Diary: Days Before New Year’s Eve / Lead-up Activities + Goodnight Year of the Boar

Well, the days between Christmas and New Year’s aren’t really a thing per se in Japan as Christmas is just a reason for decor and music (as it should be at most) and all the build up is for New Year’s – this being my first “real” New Year’s in Japan, i just sorta held on for the ride… 

Anyhow, regardless, during this time, Ryoko and I were out and about for various events, errands, chores, adventures and whatnot – much of which is documented elsewhere in this archive and here are the pleasant mundane-ities which didn’t fit anywhere else – with minor annotations perhaps of “Japan Life”. 

Let’s begin with a few lunches and beverages – after a shop at a hardware store, we slipped into a little Yoshoku restaurant – sorta Japan remix of western dishes – this one sorta French but ya know, not really (and that’s not the point). Anyhow… had a sort of cutlet above and a pot of tea to follow. 

Another lunchtime, our relationship with pizza toast continued at home. 

And this seems absurd but the wonderful konbini stores can provide fresh ground/brewed coffee – i mean, it seems weird to say this but dang, not bad and well priced. That’s me in reflection (literally and metaphorically).

Another stop after a visit to Uehara-san (or rabbit hostel), we stopped for ramen – laden with pork chasu but rather oily and not refreshing at all. But hey, you pay the ¥, you take the ride. 

Meanwhile, back at home… Got an o-haka (grave) visit in to say hello to Fujita Ojiisan last night – walk up a little hill and see twinkling lights. Introduced and told about baby.  

Around this same time, we gathered with neighourhood folks at a little community centre to go out and about banging sticks and chanting a slogan about fire safety – it was sorta odd for sure as i am not sure if it was a legit warning or a tradition or a magical spell – probably all of above. Anyhow was nice way to connect with neighbours who have seen me around but still figuring out how i hit into the local scene. 

Pal, noted historian and creative archivist, JMV sent a magnificent package laden with Vancouver ephemera galore including loads of pins – chose a good ‘un CBC Radio, for this day out (looking rather tired here)…

Did some catching up on scrapbooking, plus a few more cards, yesterday (you probably know these little digital dispatches are only one way of sharing my day-to-day life, the scrap books are for the future when all of this internets melts down. )

Included in this project was starting a dossier of ephemera for aforementioned Jason Vanderhill – Also a reminder that world expo is Osaka 2025. (Note: subsequently mailed this parcel with abundant glorious stamps – perhaps a photo will appear in future update). Inky stamps and postage stamps – was so fun putting the package together, also a few delayed New Year’s cards which needed some extra treats were bundled and mailed to Quebec, Uganda, Indonesia etc.

Remember when I shared Ryoko’s community garden project a few weeks back? We stopped by to check on the progress and holy wow! Look at these daikon growing out of the ground so mighty…

…in the corner of a supermarket parking lot no less >

The greens under the tent coming along as well >

Made by people garden, indeed >

More food: Last night’s dinner, miso, genmei (brown rice), salmon, pickles/tsukemono, various veggies / obligatory mayo & shoyu. Also fugu (puffer fish), Yep, it’s poison if not prepared correctly. Requires a certificate.

We have oranges in our yard, like on a tree and everything. Soon the tree will be appropriately put into the ground – in the meantime, I am endlessly amused. Note: also have limes, grapefruit and something else to plant and a peach tree already planted.

O-shogatsu decoration by the door. This one is on our door – enjoyed noting the details of others in the neighbourhood.

Picking up some assorted tempura for the New Year’s food fun times – this shop is owned by now-retired Matsuka-sensei, our tea ceremony teacher/leader. I love the little café terrace vibe squeezed in under the awning with posters and plants. 

Here’s a poster to share with brother James who loves pro wressu (note: i have another of lady wrestlers to share in some context)

So in purchasing the tempura, they were bins and bags available to take home the little extra crispy bits of tempura batter from the fryers… It seems like a total stoner snack and I’m not exactly sure what to use it for but, “heck yes! filled up a bag”

New Year’s Eve was spent with parents and brother/sister in laws down from Tokyo eating soba (buckwheat noodles) and enjoyed a few sips and the customary TV program. 

In this case, the saké was fortified with fugu (pufferfish) fin (came in a set with the fish eaten above) – ummm, not sure if i care to try again but hey…

The TV programme featured all sorts of musical acts, impossbly high production standards (with CGI, indoor fireworks and laser shows, jumping to other locations, switching acts on the fly…) and “celebrity hosts” who were obliged to remain super perky and *interested, really* for hours, even when there was a giant bum-head doing something. 

This saké made with Belgian Trappist yeast was magnificent – purchased on a fermented foods/drinks tour of Maniwa (coverage to come at some point). Anyhow, a wonderfully-crafted bevvie (which i may have drank a wee bit too much of – ooops #lightweight). 

So i stepped outside around midnight to bask/process/observe my new home neighbourhood – think about all the changes this past year, how far i’ve come in the last few years and the wonder ahead. Somehow, i’ve found myself safe, in love and a home. All new.

This is where i live and love and everything. Tsuchida, Okayama, Japan. 

A related note from elsewhere: 

i’m still spinning and stunned a bit about the massive re-invention which happened in 2019 – I mean quite literally everything changed. And my creativity returned in waves, mighty waves. And this year ahead seems a little crazy at first blush (I mean I’m not a young man and have a chronic complex illness on top of that but…) I have so much confidence and hopefulness about all of it and these are wonderful characteristics to have in my back pocket.

Thank you year of the wild boar!

Reinvention, recreation, rejuvenation. Ahoy 2020!