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Tuesday, October 20

To Neighboring Town Hayama With Our Neighbor!

I've talked before about how the Japanese like to keep their lives so separate and private from everyone around then. Our house is the only one on our narrow, but long street that doesn't have a wall surrounding as if we were trying to live in some ancient samurai fortress. But that is only because it was built specifically for Americans, who have the big government bucks behind them and can easily afford a nice big, modern and entirely open house. (Thank you taxpayers!) The one side of our house is completely open, thanks to the likes of four large sliding glass doors. They can be covered with the large pull-down storm doors, which all Japanese dwellers would pull down at the inkling of evening darkness or the possibility that someone might peep inside their home for a second. For a major peeper like me, this was difficult to get used to. Even more difficult to get used to was the idea of pulling our own storm doors down every night. For the first two and a half years we lived here, I can honestly say we never closed the storm doors except if there was an actual storm coming. I know people thought we were nuts and quietly clucked their tongues and shook their heads behind our backs, but I simply refused to lock up the house so tight when, instead, we could have a nice breeze blowing through the house. It was only when the baby really started to become active and focal did we finally do it their way and shut the house up. I wouldn’t want the police to show up for noise disturbance simply because there was one Japanese rule that I lacked in following.

After all of our time here, though, I think our neighbor has become most accustomed to our way of life. We usually roll the doors up and fling open the curtains to let in the sunshine the minute we are up and downstairs… generally around 6:00 a.m. Our neighbor seems to now look for this cue, which means she is doing her own faux pas and is actively looking our way to see what we might be up to. We’re pretty darn lame when we are around the house, so the answer is generally nothing of interest. Most interesting in her embracement of our way of life is that she assumes that if the storm doors are up, we are open for business… no matter the time. Thankfully, I now make it a habit to change out of my jammies every morning before I get the baby from his crib so I am, by and large, dressed and presentable. This totally isn’t a complaint or a problem, because when she knocks, it is always for something good. Last week she brought freshly made pickled plums one day and another day it was an invite for a day out in Hayama.

We headed out late in the morning and began our excursion at the Hayama Shiosai Park and Museum. The gardens were actually a former part of the Imperial family’s Villa Gardens at their summer home in Hayama. They are kept as immaculately groomed as ever. The only difficulty we found is that the gardens were not stroller friendly. We had to skip some rocks at one point to cross a waterfall. I carried the stroller across while a few other strollers looked on and just prayed the whole way that I didn’t lose my footing, sending both baby and me into the stream of koi below.

In the middle of the garden is a tea house, where we did stop to enjoy traditional sweets and matcha tea, a thick green tea used in many Japanese ceremonies. I don’t know if I can say I like the taste, but I also don’t dislike it. Nonetheless, I keep drinking it in the hopes of finding out what I think of it some day.

After tea, we strolled through the small museum to see exhibitions of things that Emperor Showa extracted from the Hayama shoreline, as well as many exoskeletons of deep sea creatures I hope to never meet and which will probably keep me from ever diving in the waters of Japan. KP held little interest for all the tiny things behind glass which kept his tiny hands from checking them out up close, so we didn’t linger.

Instead, we headed down the street a bit further to a seaside park I had been to long ago, which sits next to the protected grounds of the Imperial Villa. With baby, baby bag, blankets and lunch tote, we hiked up some steps, down some steps, across many meters of soft sand, over a bridge, finally to rest on a grassy knoll overlooking Hayama and the ocean beyond. Despite the windy coolness of our chosen lunch locale, we all enjoyed the afternoon out of doors. My neighbor had made homemade Japanese sandwiches: egg salad, ham and cucumber. She had also made rice balls wrapped in seaweed and bought a baked muffin for KP as she wasn’t sure what he was eating these days. No lunch is complete without dessert, so she had also brought buttery cookies. All of which, there was not a morsel left when we were done.

We decided to make one more stop before heading home in the afternoon. I usually use the fish shop on the corner near the train station, but my neighbor explained that there was one with much better fish that she always shops at. Hidden in an area of Zushi I have never before been too, quite close to the marina, was a tiny shack where people seemed to be pouring in and out. The fish found inside are dredged from the local seas daily, cleaned up and sold, I swear, before they are truly even dead. I only have one major difficulty with the fish sold here. These are entirely full fish… scales, tails and all. I have absolutely no idea how to clean a fish. Of course, I could always cook it up all together, just as the Japanese do, but that is just not one of those things I would chose to do often. My neighbor noticed my worry over this and proceeded to do the most wonderful thing… she went to the lady at the counter and told her to pick out her best slice of sashimi tuna in the case at her side. The lady wrapped it in paper, placed it in a bag, and my neighbor handed it directly to me. The only instruction for cooking this? Don’t. Make rice on the side, a dipping sauce of soy sauce and wasabi and call it a dinner. Perfect if you ask me! However, KH does the raw stuff only on raw occasions… and sadly this night would not be one of them. He balked and I told him to make himself some dinner. Mean, maybe. But I was surely going to eat the tuna. If only I could have eaten the whole thing. But who wants to eat a few pounds of raw tuna all by their lonesome? I ate what I could, while it was fresh, and hoped with all my might that my neighbor wouldn’t notice a bit of it in the trash a few days later. So sad. I guess I could have cooked it the next day, but I got lazy and never got around to it. I am pretty sure she doesn’t read this blog, but if she does… please don’t hate me for the lacking taste buds of my darling husband! I really do feel very bad about it.

My neighbor… she is just one good lady. The other day we awoke and opened our glass doors to take in the morning sun and air. While she hung out her morning laundry, she could hear and see Kimono Peanut and myself playing in the living room by the open door. I hadn’t seen her, so it was quite a surprise to hear someone say ‘ohayo gozaimasu!’ (good morning!) from the side of our house, by the open door. I relaxed as I realized who it was and then got even more excited over her reason for calling.

She was inviting us away again... this week, it is to the zoo we go!


Amy said...

Wow! I can't believe how big baby KP is getting! Love the pictures. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are so lucky to get this insider view of Japanese life. Loved your account of your door callers, really interesting.

Keep on blogging,

Kimono Karen said...

Amy, I can't believe how big he is getting either! It's going way too fast!!

Wembley, it has been great... every single experience. I wish I had more time to blog, but the little one keeps me hopping these days! More stories to come though!