My partner and I first came to Japan in 1989 to teach English. Before coming,
I had no particular interest in "things Japanese." Even so, very
soon after arriving (and with no skills in the language yet), I joined
a flower arranging class at a local community center...because I wanted
to do something cultural, and had worked in a flower shop in the US.
That was the beginning of the re-figuring of my whole concept of beauty.
We stayed a year and a half, learned a fair amount of spoken Japanese,
and returned to the US with a different aesthetic. In 1998, we both wanted
to come back to learn more about this amorphous concept of "wabi
Our first stint here--and thus our friends
and connections--were on Shikoku Island, the smallest and least developed
of the 4 main islands, and it was here we decided to return to. Tokushima
City (pop. 275,000) is on the northeast corner of this island, and is now
connected by bridges to the main island, which makes us only a 2 1/2 hour
bus ride from the Osaka International Airport.
Our new home would be a 100+ year old farmhouse on the outskirts of this
city--a house owned by the sister of a friend we'd made when we lived here
10 years ago.
Finding someone to rent to a foreigner is not always easy, so it's nice
to have help. But if you don't know anyone here, many English teaching
jobs either provide apartments, or help you to get set up in one. You can
find more details in the numerous books now available about working in
showed up with 3-month tourist visas, and within 2 months, had again found
work teaching English conversation and acquired 1-year working visas. [College
degrees of any type, conservative dress, and a youthful outlook are still
generally enough to get this kind of work, in our experience.] We knew
that the typical teaching schedule (after work/school) and salary for these
jobs would allow for pursuing our cultural studies during the day.
My main aesthetic focus here has been ikebana, but I also knew I wanted
to learn more about J. gardens while I was here this time. With several
visits to the gardens of Kyoto behind me, I next haunted the bookstores,
and found 2 excellent texts--Slawson's Secret
Teachings in the Art of Japanese Garden Design and Keane's
Japanese Garden Design--which I read closely
on my own.