Cherry blossoms on Tatlow Road, North Saanich, BC

Cherry blossoms in North Saanich, BC

… and there…

Photo credit:

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The other day it was six degrees and sunny in Victoria. A brisk wind that begged for a wool coat blew up from the harbour. The next was five degrees and overcast. Though it’s early spring, these days together with views of the bare branches of plane trees against the power lines outside my window remind me of my winter days in Tokyo.

Thanks to central heating and proper insulation my Victoria apartment is a consistent and cozy 21 degrees. No noisy air conditioning unit blasts hot dry air into my face hour after hour. When I sit in front of the window there’s no icy draft akin to an open refrigerator door.  And yet, even with the challenges and frustrations inherent in the overall experience at various levels at every turn while there, the past weeks here have been laced with nostalgia for my Tokyo days.

I remember fondly the little neighbourhood landmarks I used to pass every day. The post office, the little spa where I enjoyed heavenly foot massages, the restaurants I frequented regularly, the dry cleaner in front of Gaienmae station, the inviting window displays of small boutiques.

I recall bird song in the grove beside my apartment, the chirping of traffic lights, the distinctive whine and snarl of Ferrari and Lamborghini engines along Aoyama-dori; a marked contrast to the gentle rustle and clacking of the bamboo grove leading to Baisoin Temple from which the scent of incense wafted on the air.

Often a glass of bubbles or a single malt accompanied night skyline or Fuji views from various locations. As I walked down the little slope leading to my apartment from Gaienmae Station, Tokyo Tower glowed in the distance, a tacit orange welcome against the blue velvet sky.  Sometimes the moon paid a call. More than eight light years away Sirius winked between the two apartment buildings across the street.

My friend Vivian writes to tell me that my spirit still inhabits Gaienmae, that she can feel my lingering presence when she pauses for coffee in the neighbourhood. I don’t disbelieve her.

Funny, after three months of living in a chilly apartment the size of my Victoria bedroom and enjoying more success than I’d hoped to achieve at the outset, I was quite ready and content to come home. Now, after a little more than two months back I can’t say I’ve adjusted with ease.

There, in spite of the often exhausting challenges, I was creatively jazzed and vibrantly alive, filled with a quiet radiance that could bring me near to bursting.  Here physical comforts fit like a beloved pair of slippers, but an uneasy void remains. In addition, various delays and disappointments on my return have landed me in a rut where the inner compass spins on its center.

Based on a lifetime’s experience with the sine waves of forward momentum, no doubt there’s a spiritual redirect–even something which might resemble a plan–inherent in the situation. Given time and the clear perspective of hindsight it might make sense; however, acquiescence would be easier if I could understand its purpose.

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Getting Back to Ikebana in Victoria

I’ve been adrift since returning from Tokyo. Hence, no posts. My mind has refused to settle on anything to say. Many times I thought to get back to the untold stories from my time away, but there was never a spark.

After the “Welcome Home” balloons and while getting through the jet lag I got a work station set up in the garage for ikebana supplies. Continue reading

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Anything Particularly Missing?

Three weeks after my return to Canada the question is tucked into the middle of an email. Anything you find yourself particularly missing about Japan?

Oh yes, yes and yes. I choose a bullet format and fire back a list. Eventually I stop with a final bullet which reads: And more…. Continue reading

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Finding Beauty in a Flaw

One afternoon as I worked in Tokyo, I was increasingly exasperated. First, there was a limited choice of branches, none of which I particularly liked. Then once I got started with the branches recommended to me by a teaching assistant, they were obstinate, twitchy things that wouldn’t hold their position. I’d set one in place and the second I let go it flipped on me. Continue reading

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Waking from the Tokyo Dream

Photo credit to Air Canada Website

After landing in Vancouver I picked up an email from Vivian saying that she was in Gaienmae shortly after I left and experiencing pangs of sadness in my neighbourhood.

Ah, Gaienmae. Why did that seem part of a distant past? I had closed my apartment door and left the keys in the mailbox that same morning, walked north on Gaienmae-nishi dori past Citron to catch a cab in front of Francfranc. The sun was bright and the air crisp.

On arrival in rain-soaked Vancouver my second Saturday morning began. Continue reading

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Snow Falls in Tokyo before Leaving

According to Japan Today, the Monday, January 22nd snowfall in Tokyo was the heaviest since 2014. Because I walk and the snow started sticking after International Class, I escaped rather unscathed. Unfortunately, I had to cancel an evening with a friend as it wasn’t worth venturing out with the crush of millions trying to get home on delayed trains. Continue reading

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Winter Colours

Walking along the shaded avenues, looking across the expanses and views of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden on a crisp afternoon, I suddenly longed to paint rooms.

I imagined a serene home designed in the varied and wondrous winter tones spread before me. I wanted to create names for the colours, but try it sometime. How challenging it is.

Paint companies have it down to an art reminiscent of haiku. Listen to the poetry in these samples from Benjamin Moore: Balboa Mist, Cathedral Gray, Buckhorn.

So I tried.

Woodland Paperwhite.

Hoary Slate.

Skyscraper Cloud.

Blushed Ice.

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Getting Back to Sogetsu Ikebana School

Getting back into ikebana after a 20-day hiatus wasn’t easy. Like any skill-development abandoned for a significant period of time—exercise, music practice, that golf swing, whatever—there’s a certain muscle tone and mindset which deteriorates in the interval. Continue reading

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Serendipity and a Haircut at Gold Salon Tokyo

How serendipity strikes: After a party of three left the restaurant where I was waiting at the counter to place my order, one of them turned around and dashed back in to give me his card. “In case you might need someone to do your hair,” he said. “This is my shop. We specialize in foreign hair.” Continue reading

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