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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


A new year and kaze…

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. – Rumi

Lately, I have been reflecting on the idea and action of purpose. How do we decide what is our purpose? And how do we act purposefully in each day of our lives?

Life can, at times, feel like parade of accidents, moving from one unintended and possibly catastrophic moment to the next. We may watch from the sidelines, thinking that there is nothing we can do to change what comes next. Or perhaps we make ourselves active participants, leading or guiding the parade to its possible negative end.

Of course, life is filled with incidents, good, bad, in-between, intentional, and unintentional events. And oftentimes, we can choose our roles, whether as spectators or participants, etc.


Many times I have been asked how I have come to live in places foreign to me. My answer has typically been that the universe pulled me to that location. More recently, my response has been one word: kaze (風).

Kaze means “wind” in Japanese. I enjoy the sound and the feeling of this word. It resonates with some core part of myself that relishes the weightless, transient, and forceful nature of wind. Perhaps I long to be a little like the wind…

Still, even wind has direction and purpose. And so, too, do we. Wind, after all, is just air in motion.


So, too, can we be in motion in our lives, picking up enough speed to change our locations, whether physically, spiritually, or psychologically.

How do we decide what is our purpose? We listen to what our core self desires the most. How do we act purposefully in each day of our lives? We trust in our kaze.

It’s 2020. Let’s see where we will allow the wind to take us.


Watercress latte, knitting, and…

Daigo. The cafe is dark yet warm, constructed of rich wood and laid out with space heaters and blankets. It’s my fourth time here, listening to the melancholic notes of an unfamiliar singer. I wish I had my notebook and more time. It’s a place for writers, and I have been desperate to write.

Instead I’ve got a latte and my knitting to keep my hands and mind occupied. The green of the latte and the blue of the wool, both paint images in my mind of warmer times, green rice fields and ocean waves.

It’s funny how easy it is, when you get into the living the business of life, to forget the simplicity of living…of enjoying a latte and a little knitting.

I’m learning again what I came to know: living well requires being balanced.

Happy (almost) New Year.


Morning Walk and a Cup of Tea


It’s just after 5:00 a.m. The sidewalk is connection of pools of water, the sky a sleepy silvery grey, and sounds of nature a reminder of the silence of my voice.


I am greeted by the road signs that reflect life (“Caution curve ahead”) and old men walking their dogs (“Ohayougozaimasu”). A lifetime is, indeed, a short-long experience…or perhaps do I mean ‘long-short.’ It’s only 5:20 and far too early to sort through this thought. I walk on.


I pass a field opposite a factory. I watch a crow fly from one powerline to the next. A flock of sparrows cruise noisily from the top of a building to a nearby tree, and I am aware of the sounds of traffic.


I live in a city that bustles with industry and fosters nature. It’s easy to enjoy wild flowers, buy from local farmers, be concerned about the potentially toxic smoke from some factory lazily clouding the sky, and contemplate ‘globalization’ while drinking a matcha latte at one of the two local Starbucks and gazing at the large concrete box that is Costco across the street. That’s not the point of why I am living here, though.


6:30 a.m., I am back home. A pillow and a cup of Earl Grey mint tea–the simplicities of my life. My mind quietly enjoys the warmth.