Photo above: Torii gate, Mie Prefecture.
I’ve just published my first ever journal/newsletter which after a lot of dithering have decided to call Restless. As it’s the first issue I’m going to post it here in its entirety so that anyone interested can get a glimpse of what to expect.
You can sign up here.
1. Feeling Awkward
2. Cycling’s Diminishing Influence
3. Looking Back on 2020 / Adoption
4. This Journal and My Website
5. Currently consuming
(Takes a deep breath and sighs as he presses send.)
I’ll go ahead and say it straight away, this feels awkward. Why am I writing a journal and sharing my life with (mostly) people I don’t know?
It makes me uncomfortable. But feeling uncomfortable is exactly how I should be feeling, like going on a hike in the mountains it’s the apprehension and sense of the unknown that makes it worthwhile and ultimately leads to personal growth. One thing I’ve learnt about going on adventures over the years is that the hardest part is walking out the front door. Once you start the rest takes care of itself. It’s a cliche, but it’s true. I also know that I’m not a particularly good writer, but twenty years of exploring the Japanese countryside (mostly central Japan and parts of Hokkaidō) has given me an insight into a world that remains out of reach to a lot of people, especially those outside the country, so writing this journal, along with posts on my website, will hopefully help you learn more about life here and push me to find out more as well – and maybe even improve my writing. The plan is to write as honestly and as objectively as I can. None of that hyperbole and deceit you’ll find on Instagram or elsewhere.
A local temple.
Cycling’s Diminishing Influence
For the last year or so cycling adventures have taken a back seat and I now use riding as a simple tool for fitness. I even contemplated buying an indoor trainer but haven’t become that desperate yet – I’d much rather be outdoors. There are a few reasons why cycling is less prominent nowadays which long-term readers will already be aware, but it’s mostly because I needed a change. I couldn’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. Walking and hiking – taking things at a much slower pace – has proven to be what I needed. Initially I was worried about cutting back on riding but I’ve come to terms with its diminishing influence and have been replacing it with more variety. Besides, as we will get to below, time is now very limited.
Kiyomizu Temple, Kyōto
Looking Back on 2020 / Adoption
In spring, after almost a year of compulsory seminars, meeting, and various other procedures we started fostering a baby girl through the local authorities. She will soon (perhaps by the time you read this) become our adopted daughter. We couldn’t be happier! One day I will write more about the adoption process in Japan from a non-Japanese resident’s perspective but in the meantime I wrote a post for Retire Japan that you can find here.
With the affects of the pandemic and caring for our daughter getting into the mountains and countryside has been harder than ever. But it still happens. Sometimes she comes along with me (like the time we walked a small section of the Nakasendō and Kiso-ji), but other times our adventure is to a local park.
In 2020, I hiked up a couple of mountains in the nearby Suzuka Ranges, walked a short section of the Kumano Kodō and Ise-ji, took a group of Japanese kids to Australia on a homestay (and got back just before Japan closed its doors to everyone), hiked up Mt. Minami Komagatake and saw my first bear, cancelled a planned traverse over the Minami Alps, decided against hiking up Mt. Shiomi because of the pandemic and the pull of my family, hiked a trail on the Mie coast, spent time almost alone in Kyōto, and have just started walking the Kiso-ji along the Kiso Valley. Not once did I cycle more than 70kms.
In 2021 the plan is to continue where I left off in 2019 with the same enthusiasm I had back then without all the restraints of 2020. We’ll see…
This Journal and My Website
I initially started this newsletter on Substack but no matter how much I tried to brush it aside Substack has the air of another social media website. So I’ve switched to Buttondown and prefer its simplicity. I’ve switched between names too and am currently settled on Restless, taken from a New Order song (a band that played a huge part in my youth and still have relevance today).
I’ve also made a few tweaks to my website, most notably removing both the Like button and the comments section. The world doesn’t need more Like buttons, it needs real communication. That’s why comments have gone, too.
Instead, feel free to email me directly if you want to start a dialogue, and please please get in touch if you have any issues with this email. It’s the first one so I doubt everything will go smoothly.
Kasugai, central Japan.
Why People Photograph – Robert Adams
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos – Jordan B. Peterson
Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers – Gordon Neufeld & Gabor Maté
Transmission: The Definitive Story Joy Division / New Order
We Will Always Love You – The Avalanches
Nature Sound Gallery – Ambient recordings from Japanese forest and mountains. Played most mornings to drown out the din of morning rush hour.