Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Below the Surface

When I moved to Japan three months ago, I told myself one year. One year to save enough money to get out of here an on to the next country and adventure.

But as the days have passed by, I have fallen more and more in love with my life here.

My job is demanding, but I am obsessed with my kids and I am having more fun than I ever have at work.

I have the perfect flat in the most desirable location.

I'm making more money than I ever have, and my costs of living are lower than they would be at home.

I live in a dream town, and come this winter I will be in the perfect location to snowboard every weekend.

I am meeting new people every week, both foreigners and Japanese.

I am really happy and really comfortable.

Recently I've been asking myself why would I want to leave at the end of the year? If I like this, why not stick it out for a while? Actually commit to something for once in my life....

I thought all these things over in my head as I laid on the sleeping mat, next to one of my students. They were lost in a world of dreams and the classroom was silent for nap time. I thought about how easy life is here and how easy it would be to let the months slip into years.

And then the building began to shake. Hard. The walls rattled and the furniture rumbled against the floor. The earth shook harder than I have ever felt before, and after lasting for a bit, it stopped. I had just experienced my first Japanese earthquake. I felt a little emotionally shaken up, but everyone and everything was fine. And then it started again, and we went through a second round of the earth's plates colliding beneath us.

My own world has recently been hit by an earthquake and I have found myself questioning where I am actually meant to be? Is my comfortable life in Japan as important as my obligations at home? How long am I meant to be away, and is there a day I am going to regret with every inch of my soul that I spent even a minute of my time away from the people I love?

Monday, July 29, 2013

When No News is Good News

The hardest part of loving someone who is an addict is the fact that you can't stop. 

You can't separate yourself, even when it really hurts.

Even when your mind has been spinning for days, for weeks, for months, wondering how did this phase pull years along with it?

The fear that you live with, waiting to hear what you are terrified of has finally happened.

That the person you love more than anything, is just.... gone.

I'm not sure what I could do to help if I were home, but somehow being on the other side of the world feels wrong.

Not being with my family feels wrong.

Being alone feels wrong.

The realization that there is absolutely nothing I can do from here other than make a skype call is unsettling. 

I am homesick in a way I had yet to experience.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lake Aokiko

When I imagined moving to Japan, I certainly didn't imagine where I have found myself. With little to no research on the location I picked, other than it was close to the Alps, I have managed to settle into what is one of Japan's most gorgeous prefectures. I am astonished at the environment I live in, and can't believe that in less than an hour I can be at a breath taking lake, with water clean enough to fill your canteen. Nagano is truly heaven on earth. Here are some shots from a weekend camping trip with new and old friends. Following camping was my first Onsen experience, but due to total nudity there were no pictures to be shared :) Oh yeah, and, fireworks are legal in Japan.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Blue Eye Behind A Big Lense

These are a series of photos all taken from the few blocks that are around my house. I live in a beautiful area and am constantly wandering down new streets to see what I will find. 

Tanabata is a holiday where everyone makes a wish and hangs it on a special tree.

This tree was placed outside my home, so I felt obligated to hang a wish on it.

My neighborhood produce vendor. Everything is fresh and local, and I constantly find different vegetables and fruits that I've never seen before.

The park at my neighborhood shrine.

Senbay (rice cracker) handmade cookies at a neighborhood shop, with messages written in frosting.

A neighborhood coffee and tea shop.

This is the street that runs parallel to my street. It's named Nakamachi- dori, and is a street lined with old buildings that has been preserved for many generations in the Edo Style of architecture. The white walls are a characteristic of the old merchant districts of Japan.

Fresh water wells located around town to drink from.

Bicycles and big leaves.

Giving new meaning to the term hole in the wall.

Local cemetery. Unlike in San Diego, there are cemeteries and shrines to the deceased all over town. You can't ride your bike for more than five minutes without passing one. There is a constant presence of those who have come before and of those who are to be remembered. I feel that the Japanese have a stronger respect for their ancestors than we do as Westerners. I don't know whether to attribute this to the fact that they are a people who have always come from the same country, with lineages that are traceable for thousands of years, or if it's just a cultural difference? Either way they are stunning, and remind me that even in death there is beauty.

It's me in Japan!

Water water everywhere.

Their obsession with umbrellas, rain or shine.

On every street and on every corner you will find a vending machine. I have yet to see any with some of the weird stuff people have told me I will find, such as dirty panties.

The confusion of signs.

The izakaya I got to for the best 500 yen beers I've had in the city.

Everywhere you look here you find beauty. Their ability to balance the man made with the natural world never fails to amaze me. You see the combination of both in everywhere you look.

The street leading up to mine. My street, Nawate, intersects with this one where those people are standing.

Sneaky little alley ways.

Nawate Street is also known as frog street, and the entire street I live on is filled with frog souvenirs and frog artwork.

From another shrine I wandered through.

The common Japanese gateway to the shrine is known as a torii, and it marks the transition between the profane world to that of the sacred.

This fox statue is called a kitsune, and it is holding a symbolic item in its mouth. Foxes are common in Japanese folklore, and are known to be intelligent and are said to also possess magical abilities. The foxes talent is also thought to increase with their age and wisdom. In ancient Japan, foxes and humans lived together as close companions and as time has passed they have become closely tied to religion. They serve as messengers to the gods, and it is believed that the more tails a kitsune has, the more powerful and intelligent it is. Many people in Japan honor the kitsune and leave offerings for them.

Nawate street as the sun begins to set for the evening.

These photos were taken from a bike shop that has been in a man's family for over 80 years. The shop was exploding with vintage bikes that were literally pouring out the front door and into the street. There were more bike parts and tools in one tiny space than I have ever seen in my life. The man who owned it had to be at least a 100 years old, and he was rockin' a pony tail. Everything about him and his shop was incredible.