No expectations

Great Mormon butterfly (Papilio memnon – Nagazaki Ageha, ナガザキアゲハ) in Chion-in temple

I bought my flight ticket and am leaving in two weeks. Now it has become a real thing. I have been dreaming and thinking about this endeavor for about a year now and the time has finally come. Of course, my mind is full of expectations, I ask myself how things will be like, where I will live, whom I will meet, what work will be like. BUT, I also try not to let them go to my head. Too high of expectations of how things will be had left me disappointed when I arrived at my first apprenticeship, although it turned out to be the best place to work and live. So I try to avoid that trap this time.

Although it is hard to do so – after all I have been dreaming of living in Kyoto and writing a book for a long time. It is really a dream come true. I already dream about coming back to Kyoto every few years to write my second and third book. I have a very romantic idea of my life there. It really is hard not to have expectations too high. But I know that I will probably life in a very small, maybe old apartment, I will not have super-much money to indulge in all of Kyoto’s refined kaiseki cuisine. The up side is that the times I will enjoy such a multi-course meal, I will truly value it, especially if I eat Miso soup the rest of the time.

Working on Saturdays is not uncommon in Japan, so I might not even have enough time to visit temples and other gardens, let alone places outside of Kyoto on the weekends. But that will be OK, since I work in the gardens, I will spent the most of my waking time in them.

I will treat these three months as a retreat – exchanging my SF life for a different one. Working, cooking, writing. Sleeping. Meeting friends once in a while. And going to the Sento (銭湯), the public bath house.

It will be another lesson of letting go. Letting go of possession. Letting go of expectations, letting go of worries, letting go of planning ahead. The Japanese system, in which you trust your superiors and in exchange be loyal to them, should help me with that. Letting go of control. Whatever control we image we have. Control is just an illusion anyway.

Getting ready for Kyoto

The time has come – only a few more weeks until my Japanese adventure begins!

I will probably fly to Kyoto on March 31st. I have found a flight on the awesome natural language flight search engine I would like to recommend this site to everyone who thinks on the right side of the brain. My flight will take me to Seoul, which is a first for me, then to KIX, the Kansai International Airport.

Seoul from the plane window

I chose the date so that I have a few days to wrap up the first PechaKucha Night in SF. And I will contact PechaKucha Kyoto chapter to try to get a slot in their April PechaKucha Night.

Anticipation is building up. I will soon have to make lists on what to take with me. It certainly helps to have lived in Japan before. My first item on the list would be a simple small kitchen knife – most of the Japanese knives are huge – which is great for chopping, but less than ideal for peeling. I will probably buy a cheap blender over there, too (or borrow one from the Kansai freecycle community), just so I can continue to make green smoothies every day. Buying fruit will be expensive, but vegetables are cheap, especially leafy green vegetables like mitsuba, spinach and root vegetables of all kinds like daikon, gobo. If I learn to prepare them so they taste nice (which I failed to do the last time), I will be ok. I might have to scan some recipes from Jane Lawson’s wonderful book Zenbu Zen.

I am looking forward to meet a handful of wonderful people in Kyoto – namely YM-san, the owner of a modern garden design and build company in Kyoto; YK-san, chef and owner of a soy milk ramen shop called Mamezen (豆禅) with a new Yudofu restaurant called Touka (豆花). He makes soy milk ramen taste like heaven.

In front of Yonekawa-san’s ramen shop Mamezen in Kyoto

I have to make an appointment with his friend YaMo-san. He was so nice to take off half a day to visit Japanese gardens with me. We tried to visit Kastura Rikyu on short notice, but even if they have a extra waiting list for foreign tourists, we couldn’t make it. YaMo-san loves the Katsura Imperial Gardens more than anyone in the world.

I also look forward to meet E-san. He has set up office in a co-working space in an old Machiya town house. His latest website shows people how to create sweets, desserts, cakes – with videos and step by step pictures. I want to make a German apple pie with him – my favorite!

E-san invited me to a Mirin tasting last May. Mirin is a sweet sake, usually used for cooking. But there are a handful of connoisseurs who value aged Mirin for drinking. Depending on its age, it has a golden to dark wooden color, much like whiskey. It is mellifluous like honey or syrup.

The Mirin Selection

The food accompanying the mirin.

Mirin tasters!

It could just be my breakfast coffee kicking in, but I just got very excited about going to Kyoto. I can almost smell the sweet air, heavy with the fragrance of the Fuyu-Mikan (冬ミカン, winter mandarin, Citrus unshiu) blossoms. 楽しみ!Yeah yeah!