Friday, November 9, 2012

A Reader, A Writer, & a New Webpage


Being a fish out of water as a mother in another culture was painful, but it broke me open day after day to the value of kindness to strangers. I still can't speak of my experience as a foreign mother without the pinprick of tears to my eyes. When friends tell of their deepest dramas, of near death situations, of moments of lost hope, I ponder why I struggled so hard with being illiterate and limited in communication skills in Japan for five years. It wasn't a bad thing, but it marked my heart as much as any other trial in my life if not more so.

Day after day I had to trust that some how I would figure out what to do and how to do it. In the maze of unknowing, the universe delivered. In a foreign land where I could not speak or read, I was helped, sustained, and encouraged, even if inwardly I winced at taking a step into the great unknown as if a bandaid was ripped daily from a wound.

Suspense is not a favored state of being, perhaps accounting for my dislike of horror films as well. Every time I thought I was stepping off a cliff to my doom, I took a deep breath, braced myself for impact, and stepped forward, but I never fell. Someone always caught me-- the exact right person. It is a beautiful tribute to my friends in Japan and the culture in general that they never shied away from helping, assisting, or sustaining a gaijin abroad.

I learned to receive, but it was the cracking open, the vulnerability, and the making myself take a step day after day, that were the character forming moments for me. Yesterday, I got the note below from a blog reader responding to Other Mothers which I wrote last year. It made that struggle come back in a meaningful, beautiful way for me.

Dear Kim, 
"I wonder how my children will think back upon their childhood memories of Japan. They belong here and yet they don't. It is a complicated thing." 
I found your blog by chance (I was googling "oden" and "pressure cooker"), and since last night I have read many of your posts. I just want to say thank you for maintaining this blog. Writing this may have been an outlet and therapeutic for you especially when in Japan, but I find myself as a reader being comforted in a way too. 
I was in your daughter's shoes until Age 12. I'm in my mid-20s now and honestly, living in Japan was one of the best things that happened to me. But now I realize that my parents were the ones to pay the price for this privilege. As I grew older, I started to understand how difficult it was for my mom. Reading your post just made it all the more real. 
I feel like a gaijin everywhere as well. I miss the real Japanese taste (the non-sushi foods - because that's the stuff people actually eat), the way people talk, the stuff they make...
Your kids will always have the Japanese taste buds. When they go off to college, they'll have random Japanese food cravings that can't easily be satisfied in North America.
When I finally returned to Japan last year, first time in almost 15 years, it felt like some personal mystery had been solved. After that, I finally stopped dreaming about my Japanese hometown. Hopefully you will be able to go back to Japan periodically with your daughter so she doesn't forget or miss it too much. 
Didn't mean to write this much. Basically, I'm really enjoying your blog and can really relate to it (esp to Mule-chan). Keep it up and take care :)
-Col

I love that she found my blog through a food search. I love that food is the great equalizer in that we all love good food no matter our cultural background or our social status. I have no doubt that she is right about the food cravings being what randomly emerges years, months, weeks later. They have started already, Mule-chan craves ramen.

I am currently in a desperate search for black sesame paste in America. It seems that the world is missing out on black sesame paste as it is only widely consumed in Japan. My local Asian market is looking into what they can do for me, but it isn't promising.

After reading this I headed off to pick up the Ohio Today print magazine that published my article on Bistrot Nobu (it is currently not posted online). It was thrilling to see it finally in print as I had done the interview in the days just before leaving Tokyo in summer. I walked sedately to my car with a handful of the magazines and then happily flipped through the pages to take a look. It was satisfying to see the article in print, but having a random reader respond to my writing in such a meaningful way, hit my heart in a deeper place. I am thankful for both things nonetheless.

I used the income from writing the article to purchase a website. I missed my Japanese cooking lessons so much that I decided to start home cooking classes. I loved the hands on experience of learning to cook in Japan so I am taking the plunge here in Ohio. I also loved the camaraderie that forms.

Cooking in Athens is still a work in progress. The focus is on Japanese inspired cooking classes using local ingredients. Website building is not my forte, but I'm trying. Classes will be updated regularly with offerings. Time will tell if others in the area respond. Do take a look and see if one tempts you if you are in the Athens area.

Thanks for your note Col.

The Ohio Today Article I wrote- yay!!!