Monkey see, monkey do

By on December 1, 2011
Since the advent of text messaging, I have had many conversations with my daughters while they were only half listening, half present. They could send and receive a text, check their e-mails, and scroll through Facebook, all while I tried to discuss the week’s plans. For serious discussions, my husband and I came to insist that all devices be turned off and left in another room, in order to get the girls’ undivided attention. As frustrating as this is, I must admit that I too, am guilty of fully utilizing these incredible tools, often at the expense of experiencing what is happening around me. Any parent can tell you of that first horrifying moment when a child mimics a bad habit, whether it be a slip of the tongue, speeding, or simply not paying attention.Winter break is upon us, meaning more time spent with our families. Families often end up starting the new year with strong resolutions, after spending too much money, eating too much food, with little mindfulness of being present with family and friends. Whether you are traveling home for the holidays or planning to spend a winter vacation in one of the many beautiful resort towns, ski locations or onsens, Japan has to offer, here are a few things to consider while planning family activities. You may want to think about taking this winter break as a time to review, re-group and rejoice in more healthy, prudent and mindful ways?The choices in Japan are plentiful, from beautiful ski lodges in Nagano and Niigata ,  to warmer tropical areas like Okinawa and for the more intrepid families, Ogasawara . There is also the option of letting your children help plan daily outings in or around Tokyo. Try rewarding the child who comes up with ideas including exercise and healthy eating, while staying within a budget. Challenge yourself and your children to stay unplugged and off-line as much as possible.My favorite place to visit in the winter season is Kinugawa Onsen. Located in Nikko’s backyard, Kinugawa boasts stunning scenery, natural onsens, ski lifts, and unique amusement parks like, Edomura Wonderland and Tobu World, as well as plenty of inexpensive places to stay. My husband and I recently celebrated our anniversay at a lovely ryokan named Funamiso, off the beaten path, one stop from Kinugawa station. For a reasonable price, we enjoyed a comfortable room over-looking the river, delicious traditional fare, and a rotenburo to die for. We walked into town and enjoyed the seasonal river ride in time to view the leaves changing colors and ended our day on top of Monkey Mountain. Ironically, the first monkey we encountered turned toward us and opened his mouth and eyes wide in shock. I found it so amusing that the monkey’s face would reflect how surprised he was to see us there. That was, until I noticed that I had made that face myself and so had everyone that followed me. He was systemically copying our expressions.Although I didn’t go completely ‘off-line’ (guilty of posting some pictures on facebook), thanks to some nudging from my husband, I left most of my work, and distractions alone. I must admit it was nice just being present in the moment. I may have missed the waterfalls, giggling with the kind, kimono-clad women next to me on the ropeway lift or that monkey’s expression, had I not refrained. I’m inspired now to challenge myself on this holiday trip to the States to stay as focused as possible.So many of us are plugged-in, on-line and technically connected 24/7. We live in an age of multi-tasking, increased communication, and the ability to portray a feeling, thought or idea to the world, with the tap of our fingers. While taking advantage of tools on-line like Facebook, twitter, Skype and YouTube to get information and make connections proved to be invaluable after the  March 11th earthquake and ensuing tsunami, maybe this winter break can be a  time for rapt attention to those we love who are right in front of us and be a monkey worth imitating.



Edomura Wonderland

About Mary Beth Horiai