The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Saturday, May 01, 2010

5 Months?? Seriously?!

Wow, I can't believe it's been 5 months since my last post! Whoops! Sorry about that.
I finished up January with my old employer, and then spent February and March unemployed. I got a new place in Nerima-ward, Tokyo, which is kind of in the northwest of the city, close to where I have started working.
At the end of March, the best season of the year, cherry blossom season, started. Yoshie and I took a few pictures in a park towards the start of the season, so the blooms aren't really full yet.

(Eek! Where's my hair?? Oh well.)

About a week later, we went to the Meguro River in Tokyo, which is a nice spot for blossom viewing. A long stretch of the river is lined with cherry trees overhanging the canal. It's really beautiful.

Aside from the beauty of the blossoms themselves, though, the nice thing is the festive atmosphere. Everybody is drinking calmly and laughing with friends. There are food and drink stalls set up everywhere, so you can buy all kinds of "festival" food - meat on sticks, sweets, fried noodles - yummy!

After a leisurely stroll up and down the length of the river, we decided it was time for dinner. Yoshie found a highly-rated restaurant in the area, so we went to check it out. This is the door to the place, my right hand indicating the height of the door, and my face indicating my unwillingness to go in on my knees:

It's actually a nod towards traditional Japanese tea-houses. These were designed with the radical notion that "everyone is equal" so the door was made extra-low (even by Japanese standards) meaning that, whether you were a high-ranking noble or the meanest peasant, you would have to bow upon entering. Well, in my case, it would be more like crawling in on my hands and knees. Fortunately (?) the place was full, so we couldn't get in. Whew! Disaster averted.

We eventually found a place to eat, but not before the bathroom situation started to get pretty desperate for both of us. We had to duck into a Pachinko parlour to use the facilities, and so I snapped this picture of some die-hard gambling addicts. The trays of balls represent their winnings. The guy towards the end of the aisle has about $1000 worth of winnings stacked up behind him. He probably wouldn't be happy if some clumsy oaf kicked them over.

When we went blossom-viewing, the trees weren't actually in full bloom. The thing about cherry blossoms is that the trees are in full bloom for about 7 seconds, and then it's all downhill from there as the blossoms start falling. I suppose that's why they are such a strong metaphor for the brevity of life in Japanese culture. I took this shot on the street near my apartment. It's as close to full bloom as I could find. Pretty, huh?

Interesting how some of the trees are white, some are pinkish, and some (which are further along in the blooming cycle) look minty-green.

Have you seen "American Beauty"? Remember that scene with the plastic bag being carried aloft by the wind? Towards the end of the blossoms, it was a very windy day. The wind was blowing the flower petals off the trees, and also picking up the piles of petals from the ground, and creating these mini-tornadoes of blossoms everywhere. It was like it was snowing! Really, really incredible.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of April I started my new job at Rikkyo University here in Tokyo. It is one of the top 6 or 7 private universities in Tokyo, and is very well-regarded. They have a new "experimental" English program, where every freshman student takes English in a small class (up to 8 students per instructor). The goal of the class is to teach discussion skills. It has been really enjoyable teaching it so far. The students are great, the directors are extremely knowledgeable, and the other instructors are great. It's probably the best job I've ever had, all things considered!

Meanwhile, iaido practice is going fairly well. My knee hurts at the moment, but this has been a passing thing in the past, so I'm just waiting for the pain to go away. I was signed up to join the Tokyo Iaido Tournament ... but long story short, I had to work in the morning, rushed to get to the tournament in time, didn't make it, and ended up just taking pictures of the Sensei demonstrating. Here's one picture. It was pretty depressing not to be able to participate, but oh well.

Today is the Sunday of Golden Week, 6 days (or so) of national holidays all in a row. Most people travel of go back home. Yoshie has gone back home for a couple days, and I have no plans. Today I'm just relaxing, cleaning the apartment, and catching up on things (like Blogs) that I have been meaning to do. It's a fantastic day, though - sunny, and warm - so I should probably finish this up and go outside! Next update will be in fewer than 5 months, I promise.