I just returned from my very first trip to Japan, where I visited Tokyo, Kamakura, Hakone, Osaka, and Kyoto. I saw shrines, temples, museums, and stores. Some highlights:

  • Beautiful Mount Fuji wreathed in clouds as we sped by in a bullet train
  • The Hakone Shrine’s monumental red torii gate from across the lake, against dark green trees
  • Rustling sound made in a bamboo grove when a breeze passes through
  • Luminous pink lotus blossoms—somehow, I’d always thought lotuses were like water lilies, but they are far more spectacular!
  • Delicious taste of pickled vegetables
  • Surprising ubiquity of 7-Eleven stores
  • An excellent print of Hokusai’s The Great Wave Off Kanagawa (my visual symbol for my one-word theme of 2023, Wave)
  • Many, many koi fish (my visual symbol for my one-word theme of 2024, Revisited)
  • Damp, springy feel of moss (we visited during the rainy season)
  • Wading through the water in the immersive teamLab Planets experience—an overwhelming five-senses delight

If you’d like to see photos from my trip, you can scroll through some here.

5 Things Making Me Happy​

As a reader, I realized that I’d fallen into a bad habit: I’d read a book or two by an author whose work I admired tremendously, but then—for no good reason—I’d stop reading. Now I’m pushing myself to read more widely in the work of authors I particularly enjoy. For instance, in June, I continued to go deeper into Iris Murdoch’s novels, and I also read more from the excellent novelists Jonathan Coe and Roxana Robinson.

An alternative title for my book Life in Five Senses was “Why Ketchup Is Magic,” because I now have so much respect for the extraordinary all-five-tastes of Heinz Ketchup (it manages to taste sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami). So I was delighted when a thoughtful reader let me know about a collaboration that Kate Spade is doing with Heinz Ketchup. So fun.

July 2 was Halfway Day, which marks the midpoint of the year. In episode 488 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, Elizabeth and I used this date as a catalyst to check in on our “24 for 2024” lists. Here’s my updated list—listen to the episode to hear how Elizabeth is doing.

I’m thrilled! I’ve joined the Board of Directors at GivingTuesday, a global movement which inspires people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity. I’ve admired this terrific organization for so long. I’m a big believer in how, in our busy lives, we can use the calendar as a catalyst for reflection, and GivingTuesday uses the well-established and much-advertised dates of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to remind us of our deep values of generosity and putting our values into the world. We can give generously at any time, of course, but something that can be done at any time is often done at no time, and participating in GivingTuesday often inspires people to give throughout the year.

One important daily habit that I follow faithfully, but don’t particularly enjoy, is putting on sunscreen. I’ve made it partially more enjoyable by using Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen, which has an extraordinary slippery texture—I imagine that some people love it, and some people hate it (I don’t love it, but I’m fascinated by it). Now I’ve just learned of another form of sunscreen that I can’t wait to try: Whipped Cream Sunscreen. What a brilliant idea! I love the texture of whipped cream.

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This week on Happier with Gretchen Rubin

PODCAST EPISODE: 489

In this “Ask Us Anything” episode, we answer listeners’ questions about our families, our relationship as sisters, our dogs, the Four Tendencies, good habits, and more.

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Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.