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

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

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

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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

On sharing

Noako

Naomi Okubo, Greeting card from Paradise, acrylic on cotton cloth (2016)

I hesitated for some time before making this blog public. And again before putting up my previous post. Then recently I came across this passage in Rebecca Solnit’s collection of essays, The Faraway Nearby, which gave me comfort and courage. Continue reading On sharing

Departures

Since moving to Japan four years ago I’ve had to say goodbye many times, to friends, family, colleagues and students. Each time, I tried to hold back  the full extent of my feelings until just after parting. For me, showing too much emotion has always felt like a loss of control. Yet in hindsight I regret the times I held back more than the times I let go. Continue reading Departures

Life is short / Mid-life goals: part 1

In yesterday’s post I mentioned this article by Maria Popova. I’m glad I read it again. I needed to be reminded that I’m doing the right thing as I get ready to leave my job and move to a new city in a few weeks’ time. For months I’d been worrying about finding work. Then one day I decided to just stop stressing. And within the same week, found myself turning down three separate job opportunities. Continue reading Life is short / Mid-life goals: part 1