I know people who visit England and after a little time spent there, return to the USA speaking with an English Accent. I haven’t acquired an English accent, nor a Japanese one, but I have deliberately acquired the Japanese version of saying Grace before meals.

It’s quick. It’s easy once you’ve said the word 50 or more times. It makes the beginning of a meal a special event! If you’re eating with Japanese friends in Japan it’s polite to join them in saying itadakimasu!  It builds community!  It will elevate your dining experience!

Itakdakimasu. Spoken before eating to acknowledge and be thankful for all that came before the food appeared on a plate in front of you. That includes farmers, organisms, fields, vendors, cooks, etc, not to mention the living plants/animals that have given their lives for this meal. It’s all-encompassing and a meaningful way to focus on what you are about to eat.  A moment of raised consciousness never hurt anyone.   Itadakimasu has no broader religious connotations.   I think it’s not a custom that will cause inner conflicts to arise.  In other words, It’s not like a Jew singing a Christmas carol.

japanese dinner

The Meaning of “Itadakimasu”
いただく (Itadaku) is a phrase that is very polite with the meaning “to take.”

In this sense, the head is bowed with the hands held, palms up, higher than the head to receive an item. It is currently used when eating because you are taking a very precious gift of another organism’s life.

The origins of this are based on Buddhism and the belief that everything has a spirit that guides it. By taking spirits from their origins and using them to replenish yourself, you are giving honor and gratitude to the organisms that originally housed those spirits.

It is very disrespectful to eat someone else’s meal without properly giving thanks to them for making such food. Even if you made the meal yourself, you are still giving respect to the lives used in its creation.

I think saying itadakimasu is a lovely custom. I’ve overcome the awkwardness I originally felt when I first began to say it. It’s become a brief but essential part of meal time now.

Try it, and let me know what you think.

Serendipity Strikes Again

A small blurb in a local magazine caught my eye and I  thought it would be worth checking out:

Autumn Book Fair is held by the Used Book Society of Kyoto which consists of many of Kyoto’s used booksellers at Chion-ji Temple in Sakyo-ku, Kyoto city. Throughout the event, the usually quiet temple compound is transformed into the likes of a giant bookstore and crowded with many people.

I’ve always been fascinated with paper ephemera from earlier times and this sale, along with its valuable books, had stacks and stacks of of old travel pamphlets, catalogues, magazines, advertising brochures, etc.  I love the old graphics, the weird and disturbing references to a formerly militaristic Japan during wartime, the early manga drawings, etc.

As promised, stalls lined the temple compound.  Prices were reasonable.  My pulse raced when I found two exquisite bound catalogues of vintage kimono patterns.  I’d only read that they existed, and here they were, affordable and in my eager hands. Continue reading “Serendipity Strikes Again”

and the seasons they go round and round.

speed 1 “After Halloween it’s a downhill slide to the holidays.”  I’ve said that for years.  Now, I can add, after turning 70, it’s a downhill slide to 75.  These days, I’ve become more preoccupied with the 3/4 century mark.

This decade of my life is just going too damn fast. I’m now making some accomodations for my shortness of breath from copd, and it’s making me feel old. (older?)  I stopped going to zumba several months ago because I got too short winded. Excercise, some days, is simply not an option. Having been very physical all my life, I don’t like it.  How to accept the new reality and not give up too much?  I’m working on that one. My guess is that will be an increasing challenge in the coming years.

There’s nothing new to the observation  that time seems to speed up the older you get.  What’s changed for me, is that time seems to be in damn overdrive these days.  Someone’s put the pedal to the metal. I want to scream at the driver to slow down.

Speed can be exhilarating, but it also can be scary because of feeling out-of-control.

out of control

I’m familiar with the old shibboleth that advancing age allows us to value each day more. That’s obvious, but hardly satisfying.

I recently read that some wise person, or person who thought they were wise, would start each day by asking himself, “How would I live this day if I knew it were my last?”  This produces the same mind stop as the Buddhist monk greeting, “Remember you’re dying.” It separates the wheat from the chaff, but is a little too confrontational for my taste.  Maybe this concept needs to be experienced gingerly and gently, like entering an unfamiliar dark room.

I’ve always considered myself a realist. I like to think I look clearly at what’s so.  Why go through life in denial?  Sooner or later, one should confront the Truth, or it will bite  your not so little butt.  But then, maybe there’s something to be said for Denial.


I decided at 69 that I would not hide the fact that I was turning 70. I really felt no different physically.   Now at 74, I’m a little taken back that I really have begun to feel “older.”   Maybe I’m finally transitioning from prolonged middle age?

It doesn’t seem productive to remember the days when everything physical came easily.  On the other hand, I know very well that turning 75 is a privilege not afforded to many, and I’ve got a lot to be grateful for.  Coming to terms with the changes that accompany aging seems to be my next challenge.  Just maybe, if I’m successful and lucky, it will be the most gratifying.