After a freshening and restorative trip home to Boston, my village of origin, New York, home of 2 of our 4 children and their children. our grandchildren, and Hawaii, home of a third, I felt I had come home. Returned to my beginnings seeing family and college roommates at a shocking to even think of 50th reunion, old Tokyo friends, family cousins and their spawn. I felt I belonged again despite the long hiatus away from my beginnings.
The journey confirmed some part of me that is not always sure it belongs in my transplanted world, Japan. The trip reassured me and maybe answered some unvoiced questions as to why I am the way I am. Of who I am. Why I am. That stubborn core that I somehow can’t shake.
Welcome home front door created by Ruby Momo Kaminsky, 10, glorious, resourceful granddaughter made us feel we were where we belonged and were loved.
The month in the United States was reaffirming and centering and made me feel I belonged. My family was there and I still felt at home there with a bit of a foreign (exotic) twist. I loved the of-courseness of it. Things happened pretty much as I expected they would. One of the strange joys of Japan is that every day is still a surprise. There is always something unexpected because I don’t have that inherent foundation/ understanding of how things will/should be.
But then wait! After returning home to Tokyo, I exclaimed Tadaima! I’m home! a Japanese expression meaning I’m back to where I am from. And I meant it. Returning to Tokyo after all these years of leaving and returning, I still have a real sense of coming home. The same feeling of returning home as when I return to Boston or New York. I feel a sense of belonging, a spirit-filling reassurance that I feel when I come back together with myself. A sense of belonging in this fractured and multi directional world is a precious feeling of togetherness, of wholeness. It is rare and I treasure it.
Coming home to Tokyo is coming home to the wellspring that fills up my mind with energy and inspiration and power sources. My well is replenished and my booster cables attached to their power base. I am reconnected. Ideas start to flow.
Here are some of the places and images that give me power, that reach out to me and warm my soul. They make me glad that Tokyo and Japan are home to me, earthquakes notwithstanding.
Two sacred places on our small road. Basho Inari Jinja, a shrine to the beloved 18th century wandering haiku poet, Matsuo Basho.
And below, ODeki Jinja, a shrine dedicated to improving complexions – think of it! Does it do wrinkles?
The new Sky Tree, impressive in size, but disappointing in design and lighting.
Garbage men, highly motivated, run to get their job done. Immaculate, thorough, helpful.
The graceful confluence of the Sumida and Onagi Rivers with Kiyosumi Bridge in the background – blue of course!
Dogs are the reason to walk along the river. Here Komachi, Kyoko and big tongue Basho stop for a breather.
People make the difference.
Mr. & Mrs. Sugimoto, fellow walkers along the river way. He sometimes walks to City Hall in Shinjuku when he has a complaint to register. Once they walked round trip to Blue & White, probably 25 kilometers/ or 15 miles! He just had to see what it was. He’s a painter now exhibiting in Ginza. His determination is inspiring. She makes it possible.
The neighborhood teems with sumo stables. Here is a moderately slim wrestler who wouldn’t let me photograph his sandy backside after he had taken tumbles during early morning practice.
Mr. and Mrs. Yoshimoto, he 85, she 76, styley fellow travellers on the OEdo subway line I take from Kiyosumi Shirakawa to Azabu Juban home of Blue & White.
Naniwaya Sweet Shop and café, the most famous landmark in Azabu Juban. People come from throughout the land to taste their Tai Yaki, fish shaped waffles filled with hand brewed and mashed sweet red beans.
Azabu Juban Patio, scene of 1st Saturday of the month flea markets, Azabu Juban Matsuri in August, and pottery and vegetable markets throughout the year.
Colorful fruits and veggies at Bikkuriya vegetable shop around the corner from Blue & White.
Blue & White where good things come together and connect Azabu Juban with all who come from Yokohama or from Singapore, from London or Boston to catch the vibes.
Featuring the best of Japan for 36 years, with one of a kind displays of windows and grasses and flowers plucked from the side of the road and arranged by Sayoko Hayasawa, the charismatic manager who is a force in herself and always has time to welcome all visitors and hear their stories, laugh a bit, share a hug and sometimes a tear.
Tenugui, hand-dyed towels featuring dogs and cats and other things of daily life.
Whichever, wherever is home, one smiling lady is there to make me (and you) feel welcome. Her headquarters is at Blue & White where she appears in uncountable forms. Otafuku’s bright faces tells us we belong right where we are.
This once in a lifetime, original Otafuku sponge cake was the from scratch creation of dazzling granddaughter Ruby Momo Kaminsky, the artist of the doorway welcome on the first page. Like Otafuku, Ruby welcomes all who come to play with her. She knows what life is about and where home is.