18 October 2011 § Leave a comment
Some days are still sort of hot here, at least enough for some people to complain about. I think they’re nice, when I’m not wearing all black and walking at a brisk pace in direct sunlight.
Summer went by quickly, painful as it was. It took awhile to get used to, though. It began with small talk about how everyone was trying to hold back on using their air conditioning. That seemed to be a big deal. How long could people tolerate the increasing temperature and humidity before they caved? Given this kind of talk, I figured I could wait awhile. I mean, wow, it must be pretty expensive for people to be waiting like that, right? And so I put myself through torture. I sat in my apartment, with the light s off, the curtains closed, no air conditioning, drenched in sweat. It was gross. I developed a routine of having a quick, cold shower right before work. If I wanted to wear my hair down, I would put a towel around my neck to prevent sweat from getting my hair wet. At night, I sometimes slept on the floor, hoping it would be that much cooler than lying on my bed (I didn’t actually use my sheets between June and early September.
Then I bought a fan. That was probably the best idea I had all summer. And during the day, I would blast my air conditioner. It was a little pricey, but I’d also started my second job. At night, I kept the fan on. I started sleeping on my bed again. My routine for work consisted of leaving my house wearing dress pants, flip-flops, and an old t-shirt or tank top. In my bag, I would have a neatly ironed dress shirt and my work shoes ready to change into. Every day, multiple comments from people I passed by or encountered, all the same: “Atsui, ne?” (It’s so hot, ‘eh?).
Autumn is here. The leaves here are still green, but not a couple hours south, they’re changing. People seem generally more happy now. While a lot of girls still go around wearing little shorts and t-shirts, a lot of people are embracing the new season with jeans, boots, sweaters, and scarves. I’ve seen a lot of pumpkin flavoured things, and people are anticipating the mikan (satsuma – you know that really popular scent from the Body Shop??). September and October are also the time for Danjiri Matsuri – cart-pulling festivals held throughout Japan. People are looking forward to enjoying the changing momiji (Japanese maple leaves) in Kyoto and Nara. At work, we are more than half way through the school year.
Christmas seems just around the corner. I’ll be spending it in Canada with my family and friends. Knowing that I’ll be home, every time I’m out and about, I’m thinking about what all I can bring back for people, or even for myself. I should’ve done more of this kind of shopping for people when I first got here, when it was all so novel. At the hundred yen shop (equivalent to the dollar store, but better, really), they’ve already started selling little Christmas lights. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll do for a tree. I like the idea of getting a of twig like thing, akin to that in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
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!! ;).
23 June 2011 § Leave a comment
Sometimes, being here makes the world seem small. Or maybe, it makes the world seem more connected (sounds better, I think).
I went to an acquaintance’s apartment tonight after work with a few people that I know. Eventually, someone showed up who I’d seen a couple times before, who didn’t know me. And I’d had some idea of his existence before I even came to Japan. I’ve vaguely alluded to this before on my blog, but a friend of mine who’s into improv had mentioned this improv group in Osaka to me sometime back, maybe last summer. And this guy who was there tonight was part of that group. I had probably seen pictures of him on their website almost a year ago, a half year before I came to Japan, and I hung out with him tonight.
Sometimes I’ll be talking with students and find out that they’ve been to Niagara Falls. I’ll ask where they went while there and sometimes, they mention Toronto. These people, in Osaka and surrounding cities, have been a mere five minutes from my house, as they drove on the highway between Niagara Falls and Toronto. Maybe that’s not too surprising, living so close to a highway that connects to major Canadian cities. But I still find it amazing.
In other news, the humidity is unbearable, and it’s only late June. I am typing right now, dripping with sweat. Actually dripping. I have my handkerchief beside me to wipe off the drips, but it doesn’t help much. This is all normal to people who have lived in Japan for a while (not the same as tolerable, though), if not their whole lives. Part of the rhythm of the seasons. It’s strange for me to not have any sense of this rhythm. I know what to expect in Niagara, in Ontario. When I think of the end of June, I think of distinct weather patterns and the anticipation of certain crops of fruit (cherries soon, and peaches shortly after…). I’ve seen people here looking like they’ve spent a day at the beach (a beach towel over their shoulder, or a red glow about them) and then I remember that we are into summer. Otherwise, I often forget. “The end of June” in the context of Japan means nothing to me.