Summer 2019

Summer 2019
Summer in Tsukahara

Spring in Tsukahara

gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

To You

Thank you for remembering us at Christmas. We’re unable to send you a Christmas card, but you are in our hearts. I’m not naming names because you know who you are.

Around here, in the Japan countryside, Christmas is just another day of the year. I haven’t been greeted with a “Merry Christmas” even once today. The decorations, lights, and commercialism don't exist here. I’m sure those things exist in the big cities, just not here. It’s funny. I was sick and tired of the commercialism in the U.S. Every moment I was reminded of the fact that it was Christmas. I think you know what I mean. All of that is gone. We have to remind ourselves that it’s Christmas. Erika and I have never exchanged presents. Not for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, etc.…not even once. We feel that purchasing presents help the economy, not our relationship. Christmas is for kids and for the kid at heart. I love this time of year. It is unfortunate that many people share the “Christmas spirit” only during the holiday season. The rest of the year, people generally keep to themselves. We’re lucky in that we can share ourselves every day with our students and parents. Sure, it’s exhausting, but it’s also rewarding. Someday, in the near future, we would like to give some of our time to the kids in the orphanages in Japan. They could use some Christmas spirit year round.

Well that’s our Christmas message to our friends and relatives. Please take care and have a great holiday and New Year.

Wishing you the very best. Cheers!

Kiley and Lucky, Erika and George

Thursday, December 19, 2013

So much to do...

…so little time. We are in the midst of Christmas party season. Sorry, no time to blog. I’ll post picks as soon as we get permission from the parents. We had twice as many students and half as many parents attend the 2nd Annual Y.E.S. Christmas Party. If this trend continues, we’ll need a bigger place next year. Our next party is tomorrow evening at our home in Tsukahara. We invited our adult students and their families. Our home is decked out with all of the Christmas trimmings. As of this morning, we still had snow on the ground. Shhh...rumor has it that Santa will be making an appearance. It should be fun. 

I hope everyone is having a safe and enjoyable holiday season.         George

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

First Snow!

Last week, the first snow appeared. This is our favorite time of year. The tourists disappear and Tsukahara becomes very quiet and peaceful. Soon, the entire plateau will be covered in the white stuff. That’s when Tsukahara becomes a winter wonderland. Right now, it’s time to enjoy the amazing fall colors.


For Kiley, it’s time to enjoy the wood stove. George

Friday, November 22, 2013

It's a start

Since moving to Tsukahara, I promised myself that I wouldn’t touch the landscape. I felt that a natural setting was the best fit for our home. I have discovered that the oaks on our property are attracting the world’s largest hornets. These hornets can be deadly if a person is stung. The danger is real enough that the local hospital keeps a serum on hand if a victim is stung. Rather than endanger our guests and ourselves, we have decided to remove the oak trees.

I do not want to do this, but it’s something I must do. We’ll cut the trees down before the leaves appear next spring. The wood will be dried and used for firewood in a few years.

One of our neighbors has a Japanese maple forest in his front yard. In Seattle, we had a similar landscape in our yard. I’ve always been a big fan of Japanese maples and I have tried to incorporate them into all of my landscapes. Our neighbor has given us a bunch of small Japanese maples which we have been planted in our nursery.

Japanese maples, really?

They don't look like much right now. We have been told that they will reach a respectable size in five years. It’s a start…and five years will pass quickly. One of the nice things about Japanese maples is that they allow light to filter through. This is very important as we don’t want to block our million dollar view! I like the idea that they are growing wild in the mountains that surround us. Having them in our yard gives us the feeling of bringing the mountains a little closer to us. The spectacular fall color will be an added bonus.   George

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wedding for Friends

We were asked to plan a wedding in Hawaii for one of our student’s daughters. She was already married, but she wanted to renew her vows in Hawaii. I found a company that could arrange the wedding, cake, photography, video, flowers, music, and transportation. All the couple needed to do was to find a dress, tuxedo, hotel, and someone to do hair/ makeup. The hardest part was coordinating the couples needs with what was available, and not cost them an arm and a leg. A dozen emails later, everything was booked and paid for.

Here’s some pictures of the big event. Everything went according to plan and the happy couple (and their family) left Hawaii with memories that will last a lifetime.  George


Monday, November 11, 2013

R Brian Baylis

Bicycling...I used to be obsessed with it, but that's tapered down to an occasional spin on the mountain bikes. I’m mentioning this because the builder of my bicycle is retiring in November (11/12/13). Baylis is one of the last true craftsmen in the business. Each frame is unique and built by hand. He hasn’t taken a frame order in over 5 years. According to Baylis, what finally pushed him to retire was the dwindling supply of Imron paint. He’s busy finishing up all of his backlogged projects before he calls it quits. He will still devote some time to mentoring future frame builders. He'll also continue crafting knives and finish a long overdue house remodeling project.

I purchased my frame (serial number 003) in 1986. The frame is equipped with Campagnolo 50th Anniversary components. The bicycle has been collecting dust for the past few years. It's difficult to sell a custom bike because it's only custom to the original owner. Maybe a collector in Japan would be interested?
Erika and I often ride our mountain bikes when we are too tired to walk the dogs. The dogs don’t seem to mind jogging around Tsukahara while we happily roll along side of them.

Our tandem hasn't been ridden in a few years. This along with some other hobbies (stained glass, intarsia, and astronomy) are on hold until we get a handle on the gazillion things that need to be done around the house . It seems to be never ending.     George

The cycling world has lost a great craftsman. Brain Baylis passed on February 20, 2016. His obituary is posted here  

UPDATE: The 62cm Baylis is still available for sale. If you're interested please make your best offer in comments and I'll get back to you. ( Posted Feb 2016)

All measurements are taken from center to center of the tubes specified. Here are the specs:


Seat tube         62

Bottom Tube   65

Top tube          59.5

Head tube        14

Seat stays         56

Chain stays      43
Floor to the top of the top tube    84.6

Forks (measured from top of crown)     36

Serial number       3

Friday, November 1, 2013




Our closest town to Tsukahara is Yufuin. Yufuin is located southwest from us and about a 10 minute drive down the volcano. It’s a popular tourist spot and often the hotels are fully booked. Tourists come from all over the world to enjoy the scenery and hot springs. I was told that some of the restaurants feature exquisite Japanese cuisine...too expensive for my taste.


Yufuin has a varied assortment of shops, restaurants, inns, and hot springs.


There’s a beautiful lake with walking paths and a river. The river is lit by fireflies in the summer.

Lucky enjoyed the fishing opportunities.
Most people prefer the view of Mt. Yufu from the Yufuin side. Since I’m biased, I think the Tsukahara side has the most beautiful view of the volcano. You can be the judge…

Yufuin or...


I think Kiley made up her mind…         George

Monday, October 21, 2013

Odds and Ends

Japan has experienced multiple typhoons over the past few weeks. It has been difficult to get anything done around the house. We managed to finish lining the septic system drain area with railroad ties. Erika collected a few bags of Cosmos seeds from around the neighborhood. She sprinkled the area with the seeds and hopefully we’ll have some colorful flowers in our yard next year.

We managed to dig a trench from the workshop to the house. The trench is for running electricity to the workshop.

All this work made Lucky tired.
We’ll have 20 amps and 30 amps available for my tools and lights. A power line is also going to my future observatory. I had to install an access door in the ceiling of the bathroom in order to reach the back of the circuit breaker panel. The door allows access to route wires from the panel to the outside of the house without disturbing any of the finished walls. I was shocked “pardon the pun” to see how the wires were routed above the ceiling. I couldn’t find a single wire clamp. This would never pass inspection in the U.S., but this is Japan, and this is how it’s done. I’ll tidy the wire installation up as most of what is hidden from view will be visible after the house is remodeled. It’s kind of scary to think of the wiring practices that I have uncovered. I found a junction of 12 gauge wires wrapped in electrical tape. They wires had wire nuts, but no junction box. A few of the wires were just hanging in the air without any support. I don’t like these kinds of surprises. Surprises equal more work!

A couple of weekends ago, we managed to squeeze in a small community “get together” with a few families at our home. The families provided the food and we provided the place to barbeque. The kids had fun running around. We toasted some marshmallows and took at peek at the moon with my giant binoculars. They signed the guestbook and we called it a night. This will probably be the last barbeque for the year as the nighttime temperatures are quickly dropping. It was 4 degrees (Celsius) last night.    George

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Two Years

This month marks our 2nd anniversary in Japan. This post is a hodgepodge of my experiences over the past 730 days. Please excuse the lack of continuity in my writing. We have finally settled into our daily routines. I still can’t speak the language. I’ve become a very good interpreter of gestures and broken English. I’ve grown accustomed to the slower pace of life. It was easy to adapt to the foods that are available in Japan. I still can’t believe I can purchase school lunches for only 4100 yen per month. I love teaching and watching the kids have fun with English. I don’t miss my former occupation at all. Erika misses the big paychecks, but she doesn’t miss the stress that went along with it.

Driving on the wrong side of the road now feels like the right side. The weather can sometimes be unbearably hot and humid, although for the most part, I love the weather in Tsukahara. We have only used the air-conditioner one time when we had guests. Living in the countryside means living with nature. Living with nature means living with insects. It has become second nature to spray on the insect repellant in the summer before walking the dogs. Living at 2500 feet  means that a hat and sunscreen are a necessity. Springtime is the season for finding wood that’s suitable for burning. Autumn is the season for processing firewood. Winter is a magical time in Tsukahara. The air is fresh and crisp. The landscape is clean and frozen. It’s remarkably silent.

Any complaints? Sure, but…hey, this is reality. I don’t like the way animals are treated here. Some of the cultural policies are outdated. Students have to spend way too much time with activities away from home. The speed limit is insanely slow. Cars and trucks are allowed to spew clouds of black smoke as they climb the mountain to Tsukahara. Farmers like to burn their fields on the clearest days of the year. We have English teacher meetings in Japanese and these meetings are about why the students don’t speak English. I can go on, but what’s the point?

Any regrets? Other than not moving sooner, nope. Living in the Japan countryside is hard work. It’s inconvenient. So, why live there? I have a million dollar view for a fraction of the cost. Most importantly, medical is affordable and easy to access. I don’t have to worry about any medical issues taking away my life’s savings. I can walk in the neighborhood without a second thought about my safety. Everyone knows everyone. I never get tired of saying “hello” as I’m greeted by neighbors and friends. We are often given fruits and vegetables that are grown by the neighbors as we walk the dogs. There is a sense of community that I have never felt living on the west coast of the U.S. It’s a priceless feeling to go to bed without the worry of a noisy neighbor keeping me up all night. I love to wake up to the neighbor’s rooster signaling the start of another beautiful day in Tsukahara. I can go on, but you’ve heard it all before in my earlier posts.

It’s been two years, but who’s counting? We still have a long way to go before we can comfortably call Japan, “Home Sweet Home”, but we’re headed in the right direction. Thank you for reading our blog and please feel free to comment. We’d love to hear from you.    George

Friday, September 27, 2013

Video of Tsukahara Worth Watching


The talented people who put this video together are friends and coworkers. This recent video of Tsukahara  captures the true essence of what this community represents and offers to a newcomer like me. I can't put into words about why I love it here, but I think this video speaks volumes about how "we" feel about this magical place. This is my “Home Sweet Home”. Please sit back and enjoy!   George

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Rustic" Guest Book

 Our “Home Sweet Home” guestbook is finally done. I’ve always wanted to write a book. I had no idea that I would build one first! How big is it? The dimensions are 24”x 24”x 8”.

Erika calls it, “rustic”. I think it matches our home, environment, and the atmosphere that we are trying to create. I hoping that the guests signing our book feel that they are leaving an impression that will be treasured for many years to come.



The first page is filled with the names and impressions of our guests at our recent summer party in Tsukahara.

The materials to construct the book are from the leftover cedar siding used to build the workshop/ garage. The pages are made of washi which gives the book character and dimension.


 If you happen to be in the neighborhood, please come and visit our Home Sweet Home, and sign our guestbook.   George