Japanese friends

The last days I had a great time with old & new Japanese friends. I met Satoko (blue dress) four years ago in the US, and we have remained in contact with each other since then. Of course, I wanted to meet her while in Japan, and also get to know her husband Yuki (white T-shirt). They offered me to stay at their house in Kamakura, which is about an hour train ride south of Tokyo. We had two awesome days together!

At a bar in Kamakura. Yachin, a friend of Satoko and Yuki, joins us as well.

We have lunch at Naruto-ya, a great place focusing on healthy vegetable dishes. A friend of Satoko works there. Yachin's wife, Emiko, joins us for lunch and the rest of the (fun) day.

Last night in Kamakura and I have one of the best meals ever. We are at a tiny Soba (Japanese thin noodles) restaurant in Kamakura that has just a few seats at the bar. We eat great food, drink a lot of Sake (Japanese rice wine) and celebrate life.

Kamakura used to be the political center of Japan for almost 200 years (12th and 13th century). Therefore, the city has many historical sites, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. For example, the Great Buddha (Kamakura Daibutsu), a bronze statue of 13 meters height on the grounds of the Kotokuin Temple.

On the train heading to my next destination. A word to Japan's public transportation system. It is just awesome! Trains are on-time to the minute, and it feels that there is always one waiting for me. There is no need to plan a trip beforehand; just go to the train station and hop on the next train. Particularly Japan's bullet train Shinkansen is a fun ride; comfortable seats and very fast. It has the advantage of using its own tracks, so there is no interference with slower traffic. The average delay per train from schedule is about 30 seconds! (This picture doesn't show me in the Shinkansen though, it is a regular train.)

The next stop is Hida-Takayama meeting friends of Satoko and Yuki and staying at their house. The area around Hida-Takayama is called the Japan Alps and lies about 4 hours south-west of Tokyo. A few years ago, Asako and Tatsuya moved from Kamakura to this rural part of Japan and started a new life chapter. 

Asako and Tatsuya spoil me with great Japanese food. Asako is a great cook, and she always prepares our meals with fresh ingredients. Oishii! (this means "delicious"). I also try new dishes such as Nattō, which is a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans fermented with bacteria. Interesting taste..

Tatsuya has his own rice field where he grows rice for own consumption and friends & family. Perhaps, I was a traditional Japanese rice farmer in a former life. :) 

Eating good food, drinking tasty Sake and having great company. This is life!

Thank you Asako and Tatsuya for your hospitality! My stay was not only very relaxing, but also triggered some general thoughts about life. Asako and Tatsuya used to live the city life but deliberately chose a different life style in a rural area close to nature. It is a life choice, and I appreciate their courage to follow it through.

I believe that in today's world making your own choice for life can be difficult. Our society builds pressure and sets expectations on how a "good life" should look like. People are socially conditioned in their thoughts and beliefs that going to a well-recognized university, finding a well-paid job, starting a family, building a house, and saving money for retirement to finally enjoy life in the future is the right way for everyone. I think this is an illusion that doesn't necessarily lead to happiness and fulfillment.

Life has an infinite number of possibilities, and it is more important to choose a life that recognizes someone's individual talents and desires instead of fulfilling expectations of others. In my opinion, this is also the only way to tap into the full personal potential allowing to make a bigger impact in the world. Watch the following video from Steve Jobs. It is from 1995 and less than two minutes long. Very inspiring thoughts!