaka. I enjoyed my time in Tokyo. I am still not a city person, but I can understand the appeal. Moreover, the trip gave me a chance to reflect positively on some aspects of my life that I have been finding challenging.

Time and space can bring much needed clarity. And I believe my short visit to Tokyo gave me that.

Current knitting

Also, I found the following proverb that provided me with a healthy dash of simple wisdom:

泣いて暮らすも一緒、笑って暮らすも一緒“- Japanese Proverb

“ないてくらすもいっしょ、わらってくらすもいっしょ”

“Naite kurasu mo issho, waratte kurasu mo issho.”

“It is the same life, whether we spend it laughing or crying.”

In this life, how we respond to our many experiences, whether past, present, or future, is up to us.

Let’s choose to smile or laugh and do what brings us closer to internal joy and harmony.

Thanks for reading.

D

Back to school

Walking to Mito

Monday. I wake with the realization that winter vacation will end once I begin the journey to Mito for an afternoon company training session. The weather is beautiful, and I am excited to enjoy the sun while bracing myself against chilled air.

I could take the train or even drive. Either would be faster and far more comfortable. Still, I am longing to move my body more. And this is the perfect opportunity to do it.

I make it just in time. I am tired but feeling accomplished.

Cowl, (modeled by Maria)

Tuesday. I am back at elementary school. The day moves quickly. I even have energy to design and knit a simple cowl. While doing that I begin listening to Pete Walker’s Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving on Kindle.

Last winter, I read his first book, The Tao of Fully Feeling: Harvesting Forgiveness Out of Blame, which I found not only enlightening, from a psychological perspective, but truly helpful personally.

Katsuta Station

Wednesday. It’s been a hit-the-ground-running start to the new school term. And I haven’t quite settled into my new daily routine plan.

It’s a reminder that everything is a work in progress. And I need to give myself more freedom and space to adjust to meeting my own needs.

Lately, I have been wondering what it means to manifest the healthiest version of the self. I wonder how I can shift my daily actions to move closer to that idea.

How about you? How has the new year been? How do you move yourself towards becoming your healthiest you?

Thanks for reading.

D.

A sweater of my own

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.” -R. Niebuhr

The day has grown late, and I am awfully tired. I need to sleep. Last night ended early this morning as I finished weaving in the ends for what is my first sweater.

Unblocked sweater

It’s made from acrylic tweed bought in various Daisos (100¥ shop). I had been collecting the yarn (22 skeins) to make a yoga mat for a friend, but it wasn’t the right material for her in the end.

Acrylic yarn is very harmful to the environment, even if it is inexpensive. I make no excuses for having bought it. Still, given that I had already done that, I decided that I would find some use for it.

Thus, I began making a large rectangle, and then another. I steamed blocked them and crocheted them together. I picked up stitches around the armholes to make sleeves. And then decided the sweater would be for me.

My sweater

Without blocking it again, I put it on this morning. And I felt happy.

Yes, it’s acrylic. I cannot change that. It was the yarn I could afford then. What I could do, and have done, is make something from it.

And so…I made a sweater that is cozy, warm, and filled with my creative energy. The thing is, I see making this sweater as a bit like moments in life.

Sometimes we make the wrong decisions because it’s best that we can do (or know to do) in a situation. Unfortunately, we usually can’t undo those decisions.

My sweater, sleeves and edging

However, we can choose to take ownership of the results of our decisions. We can choose to work with or through the consequences.

We can allow ourselves to be positively transformed through learning how to deal with the things we cannot change.

So, now I have made a sweater that’s like me: imperfect and unique. We both have problematic pasts that we cannot change. However, we are exactly as we are meant to be.

Thanks to my sweater for the life reminder. And thank you for reading.

D

Starbucks, knitting, and serenity

Frost on wood

Hitachinaka. It’s after 7:00a.m., so the sun is already up when I begin my walk to the other Starbucks. It’s near the city’s main attraction, Hitachi Seaside Park (part botanical garden, part amusement park).

I am trying to get the most out of my winter vacation, which ends tomorrow. The walk is peaceful, and there are fewer cars and pedestrians than I thought there would be.

Sunlight and sun

I am still longing for a quieter morning though. I need to wake earlier. There are many things, I realize, that I need to do as I move forward. In the past, there were many things I wanted to do.

Over the past year, I spent time working on personally defining need and want.

Recycling/Secondhand shop, Hitachinaka

To me, need means that I understand that I have no other choice but to take a specific action(s) in order to achieve my goals. It speaks to the essentiality of the action(s) to my further development.

Want speaks to my more nebulous ideas or actions for an idealized near or far future. When I say “I want,” it doesn’t mean I will. Whereas “I need” does.

By the way, if you have recently moved to Japan, always look out for your local secondhand shops. They are inexpensive options to buy the things you need or pass on the things you no longer want or need.

In Hitachinaka, we have a few, including the major ~Off chain (Book Off, Hard Off, etc.), as well as King Family.

Baked Sweet Potato Factory & Bakery

In addition to secondhand shops, look out for direct sales food factories, like the yakiimo (焼いも, やきいも) factory pictured above. You can often get good deals.

Last week, I bought three bunches of bananas for 90¥ from this place and a friend bought a deliciously warm baked sweet potato for less than supermarket prices.

Starbucks, Hitachi Seaside Park

7:45. It’s already crowded in the Starbucks, but it’s temporary. A group of cyclists are grabbing their pre-cycle coffee before heading out towards tattoo-friendly Ajiguara Beach.

It’ll be a while before the line to order will decrease. So, I suppose it’s time to start knitting.

Knitting for me

I taught myself to knit about 15 years ago. I was a fairly avid knitter from 2005 to 2010, a period defined by illness and loss.

I suppose that is why I put away my knitting for a long time, only knitting gifts for odd holiday or birthday, not for pleasure and never for myself. I didn’t want to be reminded of the things, people or parts of self I needed to let go.

I forgot about the serenity that knitting gives me. That with each stitch, I found comfort and balance. Without knitting, I am not sure how I would have gotten through that time.

I am glad that I’ve picked up my needles again with renewed enthusiasm and intention. I am glad to knit for others and even more grateful that I have arrived at a point where I understand that I can and need to knit for myself.

How about you? What brings you serenity? What do you need to do this year?

Thank you for reading.

D

Hitachinaka has two Starbucks

Frost on winter grass

Hitachinaka. I’ve started my morning later than I intended. The dark winter mornings are proving challenging, or perhaps it’s the cold. Either way, I have been sleeping in more than I wish.

7:15. I leave my apartment and begin the 40-odd-minute trek to one of the two local Starbucks (スターバックス). The other is about the same distance away.

Starbucks, Sawa area in Hitachinaka

I think we’re pretty lucky in Hitachinaka. We have, at least, two of every major coffee house: Starbucks, Saza Coffee, and Tully’s Coffee. They are great places to spend time with friends, study, or just relax.

They all offer free Wi-Fi and the opportunity to sit undisturbed for as long as you wish. Of course, it’s always a good idea to buy something to drink/eat as you while away the hours.

Soy Kinako muffin and iced black tea with cream

8:05. I decide on the soy kinako (きなこ, 黄粉) muffin because I can’t have the current special: Azukinako (あずきなこ) latte. In support of a friend, I am doing a no coffee, no chocolate challenge (perhaps we should call it the “No CC Challenge”) for one month or so. It’s been going pretty well.

Lately, Starbucks has been offering more soy products, which I think is great. Actually, I have noticed more attention being given to providing gluten-free options in both cafes and supermarkets locally.

Closeup, muffin. I think those are raisins.

Today’s plan: meeting a friend at 11:00a.m. knitting on and off, evening yoga and early bed. Winter vacation is almost over.

Today’s goals: focusing inward and listening intuitively.

How about you? What are your goals for today? Does winter affect or challenge you in any way?

Thanks for reading.

D

A simple morning

Bird timer

Earthquake, 3:24a.m.

I have been working on my sleep hygiene, going to bed around 9:30p.m. and waking around 4:45a.m. Sometimes I am quite successful, and all goes as planned.

Early this morning, the ground shook and alerts blasted from my phone: jishin (地震). In English and Japanese, I received the message to seek shelter, and I wondered, Where?

I waited and the floor beneath me settled as did my mind. I went back to sleep, thinking how accustomed I have become to my world being shaken and how much I have improved in remaining still.

Yuzu jam

I slept longer than usual. Upon waking, I decided to make my day even simpler than I had intended.

I make yuzu (ゆず) iced tea. The yuzu jam is a Christmas gift from a dear friend. The cup is gift to myself from Fukuda Kilns in Kasama.

Full plate.

This morning I will eat a banana, an apple, and an orange. My hands make a rough job peeling and cutting fruit. That’s okay though.

I am happy with what I see and appreciative of what I am about to eat. All of these fruits were gifts from beloved friends. I will enjoy every bite.

Halfway

I decide to add some apple jam which was a Christmas gift from a beloved Japanese friend. I feel spoiled by all the gifts of nourishment I have received. All healthy and all made with care.

The wooden fork and spoon in the pictures are handmade, too, by an artist in Kyoto. The plate is one I painted at Fukuda Kilns. That experience was also a precious gift to me.

All done.

I finish my meal. My futon is already outside being cleansed by the sun and my laundy is drying. I am listening to the “Storm is Over” by Windshield. It feels like the right song for this moment.

Now, it’s time to knit and drink water. I want to enjoy the morning sunlight and my solitude just a little longer.

Knitting and canister

Today, I will meditate on the word simplicity. How about you? What is your word for today? How do you create simple mornings?

Thank you for reading.

D

A long walk and Byron Bay

Rice field in winter

Hitachinaka. I decided to take a walk today. It’s a little long, perhaps two or two and a half hours. I enjoy doing this at the start of the new year.

With each step, I feel my thoughts becoming a little clearer. My body feels a little lighter even with the weight of the winter’s cold.

When I walk, I imagine that I am moving closer to my goals. Arriving at my destination provides me with a sense of accomplishment and oftentimes clarity.

Foot path by the river

It’s a lot colder than I’d imagined it would be. I brought my knitting to occupy my hands as I walk. It’s harder to knit with gloves on, but I enjoy it. With each step, I make a new stitch. I can see that I am creating something even when the journey feels neverending.

I don’t meet many people on this walk. Every now and again, I see an elderly person walking or riding a bicycle. Where I live in Japan, it always seems so quiet. I think it’s made me even quieter.

Byron Bay Coffee

Mito. It took two hours and forty-five minutes. A little slower than I expected…but that’s likely due to the knitting.

Now, I am enjoying a prana chai tea at a local cafe. It’s a comfortable space where I can do some knitting and enjoy the presence of others. It’s a quiet and simple moment. The kind of moment that I would like to create more often.

Lotus, Kyoto

Yesterday, a friend said that she enjoyed reading my musings. It was a curious moment for me. I am just writing because I long to write.

I hadn’t considered that anyone would take the time to read my words. I feel grateful and honoured that anyone would, whether friend or stranger.

If nothing else, I have decided that from now on I need to take ownership of my truth and to embrace all that I am and can do. This includes writing, regardless of its current quality. So…

Thank you for reading.

D