She likes lounging on her deck, especially in warm weather. Most of all she looks forward to her two daily walks. Here are some of the sights along the way. Which way should we go?
We go to the right. One hundred meters down the street, past three homes and a small construction company office, we come to the local shrine, Tsubaki (camelia), set amoungst about an acre of cedars and oaks.
A bit further along the residential street is the local Buddhist temple of the Shingon sect. There is a swing, a slide, and a teeter-totter in the yard for children to play on. Perhaps the ghosts come out at night to play as well. Unlike temples in Hawaii and other parts of the Americas, which have services every Sunday, schools, Boy Scout Troops, etc. Temples in Japan, for the most part, are only active during Buddhist holidays and funerals.
Then comes a small family run grocery store/gas station, Kurakawa's. The grandmother Kurakawa and her daughter-in-law take turns operating the store while her son delivers the kerosene for our tankless water heaters and LP gas for our stove. I buy things there whenever I can, as I want to support family businesses which are disappearing all too fast in developed countries, and maintain a good relationship with my neighbors. So what if it is a little more? It saves a trip to town and is only a couple of minutes from the house by bicycle.
Some of the dry goods at Kurakawa's have been on the shelf so long that they are covered in a thick layer of dust which , when I make a purchase, the the elderly Mrs. Kurakawa wipes off with a cloth while offering her apologies. We laugh about it and then she rounds down the total a few percent to give me a discount. I once tried to purchase envelopes there. They had preprinted boxes for a five digit postal code. Japan has used seven digits since early in 1998, so they were at least seven years old. Although I was willing to pay, I was given them at no charge. Don't worry, though, the produce is fresh.
Across from Kurakawa's is an old white warehouse for storing rice. It is crumbling a bit at the corners, revealing the structure of the walls, which are made of wood, sticks, straw and coated with earth. This type of building can be seen in older parts of towns all over Japan. Next to it is an old storefront, which used to have kimonos on display in days gone by. It has a new roof, as the back of the building is still someone's home. You can also see the local red post box in this photo.
Off on a short side street is the community center. It is where every couple of weeks the neighborhood recycleables are collected. Meetings and activities for retirees are held here too. It is also where a veteranarian day was held earlier this year and we brought Momo down for a rabies vacination and to register her as our dog. On adjacent land is a croquet court - a game popular with retirees in Japan.
As we make our way through the streets, there are lots of vegetable gardens. Taro, sweetpotatoes, daikon radishes, beans, corn, lettuce, pumpkin, brocolli, you name it, it is here in season. Lots of flowers too including some surprises for me, such as gingers and hibiscus which are abundant in Hawaii and Fiji. Several people have a trellis of wisteria, which are a beautiful sight in spring. Fruit trees too, even kiwi. Every season is brightened by something in bloom.
There are a lot of retirees in the area. It is not uncommon to have three or four generations living under one roof. So an everyday sight is an older person keeping active by walking or working in the garden. Sometimes just seated in a garden enjoying some sunshine and air, or talking to friends and neighbors. Momo always brings a smile to their faces as we pass and she is greeted with ohayogozaimasu (good morning), kawaii ne (she's cute!), or sanpo desu ka? (you are going for your walk?).
On one of the routes we take, we always stop by to say hello to Goma. Goma is the Japanese word for sesame seed and is also the name of one of Momo's friends. Goma is an old dog with thick black fur that is grey in some places and missing in others. He is a bit overweight, so on a diet and exercise routine. I don't know his age. His left eye is clouded by cataract and he doesn't have many teeth left. But Goma and Momo get along even though Momo is hyperactive and Goma moves in slow motion. They visit each other on their walks. Goma's owner often brings treats and always takes time to pet and talk to Momo.
Momo likes to tug on the leash. Not sure why. If I let go of it, she doesn't go anywhere, just waits until I pick it up and goes back to tugging. On a long walk she'll slow down as she tires, but otherwise it's "full speed ahead" until she finds something to sniff.
After 20 to 30 minutes, we arrive back home. Momo likes for me to turn her loose at the edge of the property so she can sprint the last few meters to her waterbowl. Sometimes she races around the house a couple of times running as fast as she can. Then she settles down to watch the world go by or take a nap. We hope you enjoyed the walk around the neighborhood and a glimpse at where we live. Momo and I sure did.