Saturday, March 29, 2014


Today’s coffee: Ka’u (Hawaii) at home

I have a confession to make. I’m a professional musician, but I struggle to find motivation to practice if I don’t have concerts scheduled in the immediate future. I’m balancing the roles of musician, missionary, wife, etc., so sometimes I get distracted by whatever is most urgent at the moment.

As I type this, I’m looking at my shamisen case across the room, and thinking that I’d really like to play it. Last February, I received a shamisen with broken skins; the previous owner’s hands had become shaky enough to make playing impossible, so it came to me via the pastor of our previous church. After a period of not playing much, I took the new-to-me shamisen in for repairs… and a look inside the body of the instrument informed me that it was built in Meiji 25 (1892)! Shamisen are not like cellos; they do not appreciate in value, so it’s rare to find an instrument this old. I still think it’s cool to have an instrument with some history… and now that it’s been fixed, it sounds really good! In May, I’ll have a couple of opportunities to play it, so I’m looking forward to that. I also have a lot of motivation to practice!

After: new skins and accessories! Still needs a name...
Last June, I started writing Friday blog posts. I said I would write something every week. I’ve written most weeks, with the exception of some concert weekends and during our vacation time. It’s been really good to have a weekly space to reflect on my life… even when I don’t feel like it. Like this week. I’d rather be practicing my shamisen right now. Anyway, thanks for holding me accountable, dear readers on the internet. And I think I’ll go ahead and announce that I’m going to practice every day from now on, with reasonable exceptions allowed. Feel free to ask me how I’m doing. If you come to my concert, I promise I’ll practice really hard!

Next concert: May 6! I will be playing a very small part in this, but I promise I will practice lots in preparation! The main performers are awesome, so you should come if you are here in Sapporo.
Also: I'm playing on May 30 at Gateau Kingdom. If you live in the Sapporo area, you will know where that is. That performance is a "Spring Banquet" which will feature traditional music and dancing and food... but the food is expensive. I think it's well worth going to one of these sorts of events if you've never been to one before. I'll post a chirashi with more details when I get one.

Friday, March 21, 2014

In Hawaii: time with family and little culture shock surprises

Today’s coffee: Ethiopia (and panna cotta!)

We’ve made a brief visit to our home country, although not “home” to either Seattle or North Dakota. We were on holiday in Hawaii for 10 days. It’s been 2 years since we last left Japan, and over a year since I last met my parents. Leaving Japan, I joyfully anticipated rest and uninterrupted family time; coming home, I joyfully anticipated starting my work afresh with renewed energy. This vacation was a huge blessing.

With the family at a luau!
Tea ceremony on the beach
On a crazy hike to the Blue Hole (Waialeale)
Yukata for everyone
Playing with Dad's underwater camera

Having been away for 2 years, the longest I’d ever been outside my home country, there were a lot of little surprises. Sitting in Honolulu airport with Keith waiting for our connecting flight, I started a private conversation with him in English… and then I realized that I was surrounded by Americans. Oops. Later that evening in the hot tub at our hotel, I barely caught myself before making a similar mistake. I hadn’t realized the extent to which English has become my language of “private conversations” while Japanese has become the language I use in public. Another surprise: hearing American accents all around us, I kept thinking I was hearing someone I knew. Weird.

I remember leaving Japan four years ago and being surprised by American portion sizes; I felt full almost all the time for the first month or so I was home. That memory did not stop me from being surprised again. I don’t remember the last time I brought leftovers home from a restaurant; having leftovers from a restaurant in Japan is practically unheard of. In the last week we have had both tempura and ramen; both of these are fairly oily, but this time I didn’t really notice. :)

While in Hawaii, we enjoyed tropical fruit and pizza and delicious pork and cottage cheese. I made some banana caramel sauce which turned out well. Still, we missed Japanese food. The soba and tempura we had the day after we came home tasted like heaven. Oddly enough, we also missed Japanese milk. I still can’t figure out how the milk here is so good while the cheese and ice cream are boring.

Banana caramel sauce and macadamia nuts over vanilla ice cream
If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you’ve probably realized that I’ve become something of a coffee addict. I was surprised to discover that I want my coffee quite a bit stronger than it is typically served in American coffee shops. One shop won me over by giving me an extra shot in my cappuccino for free. At Tokumitsu, I can choose to try any of about 20 varieties of coffee, roasted here in the shop, and ground and hand-poured immediately before serving. I was surprised that in the coffee shops I visited in Hawaii, I could choose between at most 3 varieties.

Searching for coffee with Mom and Dad
In Japan, at 5’5” (165 cm), I tend of be quite a bit larger than other women. I’m normally not bothered by this, but it was nice to have a short period of being average height and weight. :)

Bits of reverse-culture-shock here and there kept things interesting, but that didn’t hamper the joy of relaxed time with my family. I’ve included some favorite photos with this post; if you want to see more, I’ve uploaded others to a picasa web album, with a preview collage below. (There are a lot of food pictures.) Enjoy!