Arts and crafts

Having been here for two months now, the “awe and wonder” feeling of being in a foreign country is gradually being replaced with a need to build “normal” lives. We are thousands of miles away from our normal responsibilities – mowing the lawn, maintaining the cars, working on the house, etc. At first glance, it is great to eliminate so many chores! On the other hand, we still need to find activities that make us feel productive and mentally engaged.

At first, my days were pretty much consumed with learning how to get around, how to navigate the grocery store, and how to grill a fish in the itty bitty fish oven. Now that I have become much more efficient in my daily duties, I find myself with more time to pursue other activities.
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In search of ume and other signs of spring

Yesterday’s temperature was nearly 10 degrees C, which was a wonderful change from the cool, rainy days of the past week or so. I’m trying not to do mental conversions and just take the temperature scale for what it is, but for the sake of understanding, that works out to about 50 degrees F. It is definitely starting to feel like spring is in the air.

The ultimate signs of spring in Japan are the famous cherry blossoms that turn the country pink and fill every square inch of park space with revelers. While it’s not quite time for the sakura to make their appearance yet, we are approaching ume (plum) blossom season. I set out on my bike towards Meijo Koen in hopes of finding some early ume flowers.
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My Favorite Things

The other day Joe asked me if there was any food from home that I was really craving. The first thing that popped into my mind was pizza. Specifically, cheap and simple pizza without seafood or raw egg toppings (I’m looking at you, $5 Hot and Ready!). You can find pizza here, but it’s expensive and really doesn’t resemble the Americanized pizza that we all know and love.

While I was chasing these thoughts about things that I miss, I thought I would make a list of my new favorite [food-related] things. Cue the Sound of Music soundtrack:
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Welcoming spring at Setsubun

Today is Setsubun, or the changing of the seasons (in this case, the start of spring). I know you’re thinking, surely there wasn’t another festival so soon? Oh yes, there was. The Japanese definitely know how to celebrate! According to the traditional Japanese calendar, today was the day of transition from winter to spring. I don’t know much else about the traditional calendar, but I am a strong supporter of any system that bids farewell to winter in the first week of February.
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