You won’t be the only gaijin in Japan

We have been on vacation. I just skimmed my last post. What a wild one. Crazy pig. That story ended up in our local paper a few days after my post. Somehow I suspect (was told that?) the reporter might have read my blog post before getting more details for her article. Now I am jet-lagged, I feel subdued, and I can’t motivate myself to do much on my to-do list. I’m in a different mental place now for a variety of reasons, not to be elaborated on here.

While we were gone, another big coffee picking effort happened. We returned and there are already raisins (cherry that missed getting picked and have now turned black), and there are more berries turning red. In 1-3 weeks we will probably have our season’s first green coffee to be roasted.

Over the past month we have been harvesting a lot of Japanese pumpkins, kabocha, from two main plants, one was from our Master Gardener seedling experiment and the other is our neighbor’s (the ‘ulu co’op), part of whose vine is well onto our property. We aren’t sure if the co’op even intentionally planted their kabocha.

We gave one to visiting friends from California who had never eaten one. They had very low expectations as they hacked away at it, cutting it, and trying to get the skin off. It was so brittle and hard, they didn’t think it’d be possible for it to be tasty. They loved it and were surprised at all the flavor. They made a soup with half, and they roasted the other half. By the way, you can eat the skin. It’s nutritious, and kabocha cooking prep is a lot easier if you leave it on.

We recently returned from Japan. We ate a lot of amazing food (including quite a few dishes with kabocha, a fall season ingredient). Bea and Bro (my bro, not hers) farm-, house- and cat-sat while we were gone. Interestingly, Bea noted daily rainfall and the coffee crew’s activity almost exactly the way I do on a calendar, and I hadn’t even shown her my calendar. Is it in the genes, or had I learned it from her? While we were away, unlike with previous house-sitters, I’d get pictures of plants instead of the cat. I had to ask for a cat photo. Ha! Plants thrive under Bea’s care.

It has been 21 years since I’ve been to Japan; it was Hubby’s first time. It was a totally different experience now that there are cell phones, navigation apps, translation apps, a weak yen, and now that I’m older and have more money. I have all kinds of thoughts and reflections, but that’s not for this blog. We saw many Doutor coffee shops, what I call the Starbucks of Japan. There were also Starbucks and Tully’s (also born in Seattle) coffee shops.

My friend had prepared me, but I saw first-hand that many Japanese have a fascination for Hawai’i. One of the restaurants at our hotel was decorated in a Hawaiian theme. I also saw a big fascination with Halloween there and elsewhere.

Today it is estimated there are nearly 2 million people dancing hula in Japan – a figure greater than the entire population of Hawaiʻi. 

The quote above is from Lehua Films who created a documentary, Tokyo Hula, which I still haven’t seen. “In TOKYO HULA, an examination of tourism, economics, and a love for all things Hawaiian fueling this cultural phenomenon is revealed by focusing on the personal stories of Japanese sensei who have started their own schools and Hawaiian kumu hula who are now living and teaching in Japan.”

The current population of Japan in 2023 is 123,294,513. With the weak yen and pent-up travel demand, there are a lot of tourists now, too. It’s crowded. Coming from the Big Island, I got overwhelmed and over-stimulated with the big city of Honolulu. Tokyo was out of this world. I looked up some numbers for 2022 or 2023. Maybe they aren’t exactly correct, but it gives you an idea. This is population density in inhabitants per square mile:

Big Island49.8
Hawai’i state221
California258
US96
Japan876
Tokyo16,000

Hubby likes taking photos of people taking photos. He often takes pictures of tourists here in Kona, all lined up taking their sunset photos. Here are a few showing a famous temple in Kyoto and one of the lanes leading into it. The people in kimonos aren’t “real” geisha/geiko. They’re just Japanese and foreign tourists who rent kimonos to stroll around town and take selfies or have photos taken of themselves. Renting kimonos is a big thing.

I’ll close with one photo showing the start of the fall colors. We were there prior to the peak. I guess certain areas of Japan will be even more crowded in the next weeks.

The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival starts next week on November 3. I WILL get back to more coffee-centric writing…

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