Tis the season for Osoji…falala la la…. la la la la….

And for year-end parties!

In America at the end of a year many people start thinking about their New Year’s Resolutions.

In Japan however, about a week before the New Year arrives most everyone is thinking about Osoji and year end parties.

Osoji literally means “big cleaning”-according to my husband.

On the practical side of it I suppose it’s a little like spring cleaning but not quite, exactly.

On the one hand it does involve cleaning-but not just a little straightening up. It involves hard, on your hands and knees scrubbing, polishing, waxing. Getting into the cupboards, on top of high furniture, under the fridge and around door frames- type of cleaning.

On the other hand it’s also symbolic of getting the past year’s affairs in order and completed in-order to start the new year free and clean and fresh.

My husband said when he was a child the shoji doors and windows, which are covered with thin rice paper, would all get re-papered. Now-a-days most people don’t have a whole house full of shoji doors covered with paper. Usually there is just one room that is traditional Japanese design,the tatami room, and in it the windows will be traditional shoji screens covered in paper.

At any rate-my husband had a habit of poking holes in the shoji screens when he was little. I’m afraid from what I’ve seen, he still does , although not intentionally now! We don’t have any paper covered windows in our house (thankfully) but MIL does.

Because I’m a neat freak type of person, I usually don’t have to do much “osoji”. Everything is already clean. I’m a “clean as you go” type person.

However, because I was so sick,the yard went to heck. Today I spent about 7 hours out in our little garden area performing the ritual of osoji.

It looks great now and feels good to have it all clean for the New Year.

Next Tuesday-Christmas Day-I’ve volunteered to go to MIL’s house and osoji.

She is in the hospital and will be for a while. I was thinking that would be a nice gift to give her on Christmas Day-since Hubby has to work anyhow and I’d just be spending the day at home alone anyhow. Instead, I’ll spend the day at MIL’s scrubbing and cleaning and such and getting her house in order for the New Year even if she won’t be home. At least she can have  peace of mind knowing that it was done.

Especially for the older folks, NOT doing osoji is almost sacrilegious!

In the midst of performing osoji, people are also going to and planning year-end-parties.

I have a little year-end / Christmas party with my adult morning class.

This year we had a tea and coffee and sweets craft party. We also had an American style gift exchange .  I had also ordered some vintage Christmas cards (copies) and had them on display for the ladies to look at. They enjoy those sorts of things.

I’m officially on Christmas/New years break but I’ve been getting things into high gear and ready for our annual Christmas party with my husband’s family this Sunday.

Now that the garden is in order, tomorrow I’ve got to start getting some of the baking out of the way. I’m also going to complete the bingo game and the props for the preschooler’s dance. I teach English to a few of the little tykes in the family and we practiced a cute little song and dance to preform for the family. It’s a surprise! The song also incorporates getting some of the other family members involved and should be a lot of fun!

Well…as usual it’s getting close to midnight here and my eyeballs are about to fall out of my head.  Best get some rest, beside being the end of the world tomorrow…it’s also going to be a busy prep day! I’m going to be extremely upset if the planet blows apart tomorrow after I’ve put so much work into preparing for our annual family get-together!

🙂

Good night all….too tired to see if I left any bloopers behind….just ignore them if there are any….

Break-time

We had an absolutely wonderful day today!

I mean- it was glorious! Friends called yesterday and asked if we wanted to take a trip to a mountain town about three hours from here…so we said ..ya…ok.

Now…it’s been really hectic around here lately-MIL is in the hospital with back problems, the holidays are coming and I’ve got more than enough to get done and organized-and I’m behind because I ended up so sick with my asthma for almost two months.

But…sometimes you need to step back from everything and just take a break. Your mind needs a chance to recoup and re-energize.

So…we packed up our spa-bags and took off with friends on an impromptu adventure and we were so glad we did! We could have stayed home and worked on our list of things to get done.

Our destination was the mountain town of Kuju.  The best way for me to describe Kuju is that it’s a quaint little mountain town hidden in a forested valley nestled between thickly forested mountains. Everywhere there are  cascading waterfalls tumbling into wide and rocky riverbeds. It’s rather isolated and definitely out of the way of mainstream traffic. As a matter of fact, one of the roads we traveled to get there looked more like a one lane loggers road.

Most of the dwellings were obviously dated and we saw quite a few with old thatched roofs made of reeds that grow on the riverbank.

It rained all day and as we got higher up in elevation we ran into fog….fog that shrouded everything in a blanket of mystery. There was still enough visibility to enjoy the scenery but just enough fog to add a special ambiance to the day.

Mist floated through and around the tops of tall cedar and pines. It hung in clouds over small valleys and swirled around the tops of waterfalls.

It actually gave the day a deeper serenity and feeling of calm.

After about two hour’s drive we came upon a wonderful little restaurant/gift-shop.

It was so absolutely inviting! All of us (except the driver who had been there before) actually gasped as we drove round the bend and the restaurant came into view!restaurant1

r2

They had a bonfire in the parking lot!

parkfire

The whole place was irresistibly inviting.

 

The food was reasonable – I thought it might be a little pricey.

I enjoyed the ambiance inside the restaurant-it was really cozy. There were all sorts of delicious foods and cute little gifts for sale.

 

There was an icy spring fed trough that held cold juice….

juice

We had a wonderful view of the mountains from our table.

view

Staff wore Noe Mask make-up. Why? I’m not sure! But they did!

 

The rest-room had this be-u-tiful counter made out of river-rocks. The sinks were actually large china plates and spring water streamed out of bamboo pipes.

 

Very cool….something I’d like to have in my own home! I love to bring nature indoors as much as possible. This is definitely something I’d love to be able to recreate.

We spent about an hour and a half here and then packed into the car again and headed off for the onsen- the Japanese name for “hot-spring spa”.

The onsen was built in 1896. Now the old onsen buildings are part of a larger, newer hotel. There is an onsen inside the hotel for guests. We visited the old (116 years) onsen. It was charming and wonderfully private-we were the only guests there!

Men’s and women’s areas are separate, although there are family bath houses that you can reserve if you want to bathe together as a family.

I know that sounds really strange to many Westerners – bathing together as a family-but it’s not strange here-although I probably wouldn’t be comfortable using onsen with other adult male members of the family!! Here in Japan we don’t wear clothing in the onsen-it’s not a swimming pool-it’s a bath house and a place to relax. I’ve been to hot-springs in the states and I have to say-for me, nothing beats onsen!

Emi chang and I had the onsen all to ourselves.

 

It hasn’t really been altered much since it was originally built 116 years ago.

We sat for over an hour in the steamy relaxing water and talked….

The way home was dreamy….we dozed off and on..I felt sorry for our driver!

Now…it’s late…it’s raining…it’s chilly and a warm bed awaits…so…

Good…night…..  !

Save

TIME!

My goodness! Where does the time go? It seems like I just wake up and it’s time to go to bed again-the day having fled  from my grasp before I can even get a handle on it!

I looked at my last blog post which was written on November 30th and I thought, didn’t I just write that the other day?

Every single time that I’m made aware of how time speeds by I’m automatically taken back to that day before dad died and I sat on the chair next to his hospital bed. We sat there for a long time in silence. I was trying to soak in every second with him while he seemed to be staring off into the crack that was ever widening before him between this world and the next.

Towards the end it seemed like he focused on that crack, which seemed to be located somewhere near the top of the wall in front of him…more than he focused on what was happening in the room….

But for several moments that day his gaze fell upon me ….for several moments he seemed to study my face intently….and then softly he whispered…”it went so fast”….I could barely hear him…but those words have reverberated like aftershocks in the months that have followed.

Specially on days like today and I’m trying to figure out where the last three weeks went.

I’ve been busy, that’s for sure. The Christmas holidays are always busy for me because of the holiday parties for my English students and such. I usually do some fun things with them that involve crafting and baking and such– which the students LOVE! I enjoy it too, even though preparing everything makes me crazy busy.

This year I’ve also been using my new skill of crochet to supplement our “not so fat”  income by making gifts for my students, grandchildren and my husband’s family. I’ll have to say, I’m extremely thankful for having learned the skill because I’ve made some beautiful items that have brought a lot of joy to the people I’ve made them for.

I’m always amazed at the way God answers prayer. I’ve prayed about our income and asked for help and I’m learning that sometimes help does not come in the form we expect it to. I didn’t get “more money” but I did get a new skill that is even more valuable!

I also got an answer to prayer in the area of friendships! Last week (or was it the week before?) A student of mine (Mrs. B) introduced me to one of our neighbors and we “clicked” instantly! She’s a painter and a potter.  Mrs. B and I went to her home and we learned how to paint on shirts! Mrs. Painter paints oil paintings of flowers and foliage with abstract backgrounds that are really beautiful and the pictures I took of them really don’t do them justice.

She had almost 200 paintings in her personal collection, the pictures I took were of the ones hanging on the wall. She changes her decor with the seasons.

 

She is also a potter and I asked her permission to take just a few snapshots of some of her pieces to display on my blog.

 

Her home is filled with the art she creates! She also takes long walks and cuts flowers and dried stalks of whatever she sees that might look pretty in her pottery pieces.

She has such a wonderful personality! She’s friendly and open and seems a little “different” than most…but I like “different”! Sometimes, I think artists are somewhat different from the average person. I know…I fit into that category myself.

She’s also a great teacher. I was sorely wondering what kind of mess I was going to make on the shirt I’d brought to pain on.

But…with her instruction I managed to create something that I actually really like!

My 199 yen (about $3.00)  red t-shirt now looks like an expensive creation! I really had fun and it gave me another idea for hand-made gifts!

While our shirts were drying she served us some home-made treats on plates and cups that she made.

okashi

On my list of things to “do” is to bake a fresh kabocha cake for her and crochet something nice and take them over to her. I’ve put that right near the top of the list.

On the agenda for today besides getting lesson plans and props ready for today’s afternoon class -is finishing my crochet projects. One is for a gift that I’m giving on Saturday. I’ve got a hiking date with special Japanese friends-my Japanese daughter AND my Japanese “brother”-a hiking date if the weather holds up that is…..looks like it may rain and with the cold temps– hiking would be miserable.

We had our first snowfall last week.

s2

Around here we don’t get much accumulation  😦  but at least it snows…But then again…if we got a lot of accumulation, that might be an issue too….

One thing I don’t have to worry about is Christmas shopping. I’m reading on other blogs about how everyone is rushing around trying to find that perfect gift. I think I may buy one or two gifts here-but that’s it. The kid’s aren’t here so we do a different sort of gift giving with them since they are all so far away. I get a lump in my throat typing that. But, they are, so, that’s the way it is and the best thing I can do is deal with it in the best positive way I know how.

This year was not the best, financially, not that I’m complaining because ALL my needs are met. I don’t have one thing I need. I’ve got it all and above and beyond. But as far as gifting goes-it’s not the best year for that, as it isn’t for many people. Not that it really matters much to me because I really do not like all the commercialism associated with the Christmas holidays. Neither do I think Jesus was born on December 25th.  BUT I do like the holidays just because they always made for such wonderful family memories and festivities-I like “festive”. I love decorating with pine and holly and making the house look pretty.

pine

Hubby really appreciates it too. He Really likes the baking (specially the gingerbread cookies), the special foods and the special family time. We invite his whole family to our house for Christmas. Japanese don’t really celebrate Christmas except to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken and a decorated Christmas Cake. 

It’s actually more of a romantic holiday akin to Valentines day! So, when we have our “American Christmas” every year, hubby’s family loves it! We have a gift exchange American style versus Japanese style. The difference is that in Japan a gift exchange means you buy a gift- any gift. All the gifts are tagged with a number. The same numbers are put in to a container and everyone draws a number-the number you draw out of the container corresponds to the number on the gift. Trouble is-you may end up getting something you have no use for or that is gender specific-for the opposite sex!

In my opinion, that’s no fun!

Hubby’s family now thinks the “American” way of gift exchange is better because you actually like the gift you get!

So I suppose, if I’m going to stay on track, I’d better get going!

 

Like the morning fog….

This morning as I pulled back the kitchen curtains – instead of the usual majestic view of the sun coming up over Mt. Fukuchi……

f3

 

…………..a thick blanket of fog lay silently over our valley.

 

The momiji in the front garden appeared ethereal.

f2

If I didn’t have to get bento and breakfast ready I would have thrown on a coat and hat and taken a walk into the silence.

A bit later on, the sun started to rise over the mountain casting a golden glow that changed the landscape into one that looked like something right our of Tolkien.

DSC08411

I’m continually in awe of the beauty that is right outside my window. Although I’ve been sick for a month now and have barely left the house, I’m not in the least bit bored or depressed – there is always something new and wonderful to see right outside my garden windows!

Even though there may be a fog in my life…I know the sun is there…somewhere. Even though I may not be able to see it at the moment- I know it is there, that’s a fact that never changes.

Did you ever think about that? The fact that the sun is always there even if it’s foggy, or raining or stormy out? Kind of like our lives….happiness and joy and peace are still a part of us and don’t just “go away” when a few storms or clouds roll in.

I learned that long ago. Just because you wake up and it’s foggy out…doesn’t mean the sun has vanished from your life.

Save

Save

I love “quaint”

I love the simple, quaint, and laid-back atmosphere of our little area here.

There are more modern areas near-by, but I prefer the old little places. The little family owned places that are kind of hodge-podge and quirky.

Like the little noodle shop we always go to. I swear, I think the place has not been remodeled since hubby was a kid! He said he used to eat noodles there in Jr. High-school and it still looks exactly the same! Looking around the shop, I believe it!

We stopped by today on our way to the coin-laundry to use the dryer.

They had the big kerosene heaters out.

kettle

This is how they heat the restaurant. It’s also how they heat the water in the teakettle!

It’s getting downright chilly outside now. Hokkaido had several inches of snow the past few days. Here is was just cold, damp and rainy..beautiful weather! But…I suppose I think most weather is beautiful weather…  🙂

Nothing beats a hot bowl of noodles along with a cup of steaming tea on a cold day!

udon

After drying the clothing we stopped by the Daiso in our neighborhood.  Daiso is famous all over now, from what I read on the internet. Most products at Daiso are 100 yen (roughly 1.00).

I’ve been to the Dollar Store in the states and quite frankly, Daiso takes the cake. Their products are actually nice!

We shop there often. I get ALL my yarn at Daiso! My yarn stash is growing considerably! It costs me 105 yen (including tax) for a 40 gram bundle of yarn. They have a large variety of different kinds -I’ve got thick yarns, medium, baby yarn, fancy yarn with little glitter thingys, mohair..and more! They seem to run out rather quickly, so whenever I have a chance on the weekends when hubby is here I make him take me over to Daiso. I could walk but it’s not really close by. It would probably take me a good thirty minutes or more one way, to walk. Which is really not bad, considering I walk all they way to Fukichi Dam! But just the thought of carrying that huge bag of yarn home….nah…

There is a smaller Daiso at AEON Mall but they have a very small variety of yarn. I pop over once and a while-it’s only a ten minute or so walk… but I think they must have cases of the same yarn in the warehouse and just keep restocking the same types. I’ve got all their yarn already!

yarn

I keep piling it on my bookshelf which has now been converted to a craft/book shelf. I’m thinking soon I may need to get creative and construct something to store yarn in. I may have to crawl under the house again to see what’s there. Maybe there is something I can use.

The momiji in the front garden is really becoming a brilliant red!

momiji

As we were driving around today it was such a pleasure to sit quietly and gaze out at the countryside…a patchwork of russets, golds, brilliant reds, browns and oranges. I was so entranced by the color I forgot to take pictures! Perhaps tomorrow I can get hubby to go on a bit of a day tour to capture some of the autumn beauty.

We stopped by the drug-store and I picked up yet another bottle of medicine for this…whatever you call it..that I have.  I’m a little bit better but not quite 100% yet. This is probably the worst asthma episode I’ve ever had to date. It’s all mixed in with my sinus junks and “stuff”.

At least I’m not in it alone-FIL and SIL are also in bad shape, having had flare-ups of their asthma too.

But who wants to read about asthma on a blog!

I suppose my head’s in a bit of a fog from these meds to tell you the truth.

I took a look at the calendar and realized that in a week or so it’ll be DECEMBER! Where the heck did the time go? I’ve got to get going on the name list for our family gift exchange. We’ve set the date for our family Christmas party for the 23rd of December. Everyone comes to our house. We started a tradition last year. Actually, if I want the Christmas holidays-I have to create them. To tell the truth, hubby told me that he loves the Christmas holidays and couldn’t think of not having them-so it’s a joint effort. He plans right along side me.

At any rate…I just realized I’ve got to get on the ball with planning!

Oh…boy..I think the hot-tub water is heated and I feel like a good hot soak will help my sinus.

Then, sitting in snugly, comfy P.Js…I’ll crochet myself to sleep…   🙂

 

 

Thanksgiving Day…all quiet on the eastern front…..

It’s Thanksgiving day here in Japan today. Well, it’s the date on the calendar for us westerners that is the American day of Thanksgiving…er…except we are a day ahead.
How’s that for confusing?

Anyway….

Today is Thanksgiving, a regular day here in Japan. My kids are all in full Thanksgiving swing, cooking and baking and preparing for their family meals. They all live on the same side of the international date-line as I do-so it’s Thanksgiving for them too.

All my life I’ve lived with being aware of the international dateline and time zones and having to schedule my phone calls accordingly which meant many times getting up in the middle of the night to make a phone call to family! At least this year-the family that I’ll be calling is on my side of the planet.  🙂

Obviously, Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Japan. There are groups of “foreigners” married to Japanese that get-together and celebrate the various American holidays, and I suppose if I really wanted to I could do that…but Thanksgiving has never been about just getting together and eating turkey. Not for our family anyhow. For us, Thanksgiving was first and foremost a time to celebrate and appreciate family. The food was just a bonus.

So, getting together with others here just to eat….well…

Hubby and I decided that we’d go out for dinner after he came home from work. We always pass by this buffet restaurant at the mall and we always say….”let’s eat there someday”.  We peeked at the menu and they seem to have a nice variety of food -Japanese, Italian..and some other dishes that looked tasty.

No turkey though-obviously.

Eating out sounded good to me-I’m still recovering from whatever it was I had, mixed with a relapse of my asthma. No cooking, no dishes….I can deal with that.

I’ve been busy these past two weeks despite being really sick.  Last Monday was the ladies class annual Thanksgiving party. The ladies told me that they looked forward to our little get-together-one said that she felt it was important for personal reasons…I was really touched by that. I was sure she was sincere.

  We didn’t have turkey. I could order one on the foreign food website but they are really expensive and secondly- I have no idea how I’d cook it! I don’t have a turkey roaster and didn’t feel like making the almost $200.00 investment to buy one!

Instead, I ordered a whole young chicken which was more than enough for the five of us. It fit nicely into my little convection oven and turned out beautifully. I seasoned it with fresh Rosemary from my garden, garlic, salt and pepper and butter. It turned out really tasty.

It was a pot-luck and everyone brought delicious dishes to add to our table. I just loved the way some of them were decorated!

We did have cranberry sauce which went nicely with the chicken.

I had the coffee bar “open” which was a big hit with the ladies! It was American-style “serve yourself” which is not the usual here in Japan. At least not at the functions I’ve been at. From what I’ve seen in hubby’s family-guests are served. I, being married to chonan or “eldest son” am required to take the lead in serving so I say this from experience. Even though we’ve only been living here for just under two years-in all of the dozens of trips we’ve taken to Japan during the past years before we moved here, it’s always been the same. So I’m thinking it must be cultural.

I managed to bake a pumpkin  pie made from fresh Japanese kabocha pumpkin that turned out to be THE best pie I’ve ever made in my life! The crust turned out perfect, the filling was perfect, it was even a beautiful color! I also made pumpkin-cream-cheeze bars. I’ve seen canned pumpkin in the import store at the mall but since I’ve been using fresh kabocha, I’ll never use canned again.

I made a pot of coffee and set out an assortment of teas.

At any rate, the ladies seemed to have fun with the coffee-bar. Seriously! I was watching them and I could tell that they really enjoyed it!

I took out two of the shoji doors to kind of open the tatami rooms up and create a larger space for our gathering. I love how I can do that! It really comes in handy being able to “take our your wall” to make the room bigger!

It was really enjoyable! We drank “non-alcoholic” beer that one of the ladies brought. We laughed and just really enjoyed each others company.

I planned a couple of Thanksgiving themed games ……

The ladies seemed to enjoy playing them and challenging themselves on their knowledge of American Thanksgiving!

Our next event is the annual tea and cookies Christmas party. I’m thinking perhaps I’ll make up a batch of gingerbread dough and have the ladies cut out the gingerbread-men. They bake up fast and if I premade the dough it might be a fun activity for them. None of them bake.

That reminds me-gotta start cutting the forms for the cardboard gingerbread houses!

Now comes the “moral” of the story…  🙂 If you don’t like inspirational posts you can stop reading here-no offense taken!

I’m being taught (and hopefully am learning) some really important lessons on just what this “peace that passes all understanding” is and how broad it reaches into our lives, if we allow it to.

One of my biggest prayers over the years has been that I grow in my relationship with God. I think many Christians pray that prayer sometime in their lives…”oh Lord help  me grow!”. “Oh Lord, let me feel your presence in my life!”. You know…the standard prayers that most of us grew up with.

But- you know that old saying…..

….Watch out what you pray for…what you ask for….you know- that one?

Yep- that one.

We are all wired differently. What works for one, might not work for the next.

Apparently, this is what it takes for me to have the prayer answered. This…forced solitude. This purging of everything that brought happiness and contentment and joy to my life before. Speaking of my family.

I used to absolutely pour my life out for them. The kids called, I jumped. I did above and beyond the normal call of motherly duty, I think, now that I think of it.

I never thought I could live without them right near me.

“Oh Lord….help me grow…help me feel your presence in my life…”

There is nothing like standing there all alone, having all the distractions removed….and hearing the lonely sound of the wind whistle about you….and then you go…”oh, um…not quite what I meant”…

…………….and you hear only the sound of the wind….

And then the prayers come in earnest….OH LORD!! PLEASE! I need to feel your presence!! I need you !! I can’t do this alone…!!  🙂

“Hey, kiddo-you were never alone…cept you were too busy to notice. I’ve always been there- I mean..you noticed…but not really.”

And you begin to learn a whole new way of “being joyful”. You begin to really taste what it means to be joyful in the Lord.Not just that almost guaranteed joy that comes when “life is great” but joy that envelopes you even in the dark, lonely hours of life. Almost like a protective bubble from the “boogey-man” that hides around the corners of your mind, lurking in your thoughts, or in nostalgic music you play on the CD player… or….in the old family photo albums…threatening to bring you to your knees, your heart gripped in sorrow, loneliness and depression. Tears falling into your coffee cup….and on your computer keyboard.

Can you be joyful in totally new territory? Can you be joyful when everything familiar to you is …not there anymore?

Is there truth to the scripture that says”

Isaiah 40:31 – But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint.

It’s easy enough to do this when everything is great and life is perfect…..(italics mine)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I’m learning now, in the autumn of life, what it’s like when the rubber meets the road of life and you test these verses -for real.

Happy Thanksgiving-giving thanks in all circumstances.   🙂

By the way…from what I’ve seen…Joy really does come in the morning and right now…too.

 

Just a little fall speldor

As I’ve said before, Autumn is extended here is Japan.

There is a very slow, gradual coloring of the landscape. As if the artist wanted you to stop at each shade and savor it….before moving on to the next one.

Color is reaching “peak” here in our area. On Sunday my beloved packed my sick self into the car for a bit of a drive so I could get out a little and be cheered by the beauty of the season. It did me a world of good!

Just a few pictures from our short little outing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.