Cared my ex-husband to the end in 2012, then moved to San Diego, California in 2014 to rebuild my life.
As a writer, my speciality is the "well-being" field. I write essays and short stories as well.
In my free time, I enjoy surfing, yoga, and spending time with my new husband and doggies.
FAY is my “American” nickname.
DAYS / Satoko FAY Column
Independence Day 2021
The month of July has gone by like a storm.
I'm writing this on the 25th of July, but it feels like July 4th was a few months ago.
The reason why things are so hectic is probably due to the fact that the economy in California has completely reopened since the middle of June.
Restaurants have gone back to normal operations, and events that bring people together have started again.
Since last April, I had been restricted from doing things, and those restricted days had become my standard.
Then, my old normal life has returned. I'm suddenly in full gear, and I think my body and mind haven't caught up with the speed yet.
But getting back to normal is fun.
I've come to appreciate the fact that I can play normally.
Speaking of Independence Day, I went to a special event held in my neighborhood.
I had always spent Independence day in the Ocean, so everything I saw at the event was exciting.
Every year when Independence Day came around, I saw clothes of stars and stripes, and wondered, "Who's going to wear this? But this year I saw that almost everyone at the event was wearing them.
Even those who weren't wearing the stars and stripes were either coordinating with red, blue and white, or had stars and stripes on their accessories.
I feel, in America, people don't be shy when they celebrate something. And I like that.
Even in the ocean, there are surfers wearing some kind of stars and stripes on Independence Day, asurfers in costumes on Halloween, and Santa surfers during the Christmas season.
Speaking of celebrating, I saw a lot of cars that say, "XX (name), congratulations on graduating college in 2021!” during June. I have never seen them in Japan.
If I see a car with "Congratulations on your graduation", and I see it’s driver, I'll say "Congratulations" to him/her.
Of course, I don't know who it is, and I probably won't see him/her again.
But I kind of like it. To me, that is very California.
Even though the economy has reopened in California, there are signs of a renewed outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID, and in Los Angeles, masks are required again indoors.
If the number of patients increases and overwhelms medical hospitals, there may be restrictions on restaurants and retail stores again, but I hope not.
DAYS / Satoko FAY Column
I Love San Diego
The expiration date of my passport is approaching, so I went to the Consulate-General of Japan in downtown Los Angeles to renew it.
It takes two hours to drive from San Diego to the Consulate-General of Japan in Los Angeles (actually it takes longer because of the traffic jams), and the distance is almost 205 kilometers.
Since it's not easy to get there, the Consulate General usually organizes a "Consul General Trip" a few times a year so that we can do the same procedures in San Diego that we do at the Consulate. However, due to the Corona disaster, the "Consul General Trip" was cancelled.
Since the state of California fully reopened its economy on June 15, I think the Consulate General Trip will be back soon, but while I'm waiting for it, my passport is about to expire first, so I decided to go to Los Angeles.
Normally, passport renewals take two days. One is for application and the other is for issue. However, if you're coming from far away, like San Diego, you can apply for your passport and get it on the same day. I had about four hours to wait for my passport to be issued, so I decided to have lunch and to enjoy a little tour in downtown LA.
I headed to Little Tokyo, which I had heard had recently become safer and was regaining its vitality.
It had been seven years since I left Japan, and so what I was looking for in Los Angeles was not American or Californian things, but something Japanese that San Diego doesn't have.
I wanted to eat handmade udon noodles, which I couldn't get in San Diego.
For me, hanging out in Little Tokyo was like traveling through the Japanese countryside.
It is not like real Tokyo but like old Tokyo one generation ago.
That might sound negative but actually I enjoyed the nostalgia a lot.
For example, I felt nostalgic for a model of food in front of the restaurant, something that every old diners had. For the shelves selling so-called “drugstore cosmetics” at petite prices. For the scene the many restaurants lining the upper floors of a large shopping mall.
None of these are the kind of scenery that I usually think, "Oh, I miss this," but when I see them, I think, "Oh, yes, this is what Japan was like. I miss it”.
It was a hot day, so I felt like I was on a time trip to the old days. I felt like I was a child enjoying summer vacation in Japan.
We enjoyed the handmade udon noodles and Japanese-style cream puffs. On the way back to the Consulate-General, we inadvertently stepped into an unsafe area called "Skid Row."
Our sense of smell kicked in and we immediately knew that this was a bad place to go, so we avoided going through the middle of the area, but even so, we had to walk through a street full of garbage and tents for street people. I was surprised at how much the city could change just by taking a wrong turn.
What made me laugh at that time was that I tought “I can’t wait to go back to San Diego” although I had been pining for Japan.
I wonder which is my "home" .
Most of pepole who live in San Diego agree that when you drive on Route 5 from Los Angeles and enter San Diego County, the atmosphere instantly changes to be bright and open.
It's a relief to be back in San Diego.
I've been surfing in the ocean almost every day, but after going somewhere far away, I especially want to get in the ocean.
And when I get in the ocean, I think to myself, "I love San Diego”.
There are no handmade udon noodles that I sometimes crave, and no nostalgic Japanese landscape, but I feel strongly that this is where I belong now.
DAYS / Satoko FAY Column
Between Natural and Artificial
I visited a contemporary art exhibition project called "Desert X" that was held for a limited time from March to May 2021.
The venue was Palm Springs, an oasis-like city in the desert.
Palm Springs was known as a vacation home for Hollywood stars in the 1950s, the latter half of Hollywood's golden age, and is known as a fashionable and artistic town with a mid-century modern atmosphere in its buildings and interiors. Even today, people living along the coast of Southern California visit Palm Springs to enjoy spa treatments, golf, and other activities as a familiar winter retreat.
Palm Springs is about a two-hour drive northeast of San Diego, and about a two-hour drive southeast from Los Angeles.
My travel companion this time was one of my female friends who lives in Los Angeles, so we met up at Palm Springs and enjoyed a two-day, one-night art trip.
Desert X is an art exhibition that takes over the entire city of Palm Springs, and you rely on a map to find the locations of the artworks, drive over, view them, and then drive again to see the next one.
Maps can be obtained at the Hub, which is like a visitor center for this project, but you can download the Desert X smartphone app and that is easier.
The Desert X app has a description of each work and artist, a map of where the work is exhibited, and of course it has navigation.
It was kind of strange to see the contrast between the desert and the app. I mean, I feel strange that I was playing in a land that is not easy to live in, with advanced technology usually not associated with nature.
I got the same feeling for the art exhibition.
Desert X was an exhibition of artworks created by people in the natural setting of the desert, and it made me feel strongly that not only the artworks but also the setting is a work of art.
To put it another way, the fact that this work was displayed in this desert, that is, the fact that it was displayed here, was also a work of art.
That may be obvious to people who know a lot about art, but I think I hadn't really recognized that art includes where and how it is displayed until then.
As a result, throughout the trip, my mind drifted in a strange space between the goodness of nature and the goodness of things made by humans, who are part of nature.
It’s not about which is good or not. All human activities are part of nature, no matter what form they take. So nature and human activities, like creating buildings, arts, and digital technologies, are not in conflict with each other, and when they mix together, a new culture is born. Or a new era starts.
That was what I thought during the trip.
I'm more of a naturalist, interested in environmental issues, prefer analog to digital, and old to new. I feel that there is too much going on in the world today, and I often feel nostalgic about what will happen to the world if things continue as they are.
However, if being a naturalist means preferring things to be natural, then the natural occurrence of the changing times must also be natural, and all man-made things and human evolution can also be considered natural.
If that is the case, then what I have to do is not to resist or fight against the new digital changing world, but to find ways to make a beautiful world within the changing world.
After the Desert X trip, I was able to sort out "being natural" in my own way, and I felt as if my vision had been opened up.
Don't resist, don't fight, move on. We can always make "now" the beginning.
DAYS / Satoko FAY Column
We want what we don't have?
In 2010, when I moved to Shonan from Tokyo, where I had lived for about 7 years, I got a culture shock.
What surprised me the most is that there are people in wetsuits and swimsuits on the road.
I mean, not at the beach or on the road along the beach. They are walking in the shopping district in wetsuits or swimsuits, just like people in Hawaii do. But it’s not Hawaii.
Some people are walking with a surfboard in one hand, while others are riding a bicycle with a surfboard on their side. Next to them, a man who seems to be in his 70s is walking in a flashy Hawaiian shirt and shorts.
That is definitely a “beach city” thing and doesn’t happen in Tokyo.
Well, let me tell you an episode that describes what the beach city is like.
One morning, my father-in-law, who lives next to us left the house saying, "I'm going to have a haircut".
But he came back in five minutes.
I asked him, “what happens?”.
He said, "They are closed”.
I wonder, “Is that their holiday? Didn’t you know when they closed before you visited?”
He replied "No, it's not their regular holiday. There is a sign at the entrance and it says they are temporarily closed today.”
I asked "Due to what?”, and he answered “ I don’t know. But I assume they've gone surfing”.
He continued, “ I've seen a lot of surfers going to the beach on the way to the barber. Maybe the surf is good today" and laughed.
My father in law is not a surfer. But he never complains that surfers close their business due to surfing!
At that time, I realized that I had come to a beach community. And that community was totally different from the community I had belonged to before.
At first, I was a little confused. But little by little, I was getting used to living in the beach city. And finally, I totally fit in it.
My husband who brought me to Shonan, the beach city, passed away in 2012. After that, there was no reason for me to keep living in the same town. But I couldn’t imagine myself moving out. I was not sure where I was going to, on the other hand, I was pretty sure that it must be a beach town, somewhere in the world.
I moved to San Diego, California in 2014. My first impression of this city is that it’s like Shonan where I was from.
San Diego has a 112 kilometers long coastline from north to south, and the coastline contains various surf spots. Yes, it is definitely a beach city that has abundant beach culture.
I see people in wetsuits walk in the street as well as people in swimsuits. But soon after I moved in, I found there was another type of people whom I never saw in Shonan. That is, people walk barefoot everywhere.
I know walking barefoot on the beach is normal. What I am talking about is a barefoot tribe. They come in diners without shoes. They go grocery shoppings without shoes. They don’t care to use public restrooms barefoot.
It's obvious that they don’t put shoes on because they don’t have shoes. They don’t look like vagabonds either. Actually many of them look chic. They are people who love barefoot.
I see myself as a beach (growing up) girl. But I feel inferior to them somehow.
I know I don’t need to compare myself to others. So let’s say in other words. I admire the barefoot tribe. I want to be like them.
While I am aiming to join the barefoot tribe, one of my surfer girlfriends says she wants a boyfriend who puts on shoes.
I know she means she is looking for a person who doesn't go anywhere barefoot.
It’s interesting I admire barefoot people because I was not raised in such a community and she admires ordinary people who wear shoes because she was not raised in such a community.
It is said we want what we don’t have.
But the truth I believe is that you admire something because you have it but you veiled it for some reasons.
Probably what I really want is not to be a person who walks barefoot anywhere but things the barefoot tribe represents: Be natural. Have confidence in the way you are. Be free.
And those are not things I don't have. Those are just hidden and waiting to be revealed.
DAYS / Satoko FAY Column
Time cures all things
It's been seven years since I moved to California, USA.
It was the end of March 2014.
I landed at Los Angeles International Airport.
I didn’t have any relatives or friends here.
The only people I could ask a favor are Y, whom I met while traveling Mt. Shasta the year before, and my boss and colleagues whom I didn’t meet yet.
I hadn't even decided where to live.
I headed to a hotel from the airport and checked in. And the next day, I went to work.
Before I moved to California, I lived in Japan.
I left most of my belongings in my house, and came here with only 2 suitcases.
I appreciate my deceased husband had left some money in order for me to live for a while, but it was literally just for a while.When I started to live in California, the money left in my bank was just enough to buy a car for living. I would say that was starting over at age 39.
Did I have hope for my new life?
I want to say yes, but I don't really remember how I felt. But I remember it was tough to live in Japan without my husband. For me, leaving Japan at that time means escaping from all memories of my deceased husband.
I met him when I was 28 years old, and I lost him when I was 36. In almost all of the memories in my late 20s and early 30s, there is him. So there are a lot of things that remind me of him in Japan and that hurt.
I knew grief is a natural response but I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with sorrow.
I wanted to live with passion and joy.
In order for myself to heal, I needed an environment where there was nothing to remind me of him. And that was the main reason for my relocation.
Well, as you can imagine, living abroad is not easy in many ways. Especially first a couple of years.
In the first month since my arrival, my tooth filling came off. It had not happened for more than 10 years, but it happened all of sudden. Because I didn’t have dental insurance yet, I needed to go to a cheap underground kind dental clinic and that depressed me.
I bought an old used car but the speedometer didn’t work. The dealer fixed it for free, but a week later, the engine stopped.
Right after it was fixed, the radiator started to leak. Because I didn't have enough money to fix or replace it, I had to carry a radiator fluid in the car and to refill it every time I drive.
If I was in my 20s, I might think this would be funny. But I was in my 30s.
Whenever I struggled, I asked myself “Do I still want to live here going through so much hardship? If I went back to Japan, I would be able to live without any inconvenience”.
After all, I didn't go back to Japan. Because I knew even if I lived in Japan, there would be different kinds of toughness like living with my deceased husband’s memories without him.
That was a choice. Which toughness did I choose? I choose to live here.
For me, it seemed more manageable to deal with real life trouble than to face deep grief.
Indeed, having lots of things I have to do everyday took my mind away from sadness.
In Japan, we have an idiom that says if you keep sitting on a hard stone for at least 3 years, you will feel conforte on that stone. Maybe that’s right.
Around my third year in the US, I started to feel myself relaxing and having fun living here.
And that was time I met my future husband through surfing.
Every spring, when the cherry blossom season comes, my friends upload pictures of cherry blossom blooming and my SNS timeline is filled with it.
That used to make me nostalgic and sometimes Ii was too nostalgic to see. But this year, I’ve found I truly enjoy the virtual cherry blossom viewing.
Before, I tended to think “I couldn't see cherry blossoms in Japan this year again.
I haven't seen cherry blossoms for X years”.
Well, that might be a natural reaction of mind. I had lived for more than 30 years in Japan and cherry blossom viewing was my every year habit since I was born. But this year, after seven years living in California, finally my mind has changed.
I get used to spring without cherry blossoms. I mean, spring without cherry blossoms has become my new normal.
My deceased husband and I had known each other for 9 years. And surprisingly 9 years have passed since I lost him. Although I am not aware of it, my mind might finally accept life without him is my new normal.
I might be able to enjoy a trip to Japan without being overwhelmed by memories.
It is said "Time cures all things".
Time medicine works so slowly that it is hard to believe if it heals your pain especially in the beginning.
But actually it works and one day you suddenly realize you are healed. That’s how it works.
DAYS / Satoko FAY Column
Daylight savings time (summer time)
For me, living in the U.S., one of the biggest events in March is the start of summer.
It's called "Summer Time".
Officially, it's called Daylight Saving Time, and the clocks will be set one hour earlier than before.
The idea is to use daylight hours effectively.
I've taken the liberty of translating this to mean that we should enjoy the sun from early in the morning until late in the evening.
The days are getting longer and longer as we head into summer, and in fact, there are times when it's still light until around eight o'clock.
The fact that the sun is still shining after work makes me feel much happier than I imagined.
My friends who are drinkers say that it is nice to be able to toast while the sun is still up after a hard day's work.
I'm not much of a drinker, but I'm happy to surf the sunset after work.
I usually surf in the morning as well and then go to work, so it's not impossible to have two sessions in the morning and evening while working in the summer (whether I do it or not).
I read that the historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote in his book that human society today is based on creating "fictions" and "trusting" them.
I think Daylight Saving Time is a simple example of this.
It is a system that exists because everyone works together to create the fiction that from today, we should move our clocks forward by one hour.
If you look at it from the perspective of nature, there is no boundary between what happened yesterday and what will happen today, but people just decided, "Let's change the time from today.
It's the same with the New Year.
When I lived in Japan, I didn't really recognize it, but when I moved to California, I found that there were many ethnic groups that spent January 1st, which is New Year's Day in Japan, as a normal day and rather celebrated the Chinese New Year.
I would say that means each community believes in a different fiction.
I'm not sure though.
Well, let's get back on daylight saving time.
In the U.S., it starts on the second Sunday in March, so this year it starts on March 14. At 2:00 am on that day, you are supposed to set your clocks forward one hour.
The clocks on your phone and computer will automatically adjust to Daylight Saving Time, but other clocks will have to be set by you.
If I don't do it right away, it becomes a hassle, so I try to do it as soon as possible, but sometimes I forget to change the time on some clocks, which often causes confusion when I need to know the time.
My husband doesn't change the time at all.
Instead, he asks, "Should I look at the time an hour earlier? Can I trust these numbers as they are? I'm a little confused".
I think it would be more efficient to take the time to change them, but we are both adults now, so I don't interfere.
In the past, when I was much younger, I did not want to live my life tied to the hands of a clock.
Even now, I still have some of that tendency.
However, in today's society, where we all create the fiction of the clock and believe in it, it is quite difficult to not be bound by the hands of the clock.
It is difficult to live without the hands of the clock. I think that if everyone started to do this in different ways, society would not be able to function properly.
But at the same time, I remembered a newspaper article about a company that regularly changed the departments of its employees.
It was an article that said, as I recall, that the company did not discuss with each employee in advance what department they wanted to be assigned to next, but when they were asked about their requests for department changes, the requests were not concentrated in any one department.
Perhaps, deep down, society is designed to function naturally and harmoniously when people are allowed to be free?
For that to happen, human society needs to evolve more and more, and everyone needs to be able to trust themselves, others, and maybe even something bigger than that.
However, I think that one day, in the distant future, we will be able to realize a world where we can naturally cooperate with each other without having to clearly state "fictions" like "you must follow this rule".
With this dream in mind, I set my clock forward one hour on the first Sunday of March again this year.
It is the beginning of summer in 2021.