Day Trip · Japan · Kyoto · Nature · New Year's Resolutions · Overseas · Photography · Travelling

Kyoto, Japan.

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We saved the place I had been looking forward to visiting most in Japan until our last week before leaving to travel to Germany. Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, felt very different from Osaka. It was extremely cold, despite the blue skies and sunny weather, so the boulevards decorated with Christmas lights and wreaths felt very appropriate. We visited Gion, the traditional geisha area of the city, which is still full of old wooden houses, and explored temples and shrines lined with shops selling goods with ornate and intricate Japanese designs. I bought a traditional wooden Japanese comb, and a decorative hair tie, as my hair is now long enough to tie back again.

By next weekend, we will be flying into Germany to begin the next chapter of our lives in Berlin. We will not have internet access until early January, so Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from twosuitcaseseach, and, until next time, have a peaceful end to the year, and let’s see what 2018 brings.

Animals · Day Trip · Japan · Nara · Nature · Overseas · Photography · Travelling

Nara, Japan.

Earlier this week, we took the train to Nara to visit the famous bowing deer at Nara Park. We visited the shrines and explored the forest along a quiet and peaceful hiking trail. This was probably the most ‘touristy’ thing we have done since arriving in Japan. You can buy deer cookies to feed the deer, and we were there in time to see the autumn colours in Nara as well.

Animals · Day Trip · Japan · Nature · Osaka · Overseas · Photography · Shinto · Travelling

Minoo Park, Osaka.

Yesterday morning, Dillon and I took the train north from Umeda out into the rural, mountainous suburbs of Osaka. We hiked from Minoo Station along a trail past woodwork shops to a temple and then up to a viewing platform at the top of the forest. It was a crisp autumn day, the leaves were beginning to change colour, and the sound of running water and the fall of leaves could be heard everywhere. My favourite place in Japan so far!

We will go back to Minoo Park in late November to see the autumn colours at their peak, and to visit the insect museum and waterfall, which were closed due to it being a Tuesday, and damage caused by Typhoons Lam and Saola respectively.

Anxiety · Japan · Minimalism · Osaka · Overseas · Photography · Stress · Travelling · Visas · Zero Waste

Umeda Sky Building, Grand Front Osaka, and Germany Update.

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Dillon and I visited Umeda Sky Building today, where I took this photo from the rooftop observatory. We were over 150m high and could see the whole city as well as the mountains that surround Osaka and out to the sea. We still have not visited Abeno Harukas, the tallest building in Japan at 300m tall, but we will go there in early December to visit an exhibition on Studio Ghibli, so hopefully we will get a chance to take some more photographs of Osaka from above then too. In the gift shop, I managed to find some beautiful handmade Japanese craft items, including some handkerchiefs, hand towels, and body towels, all with lovely traditional designs. I also bought a little pouch in the shape of a rabbit to keep the smaller items in, as well as a kanji keychain for us both. I have been looking for items to bring back from Japan, but I have some criteria that they must fit into first:

1) The item is light, and will not take up much room in our suitcases

2) The item is handmade in Japan, and meaningful to our experience in Japan

3) The item is something I have already been looking for because we need it

We also visited Grand Front Osaka, a huge shopping mall with a whole floor dedicated to gorgeous stationery and specialist stores. I have never seen anything like it, and I don’t think there is anything like it in the UK that I can think of. I often find it is too difficult to buy anything when I visit those places, because there is so much choice, and everything is so special, so I just enjoy walking around and looking at different things instead. It is giving me lots of ideas for nearer the time when we leave Japan and I will be looking for some gifts to get people, though.

Finally, an update on our move to Germany: after going back and forth trying to get the right documentation, I have managed to set up an account to transfer money from Japan to the UK, so we will be able to pay for things like our plane tickets and deposit on a new apartment now. Secondly, I have completed the work documentation necessary for me to begin working in Germany, and we are lucky enough that the relocation agency who are helping us to move have said they will organise all appointments needed and provide translation services whenever required as part of their service. Lastly, we have sent a copy of our marriage certificate to the UK to get an apostille, and once we have received that we will be able to continue with the visa process for Dillon. We are a lot further along now than we were two weeks ago, or even last weekend, so I am feeling more relaxed about the situation now.

Anxiety · Decluttering · Fashion · Japan · Minimalism · New Year's Resolutions · Overseas · Photography · Stress · Zero Waste

And now for something completely different …

Tomorrow is Respect for the Aged Day in Japan, one of a number of National Holidays that fall in the autumn and winter months, so Dillon and I are currently in the middle of enjoying a three-day weekend. I thought I would do something a bit different today, so I’m going to do a personal update about the different things that I’ve been working on and some changes that have been happening in our lives.

The first photo you can see here is my half of the clothes rail in our apartment. While I don’t hold too strictly to it, I like to try and ensure that all the outdoor clothes I own fit on the hangers I already have. We have a build-in storage area with two sectioned areas separated by a shelf, so we store our suitcases on the floor and our towels and other belongings on the shelf. I keep my lingerie and pyjamas in this section, and I have one pair of shoes out in the hallway, but otherwise all my clothes are shown hanging on this rail (my two other pairs of shoes are below the clothes, unpictured).

I came to Japan in March a UK size 10 (US 6), at that point still eating meat. Walking at a decent pace to and from work for about an hour every day, and adapting my diet slightly due to the different products available in Japan, I began to get a bit slimmer, although since I did not measure myself and I do not own scales, I am not sure by how much. I have struggled with chronic illness in the past, and was diagnosed with IBS in 2014 and put on medication to deal with numerous symptoms, the worst of which included persistent vomiting and literally immobilising stomach pain. Because of this, I am highly conscious of the effect the food and drink I take into my body has on my health and well-being. A couple of months ago, I watched a number of documentaries on the effect of eating animal products on individual health, the environment, and the welfare of animals. These included ‘What the Health’, ‘Forks Over Knives’, ‘Cowspiracy’, and I attempted to watch ‘Earthlings’ but couldn’t get past the first ten minutes.

Dillon and I adopted a plant-based diet and went vegan on the 1st August. Since Dillon and I eat our meals together and he had been a vegetarian for a decade, and I had almost cut out meat entirely by accident due to our move, in the end I only had to make a couple of changes: stop eating ice-cream, stop eating snacks that contained animal products, and remove the egg from my rice meals. I have to say that it was a fairly painless switch. I didn’t find myself craving any foods, and at this point roughly six weeks into veganism, I have no desire to eat any animal product. I also found myself eating more healthily by necessity: I had the desire and motivation to research what foods to include in my meals, and the results for me personally are beyond anything that I could have imagined.

  • I have slimmed down further, to the point where my clothes were at risk of falling off me at work (which was my red flag moment to go and buy the clothes pictured above). I am now a UK size 6 (US 2), and measure 32″ 23″ 32″, certainly the slimmest I have been since I hit puberty. My stomach is flat (though not toned), and I have a thigh gap. I should say that I don’t mention these things to intimate that they are better or worse than any other way of looking, only that they are important for me to recognise, and to feel proud of achieving personally.
  • I have huge amounts of energy. On my commute to and from work I can walk faster and for longer without tiring. I feel lighter and brighter in myself. After about seven hours of sleep I am wide awake and ready for the day, without needing an alarm clock.
  • I am far more confident in myself and with my body. I have lost the sensation that people are looking at me. I have lost the dysmorphic sensation of looking at myself in the mirror and seeing an idea of what is there rather than what is in front of me. I am able to go into clothes store changing rooms and come out feeling happy.
  • I have experienced no menstrual cramps, bloating, or PMS symptoms.
  • I have experienced no IBS symptoms, which has meant I have been able to get rid of my medication.
  • I feel far happier and calmer in a day-to-day sense. This may also be to do with taking up daily yoga and meditation, and listening to meditation and anxiety management podcasts in the evening, as well as using the ‘Sleepy’ body lotion from Lush, but taking up these practises was also connected to my adoption of a plant-based diet, so I’ll include it here too.

Now, I have aspirations to go further. I still need to buy a jumper or sweatshirt for the weekend, and one work dress, as well as bras in my correct size, but I am determined to maintain my minimalist approach to clothes shopping and consumption, and my new project is to transition to a zero waste lifestyle. Dillon and I both bought a stainless steel water bottle from the Natural History Museum in Osaka, so we no longer drink from plastic bottles, and I have cut my consumption of drinks from vending machines down to one a week, with the aspiration to cut them out completely. I have some documentaries to watch including ‘Speciesism’, ‘A Plastic Ocean’, and ‘Fed Up’, and I am gaining so much value and enjoyment from learning about different ways of living that leave a lighter impact on the planet.

PSA: I hope that by exploring this article, my readers are able to accept and appreciate the positive impact that veganism is having on my health and wellbeing. I am conscious that there are a number of topics I have written about today that may make some readers react differently. While everyone is free to think what they like, I would encourage you to consider – after reading through my bullet point list of the benefits I am experiencing and how much happier I am in my life currently – whether it is necessary for you to tell me that you disagree with the choices I am making in my life. Just a thought!

Berlin · Day Trip · Japan · Nature · Osaka · Overseas · Photography · Teaching · Travelling

Summer Vacation, Nagai Botanical Garden, and Big News!

I’ve taken a break from blogging over my summer vacation, but I’ve just completed my prep week back at work, and the Autumn term begins tomorrow, so I’m going back to weekly updates from today.

Both Dillon and I had a bad cold over the summer, so we spent the first few days of my holiday resting and getting over our illness. We went for a walk around one of the local shopping malls, Namba Parks, and sat up on the rooftop garden admiring Osaka from above. Something I really like about this city is that despite it being so busy and there being countless things to do, there are lots of quiet spaces interspersed throughout it, where it stays peaceful and you can enjoy some peace and quiet. For my 26th birthday we went bowling at Round 1 in Namba, where I did surprisingly well considering there were no bumpers, and the Japanese guys in the alley next to us who were on their twentieth game applauded Dillon’s strikes and my spares! We also went out for soy burgers (this Friday marked one month since Dillon and I adopted a wholly plant-based diet). We went back to Round 1 later in the holiday to play pool, and we also visited an amusement park in Misaki Koen, outside of Osaka on the coastline.

This week at work was a preparation week, spent mostly in meetings. I met a new student who will be joining some of the classes I teach and did some assessment with work him. I also had some time to complete my planning and resourcing for the new term. Thursday and Friday were spent in a workshop focusing on teaching the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for the IB. The lady who ran it reminded me a lot of my PGCE tutors and I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting and helpful the workshop was – it’s always great to come away from something like that feeling as though I’ve learned lots of new things.

Today we went to Nagai Botanical Garden, an incredible natural space in the centre of the city, full of flowers, herbs, bamboo trees and areas of ancient forest. We saw turtles, huge koi and other fish in the lake, dragonflies, butterflies, and even some Japanese beetles in the roses.

I also have some big news! Dillon and I have wanted to move to Europe for some time, and once term broke up in July, I had some time to put together application materials to submit, and I saw an advertisement for a position similar to a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator), which is a role I always aspired to take up in Britain, had our circumstances been different. The position is at another international school, this time in Berlin. As well as leading SEN provision for the Primary School, I will have some responsibility for EAL support. The job starts in January, so Dillon and I will be leaving Osaka in December and travelling to Germany. The school are covering my flight and our relocation costs, and we have been put in touch with their relocation service, which is brilliant and very reassuring. Until then, our plan now is to enjoy our last few months in Japan as much as we can, before beginning our next chapter in Berlin!

(It is also our second wedding anniversary today, and next week will mark three years since Dillon and I met in York for the first time ♥)