I recently thought of a more convenient way to list definitions/explanations for Japanese vocab. From now on, whenever you see text with a dotted blue underline like this, you can mouseover it to reveal a short definition.
Alright, I know I said you could expect a post on the conclusion of my last Tokyo trip, but I’m just way too far behind again so I want to do another sweeping catch-up post before getting into another highly detailed adventure story. I really do try my best to stay current, but no matter how good my intentions I always just end up going home too exhausted from dealing with all the “stuff” that one encounters daily when working at a Japanese company. So by the time Friday rolls around I usually end up joining a random group of friends for an evening of bar-hopping or clubbing rather than going to bed early and waking up to be productive as planned. I have become, ladies and gentleman, a certifiable Japanese salaryman. And let me tell you: I truly see why alcoholism is so much more prevalent here than it is in America…
Because it’s so much freakin fun!
(…and stressful, depending on the day of the week 🙁 )
So with my most sincere apologies, I’ve decided to stop updating the Photo of the Day, at least for now. I’ll leave the section as-is and resume it sooner or later – perhaps the next time I take off on a big international trip – but on a daily basis I’d just prefer to focus on documenting my experiences living in Japan rather than struggling to produce a new photo every single day.
So here goes, once again, a summarized catch-up post:
Ten Saturdays ago I met up with David, one of my earliest readers, to finally attend the Kobe Matsuri. David has made it his tradition to visit the Kobe Matsuri during each and every trip to Japan. And with good reason: it was perhaps the most diverse festival I’ve seen yet. Other than the standard food booths and street vendors, the Kobe Matsuri featured a parade of everything from scantily clad Samba dancers to clowns on stilts to bodybuilders dressed like Greek Gods. Definitely worth a look if you’re in Kansai around the middle of May.
Five Saturdays ago I took a long bikeride to Takatsuki, the largest city between Osaka and Kyoto. The plan was to ride to Osaka, stopping and visiting a number of friends along the way. Dokuta (aka Yano) in Takatsuki was to be the first. And although a flat tire and severe sunburn on my arms and shoulders forced me to head back without achieving my goal, it was still a very pleasant ride and a great afternoon out under the sun.
The next day I took a train down to Uji to visit Naomi and her family for the first time in just over two years (tacos for dinner!) It was wonderful to be able to communicate with Nao’s mother without having to rely at all on her daughter’s translation, and it really made me think about how far I’ve come since the first time we met back in 2005. I found myself reminiscing about a time when I’d use Japanese almost exclusively in writing, purposely avoiding face-to-face meetings where the constant need to stop and lookup unknown vocabulary would bring any conversation to a screeching halt. Back then I’d spend hundreds of hours memorizing vocab in anticipation of the day when looking up a word would become as rare as knowing one had once seemed. Well, I’ve finally reached that point. Sometimes I’ll go days without saying a word in English and barely give it a second thought. It’s a great feeling to look back and know that all the hard work has finally paid off in a real, tangible way.
(Incidentally, the bulk of my conversation with Nao’s mother revolved around how she believes the vast majority of Japan’s societal problems to stem from its slavelabor-like working conditions…a perspective which I happen to agree with. Here’s a really interesting article on Japan’s declining birthrate problem that states almost exactly what I’ve been telling friends and teachers for years whenever they’ve asked my opinion on the problem.)
Four Thursdays ago I attended a company 飲み会 at Momojiro, a popular Izakaya chain in Kansai. It was a celebration for the ten-or-so new hires who’ve joined the company in the past year, and the first company event since our Hanami Party back in April.
Then on Friday I met up with Alana and Yoshiki. Alana is my American friend who’s probably most responsible for my coming to Kyoto in the first place, as she convinced me to drop my plans of studying at Waseda in Tokyo in favor for a more “traditional Japanese experience.” She’s lived in Japan for even longer than I, but has finally decided to take off and start a new life somewhere in Europe. Best of luck, Alana!
The following day I did something that I’ve been intending to do since sometime around mid 2005: I committed an entire day to taking photos of “familiar places” around Kyoto. After growing accustomed to life in Japan, it’s easy to find yourself photographing only the more “typical” sights and scenery: temples, shrines, statues, cherry blossoms, etc. But for my own personal memories I want to make sure to capture the simple aspects of everyday life as well: streets I pass through on the way to work, supermarkets where I buy my groceries, and the gym where I exercise. When I was here as a student I’d frequently tell myself “I can photograph those things any time, I’ll just do it next weekend.” Before I knew it, it was too late.
But not this time!
Three weekends ago was pretty average – not much more than some Kanji study (yes, I’m still at it!), chatting with M. at Starbuck’s, drinking at my various Kiyamachi spots; you know, the usual. I’ve actually got a half dozen partially written posts on various topics, one of which is a detailed account of the “average night out” in Kyoto…so I’ll leave the details on this one for a bit later. One thing I will mention, however, is that a friend of mine at The Hub randomly introduced me to the author of GaijinSmash.net, probably the most famous Japan blog out there (attracting somewhere around a quarter million unique visits a month). He reminded me a bit of my good friend Nick’s little brother…except that he was a big, tall black guy. I am very jealous of his writing.
Two Sundays ago I finally convincedRhod, a coworker, to accompany me for an afternoon of swimming at Hodzukyo.
Since arriving in the (landlocked) city of Kyoto, and especially since the arrival of the Summer heat, I’ve been desperately craving a large body of water in which to submerge my California coastline-craving body. From time to time I manage to subdue these cravings (can I use “subdue” like that?) by laying next to the Kamo River and dangling my feet in the water…but it’s become clear that the time has come for some real relief. Hodzukyo proved to be just what the doctor ordered.
Those who’ve been to Kyoto are most likely familiar with the Sagano Romantic Train that runs through a series of beautiful canyons tucked among the mountains dividing Kyoto and the neighboring Kameoka. What you’re probably not familiar with is the JR station called Hodzukyo that rests within those mountains. As it turns out, if you hop over a fence near the station’s exit you can climb down a small hill and arrive at a beautiful, winding river all to yourself.
But if you ever decide to go swimming at Hodzukyo, just make sure to find yourself an area that’s well-protected from the rapids; I hear that a few people die each year from the surprisingly strong undertow.
I also hear that the vast majority of them are drunk foreigners venturing too deep into the rapids. 😕
And that brings us up to this weekend: The Gion Matsuri. There’s little I love more than the feeling of a big Japanese matsuri…except for maybe a matsuri not accompanied by a typhoon!
But despite the rocky climatic start, things cleared up eventually and it proved to be a fantastic time to remember. I attended a WhyNotJapan party (for free!), met up with Dylan, Stuart, and Keir (the later two of whom were sporting some brand new 浴衣), met a whole new group of friends while buying a can of Chu-Hai at Lawson Convenience Store, hung out with Matt, Surya, and Ray at Nikki’s Bar, wandered around the chaos of Downtown Kyoto’s 屋台 with Miho, and shared a beer with Kosuke at A-Bar. I even got stopped by the police for 二人乗り without my alien registration card with me, while intoxicated, and on a bike that technically isn’t registered to me.
Thankfully they couldn’t tell I’d been drinking, and I was able to talk my way out of it by bowing profusely and pretending not to speak Japanese 😆
And all this was before the main festival parade even began, right in front of my office on Tuesday morning. Yep, it’s been a good few
weeks weekends indeed.
And now, my posts are finally all caught up!
(Err…except for those 6 half-written ones I mentioned earlier 😥 )
Sorry if this was a particularly drawn-out/boring one. Too much to write about, too little time to write. But that doesn’t mean I want to skip over the events entirely!