Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Top 5 Things I Never Imagined I'd Be Doing Now

Happy Obon, everyone! Are you enjoying some time off from work? Are you planning to spend time with your relatives (親戚)? Return to your hometown (里)? Visit and clean your family grave (お墓参り)?

Every time Obon comes around in Toyama, it reminds me that my family moved here from Osaka so we could spend more time with my wife's family. And it reminds me how much my life has changed since we came here 2 1/2 years ago. Here are 5 things I never imagined I would be doing now:

1.) Being a cat person. Growing up, I was always a dog person. I used to have an adorable Shih Tzu named Muffy. He lived to the ripe old age of 17 and was like a family member to all of us. Then, living in apartments in Japan all of my life, there was never a chance to have a pet. So when we moved to a house in Toyama and were finally able to have a pet, we decided first to get a kitten from a shelter and then the runt of the litter (末っ子) from a local breeder. Now Tamaちゃん and Mashuくん are like family members to us here.

2.) Attending a stranger's (知らない人) funeral (葬式). Within a year of living in Toyama, one of our neighbors passed away (亡くなる). A notice was put into our mailbox and the neighborhood leader came by asking us if we planned to attend the funeral. Thinking that it was the polite, neighborly thing to do - despite not having any idea who the deceased (死者) was - my wife and I got all dressed up in the black, prepared a monetary present and boarded the bus to take us to the funeral. Imagine our surprise when we saw the bus was less than half full and none of our next-door neighbors were there. When another neighbor we didn't know passed away earlier this year, we offered our condolences (哀悼). But wisely stayed home.

3.) Growing everything from peanuts to watermelons. Most people who live in apartments in Japan not only can't have pets. They also can't enjoy the pleasure of gardening and/or growing their own food. Nothing tastes better than organic, homegrown vegetables.

4.) Driving a car again. For 13 years in Japan I got around by walking, riding a bicycle or taking public transportation (公共交通機関). I never thought I would be driving again. That's why my Kansas driver's license expired. And why I had to spend 2 months going to a Japanese driving school because there in no way to live in Toyama without a car.

5.) Seeing my abs (腹筋) again. My life has definitely become healthier since moving to Toyama: eating organic vegetables, not drinking alcohol, training for the November 1st Toyama Marathon; and exercising - swimming, weight lifting, cycling and so on - has helped me discover something I hadn't seen since high school - my abs.

Obon is a time for reflection. We pray for our ancestors' spirits and mourn their absences in our lives. It is also a time for you to reflect on your own life. Are you living the life you want? Are you happy? If not, what would you rather be doing? I'm praying for your happiness, too.

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