Spring is here! Greetings from Kyoto.
We are in the old capital as it is Spring Break and the kids are off school. They have now completed one full academic year on Iki (minus a couple weeks of stoppage due to coronavirus last year)! They have done so well and grown so much.
We came to Kyoto this time to mark the one year anniversary of my mother-in-law’s passing. She passed away unexpectedly last March, just a week after our arrival in Japan. March 11th is our one year anniversary of arriving in Japan. We flew into Japan with all our belongings, 4 suitcases and 4 big boxes, under pandemic conditions. Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of my leaving work. This month marks many anniversaries, but one of the most significant is the ten year anniversary of the Tōhoku Triple Disaster. I remember where I was when that earthquake caused the giant tsunami which took out the nuclear power plant. (Watch this video with the sound on to get a sense of how big the earthquake was.)
On the 11th of March the entire country stopped in remembrance. At 2:46 in the afternoon my wife and I stood in our kitchen, watching a ceremony in Tokyo on TV, while a siren sounded for one minute on the island emergency broadcast system. Ten years on, Japan is still grappling with the fallout from that day.
Abe Ryūsei (阿部竜成), an 11 year old survivor of the disaster, wrote the following haiku after seeing a cherry tree in the rubble:
Mankai no sakura ga mirete ureshiina
I’m so happy to see cherry blossoms in full bloom
(Read this haiku and more poems from this collection.)
Arriving in Kyoto amidst the pandemic last year we stayed locked up in our apartment. My wife left only to make trips to the palliative care unit. There was a lone cherry tree we could see out the window. Back in Kyoto this week while wearing masks, our hands smelling of disinfectant, we were able to bask under the glory of the blossoms. Things get better.
Talk to you next month,
The yazakura, a famous weeping cherry tree in Maruyama Park, Kyoto.
I didn’t do a lot of blogging this month since I spent quite a bit of time travelling. On Twitter I reported in realtime from:
I still have over a thousand photos and videos to process, and some blog posts to write from those trips. But I am in Kyoto now so that will have to wait until next month. I did do one short post:
Some personal thoughts on this hero of Japan and Afghanistan, and what I learned reading his book.
My review of Blue Sky Kingdom: An Epic Family Journey to the Heart of the Himalaya at Literary Review of Canada Link →
My review of Providence Was With Us: How a Japanese Doctor Turned the Afghan Desert Green on BooksOnAsia.net Link →
Pastoral by André Alexis. (14% complete)
It has been a while since I have read fiction. Last time I was in Kyoto I listened to André Alexis’s award-winning Fifteen Dogs while taking walks through our leafy neighbourhood at night. At that time I was on a writing retreat and listening to something so well-written and deeply philosophical was inspiring. Although the autumn surroundings gave way to spring, I recalled that feeling and decided to pick up the first in the series. Also, I needed something non-academic to listen to on the ship home. (Side note: yes, we flew here but are returning by boat. More about that next month!)