Tag Archives: Japan

Glittery Blue


GlitteryBlueMy toenails sport a glittery blue paint job today. Thanks to bidding on a door prize at Project Row Houses in Houston, I won a gift card from an upscale salon in Houston called The Upper Hand. Just a pedicure today because it lasts so much longer than a manicure. With this card I may be able to pay for 2 more. Sweet!

The building is old. I suspect it has been used for a variety of businesses. Its brick walls (interior and exterior) have original archways through which I can watch the ladies and gentlemen get their hair or nails done. The ceiling is now of varnished wood in an overarching shape. Art from a local high school adorns the walls. It’s comfortably old; nicely remodeled.

I wonder how the stylists walk in those shoes: lovely spiked heels, I mean, with interesting straps and designs. The latest in fashion goes by as on a runway before me. It is a world I seldom enter. Meanwhile, Fibi treats me to a foot bath and conversation. She is married to a U.S. citizen and gets to go back to Iran every 2-3 years to visit her family of origin. Whether in Iran or the U.S. she is treated somewhat as an outsider who doesn’t really belong. Only within her immediate family does she feel at home.

She brightened upon hearing that my son lives in Japan (over 10 years now) and married a woman from Taiwan. She was curious about why he went there. As it happens, her cousin went to China four years ago and has loved it.

If you haven’t lived abroad perhaps you can remember moving to a new neighborhood where you need to find a grocery store, a bank, a school, and a doctor you like. I got lost coming to work for the first week I lived here! I do still get lost outside my usual circuit. Everything was new in my neighborhood but at least I knew the language! I never feel at home in a new place until I take a trip somewhere. Coming back, it starts to feel more like home.

Curious, isn’t it, why people go to different parts of the world? An adventure, a romance, or a job may pull you away. A graduation, a deadline, or an accident may push you along. It’s different for each of us but it requires a similar leave-taking, transition. re-entry, and resettlement.

The move doesn’t even need to be physical! You can stay in one place your whole life and still you can make big changes. What changes will you make this year?

some Christmas pix


Back in Japan, we celebrated Christmas on Dec. 30. The most fun gift unwrapping was in layers of boxes and tape. Each box was labeled for another person, until it got all the way around the group and back to Lin–the Hallmark 2012 Bear she had wanted for so long!

When we went to a nearby field to try out Rob’s new helicopter camera, a very nice Japanese guy was practicing with his stunt kite (4 lines to control). He let each of us give it a try and coached us in the art he has perfected over 20 years!


Two days in Nagano


What a fun weekend! Thursday the 4th of January, Lin and Rob took Fred and me on an adventure. Without telling us the destination, they told us to bring warm clothes for two days and we piled into a rental car for a five-hour drive from Kawasaki.

Destination Nagano! Rest stops along the expressway are quite extensive, with large parking lots, restrooms, shops, and vendors. Paper cones of roasted and sweetened almonds, cashews, or peanuts enticed us to buy one of each to share. Yum!

Thanks to GPS we found our way to Yamanouchi-machi. We checked into our large room  and found tea waiting for us. The square table has four adjustable stadium-type seats on the floor. Under the table top are blankets and a quilt to hold in heat generated by heat lamps that are protected by a mesh cage. We can choose low, med, or high heat and our legs are toasty warm! We have enjoyed tea and good conversation here several times a day.

The first afternoon we agreed not to use any electronics until after dinner! Today as I write this, Lin and I are both on iPads and the guys are playing Minecraft on their phones

Dinner at 6 and breakfast at 8 were served Japanese style with so many delicious dishes. I’m not sure when I”ve tried so many new and unfamiliar foods. Using chopsticks was sometimes a challenge for me with the odd shapes and sizes.

After dinner was the first of several trips to one of the onsen (hot springs) at the inn. They are mostly segregated by gender, but after 11 if no one else is there, a group or couple can lock the door for a private spa. Lin and I loved the outdoor onsen under a light snow. So beautiful! The guys had different hours for that experience

Tomorrow, another surprise planned by Rob and Lin!

Narita Express

view from my seat

view from my seat

My son Fred and I flew from Austin, TX, to Tokyo and arrived on Dec. 29. Following son Rob’s instructions, Fred bought 2 tickets on the Narita Express. However, when I went through the gate, a station agent stopped me. We had the express tickets that gave us a seat assignment, but not the basic tickets to the destination of Shinagawa . She helped Fred get the tickets we needed to exit at Shinagawa.

gratuitous picture of ourselves

gratuitous picture of ourselves

We got on the train well before the 6:19 departure but it started out at almost 15 minutes early. Wait a minute! They don’t start early here! At the next stop Fred asked a worker who confirmed we were not on the N’Ex so we jumped off immediately. Fortunately we were still at an airport train stop and we walked easily across to the right train. Found our assigned seats and started right on time … and in the opposite direction. Whew!

It’s a nice train with comfortable seats and room to stow luggage. Luggage shelves also feature combination locks attached to cords for security. I fooled around with one for a minute but couldn’t figure it out and just left my bags unsecured–it’s Japan, after all! Fred did lock his.

We paid attention to the map showing our current location, with just a few stops over an hour’s ride to Shinagawa. A snack/beverage vendor came through the aisles a couple of times. At Tokyo Station, some of the cars separated to continue on a different route. As the announcer suggested, I retrieved my luggage shortly before arrival so as not to create a traffic jam at the door.

Uh oh! Fred had been distracted when he entered his security code and forgot what it was! He quickly told me to go ahead and get off to go meet Rob. The train announcement had said if you forget the code, stay on board to the end of the line and have the agent unlock it (presumably if you can prove ownership).

So I got off the train and gradually figured out which direction to go. Rob came running down the stairs toward me and I said, “Fred’s still on the train! He can’t unlock his luggage!” Rob jumped on the train and off they went!

I made my way to a fountain where we were to meet. I took a few photos in the immediate area:

Eventually Rob’s wife Lin found me and we picked up her car (via car sharing–rented until 9:30 pm). The garage stows cars on movable racks. Once Lin paid the attendant and he retrieved the car, she backed it up onto a round platform that he rotated around toward the exit. Great use of small spaces.

Off we went to the apartment to drop off my luggage then go to the Yokohama Station where Rob and Fred and his luggage were going. Funny thing about that luggage–I had the baggage tags with me. It’s a good thing the agent finally accepted  his claim of ownership!

Even with the extra driving, the car was safely returned before 9:30. After some delicious carrot soup, we went to bed, tired but grateful to be together.

me ‘n’ my boys


About 10 hours from now I hope to be flying from Austin to Chicago and on to Tokyo! I do hope the Chicago weather does not force delays but it’s a lot better than yesterday.

Younger son Fred Nugen and I pooled all our frequent flyer miles to make this trip possible. We’re going to visit son Rob Nugen and his lovely and lively wife Rinko Hayashi, aka Lin. Though she and Rob came to the States last Christmas for a Texas-style wedding, this is the first time to meet her extended family. I have a list of names and relationships to review on the plane. After all, 2.5 hours to Chicago, a 3.5 hour transition, and about 13 hours from there to Tokyo. They are 15 hours ahead of us in time.

Fred has very sophisticated tastes! He insisted that at least one leg of our journey would be on Singapore Airlines, business class. He’ll probably take too much luggage, too, and just says that’s the way he rolls. I am taking an extra rolling bag mostly full of gifts instead of my usual one bag and a backpack.

Jon and his daughter Alicia and I had a “farewell” lunch at Magnolia. We had bought a coupon at the Holiday Swing auction and it was about to expire.

The first time I visited Rob in Japan was in the fall of 2003, the first year he moved over there to teach English. I arranged a series of excursions through a travel agent to enjoy a number of tourist sites. Kyoto, Hakone, Hiroshima, and Ft. Fuji are among the highlights. Rob went with us on some weekend excursions; otherwise he was working.

Now I’m not exactly a tourist since I have some sense of the country and the people–tour guides, schoolchildren, monks, other tourists, crowds in the fashionable Shinagawa, Geisha girls, businessmen, shopkeepers. It will be different this time to meet Lin’s mother, two sisters and their families, some uncles and aunts. Her youngest niece Yuu is 6 months old.

So, not a tourist, but a guest. Rob and Lin share a small apartment with her mother, so they have rented an apartment for us about a 5-minute walk away. Perhaps the next time I visit I will feel less like a guest and more like family.

Those of you whose children have married have probably gone through a bit of anxiety about the new in-laws. The cultural differences will also be a factor–family members hail from Taiwan, Brazil, Japan, and the U.S.

Rob sent detailed instructions on which trains to take from Narita Airport to Shinagawa. We’ll probably take the Keisei Line to Nippori station, and then the Yamanote Line to Shinagawa station. He gave information about currency exchange, a number to reach him and say which train we’re on, and a meeting place at the station. I think he’s done this before!

So, I needn’t worry about a thing. My bags are packed; clothes are laid out and ready to put on; and a sense of adventure is growing. Curious about what lies ahead and the stories and pictures I’ll bring back. What an extraordinary opportunity!

Fred, Kathleen, Alicia

Fred, Kathleen, Alicia

buying cat food; see boot for broken foot

buying cat food; see boot for broken foot

Alicia and Jon

Alicia and Jon

pre-travel lunch with Alicia and Fred

pre-travel lunch with Alicia and Fred

Kairos / Chronos


The close of my ministry with Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church is coming quickly. It boils down to a pastoral visit, a parable for the children, a sermon for the grownups, a farewell to and from all, and a walk through the building and through the labyrinth before turning in my keys.

I am a fortunate woman to have served this congregation for nearly nine years. That is a substantial chunk of time since my ordination nineteen years ago.

Chronos refers to time in ordinary terms, as in past, present, and future. It is measurable in nanoseconds and in geological eras. Events happen and recede into the past. We plan for the future and it’s here so quickly I often say, “The dates in your calendar are closer than they appear.”

In Greek mythology, Chronos is the personification of Time. Kairos has a different Greek meaning for time: the opportune moment. Typically something special happens at just that “right” moment in time.

In chronos terms, April 30 is my last day at Live Oak. I can look back over my time there and the history before then, and I can estimate with increasing certitude how the next few days will play out.

In terms of kairos, this is an opportune moment for nearly anything to transpire. Whenever there is a change in leadership the entire system shifts. Transitions begin with an ending, then go through a neutral zone of flux and possibility, and end with a beginning: something new and not entirely predictable. T.S. Eliot said it this way in The Four Quartets:

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

I don’t think he meant that in absolute terms. “Where we start from” changes and if we land there again we land with different experiences, wisdom, and insight (or a new chance to learn the same lessons again).

My immediate plans are to travel. My husband Jon and I will take a road trip to see friends in North Carolina. We have both been working so hard that a break will be most welcome. Yesterday was our 15th (!) anniversary. Time on the road will give us a chance truly to catch up while leaving ordinary responsibilities behind. A second honeymoon! We’ll be back in time for me to preach in San Antonio–perhaps an antidote to the temptation to “run away from home.”

June will find me on a journey to Tokyo to visit my son Rob, his wife Lin, and Lin’s extended family. The only other time I visited Rob in Tokyo was in 2003, I believe, the first year he moved there. Who knew he would stay so long, teaching English, working as a messenger, and now computer programming? Who knew he would meet his Taiwanese wife because she wanted someone to climb Mt. Fuji with her? He has been back to the States a few times; I’m excited about my return trip.

Returning June 14 I’ll have just barely enough time to reset my biological clock, do some laundry, and repack to fly to Phoenix on the 17th. This trip will be for the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. We’re calling this one a “Justice General Assembly” to draw attention to our witness on comprehensive immigration reform. Where better than Arizona to raise our voices?

Those are chronos events, to be sure. The kairos comes in the possibility–no, the certainty–that my life will spin into a direction unknown. It won’t be Kansas any more, Toto! My ministry will form and reform as the months and moments occur. I am open to new possibilities.

I have such high hopes for Live Oak as well. Spinning a congregation in a new direction will also be inevitable, but it will likely be a little longer in duration. Have any of you noticed the speed of church? This transition will be rapid in congregational terms but terribly slow for the “early adopters.” I am so excited for their future. Since change is inevitable, let’s all make the best of it!

Be blessed, companions, as I have been blessed.