Updated: Sep 11, 2018
There are two couples that live in Japan that I have looked up to for a long time. The first are a professor and his wife that I encountered while I was taking his urban planning studio class at university in Tokyo. The second couple I have never met, but discovered through a book that they published a number of years ago; they live in Aichi Prefecture in southern Japan, many hundreds of miles away from my hometown near Tokyo. This second couple are also urban planners, living in a “New Town” they helped to design as part of the urban expansion project funded by the government during the Japanese post-World War II era.
Both these couples live modest, quiet lives. They are not particularly wealthy or revolutionary, and yet I hold a deep admiration for how they embody the lifestyle they have chosen. They have shown me, over the years, to find beauty in the humble work we put into our living, in the little things we make and the moments we create. Through them, I have found that “ordinary work” becomes something special because of what we invest in it, whether that be planning a town that still echos the stories of prewar Japan, or building a household that reminds us of the warmth of the homes some of us grew up in, or even something as small as planting an herb garden that then gives shape to the meals we create.
Today, as I attempt my second round of smoking bacon in the small smokehouse my family and I built in our backyard, I am reminded by these four people of the beauty in that small creation, in the tastes that don’t come from smoke sheets or manufactured liquid smoke, but from our hard work and from the fire that we kindled together. And then to sit around a table and eat what we have created has perhaps been the most intimate and in many ways, one of the most delicious meals I have had.