Wednesday, August 29, 2012

メンフィスって、何それ? [Memphis, you said? What's that?]

Talk about a head trip! Check out what I found on the subway a few weeks ago. I had to do a triple take to make sure I was reading the uniform right. Particularly since the color theme isn't even remotely close to correct.

At the time I was only going one stop on the train, which meant when I realized what I was looking at I had less than a minute before my stop. A frantic scramble to unearth my camera from the depths of my bag and squeeze off as many shots as possible ensued. Of course, this got me bewildered, furtive glances from everyone else in the car. One guy actually followed me all the way to the sidewalk outside the subway exit and started asking me questions because of it. We had a conversation roughly as follows:

"Excuse me, do you speak English?"
"Uh... yeah. Hi."
"Can I ask?"--I nod to him--"Why did you take a picture on the subway?"
"Oh, it had the name of my hometown. Nobody in Japan knows it, so I was shocked."
"I see. Why this stop?"
"I live near here."
"Okay, thank you."

After an obligatory bow, he then walked in the opposite direction, making it screamingly obvious that he didn't just happen to be walking the same way. Rather amusing, since I highly doubt he would've had the social gumption to walk up some stranger of his own nationality and question them about their behavior.

Explanatory note: The picture was part of an ad for a local university's open campus for potential students. My best guess being that they have the option for an exchange semester to Memphis.

What about you? Ever had a familiar place name crop up in a bizarre context? Tell me all about it below!

Monday, July 16, 2012

もう一つ海の日 [Another Year, Another Marine Day]

Hurrah for Marine Day! What's that, you say? You have no idea what I'm talking about? Well, let me tell you what I know: 1) its name has to do with the ocean; 2) it's a national holiday in Japan; 3) no Japanese person I've asked seems to know what it celebrates, exactly.

In this case, I am not one to press for answers--like any good working woman, I love an extra day off. And this day off was all the better for being a quiet one. I got up late. I did laundry. I drank a home-made smoothie. I went grocery shopping and called my mom. Basically I filled my day with the practical little things required by life.

As I waited at the crosswalk after grocery shopping, I found myself enjoying the weighty heat of the summer against my skin and the the wind that occasionally stirred it.  It brought to mind the words of a character from a book I've been reading recently: "We both like Weather. Not this or that kind of weather, but just Weather... Everyone begins as a child by liking Weather. You learn the art of disliking it as you grow up."

I'm inclined to agree. Here's to trying to accept the heavy, lush summer as a child would.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

暇な線香花火 [Sparklers, Just Because]

Tonight was a night for sparklers. We didn’t have any particular reason to burn them, since Independence Day is almost a week past now—and my roommate is Australian, anyway—but we did. And it was good.

Today was without precipitation despite being in the midst of Japan’s rainy season; a welcome reprieve! However, our rainless day came courtesy of a blustery, intermittent wind, so perhaps tonight wasn't the greatest time for this activity. Didn't stop us.

Lighting the sparklers on our balcony became a sort of comedic dance as we lit match after match, trying to get the flame to catch before an unpredictable gust extinguished the small point of light. The wind dictated our choreography. We began facing each other with match and sparkler extended tip to tip, then stood shoulder to shoulder with hands stretched out to shelter the air before us, then crouched low to the balcony’s concrete floor like a pair of flame-wielding frogs. By the end, our use of matches created a rather prodigious pile:

Eventually we managed to avoid the ever-changing air currents just long enough for our fireworks to catch. Avoiding the jumping sparks, we quickly pirouetted away from each other and dangled our little fountains of fire over the balcony ledge. We then followed the sparklers’ path with our eyes as we waved them wildly back and forth in the dark—which is of course the proper way to enjoy handheld fireworks, as any kid can tell you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

ゴルデンウィーク:藤まつり [Golden Week: Wisteria Festival]

My first vacation as a young professional came just 2 months after the start of my new job--not too shabby, right? The first week of May here is called "Golden Week"--aka, Japanese spring break. Seeing as how I'm only just getting used to my full schedule of classes, I decided to stay in town and just take a couple day trips to other towns in the area. Fortunately for me, my roomie Jess liked that idea, too, and so I had lovely company on my excursions!

The first event I'd discovered online that I wanted to check out was the Konan City Wisteria Festival. I'm not sure exactly what it is about wisteria, but something about those hanging blooms has always struck me as beautifully sumptuous. Needless to say, when I read that Konan's Mandara Temple Garden boasted hundreds of yards of walkways underneath trellises full of wisteria blooms, I wanted to go.

Jess and I set out around lunchtime on the first Monday in May to see what we could see. Upon arriving at the train station with no problem and immediately finding a sign in Japanese indicating a shuttle bus just beyond the station exit, I felt pretty confident. A bus pulled up near the sign, and we hopped on. About 20 minutes later it became evident that my confidence may have been a little premature--the bus pulled up in front of a hospital with a large glass lobby, and the driver shut off the engine. The only thing even vaguely resembling a garden was the planter of neatly trimmed ivy by the hospital entrance. Oops.

After consulting with the bus driver in Japanese, who consulted a nearby taxi driver for extra information, I figured out that we should just wait until the same bus started back toward the station and alight at the line's halfway point on a main drag. From there we could evidently reach Mandara Temple. Once we stepped off and the bus pulled away, there was a minute or two of confusion as we wondered if there was some secret bus stop for a shuttle that we couldn't see, but pretty soon I saw a Japanese sign indicating the direction of the festival, and I figured the safest bet was simply to hoof it to our destination. It took a little while, but maybe 15 or 20 minutes later, we arrived! Yay. By this point a lot of the festival game and food booths around the temple were closing, but the garden remained open, and there was plenty of daylight left, so we started exploring the grounds.

A small wisteria vine in an out-of-the-way area to the side of the main temple.

A considerate bystander offered to take this picture for us without us even asking, and look what a nice job he did, too! The banner next to us says "Wisteria Festival" in Japanese.

Drapes of flowers.

One of the main under-trellis walkways of the Mandara Temple Garden in the late afternoon.
Posted by Picasa

I hope you've enjoyed this little update about my Golden Week activities. There will be a Golden Week: Part 2 post, so be sure to check back soon!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

after a long while.

Hello again--I must apologize for the sizable gap between my last post and this one. I tend to want to encapsulate my experiences perfectly (impossible), so I end up avoiding updates. Quite a silly cycle, yes? Ah, well. Today I decided to break it.

Spring sprang here in Nagoya since my last post. Snow feels like a vague memory these days. I rolled through a full month of being a sub teacher while I waited for April, which marks the start of the academic year here. My roommate and I both found it stressful after awhile, since we couldn't know what we'd be called upon to do on any given day. Instead of making lesson plans or getting some sort of rhythm, for the month of March our only consistent work routine was waiting for our cell phones to ring sometime between 11 am and noon with our shift details for the day. That got old pretty quickly, needless to say.

This work schedule had the added bonus that any of the couple dozen schools in the region were possible destinations each day. Generally speaking, I didn't mind the length of any of the commutes, but navigating the trains--oh, the trains! Let's just say I got several cardiovascular workouts against my will thanks to transportation confusion.

In fact, I had written an entire amusing anecdote about running for a train and having the doors shut in my face to my great dismay, but the blog application failed to save it properly, then failed to post when I pushed the button. Cool, Blogger, real cool. I'd love to rewrite it, but now work calls. Time to go get dressed for success! See you next time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

bonus post: SNOW!

Alright, one more important thing I forgot to include: it SNOWED on the 11th! We happened to have the day off from training, which made it even better. I'm happy to report that the last few days have even been somewhat warm, at around 45F. Unfortunately, it's set to rain tomorrow--at least I've got my pink polka-dotted umbrella ready to go!