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From My Morning Walk: Photos of My Neighborhood, Thoughts on My Bilingual Journey

February 24, 2016

Kannon statue

Most mornings, after my kids head off to school, I take a walk through the neighborhood before I begin my work for the day. (I work from home, as a writer and teacher.) A 20-minute stroll isn’t much exercise, I know, but it keeps me from turning completely into a large vegetable and also offers a little quiet time where I’m alone with my thoughts.

While I generally stick to the same route through our residential corner of Hiroshima, Japan, from time to time I plod away in another direction, toward a different destination in this area.

For this post, though, I went a little crazy and did both walks (and felt like crawling back into bed afterward), carrying along my camera to capture the sights I saw today and create a virtual experience of my morning routine and my reflections on the bilingual journey.

So put on your walking shoes and join me!

Neighborhood temple

Up the street from our house is a small Buddhist temple. Sometimes I see the priest, clad only in a loincloth, chanting in a loud voice and dowsing himself with cold water. But today the temple grounds are quiet.

Temple cemetary

Our house is close to the foot of a small mountain, and my course takes me up a slope past the temple and its cemetery. These graves are a continual reminder to make the most of my days, including my efforts to nurture my children’s language development and our parent-child bond. (See A Friend of Mine Died for much more on my very mindful desire to seize each day.)

Towering staircase

Locked gate

A bit farther on I approach a rusty, locked gate. Behind it is a towering staircase that leads to…well, I’m not sure where it leads. (It apparently has some connection to the city’s water supply.) Every time I pass by, though, I can’t help seeing a metaphor in these stairs: The bilingual journey itself is much like climbing an endless staircase, day after day, without knowing exactly where you’ll end up. (This metaphor is featured in How Many Steps Is the Bilingual Journey?, a photoessay of a mountain-climbing adventure with my son that I somehow survived.)

Uphill climb

From here, I trek up a quiet street that stretches to the top of the mountain. It isn’t really the peak—which takes another 20 minutes of steep climbing through the forest to reach, affording a glorious view of the city of Hiroshima. But this is as far as the road rises before descending down toward Hiroshima’s main train station.

View of downtown Hiroshima

The view from the real peak is more impressive, but even at this height the city, and the islands that dot the sea beyond it, are a lovely sight. Moreover, I’ve always felt that views from above give us fresh perspective on the lives we live on lower ground. Somehow the difficulties that feel daunting in daily life don’t appear as imposing when we have the chance to look down on the world from a greater height.

Road leading down

Winding road home

I then head back down a different road that winds toward my house. Though this would be the end of a typical walk, if you’re not too winded, tag along with me to my second destination in the neighborhood and take in a surprising sight that looms high on a hillside.

Kannon statue on the hilltop

Kannon statue from below

Kannon statue from behind

This huge, golden figure is a kind of Kannon statue for Buddhist beliefs in Japan. The baby in its arms reveals that this particular figure is a guardian of children, guiding the spirits of those who have died at a young age. Families that have lost a child may pray here for the protection and comfort of their loved one in the afterlife. Inevitably, I think of my own children, as I do now, and say a quiet pledge to appreciate the time we have together in this world as fully as I can. (See My Son Disappears, I Lose My Mind, and the World Is Beautiful for a defining experience of this outlook.)

Another view of Hiroshima

Another nice view of the city is available from atop this hill. I breathe slowly, the busy city alive below, gradually reborn after the atomic bomb, which turned this town to ashes. Then I head down a steep flight of steps and follow the road home for another day as a writer and teacher—and parent of two bilingual children—in Hiroshima, Japan. (For my children’s thoughts on this city and peace, see What My Hiroshima-Born Children Think About the Atomic Bombing.)

How about you? Do you take regular walks where you are? What do you see? What do you think about?

1 Jonathan Goldberg February 25, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Fascinating article. Keep them coming.
Los Angeles


2 Adam February 25, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Jonathan, thank you for the encouraging comment! Cheers from Hiroshima!


3 Jonathan Ervine February 26, 2016 at 3:56 am

Really enjoyed reading this post, and especially seeing the photos of what looks like a beautiful place to live.


4 Adam February 26, 2016 at 5:52 am

Thanks a lot, Jonathan. I guess it’s only human, but my eyes don’t often appreciate the beauty of my surroundings as deeply as they should. It’s a continuous struggle—for us all, I suppose—between familiarity and mindfulness.

(Note to all: Two “Jonathans” have made comments so far, but you don’t necessarily have to be named “Jonathan” to comment on this post. I just wanted to clarify that. :mrgreen: )


5 Jo February 28, 2016 at 7:23 pm

Great post, I love the pics!


6 Adam February 28, 2016 at 8:13 pm

Jo, I’m glad you enjoyed it!


7 Ana Paula Mumy February 28, 2016 at 10:44 pm

The “endless staircase” hit home today. Have been feeling the weight of the climb lately and I appreciate your encouragement to keep climbing and seizing the opportunities before us. Thanks, Adam!


8 Adam February 29, 2016 at 5:55 am

Yes, let’s keep climbing, Ana Paula! Day by day, we can do it!


9 Amanda February 29, 2016 at 11:35 am

Hi Adam,

Thanks for sharing all these with us continuously.

I’ve been a “secret reader” for a long time. Though not providing as much feedback as I should, I keep getting benefits from each of your articles.

Since the new year begins (with Chinese new year just past), I feel like I need to “appear” and really appreciate your effort. For sure you are a motivator in this journey, great thanks to that and please please keep it moving!

Best wishes to you and your lovely monkey family.

Twin mother from your neighbour country :-)


10 Adam February 29, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Amanda, I really appreciate your comment. The truth is, it’s this sort of positive feedback and kind encouragement that helps fuel my efforts, week after week. Without it, I’m not sure I could have continued to sustain my work online. So I heartily return the thanks! :mrgreen:

Please feel free to also make an “appearance” at The Bilingual Zoo. It’s a warm, supportive community of “keepers” of bilingual kids around the world and you would be welcome to join us.


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