Body matters

Ghada Amer Green Paradise for bodies

Ghada Amer, Untitled,  acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas (2008)

Every week I read a novel by a Japanese writer with my friend – in her case the original and in mine a translation. Recently we read The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto. The main character, Chihiro, is an artist who paints murals for a living.  She spends most of her time outdoors, engaging her whole body as she works. ‘I guess I’m one of those people who always thinks with her body,’ she says. Continue reading Body matters

How to be happier

Hilma af Klint

Hilma af Klint, Evolution, Group VI, no. 12  (1908)

Most of us think we want to be happy, or at least free from suffering. But do we really? As Eckhart Tolle writes in The Power of Now, there is a ‘peculiar pleasure’ derived from being unhappy. Negative emotion can feel good. For example, anger produces a surge of energy that gives us the courage to take action. And then there is the quiet, pleasurable sadness we feel at the end of a sad movie or when parting from someone – the sense of things passing, known in Japanese as mono no aware (the poignancy of impermanence). Continue reading How to be happier

Paying attention and losing my shoes

When it rains it pours. This was my thought walking home through the dark, wet streets one night recently after a dentist appointment where I’d been told I needed treatments that would cost me close to a month’s earnings. Why now, just as I was planning to move? How was I going to afford everything? I felt despondent, defeated by this latest curveball. Continue reading Paying attention and losing my shoes

Memories, moments and the middle way

Félix Vallotton, Le Ballon, oil on wood (1899)

I recently read a short story in which a woman tells her lover a terrible secret. “My mother died in a lake when I was a child,” she says. “And what did you do?” the lover asks. “I watched,” she says. “I stood there watching as my mother’s hair slipped gently under the surface of the water. I didn’t run to get help.” Continue reading Memories, moments and the middle way

Blogging lessons: 15 things I’ve learned so far

my desk

This weekend one of my posts was featured on WordPress Discover. I submitted a piece on the kind recommendation of a fellow blogger, and was excited when I got the news that it had been selected.

Since it went up, I’ve been touched by the people who’ve reached out and happy to find some inspiring new writers to follow. I’m also very grateful to the WordPress editors for the opportunity.

All in all, it has been a positive experience. However I can’t deny some feelings of  disappointment. Hence this post. Continue reading Blogging lessons: 15 things I’ve learned so far

Cinderella in the city

Mr., detail from Tokyo, the City I Know at Dusk: It’s Like a Hollow in My Heart, installation (2016), exhibited at the Yokohama Triennale 2017: Islands, Constellations & Galapagos

I live in a house with twelve Cinderellas. Its name, translated, means pumpkin carriage, reflecting the Japanese love of all things cute and Disney. These houses dotted around the city are advertised as places of comfort and safety for women. In some ways, I do feel like Cindarella. I live in a tiny room. I sometimes have to clean up after my sisters. A pair of shoes plays a significant role in my life (more on this later). And though I’m not waiting for a prince on a white horse, I’m open to magic and transformation. Continue reading Cinderella in the city

Someday this pain will be useful to you

 Tetsugoro Yorozu, Self-portrait with a cloud, oil on canvas (1922) (currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art, Hayama)

The past month has been a rollercoaster of emotions, from the high of starting a new life in the city I’ve wanted to live in for so long, to moments of loneliness and scary anxiety.

I’ve always been a worrier, and a lot of things make me nervous. Change most of all. There is a side of me that really likes things to stay the same. I don’t want summer to become autumn. I don’t want to leave things – homes, jobs, people, regardless of whether or not I actually like them. I even find it hard to leave a place I’m visiting for a day. I resist and fight and push against change. But not changing is even worse. Continue reading Someday this pain will be useful to you

How I changed my habits and changed my life

Daily rituals, routines, habits. Lately this seems to be a popular point of discussion. Up until about a year ago, though, I hadn’t given much thought to my habits, other than when I was trying to break a bad one. But since I’ve started to form new habits, my life has changed significantly, for the better. Continue reading How I changed my habits and changed my life

Citizen of limbo: on solitude, belonging and freedom

zoe 2

Zoe Leonard, Chapter 17 from Analogue, chromogenic colour prints (1998–2009)

In Yiyun Li’s story ‘On the Street Where You Live’, a six-year-old boy with autistic tendencies is asked to name the one thing that scares him most. Unlike the other children in his class, who mention things like snakes or monsters under the bed, his answer is monophobia – the fear of being alone. And yet he’s chosen not to speak to most people, and struggles to connect with those closest to him. Continue reading Citizen of limbo: on solitude, belonging and freedom

Love, Tokyo

kumi dream

Kumi Obata, Refreshing dream, etching (2007)

Early on a summer morning, the park is a magical place. On the way there, I pass other early risers along the river pathway. Dog walkers, joggers, a man facing the water with his stand and sheet music set up, strumming a guitar and playing the harmonica as one foot taps out the rhythm. In the field across from him some boys kick around a soccer ball while a group of elderly people practice tai chi beneath the trees.

I walk under the railway bridge and enter the park, where the river opens out into a large pond. On my iPod, Maria Callas is singing an aria by Saint-Saëns. It begins to rain, and I feel my heart soar with the beauty of her voice and the trees and water, and gratitude that I am here. Continue reading Love, Tokyo