Monday, January 12, 2009

Taking a New Step Forward

As many of you probably know, I didn't have a chance to visit my parents on New Year's day this year, because I had to work. To make up for that, and also to help mom with the first tea ceremony meeting of the year (and possibly help dad a little with picking oranges) I stayed at my parents' house for two days.

For the tea ceremony event, looks like mom tried to do more than she could handle, as usual, and obviously got things done without getting any sleep the night before. I helped her with serving these kaiseki dishes to mom's students who showed up that day and dishwashing while they practiced tea ceremony after the kaiseki meal.

Helping my parents with chores was not the only reason why I visited them. This time I wanted to talk more seriously about when would be the good time for me to move in with them.

Now let me give you a little explanation on the situation around here. Perhaps you might have heard that Japan is "the most rapidly aging country" in the world? In this country where apx. one out of four people will be over 65 y.o. by 2015, putting parents in old people's homes is not a very practical choice any more. There is no way that enough number of facilities can be built and maintained to meet all the needs. Besides, it costs too much to use such a service, and even if you had money, there's a waiting list at every facility, and waiting time could get longer and longer because people live longer now and more so in the future.

So, if you hear about/see young, healthy and totally physically capable Japanese adults living with their parents in this 21st century, please do not be judgemental. It's not that they're still bound by the old tradition of "children MUST take care of their parents" or too immature to be independent from their parents. A lot of times, it's the only practical choice -- especially when the economy is down like this. And the government is trying hard to come up with a decent system to support the home care for the elderly.

A while ago, I had agreed to go back to my hometown to live with parents. The only question left was when. I used to think that it could wait until one of them gets really sick and needs nursing care, but recently I had a second thought.

I asked myself, "What are the things that I would have to give up completely if I moved to my hometown?" And the answer was -- "Nothing." Really. I can continue almost everything I'm doing here now even after I move in with my parents, with some adjustments and modifications, of course. My hometown is in the middle of nowhere, but I can get any information or buy anything via the Internet. The job opportunity used to be better in a bigger city, but look at the jobs I have here now: dishwashing and part-time office work at a language school. Such jobs are available in my hometown, too. Then, if there's no reason why I've got to live in Kochi city definitely, my living here alone and paying my rent and utilities is just a waste, isn't it?

If I live with my parents, such expenses will be saved. And actually there would be some advantages for me in my hometown as well as drawbacks. When I want leaves and berries to garnish my dishes, I won't have to steal them at night; in my hometown, they're available everywhere. When I want to go fishing, the ocean is right there -- only 2 minutes by walk! The sight of blue sky and blue ocean, the sound of waves ... those things I loved so much in childhood and have craved for so long ... they'll be there with me every single day. If there's no reason why I have to live away from them, why not go back to them. Yeah, why not?

So, dear readers. I've decided to quit my current jobs in a few months and move back to my hometown sometime in 2009 (before summer, maybe?). I'm going to close this "Obachan's Kitchen and Balcony Garden" then, and start a new blog to let you know how I live my life in the real countryside. Oh, I'm so excited! :D



SkyJuice said...

Hi Obachan,

I've not commented on your blog for a long time (been a silent reader), but I do visit it regularly.

I applaud you on your brave move (soon). It'd be nice to be able to do many things you used to in your childhood. It's like walking down the memory lane. :-)

Coincidently, I moved back to my hometown mid last year. I quit my job in the capital city because I've had enough of the horrendous traffic, flash floods, road bullies, rising living expenses and what not.

I'm happy now. The air is fresher, the green aplenty, and I get to see the sunrise and sunset everyday now. The sea isn't that far away. Not nearly as pretty as the one in your hometown, but it's better than nothing. And like yours, I can grab anything I want from the garden for my dishes. :-)

Currently pursuing my (post)graduate studies and planning to work from home soon. Bliss! :-)

I hope it isn't too late to wish you a blessed and wonderful 2009. May this year be better in so many ways for you. Take care and God bless.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I totally understand your choice and wish you the best of lucks for your future life! Happy New Year!



Basteltiger´s Welt said...

Dear Obachan,

congrats to your decision.
I think it´s a wonderful idea to live together with the parents to take care of them. This was the what people did in the old days here in Germany, too. Nowadays the flats are too small so that people can´t take their parents to their home and old people often go to institutions which I regard as the place to wait untill they are diyng. So your way is so much better and both sides will have a lot of advantages from this.

I´m really looking forward to read more about your adventures in the countryside.

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

What a big change. I am sure you will enjoy going back to your hometown and rediscovering what it means to live there.

As for living with your parents to take care of them - I think moving in before there is an immediate issue is a great idea. There will be a lot of adjustment for you and your parents. Why do that at a time of stress?

I look forward to hearing all about your move and new life.

ghanima said...

Hi Obachan! I think a lot of people have been forced, in recent months, to rethink a lot of things -- oftentimes finding that major lifestyle adjustments are in order. I applaud the confidence you have in your decision.

I moved back in to my parents' place a few years ago, temporarily, until I got back on my feet, and found it a pretty daunting change. There were a lot of aspects to my personality that my parents had never seen me develop, and which I felt I couldn't share with them. That was one of the most difficult things I had to face.

It sounds to me, 'though, like you're finding many things to find happiness in, so your outlook is considerably rosier than mine was, any way. I'm sure you'll have a great time in your new/old life.

All the best.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are so lucky to have such a beautiful hometown!

I often wonder how I will manage to care for my parents when they get old. They are divorced, and my father remarried; my stepmother has no biological children. Will my mom be unhappy living with my dad and stepmom? None of them owns a house, but my dad has money and probably will buy one. Will my mom be too proud to move into it?

I'm afraid to let my parents go into an old folks' home, even if I had the money to afford it (which I don't) because I'm afraid they won't get proper care, they might be neglected or abused.

I'm so worried about the future. You are so fortunate to have such a fantastic solution.

I'd like to tell you, your blog is fantastic, and I have been reading it for a couple of years and never tire of it. I am 34, female, married and live in Brooklyn, NY, USA. If you ever visit here I would be thrilled to meet you and have you as a guest for a meal or snack!

--Zoey Smith,

Anonymous said...

Dear Obachan,

Nothing sounds possibly bad about moving back to your hometown. In fact, I think it's great bliss to stay with your folks while they are still healthy.

I'm happy that you've made your choice without having to waver, it proves that the decision is made alright. =) A tinge of sadness when I read that OK&BC will be closed, but the announcement of the new blog lifts me up again!

Anyway, there will be still a few months before you leave, so may I suggest that you take in every breath of Kochi deep, and make sure that you leave gratified.

Anonymous said...

You are definitely doing the right thing. Actually, I think what you are doing might become the "new normal." It just makes sense from so many angles. Please, please do a new blog! I would love to read about your life in the countryside near the ocean AND about the rewards (and maybe trials) of living with your parents.

millet ty said...

i've been a lurker here for a long time, but i do enjoy your blog. this time i think i must say congratulations for a very good decision. i would have done the same thing. i'm from the philippines and we filipinos do that all the time. when we were helpless, our parents took care of us, so now it is our turn to take care of them.

LilyAnette said...

Wishing you all the best. A good daughter is always appreciated.

Karen said...

Oh, i wish you all the best, I think that it is a good decision.

Anonymous said...

After having done the same I believe the biggest loss/change comes from within. The support of your parents, while is a good thing, is a compromise as you move from being an independent person to an interdependent person. for me it required many personal adjustments. would i have done the same after knowing what i know now ? definitely. The decision was a good one for me.

Best wishes and happy new year.

Pinkity said...

Dear Obachan!

It's great to know you're gonna start a new chapter in life... I guess 2009 is gonna be a year of change for most. I am trying to pick up Japanese and one day, hopefully, come and visit you and the delightful sea with berries and garnishing everywhere if its not a hassle! :)

Fingers crossed and best of luck to you!

Anonymous said...

This is my first comment on your blog, though I've been reading for a while since I came across it searching for information about tea sweets. (By the way, your pictures are lovely.) How wonderful that you can find a way to appreciate any situation--it's very inspiring, and from your blog you seem like a resilient person. Best of luck, and I look forward to reading more about your adventures, culinary and otherwise!

tina said...

Wishing you all the best for the future and I think it is a wonderful thing to be able to live with your parents.

Sad that your current blog will close soon but looking forward to your new blog and your new experiences.

Gambatte ne

Anonymous said...

It just seems practical to me..Who wouldn't want the ocean, fresh veg and fruit in the backyard, and one's family????? I am jealous!!!
Now, perhaps a dog?

Anonymous said...

Dear Obachan

I read all the comments as I agree with everything each one of them hv said. I am happy for yr parents (I am sure many parents would be envious of yours!) that they hv a filial daughter who is willing to take care of them/live with them.

I know all will work out well for u and I look forward to reading yr new blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Obachan,

Great decision. In these difficult economic times, it's best to be with loved ones and live a simple lifestyle.

Aloha from Hawaii,

obachan said...

Hey, it’s so nice to hear from you! :D Glad to hear that you’ve been visiting this blog.

Honestly, this is going to be a big challenge for me in many ways. Yeah, it’ll be like walking down the memory lane, like you said, and it will be healing but scary, too, at the same time, because I had some terrible experiences there in my childhood. So what you wrote about your choice really encouraged me. Thanks a mil. for sharing! I’m planning to find a work that I can do at home, too, like translation or something. I hope I’ll be able to enjoy the environment and pursue my career like you’re doing. Wish you the best of luck!!

Thank you. I always, always appreciate your supportive comments. And I’m a huge fan of the landscape photos you post on your blog. Maybe, when I start a new blog, I’ll be able to post landscape photos of my hometown. :)
Happy New Year to you, too.

Basteltiger’s Welt
Thanks for your support and sharing what it is like in Germany. I believe that there are advantages and disadvantages in whatever way you choose to take care of old parents. My way may or may not work and there will be so many challenges, too. But I’ve decided to take a risk because, like you say, there ARE advantages, too. I like the way you put it – “adventures.” That’s a nice way to see it. I’ll remember that when some pessimistic imagination makes me feel worried or discouraged.

That’s exactly what I thought. This change will require a lot of adjustment both on my side and my parents. It would be devastating if I’d have to fix/modify my parents’ house and find a new job while taking care of seriously ill (or physically healthy but demented, which would be worse) parent(s).

Hope you’ll stay with me when I do start my new life in my hometown. :)

Well, I’m not very confident with my decision, to be honest. And yeah, I’m not sure if I can stand living with my parents. That’s my biggest concern… because I’m so used to living all by myself.

In the past, I only visited them a few times a year, and each stay was strictly less than a week. And I already got a bit inpatient on the 2nd or 3rd day. Often I couldn’t even stand watching TV with my mom, because she keeps talking to me when I want to watch/hear the TV. In my apartment, I never ever have a problem like that, you know, and I’m so used to that. Yeah, it’s such a small thing – but it was unbelievably annoying to me.

But it was largely because I didn’t have my own room nor the internet access during my short stay there. It would be quite different if I had my own room and cozy desk where I can blog and interact with you readers every day. Yeah, there will be more serious cases of “their way vs. my way.” (Actually they might start, with the help of so many relatives, forcing me to marry someone :P ) But one hope is that my parents and I are “flexible” in some unique way. It may help getting some kind of solutions in time of challenges. I’m crossing my fingers.

All the best to you, too.

I appreciate your nice comment and sharing your situation. It does sound tough… Yeah, I think I’m fortunate, like you say. (Not sure if my choice would lead to a “fantastic” solution, though.) But still I needed -- and will need in the future, too – to make my share of adjustment, compromising, giving up, etc. etc…. so I imagine it would be far more challenging in your parents’ case. I can only wish you good luck.

Yeah, it’d be great to have a meal together! Thanks for the invitation. It may or may not come true, but it sure is nice to keep such a nice offer in mind. :D

Thanks. There are some drawbacks and risks I can imagine, to tell you the truth, and they make me feel worried some nights. ;) But there will be help, support and compromising solutions, as well as joy and happiness, if I keep myself open to them. That’s what I keep telling myself these days.

Yeah, thinking about my new blog makes me feel so excited, too. I love this blog so much, but there are things I want to improve or do differently.

Anonymous commenter
Thanks for your encouraging comment. I am aware the difficulties of living with parents and taking care of them when they need elderly care, and it is not just easy. There are many reports of killing and suicide cases of families who made that choice. I don’t know what is waiting for me, but I guess it will be more constructive than living alone in an apartment and doing nothing but work just to earn enough money to pay the rent, utilities and food.

Yep, I WILL be blogging, as far as I have internet access there in my hometown. I’ve asked the local service provider to check if their broadband service covers my hometown, and it’ll take a while to get the answer. Crossing my fingers.

Yeah, it won’t be me taking care of them for a while, though… it would be more like my parents and me sharing the same place. It could be a fun challenge. And in several years, there will be times that healthier members need to “take care” of non-healthy one. Hopefully we’ll be ready to face it by then.

Lily Anette
Hahaha. I’m not a “good” daughter… that’s for sure, because a good daughter must have gotten married by now and given my parents wonderful times with my children i.e., their grandchildren. But well, I can just do my best, you know. ;)

Thanks. I hope so.
I wish you all the best, too.

Anonymous commenter
Oh, thank you for sharing your experience. Yeah, I’m gonna have to make many personal adjustments, too. I hope that, let’s say, after 10 years from now, I can say, “That decision was a good one.”
All the best for 2009.

Yes, please do come visit us. :) I might be able to feed you with the fish I caught and oranges my family grow in our orchard.
Good luck to you, too.

Thanks, Teresa. My plans are not so detailed yet, but I’m aware that there are some good options I could take. Yeah, living close to the ocean is such an important thing for me, I guess. Now I understand that.

Resilient! Yeah! I’m so glad to hear that. I’m not sure if I’m really resilient, but that’s the way I want to be.
Best of luck to you, too.

Arigato. I hope this new step I’m taking leads to a better future.

Oh, you remember my dream life! Yeah, a dog will be wonderful but I can’t hope that much. My parents will never want to keep a dog. If we decide not to live in the same house but live very close to each other (that is one of the options, too), then I would go for it. :)

Thanks. Living together may be more problematic than I can imagine now, to be honest, but at least now we are going to give it a try. I mean, you can never tell until you actually give it a try, right? So whatever result our family get after this trial, we’ll learn something from it. That’s the best we can, I guess.

Yeah, a simple lifestyle in a countryside. Seafood from the ocean, veggies from the garden, fruits from the orchard. Thoughts about those things make me feel so happy about this decision. It’s true that there are many wonderful things in my hometown if I know how to appreciate them. Let’s see what the new chapter of my life would be like over there. I can’t wait to share it with you readers! :)

Marie said...

Hi Obachan, my heart dropped for a sec because I thought you were going to stop blogging completely! But, of course, I read on and was instantly relieved. I look forward to hearing about life in the Japanese countryside and wish you all the luck with the transition and the move!

Anonymous said...

That is an incredible and difficult decision you made - I wish you the best of luck.
I think you are a very good daughter, don't let the nagging about grandchildren get you. Every mother on earth (and probably every planet) does that. My mother used to ask me "Are you pregnant?!" instead of saying "How are you?" for some time, after some serious yelling she stopped.
For some time, but hey, be happy about the small pleasures, no?
If I may give you an advise: Living in a place nearby sounds better to me than moving in. This way, you and your parents both will have their privacy, you can watch TV without a talking mum (mine actually pushes her elbow in my ribs when something exciting happens! Argh!), you won't invade each others kitchens and in short you can avoid all the little traps that sum up and annoy when you share the same space. Plus, you can close the door with a key when the O-Miai aunties come to get you for a date with a prospective salariman-husband with sweaty hands and not much hair.
And you could get a dog.

Anonymous said...

Dear Obachan -

Wish you the best for 2009 and looking forward to reading your posts about the country side! \(^o^)/


obachan said...

Don't worry. How could I live without blogging?! ;) Right now, I'm facing some challenges regarding the Internet access in my hometown, but I should be able to blog, at least.

Thanks so much for your caring comment. No, actually, the nagging about grandchildren comes from relatives, not my parents. I guess my parents are trying to avoid that topic.

Yeah, I thought a lot about living nearby. The TV problem will be easily solved because I'm bringing my TV and VCR with me to use in my room there. But the privacy issue! I'm still not confident about that.

Nevertheless, I guess moving in with them would be a more practical choice financially. It's a real countryside and there’s no apartment to rent in the neighborhood in the first place. LOL. Besides, I'll be trapped with the same problem as I have now: being exhausted from having to juggle several part-time jobs only to pay for my rent, utilities and food myself.
And there will be the time when I need to cook for them and literally take care of them. Would I want to do that most of the day and then go back to my own place and do my own cooking/cleaning/washing, then be woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call saying, “Hey, come right now. Your dad (or mom) is disoriented and walking around on the beach again!” And still I have to juggle several jobs to pay my own rent, utilities, etc.? Oh, No. That’ll be a hell.

So if I’m gonna have to move in someday anyway, I'd rather do so while all of us are still healthy, and create my own space in the house, as well as a helping network with the neighbors. I have to know who the helpers/enemies are there before my parents become sick or possibly demented.

But… A dog! Yeah, that’s a huge temptation. Mmmm… Maybe I should get AIBO? 

Thank you. I really need a good luck with all my adventures, I guess….
I wish you a great year, too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Obachan, I think this is the first time I comment here, but I've been 'silently' reading your blog for quite some time. I totally understand your situation because I've been there, as a Japanese girl from a small town in the rural area, and I hope the transition will be as smooth as possible for you. I'm also looking forward to reading your new blog!

Anonymous said...

Good luck Obachan, the environment that you described sounds beautiful. The fishing 2 minutes away would have me move there in a heartbeat! Can't wait to read all about your new chapter in life!

rokh said...

continue to blog in your new place and i will continue to read! all the best :)

Implosion said...

Hi Obachan
I think it's great that you've taken on the very noble task of caring for your parents in their old age- there aren't enough people who do that here in Australia and retirement homes and communities is a booming industry. Good on ya, as we say around here.

Anonymous said...

Oh My! Another one of these jaw dropping stomach hunger craving pages! Whether it's the pics or the wording that was put together oh so well just to explain the juicyness of the food, It Sounded Gooood To Me :) and with that in mind I think we should all have a moment of silence and really think when we can take a trip down the best place to eat in your town or at a vacation getaway!
Well, let me know what you guys think because I am surely ready to enjoy a national tour of foods:)! Thanks for the info!

Anonymous said...

your hometown looks beautiful. I think you made the right decision. It is important to care for your parents. Saving on expenses is also a very good idea in these times.