Japan

There’s Nothing New Under The Sun. It’s Never What You Do But How It’s Done.

Dear Ashida Sensei,
This one’s for you!
Thank you for reading my blogs. I miss you and I miss Japan very very much, too!

Yesterday, I received a jam-packed envelope containing letters from my ex Junior High School students in Japan. Ashida Sensei, thank you for initiating them. I have always admired you. You once told me that you teach because you feel an obligation to open your student’s minds to the outside world. At the time, I thought your statement was beautiful. Today, with the heartbreaking circumstances of our world, I understand it as incredibly necessary, too. Thank you for selflessly shaping our future. Funnily enough, lately I have been receiving some negative opinions (and unfortunately from those dear to me) about my work. The education of children is not adequately valued in our society. These attitudes have left me unhappy, thinking that perhaps I should have studied something different, something more reputable like medicine or law. Fortunately, other positive forces in my life have rescued me from the quicksand of such negative thoughts. One beautiful lady in particular pointed me to the following quote by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet Founder of the Bahá’í Faith:

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children… It is, however, very difficult to undertake this service, even harder to succeed in it. I hope that thou wilt acquit thyself well in this most important of tasks, and successfully carry the day, and become an ensign of God’s abounding Grace; that these children, reared one and all in the holy Teachings, will develop natures like unto the sweet airs that blow across the gardens of the All- Glorious, and will waft their fragrance around the world. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. pp. 133-134)

So, “the education and training of children” is not only the greatest service of all time but also one that is very difficult to do and to succeed in. Don’t get me wrong, I am not tooting my own horn. Rather, I wish to acknowledge the true importance of a teacher’s work.

I would like to finish with my favourite Japanese Proverb:

Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.
Image (1)

Making Great Art Is About Being More Of Who You Are

Sorry my last post was a whiny one. I’m quite good at that, whining. So much so that my primary school teacher, my Payne, told me, as I whinged my way through the wet mud on school camp, that he’d never met someone so complaining and impatient before. Though in my defence (and his) the same teacher gave me the class diligence award at the end of the year. So, I am complaining but I am persistent, too. Yes, a woman of many qualities. Alas, don’t you think I have good reason to complain? Harry seems to think so. You know, Harry from When Harry Met Sally? He takes the words straight out of my mouth when in his epic declaration of love he says: “when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”Image-2
So, I keep busy…Image (1)
I bakeImage-1
I shop.
Image-1 (1)
I work.
Image (2)
And I work some more (watching Japanese movies for my next Savvy article).
i-wish-poster
And I reassure myself that this too shall pass. For almost one year has passed since mummy and daddy came to visit me in rural Japan where my life was so very different to what it is today.
image513
Trying their first ramen. image79
Enjoying sakura (cherry blossom) season. Aimage123
And watching their daughter imitate Mimasaka’s best sushi chef.
image215

If You Take A Flower In Your Hand And Really Look At It, It’s Your World For A Moment

The night before I was to be leaving Soroosh in Nashville, he read me a children’s book to calm my nerves. You may know it, apparently it’s quite popular but at the time, I didn’t. The Kissing Hand as the title suggests is a kiss in a hand gently pressed on its recipient’s face.
Image-1
I recently received this kiss in the mail. Image-1 (4)
The first time I experienced origami (the art of paper folding) was in Japan where a coworker asked an entire class to make a paper crane, write their name on it and later stand and declare: “this crane was made by (insert name here)” as a way of introducing themselves. I remember silently panicking for the students who wouldn’t know how to do it. Turns out I had no idea. Every student made a crane. And they made them fast!
image
Image (4)
You know how they say only in hindsight can you realise the true value of a moment? Well, I remember feeling extremely homesick and out of my comfort zone that very make-a-crane day. However, if it wasn’t for that unique experience, I wouldn’t have been able to pass on the art to my new students today.
Image-1 (6)Image (6)
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ~C.S. Lewis (Coffee. He means a cup of coffee!)
Image (1)
You know round Saturn peaches? Well, turns out they have pretty inappropriate looking nectarine cousins and here’s one of them.
Image-1 (7)
More work antics….I love my job!
Image (5)

Our Japanese Guests’ Last Day

Breakfast at Strawberry Fare, walk at Taylor’s Mistake and afternoon relaxing at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. And just like that, we said sayonara.
image-1
Has the owners of Strawberry Fare changed? It wasnt as good as I remembered it…
image-1-2
One of Juri’s 10000 selfies.image-1-1image-2
My brother in law living on the edge. image-1-4image-1-5
They said this pig reminded them of the Studio Ghibli animation, Spirited Away.image-1-3Monkey love.

Our Japanese Guests’ Day Three

Another classic NZ dish: the humble meat pie (which I wrote a 3000 word University essay on one day), Castle Hill (famous from Narnia) and last: a nostalgic New Year’s Eve countdown in Hagley Park featuring back-to-back country music which took me straight back to Nashville and to my sweetheart’s arms.
image-5
imageimage-2
image-1image-3image-4
image-8image-7
And you? How did you spend New Year’s Eve/Day?

Our Japanese Guests’ Day One

So Yuko and her family are here. Here in NZ for the very first time and I think they’re loving it. Here are day one’s pictures so you can also be with us: ella
First up, omiyage or in English, souvenirs. These are a HUGE part of Japanese culture. We all received gift(S). That’s right, not one but many presents (including my sister’s dogs, Lucky and Ella).
Processed with VSCO with c3 preset
Processed with VSCO with c3 preset
image-1-5
image-1
After resting, we took the family to Christchurch’s Botanical Gardens where they exhausted their cameras.
image-5Processed with VSCO with c3 preset
image-1-2Two beautiful roses.
image-1-4
image-4
Processed with VSCO with c3 preset
image-2
juri-xmas-ball
image-1
Last remnants of Christmas…
c1-smile
Last but not least, our guests’ first meal in NZ: pneumatic curly fries and sliders at the world-renowned C1espresso. Come on, how cool is that?!c1-dad
And…someone else happened to like them too! #embarassing.

Holiday Updates

So Ozzy turned four!!!! And the reason he has 5 candles is because Lifa reckons you’re supposed to put the age +1 for the next year ?? Crazy man. I’m pretty sure that’s wrong. So much so that I’m putting it on the blog!! Aha. I love you guys. Is it also OK if I say Aki is due soon?! Forgive me but I cannot wait to see my niece! Auntie Anisa is waiting. Are you going to name her Anisa? Oh man, you are, aren’t you? :P 15590631_10208368554160604_7537979040880994346_n
Remember Yuko and her family? She’s the lovely Japanese lady who was constantly cooking for me. Well, in less than a week, she and her family will be visiting. Yes, all the way from JAPON! Can you believe it? I sure can’t! God, I love humanity. What a blessing. I hope we can be good hosts and show them everything. I’m also excited for YOU to enjoy along with me.
image1210
What else?
I watched Paterson the movie. And I watched it only because of its female lead: Golshifteh Farahani. You guessed it, she’s a Persian lady and one heck of an actress, I believe. Unfortunately, the movie was hella boring (to put politely). It did however, inspire me to restart writing poetry.
image-2-png-10
I was telling a friend about the age difference
Between me and my lover
Feeling insecure about
Well
Basically being old
When I saw a young girl scurry past
She was one maybe two years old
And we were wearing the exact same jelly shoes
image-png-36
I had been asking my mother to accompany me to The Berry Shop for quite some time
When today of all the days she suggested it herself
It was cold and rainy and my outsides were freezing
But still we sat and ate ice-cream
and we talked
or rather she talked and I listened
and slowly slowly
my insides were warming.
Strawberry cake on white background
Last but not least, my latest Savvy Tokyo piece on Japanese Christmas Cake HERE.

My New Favorite Movie

28880id_002_w1600161019_mov_tampopo-men-jpg-crop-cq5dam_web_1280_1280_jpegFriends! I have officially seen my most favorite ever movie. It’s called Tampopo, it’s Japanese and it’s extremely funny. And charming. And saliva-inducing. Oh man. This film is the shizzlemanizzle of all movies. It is a black and white 1985 film which has been given a new 4k restoration in the past few weeks. I liked it because it had something for everybody. From steamy sex scenes, to ramen close-ups to Tekken fighting. Though I must say, being an old film (and Japanese) the film did contain several unPC (nonPC?) scenes. I’m talking animal cruelty and borderline child pornography. That sounds bad… it wasn’t that bad. Well, I don’t think… Either that or I am a horrible person for laughing.

My love and I watched Tampopo at The Belcourt here in Nashville. So, I’m guessing if you want to see it, you’ll have to look up your local artsy theatre or something. I also enjoyed it because I could understand 50% of the Japanese. Go me!

What else? Tomorrow I’m leaving. I’ll be soaring Nashville to LA to Auckland to Christchurch with very short stops in between (yay!). Please wish me a safe flight and be sure to keep reading for before long, I’ll be posting A LOT of NZ scenery.

PS Tampopo rates 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, just saying.

My Problem With America

c6bd3d2e0d8815b1a814fd87302fdd1e
I have been doubting my worth a lot lately. It could be a prolem with my own self-esteem. Or, as I’ve began to think, a nasty bi-product of my surroundings. There is this ancient Japanese expression which goes: “an apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures without tuition.” Which, as I’m sure you gathered, basically means, we are greatly affected by our environments.

America is so darn materialistic to me.

This attitude, this strong emphasis on “success”, achieved solely through 1. an esteemed tertiary education, 2. the “right” career, and 3. moneymoneymoney is so upsetting. It makes me miss Japan greatly. For even though the Japanese are perhaps the number one work-oriented society, when it comes to “success” there is room for everybody.

I once watched this great documentary called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” on one of the world’s greatest sushi chefs. This is what Jiro says in the movie:

“Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

As far as I’m aware, Jiro didn’t study at Harvard. Nor was he a lawyer or an accountant – not that there’s anything wrong with studying at Harvard, or being a lawyer or an accountant. Just that Jiro reached his success through different routes than the restricted three mentioned.

Because of this idea, ALL jobs in Japan, from government officials to persons whose only role is to shred unwanted paper are respected. All work is given great value and all work is praised. Where you studied in order to land your current position, what connotations your job title possesses in this day and age, and how much moolah you make, are not the only measurements of your success.

Which is why I’m suggesting we re-think these conservative pathways I keep encountering in the West. Instead of a renowned University name or a “prestigious” (according to whom?) job title and the amount of cash in ones bank, what about pondering how our careers and/or actions affect others, in what spirit do we conduct ourselves and for what purpose? What are our true intentions?

Which is better? A Harvard graduate with the sole motive of shallow wealth and hungry power? Or a “poor” painter, potter, cleaner, or waitress (the list goes on…) working in the spirit of service? In the spirit of love. In the spirit of creativity. In the spirit of justice.

‘Abdu’l-Baha, beautifully describes this concept when he says: “[A]ll effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.”

So. I am successful because I love my work. Because it often positively affects others. And because I put my entire heart and soul in it. And that’s it. That’s all it should ever be. Because that’s all that has ever mattered.