Dear Tokyo, I miss you…


Day Eight: Reinvent the Letter Format


Today’s task is to write a letter, any type of letter, to anyone or anything, about any subject.  My first instinct was that I didn’t want to do it.  Once I decided to go for it, my next instinct was to do one of those letters to myself aged whatever or to my anxiety.  Something that was comfortable, a subject that I am used to writing about.  I didn’t want to go down that often walked path though, not today.  I wanted to stretch myself and write something a little more different, more positive.  So I am writing a letter to a city, to my home for 6 months, to Tokyo.

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Dear Tokyo,

It is two whole years since we said goodbye yet I can still feel you, can still smell you.  I know what it was to walk your streets, spend time in your shrines and temples, watch people live their lives.  Yes it is two whole years and I have not forgotten you.

At first living in your sprawling, busy, noisy and so very different city was hard.  It was not what I expected from our brief acquaintances before.  I hadn’t realised how strange you could be, how alone you could make me feel.  Sometimes you were so hard to understand, so alien.  I wanted to run, find something familiar, go ‘home’ to where I could understand and be understood.  It broke my heart because I was so sure that you and me would be such good friends.

And I was right.  At some point I stopped fighting and listened to what you had to say.  The loneliness I felt in your presence turned to an appreciation of solitude, of pleasure in my own company whilst spending time walking your streets.  I opened up to your ways, found pleasure in your odd and quirky nature and loved the traditional ways that underpinned everything you do.  I always felt safe with you wherever I was and whatever I was doing.  My home was small yet outside my door was never ending exploration and adventure.

I miss those days, miss that life and I miss you Tokyo.  Leaving you behind was one of the hardest things I have ever done and the feeling of being there with you has never left or eased.  You still have my heart.  I will see you again Tokyo.

till then…all my love

Sakura, springtime and reflection

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I appear to have got distracted from my planned next post!  I fully intended to write to you a little bit about my trip to Orlando…and then I kept seeing photos popping up on my social media of all the sakura (cherry blossom) in Japan right now and I felt I wanted to write on that instead.  Pinky promise that some posts on my vacation will be coming up real soon though.

I love all the seasons for different reasons.  They are part of the cycle of life for me, they remind me how things start and end, how the world keeps turning and that life goes on regardless.  Winter is a time of snuggling, crisp days and woolly hats.  Autumn is full of glorious colours and piles of leaves made for kicking.  Even hot uncomfortable summer (assuming we get one in the UK that is!) when I can’t sleep or go outside because it is too sunny has bluer than blue skies and house martins sweeping overhead  Spring though holds an extra special spot for me and every single year I am reminded how much I love it.

 

Yellow daffodils in spring

Photo by ColobusYeti

This time of year is when that part of nature that has been having a jolly nice winter snooze wakes itself up and everything springs back into life (pun intended!).  Seeing all the crocuses, tulips and daffodils makes me smile and feel all sorts of happiness inside.  There is such joy in them.  Buds appearing on the trees and bushes delight me more than the leaves that will take their place.  There is an energy that I feel at this time of year that lifts me up and makes me happy to be alive in a way that no other season really does.

Cherry blossom sparks off all these happy feels big time and I love seeing the trees erupting in that all too brief moment of fragile beauty.  It is a stunning sight wherever it happens in the world yet nowhere seems to take it quite to heart in the way the Japanese do.  Sakura (the Japanese word for cherry blossom) seems to be something all Japanese love and I have been lucky to experience cherry blossom season there several times giving me a huge appreciation of how important it is to them.  People stop to admire the blooms wherever they appear.  Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties spring up in parks, by canals and in graveyards.  Social media is full of snaps of cherry blossoms and shops or restaurants awash with sakura themed items.  It seems to take over daily life from the eagerly awaited first sightings of blossom until the final bloom has died.

The Japanese love for cherry blossom runs much deeper though than it simply being something pretty to look at and it is something that really rings true for me.  They value cherry blossom not simply for its simple beauty or for the festivities that accompany it, they also find a message in its short yet brilliant existence.  It is a reminder that life is brief and fleeting.  Life slips by so very quickly without people really noticing or accepting that one day death will come for them and cherry blossom reminds us that life is short, amazing, precious and something that we need to enjoy, take note of and be thankful for.  Life is for living and for me, spring serves as the perfect reminder for this.  So next time you see some blossom, take a moment to consider our fragile yet awesome existence.

macro shot of cherry blossom or sakura

Photo by ColobusYeti

 

Discovering a love of urban photography

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I didn’t really start wanting to take ‘proper’ photographs until I was in my thirties.  Sure I took holiday photos and snapped away at events such as birthdays or whenever one of my pets did something fun/cute.  Nothing serious though.  My interest was created when Phillip aka ColobusYeti started taking photography seriously and I saw how good the photos he was producing were.  Mine seemed so poor next to his!  So I bought myself a decent camera and got photographing.

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Over time I started getting a feel for the type of photographs I enjoyed taking – landscapes, bare trees in winter, small or quirky details that I would spot in the world around me.  Not people though…no no no…definitely not for me!  I liked taking photographs and playing around with them on Lightroom, did I love it though?  No that did not happen until our travels and I fell in love with urban photography.  And I fell hard.

I had often dabbled with urban photography, yet it wasn’t really until we lived in Tokyo for 6 months though and I walked the streets exploring the city I had fallen in love with that I really felt that this was me, this was what I wanted to photograph.  Cities, buildings, streets – all that evidence of people’s lives and impact on their surroundings is simply, well inspiring to me.  So I thought I would share some of my favourites from my travels – hope you enjoy them.

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Oh yes…and I also discovered how much I like black and white photography….

Our Big Adventure

Mazda Bongo campervan

It is nearly 3 years since we put our home on the market and started planning our ‘Big Adventure’.  Countless times before and during our travels we heard the exclamation ‘you are so brave’ and maybe we were, I don’t know.  All I know is that the fear of not doing it beat the fear of doing it.  For someone who got seriously over anxious about the smallest of social occasions or even deciding what to have for a drink at my very worst, I suppose it was an incredibly big step to take and in the end I think we both stepped so far out of our comfort zones that we never could step back again even if we wanted to.

Being in a reminiscing mood today, I thought I would tell a little more about our ‘Big Adventure’.  I have mentioned it in passing in previous posts and felt it was time to put some flesh on those bones.

Before jetting off to foreign adventures, we wanted to spend time exploring our own country.  We set off in our trusty Mr Bongo and travelled up the east side of England into Scotland, back down again via the west side and then across the bottom.  Our route was based on random things such as places we had seen on the weather map, ones from books I had read as a child or simply because we liked the name.  Our Bongo travels introduced us to life without planning and how to trust that things would work out if we didn’t plan every step.  Our adventure started and ended with life in our little Bongo home.

Next stop on our travels was a week in Singapore.  To be quite honest we took a gamble booking a stopover here as we knew virtually nothing about the country and simply wanted somewhere on the way to New Zealand that wasn’t the standard option of Dubai or Hong Kong.  It was proof that gambles are worth taking – Singapore is amazing!  If you ever get the chance to go, do!  Okay it could do with turning down the humidity level, nowhere is perfect though.  Singapore is friendly, easy to travel around on public transport, full of good food, wondrous sights and a glorious mesh of cultures.

Gardens by the Bay 'Supertrees@

Photo of Gardens by the Bay in Singapore by ColobusYeti and available at Shutterstock

After a tense and stressful flight via Hong Kong (tip folks – always make sure that your baggage allowance is the same for all flights on a multi-flight trip!), we landed in New Zealand.  My head found it really weird to comprehend that I was actually on the other side of the world!  After staying with friends in Auckland for a week (including a mini road trip up to Cape Reinga), we picked up our monster camper with 2 double beds and set off on our road trip round the two islands…and boy did we see some roads!  We travelled past beaches, through mountain passes, across water, spent the night next to a colony of fur seals, saw wild penguins and laughed ourselves silly at the birds.  New Zealand is a gloriously beautiful, friendly and laid back country.  Having not been too fussed initially, I would return in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose.

Motorhome at Cape Palliser, New Zealand

Photo of our motorhome at Cape Palliser by ColobusYeti and available at Shutterstock

Our final stop on our travels was Tokyo…for 6 months.  We had visited Japan a fair few times and wanted to experience life there.  Living somewhere is so completely different to visiting and it blindsided us for a while how much we struggled at first.  Everything ‘normal’ seemed so..well…not normal.  We did travel a little whilst there, mostly though our time was spent exploring our city and falling in love with life there in a way we never foresaw.  There were times of isolation and also of belonging.  When we returned to the UK, we left our home behind and have missed it ever since.

Buildings in Yanaka, Tokyo

The view from our apartment window in Yanaka, Tokyo

This is a simple snap shot of our travels, a topic I could write about again and again.  And I am sure that I will – let me know if you’d like to hear about any part in particular!

Anyone thinking of travelling, do it.  Stop making excuses and do it.  Before it really is too late.  It is challenging and amazing.  Our ‘Big Adventure’ shaped us and continues to influence who we are and what we do.