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The Diary: June 9

June 9–Thursday Awake at 3:45 with first light. Last night’s nap became a sleep-a-thon: I never did wake up for dinner. After a luxurious stretch and short walk outside, I hunker down for a couple of hours of writing. It’s good I had such a long, refreshing sleep, as there is much to catch up on.

At 6:00 I find Shoko in the kitchen again, and soon Eric joins us. We are quiet–I am preoccupied and they look a little sleepy–but it is still companionable.

Exercises: on this, the sixth morning of doing them, I finally feel I have them down pat. They are simple but invigorating, and lubricate all the sore muscles and joints.

Today our assignment is to clean up the garden of Kamiyama-san’s house nearby. It has become like a game every morning: can we guess exactly which pieces of equipment–and how many–we will need for the job? Today we are working close enough to the factory that it will be easy to come back and collect whatever we missed, so it is less fraught. The garden is discouraging to look at: it is easy to understand the request for help. There is debris strewn everywhere, broken windows and sliding Japanese doors (shoji) lying helter-skelter at the side of the house, and a 4-5 centimeter layer of dried sludge that needs to be removed from the top of the soil. Despite all that, a crop of weeds pokes its head out in answer to the warm sunlight.

The Garden - before we started work Photo by Claire Summers

By noon we have cleared the ground of debris and removed more than half of the sludge deposits. The improvement is already visible. For lunch, 4 of us decide to go to the local Gusto family restaurant, discovered the day before by the enterprising Andria. Till this day, we have been mostly eating noodles and rice out of packets, or picking through Lawson’s version of food, and are ready for a hot, kitchen-prepared meal. We are not so dirty (mind you, everyone’s standards have come way down by this point), so we go as we are, and relish eating at a table and sipping unlimited cool drinks from a glass. As for the meal, simple as it is–salad and pizza–the tasty combination of fresh and cooked vegetables is like manna from heaven. After lunch we finish the garden to perfection: level, smooth and brush every inch of earth, sweep the driveway and the stones of the garden path clean, and brush dried mud off the garden walls. The Kamiyama’s are both out working , and we are not sure if they will return before we have to leave. We feel a bit like conspiring little elves, half-wanting to finish before they return to make it seem more magical, but reluctant to leave without seeing–we hope–the surprise and happiness on their faces. By chance, the Kamiyama’s arrive home from work just as we are leaving. We lose our wish for the magical–we are seen!–but gain the satisfaction of meeting them, chatting for a while, and seeing their delighted smiles.

The Garden after, with Claire

End of the day: chatting with Kamiyama-san

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