Diary: New Year Dragons with foods, gardens, bevvies, and themes #calm

what follows is a post-dated diary of various activities in and around New Years day copied from various notebooks, memos, and small dispatches covering foods, outings to parks and graves, bevvies, postcards, dreams, schemes, and themes of calm and endeavours

Dec. 31: We ate soba (buckwheat noodles) as per tradition with parents on new years eve. Most folks watch TeeVee (many famous “wide ” variety shows, singing contests). They leave it off for my sensory overload benefit so i retired early – as i my way – so they could watch if desired.

So tired, heading to bath and bed. {all the tabs will not be closed, many emails unreplied, various messages and conversations left dangling, flip the page, carry-on}

So we go on… gn & gy

i made a video: Good night & good year / Reiwa 6 Ahoy

Jan. 1: GM, HNY – We ate mochi (glutinous rice paste) with other tasty items with parents in the morn as is tradition.

Then, off to Korakuen (one of the “three great traditional garden” of Japan, frequently visited by us).

Early start by my standards – we packed several thermoses and flasks of coffee and tea for the journey…

Off onto the Road: Of course, all manner of beverages are readily available from ubiquitous vending machines yet I prefer our house-made treats. Also, provided opportunity to break out a teabag which was included in the card sent by some friends from Canada.

So off we went, waiting at Tsuchida stop for our first bus ride of the new year…

As is our usual routine, we sit in the very back row (like the *bad kids*) because there are big windows and a little bit more room to stash our gear. Ichi-Stan, of course being a frequent traveler, utilizes the hooks for hanging up his rucksack and travelling cap {usually here I would note that the bus features complimentary high-quality wi-fi and power outlets but you know that by now}.

Note: the *usual* tradition is a shrine visit on New Year Day (bet ya there is a posted in this archive (or maybe still.in draft but… anyhow) this year though we took the with a chance to meet up with Ichi’s best pal and roll around the stellar garden – importantly including the first time in years in which the public could be present for the “flying of the cranes” so… off we went. Plus its a “free admission day!”

Flying of Cranes: The garden was packed but crowd well managed by diligently dudes wrangling pedestrians and keeping on the pathways with optimized view points for the flying of the cranes (a symbol of longevity).

The whole crane flying thing was quite amusing (the wranglers entice them to fly) and yeah cool but i couldn’t help but laugh at the crew of ojisans with their massive telephoto lens, standing on top of camera boxes (no fun for you kids!) and rapid firing like artillery weapon kinda killing the buzz but so it goes, hobbies and all that. {Of course, this is coming from the guy who’s over documenting everything including everything but a picture of the cranes.}

have fun in the editing bay with your 5000 shots

Slowly slowly, ha: Wife had to remind me that we are on “kids’ agenda” so i couldn’t go see the shamisen performance, photography exhibit, prefectural museum etc. Just as well as ya know i’m always running on fumes.

Forts and redoubts: The dudes had a great time romping around as though there were a lot of folks out, didn’t feel crowded as there are lots of side quests, hidden hangouts, teahouses, forts, rocky pathways, bridges scattered around the expansive gardens.

Gazing is free: Okayama castle nearby was also free today but i am partial to the outdoors and feel castles are best enjoyed observed from a distance with a bevvie rather than rambling over ramparts.

Arts and Crafts: did my fave thing (i almost always do) – making commemorative coin with a machine which is a fascinating blend of 8-bit digital and metal pounded analogness [lousy short video if curious). Includes today’s date and a custom personal message.

And my other fave things: buying postcards and commemorative pen, plus stamping an archival copy of our new year card with the garden’s special stamp and date stamp.

Bevvies: Though we’d packed several thermoses of coffee, tea and water (duly documented above), we *of course* stopped for beverages (tea shops weren’t packed and efficient).

weary traveler fortified with matcha

Also added matcha from a magic vending machine for fun to go with a waffle purchased by a Belgian gent named Peter to whom i offered 1 more New Year card in my satchel (hi Peter).

Note: I also offered remarks to a TeeVee news camera but considering the events which transpired shortly after this pleasant afternoon (earthquake then soon after, a plane crash), sure was not aired.

Peace to all those whose New Year day/month (and in some cases, life) was unduly cut short in the events happening right about when this snap was taken. Much more to say but will save for another dispatch (or not).

Proving my theory that Japanese women are along with being the longest live demographic in the world, are also the toughest. I’m bundled up with mittens and jacket and hat, while young ladies kick around in their school uniforms or skirts like no big deal
bundled up in and my Christmas present fleece and scarf and carrying everyone’s backpacks including 1994(?) vintage Hempy’s mini-pack

Hotel crashing: We trekked out to the bus stop home and due to lousy bus timing and bus stop location, hid out in a hotel lobby to stay warm (sunny but chilly) and had fun spotting various vehicles, scenes and machines – ya know i love the old hotel vibe!

Yup, more mail: Oh mailed yet a few more cards on hand, from this particular box (had hoped to mail from a special box by the Yumeji Museum but wasn’t the on the route).

Homewards, weary (2 outta 3): So, in contrast to the bright faces, heading out on the bus early in the morning, two of us look very faded on the bus ride home, one of us is still as perky and adorable as she always is. No further explanation required.

The youngest of the trio who had rocked the most throughout the day was well asleep by the end of the bus ride and carried home by his loving papa.

Later that evening: we ate all sorts of food, various, at parents…with friend Ayumi who brought fancy crabs from Shodoshima where she lives/works as an aesthetician, ergo:

I snapped a shot of the ladies and the dude who adores them both to also show painter John Ferrie where his diptych of Vancouver is installed – though he seemed more interested in selling me more paintings despite me explaining the challenges of shipping to Japan and limited wall space. [Update: even more, more compact sized, art subsequently acquired]

Anyhow, Ryoko, Ichiro and Ayumi all had fun but i excused myself early. {protip: i had roasted a pork shoulder and kept stashed next door for snacks}

Jan. 2: Me and the little dude are drinking kanpo + turmeric cordyceps, ashwagandha tea & hot milk respectively, and eating banana bread he and mama made earlier, and watching Winnie the Pooh. Safe and cozy, also the rabbit is sniffing around for snacks.

Later: Wife is off to meet up with some “home for the holidays” high school friends at an izakaya // so happy she gets a little bit of time and I helped her pick out cute outfit. Ichiro is next-door with grandparents for a minute so I’m picking up the house, loading the dishwasher… and trying to remember to breathe.

Earlier that day: Went to wish happy new year / ask for good luck and fortune at ancestors’ graves this morning. Lil Ichiro is so great at rituals but felt sad for some nearby untended graves so gave the flowers intended for his namesake great grandfather and great grandmother who died just after he came home from hospital <3

Yes of course we gave them a new year card and incense

and I pretended to have André the Giant hands with this adorable cute little-size beer on another grave

Later, we also visited mother-in-law’s father’s grave (he has a long, interesting life story, which I’ll save for another time), and as you will note on his grave, was of Christian religious persuasion, and interred in a cemetery which is a constantly-evolving and massive complex servicing, a variety of denominations and stylistic choices. Besides incense, left a postcard of us eating cake at the Vancouver airport, seemed like a good idea as he was a baker/chef.

So We Go On

And all the calendars are changed, most of them anyway

And hey, the bath is washed, dishwasher is running, one basket of laundry to fold. I’m eating leftover nabe

Jan. 3: Great last day before heading back to school with Ichiro (+ Ryoko) // Fire in the backland roasting sweet potatoes and talking about house extension, another woodstove fire, Wes Anderson movie, snacks, dinner, bath & now books and sleep.

{insert photo of fire ring here}

Bonus: 3 big things + 1 theme for new year

If curious though: the “tree doctor” refers to wife’s arborist level-up exam, offered once a year, if you pass the (notoriously difficult) written part, then comes a weeklong practical exam in the forest somewhere in Tohoku Will make a big difference on many levels

The “garden” is wife’s biz’s leased 400 m² land behind house // she’s put up wild boar fence made of pallets & rebar; a few wood chip/tree trimming/compost bins; planted various bulbs, trees, flowers, berries; improved water drainage; storing flower pots and rocks, next steps…

The “park” refers to a long wedge shaped piece of land family accidentally owns with shrine mountain on 1 side & drainage culvert on other. Some trees and shady areas could be nice for picnics. Did work last summer (taking down dangerous trees, mowing weeds) bit of a challenge.

The “new room” refers to similar as the new room at south end of house made 2 years ago, at the north end. Direction + sun/shade exposure requires some strategery. Aiming for a cozy flexible (bed)room with half loft, sewing corner, plus toilet/sink, dutch door & rock terrace.

And “calm” includes hoping to have more casual visitors for coffee and records on Sundays. 1 PM till 4 PM is kind of my sweet spot for energy – both physical and mental. Our house is easily accessible by stellar bus service it’s just always hard to predict if I’ll be up for it.

PS The day started with a piece of good news concerning a foreign country transaction about which i’ll be vague. Nice though after a bit of a topsy-turvy holiday time. Must remind myself to get more simple and lower expectations each year. Tomorrow start tidying up a few loose ends.

GN: All right, mama & Ichi are almost finished brushing his teeth, I’m gonna drink my TCM & we’ll all cuddle up for bed.

Reminding myself, “not everything works out as planned, lots of projects to keep creative forever & most important projects are the ones giggling nearby” xo

So we go on… indeed. And you?