Declared goal: Pack light

I will test-pack today.

I started to aim for minimalism when I first moved to Japan in 2010. We cleared out our flat, so everything except for very few precious memories had to go. I freecycled a lot in preparation for the trip. Since then moving countries and homes kept me from accumulating a lot of clutter, but I still am far away from minimalism. Especially trying to create a mini-Japan in the four walls of my home office led to cluttering and keeping stuff purely the sake of memory. I have started de-cluttering again a few weeks ago, but am far away from minimalism.

I find packing unnerving – I want to go minimalist, it is my declared ideal. But then I have the fear of missing something. And when I see what a minimalist travel bag looks like and how much stuff I intend to carry with me, I am shocked and beat myself up over it. The big ‘WHAT IF?’, the big fear of missing something, of coming off as unprepared. I love being prepared. When I was maybe ten years old, I read Michael Ende’s Momo. Momo is a girl, she is parent-less and has a coat much to big for her “…and goodness only knew if she would ever find another jacket as useful as this one, with all its many pockets.” She had everything she needed in these pockets. This made a big impression on me. 

What I found though is that carrying around a lot of stuff costs energy, AND you cannot be sure to have everything you will need.

My go-to site for everything minimalist is zenhabits. I also googled minimalist packing and found great inspiration in this blog post and video:

I would sure love to go with nothing more than a backpack. I will not be travelling, but living and working during the time. So I will add clothes for working, a set of business clothes and stuff I know I cannot get in Japan (special dental rinse), two books and, as customary in Japan, omiyage (mostly chocolate as a present to friends and people that will take care of me).

Let’s see how it goes. I will report back.

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!