On the Fly: Kyoto, Japan | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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On the Fly: Kyoto, Japan 

Published September 20, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.

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I'm writing this from the traditional Japanese house we have rented in an ancient part of Kyoto. Sitting cross-legged on tatami mats at a low table, my kids and I are in the middle of a morning writing lesson. My belly has grown bigger — I'm five months along now — so this set-up is a bit difficult for me. On the bright side, it's forcing me to have good posture!

It feels as if we're living in a dollhouse. Everything is diminutive: the doorways, the utensils, even the alleyway that our front door slides open onto. I can touch both walls of the alley with my arms outstretched. The fridge is the size of a hotel minibar, and there are just a few small plates, cups and bowls and an electric hot plate to cook one small pot. The walls are literally paper: Shoji screens separate our few rooms. And the houses are so close together, you can hear every word (even if we don’t understand it) from our neighbors. I am afraid we must be the loudest house in the neighborhood. 

This is a big change from what we are used to, a Burlington house with high ceilings, more than 3,500 square feet and three bathrooms. Here, we sleep side by side on thin mattresses laid out on tatami mats. We share one toilet and one bathtub. The girls love it and are starting to understand the concept of simple living.

On my first day as their teacher, I felt like a fraud. They looked up at me expectantly while we watched Japanese children on their way to school. I wanted to shout, "Go with them; I don’t know what I’m doing!"

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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