End of year and holiday season

Early November Ryougoji

After a creepily warm autumn, the temperatures have finally dropped below 18°C  and it is starting to feel like winter. Until last week I was still waking to the buzz of mosquitos. The fall colors arrived late and seemed a little less showy than in previous years, and the camelias and

Fall at the base of Shiroyama

narcissus are blooming in the warmer parts of the garden. One of the dahlias even put out a blossom last week. Weather forecasts say to expect a colder winter than usual, I guess it will arrive later this month. Nights and mornings are cold enough that we need to light the kerosene space heater now and there’s always a pot of hot tea on the table.

I’ve got no excuses for neglecting the blog, I just haven’t felt like writing. Sorry to those of you who check in and see the same heading week after week.

Thanksgiving dinner was the highlight of November. We’ve shared the meal with the Asari family of Kojiya for three years in a row now- I think we’ve passed the threshold for establishing a tradition. A couple other expat friends have joined us and it definitely feels like a holiday. The Asaris got a new commercial oven this year, so I was able to order a larger turkey (12 pounds) and roast it at their house. I even found frozen brussel sprouts, Japanese kabocha works fine for pumpkin pie, and I made cranberry sauce from dried cranberries. It’s tough being so far away from my family during the holidays, but we’ve come up with a good substitute here.

I took Level 2 of  the JLPT on December 4th. It was really tough, I took a couple practice tests beforehand and did fine, but the actual test was quite a bit more difficult. If I pass it will only be because of extremely lucky guessing, but I think I’ll take it again next year. the results don’t come out until mid-February, by that time I won’t care. Regardless of my score, I am becoming a stronger reader and am motivated to keep improving.

After the exam, I joined a friend and three of her friends and went out to dinner and then to a hot spring bath at Hyotan Onsen. I hadn’t been there since before Kai was born- of course, it’s been upgraded. A perfect way to end the exam day! We lived in the hot spring town of Beppu when we were first married and took hot spring baths every night-wish we lived closer to a good hot spring now.

Shiroyama castle wall

Working pretty hard on the Kojiya website content- we’re aiming for the end of the year for the launching of their English site. For those of you in Japan, think about coming down to Kyushu to take a workshop in using shiokoji or making miso next year!

The kids sent a holiday package with advent calendars, winter teas, chocolate and almonds for Jiro’s Christmas truffles and chocolate almonds, and a copy of Mother Jones for me. Thanks to them, it feels a little more like Christmas. We’ve got several gatherings over the next couple weeks. In Japan, it’s customary to go to Bonenkai (literally: forget-the-year party), end-of-the-year parties. On Christmas I may have a few people over for stew and cornbread and a day of board games. We won’t have a tree and Santa’s not going to be stopping by, but I definitely want to share a meal and hang out with friends.

It’s been a rough year for Japan and the nuclear disaster still is worrisome….I can’t see any benefits to nuclear energy, the dangers are too great. The news from Fukushima continues to be depressing. Sunday marked the nine-month mark since the earthquake and tsunami, lots of damage still to deal with and infrastructure that needs attention, but the Japanese government is discussing the purchase of new fighter jets. Aaah

My hope for next  year and every year is for the end of war…

Stay warm this winter.

No promises, but will try to write more soon.



4 thoughts on “End of year and holiday season

  1. Bonnie December 15, 2011 / 12:04 am

    Hi Kate, It was a delight to see a new posting though I understand the lag as well. I am quite taken with “forget the year” parties, a tradition in need of export I think. I wish you all a better next year. Take care, Bonnie

    • katezawa December 15, 2011 / 12:28 am

      Great to hear from you. Sorry I missed you this summer when I was in Oregon. I will say this is a year that I am eager to put behind, in spite of a lot of personal satisfaction and joy, there has been lots of sadness and tragedy among friends and in Japan.

  2. Charissa December 27, 2011 / 3:05 pm

    Merry Late Christmas! Thank you for your post.
    I also would like a forget the year party.
    Coen got his picture taken with santa. Its adorable. I’ll try to post it soon.
    Best wishes!

    • katezawa December 27, 2011 / 10:08 pm

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, too. We are getting ready for the New Year now. I’m doing year-end cleaning and menu planning today. Can’t wait to see the picture of Coen.

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