blacklilly: (Angsty)
Today is a day I should be spending de-cluttering the apartment in anticipation of getting the all-clear to move apartment next month.  However, having felt like a pig shat in my head all week, I've decided that today is the summer equivalent of "Bed, Bath and Book" day, in which I do nothing but laze around in bed, read books and have a nice long bath.  The summer equivilent, however, involves me getting out of the bath and having to apply ice packs ot my face to get it back to normal from the hideous scarlet it had turned.  Then there's plenty of sweating, and lying around, and music, but not much reading.  I've also voted today a liquid day.  I've already consumed two litres of water and have now started on the free juice we got at work yesterday.  This one is a quite pleasant mix of berries and tomato.  Now I'm craving a Virgin Mary.  I have done some washing, which is being battered around by the wind outside, none of which seems to be making its way inside to me.

I went to Ina last week to see my friend Brooke before she returns to Florida.  I met Brooke two weeks before I left Ina, and we became firm friends straight away.  She has a fabulous potty mouth and I wish I'd met her when I first got to Ina as it would have made some of those lonely first months alot more bearable.  I was horrified with jealousy to find that her house, yes, house, is about 8 times the size of my Tokyo apartment and that she pays less than a quarter of what I do for mine.  It is subsidized, but still.  The downside is that there's no heating, so winter finds her confined to one room getting high off the the fumes from kerosene heaters.  In fact, one of the last times I saw her before I left, she was an hour late arriving becasue her front door was frozen shut and she couldn't get out of the house. 

It was wonderful to go back.  As I was heading in on the bus, taking in the view of the mountains all around, the verdant rice and vegetable fields, I wondered why I'd left.  Still, despite the various issues I have with life in the metropolis, I'm currently glad I made the move.    I'll put up some pictures when I finish the roll.

I've been feeling pretty rough this week, and I'm certain that it's the heat causing the problem.  I left the aircon on all night on Monday and woke up on Tuesday with a sore throat and a swollen lymph gland on the left side of my neck.  The sore throat disappeared, but the swollen gland is still causing me discomfort.  However, it being the end of the month, I don't have enough money to go to the doctor for the second time in six weeks.  I guess I'm just run down from not having had a rest for at least 6 weeks.  I've been running about doing stuff every weekend, and I've probably been drinking too much as well.  So, this week, I'm going to overdose on fruit in a bid to right the balance and make myself feel a bit better. 

Hmmm, the cicadas are whirring away.   There are two kinds I can hear: the ones that sound like a rising chorus of rattles and the pulsating ones which sound a bit like power lines buzzing and snapping.  I think it must be time for some reading on the balcony.

blacklilly: (Default)
'And so you are going abroad; and when do you return?
But that's a useless question.
You hardly know when you are coming back,
You will find so much to learn.'

T.S. Eliot
"Portrait of a Lady"

Today marks one year since I came to Japan. I've been thinking about how to comment upon this occasional here, as this journal is the only way many people keep up with what I've been doing. Should I say something profound, something funny, something sad? What I will say is that I am happier here than I have been in a very long time. Is that because I'm in Japan, or away from England? I was finishing Thoreau's "Walden" only a few days ago and he says the following:

"... there are continents and seas in the moral world, to which every man is an isthmus or an inlet, yet unexplored by him, but that it is easier to sail many thousands of miles through cold and storm and cannibals... than it is to explore the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one's being alone."

My memories of this first year are mainly sensory ones. It seems too much work to put them into some kind of narrative form so here are the various things I think of with a smile:

The glorious Tokyo cityscape at night from the top of the Tokyo Park Hyatt; the aching cold of my first month here, the loneliness and the confusion of a new home where you can't speak the language. The auditory assault of Gotanda on my jet-lagged first night in Tokyo, and the noise of the izakaya ("SUMIMASEN!!!) my friends Yusuke and Chihoko took me to in Ikebukuro (and wandering round that vast station trying to find each other).
The smell of cedar wood on the air; rice waves rippling across fields in the wind. A humid day in Yokohama, being jostled on the Tokyo subway, being stared at in Ina. The silence and serenity of the temple I stayed at in Koya-san, and the sunlight coming through the trees in the early morning mist. Singing ABBA songs to guitar accompaniment in bars; finding unexpected kindness and generosity; making unlikely friends. Looking at the mountains each day and seeing something different every time.


"There is more day to dawn."
blacklilly: (Default)
In my previous post I put up a clip of Yoshio Kojima, whose morning workout is having absolutely no effect, save for improving my ability to stomp and amuse small children. When we go canvassing for new students in Ina, however, we rely on the Hard Gay technique:



So the news I posted about on Sunday, or whenever, is that I will be going to Cairns, Australia next week for a training trip. This is the end of the six month Big Jump training and for some unknown reason I was selected to go on it (clearly this has nothing to do with business results). I have to give a presentation on teaching vocabulary, which was mightily interesting in the researching, so I hope it goes well. I am sugoiexcited about going, but held off telling anyone until I got my new passport and had all my visa-stuff sorted out, which I did on Monday. Six hours on a train with a low fever is not fun. It's only a short trip though - we fly out on Sunday and back on Wednesday, but it will be my first time in Australia!

In other job news, I've been offered a transfer to Yokohama. The school is huge - twice the size of Ina, and very busy, with loads of staff. I was talking yesterday to the Area Leader there, well aware that he could persuade me that a hot poker up the bum is just what I needed. So I've got to think think think. It would be the total opposite of everything in Ina (they have carpet for one thing).
[Unknown site tag]
I'm starting to settle-in in Ina, but here is the main problem. I like Ina, I like the local people I've met, and it's near the mountains so I can go break my arm in the forthcoming winter when I go snowboarding again. But, it's isolated and the school gets me down sometimes. My ridiculous schedule, the plague of spiders, the lack of a manager, and any notion that anyone remembers we're here. There's no cinema, which used to really annoy me until I found Tsutaya and got re-addicted to the X-Files.

I like the fact that everyone knows me here - yes, I revel in my Gaijin fame - so the anonymity in Yokohama would be something to adapt to, but that was what I enjoyed when I was in London. There are also tonnes of Gaijin, which has its pros and cons. I have liked being away from other English speakers here, but have recently found a group of ALTs in the area, which spices things up a bit.

In Yokhama there will be bookshops, where I can indulge my reignited poetry craving (yeah, yeah, I know it's on the internet but I hate reading from computer screens). There will be Japanese schools, and there will be people my age! But, it means moving all my stuff, reclocating to a new City (much as it pretends to be, Ina isn't a city), making new friends (but meeting up with old ones), and getting used to new students. I will also have big shoes to fill, though I hope that's why I was asked to replace him. Being told you're a great teacher (as I was yesterday) for me is hard to take. I enjoy the flattery but I can't help distrusting it.

Ramble ramble ramble. Any thoughts you have would be appreciated.
blacklilly: (Default)
Not really much to say about this one. I've been planning a trip to Takato, the next town east of Ina, but it looks like it could be a long cycle so I've decided to start going out more often on my bike with the intention of readying myself for the long trip. This morning I went North along the river, yet again seeing how long it took before I had to to get on a main road after the cycle path ran out.

On the way I passed a lot of rice fields, most of which are being harvested this week with some interesting methods - either by hand and hanging the rice sheaves up to dry, or just sucking them into a machine and spitting out the stalks.






So I passed a few interesting bridges, bit generally it was quiet and uneventful, save for pairs of dragonflies repeatedly flying dangerously close to my spokes. I hit the end of the road when I passed an odd looking man hanging around at the end of a gravel pathway. He gave me a filthy look when I thanked him for stepping aside and drove off, after which I realised that cycling this path would place my tyres in peril.


End of the line

So I turned round and came back to Ina, which looks alright when you stick some pretty wild flowers in the front of the shot (anyone know the names of these flowers?):




I stopped off at school to clock in and then headed to the bakery for croissants. However, I had to wait ten minutes for them to come out of the oven, so I sat chatting to the bakery lady about hot it is. And indeed the warmth is rather unprecedented for this time of year 31-32 degrees every day this week, though not too humid, which makes it more bearable.

Anyway, I'm now at home wondering what to do with myself. I have two short stories on the go presently but am stuck on both of them. I feel like going back to sleep for a while. Not a bad idea...
blacklilly: (Default)
Yesterday was a rather lovely day, so to escape the stifling heat in my apartment I slapped on the SPF 50 and went out on my bike. I had planned to see how far along the river I could go by following the small road that runs along my side of the confluence, but after city hall it became a smaller road and ended up circling round some sort of stone works and then up along a main tributary to the Tenryu river which I had cycled along before. Knowing where I was I decided to cycle up this way and see how close to Takato I could get.

Takato is a nearby town well known in Japan for its cherry blossom in spring and people come from far away to view it. I was taken there once for a soba lunch, but that was the extent of my trip. I mentioned trying to cycle there to someone once. They sucked air through their teeth and told me it was too far. I've come to understand that the local version of "too far" involves any distance further than 10 minutes walk, as a lot of people here rely on their cars to get around. Admittedly, a lack of a "gas pig" makes getting about extremely dangerous in places as large trucks and bikes don't mix.

So I cycled up the small road and eventually hit the path that follows the river.



It's a raised path, which means you have a great view of the river and surrounding rice paddies as you go. It was also empty. I met no one until I bumped into a group of boys who'd parked their motorbikes and scooters right across the path. I had to jump off my bike to get round and one them at least apologised "Gomen nasai," he said, then, "Sorry."

" Daijobu," I replied, hopping bike on my bike and rolling away. I carried on, passing the spot I had reached on my previous journey this way at the 4.5km mark. Just after here the path runs along the main road and up ahead I could see the road bridge turning for Takato. However, I realised that journey was probably not right for a late afternoon jaunt and so took the cycle path on the other side of the river instead. Here the trees close in above you and the screaming of cicadas, normally just background noise, became deafening. I cycled on, hearing amongst the high-pitched screech the snap and crackle of "generator bugs". They sound like electric power lines. *



Coming out from the trees I passed close to the river and then by some "allotments" where I saw rows of what I think were peanut plants growing. On and on I cycled, enjoying the view, though beginning to feel the sun on my face a little too much. The 10km cycle path finishes at a picnic and mini-golf site where I was tempted to stop and read Harry Potter, having brought it with me, but I carried on, and headed back home via City Hall, which has a nice garden with a stream running through it.



I had a quiet sit down, noticing that my left knee was aching, but hopped up when I realised large ants were running all over me. I think one of them bit my leg too.

So back on the bike and home again. I think yesterday's ride clocked in at about 14km, possibly more, which makes me feel quite pleased with myself. My knee and hips ache slightly this morning though.

I spent the rest of yesterday reading Harry Potter. I'm up to Chapter 23, but am making myself wait until this afternoon before reading the rest as I need a bath, and then have to do my Japanese homework, and then go to my Japanese lesson.

Today is the start of Obon, a Buddhist ancestor festival. And last night, I missed the meteor showers. Maybe there'll be a few tonight...

* For an idea of what this sounds like check out (-)Ions on Tool's "Aenima" album.
blacklilly: (Default)
As it's Xmas today, I decided to get up and clean my apartment before opening my presents. Okay, I did the main room. The kitchen is too painful a thought. After opening the presents (sweeties, a calendar, a CD) I had a bath and then went for a walk. I've had my eye on this group of trees I can see from my apartment over the other side of town. There's a red bridge spanning the valley leading down the hill. So today I went to find it.

On the way there I found a set of steps leading up to a temple. The place was deserted - clearly only used in the summer. I took some more photos with my camera phone, but they weren't that great, so I'll take the big camera next time. I then headed further up the hill and found a path leading to a flat area at the top which was full of what seem to be cherry trees. I wandered around checking out the trees and then had a seat in the sun overlooking the '"city" and the mountains beyond. Again, the photos weren't so great so more next time. I was lovely to sit up there with the sun warming my face, the breeze blowing the trees about and the birds squealing in the nearby firs. Best of all, I didn't see anyone the whole time I was up there.

I found a little path cutting under the bridge and found myself traipsing through the back of a hotel on the hill side. I looked up and saw the signs I can see from my apartment.

Today is a lovely sunny one, so much so that I have been able to hang my washing out and leave the window open for the sun to shine directly through. It's nice to have some real air in the apartment for once, not just the aircon. I've seen the eagle hawks flying about and the crows 'cawing', found a bottle of one of my favourite wines, and made a very nice lunch. Tonight I'm going out and suspect that a respectable evening could well turn into drunken debauchery.

Oh, one last picture for you.


blacklilly: (Default)
”I wish they were not so beautiful; if they were not so beautiful and so inaccessible to me, then I should feel less lonely, although, after all, I came here in order to be lonely.”

The Smile of Winter
, Angela Carter

1730 words )
” Simplicity! Simplicity! Simplicity! I say let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand,; instead of a million count half a dozen… Simplify, simplify.”

Walden
, Thoreau
blacklilly: (Default)
This past week was my first in Ina, and a far cry from Tokyo. The three hours bus journey here heralded not only a change in scenery, but a change in the pace of life. From the crowds and incessant noise of Tokyo, to near desertion and a comparative peace. But Japan requires a soundtrack for its population, and that is the first of my musings.

1200 words this week )
Photos have been a little tricky this week. The weather hasn’t been great the past two days so I’ve not had much opportunity to take photos of Ina ‘city’. Instead you can have some photos of my current apartment, and I’ll aim to get some better pics when the sun is out. I also want to take some pics of the little bar/hooker district in the rainy dark and all its neon glory, but have been advised not to wander about there too much by myself. Maybe next time I have company, or maybe when I’m feeling brave. The most threatening looking people down there are the hookers and they look quite respectable.
blacklilly: (Default)
Here's my write-up of my first week in Japan. It's 2000 words long so make sure you're sitting comfortably. Links to pictures included.

Here you go... )
blacklilly: (Default)
I'm sitting in my new apartment in Ina. I arrived about 45 minutes ago, and was pleased to notice that it has wireless broadband. Hurrah!

Today has been a busy old day. I had to struggle through Tokyo with my bags at rush hour (and I'm sure you;ve seen the footage of that!), had some training, and then headed up to Shinjuku to get the bus to Ina. I had been led to believe I would be taking the Shinkansen, but alas, it appears Ina isn't big enough for one of those! The bus ride took 3 hours, but I snoozed, along with the enitre bus, and read "Singing Innocence and Experience" to keep me amused. I tried my Japanese out on the girl sitting next to me and seemed to do quite well. I found out we had a 20 minute break at a service station, and that the stop for Ina was the one after next. Of course, she replied to me in English, so it was quite a hilarious conversation as neither of us could really understand the other, but we managed.

Yasuko, the school manager came to meet me at the bus stop. She's very young and pretty and seems very friendly. We staggered up to the school with my bags, before heading over to the apartment. It's only a tiny little place: a small reception, office, and three classrooms. I met some of my students, and a few who weren't. Strangely, I've not felt too apprehensive about coming here, but now I'm in the apartment, I'm feeling a little... overwhelmed. This is the first time I've had my own place, which is quite nice, if possibly a little lonely at times, but the other English teacher only lives a few doors down from me, so there's always someone to ask for help (I hope).

The apartment is quite old, and sparse. There's a bit of damp in the tatami room, and a strange smell, but I guess that's left over from the previous occupant. But I shall make it my own. However, it seems I will be moving to another, newer apartment next month, so I shan't make myself too cosy yet.

I'll do a write up of the week's adventures, on Sunday and post it with some pictures. Right now, I'm going to eat some dinner and drink some beer.

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blacklilly

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