“these days seem long”
4/20/12 – 14:36
The approaching end of spring semester always comes with a veritable avalanche of school work and the helplessness that I typically feel in the face of all the exams, papers, and interviews is compounded almost three fold by the fact that all of the work I’m doing is in a language I’m now convinced I don’t know. But of course, there are papers I have to do in my native English as well. Just so we don’t forget how that stress feels too.
It’s sort of strange because this is the end of an academic year, but the Japanese year has just started. The 入学式 entrance ceremony has come and gone and the new students have flooded into school causing chaos in the dining halls, lines for the restroom and basically making campus look like an actual university again.
I guess it is fitting that school starts when it does because it coincides pretty closely with the opening of the cherry blossoms and the whole air of new beginnings. Basically, the entire “April” folder of my photo archive is pictures from お花見 aka sitting under the blossoming trees and drinking plum wine [or your drink of choice] while snacking on a massive array of Japanese snacks and figuratively stopping to smell the roses for once. Ohanami is a celebration of nature at its finest and also its fleeting beauty. The Japanese have a word, もののあわれ–mono no aware— which refers to the sorrowful beauty that exists in things that do not last. This may be embodied in the cherry blossoms which burst into life at the end of March and beginning of April but disappear with the wind after a couple of weeks. Imagine an entire country carpeted in pink for only two weeks out of the whole year. That’s 3.836% of the entire year.
Suffice to say that with such a short time to enjoy the sakura, I went to ohanami gatherings pretty much every time that I could. There was ohanami at 大阪城. There was ohanami at 枚方市の天の川. THREE TIMES. And then there was Troy and my epic ohanami walking tour of Kyoto. Followed by another ohanami the next day at Arashiyama.
I feel like most of my entries are basically just explanations of the pictures I post which I suppose is expected of a photo blog. However, it does get a little monotone if that’s all I’m doing. Of those events, I’ll probably only detail Kyoto exploits and then I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. If a picture really is worth a thousand words, I think it might be a little overkill because wordpress says my word count is already up to 577.
Anyway, yeah. Kyoto. It turned out to be a fantastically wonderful day weather-wise and a wildly auspicious one too considering that Troy and I seemed to happen upon things we wanted or things we liked one after the other. It was probably the best day I’ve had in the past two weeks. I started off doing some shopping in the morning at Sanjo Station where I bought another bento box from Loft because I love them and got to see the sakura blooming over th Kamogawa river that crosses the center of Kyoto. I met up with Troy at Gion Shijo and then we walked with the crowds to Yasaka Jinja and Maruyama Koen, arguably the busiest sakura viewing site in all of Kyoto. Anyway, while we were at Yasaka Jinja, we got into the entrance and happened upon a festival going on followed by a traditional wedding being performed right in the shrine. It was pretty awesome.
This was followed immediately by more stall vendors and a nice picnic lunch with a bento that I made myself in the bento box that Mika gave me for my birthday. It was delicious and refreshing and everything continued to be perfect.
The walk to 平安神宮 was not quite as long as we expected and there I pulled a fortune that wasn’t the best but pointed to good things to come. :] There was also this gigantic temple that I don’t know the name of but it had a million trees with falling petals everywhere. It was a very elegant scene under the trees and if I am to believe any of the anime/manga/other images I’ve scene, I had the strong feeling that maybe I should have pulled out a katana and killed someone. Or revealed my true identity. Or have done something equally as dramatic because the falling petals and a maybe a flash of light are just what happens when something like that occurs.
After the temple, we tried to find our way to the 哲学の道 which shouldn’t have been too far away, but we ended up getting lost… and then saved by a woman who I asked directions from. She and her cute dog were on their way over there anyway so she walked us there. Nice people. Nice weather. Cute dogs. How could this get any better? Uh… SAKURA FLAVORED ICE CREAM. That was actually good. It sort of tasted vaguely like cherries and really faint perfume mixed with vanilla. It was really good. And then Troy found the tornado-potato thing he’d been looking for ever since we first encountere it in Tokyo [or maybe Korea] and then I found another 風呂敷 cloth cover for my new bento box and a present for the carillon studio back home at UF :] While we were eating our ice cream, Troy was like: “Hey that guy in front of us sort of looks like Taka○○ki sensei from behind.” And then he turned around and it was him! He offered to take a picture and then left. What with all the luck we’ve been having getting the things we talk about to appear, Troy started talking about Hugh Jackman and I went on a tangent about John Krasinski. Unfortunately those two things were not in the cards that day, but that’s okay. They’ll appear in our lives sooner or later. I firmly belive so.
Lastly, we took a bus to somewhere near Kitano Tenmangu shrine where the plum blossoms had already scattered. That was alright because we weren’t there to see them, we were goin to see Misaki-kun’s concert because I told him I would go. It was actually pretty good and it reminded me of BCC Band back at home. Also, candy rained down on us at the end and it was a very pleasant end to a very pleasant day. Kudos, guys, for keeping the music alive.
Following is a series of bullet points and random thoughts. You have been forewarned.
– This is the first year that I have actually been able to visually measure the coming of spring. In Florida, spring comes when it is suddenly too hot to be wearing a hoodie and then you take off your hoodie. In Japan, I can see the green leaves appearing amongst the scattering flowers and day by day my bike ride to school gets more and more shady as the trees fill out.
– The fact that Japanese couples are generally not all over each other all the time intensely cutifies all of their other interactions. I saw Kana and Satoshi playing catch on the basketbal courts this one time, for example. I mean, they were just playing catch with each other. But they never doanythingso it was really cute. Diffrent culural expectations/understanding, I suppose.
– 乾杯外大 (笑)
– I entered a movie subtitle translation contest in which I had to make English subtitles for a video clip in Japanese. If I win the contest, I get a job [and a PS Vita] but most importantly, a job! When I was doing the translation and consulting native Japanese speakers and native English speakers alike about the nuance of the words in both the original and in my translation, I realized that I wouldn’t realy mind doing this for the rest of my life. I like the riddles that language and words pose and finding out the best way to convey the original intent in another language using a culturally appropriate and natural style. It’s challenging, but it’s really fun, in my opinion. I hope I win.
– I thought of this analogy while I was biking to school the other day. “Living in Japan is like scuba diving.” Your Japanese skills are your scuba tank. The better they are, the more oxygen you have in your tank. If you have zero skills, you’re given a snorkel. But the main thing is that you’re in an environment where you are largely uncomfortable. The sea floor is dazzling though. It’s visible from the surface, but too far to reach if you don’t have scuba gear. The coral reef down there on the sea floor is the Japanese culture. It’s beautiful to look at and definitely interesting from far away and the closer you get to it and the more you understand about it, the more interesting it can get. Of course, you need a certain amount of oxygen in your tank before you’re able to even get to examine the coral reef that closely. The fish in the water are the people of Japan. Some of them stay close to the coral and some of them swim away and hang out near the surface. Some of them like the strangers floating around. Some of them want nothing to do with you. The snorkelers up there can interact with the fish but can’t follow them back to the coral reef. The people with the scuba tanks have the ability to interact with the fish wherever they are. I’m sure there are better analogies, but this one made a lot of sense to me.
– Also, P.S. I’m sorry that there haven’t been 日本製品コーナー posts since… ever. It’s not that I haven’t been trying all these fancy Japan-only foods and products, but I am just being lazy and not wanting to write about them. Perhaps when my school work is done running me over with a steamroller, then I will post some photos. For now, have some pocky nutcream.