You know that moment when you open your blog reader after being away and the amount of unread posts is something ridiculous? I opened mine today, after 3 weeks out of the country, and there were 999 unread posts! No joke. I went straight for the ‘Mark all as read’ button. It was kinda reassuring to see, however, that some of my favourite blogs only posted a couple of times in the weeks I was away. So I wasn’t the only one taking it easy!
(A rare glimpse of misty Japanese countryside)
The few weeks in Japan were far from easy though! If you’ve been there you’ll know it’s a full-on country, extremely developed with a huge population, and Tokyo is a non-stop energy ball of a city. It was an intense break from reality and I loved it!! It completely removed me from the mindlessness of reality and gave me pause for thought, which I didn’t realise was so badly needed. Or that my reality was so mindless (but that’s a story for another day perhaps.)
So, here’s a longer post than usual and packed full of revelations! (I understand that I may the only one reveling here but indulge me…)
Just before I left I came across this blog post on writing and on developing your voice as a writer. I feel like I’ve lost some ground lately so I decided to follow the steps in an attempt to break down the block I’ve had, and to see if I can determine why I’ve lost readers on the blog. About half way through the steps a few pennies dropped, “clink, clink, clink”, and I realised I had subconsciously made significant changes over the last few months and need to reverse the trend or I’m going to be at nothing writing for nobody! So, without taking you through the whole stream of consciousness that would no doubt put us all to sleep, I’ll summarise by saying that I’ve decided to discontinue translating my posts into French for the moment. I’m going to continue just in English, at least until I’ve mastered French some more and find my own voice in the language. I’m not sure anyone will be disappointed by that decision, given that 99% of my readers are Anglo-phone!
I will maintain the French information on the ‘about’ sections though, just in case!
(Tokyo by night – incredible!)
Japan was unreal, and I picked up some wonderful paper goodies and two beautiful pattern books, but unfortunately not one little piece of fabric (I think perhaps that warrants a whole separate post because there was really too much to post here!) One of the best things about Japan is that the culture seems on the surface very western/occidental. Facilities, housing, style, capitalist culture all seem so familiar, so on first impression it’s another version of a western city. But a little digging reveals social norms and behaviors that are so removed from what we are used to, that you spend quite some time in a state of confusion between what you think you know and what is so very different.
(The Shinkansen. I will NEVER ride a train in Europe again without a deep sense of dissatisfaction. This train is magic! Check out all those squished bugs though, ugh!)
For example, the Japanese onsens are natural hot spring baths, that are really popular across the country. They’re a wonderful way to relax and many guesthouses have their own private baths that you can use. The guidebooks talk at length about how very different they are to western-baths and that you have to be super-careful to obey all the rules, so we made sure to read up on all the rules. In the end, the onsen operates the same way as a spa in any European country. The books make a big deal about washing before going in because the waters are shared, but of course! I wouldn’t go into a spa in Ireland without having had a shower first.
So it seems super familiar, but then there are small differences that confuse. My husband tells me it’s different for men, but in the women’s baths there is a huge sense of community and conviviality. There’s chatting and laughing and open staring at one another’s bodies, despite the known Japanese propensity for modesty. I spent one bath with a middle-aged Japanese woman holding my hand to get around between the different levels, while we were both stark naked! I think she was either short-sighted or extremely anxious about wandering into the men’s section by mistake, but either way, we didn’t have a word in common but were friends by the time we left.
(Giant koi eating munching on bugs and mosquitoes in Nagasaki)
There are constant juxtapositions that make you question what you know, it’s wonderful! The city of Nagasaki is another good example. It’s a beautiful city, and everything about it left a great impression on us. The generosity of the people, the food and the general atmosphere impressed on us a really good feeling. The city stands, however, as a stark reminder of the brutalities of the war, and the memorials for peace left me with a profound sadness over the state of the human race and what we’ve done to ourselves (and continue doing if the news in Egypt this morning is anything to go by…)
Japan left me high and low and everything in between. It also left me totally ready for “la rentrée” and for everything that I hope this year will bring.
Somebody is super happy we’re back, although check him out snoozing on his holiday! Big thank you Auntie Amy and Uncle John for taking good care of the rascal!