Author and food blogger Erin Niimi Longhurst talks about her new book Japonisme and fgrowing up with her grandfather's influence. She also talks about how we can incorporate simple Japanese traditions into our daily lives to make our lives better.

#6: Incorporating Japanese traditions into Our Daily Lives with Erin Niimi Longhurst author of Japonisme

We get to dip our toes into Japanese culture today! Our guest, Erin Niimi Longhurst is an author, food blogger, and social media strategist for charities. She's also half-Japanese and half-English, and she was steeped in both cultures as a child.

Her new book, Japonisme, explains some of the timeless treasures of the Japanese culture and explains step-by-step how we can incorporate traditional practices into our every day lives. These practices reduce stress and increase overall happiness daily.

Her book is sprinkled with Japanese words and their definitions. If you're a word nerd like I am, you'll love to hear some of these concepts explained. We talk about some of them in the podcast.

Oh, and if you're a tea lover like I am, you'll definitely want to hear our conversation about traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Special thanks to Erin Niimi Longhurst for taking the time to chat with me despite feeling under the weather. She's definitely a pro.


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Dina Cataldo: Well, hi Erin. How are you doing today?

Erin Niimi: I'm fine, thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

Dina Cataldo: Oh, well I am so happy that you're here. I came across your book, Japonisme. Am I pronouncing that correctly?

Erin Niimi: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Dina Cataldo: All right, and oh, it's such a lovely book. I saw that it had this amazing cover is what attracted me at first. I know the illustrations here are lovely too, but I loved the idea of talking more about practicing mindfulness and incorporating all those different habits into our daily life. I thought what a more beautiful way than to create a book all about the cultural significance of these mindfulness tips and habits that have been absorbed into daily life? I wanted to ask you just to introduce yourself before we start talking about the book and tell us what you do.

Erin Niimi: Yeah, so I'm Erin. I am the author of Japonisme. I grew up, so I'm half English and half Japanese. I actually grew up in New York mostly. In the past few years I've been living and working in London. I work with charities mostly sort of around digital and social media, and storytelling. Through that I started blogging about food and that also included some travel and lifestyle tips as well. A lot of that would really connect back to my upbringing in Japan, you know, my sort of family and go back and visit them every year. That's how kind of the book came around. I kind of wanted to bring all of these kind of beautiful philosophies, and practices, and traditions, and this aspect of mindfulness and elements of Japanese culture that I thought were so beautiful and I wanted to kind of share those in the book.

Dina Cataldo: They come across beautifully. It's a very relaxing read. It's something that you can get through pretty easily but it's also filled with step by step instructions to incorporate these things into your life and How-tos, which I was pleasantly surprised about that because it's one thing getting a concept and understanding it, but it's another thing being able to be told step by step how to practice it and how to incorporate it into your life. I though that was lovely.

Erin Niimi: Yeah, thank you so much. Yeah, I think a lot of it was really wanting to focus on this lifestyle element. I think a lot of stuff out there at the moment has been very kind of academic, kind of inaccessible, so the whole point and what I was really wanting to get across with this book is how to incorporate these elements of Japanese culture in just easy step by step ways but just to make it a little more accessible and approachable.

Dina Cataldo: Your book seems to be in honor of the memory of your grandfather but you actually talk about your grandparents, your aunt, your mom. Can you tell us a little bit about how they influenced your life?

Erin Niimi: Definitely. I grew up in New York with my mother mostly but I never thought my family were particularly traditional until I was writing the book and I realized, oh, my grandmother is a calligrapher, and one of my aunts does tea ceremony, and the other does flower arranging. Yeah, they definitely had a massive impact and influence in my life and particularly my grandfather. He was a business man and during the week he would work extremely hard, but then at the weekend we'd kind of really take the time to kind of connect, and unwind, and relax, and he was a temple elder as well. A lot of that kind of balance he had in his life in terms of hectic city job, but this kind of very spiritual mindful side. Yeah, it definitely influenced me quite a bit.

Dina Cataldo: What is a temple elder? Can you describe what his responsibilities would be?

Erin Niimi: So, yeah, it really varied. Some of it was to do more with kind of giving advice around how things run and how to kind of connect the workings of the temple with the local community, but also to do with a lot of it is very kind of humbling in terms of helping to clean and again, these kind of overarching advisory roles, but also a very kind of getting your hands dirty, kind of volunteering, being really embedded in the community. It really tied with lots of aspect of that together and I think he got a lot out of it.

Dina Cataldo: A lot of people talk about writing a book. They have big plans. They know that there's a book in them. What made you decide that you had to write a book?

Erin Niimi: Well, I've been writing quite a bit for a few years just through my blogs, so little bits and pieces and it was always my life kind of ambition and dream to put this all together in a book. Through my blog my editor actually kind of reached out and said, “I think this is something that a lot of people are really interested in.” She'd been following my blog for a while and she basically kind of came to me with this idea, you know, it was really led by this sort of big appetite they were seeing in terms of people wanting to learn from other cultures and so the big sort of [inaudible 00:05:45] movement. There's another book in the series called Lagom, which is sort of around Swedish lifestyle. I think a lot of people are getting really curious to know what others are doing and how they might be able to incorporate aspects of other cultures into their lives.

Erin Niimi: It kind of came about kind of as a collaboration. I knew I always wanted to write this book. I always wanted to write this book. I always wanted to write about all these different practices, but it was that kind of seeing this whole movement and appetite for it really that really kind of made it possible.

Dina Cataldo: I did want to talk about food, speaking of appetite because I saw your food blog and I was quite impressed. It looks like you have dinner parties, you do food photography. There is this entire area of your life that seems devoted to that kind of pleasurable experience, that communal experience. Can you tell us how that came about?

Erin Niimi: Definitely. My mother is an excellent cook and I would kind of grow up eating her food and the time we'd spend together would really be around cooking and preparing meals together so my love for that really came from the time, you know, just the activity and the practice of doing it and creating food really kind of reminded me of being around family and loved ones. I think that's where my love for it originally started. I find cooking extremely relaxing. It's what I do at the end of the day to unwind. I love the kind of communal aspect of it bringing people together. In Japanese culture in particular I think there's a lot of focus around the symbolism in food and eating together. I think it's a massive part of it so I think that's definitely one of my big passions in life and one of my favorite chapters in the book to write about for sure.

Dina Cataldo: I am so excited to try some of these recipes that you have in here because I wasn't expecting there to be really any recipes or anything easy for me to do, but there are things in here that are approachable, like I could actually incorporate into my life. I was very appreciative of that and it was beautifully put together.

Erin Niimi: Thank you. Yeah, I think everyone has … there's this misconception that Japanese food is sushi or really kind of inaccessible, or ingredients are going to be hard to get. In the book I really try to focus on ingredients that you were more easily … people could kind of just pop down to the supermarket and get, and a lot of comfort food as well. I hope you enjoy cooking the recipes when you get around to it.

Dina Cataldo: Oh, I am definitely going to do some of them. I will let you know how they turn out.

Dina Cataldo: There are some major concepts that you deal with in this book. You are talking about, in my view when I was looking at the overarching theme of this book, is acceptance and enjoying the journey. Is that what you would think, or is that how you would describe it, or how would you describe the overarching theme of this book?

Erin Niimi: Definitely. I think it's about finding contentment and happiness, and I think a lot of that comes from taking things a little bit slower. Taking time to appreciate the smaller moments. I think some of the philosophies I cover in the book in particular are really reflective of this. Things like just taking the time to go walk in a forest, for example, and be in nature. A lot of the practices like flower arranging, they're not things you can rush and because of that it gives you the times and kind of space to reflect, and I think that this is something that's so important and I think we should really be doing more of.

Dina Cataldo: Of course, like we are bombarded by social media, by the news, by work emails, and to have that space, to create that space, to incorporate something into our life. It doesn't have to be everything, it could be one particular focus. Like you were saying, one of your aunts was particularly focused on flower arranging or tea ceremony, or even just taking some of the practical things that you're talking about like walking through a park and doing certain things to take note of what is happening in that moment and centering yourself. Those are all things that are practical that you can actually do if you just choose one and you take that and you practice it once a week, or when you have an opportunity to just take note.

Dina Cataldo: There was a passage in your book about if you don't have a park and you're walking through the city, just to take a moment to feel like the breeze. Those kinds of things where you can maybe take from this book something and then incorporate it into your own life. I did appreciate that there were ways that you could take these different aspects and put them into your day.

Erin Niimi: Definitely, and making the space for it as I said is so important. I think there is a lot of pressure on us to work through our lunch breaks, or keep going all the time, or always be on, and actually seeing value in having that time for yourself and making space for those moments, I think, is so important and something that I really hope that comes through in the book.

Dina Cataldo: There's a theme that seems to be through life, which is a lot of us feel like it's selfish to take care of ourselves because we have so many other responsibilities. We have a family to take care of, we have a job to go to, we have all these other things to do and to care for, and somehow a lot of us feel that it's selfish to take that time to ourselves and to make that space. Have you ever experienced that? Was there ever a time in your life where you felt that you couldn't take the time to incorporate some of these practices?

Erin Niimi: Definitely. I think when I first started working, I mean, I was working at digital agencies and I think there's a massive culture in that kind of area of working a lot, being seen to be working, working late hours, not having that work/life balance. That time was probably some of the hardest, toughest times in my life as a result. I think it was by taking a step back and focusing on what I wanted in terms of my career, but also in terms of how my life sort of looked like and the quality of my life really, and making that space again kind of I think was really, really helped me and I think it is … you can't really put a price on it.

Dina Cataldo: That was something that I struggled with for sure. Working as a lawyer you are expected to work many hours. Upwards of 70 hours a week to get the job done and we put ourselves to the wayside because there are so many responsibilities. I think it's important and I think what you wrote is important in this book because it puts the focus on creating time for ourselves and it's not selfish, and you talk about that. It's not selfish to take care of yourself. It's essential and you described a passage about your grandfather, although he … Maybe you could describe a little bit about the Japanese work culture and work ethic, and that might be a good place for us to start this conversation.

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Erin Niimi: Definitely, I think there is a lot of … In the book I write a lot about mindfulness, but also there is this massive … it's in stark contrast to this culture of really working long hours and working really, really hard. My grandfather was fairly senior as a business man and would also fall into that trap of working long hours and very late. I think over the years he really was able to kind of carve that space for himself and took care of himself. Ultimately the time you take to take care of yourself isn't time wasted, it's actually just adding to your productivity. Things like he loved having baths so he'd sometimes come back home on his lunch break to have a bath. It seems a little bit ridiculous but actually at the end of it and having that space, you know, that clarity he was able to go back in and be more productive, and be more focused, or in the zone. It is all about valuing yourself as much as-

Erin Niimi: It is all about valuing yourself as much as your output. I think that's some that is so vital.

Dina Cataldo: Yeah. It does improve your productivity. I mean, yes, the priority is yourself, right? Like trying to take care of yourself, but an end result is you are more productive. That's something that maybe if you're listening to this right now, and you think that you don't have the time to take care of yourself, and you just have too much to do, too much on your plate, that if you do take that time to yourself and implement anything that's in this book because it's more than just cooking, and flower arranging, and tea ceremonies. These are very practical things that you can incorporate into your life, and then experience that increased productivity as an end result too. So maybe if the taking care of yourself isn't what is the impetus to get you started, maybe knowing that you will be able to do things better in the rest of your life, maybe that will be the impetus.

Erin Niimi: Definitely. Also, I think it's about not being too harsh on yourself or too drastic. I think things like your New Year's resolutions, they never stick because you suddenly decide on one day you're going to make one massive change, and it's not really about that. In the book I write about the concept of kaizen, which is making small, tiny changes that over time, lead to massive change. That's really, I think, the best way to go around things. It's not just to suddenly have a start changer or cut out coffee, or carbs, or whatever it is that you decide to limit yourself, but actually just to take it one day at a time.

Dina Cataldo: And your book is sprinkled with these beautiful Japanese words that express subtleties that we just can express in the English language without 20 words, and they're broken down into one word in Japanese, which to me just shows the care and attention that these concepts have in the Japanese culture, that there is one word to express this feeling or this beautiful thing. For instance, my favorite word out of the book, it had to do with expressing the shimmering of moonlight on water. I think it was kawaakari.

Erin Niimi: Kawaakari

Dina Cataldo: Kawaakari, that to me, was probably the most beautiful expression out of the entire book, just because I love the picture, the imagery of what it describes. What's your favorite word? What is the one that sticks out to you that really resonates with you?

Erin Niimi: I also love kawaakari actually. It's because you know exactly what it means. You can picture it exactly. But, as a foodie, I think one of my favorite words would have to be kuidaore, which means going bankrupt from eating out too much, so it's [inaudible 00:18:30] too. Yeah, I think that's one of my favorites.

Dina Cataldo: As I was going through this book, I just saw so many wonderful, different concepts. I mean, we're not going to be able to talk about them all, and I want you to go out and buy the book, so we different want to give you a taste of what is in this book. There was one thing that I really thought, and I have heard this concept before, but I thought it mixed in really well with the theme that I got from this book, which was enjoying the journey and acceptance. One of those was finding the beauty in imperfection. Can you tell me what that means to you?

Erin Niimi: Definitely. I think the concept of wabi-sabi, which is kind of finding the beauty in imperfection is, it's really very much a world view or a philosophy. The original meaning of the word wabi refers to the feeling of remote loneliness that comes with living in nature and the paradoxical beauty of imperfection. I think one of the ways it's really clearly shown in Japanese culture and practice is through the art of kintsugi, which is repairing ceramics with gold. These broken teacups are made even more beautiful because they're put back together again and you can see the cracks, but they're laced with gold and it's almost more beautiful as a result of its flaws.

Erin Niimi: Sabi really depends on the context, but it can mean withered, or cooled, but it really is evocative of the beauty of aging. I think one of the ways I really like to describe it is, the beauty of leather over time, it gets a bit worn, and it gets a bit scratched, but it gets softer, and more beautiful, and kind of more full of stories and meaning. That whole concept, I think of embracing things like aging and the passing of time, and seeing it all kind of happen around you and being part of that, I think is something that we don't really have just a word for, really, in English anyway. Definitely one of the really big philosophies that I like to talk about in the book.

Dina Cataldo: I think I'm becoming more appreciative of that concept the older I get because, not only am I becoming older, but also you accumulate things over the years that you really don't need to accumulate. The idea of taking something that you've loved, even if it has been cracked or if it's been broken, and lovingly putting it back together so it creates even more meaning in your life. Rather than accumulating more things that may be shiny and new. These other things that are aged and work, they actually have more meaning, more significance to you in your daily life and when you look at it, it tells a story.

Erin Niimi: Definitely, yeah that kind of story telling. Also, just appreciating … taking a moment to take a step back and appreciating what you have, I think is something that I've been guilty of in the past of ignoring. There's always something you need to be working towards or doing, you always have a goal in sight. By the end of the day actually, wherever you are in your journey, remembering to take a break, look around and be appreciative of the things that are there in front of you in that moment. I think we don't do enough of that, definitely.

Dina Cataldo: There was actually the whole section that you talked about, this kintsugi. Putting together ceramics once they've been broken. I am going to put that into use. I'm goin to find something, I'm sure I will at some point and I'm going to use that. I just think it's so beautiful and it was such a great concept. Thank you for sharing how to do it as well.

Dina Cataldo: I'm sorry go ahead.

Erin Niimi: I think it's just such a beautiful metaphor as well. As a result, when I had finished publishing the book, someone reached out to me that I hadn't heard from in a while. They were saying it would be nice to … Our friendship was something that we wanted to work more on and that kind kintsugi-ed our friendship. I was like, oh that's such a lovely metaphor and reaching out. I think it was, again, a really nice visual way to think of how things can become stronger and develop over time. The shifting, changing nature of things as well.

Dina Cataldo: Oh, I like that. That's really nice.

Dina Cataldo: I want to get into one of my favorite topics, which is tea. I love tea so much that when I created my first business, it was all about tea. I created an online boutique tea business just so that I could have an unlimited resource of tea in my home.

Erin Niimi: I might have to do it myself, also at the London office.

Dina Cataldo: When I read this section … I knew there was going to have to be a section on tea in this book so when I read it I was excited about it. I even have my hojicha tea next to me. I even have a pretty tea cup just because I thought why not, that's part of the ritual right? The whole concept of using tea, in my mind, as a mindfulness technique. The brewing, the aromas, the visuals, that to me is why I was so attracted to tea and the daily practice of sitting and having a cup of tea. Warming you up and taking those moments to yourself, is what really attracted me to it initially. I wanted to find out what your attraction to tea was and about what you talk about in the book.

Erin Niimi: Obviously focused a lot on Japanese culture in the book but I'm also half English so a massive tea drinker is in my genes. Tea, it's really not just about the physical element, it's a lot about the philosophy behind it as well. I think it's so … The Japanese word for brown is chairo, which just means the color of tea, so it really indicates how tied it is in culture. My aunt is actually a tea ceremony practitioner, so she's very advanced. I think if we're talking about it in karate terms, she would be a black belt in tea. Tea ceremony really is a performance. It's not just about pouring someone a cup of tea, but it really symbolic of the relationship you have not only with the person you're serving the tea to, but with your surroundings. The passing of time, what season it is, all these elements really tie into the philosophy of tea ceremony.

Erin Niimi: There are four core principle of tea, which is the official tea ceremony, all practitioners apply these principles. Not only to tea ceremony, but their daily lives as well. The four principle are harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. I think, even when you take the time to have a cup of tea in your morning, it's the four beautiful concepts to think about.

Dina Cataldo: I do love that. You break down the major teas in Japan and there's some lovely descriptions of tea ceremonies and how you can do this yourself. The tea ceremonies actually incorporate a lot of the other things that you talk about in this book. There were flower arranging and calligraphy and all of these other beautiful concepts, are all incorporated and I thought that was a really lovely touch. People involved in tea ceremony are thinking so much about the experience they want to create, that they really want to touch on all these different areas that create some kind of peace or harmony within their ceremony.

Erin Niimi: Definitely, yeah, it's such a beautiful practice as well. If you ever are in Japan, I definitely do recommend anyone that's living to go to a tea ceremony because it's really unlike anything else. You try different types of tea but it's served to you in a very prescribed formulaic way. There are certain ways of serving it and certain ways that the tea is mixed or prepared. It's just unlike anything else really. It's so beautiful and it's something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives if they can.

Dina Cataldo: Oh, for sure. I'm in Northern California so I am going to make a trip to San Francisco hopefully in the near future to experience this. They do have these Japanese ceremonies there so I'm excited about that.

Dina Cataldo: My dog came over here to visit me.

Dina Cataldo: One thing that I wanted to talk to you about was a concept that you mentioned and it was to help you, it sounded like to me, to incorporate things that you wanted to make sure that you were doing to continue to improve your daily life. I'm not even sure if I'm pronouncing this right, is it a diarize?

Erin Niimi: Yep.

Dina Cataldo: That's right, okay. Can you explain how you use this? It sounded like you might have it on a board or a calendar or some sort of thing. Can you explain how you use that?

Erin Niimi: Definitely. This also comes through in the calligraphy chapter as well but the practice of writing things down or making a note or making a list of things, I think, first of all holds you accountable. Makes sure you, you incorporate whatever …

Erin Niimi: Holds you accountable and makes sure you incorporate whatever it is, whether it's these practices, or anything really into your life. So, this sort of physical act of it can really sort of help it stick in your brain. I find … i write a lot of lists all the time. I spend some time every Sunday just taking a look at my week ahead, and putting it on this … so, I've got one of these notice boards where you put … I have hundreds of letters that I just basically slot in what I'm doing for the week, and it really helps me kind of structure my day, or my week, and having several lists and apps on my phone, things like Wanderlist, and I think having that kind of structure is something that really … was really influenced I think by my going to a Japanese school when I was younger.

Erin Niimi: But yeah, I think it's … 'cause it kind of seem a bit sort of rigid, but I think being able to set these kind of goals and take it sort of in the physical realm, and kind of think of it that way. I think it's really something that I found incredibly useful, and wanted to bring through as well.

Dina Cataldo: I do like the idea of structure because it's so easy for us to let our day run away from us and to not notice the things that would be most helpful for us to grow in one area of our life or another. Maybe we don't blind spots, things that are happening in our lives. Can you explain a little bit about how, as you were saying that you were given a lot of structure it sounds like in Japanese schooling. What kind of other things you do or that you have seen done to help structure your life in a way that helps you stay on track, to not let your day get away from you?

Erin Niimi: I mean, I think a lot of it is just to do with being really disciplined and strict of yourself, so what I was saying before. As a rule, I try and have a lunch break everyday, and it seems so insignificant and a bit silly, but actually if I don't have that rule with myself, then I will just work through my lunch break, and I will just let things get away with me. So, it is about sort of being strict and holding yourself accountable. But also knowing what it is that you want, I think.

Erin Niimi: One of the chapters in my book which is all about Ikigai, which is this concept of purpose, doing things with intention. I think that comes really naturally to people in Japan, and part of sort of their culture in society. I think a lot of people have attributed this kind of mindset really to how Japanese people, particularly older people live for so long. It's because I think a lot of people find their identity or purpose through work, or that's what we're told to believe. And so, the minute you retire, your society thinks sometimes you might seem like you …that your purpose is not all ended, whereas I think in Japan, purpose is not just tied in with work. It's about your home life as well. It's about your family. But I think everyone knowing what it is for yourself, I think, and finding that can really help drive you. And I think yeah, discipline is definitely part of that as well.

Dina Cataldo: I think that the time and the space you create with the rituals that you talk about in your book are … will help people lead them to discover what it is they really value, and where they want to make time for those particular things like community, time with friends, time with family, feeling a certain way. Like really getting in touch with how you want to feel. Do you want to feel rushed every day, or do you want to feel as if you're doing everything with intention, with a purpose rather than in a scatterbrain kind of way. So, I think those kinds of concepts are ones that are helpful for just day to day life, is just understanding what you want, filling in the blanks with how you're going to get there and noticing, keeping track of what you're actually doing, and where you can take away from those unnecessary things, and then pay more attention to, bring more time to those things that are more valuable to you.

Erin Niimi: Definitely. And I think these practices really focus on mindfulness really help with that. Because otherwise, if you set yourself these goals but don't take the time to reflect on your progress, it can run away with you and you're not able to measure yourself, or you're not able to compare with how you were.

Erin Niimi: So, one of my aunts who is the tea ceremony practitioner actually … she's been doing it for 25 years, and I never even asked her before I started writing this book what her motivations were, behind taking it up as a hobby. And for her, she really needed it in her life. She said I needed some time where I wasn't just an employee, or I wasn't just a wife, or I wasn't just a mother. I needed to feel like my own person, but also really taking that time to be with myself, and only focus on the practice of tea, but also the changing of seasons, because tea ceremony is so tied in with the changing of the seasons. Actually, when she's in an office all day it's hard with air conditioning and everything, it's hard to tell kind of what season it is, what year it is, whatever it might be to actually having, forcing yourself to have this … time to practice mindfulness through tea, I think has given her so much happiness.

Dina Cataldo: I'm curious. Do you have medication practice?

Erin Niimi: I do a lot of yoga. I also … I think my time I spend myself, I do a lot of exercises, do a lot of walking. But because my grandfather, because of his work in the temple elder, we always had this … he taught me a lot of these techniques and questions to ask myself before I go to sleep, and I find that incredibly helpful. I definitely do rely on it, especially with work. I write a lot about these kind of mindful practices in my book, but I work in digital and social media for charity, so it's always on, and having to kind of deal with all these push notifications all the time, and actually I don't think I would be where I am without these practices, and without taking that time. So yeah, I definitely rely on it.

Erin Niimi: But I think a lot of it also, for me, comes from the time I spend preparing food. I think that is … I do things like I make my own bread a lot. So I think … so my friends are like, “Oh but, you're so busy anyway. Why don't you just go buy some bread?” And I was like, “Well, no. For me I need to be making it because I need that time to myself.”

Dina Cataldo: That's a meditation.

Erin Niimi: Yeah.

Dina Cataldo: What kind of things would your grandfather teach you to ask yourself before you went to bed?

Erin Niimi: Just things like you know, I think a lot of, especially sort of Buddhism, really is about not only being in touch with yourself, but be in touch with kind of your ancestors or people that aren't there anymore. And I'm not particularly in many ways I'm not a religious person necessarily. But I think there are ways of reflecting on the people that have been in your life and have gone, whether they are kind of dead or alive, I think. You know, visualizing yourself kind of having conversations with them I think can be incredibly helpful. So, that's the kind of thing that I think that we would kind of discuss, and then talk about a lot.

Erin Niimi: So yeah, it's more about where we are in time, and where … I guess even what season we were in and what elements of nature we would notice. So things like, in the chapter about forest bathing, I talk about noticing these elements of nature. Things like the word komodabi, which is the lights that filters through the leaves, and whether I'd seen those, and actually it's … you wouldn't necessarily see that in winter of course, because they're not going to be any leaves on the trees. So, that kind of thing. You know, elements of your natural surroundings, and how they're linking up with your mind and your mood.

Dina Cataldo: Was that something that he did to … because I know in some … some people use a question. Like, you ask yourself a question before you go to bed, and then you'll wake up and maybe you'll have had an answer to whatever it is that you wanted, or what you're describing sounds like if you're having an issue or you're feeling a particular feeling to kind of reconnect with someone who might be able to help you with that answer, or to have a conversation with that person. Is that what you're describing?

Erin Niimi: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I definitely that's right, and I think also kind of knowing your place in the kind of whole cycle of things. You know, this is a moment that you have … you're in a specific moment, and a specific time, and there are other things happening around you, and actually kind of connecting the inside and outside. So, in the chapter about the Japanese home, I write a lot about Japanese aesthetics in the home are really to do with bringing nature in. So things like wood, and flowers, and things like that. But, again it's all about, I think the importance of connecting us as humans with the natural world, is definitely I think a massive kind of underlying theme that kind of runs through the book as well.

Dina Cataldo: I love this. This has been fantastic. So, I want to ask you to tell our listeners where they can find you. I will link to everything in the show notes, so nobody has to rush to write it down. But, if you could just tell us where they can connect with you.

Erin Niimi: Definitely. So, I am active on Twitter, and Instagram. Both handles are the same. It's erinniimi. So Niimi is my Japanese last name, and actually the characters mean sort of new and beautiful. So, I think in the introduction I wrote about how hopefully I can help [inaudible 00:41:57] to all the kind of new and beautiful Japanese practices that I write about in the book. But I also have a blog which is Island

Dina Cataldo: I was curious, where did you get the name Island Bell for your page?

Erin Niimi: Well, it originally my blog was all about my life living in London. You know, I had just moved here from New York, and I wanted update sort of friends and family as to what I was doing, and what I was up to and choosing a blog name was quite challenging. But, the characters in my name in Japanese, Erin, actually mean English Bell, so bell like in ringing the bell of a sound. But, I didn't really feel like I was that name didn't really resonate with me as much, but I've always kind of lived on an island, so I've always lived in Japan, or England, or Manhattan. So, that's how it all came out really.

Dina Cataldo: I like that, okay. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. This has been a lot of fun.

Erin Niimi: Thanks so much for having me.

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