Nov 30, 2014


It's been six years since I came back to Tokyo, a place that is at once startling and foreign, as well as comfortable in a way that can only be called home. It has been harder than I ever expected to travel with my two year old, as culture shock is as real for her as it is for me, and we are both raw with the unceasing rhythm of this city. There are so many people to see, and endless numbers of trains to take, and I am so very tired. I know that she is exhausted, too. But, I can say with every fiber of my being, that it is worth every inconvenience and discomfort. We will find our way past the tantrums and tears (both of us), and that bone deep weariness that comes from being on the move constantly. Despite any difficulties, my heart is so full at the end of the day.

Once my little one is asleep, and Grandma is watching over her, I am free to venture out into this wild and wonderful city. Sometimes it is only to walk a block to the nearest vending machine to get a bottle of hot tea (yes, from a vending machine!). Other times it is to see dear friends who I haven't seen in six years. We sit head to head, deep in heartfelt conversation, frosted beer mugs in hand, and in an instant, those years between us are gone, as if they never had been. It is only when we say goodbye that i realize anew that our lives will continue on with vast distance between us, and that I can't say with any certainty when we will meet again. Then my heart breaks all over again, for those dear friends are family, and we are bound to each other with a love I can't quite express. Time and distance are powerless in the face of that kind of love.

Then, there is my family--the ones who are related to me; the kind where we can see our likeness  echoed in each others faces. I see them, and realize that I have been missing them all along, without even realizing it, for it is something that is easier kept buried within. I can pretend that I am not as lonely for them, and life can go on tidily. But I've seen them now, and talked with them into the still hours, cried, laughed, and felt their embraces, and the floodgates are wide open. Yes, it is easier to keep those gates closed, but there is something to be said for unlocked emotion. I feel so strongly because I am blessed with that much love in my life, and that is something to be grateful for indeed. Homecoming is bittersweet, and everything I could have hoped for and more.

Nov 17, 2014

10 things i'm grateful for (Japanese holiday style)

1. Japanese style baths. Being able to wash first on the side of the tub, and then stepping into steaming hot bliss, where the water actually covers my shoulders.

2. Convenience stores here--they seriously live up to their proposed convenience. You can choose from a dizzying array of rice balls, send your mail, or hang out and read the latest magazines.

3. Bullet trains--there is nothing like the smooth ride on a shinkansen, with an "eki ben" (station bento box) and cold beer in hand, as you hurtle to your destination at 186 miles/hour.

4. Celebrating my great aunt's 90th birthday in the remote countryside with my toddler. Her tears of joy when she saw my daughter for the first time, and the way they looked at each other--with completely uncensored happiness.

5. Watching my mother and daughter adore each other. At two years old, my little one met her Japanese Obaachama (Grandma) for the first time, and my heart is so full to see them together.

6. How travel sparks me alive like nothing else--that feeling of being a stranger amidst locals always gives me a secret thrill. I adore the challenge of finding my place in the out of ordinary, and coming face to face with a reminder that the world is vast and full of so many untouched secrets.

7. The constant hum of Tokyo, long into the wee hours of the night.

8. The unparalleled comfort and convenience of taxi rides here. You never have to wait long, and the cars are always immaculate.

9. The humble rice ball. I'm convinced that I could live off of them for the rest of my life, as there are that many flavors, and they are just that delicious.

10. The adaptability of children. I'm blown away by my toddler's ability to take all of this cultural difference and jarring change in environment in stride. She lives purely in the moment, infused with curiosity and joy.

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