3 August 2011 § Leave a comment
Everything is rushing past. Here is a quick update:
Mount Fuji was breathtaking. The path to the top was not so pretty, but the view from the mountain was awe-some. They say that a wise person climbs Fuji once, but a fool climbs it twice. I agree. As someone who doesn’t exercise ever, whose only form of much physical activity is walking to and from the train station and walking up and down stairs, it was a little challenging for me. But I did it! There were moments, say around 2AM in the pitch dark holding a little flashlight for illumination, that I was wondering why I was climbing the tallest mountain in Japan, but it was so worth it.
I’ve begun to think that this is all just a dream. Nothing that happens here feels real. I’ve been several places now, met a lot of people, had a lot of lovely nights and days with lovely people, and it doesn’t feel real. In a way, it feels like there is this other reality presenting itself to me, not connected to the reality I know back in Canada, that I could get quite used to. It’s a strange feeling.
I leave in less than 48 hours for my adventure around Japan. My friend Dan and I have not quite ironed out all the details, but we’re working on it. We are going to 12 cities in the span of 14 days. We will use trains, a ferry, busses, subways, trams, and a plane (probably). We will see Japan’s largest underground cave system. The Little Prince museum. Tokyo. The peace ceremony in Hiroshima. A large sand dune. Hopefully ride a camel. See one of Japan’s three supposedly most scenic views. I am not feeling too excited yet because there is still a lot of details to work out, and packing, and cleaning. But I am looking forward to getting out of this city for a little while. It’s gonna be amazing. We are hoping to update my blog every day to let you know all the latest, but we’ll see how that pans out. I’ll post our intended plans up here before we leave, so you can follow along.
I’ve now been here for half a year. I find this hard to believe.
26 July 2011 § Leave a comment
I mentioned a couple posts back about not having any sense of the rhythm of the seasons in Japan yet. I think that’s changed. Now that rainy season has come and gone, now that I’ve been to a huge festival (Gion Matsuri), now that everyone goes to the beach on their days off, I’m becoming more aware of how much of a rhythm there is. The seasons are very distinct here. Spring is defined by cherry blossoms, which are preceded by plum blossoms. Rainy season marks the end of spring. The end of rainy season marks the beginning of summer. There are many festivals which people look forward to. People look forward to the fall for the end of the intense and consistent heat and humidity. And in the fall, people go to Kyoto to see beautiful momiji (maples). I’m becoming more aware of these things.
One of the things I hadn’t expected to do here was climb Mount Fuji, but it looks like I’m going to do it in two days. In less the 48 hours, I will be somewhere on Mount Fuji, taking a lengthy rest before climbing to the top, to avoid altitude sickness. I’ve got my backpack and runners ready to go. For 22 400 yen (just under $300), I am taking a spacious coach bus from downtown Osaka straight to Mount Fuji, to the fifth station, following a tour guide along the trails to the top with a group, having some of kind of food provided, and stopping at an onsen (hot spring) on the way back to Osaka. I think that’s pretty good.
I didn’t come to Japan with many plans of doing a whole lot. My two goals, really, were to meet my relatives and to take 1000 paper cranes to Hiroshima. I never anticipated climbing Mount Fuji, or going on a two week adventure during which time I’ll check out 12 cities throughout Honshu, Hokkaido, and Kyushu (I’ll provide you with a map one of these days to give you an idea of what this adventure involves). Given this, everything I do is a pleasant surprise.
There is not too much to tell of any recent venturings around Japan. July was largely spent working more than usual, and in the company of wonderful, new friends. When I’m doing things that involve learning about Japan or sightseeing, I just feel like a tourist. It’s exhausting. There’s something really great about just living life in Japan, regardless of all the opportunities to explore and check things out (not that I’m not taking advantage of these things!! ;).
15 July 2011 § 1 Comment
It’s mid-July and it is very hot in Japan. I’m getting used to it, though. I was told by two people in the past week that I seemed to fit right in, and that I seem like I’ve been here longer than five and a half months. It’s been nearly half a year. It feels like it’s been a month.
My Japanese is coming along. I managed to hold up some kind of conversation with a woman the other day. The different writing systems make learning Japanese an interesting process. Hiragana and katakana are straightforward enough (both syllabaries which are easy enough to read once you know them all), but there is nothing about kanji (logographic) that is so simple. I’ve found that I can now look at a lot of kanji and know they’re meaning in English, but not how they’re read in Japanese. And I know a few kanji and their readings in Japanese, but not what they mean in English. And I know a lot of words in Japanese and their English meaning, but not their associated kanji. It’s a strange process.
I really want to study harder, but there’s hardly any time. I had a little girl run up to me last week at work and start talking to me in very fast Japanese. She seemed to really want to tell me about something. A Japanese teacher helped me out and explained to me that the girl wanted to tell me about her pet bunny. Moments like that one especially make me wish I could understand as well as speak more.
I had been avoiding buying any plants up until now because I’m not good at caring for them. So instead, when I was at a store the other day, I thought it’d be a good idea to buy some pet shrimp. Tiny little shrimp, in a little bowl, with some plants in it. I figured I couldn’t screw that one up. I brought them home and named them (Sydney, Colorado, and Partridge). The next day, when I got home from work, they were dead. I never leave my air conditioning on when I go out, and I guess that little shrimp don’t like the Osaka heat. A good friend is giving me a spider plant next week. Hopefully it’s not so sensitive. Maybe I’ll hold off on naming that one.
I am on to my third stick of deodorant.
As much as I’d like to spend more time on learning Japanese, or at home with the air conditioning on so that I sustain some kind of life so I have some company in my apartment, I’m really excited about all the things I’m busy with right now. Currently, I am spending four days in Kyoto, cat-sitting for my friend Mariko. She thanked me several times for helping her out before her and her family left, but really, I should be thanking her! Four days in Kyoto for free, in a house, with three cats. What more could I ask for? I think four days off in a row should be enough to get me through until two weeks from now when I will be climbing Mount Fuji. Yes, I am climbing Mount Fuji in two weeks, and on the Friday morning, I will watch the sun rise from the top. I’m not convinced that I am in any kind of appropriate physical condition, but I’m not going to let that stop me!
AND THEN, a week later, my friend Dan and I will go on a crazy adventure around almost all of Japan. It will be long. It will be tiring. It will be expensive. It will be awesome. We’ve only planned out the first half of our journey, but it includes Hiroshima (for the peace ceremony), Hakone (for the Little Prince / Antoine de St Exupery museum), Kamakura (I hear it’s quaint?), Tokyo, Nikko (for Toshogu Shrine), a long ferry ride to Hokkaido, Sapporo, and Hakodate. That’s about one week right there. We will post an itinerary on here when it’s complete and, once the journey starts, will be updating my blog – ideally – every day. I hadn’t anticipated much of Japan beyond the Kansai region (Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kobe) and Tokyo, so I’m very excited.
I’m becoming quite comfortable here.