Farewell, Japan

Here it is. The end of the Japan adventure for Frank and me. The last 3 weeks have been very full of busy: Frank finally started school here, I have been industriously looking for employment beyond the Washing Well show and a new home, and of course, soaking in everything that Japan has to offer the best we can. In a short 10 hours or so, my little family will walk to the Yodo Station on the Keihan Line, take the train to the Kyoto Station, and board a JR train to Kansai International Airport, stay in a hotel and then, bright and early tomorrow morning, Frank and I will hop on a shuttle, navigate check-in and security, and get on the 1st of 3 airplanes that will take us back to the USA.

I’m not ready to leave.

Frank is on the cusp of really learning Japanese.

We understand the culture here so much better and are more comfortable in it, so it is easier for us to move through it.

We are making friends. Real Ones. Friendships, that if we could stay just a few more months would solidify into deep relationships, which are the kinds of friendships that I delight in and crave.

We know how to order and eat food.

We have seen some ugly. Japan is not Utopia. It is modern society.

For all these reason and more, I do not want to leave. Here, the energy is calm and focused. The people operate out of their hearts. Really. They do. It is not talked about in terms of “loving kindness” or “Love is only way”. If talked about at all, it is talked about in terms of spirit. What the spirit of a place, or person, or circus is. And the idea is to have a good spirit.

My own spirit feels good here. I can feel it expand and lighten. Being as sensitive as I am, it is refreshing to me to feel so calm. Not manic or tense or scared. The USA is in the grips of fear, and it is coloring everything. Here in Japan, not so much.

I will miss you Japan. I will miss your sense of fashion and your fussy little arm covers and sun umbrellas and towels for all occasions. I will miss mochi and sushi and ramen. I will miss the efficiency and structure. I will miss the shrines on every corner and ringing the temple bells. I will miss the friendliness and kindness of your people. I will miss Kinoshita Circus and your spirit and kindness. I will miss the people I have met, who have made me laugh and taken care of me and embraced my son in ways unimagined.

Thank you, 2015, for the this portion of the adventure. Now, on to the next one. May it be as opening and glorious and fun as this one has been.

And thank you, readers, for reading this little blog. I do not know what the future holds for this small section of the internet. Stay tuned.

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Circus Life-Part 3

Hello, my dears. It’s nice to be here today. Since we last spoke, the circus has up and moved itself across the country a little bit (from west to east). Kanazawa is now our past and though we miss its parks and the beach and the Grandpa club and the Tamagawa Children’s Library…..we are now in Kyoto!!! This is our third and final stop with the Kinoshita Circus and as we turn ourselves toward the next phase of our adventure we find it more and more important to be here.

Here, as in soaking up the culture of where we live; which is not only Japan, it is Circus. We live at the Kinoshita Circus. For all my circus/variety/street performing friends, you know what I’m talking about.

Circus is a country all its own.

We missed the circus back when we were free-lancing and working with everything but the circus. We were exceptionally blessed to work with a multitude of people with incredible talents. What we missed was a kind of energy. Circus people work hard. They are kind. They are exceptionally talented. Circus parties are always fun and filled with laughter. Everyone is respected, because the circus cannot run without all its pieces.

This is especially true in a tent circus.

The tent. The tent. The tent. It is magical, mythical. It is beautiful. It is a work of art. It is a beast, a work-horse, a master. It dominates the landscape once it is up and when it comes down, there is a deep sense of loss for a while as the scenery adjusts to the lack of tent.

The Kinoshita tent is bright red on the outside with yellow flags flying at the top. On the inside it is deep blue. It arches up high, like a brick and mortar theater and rigging criss-crosses it.The ring is painted red and white with bright gold stars and red and blue seats encircle it. The backstage is covered in green carpet (a bit like astroturf! It’s a garden. A shoe garden!!!) where people drop their yard shoes and put on their performance shoes.

In short, there is a remarkable amount of structure and equipment that goes onto and into the tent and all of it travels. In the old days of circus in the USA, tents were raised and lowered by elephants. You can see neat old pictures and paintings of them in circus history books and websites.

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Now all that work is done by men and women. It takes 3 days or so to completely take it down and then another 3 days or so put it back up. It boggles my mind every time I watch it happen. I love that it takes time. I love that it is choreography in action. I love that everyone is part of it (except the foreign artists), including Mr. Kinoshita himself.

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I would like it if a classical musician would come and watch this glorious visual symphony and then notate it. It would sound as complicated as Mozart, as grand as Bach, and as modern as Berlioz.

It is like a ballet to watch the tent go up. It begins slowly, with just a few people, contract workers mostly. The space is measured and laid out, the points are set, the truck with the tightly packed tent and center poles is placed. Then, that group of contract workers leaves. The circus employees start to filter in, the tent begins to be unrolled. More contract workers arrive, the center poles go up and slowly, slowly the tent starts to be raised. There is much hollering and pounding as the sides of the tent begin to be unfurled and attached to the points.

Then it quiets down for a while. The frenzy of activity ceases. And, people pour onto the tent. Every Japanese employee is present and every single person is wearing giant plastic booties as they commence to wash the tent. By hand. It takes the better part of the day to complete the cleaning which is done methodically and quietly.

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After this, the frenzy begins again and the clanging and banging and shouting resumes and the tent starts to climb majestically up into the air.

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By the third day, the tent is fully raised and anchored. The side poles are placed, side walls are put up, and all the goodies that the show needs to run are placed inside.

Two days later the show will open with great fanfare and flowers and prayers.

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I wonder what magical events are waiting for us in the fall. I wonder how we will look at the United States after this experience. I hope it is with a renewed sense of wonder and purpose, because that is what we feel right now while we are in Japan. The circus still has power to inspire, even in our jaded modern age.

We will miss this place. We are grateful for it. And, as always, we are grateful to you, dear readers. Thanks for reading.

Art.

Good Morning, my dears.

Our time in Kanazawa is drawing to a close. For this, I am sad. This city is one I could stay in forever.

There is public art everywhere, sculptures and statues and gardens and temples. The arts scene here is really vibrant, both performing and visual. And the people…….what a bunch of joyous vibrant kind folks.

2 weeks ago, we went to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.

Holy Macaroni, this is an incredible museum!!!

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I have to say that this might be my favorite museum ever. And definitely the most well-conceived.

It is a completely immersive museum. Your experience begins outside, before you even go inside. There are several large sculptures, most of which are meant to be walked through, around, and on. Frank’s favorite is the color wheel spiral. That is exactly what it sounds like. It is made of large sheets of plexiglass, so that light passes through each one. As you walk around the spiral, the color changes and so does your perception of the world. It’s gorgeous. There is a lamp in the center of the spiral and though I haven’t seen it at night, I bet it is lovely when it is lit. Frank and Daddy spent at least an hour racing around, in and out of the spiral, Frank laughing his head off. Many, many Japanese tourists now have pictures of some silly, delighted white people playing in the color spiral.

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If you just stay on the yard of the museum, you can still have an incredible experience. The museum is made of glass and is round, so it becomes an exhibit as well. As you stroll around the grounds, checking out the gramophones that poke out of the ground, and sitting in some strategically placed chairs, you can watch the people inside the museum as if they themselves are an installation. Oh! Words are really failing me right now, I have to say. The experience was….human. Somehow this museum captures what it is like to be human and does it in the most honest way I have ever experienced. There was no slyness, no cynicism present. There were exhibits that I did not like, that did not reach me. But, as a whole, the experience left me completely and totally sated.

Once you go inside, the museum experience becomes even richer. You never have to pay to see the exhibits, if you don’t want to. There are several installations inside that you can look at, a cafe, a library, several lounges, and a kid’s art studio. Yep. A Kid’s Art Studio!!!! That is free. Entirely. We stayed for an hour and a half at least. Frank and the attendant played with blocks, both giant foam blocks and tiny weird shaped blocks that had to balance against each other and made glorious crazy shapes.They built animals and other creatures out of clothespins and rulers. There were vast amounts of paper and paint markers and pipe cleaners and paper cups and tin foil, etc. to make whatever you wanted. Frank was a little overwhelmed with all the choice.

We stayed 30 minutes past closing time. It was that good.

Ben and I are learning how to go to museums with a child, so this experience took twice as long as it might have, with many breaks for playing and lunch. And snacks. And ice cream. It is worth it, though. We hope we are giving him a good foundation and try to make the experience fun for him, since we love it so much. We don’t mind spending the whole day at one museum, we aren’t marathoners. And if he goes away from it with rich memories, all the better.

One more quick Kanazawa delight before I close for today. The cranes!!! We are surrounded by sea and rivers, many marshes, and rice fields. And so, there are cranes.IMG_2640   Everywhere. Frank and I look out for them when we ride along on our bike. It is great fun to watch them swooping down onto a rice field and stand peacefully for a moment before pecking down into the grain, eating whatever bugs or seeds they are snacking on. Luckily for us, along one of the rivers that is full and lush with bushes is a nesting ground. Hundreds and hundreds of cranes are nesting and having babies in the bushes. What a sight! What a sound! Glorious squawking and flapping and soaring. We go visit as often as possible.

Well. For all of these things I am grateful. Kanazawa has been good to us. Next week (and last stop in Japan) Kyoto!

Thank you, as always, for reading.

A late post AND a bonus post!

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Last Friday, I just could not get to this. Ben had an extra show, I was frantically doing something….I have no idea what. Very important, apparently.

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Anyway, my dears, here is just a little bit of Japan for you. This country is ridiculously, flamboyantly LOUSY with flowers. I swear. You trip over them. They spring up in every corner, vacant field, sidewalk, around street signs. In front of business. They grow on the trees, in the bushes. Shameless Hydrangeas, blooming effortlessly in all colors. Martha Stewart…eat your heart out. Even your hydrangeas pale in comparison. Gladiolas! Clover! Daisies!

I can’t stand it. Here are some pictures. You may drool. You may cry from the poetry of it. I mean that. This country is a poem. I’m bursting here.

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A week in the life….

Good morning!

This week has been very quiet, so there is nothing much to get excited or poetic about. This week has simply been….a week in the life of the Reilly Schave family. Ben worked. I sent letters and resumes, cleaned the house, went shopping endlessly, took Frank to the library, went to the dentist, ate freshly caught fish cooked over a grill and drank umechu (a plum liquor) for the first time. All in all, a good week. A normal week.

Adventures, especially extended ones, can be misleading. One begins to think that there must be something BIG all the time. “We rode the fastest elevator in the world!!!” “We went to a restaurant and ate puffer fish and we didn’t die!!!!!” I think that sometimes we forget that adventure is always right here in front of us, every day. It doesn’t matter that we are in Japan with a 113 year old circus. What does matter is that we stay open to each moment as it comes and stay willing to accept it as it is. The adventure is in experiencing fully our life. There is a lot of talk these days about having experiences instead of collecting stuff, which is a wonderful idea, one that I fully embrace. But I think there is a trap there. One can begin to collect experiences and use them in the same way that people collect things and show them off. It is important to remember that life itself is an experience and adventure often lies just in the smallest, most mundane moments.

Ben and I joke that we are really boring to go traveling with because our favorite thing to do is wander around, find an outdoor cafe, and watch the world. These are some of my favorite moments in life. And similarly, this week has been boring. We have had no adventures to speak of. We have had: fellowship and good food, hearty belly laughs, and moments of frustration and uncertainty. I saw lilies blooming in a garden so soft and thick and white I was not sure if they were real. My son has been tickled and played with and cared about by dozens of people, my husband has done work he is proud of and fulfilled by, and I have gotten to experience every moment. That my friends, is one heck of an adventure and for this I am grateful.

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As always, thank you for reading. I am grateful for you.

The Sea

What am I going to write about this week? I have no idea. I keep starting sentences and then deleting them. What do you, dear reader, want to read about today? I suspect, since this is a blog, that you would prefer something fairly short with photographs. I, being the generally poor photographer that I am, feel like I do not have good enough or plentiful enough pictures to share with you. Also, what am I going to write about? Time is short today, because we are working on the next phase of our transition. And that is scary. So, so scary right now. We are moving to the Twin Cities in the fall. I have a contract job there that lasts until October, but we need more work and a house and school for Frank and jeez, it’s a lot. And I must write many, many letters and polish up my resume (again!) and it always feels so lacking…

Is this what you want to read about today? I doubt it. But, maybe.

Perhaps you would rather read about our adventure to the Sea in a town whose name I do not know. Our first adventure with other people!!! Japanese people and one Thai person.We rode together in a mini-van and drove about an hour and half south to visit some rocks and take a boat ride. More on that in a moment. IMG_2808IMG_2809

It was so exotic to be in a mini-van!! It was nice to be in a car instead of the rushing train. There is a privacy and comfort in a car that is luxurious, but familiar. It made me understand why the car became so ubiquitous. Why it is still so desired by many, including me. We drove along. Everyone quiet, some bumping Japanese pop on the radio, Frank conveniently plugged into the tablet watching Planes: Fire and Rescue for the 80th time. It was just a road trip. Nothing glamorous about it. The highway follows the coast line, so we watched the sea rumble into the land and the sun and cranes twinkle over the water. When we looked the other way, we watched the pine trees rise majestically up the mountain side. The pine trees get so tall here that the trunks overtake the bodies, so that the trees look like fat triangles perched on top of stilts. In between the stands of deep green pine and bright green ginkgo and maple, were firework bursts of yellow bamboo. And the road went on. We passed ugliness and prettiness. A toll road. A construction zone.

About halfway there, we stopped at a toll oasis, similar to what we have in the USA for a snack. I bought roasted chestnuts from a stand!! There was a little roaster and a girl roasting the chestnuts right there!!!! Please forgive all the exclamation points, I have wanted to do that ever since I can remember. There is some sort of romance to it for me, probably because I was born too late for chestnuts to be common. They were hot and delicious. There were also roasted sweet potatoes and fried chicken consumed by our companions. Sweet potatoes are a little different here and even more delicious (how can this possible?) and fried chicken seems to be served with every meal and always as a snack. This is delightful and dreamy for Ben, much in the way that the roasted chestnuts were for me. Hmm.

Anyway, we arrived to a coastline with soaring majestic rocks and we all scrambled along them, out to the edge and down into the depths, near the water. our companions snapping photos left and right. We were at ease. Everyone helped with Frank, beautifully. He was in no danger, even though the rocks were high and craggy and the sea was far below, raging helplessly against them.

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When we had climbed about the rocks for an hour or so, we went into the village to eat lunch. I was a proud mama as I watched my 4-year old happily tuck away about 4 shrimp, which are served complete in Japan. That is, with head and tails intact. He slurped out the brains and giggled about the eyes. Our Japanese host was kind and gentle with him and showed him how to swirl the shrimp around in soy sauce before eating them. Frank is now completely in love with him and we have added him to our ever-growing collection of “uncles”.

My son is rich.

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We ended our day with some beach time and an extremely bumpy boat ride, in which we did not know, understand, or even really care about what the boat guide was telling us all about as we careened along the coast line. It was enough to be in the boat, with these people who the universe sent us, the salt spray tickling our noses.

Yep. That’s what you wanted to read about.

As always, my dears, thank you for reading. Thank you for sticking with me.