My (Im)perfect Japanese Neighborhood

I live between two cities and among the Japanese elderly. Wherever I look, I see older people taking a walk with their equally-old dogs. The neighborhood is embellished with unconvincing posters that say, “No lonely death in this neighborhood!”

It is one of the typical neighborhoods in Kobe. If you yearn for bustling streets and the sight of the youth, you might find this place incredibly boring. But not me. This is a perfect neighborhood in which I thrive like a succulent. 

Life is slow here. I don’t come across busy people like those around downtown. Nobody acts like they are doing super important things. Some might even say we have a silent agreement: “Busyness is strictly prohibited!”

A lovely old lady greets me on the street every morning, “Ohayo gozaimasu!” to which I clumsily reply each time. She doesn’t know who I am, nor do I know who she is. And that doesn’t bother anyone. Remember, we have a silent agreement: “You can be whoever you want here!”

I have two old male neighbors who are polar opposites. The one living next door hates cats. He even stops us from feeding stray cats in our garden. And the other one adores cats. He has a dozen cats that he even walks like a dog! Again, the silent agreement is evident here: “Live and let live!”

Another old lady that lives in front of our house has never talked to me. Because I am shy, it’s hard for me to initiate a conversation with her. She stares at me and sizes me up every time I pass by, but I like her. She’s the epitome of a retired police officer or an army member. Keep in mind, “Planning to stir up trouble? Not on her watch!”

We have the most beautiful cherry blossom trees in Kobe. They bloom and wither earlier than other cherry blossoms, and I enjoy watching them every day to see the process. You still don’t know our agreement? “Good things are short-lived!” 

Here’s what our neighborhood cherry blossoms look like this year:

Coexisting with the elderly teaches one invaluable lessons. You learn not to take your health for granted from a young age. I have been into yin yoga and meditation to age as robust as some neighbors here. Looking out the window, I almost hear my neighbor’s chat: “Don’t bank on fleeting things like your youth!”

Walking along the stream that divides our neighborhood, I reach the sea in five minutes: just like in my childhood neighborhood in Turkey. I spend most of my time walking this route next to the sea, only to discover new things every time. And my poetic neighborhood reminds me of a Marcel Proust quote: “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Thanks to this neighborhood, I wake up in the same house every day but not to the same day. 

Do you like your neighborhood? How are your neighbors? 

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  1. Mike and Kellye Hefner

    What a beautiful post! My neighborhood is nice, and the people are friendly. However, our surrounds are not as spectacular as the ocean and those cherry blossoms that you are so fortunate to enjoy. I love how you have come to know you neighbors without really knowing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you 🙏 Ohh, nice and friendly neighbors are the best! I miss having chatty neighbors like those in my home country. My beautiful neighborhood is here as if to compensate for the lack of friendly neighbors.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rosaliene Bacchus

    I enjoyed reading about your neighborhood 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you so much for visiting my blog 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Travel with a Pen

    I enjoyed reading this and all the small and beautiful things you love about your neighbourhood. And that you get your own cherry blossom views and that of the sea. Many people spend time overlooking stuff like this, only to miss it when they leave.

    I also like to remind myself daily about why I love mine. I don’t get to interact with my neighbours a lot but we all have a sense of agreement and community and I know if any of us needed help or support, all of us would be happy to provide it. I also love the greenery and forest around where I live. It feels like our own little oasis in the middle of a city.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      That’s so great! I fear I wouldn’t receive support from my neighbors if there were a problem. It isn’t because I’m a foreigner, though. I notice the same sense of isolation and reluctance in communication among Japanese people, too.

      It might have something to do with modern times: people have less time for one another.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. kagould17

    Sounds like a great place to wake up each day. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you, Allan! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. kegarland

    Those cherry blossom photos are perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you! They are my favorite trees in the neighborhood 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sinem B.

    It was such a heartwarming read. 💜 and the photos are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you for dropping by 🙏


  7. ourcrossings

    You live in such a beautiful part of the world! I firmly believe that living in a place you love is good for you. If you live in a connected community, that plays into well-being – feeling you’re part of something bigger than yourself and having the opportunity to create deep social links. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you for dropping by! I’m always delighted to read insightful comments like this ❤️ I also believe living in a place a person likes is beneficial in many ways. We often take our surroundings for granted and look for happiness in other neighborhoods/cities/countries/continents. Sometimes, what we seek can be right where we live. And this is what I’m after 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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