It was really nice to see my childhood favorites this summer--the Kannon at Ofuna and the Daibutsu in Kamakura. This year, my mom's friend Naomi navigated the way to the Daibutsu (and two purple potato soft serve [per person]) by way of Kita-Kamakura. She said she and my mom used to walk from Kita-Kamakura to Kamakura all the time when they were in junior high school. The path was littered with temples, so we stopped by a lot of them on the way. There were lots of hydrangeas, national treasures, and paradigmatic Japanese gardens. I'd like to cultivate a Japanese-ish garden, but it would clash so badly with our not-at-all-Japanese-ish house. I wonder if there are certain elements though, like mossy rocks, or pea gravel-type things, that would work in our garden. It turns out Toguri on Belmont has one enormous rock (not sure if it was for sale...) and a varietyof pebbles if one is interested in adding Japanese touches to their garden. I know Gethsemane has some rocks, too, but they look more...man-made?
This post should be on my home & garden blog, which I am currently updating as well. There is much to report on my vegetable garden. Mitsu's blog is up and running as well!
1. I did a load of laundry and did not use the dryer. However, a quick Google search shows that drying clothes outdoors is not necessarily permitted in all parts of this country. Then another quick Google search failed to reveal what the rules are in Chicago. But the relentless sun today did its job in a short amount of time, and none of the items being dried were scandalous, so I don't think the rules really matter.
2. My gel nails are holding up really well! I got them done three weeks ago (that's moyashi [bean sprouts] in the background!) at Kupu Kupu in Higashi-Totsuka (Yokohama), by my cousin's friend Aya. She runs her own business successfully all by herself, it's pretty amazing. I went to see her last year and got a mani-pedi fancy gel manicure; I really like the glitter gradation. It seems that as long as I continue to cut and file them, even with the gel on, they last fine. The color I picked (I copied my cousin) lends itself well to growing them out, too.
3. Roses in the front.
4. Every day, I check on the cucumbers to make sure they're not trying to strangle the maybe-bell peppers or themselves. Every day, when I peek around, I go, "WTF!" and end up harvesting at least one or two cucumbers. Today I found three. I also trimmed down the arugula patches and supposedly-mesculin lettuce leaves. They taste more like...what I imagine grass or leaves from a tree taste like. My mom says they're good when you cook them.
5. Making arugula pesto.
6. Eating arugula pesto pasta and bread from La Boulangerie.
This year's trip to Japan went by as quickly as ever, but maybe with a stronger force. I was mildly exhausted from a non-stop schedule for fourteen straight days. There were at least two days where I walked for hours temple-hopping and I was surprised that I didn't pass out. What this all means is that I need to spread out my energy more wisely and rest, or in other words, I am getting older. But there is so much to buy, so much to eat, and so many good places and wonderful people to see!
Since the earthquake and tsunami, the most visible effect of the disasters is the cutting back of electricity. Owners of large buildings and corporations have to cut back 15% of their normal usage to avoid a fine, and the general population seems to be doing their part voluntarily at home. There's solidarity, but there's also the practical matter of avoiding scheduled blackouts. In the summer, maybe the most noticeable consequence of cutting back ("setsuden") is that the air conditioners are weak and the escalators don't operate during off-peak hours. When everyone else around you is into setsuden--whether it's felt in conversations with neighbors, on the trains, in the stores, or even when watching commercials or glancing at skylines--it's easy to fall into the habit of cutting back. I've been unplugging unused things at home since returning to Chicago (at least more so than when I saw "An Inconvenient Truth" and saw those poorly drawn CG polar bears drowning and felt faintly bad about wasting energy), and I've even considered minimizing the use of the laundry dryer. However, I am having a hard time even thinking about giving up the dishwasher (heaven-sent) and increasing AC temps (Mitsu has two coats of fur! [Or 1.5, as she's blowing the undercoat out right now]).
After observing Japanese women's fashion (and men's, to an extent) and reflecting on past observations, I've concluded that I must be more American (Midwestern?) in my approach to fashion. I tried, with my collared shirts and not-cut-off-denim-shorts (I cannot wear them stylishly like the Osakan girl above); I even wore heels twice (Birks or Top Siders were on standby in an extra tote). But I just cannot keep up with them! In my eyes, the Japanese know how to dress impeccably, from head to toe, as if every move were not only calculated, but also perfected since, say, junior high. I get the feeling that people over there are also aware of what looks good on them, and what doesn't, which I think this is an impressive, if slightly vain, accomplishment for any person. I remember one girl pinning her bangs on the train to maintain an ever-so-subtle but important curl, and by the time she got to her destination (Shibuya), she unpinned them and they indeed curled out to the side in a delicate, airy, magazine perfection sort of way. Anyway, it just seems like there is so much detail-oriented care put into every single decision regarding clothes, accessories, hair, and makeup. One of my cousins suggests that everyone does it because everyone else does it, which I think is a similar spirit behind everyone setsuden-ing with one another. I wonder if I would pick up on the "society > individual" mentality if I was ever in Japan for a longer period of time, or if I would grow tired of it. But I did catch the shopping bug, especially since it was "soldes"/"bargain"/"sale" season right when I was there, so I have some new outfits, as well as a somewhat renewed sense of caring how I look. We'll see how long this lasts, because it's hard to care about anything when it feels like a sauna when you step outside even for a brief moment.
1. "Premium Economy" seats
2. Keisuke Toyama concert, Suntory Hall
3. "Bo Boo" print reunion, Sakuragicho's Marimekko store
5. Summer tangerines and hydrangea in my mother's childhood neighborhood
6. Fauchon mini-eclair
7. Daibutsu, Kamakura
8. "Lost In Translation"-esque view, Osaka
9. Making fun of young Osaka girls who wear big nerdy glasses, Zara
10. Carleton-esque badger advertising okonomiyaki, Osaka
11. Byodouin, Uji
12. Mimiu, yuzu udon
13. Watermelon cocktail at Hotel JAL City, Yokohama