Saturday, May 16, 2015

Our Japanese Friends

Dr. Kouichi Yoshino was a Spectroscopist with Harvard University at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA where we all worked. His wife, Shisuko, was a Librarian. She was born a city girl in Tokyo and he was a country boy far outside that city. His parents eventually moved there.

They lived in a Cape-style house in Lexington, MA. That house was jam-packed full of furniture, papers, books and "stuff". He retired after I did about 2008. They decided to move back to Japan, but keep the Lexington house for their three adult children to use, and to stay in when they returned to MA to attend classical concerts at Marlboro College and Tanglewood.

In 2011, they sold that house. I asked him how they let go of and got rid of all that stuff. In Tokyo, they live simply in a tiny two-bedroom apartment smaller than our original summer cottage in Tiverton, RI, for those who knew it. They moved a few pieces of furniture to Tokyo including the Form `N Teak (a furniture store in Lexington) table and chairs, a leather loveseat, a couple off large stereo speakers and a lovely grandfather clock. They left the rest for their children to dispose of.

But, at the behest of those children, they personally eliminated the office of papers and wall-to-wall shelves of books and the National Geographic collection back to 1950. The kids threw away lots and put a "free" sign on the rest in the front yard. Yoshino touted the power of the "free" sign to us with a smile.

They talked to us about "the Japanese way" of living quite a bit. This included the use of many small dishes for food, and a bathing room. This room with a door is attached to an entry room with a large sink and an all-in-one washer/dryer unit and contains a covered tub complete with wall inset tiny TV. After showering, they soak in the tub to get warm. They change the water every two days. Interesting.

I`ve talked about the Toto toilets. Theirs also contains a faucet on the tank for washing your hands after. No need for a separate sink, and it is in its own small room. The entry hallway has a little stool to sit on to remove your shoes. They provided us with slippers at the door, and flip flops to go out on the balconies of which there were two, also small.

Shisuko grows potted plants on their balconies. For shading, she grows a climbing Goya plant on a trellis on the East balcony, and climbing Morning Glories on a slanted trellis on the West balcony off Yoshino`s bedroom. She has her own small room off the living area.

They have no need of a car. The transportation system in Tokyo is excellent, and they walk everywhere. Yoshino carries a step counter.

Yoshino loves to watch Sumo Wrestling on TV as does his wife. I got into loudly reacting to those huge slamming, almost naked bodies myself, and they got a good laugh from it. He organized and basically runs an online Society of people who travel between Japan and Boston. Shisuko loves to shop and soak in the many hot springs around the area. They seem to be very playful and happy as a couple, and had no problem letting go and cutting back their lifestyle. There is a lesson here.

When we first met on this trip and I gave Yoshino a big, boistrous hug, he said, "You haven`t changed." He was smiling. I replied, "Why would I?" He is also the same friend I remembered from work, and his smaller life is no less full. I must keep this in mind as we contemplate downsizing eventually.

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