Okonomiyaki in London

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Life in London was grand, but there were some expectations it seemed.

With Japanland as the theme, we had to create a new kind of feast this time around but what was there except KFC?

With a bit of a think, we created this meal- oh!(konomiyaki) what a ball it turned out to be.

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One last goodbye

I just had a lovely moment. Our eyes met. I blushed and looked down. This happened many times while he was talking to his friends sitting across from him on the train. I wondered at that time what kind of connection they might possibly have.

We were going in the same direction on the train. Would he get off at the same station? Who was this person? Half-asleep, my brain was a tangle of questions and possible answers.

The train slowly pulled up to the platform, and the station’s name was announced. He picked up his bags and the doors opened. I saw him wave to me as he exited the train. With a smile he mouthed a good-bye. From the windows I saw him stretch his hand out for one last wave. I copied his gesture and with a tired grin I also said good-bye.

This is one of the reasons I like to stay awake on the train even after a tiring day of work. Someone can touch your heart when you least expect it.

In that moment no one wanted to use me to practice their English. There were no words or exchange of conversation, but the intense feeling of curiosity and the happiness in the stolen glances.

I felt in love in that moment. I fell in love with that moment.

He wrote a poem

photo-179In my last post, I talked about my first encounter with the artist, Mitsushita. Each time we met up until now has been conversations over two hours, the kinds of talks where you happen to glance at a watch and you jump out of your seat, surprised at how fast the time had gone by.

In the beginning, because I am a cheapskate, I had no intention of buying his art. After speaking to him however, I decided that I wanted a piece of this fantastic person.

He drew me —blue wig and all— but he also wrote me a poem. It was not what I had expected, and I was beaming.. As I read, I knew that during our marathon talks he had been listening with ears as well as heart. It was an amazing feeling to be heard.

I will write the Japanese and try my best to translate it into English.

たくさん泣いてきたね。
涙をこらえて頑張ってきたね。
涙を流せる優しいあなたへ。。。
あなたがもしも恐がってほうならボクはあなたの笑顔になりたい。
もしもあなたが涙を流すなら、ボクはあなたの涙を幸せに変えたい。
あなたの笑顔世界で一番キレイでも。ボクはあなたのキズも愛したい。。。
あなたの笑顔がボクの幸せなんだ。信じたい。。。
You cried a lot coming here didn’t you.
You did your best and held in your tears.
These words I will write are to the kind one that lets her tears fall.
If you are scared, I want to change your fear into smile.
I want to change your tears of sadness into ones of joy.
Because your smile is the most beautiful. I will love all of your faults.
Your smile is my smile. I will always believe this.

The Snake Handler, Mr. Matsushita and a Blue Wig.

These days I have been getting into a funny new habit – selling postcards on the street after work. I haven’t been out this past week because I couldn’t find a place to sleep in the city, but I will get out again next week if the timing works out.

photo-178It all started when I finished a Chai tea and a sandwich at the coffee shop near Shinsaibashi-suji. One by one the shops in the area closed down for the night, leaving only the footsteps of those coming home from the office, or the ones on the way to their questionable midnight jobs. By this time it was around 11:00 PM and against the shutters of the medicine shop, I see the artist Matsushita on the street open for business. There hasn’t been a night that I haven’t seen him sitting there, yet I had never approached him. I didn’t like the idea of making small talk when I had no intention of making a purchase. This particular evening was different however, and I decided to go and ask if it would be okay for myself to start selling postcards along this road. He explained to me that it would be no problem as long as the shops around were not open. I was excited to start laying out my small postcard collection. I admired this artist and the stand that he started packing up after his long day. Matsushita and his snake-handler sidekick Daisuke were about to leave. With a few words of advice about selling and pricing, they reminded me to watch out for old drunk men, and left shortly after.
I was alone and some people actually came up and started a conversation, commenting on my art and the blue wig that I wore, which was an attempt to hide myself from any potential acquaintances that could walk by. I enjoyed meeting these new people of the night, feeling very incognito.
One man who spoke English came up and introduced himself. We talked for a good twenty minutes, and he decided that it was his job to help me get more customers. His business strategy began with trying to lure people to my little chair by practically harassing them in English. His theory was that people walking by would be more interested if I started speaking in English to them and leave out the Japanese. In my experience however, that is 100% not the case. In Japan, people are afraid of things that they are not interested in. I wish I could be as confident as he was, but I don’t think I could fall into that way of selling.photo-177
After a while, and a few postcards lighter, Matsushita comes riding back on his bike. He was worried about me and came back to check on how I was doing. It was so thoughtful of him to go out of his way.
No other customers came to buy postcards after that, but we talked for hours about his life, what I do for a living, and our opinions of the conventional way of approaching work in Japanese society. His family had different expectations of him, but he choose to be a full-time artist. Now around 30, he questions his choices in a positive way and doesn’t regret them. He told me that he loves what he does and is glad even though he struggles doing it sometimes.
He has lead an interesting life, one very much opposite to the usual briefcase carrying salary-man you see all the time.  I admired his relaxed disposition, and desired his lifestyle.
What would your mind be like after meeting different personalities and observing the world all day?
I hope to go back to the shopping street and see my artist friend and his funky art very soon.

In this moment

photo-174Your face will smile, your tongue will dance.

That was what was written on the sign of Papa Jon’s, the cheese cake shop in Kyoto we went to yesterday. The combination of the food and the lovely company did make my face light up, giving me the energy that I needed at the time. I have been working at USJ and it is not exactly the most relaxing position. With the smiling all day, arranging, and the tight-knit Japanese environment, it was not easy in the beginning. I have not been there long, but little by little I am starting to become more comfortable and more confidant in my knowledge with the park. I am excited about getting better and becoming even more familiar.

I also have been reading a lot of blogs and books that are keeping things into perspective. It is easy to think that your life is tiring, and when I am in a normal state of mind I laugh at how moody I can become. I realize how ridiculous it is to pout.

Life is so beautiful. What are some beautiful things that I jotted down this past month? The kids that I teach after school waved from their cars and screamed to me, “Johnna sensei, bye-bye!” My singing teacher, the absolute angel helping me pass a test that would be impossible to do with my own resources. Friends that you can jump on, laugh with… enjoy with. These are the people you don’t feel pressure to impress, and it is so relaxing. Thinking about all of these things made me so happy today. I don’t want to loose this feeling. For those times when I fall I want to remember this beautiful day. I want to remember that in this moment I have everything.

What do I really want?

edit1I saw a T-Shirt online this morning saying: I don’t know what I want, but I want it so bad.

Many do not know ourselves well enough to know. With busy schedules and chores weighing us down everyday, it is hard to spend some thinking time asking the big questions to help ourselves figure it out.

One year ago as I was walking down the hill on the way to work, I confronted myself for the first time with the question, What is it that I really want? Do I want fame? Do I want to be a singer? Do I want a boyfriend? 

I tried to be as honest with myself as possible, and when I came down to it, I realized that what I had truly wanted in that moment was for my sister to become successful.

A few days passed by and I forgot about the secret wish that I had made that morning and to both of our surprises, she got an email from the head design coordinator from the band Mr.Children(one of the most famous groups in Japan) asking for her to design the CD cover for their next single. We were jumping around with excitement. What an incredible chance!

It was only later in the evening that I had remembered I had wished for my sister’s success later in the week. Was it just a coincidence? It could have been, but perhaps because I put in enough brain effort to figure out what I really wanted, the universe was willing to grant it to me.

Asking myself, What do I want? became a habit. No other wishes have come true yet, but there is no harm in discovering more about yourself through the question.

What do I want? Do I want fame? Do I want to travel all around the world? Do I want to write a novel? I asked myself again this morning. Do I want to go to university? Do I want a new laptop? Do I want to become a millionaire? Nope. There is only one thing I want now: to not have made any mistakes on the bills from my busy day at the restaurant yesterday evening. 

Mr. Morita brought potatoes

The first week of June is almost ready to bid us farewell. I woke up early this morning and grabbed my laptop first thing to check my messages and Facebook. Although I have a number of goals from here on end, I would say that killing my reflex of immediately reaching for my electronics would be high on the list.

Because we have been having lovely hot weather recently, I decided to take up a new challenge: Planting potatoes! I have been told that even if you have never worked with vegetables, the potato plant is a great place to begin. I bought healthy soil, followed the instructions I found on the internet, and after a month I was pleasantly surprised to find actual plants coming out of the ground. I showed them off to whoever stepped in the door and talked with neighbors to see if they could give me some tips. I was hoping to harvest my first crop this year, but after a trip to Korea I came back home to my house to find potatoes that had been long neglected while I was away. There was absolutely no rain while I was gone, and the potatoes started to rise out of the dirt, exposing themselves to the hot sun.

I was sad at the possibility of my potato planting efforts being in vain. However, as I was walking back home from the station this past week, I saw mypotato neighbor Morita-san walking up the mountain ahead of me. He lives two minutes down the hill and he loves to talk about gardening.  I ran up the mountain to catch up to him. In the beginning of my potato planting adventure, I mentioned often to him that I started making use of the big plot of land that I have. He would give me loads of advice and was excited about my new hobby. I was sad to have to let him know this time about the bad news. He immediately invited himself over to the house and told me he would check on them and give me a diagnosis.

He jumped right in and started covering the potatoes with dirt. He instructed me that no matter what you do, you have to hide them from the sun unless you want to eat very bitter vegetables. After a few minutes, he bid his farewell with a, “帰るわ! Kaeruwa!”, and left as quickly as he came.

I followed his instructions and covered my precious potatoes with dirt and weeded the garden. I thought that that would be the end of gardening for this week, but this morning I heard a loud pounding on my front door at 8:00 AM. Who would that be at this time? My sisters? My mom?

I let out a timid, Hello? with no answer and slowly opened the door to find Morita-san with gloves and a little bag in hand. I was surprised to see him so early. He had come again to help with the garden and also had brought new sweet potato plants to grow. After working in the garden for a bit, he explained to me what I had to do, and again was quickly on his way.

After he left I watered my new sweet potatoes and headed back into the house with a smile on my face. I now have something better to do than going straight to the internet in the morning: working on my new potatoes from Morita-san.