My time in Japan has been all about firsts. First time eating a raw egg, first time riding a bullet train, or first time seeing a dragon fruit plant. I thought it would be neat to keep a list of the “first experiences” I have on this adventure, but I quickly came to find that there would be no way to capture it all. Everyday Japan teaches me something new and that’s part of why I find myself so fascinated here.
A couple weeks ago we did a placement at Sorakuen, a garden in Kobe that was first commissioned in 1885. Once completed around 1920, the garden has remained a feature of a city that has drastically changed around it. At Sorakuen, I learned many traditional Japanese gardening techniques for the first time. We started with studying the method of tying bamboo fences. This was truly a lesson in our knot skills, of which I discovered I have few! The fences remain useful for approximately 3-5 years, with the rope outlasting the bamboo.
Pruning of pine trees was the next first. We went through each branch individually and pruned them to encourage the shape that the Japanese pines are known for. We removed older needles from each branch leaving around 10 needles per bud. As we did this, we also thinned the buds to encourage more open growth.
In addition, I learned to sharpen my tools using wet stones, how to lay rock in a meaningful way, and was even gifted my first happi. We had an inspiring week at Sorakuen and are very grateful for the time they spent teaching us. Thank you for your kindness and especially your patience!
Helping with a rice harvest is another first experience that I can credit to Japan. Since arriving here, we have been watching the surrounding fields of rice mature and have seen farmers begin to cut their crops. We were fortunate enough to be invited to help with a harvest. We learned how to harvest the rice both by hand and with a combine. Without a doubt, it was a once in a lifetime experience.
People often ask what its like to be traveling this extensively. Well, spending this long of a time away from home is a first. It’s not always easy. I miss home and the people there terribly. But, I have come to learn that home is where you make it. Every so often I will feel something familiar, maybe a smell that brings me to another place or a song that takes me to a different time. It takes me home. For a while that came as sadness: missing those people, places, and times. This adventure has taught me to find happiness in those moments, however, and to cherish the ones I am in right now. One day smells and songs will remind me of this. It will be a time in my life that I miss because of how much it has taught me, so I must live in the present. Through the TRIAD I have learned to thrive in the moment and that is a first.