This blog is a hard balancing act.
One on hand, I want to be open with you about my family: not only does this help me share my ideas about bilingual kids more effectively, I know that a personal look at our lives makes this site more engaging than if I simply offered these ideas without revealing much about us.
On the other hand, when I began this blog (back in September 2012), my wife insisted that I maintain their privacy by using made-up names and not showing their faces. I agreed, and have respected this rule ever since, though it’s also true that there are times I feel constrained, particularly when it comes to posting photos.
So lately I’ve been pondering ways that I might stretch this rule just a bit: ways to be more personal and yet still preserve their privacy. By sharing our experiences in richer detail, I’m hoping I can create more context for you and make my blog posts more meaningful.
22 photos from Hagi, Japan
Today I’d like to test one possible solution: a series of photos that avoid revealing their identity, and yet will offer a colorful glimpse of our life here in Japan. These pictures were taken last weekend during a short getaway to a town called Hagi, which lies on the Sea of Japan and is located about three hours by car from Hiroshima. Hagi is a remarkable place—one of my favorite spots in the world, to be honest—and I’d like to guide you on a virtual tour of our time there.
1. A castle town
Hagi Castle is long gone—only the walls, behind Lulu there, remain—but it was once a powerful castle town, with warlords, samurai, merchants, and other residents thriving here during the Edo Period (1603-1867).
2. In the moat
The moat around the remains of the castle are teeming with turtles and colorful Japanese carp.
3. Feeding pigeons
To feed the fish and turtles, small bags of food are available from small shops on the castle grounds. Of course, where there’s free food, you’ll find pigeons, too. Here I am, with several pigeons pecking from my hand. (Roy is there beside me, but Lulu is far out of the frame: she wouldn’t come close because she’s deathly afraid of pigeons, a phobia that seems to have started when a pigeon pooped on her a few years ago.)
4. Historic streets
Not far from the castle grounds is the old samurai quarter, with its well-preserved buildings, walls, wooden gates, and small gardens. It’s a lovely, peaceful area, and roaming these historic streets in the spring sunshine was like a slice of heaven.
5. Riding bikes
Now that Lulu and Roy are both a bit older, we were able to rent bicycles and explore the city more widely. (The last time we were there, Roy was still just a toddler.)
6. Shrine gate
A quiet old shrine is tucked behind the ancient stone work and gnarled trees that mark the entrance.
7. Old waterway
This waterway was created centuries ago and served to bring water right up to the houses, for washing and bathing, before the advent of modern plumbing.
8. Pottery shop
Along with its historic charms, Hagi is known as a longtime center of pottery making in Japan. Shops such as this one are found throughout town and it’s great fun browsing the beautiful pottery. The fact that art lives in the city’s soul is one of the things I admire about it. (We came home with a number of nice cups and plates to add to our growing collection!)
9. Rivers in town
Several rivers flow through town, too, with boats carrying visitors on sightseeing tours.
10. Sightseeing boat
Lulu gives a friendly wave as a sightseeing boat passes by. Along this river bank stand huge old pine trees, too big to capture with our camera.
11. Orange trees
The orange trees of Hagi are another appealing aspect of the town. A large type of orange—called natsumikan—seems to grow everywhere. Even on tiny trees, no taller than knee-high, you can find big, juicy oranges! (The leaping monkeys are trying to bite one off the tree.)
12. Hungry hawks
At a large pond on the outskirts of town, the sky is full of dozens of hawks, swooping down for bits of bread thrown by visitors. I had never seen anything like it—it was an amazing sight. That’s Roy in the orange shirt, joyfully throwing bread.
13. Japanese inn
This is the minshuku, or Japanese inn, where we stayed for two nights. It was a friendly place with shared meals and bath, run by two smiling women in their 80s. It was also right near the sea.
14. Sea of Japan
What is it about children and the beach? If it had been up to Lulu and Roy, they wouldn’t have done anything but play in the sand the whole time we were there.
15. Zen temple
This massive wooden building is found just inside the gate to the grounds of a Zen temple. It was a quiet morning, just after a hard rain the night before.
16. Kicking rocks
Surrounded by gorgeous old pine trees and centuries of rich history, the only thing my kids wanted to do was kick rocks.
17. Aging cemetery
At the back of the temple grounds is an aging cemetery for the feudal lords of the ruling clan of that era.
18. Family tombs
The tombs, which rise up at the rear of the cemetery, hold the remains of the lords and their family members.
19. Stone lanterns
After the practice of samurai committing ritual suicide when their masters died was outlawed, they began donating stone lanterns instead.
20. 500 lanterns
There are about 500 of these stone lanterns, standing at attention, silently guarding the grounds.
21. Unseen lantern
Outside the frame, to the right, is one more stone lantern, the ball-shaped ornament from on top now lying on the ground beside it. In fact, earlier that morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I lost a silver filling. The gaping hole it left is a sign of the same decay.
22. Moss-covered stone
Nature is slowly retaking the cemetery, a symbol of how fleeting life—even death—really is…and a sharp reminder to seize each day.
I hope you enjoyed this personal peek into our trip to Hagi. If so, please let me know in a comment, and I’ll make an effort to share more family photos from time to time, among my usual posts offering ideas and inspiration for raising bilingual children.
In the meantime, make the most of your day! Your kids are counting on you!
P.S. If you haven’t already seen them, you might also enjoy this Quick Look at My Family and 19 Things I Haven’t Told You About Me and My Family.