Thinking of Home, and an Anniversary

Mt. Fuji at sunrise (December 2009)

I’ve thinking a lot lately about the idea of home and how it relates to belonging, to feeling rooted in a place.  It’s been a year since I left New York for Japan.  In that time, I’ve journeyed across this island as well as to more distant lands throughout Asia. Yet the more I travel, the more I long for a stable center, a place where I can return to, a community to contribute to and become a part of. Although the footloose feeling imparted by constant movement is exhilarating, it can also be equally exhausting.  Still, I know that 2011 will bring me to yet unseen corners of Japan (and beyond), and I couldn’t be more excited.

Living here has taught me a thing or two about survival – not in the physical sense, but rather the ability to accept and even welcome a certain degree of emotional vulnerability into everyday life. Last winter, I was a newcomer in a foreign land, unemployed, and very, very cold all the time.  By the time March rolled around, I wasn’t sure why I was in Japan at all.  This winter, I have a job (not to mention wonderful colleagues), a cozy (read: 15 m2) apartment, and most importantly, a small sense of belonging.  I’m still cold much of the time, but there are many other things to be thankful for.

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Peanut Butter: A Lament

Lest you think everything is peachy-keen here on the food front here, let me clarify one thing: some foods that I consider staples are frustratingly hard to find, not to mention painfully expensive once you do find them.  Foremost among these items is cheese, which remains a sore subject for me.  However, what I’d like to talk about today is peanut butter, something I’m sure many American ex-pats miss as much as I do

When I first arrived in Japan and was feeling particularly homesick, I ventured to the grocery store in search of some familiar, trusty PB.  What I ended up buying was “peanut cream” (ピーナッツクリーム), a pale, gooey, heavily sweetened and cornstarch-thickened affair vaguely reminiscent of wood glue in both color and texture.  This was a mistake I would not repeat.

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