Lunch at the monk’s place

We continue to gradually discover Toyota city. Last weekend we were taken on a guided tour by a very proud local. He led us to an amazing viewpoint over the city and told us a little more about its history. Afterwards we visited a 300y old buddhist temple (‘Zuiouin’), which also owns a collection of lotus flowers from all over the world. A lecture was being held by a guest monk and afterwards everybody (including we!) got treated to noodles. Very basic, but all the more delicious! And again, our little one was the center of attention.

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If there is one festival you shouldn’t miss…

it’s Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri on the 17th of July. It was on a Tuesday, so we weren’t able to see the big procession of floats, but the preparations that start 3 days before (the so called ‘Yoiyama’, leading up to the event) are equally worth a visit. So we impulsively decided on Friday to go on a last minute weekend trip.  It’s only a two-hour drive from Toyota. Accomodation was still available but a bit more expensive and it was worth it. We were stunned by Kyoto: it is beautiful, peaceful and quiet, we loved the city and will definitely return. Unfortunately last weekend was the hottest in years, with temperatures rising to 37 degrees. Our little one courageously survived the baby carrier.

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As Gion Matsuri is the festival of the Yasaka shrine, of course we visited that one and walked through the Gion district. We also visited the famous red temples Kiyomizu-dera and we spent quite some time hiding from the heath in the oldest Zen Temple in Kyoto: Kennin-ji. Kairikya serves delicious ramen!

Disaster continues: heat wave takes its toll

After the heavy rains earlier this month, causing floods and landslides, now a heat wave plagues Japan. According to Japan News the death toll has risen to over 30 and over 10.000 have been taken to hospitals. On Wednesday temperatures up to 40.7 degrees were measured, breaking all records since record-keeping began. These unseen temperatures have  made it even more difficult for disaster victims and rescue workers in flood-hit towns, because water supply can’t be restored.

As for us: we almost melted on our Kyoto trip last weekend. Kyoto attained the highest temperatures in the country. We pittied the construction workers challenged by the extreme heat. ‘Luckily’ they had jackets with built-in fans. We are hiding from the heat and taking refuge in air-conditioned rooms. So if anyone asks us why we haven’t ridden our bikes yet, this is why!

built-in fan jacket
Luckily construction workers make use of jackets with built-in fans. Still we do not envy them!



Miyoko and Floris
The first Japanese guest in our home! Love her, and Floris obviously loves her too.

Yesterday’s personal milestones:
– I booked a hotel speaking only Japanese on the phone. At least I think I’ve booked it, because it went a little easier than I had expected.
– I’ve driven the car for the first time without Stan (but with the baby). Apart from turning on the windscreen wipers a few times instead of the winkers, it went well. Just have to remember to look to the left and then to the right when crossing. On the way back from the museum I even gave a ride to a woman I’d met in the exhibition.
– That woman was Miyoko. She’s from Nagoya and had traveled to Toyota for the first time just to see the Breughel exhibition before closing day (can you believe it: Breughel in Toyota?!). She has seen half of the world and speaks four different languages. We made a deal: she will teach me Japanese and I will help to freshen up her French. She is a very bubbly, kind person. I gave her a ride, invited her over and that is how our first Japanese guest entered our home. She even stayed for dinner (which was a bit crappy, our stuff will finally arrive tomorrow). Who knows she will turn out to be my first Japanese friend!

Breughel exhibition
Belgium (Dilbeek-Itterbeek) just around the corner in Toyota, Japan. What are the odds?!

Steal this concept!


I’m ecstatic, I’ve just discovered changing room heaven at Aeon mall. It… is…. huge! There is a corner to nurse your baby with an adjacent waiting area, a corner with children’s toilets, one to change your baby and one to weigh and measure it. Of course it is typically Japanese, which means it’s efficient, clean and safe. The changing cushions are framed, so you have an extra hand free. While lying on the back to get changed, your little one is distracted/entertained by images projected onto the ceiling. Genius! I’ve never seen this in Belgium before. Who will be the first to steal this concept? Did I mention it is free of charge?

About last weekend

Belgium sent Brazil home on Friday

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Saturday: Visit to the castle and the art museum (great architecture by Yoshio Taniguchi) followed by a traditional tea ceremony.

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Afterwards, Stan ran the Toyota Relay Marathon.

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Sunday getaway to Otaki Valley:

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Heavy rains plague Japan

I guess the news of the heavy rains, floods and landslides has reached Belgium. Thanks for all your concerned messages. We had a lot of rain, but we are ok! Apparently we are not in the danger zone. Southwest of Japan is hit hard. News bulletin titles: “88 dead and over 50 missing”. Most casualties fell in Hiroshima in the Okayama Prefecture. This prefecture is one of the hardest-hit areas: more than 1,000 people were temporarily trapped on the roofs of buildings submerged by floods following the bursting of three dikes on the nearby Oda River. Rescue operations are continuing.

kaart Japan floods

In English, please

In my head this phrase still comes with the intonation of our high school teacher who insisted we’d speak English during her class. Back then, it had an exclamation mark in the end. Today I reckon my intonation sounds questioning and slightly desperate. It is so hard to find English speakers around (or they have been hiding very well from me). It is not to be taken for granted that people all over the world speak English, but somehow it is expected of the Japanese. The nearer our move to Japan approached, the more I feared the Japanese language. When I uttered this concern, I often got the response: ‘but they speak English over there, right?’ Why do we assume that? I have no idea! Maybe because we associate Japan – as a highly developed country – with technology and innovation. The observation that lots of announcements, business names, brands, titles, …are in English adds to the frustration, as after this one word, a sequel in Japanese follows. I know, I know, it is me who should learn Japanese (busy looking for recommendations btw). In the meantime I can console myself with my Portuguese, which is sometimes used as a second language. Graças a Deus!
In English, please
Most likely to be translated into English: the restaurant’s menu. At least we are able to avoid eating intestines!

Nippon in tears

We ended up in the lion’s den; two little Belgians amongst 90 Japanese. What an emotional rollercoaster it was! The first half was characterised by Japanese cheering when a goal was avoided (a bit strange, as Belgians usually go ‘oooeeeehhhh’, not ‘yeaaay!’). Slightly overconfident, we got silenced by the two successive goals early in the second half. The Japanese gained confidence, but soon the game ended in a desperate disappointment. We got silenced again… there is nothing heroic in exhibiting euphoria when surrounded by grieving samurai. Despite of being defeated, many of them came to congratulate us: “Good game, from now on we will cheer for Belgium’ and wanted to take our picture. They really do earn the fair play title. (Have you seen the pics that are going viral of the Japanese supporters cleaning the stands after the defeat). Not only that: they regained some of the honour they had lost in the Poland game: they should be proud for giving us a big scare! The Red Devils made an amazing comeback. This fighting spirit is very promising for our next match against Brazil. And again this will be an emotional encounter: I consider myself to be half Brazilian after having spent a memorable year with the lovely Barros Lima family when I was seventeen ❤