Friday, December 6, 2013

Awakening My Memories of Life in Japan

Today is Friday, December 6, 2013.

The other day I saw this little Japanese paper doll and recalled other little paper dolls that I have owned in the past.  They can be made with special patterned origami paper.  When I lived in Japan, I used to love to walk through the specialty stores where paper and fabrics were sold, just to appreciate all the beautiful patterns.  The image of the doll reminded me that I needed to finish preparations for a PowerPoint presentation I have agreed to give at the holiday gathering of the local MENSA group.

When I met some members of the local group last summer, they told me about last year's presentation, which had something to do with Chinese characters, and since I told them I'd spent ten years in Japan, they asked me if I could tell them something about Japanese.  I decided to talk about the hiragana syllabary writing and create a game for them to play.  I was hoping to find some five-yen coins to give as prizes, because the words go-en (five yen) sounds like the word goen, which means "good fortune."  Lots of Japanese carry around a little five-yen coin with a thread tied around it.  It's often attached to a keychain or, these days, even a necklace, and carried or worn for good luck.

Rooting around in my closet for the remnants of my life in Japan, I discovered that I didn't have enough go-en coins for prizes, but I had a whole pack of little cards, each one with a different ukiyoe woodblock print by Kitagawa Utamaro.  I also found some patterned origami paper.  I decided to fashion the paper into little envelopes and put one card into each envelope. 

As I fashioned the envelopes, I snapped some photos of my work and posted them on Facebook, which produced immediate responses from a couple of friends who have also been to Japan.   What followed was a very interesting discussion of some of our experiences in Japan, and a whole bunch of memories began to unfold.

I have a whole decade's worth of memories that I haven't written much about.  The other day I was writing about taking a front seat in life and fully accepting and enjoying one's experience.  It occurred to me that I was doing just that while I was in Japan.  That was a period in my life when I really did grab the tiger by the tail and give it a whirl.  Much of the rest of my life pales in comparison with my memories of life in Japan.

Every year, as we move through the month of December, I am aware that, in Japan, people are starting to prepare for year-end and new year celebrations.  The days just before and after New Year's Day in Japan are the most celebrated of all the days of the year, and I have many fond memories of my activities during this time of year.   

In the days ahead I will be writing about some of those memories.  :-) 

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