Summer is Coming!

Today was the first day this year with more than 30 degrees! In other words: summer has officially started in Kyoto. My windows can stay open now, the duvet from my bed is on standby while I’m using the covers only (pyjamas will become optional in a few more weeks), and I’m looking into buying special summer items that dissipate heat.

Interestingly, I really didn’t need to check the thermometer to deduce that it’s summer now. I found out by a simple fact: Pumpkin is sleeping on my desk now.

Yesterday evening, he still squeezed behind me on my office chair (Side note: how come cats always use up 50% of your space, no matter what size it is?) but today, he prefers the cool wood of the desk in the coolest room of the house.

To be perfectly honest, it does annoy me a little. He has absolutely no business being so cute, and when he’s sleeping right next to me, I feel like canoodling him every 30 seconds or so. Goodness, I have stuff to do!

Golden Week DIY 2024

Hi, it’s me – I’m back!
Yes, I took Golden Week off(line) and I’m glad I did. When you’re self-employed and there’s something you can be doing every day, well, that’s what you end up doing… So taking the entire week off and with but two appointments – one to see a friend, the other to see BATI-HOLIC – and lots of reading and sleeping, it was very relaxing and soothing to my mind.

And I got a lot of not-work-related things done. House and garden are now significantly cleaner, and my paperwork is more organized as well. I did several loads of laundry and put away some of the heaviest winter clothes and blankets. Three of my favourite pyjamas now have new elastics (the blessings of losing weight) and there are no more buttons missing (that I’m aware of).

Unfortunately, this all didn’t go off without accident: I hurt myself during ironing and I’ll have to wear a bandage on the third degree burn on my right lower arm for a few more days . Yes, I’m not made for housework. Moving on…

.. to a more successful project. All I wanted to do is to tidy my bathroom counter (small as it is) and hang one more shelf. The plan was to get this done with the other two shelves that are already there when I renovated the bathroom. However, at the time there were some issues with drilling through the tiles so I let it be (instead of just putting the third shelf on top of the other two, don’t ask…)

Since then, I have experimented with several types of hooks which didn’t have enough grip on the tiles to last long. Finally, I struck on the idea to glue some hooks not to the center of the tiles but into the grout at the edges, and it seems to work – for now.

Then, I decided to tidy the top drawer of the cabinet – simply a matter of finding a suitable box – when I noticed that for some reason or other I never painted that drawer white like the rest. This took a bit longer to fix, but it’s done now as well and I think that’s as far as my bathroom renovations go until I tackle the whole first floor.

Wait: there’s still the ceiling to be painted… Oh my, in a house, there’s always something to do, right?

So. Many. Museums.

As you may have guessed from the missing posts, I’ve been busy the last week, and things will stay this way for a while. This year the pace is picking up, I am receiving more and more invitations to press previews for upcoming exhibitions.

Last Friday was the preview for “The Legend of Sesshu”, a 15th century Japanese painter whose style has influenced many other painters through the Edo period and beyond. One of his paintings of Mt. Fuji was so groundbreaking that it served as a model after which many other painters created their own views of Fuji. No fewer than six of his paintings are National Treasures, more than of any other painter in Japan – and they are all in Kyoto right now for the exhibition at the Kyoto National Museum.

My personal favourite of the entire exhibition was this ink painting titled “Winter Landscape” from 1470. It’s hard to describe what I feel when I see it, and while I’m not a painter myself, I do understand on a very visceral level that it’s a masterpiece.

As I said, things are picking up; tomorrow I will go to a preview for Bijinga (paintings of beautiful women) and next week there will be Japanese combs and hair ornaments. I love my job!

Recognizing Boundaries

After all I’ve been through in 2023, there’s one positive thing coming out of it: I lost 25 kg. Doing this was on my 50 by 50 list and I’m so proud of this achievement!

Interestingly, even though I did it mostly by cutting calories, aka: eating less, I didn’t even feel hungry most of the time. I tried not to have any sweets at home, and it really helped with the cravings. Only towards the end of the diet did I feel as if I would finally touch the substance – in other words: losing muscle – but overall, I think I did okay.

The benefits are obvious: Physically, I’m feeling so much better now! First and foremost, my arthritis has become much less painful. On some days, I can walk fairly long distances without feeling a thing. Funny how much we take a functioning body for granted! I also feel more attractive overall, which is a great boost in confidence. I don’t expect this to change my introverted ways, though.

At the same time, losing all this weight in a relatively short period of time has created the negative side effect that I now need a completely new wardrobe. And the most interesting part of going shopping now is that I need to completely re-evalue my body’s size and boundaries. My underlying body shape hasn’t changed, of course, but I cannot remember a single time in my adult life when I was this thin.

I’ve always been chubby, more or less, and my approach to clothes was: “Let’s not draw too much attention to certain… well, most of the parts.” Over the years, I had perfected a uniform of bright tops with dark wide pants to hide under.

But that has changed. My legs look quite good now, I can check the scales without bending to gaze beyond my belly, and my stomach looks almost flat from the side (okay, on good days only. 😉 ) A friend of mine remarked that I had cut myself in half over the last year, and when I hugged another one, she commented on a surprising lack of boobage…

All this to say: Suddenly, I’m not so sure what fits me anymore, and yes, I have to admit that I’m vain enough to want to look good, and not just for Mr. TDH. At least my tops won’t change much; I’ve discovered the “Lady Tee” years ago and never looked back. But bottoms? Flared jeans seem to look good now that they sit beautifully on my newly separated thighs. Or maybe I should start experimenting with skirts? *gasp*

Sizing is a whole different issue. 20 years ago, there was a meaning behind clothing sizes that didn’t change according to the whims of the manufacturer. Today, where the size numbers have been replaced by random interpretations of the alphabet, you’re essentially on your own. For example, I bought a wonderful red knit dress and some super sexy flared jeans that both fit to a T – one is size S, the other an XL.

So, while essentially looking to replace most of my wardrobe, there will be lots and lots of try-on and error experiences involved. And I’m not looking forward to this…


As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have had a certain revelation about my state of mind that instantly took a lot of weight off my shoulders. Since then, I’ve been busy picking up loose ends and cleaning them up. And already on the first weekend, I have made a fairly big decision regarding my private life.

To be marginally more precise: I have met somebody whom, for the purposes of this blog, I’d like to call Mr. TDH (tall, dark, and handsome – very handsome!). That as such is no surprise, after all, in Japan, 80% of the men fit into this category. Oh, how I love this country! The surprise is that the interest seems to be mutual.

At least, I think it is. There is the staring from across the room just to look elsewhere when caught, the stealthily moving closer, the friendly but prolonged touches, the banter and the teasing, I even got a “want to try my whiskey?” when I last saw him. (Yes I do!)

Now, if this were a Western guy doing all this, anywhere on the planet, heck, in outer space – I would be absolutely sure what was going on. Even with an Asian guy in the West or returning from there, I would reason that he probably picked up some dating behaviours, and I’d still be pretty confident that he’s flirting with me.

However. Mr. TDH is a Japanese guy, never lived abroad, is an introvert to boot – and I don’t know how to interpret the signals he’s sending. If he is sending them at all, mind you. What if it’s all in my imagination? (Been there, done that, didn’t end well…)

Also, while we’ve shared some fairly personal experiences about growing up, I haven’t mustered the courage to ask if he’s married… because it’s awkward at the best of times and I don’t know if in Japan it’s culturally appropriate to do so.

What I mean by that? Well, in Japan, it’s perfectly fine to ask somebody’s age, no matter whether it’s a man or a woman (yes, I have established his birthday!). This is to ascertain the hierarchy between two people, and to know who is supposed to use keigo respect language, which, technically at least, is a thing even in intimate relationships.

At the same time, I’m really not sure if “are you married” is just as normal to ask in a society where the private lives of people stay private to the point of being actively hidden. There are many people who don’t wear wedding rings and many women choose to use their maiden names at work even after they are married and have kids.

Sigh. As you can see, I’ve worked myself into quite a frenzy over this, which has the potential to lead me right back to where I was earlier this year. So, I have made a decision regarding Mr. TDH, and it is: Take a step back and simply enjoy the attention!

Even if there is nothing there, even if he just thinks that hugging good-bye is so normal in the West that we do it with everybody and all the time: it still feels good. And I can do with more of these moments right now. There’s time for probing questions (and the potential disappointment) later.

Reflections and Realizations

Sorry for not keeping up with the schedule I promised. Last week was a continuation of last year’s issues I mentioned in the Christmas Break post below. Essentially I spent last week watching that one video over and over again. (No, this does not appear to be pathological. According to somebody on the internet.)

It went so far that I actually asked somebody for help with my mental state, something I have done exactly once before in my life, despite having been depressed for roughly half of that time.


Then I thought that I can’t just meet somebody and say “well, I have no idea what the problem is, really, but fix it anyway.”

So, last Friday I tried to figure out what actually is wrong. And after walking up and down in my house talking to myself out loud (Yes. I’m so glad I live alone. Pumpkin doesn’t mind, he thinks it’s all about him.) it finally hit me:

I’m not depressed right now. I’m stuck.

So, last year was bad in its entirety: professionally, financially, mental health-wise… And in that time, I created too many loose ends. Loose ends that need to be picked up again and taken care of.

Unfortunately, when it comes to things like these, I’ve always been quite indecisive, prone to procrastination. It takes me ages to come to a conclusion and act upon it, and in this case I felt that pulling at the wrong thread (and there were many) might lead to everything blowing up in my face.

Yet again, the simple realization of what was actually wrong led to a feeling of intense clarity. The same kind of clarity I felt when I finally decided to move to Japan. It’s a wonderful feeling. “The unbearable lightness of clarity” I like to call it.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean that I know exactly what to do next. Just the general direction. And picking up the loose ends and dealing with them, one thread at a time, is what lies ahead. I have no idea what will happen when I do that, but I’ll find out soon enough. I’m expecting to create more loose ends, but I can deal with those too in due cause.

I’m feeling better already.

Brutalist Gardening

Whew, I’ve been quite busy last week. My usual flurry of deadlines at the end of the month was enhanced by a couple additional ones, but I managed to get through them all on time. Rinse and repeat later this month…

On top of work-related business, I also put in some work in my garden because now seems the best time for some maintenance. Back in spring, I cut off some of the tallest branches already, but not only did they regrow over summer, the additional light their absence created let other plants shoot up to new heights as well.

This time, I took a much more brutal approach to gardening. My tiny garden has lots of large plants with big leaves that overwhelm what little space there is. But over the last few weeks, I got rid of most of them. I was even able to tear out the roots of those annoying vines that swamp one corner of my garden every summer. Interestingly, it was fairly easy now – in spring it was practically impossible – and since I tore off roots that were thumbs-thick, I hope I got most of the major ones so they won’t regrow again next year.

There are still things left to clear up and cut away, but overall, I’ve made good progress. Right now, the garden looks almost naked, but I want to plant smaller flowering bushes or something like that. Plus: some grass for Pumpkin, which he can later throw up again all over my staircase…

But there’s no rush, I have all winter to think about the details here.

Home Improvements

Over the quiet and hot days of summer, I had some time for smaller improvements in the house. I can’t afford anything substantial, but it’s nice to clean things up a little and make them look better at least.

First thing: I painted my toilet. Directly opposite the door was an old hole with an anchor still inside, and every time I had to use the toilet in the evening, it scared me a little. It was just the right size and dirty color for a small spider…

So, out came putty and paint, and because the toilet is very small, this turned out to be the perfect project to finish over the weekend. The walls now look much smoother than before, except for a small bit where the previous owner tried to close a crack with something that feels like glue and the paint didn’t stick properly on top of that. I’ll have to go over this spot once again.

I also closed some other holes in the stairwell, but I’m out of paint now, so the final finish will have to wait. Also, I’ll need to figure out how to reach all the walls in the stairwell without falling to my death while painting, so we’re probably looking at some time next spring.

Second thing: I mended some tears in the fusuma in the upstairs living room. This didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped, mostly because are essentially hollow inside. They use the same underlying wooden frame as shoji, just with opaque paper on both sides. In other words, without any firm ground to glue the paper onto, it’s really hard to fix torn fusuma paper properly.

Many people just stick some paper on top of the hole, but even though this is easier, I don’t think it looks as neat. And since my fusuma are already anything but clean, there’s no need to bring any further attention to that. To me, it still looks better now.

I would love to say that I made some progress in my garden, but I didn’t. Even though I trimmed some smaller trees in spring, other plants took advantage of the increased light and shot up to new heights. Not to mention the prolific vines I have in one end of my garden that seem to be difficult to kill. I would have to weed almost weekly to get rid of those, I guess. Well, it’s getting cooler now, so I can give it yet another try…

Taking a Break

Summer has arrived in Kyoto, and we’re having 35 degrees and more every day. The last few days, night temperatures were at 28 degrees officially, but it’s much hotter in my bedroom underneath the roof, which makes it hard to sleep.

Even Pumpkin is affected by the heat, he likes to sleep on my desk and other cool surfaces, and during the day he hides in the oshiire in my office.

All this is to say that I don’t have much energy, neither physical nor mental. So, I’m taking the summer off from this blog until the end of August. It’s not my first time, so I guess we’re good. And maybe I have new fun things to talk about after summer. It’s always nice to have a breather.

I wish you all a nice summer too and great holidays as well – see you soon!

Necessary Upgrades

Did you realize that this blog has been alive for 10 years, 5 months already? Yes, I haven’t always been on top of it, but it’s still impressive methinks. It doesn’t have a massive number of readers (which I never expected), but it serves as a kind of external memory to me. There are so many things I have done that I’ve already forgotten, it’s almost scary.

Anyway, I have to do a few upgrades to the underlying system – cleaning out the cobwebs if you will – in the next few days. Let’s hope things don’t go pear-shaped, if they do, it’ll be pretty obvious I guess. Otherwise, I’ll see you again on Sunday!