Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wiersch You Were Here

Yes, I have been saving up that blog title.

Bear with me while I try and capture our first couple of days.

We left on December 25th and got to Narita airport at 3:00 pm, 11 hours later to us. We took a two hour bus ride then a 10 minute taxi ride to our house. Mike had left the heat on in the family room but the coldness of the rest of the house was still quit a shock. My first jet-lagged thoughts were that the cold would drive us out.

The house is a very traditional Japanese house with a lovely garden, larger than any of our neighbors who mostly live in more modern, more western two-story houses that take up their entire lot.

We did a whiz-bang opening of Christmas presents and then did our best to get some sleep that night and adjust to the time zone. The beds are harder than we are used to and the kids are having to get used to sharing a room. Also, Mike and my bed is smaller than a double and we are used to a king.
Next day, because my mom is here and could watch the kids, Mike and I walked/ran to the subway then went to Shibuya to buy a used car. It was chilly but as long as you are moving, it's not a problem. Here I am waiting while Mike gets Yen out of the "bank" and 7-11.

I can't begin to describe how nerve wracking driving is. It is the combo of the left hand drive, the tiny tiny streets and the completely different driving etiquette. Despite that, I managed to drive and get gas, all using left hand turns of course. I've yet to run into someone on our tiny street and have to back up to let them by and I still don't really have a sense of how wide the car is. Luckily it was scratched by the previous owners.

next day
we went
to Costco. It took an hour to drive there. Once inside, it is rather comfortingly familiar. Some of the products are exactly the same. The packaging size looks even more ridiculously large given the size of the average kitchen. Of course, instead of two gallons of milk packaged together they combine two quarts. I think we are going to have to cut down on our milk consumption.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

One Month to Go

Such a horrendous blogger I have been. I guess my best excuse is I am still in California and this blog is, supposedly about life in Japan.

We have packed up nearly all our stuff (Man, we have a lot of stuff) into our sheds. It is really fantastic exercise to go through especially since the kids and I have been living with less and less stuff. And for the most part, we haven't needed 90% of that stuff. And mind you, this is after a huge garage sale where we got rid of 1/4 of our furniture.

It has also been weird but gradually more ok to be letting go of my garden. I let our friend and now property manager plant fava seeds and so I ceremoniously turn the garden over to him. Since we leave on Christmas day, I'm not sure we'll get to eat any of our oranges either.

It is time to move on both physically and mentally.

But I can tell you now, when we come back and we open those sheds, we will wonder why we had some much stuff.

Since we arrive in winter, my garden agenda will be short and I'll mostly be focused on getting the kids settled in school and to get started on Japanese classes myself (at least two days a week). The one thing I do plan on getting started in January is worm composting. Hardest thing is going to be find the worms themselves.

I am not going to buy this expensive ( ¥27,930 plus delivery) setup:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

and now for something completely different

Today I went to a California native plant sale and despite our move to Tokyo, bought plants. These are tough "don't give any summer water" salvias, buckwheats and alum roots. Such a totally different kind of gardening and overall lifestyle much of it driven by climate.

Our garden in Kawasaki is filled with shade and moisture loving plants. Azaleas and Hydrangeas being two plants I recognized off the bat. These plants would fry in my yard.

I'm totally excited about learning about this different eco-system. The part that scares me more is how it affects living in the traditional house. I have been reading that Japanese houses are built for summer not for winter. Supposedly this is to keep the airy and cool. What worries me is the moisture combined with the heat. Airing out futons? Drying tatami mats in the sun? bedbugs? eeeeeeeekkkkkk. Ok, ok, I lived in Sweden - very cold and dark and I adjusted. I'll adjust to this too. But any tips or any confessionals from other wimpy Californians would be very appreciated.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Missing Daddy

We are, of course, all missing Daddy who is already in Tokyo. The first week was tough as my son and I both got sick, I had to outdo him of course and let it turn into strep throat.

Communicating with my husband has been entirely through Skype and during his early morning when they first open the doors at his Tokyo law firm. It's not ideal but he doesn't have Internet at the house we are renting.

The house is also proving to be less than wonderful in many ways. It is old and apparently not insulated at all. It was very very hot this past week, even late at night. We Northern Californians are weather wimps and so we melt easily and freeze easily.

Back here in the Bay Area we are having our typical, wonderful, late summer weather. We can still play outside in the backyard after I pick up the kids from school. I'm really relishing the personal space and privacy of our yard, not to mention the apples which are ripening. We are also enjoying watching the birds discover the grapes/raisins on our Roger Red grape vine.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A place to call home

I feel incredibly fortunate that we not only found a home in Tokyo, it is actually a house, with a real garden. It is in Kawasaki City, which is a large suburb southwest of Tokyo. The neighborhood is called Shibokuhoncho and in the neighborhood is a very nice park called Higatsitakane Forest Park. My water creature loving son is pretty excited that the park has a large pond and a "swamp plant garden."

I don't yet know to what extent I can garden in this already very mature Japanese-style garden. At a minimum I'll be able to do veggies and herbs in containers. And as a good permaculturist, I plan to start worm composting so we can give back to this little oasis. It will be exciting for me to learn all about the plants there and to find out about their native habitats/guilds/companion plants.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Quest Unfolds

Since learning that we are moving to Tokyo, I've had a whole new filter on how I see space, let alone how I see space in my garden.

This "space" filter was on when I took my last installment of my twelve month permaculture class. The great founders of permaculture, Bill Mollison and Dave Holgram were from Australia and had an entirely different view of space. The wikipedia entry on Bill Mollison is interesting only in that it sucks. A better intro, at least to Bill, is an interview by Scott London. In this interview, Mollison says that permaculture does apply to cities. But the advice he gives, seems extra hard in the city of all cities, Tokyo. He said "Catch the water off your roof. Grow your own food. Make your own energy. It’s insanely easy to do all that. It takes you less time to grow your food than to walk down to the supermarket to buy it." How does this work in a place like Tokyo? When you rent?

As I mentioned, I was a very different learner at my last PDC class. The instructors talked about wind breaks and wind tunnels and I'm thinking, ok, don't get an apartment too high on a building or wind will kill everything. I was trying to file everything in either my "this might apply to Tokyo" folder or my "save this for when I get back to real land." At times it was frustrating so I turned online for inspiration.

I've been exploring some online resources, mostly not hitting the mark.
There is the Urban Permaculture Guild. It's headquartered in Oakland, a town that really has its urban gardening act in gear. Yes, search Tokyo on the site and you get little and I posted to the Yahoo group and I got no replies, sniff sniff.
If you haven't watched this video of a suburban farm in Pasedena, it is very motivational if you are the burbs. Still, that's not quite how urban Tokyo is. If you Google "Tokyo Permaculture" the top response is a great blog of a Canadian who used to live in Japan but has moved back to Toronto. sniff sniff sniff.

But then, a wonderful find: Balcony Garden Dreaming which is written by an Australian woman now living in Tokyo who does permaculture. Yipee! And a sweet story of a bathroom attendant leaving flowers in the ladies room! I'm a sucker for stories like that and it totally turned my mood around, got me back into a "I can't wait to move to Tokyo" mood. Thanks Cecilia!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moving to Tokyo - What's a Green Thumb to Do?

My husband just got a great job in Tokyo! Yeah! My husband just got a great job in Tokyo! Eeeeek! Gardening, in particular organic gardening, in particular permaculture is the thing that makes me feel like me, more than anything else. Sure, being a mom and wife are the most important things to me. But my garden is where I recharge. I've always wanted more garden space, never imagined less. I've always imagined a sabbatical of some kind, but I was thinking somewhere with space, like Argentina or Australia never Tokyo.

But then the optimist, the problem solver in me kicked in. Maybe I need the challenge. I can't imagine providing any inspiration in a permaculture rock star place like Australia but Tokyo, now there is a challenge.

But it will be a while before this blog can be about gardening there. It will, for now, be more about thinking here. The planned move is certainly going to affect how I process the PDC (permaculture design course) I am currently taking through the Regenerative Design Institute. So wish me luck and will someone please help me get rid of all my stuff? eeeeeekkkkkk