For those of you that don’t know, Yasu was my upstairs neighbour when I lived in rural Japan. However, we never actually spoke to each other – I didn’t know she existed, and she was too shy to approach me – you know, scary foreigner alert. The day Yasu moved out of our tiny apartment complex, she left a letter on my doorstep:
Ms Anisa I am Yasuko from upstairs. I wanted to always talk with you. But I will move on April 30 to next village. The new address is Nishiawakura village. If you don’t mind, could you hang out with me sometime? I am really bad at English, but I hope we could be good friends.
And the rest is history. During my last six months in Japan, Yasu and I became inseparable. And when I eventually moved to the city, she came to visit me. Recently, Yasu spent 10 days in New Zealand. Here are the highlights:
Here I am stealing S’s car for our upcoming roadies.
Castle Hill desu.
Yasu hugely appreciated NZ cheese!
This scenery reminded us a little of our old home in Higashiawakura (see below).
Another day, another picnic, Hanmer Springs Desu.
Yasu 2.0 coming soon…
Do you remember Yasu? My unexpected friend? Well, her family thew me a goodbye party last night. We ate clam chowder, sushi rolls (featuring pink, green and whie rice), tofu salad and much more. Her mother is such a sweet soul and a very good cook. Last night she reminded me very much of my own mother. She’d made this pork and egg dish which she kept apologizing for. She’d say, “please try this, I made it but I’m sorry, it became too spicy.” Each time someone reached for a helping or she offered it to them, she’d say sorry. I told her my mama was the same. That whatever she cooked she’d end up apologizing for. And even though if it was the yummiest dish in the world, she’d still be saying sorry. Then my father would tease her for having apologized, again. Silly sweet humble loving mamas.
Yasu’s younger sister, Shoko, whose name for the life of me I can’t remember so I have to call her what her two year old nephew calls her: “aka”, surprised me with the beautiful cake pictured. We had a blast. I can’t believe how much they did for me. I wish I’d met Yasu sooner. I keep questioning why our paths didn’t cross earlier. Especially since she had been living right there, in the upstairs apartment! We could have shared so many dinners together – a thought which brings me much joy but also sadness.
After dinner, we did hanabi (fireworks) – an activity strongly resonant with Japanese summer.
“Memories and thoughts age, just as people do. But certain thoughts can never age, and certain memories can never fade.” ― Haruki Murakami
I had the most wonderful time last night. I only met Haruka and her family 2 months ago but even so, I feel I’ve known them a lifetime. To say that Haruka’s family treated me like a princess last night is an understatement. They really did so much.
They had prepared a delicious make-your-own sushi dinner featuring avocado (my favorite) and mixed rice (black and white) with ample vegetables. Everything was so healthy and presented so beautifully just for me. We drank homemade plum juice – made sugar-free after I introduced “natural” eating to Emika, H’s sister. For dessert, we had the most divine matcha (green tea) and soy-milk pudding made with kanten (a natural vegan gelatin substitute and a super ingredient I’ll be hoping to do a Savvy article on). Again, Haruka had made the dessert this way (sugar-free and vegan) just for me.
Last but definitely not least, I was gifted two gorgeous earrings (one with my birthstone) and two bracelets all handmade by Haruka! And, Mommy Mo-chan (H’s mother) gifted me a cute red Japanese cloth for wrapping my lunch. Wow I felt like royalty. What a night. I left their home with a full stomach, a full heart and a full bag of left-overs for today’s lunch. Haruka, Emika, little Ichikia (E’s daughter and my 1st grade student), Mommy Mo-chan and Satozi (H’s father), I want you to know that I will always remember this night and that it will never fade from my heart.
PS the fourth picture is made with kanten too. It is an eggplant jelly flavorured with soy-sauce. Though I admitted to my friends it looked chotto kowai (a little scary) it was soooo yum!