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Thursday, February 4

A Little New Years This and A Little New Years That

We went home! The Kimono family went stateside for its first Christmas in three years. We were even blessed with a white Christmas! Not that I really wanted one. It ended up to be the biggest thorn of all, causing all sorts of travel delays and cancellations for us. If we had to do it again, I would say drop the snow and it would have been perfect. Now the family time… that was indeed perfect. I tried to travel to everyone else for once instead of pulling the excuse that “we just traveled 6,755 miles to see you, so you could at least drive the last stinking five .” We hit various cities and saw various friends and family. One would think that all of that family and friend reconnection time would make me nostalgic to head home in a few months and yet it probably would surprise many to say it had the opposite effect. Please don’t get me wrong. I miss my family and friends so very much. I miss the convenience of life in the states. And yet, I also get the opportunity to see just how very blessed I am for every single moment I have spent out of the country, doing the very things I dream of. Perhaps my head is just too lost in the clouds of my present reality/unreality, but can’t imagine having to move back to the states and be a ‘normal’ person again. But this is a whole other story of which I do not even know the end to yet. On with today’s story.

We came home just in time for New Years. Not that we are big temple visitors or mocha eaters for the big day, but after almost a month of being gone, I missed my home. I missed my daily routines. I missed Japan. You have no idea how much that one little statement weighs on me. I missed it and yet I’m so tired of it. And then I don’t want to go home to the states. But I don’t want to stay here. And I am right back talking about what I don’t want to talk about, because I just don’t know where my head is at or where my heart belongs anymore. It is such a long, boring story of circles in my own head that I would certainly won’t waste my time and your time with them now. I hope I won’t anyway.

It didn’t take long for us to get back to life here. Once we were past the jetlag, it was back to life as normal. We had brought gifts for our neighbor that we delivered right before New Years. She in return treated us to another great day of excursion. It is amazing that I can go to any place I have been to here in Japan a hundred times before and yet still see something entirely new each and every time I go there. And that we did.


We went to Kamakura, only one town over from us and a few short minutes in the car. We squeezed the car into one of the ridiculously tiny spots, tucked our rearview mirrors in with the push of a button and headed down the same Komachi Dori shopping street I go to every time I want osembe crackers. Halfway down the street, we turned off, heading deeper into the residential district of the area. After several blocks, my neighbor with her handy map seemed at a loss to find the museum that we had been headed towards. Of course, I wouldn’t be of much help since I can’t read a lick of kanji. Then she surprised me and did what I would do… she stepped in front of the first person that was coming our way and forced the name of the museum and the map under their nose, forcing them to stop and take a look. It’s not that Japanese people aren’t helpful, but then stick to themselves. Even with a sumimasen, they don’t always pause for you. I think they assume they can act like they don’t hear you. And they probably don’t if they are lost in their own worlds as much as it seems they are. But for my neighbor to do this act just for some reason surprised me. She didn’t do it once either. No, she stopped person after person as she started navigating down narrow streets that really are more like walkways since the only motor vehicle that could get down them would be the ever present mopeds. After a few twists and turns and a few turn backs, she located what she was looking for – Kaburaki Kiyokata Memorial Art Museum.

The painter, Kaburaki Kiyokata, had chosen to life his final years in this quiet residential neighborhood of Yukinoshita tucked into historic Kamakura and, upon his death at the age of 93 in 1972, his grieving family donated his artworks, materials and even his home to the city Kiyokata loved. The memorial museum was opened in 1998 and is filled with his many paintings exposing the daily life of the graceful women of Japan. He had great sympathy for the common people of the town too and painted many works in honor of their lives. Just wandering Kiyokata’s grounds, garden and his home, one could get a great sense of what this master’s life was like.

My neighbor had chosen this museum, knowing that I have an insatiable love affair for art and culture. She knew my child did not. Or at least I haven’t managed to drill it into him yet. The museum was perfectly peaceful and quiet until my little Kimono Peanut took hold of the place. The exhibit was had gone especially to see was one that had Kiyokata’s painting hanging on the wall and underneath them, another artist had perfectly recreated his vision in fabric sewn onto Japanese badminton rackets. These gorgeous rackets were obviously not meant to be used for traditional purposes, but they did have shuttlecocks to view towards the end of the exhibit. This was of great help to me to make sure all the pieces fit together in my mind, because I thought I understood my neighbor correctly when she explained the badminton part, but they of course didn’t look like anything I have ever used for the sport. I was more than a little confused until the shuttlecocks spread true light. But paintings, badminton rackets and shuttlecocks are no fun for a 15-month-old when they are hidden behind a protective glass shield. KP let out a few wails, moving us along a bit faster. Man, are toddlers ever self-centered. We headed back out of the museum, turning a different way this time allowing us to meander through some different streets along our path back towards the car

We had parked at the front of the entrance to the Hachiman Shrine.  Again, one of those places I have been to countless times, but it just never gets old. We wandered onto the grounds and back towards the little pond off to the right of the path that leads up the shrine. There we found a little park where people could sit and feed the pigeons (if they were stupid enough) and I instead just fed the Peanut. While we relaxed in the sunshine, behind us the shrine’s ground’s workers were setting up some sort of woven grass structure that would be set fire to early the next morning. From what I understood, this was an important New Years ritual. If only it didn’t start at 7:00 am, I might have considered heading back there the next day.

The morning was getting late, but there still was some time to wander up closer to the shrine. I wasn’t about to hike the numerous stairs to the top with a 29 pound kid, so we contented ourselves to watch KP run around the legs of the many shrine visitors and snap a few pictures. With nap time looming and not wanting a public meltdown, we packed ourselves up to head home. Another perfect day spent in a place so familiar and yet will always be so foreign. I can’t thank my neighbor enough for all the consideration and kindness she shows myself and my family. For now, I will just go bake her yet another cake.

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