This Time Last Year

…we were in Japan! Timehop reminded me.

tokyo 2016

I tucked the kids into our hotel bed in Tokyo on the 15th floor after a long flight. I read the safety manual left on the desk, lingering over the information about earthquakes. I noted where the emergency flashlight was located (always mounted on the wall by the door in Japan). About an hour after I snapped this photo, I forced myself to go to bed. 30 minutes later I was startled awake when a 6.3 earthquake had the building rolling back and forth for at least 30 seconds. I suddenly acted like I didn’t grow up in California and had never felt an earthquake in my life.

My evening of studying the emergency preparedness manual had me jumping into action. I began to move the kids away from the window.  I could hear the automated voice echoing from the hallway: Do not be alarmed. You are experiencing an earthquake. This building is earthquake-proof. Please stay calm. 

I realized, holy crap, I took a vacation to an island that has tsunamis and earthquakes and has had lots of really bad, unfortunate things happen to it in its history. Definitely symbolic of my 2016.

This is what I posted last year when I returned from the trip in early January. It’s still relevant.

***

I spent New Year’s in Japan. It felt right to get the hell out of here. Start a new year a 12 hour plane ride away. So we did. The three kiddos and I.

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Kyoto, Japan

Japan was more than I ever dreamed it could be. It was magical.

What I wrote on our last day there:

1. Japanese culture has some issues (sexism, workaholics, mental health issues/suicide, they’ve got your usual dose of corporate corruption, and judging by the anime porn it seems they need to get a real BF/GF)…BUT…there are so many amazing things about the people here. They are kind, courteous, smart, elegant, classy, hard-working, organized, innovative, creative, and so many other wonderful attributes.

2. The best thing about the Japanese people that inspires me: their resilience. Through atomic bombs, war, earthquakes, tsunamis, whatever– they persevere. They rebuild and move on. They aren’t quitters. I feel it everywhere, woven throughout the fabric of their civilization. It’s exactly what I needed to start my new year.

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The atomic dome in Hiroshima.

The shikata ga nai is strong. “It cannot be helped.” 98% of the population is Buddhist, which comes out in their reactions to life, their attitudes, and dispositions. I need to be more mindful of my own thoughts.

3. I love the Buddhism traditions found everywhere, especially in Kyoto. There are temples and shrines everywhere. I love the incense and chanting.

4. Super kid-friendly. Nobody glared at me or made me feel stressed when Peter cried in public. Facilities were kid-friendly (changing tables, stroller friendly, etc.) The only downside was that playgrounds are scarce around here.

5. Culturally rich. This is an ancient civilization and us westerners are barely exposed to it. I feel like I stumbled upon a rare gem. I’m kind of bored of Western culture. We need to learn about different ways of living. We are ants in this big, interesting world. There is so much to learn and experience.

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Himeji Castle

6. Simplicity and purpose. Everything is so thoughtful down to the warm toilet seats to the pretty packaging of the most mundane purchases. But it’s simple too. Not excessive. If you buy snacks, they are individually packaged with just the right amount.

7. They are healthy and fit. Obesity is not the norm here. It makes you wonder…WTF are we eating in the USA?! The food has been great .

 

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Petey enjoying his giant bowl of udon in Kyoto.

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Chion-in Temple in Kyoto

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Hello Kitty Land, Tokyo

 

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