One step at a time

Creating an enjoyable journey for myself and my family.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Quick updates

Two quick items of business:

1. Adam and I have both deactivated our Facebook accounts. We may or may not reactivate them. I'm sorry that this blog has to be the only way I share thoughts and photos, but it will have to do. I hope my friends and family will continue to check in on our Japan adventures here. We hate that it has to be this way, but the internet gives access to anyone and everyone and we don't need everyone keeping tabs on our family.

2. We moved to apartment 303 this our address has changed. Same street address as below, it's just apartment 303 now.

That's it, thanks, love you!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Obon is happening in Japan right now. It lasts from August 13-16. It is a time each year when Japanese citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, honor their ancestors. It is a common misconception that Obon is about kimonos, dancing, music and food. Those things are important aspects of Japanese culture and are usually a part of summer festivals that happen to take place during and around Obon.

My students were willing to share their thoughts with me today about Obon. I wanted to share some of those thoughts with you.

My students said festivities have nothing to do with Obon, really. Obon is a private, sacred time. Many people honor their ancestors by cleaning their graves and putting flowers on their tombstones. That part reminds me of Memorial Day in America. They pray to their ancestors at shrines in their homes. They give thanks to their ancestors for everything. They spend hours doing this, for three straight days.

Being an American, I asked an Americanized questions: so what if during Obon your children are sick, you have money problems or things are not going well with your family? Then would you kneel at your shrine and berate your ancestors? For one second there was silence and then Yoshiaki said something I will never forget,"children sick, not dead."

Then there was a general consensus that you would NEVER complain to your ancestors, that would be ridiculous, you would only give much thanks always.

Do you ever get the feeling that you've missed the point of everything? Today I have that feeling.

Today, I honor the ancestors of my students for teaching them these things so that they would be able to share them with me so sincerely. I honor my ancestors who left homes of comfort to move to the United States, or Utah, or Seattle and provide me with the blessed life I now enjoy. I clean graves and light lanterns in their honor. I believe our ancestors watch over us. I believe we will be together again someday. With some practice, I hope not to waste one more moment complaining, but only giving thanks always.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Japanese Gyoza

This recipe is a new family favorite. Yum!

  • Japanese Gyoza
  • makes 30

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 (10 ounce) package wonton wrappers
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar


  1. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Mix in cabbage, onion, garlic and carrot. Cook and stir until cabbage is limp. Mix in ground pork and egg. Cook until pork is evenly brown and egg is no longer runny.
  2. Preheat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  3. Place approximately 1 tablespoon of the cabbage and pork mixture in the center of each wrapper. Fold wrappers in half over filling, and seal edges with moistened fingers.
  4. In the preheated vegetable oil, cook gyoza approximately 1 minute per side, until lightly browned. Place water into skillet and reduce heat. Cover and allow gyoza to steam until the water is gone.
  5. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce and rice vinegar. Use the mixture as a dipping sauce for the finished wrappers.

The Temple in Kanonji

There is a Buddhist temple in Kanonji. It sits on the top of a beautiful hill in the midst of lush jungle foliage. You have to hike up roughly 200 steep steps to reach the temple. In 100 degree heat it takes a lot of determination to reach the top. My friend Amy and I had 4 toddlers with us on our hike to the Temple this week. Hiking to a temple makes you think. Making that trek makes you consider spiritual matters. As I hiked and roasted, I thought.

I thought about the service rendered to me by the people decades before who built those great stone steps. I thought about the service rendered to me by my ancestors. I thought about the service rendered to me by friends, family members and complete strangers throughout my life. Then, I thought about the service we can each give or withhold.

After reaching the top my daughters were tired and crying. Instead of yelling at them to hush up, or swatting their bums for being whinny, I held them. I wrapped my sweaty arms around them and they nestled their sweaty heads into my neck. I kissed them and told them how much I love them. I was prepared to give the service that was required.

Today I learned the value of visiting a sacred place.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cookies Even I Wouldn't Eat

Japan is filled with hilarious products. I found these in the cookie aisle today. Hmm. I think I'll stick with Oreos.