The Start of 2012 and what I’ve been up to.

A little late on the good wishes, but I hope for a prosperous, healthy and joyful 2012 for all my friends and family. I am looking forward to lots of adventures, making new connections and venturing to places I haven’t been before. Nothing planned yet, but I’m getting itchy feet.

Kagura Dancer at Onyujima Tondo

Things are always pretty hectic at the end of the year. With only a week between Christmas and New Years’, it seems I spend all seven days in the kitchen preparing and eating food.  We had a nice gathering with the local out-of-towners on Christmas Day, played board games, ate good food, listened to holiday music and exchanged funky gifts. On New Years’ I made lots of traditional dishes: kuromame, konbumaki, nitsuke, namasu, kinton, lotus root balls, and yuzu daikon-My new favorite recipe  (in Jpn)is for the lotus root balls-I usually  make them as patties. No pictures of the New Year’s feast, though-after completing a Flickr 365 project of 2011, my enthusiasm for taking photos has waned, and I took the day off- but I  did sign up for a 52 photos group…) we had Jiro’s mom home for one night, she was so relaxed and clearly enjoyed being home, but the support she needs at night is really too much for us. It seems that we’ll just be bringing her home for day visits in the future.

After Jiro’s mom returned to the care facility, Jiro and I drove  up to Usa in the northern Oita Prefecture to visit old friends. We lived in Usa when Kai was born and our friends there all have kids around his age. Several of them are now married and have kids of their own! When we lived there we did a bit of farming-shiitake and rice, and our friends there are still growing their own rice- I think I’d like to do that again…It was good to get out of town and we enjoyed the drive- stopping to take a couple hot spring baths and visit a couple old Buddhist sites in Ajimu.

Tondo Bonfire

His mom has not been doing so well the past couple of months. She had pneumonia caused by aspiration of food in mid-December. She was pretty sick for three or four days, but recovered. Then yesterday she had a mild stroke , and although she was weak, she seemed to be okay. This morning she got another bout of pneumonia and is really weak. She is now in the hospital on oxygen and an IV- I am praying that she will be in better shape tomorrow. It is so hard to see her gradual physical decline. She really wants to come home and I think she is losing her will to keep going. I haven’t felt this sad in a long time.

But, there is also GREAT news today. The translation and writing project I’ve been working on since the end of October is finally done. I am pretty pleased how it came out. The web designer was really easy to work with and she created a site that exceeded everyone’s expectations. I already noticed one editing miss of mine and am sure there will be more. I am continuing to translate recipes for them and hopefully we’ll be going to the US this year to introduce shiokoji to the US market. Lots to be excited about. Kojiya website

Also I’ve been asked to teach part-time 4 mornings a week at a university in Oita- the hours are really convenient for me. If all goes as planned, I’ll be teaching the first term  (April to July) and maybe even the following term in September. It’ll be nice to be working with college-age students again. Now I’ve got to get some new clothes!

Last week I went with some friends to the Tondo festival on Onyujima- a small island just a kilometer or so from Saiki Harbor. Tondo festivals are held in January in towns across Japan. A huge  bonfire is built using straw, bamboo, and everyone’s New Year’s decorations and it is set on fire- people pray for good health and success in the new year. On Onyujima there is a kagura dance prior to the bonfire and the local kids play taiko. Bowls of udon with the local specialty gomadashi sell for 100 yen and of course there is also the typical Japanese festival food- yakitori, fried chicken and french fries- at typically high prices- 300 yen for a bag of fries!

Mountainside Statue at Sen no Iwa in Ajimu

We are having our coldest winter weather this week-there were even a few snow flurries on Wednesday, but spring comes soon here in southern Japan- maybe in two or three weeks. Jiro’s planted about 25 fruit trees in a large field near here- I’m thinking I want to plant pumpkins in the rows between the trees to help keep the weeds down. Keeping busy!




3 thoughts on “The Start of 2012 and what I’ve been up to.

  1. sue January 30, 2012 / 4:01 pm

    So happy to have your update, Kate. I am sorry that Jiro’s mom is struggling, though. You are wise to have her in care at this time — it is certainly easier on everyone, including her. Nice for her to spend some holiday time at home and be relaxed. I love the idea of rows of pumpkins between your fruit trees, but even more Iove the idea of your having itchy feet… and hope your travels bring you to Oregon sometime soon.
    Take care.

    • katezawa January 30, 2012 / 11:57 pm

      I should be in Oregon in August for my annual summer trip-the problem with the pumpkin idea is that August is the time when they need some monitoring (watering) and I won’t be here.

  2. Greg February 29, 2012 / 7:19 pm

    I love the photo of the bamboo fountain. I’ll have to see if I can reproduce that with some of my bamboo poles.

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