David Chart's Japan Diary

July 4th 2006

Happy Treasonous Rebellion Day to all my USAnian readers! Oddly enough, July 4th is not a holiday in Japan (which had nothing to do with the events, and was probably utterly unaware that they were even happening), so I've been working today. It's been mostly editing things and teaching, as writing has got a bit squeezed out. Which is a shame, because I could really do to get some work done on a couple of projects. Overall, work has been going pretty well; I've had a couple of off-days, but I've finished and turned over one project, and I'm getting on well with another. I've recruited another student, who sounds like he wants to keep going for a while, and I'll actually be slightly over my target number of hours this week. Last week was well under, however, so it won't quite balance out yet. I think I need to recruit one once-a-week student to consistently make my target; with the number of slightly irregular students I have it's a bit hard to be sure.

Okay, enough about work. On to the interesting things. I had another Shinto lecture a couple of weeks ago. It was basically an outline of the Kojiki, the earliest Japanese mythological text, spokenveryquicklyindeed. I did largely understand it, entirely because I already know the story of the Kojiki. Had I actually had to follow new material, I think I would have failed dismally. I did roughly follow his jokes at the beginning about how little contemporary Japanese youth knows about Japanese history. While many of them would have no need to know, the youth in question had gone to university to study Shinto culture. I would have expected them to know a bit more about Shinto than his report suggested; they must, surely (surely...), have had some reason for choosing the course. Right?

A couple of Sundays ago, we had the third meeting about our wedding reception. This time, we actually decided stuff. In particular, we decided on wedding invitations and the schedule for the day itself. The invitations will go out at the beginning of August, and are all in Japanese. My friends who don't read Japanese already know to expect them, so that should be OK. Afterwards, we went shopping for wedding rings, and actually found a pair that we liked, so that's ordered. It is a Japanese custom to mount very small precious stones on the inside of wedding rings, particularly blue ones. This is picking up the English tradition of "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue". Stones on the inside of a ring is pretty subtle, though.

On Saturday, we went to the cinema again. This time, I let Yuriko choose the film, so we went to see "Oh! Mikey Night". This film consisted of a series of short comedy sketches, but the acting was rather wooden. Very wooden, in fact. All the parts were played by shop mannequins. They weren't even generally animated, just standing there in the shots. It was very, very strange. It was also the opening night, and the monthly cinema discount day, so the cinema was full, to the point of having people sitting in the passageways. It's a good job we went to buy tickets before we went to eat; I always do that just in case, but this is the first time it's actually been necessary.

Anyway, I enjoyed it, even if Yuriko enjoyed it more, and I get to choose next month's film.

On Sunday, we trekked across Tokyo (well, it was a direct train, so "trekked" is slightly over the top) to the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art to see an exhibition of the Cartier collection. It wasn't too bad, I suppose. I had my usual reaction to contemporary art, which is that 90% of it is rubbish, just like 90% of everything else. Well, actually, maybe a bit more than 90%, at least in my opinion. There were a couple of pieces I found impressive and interesting, but that was all, in quite a large collection.

After that, we went to the Lotus View Tea House by Shinobazu Pond in Ueno for dinner. That was much better. Apparently, they build a temporary cafe there every year, in the season when the lotuses bloom. They haven't actually started yet, unfortunately, but we still had a very nice evening. The weather for the rest of the day had been hot and muggy, with frequent heavy showers, but in the evening it was pleasantly warm with a nice breeze. At first, we sat inside and enjoyed a solo shamisen performance. It was good; I think I like shamisen music, as well as taiko drums. We then moved to a table outside, right on the edge of the pond. It had a nice view over the pond, to Ueno park, so there was a lot of greenery surrounding the pond, with tall buildings, like the Sofitel Hotel, peering over the top. The sunset was very pretty. One of Yuriko's friends joined us, and we sat there eating, chatting, and enjoying the view for quite a while.

One of the nice things about the experience was that, although it was very pleasant and calm, it still felt very much as though we were in Tokyo. Indeed, it was hard to imagine doing the same thing anywhere else. It's occasionally (particularly when walking through Shibuya, for example) easy to forget that Tokyo also has its calm, traditional culture side.

The other main event of the last two weeks was getting an electricity bill from a UK energy company, which will remain nameless to protect the guilty. They were sending me a bill for the period up to the end of June 2003, so at least it was for a time when I was in England. However, they weren't supplying me with electricity at that time. What's more, this was the third time they had sent me bills or something similar for the period, and on each of the previous occasions they accepted that I didn't actually owe them any money because they hadn't actually supplied me with any electricity. So, after a few emails back and forth, they admitted it again. This time, I've asked them to put it in writing...

Hydrangeas The park behind our flat in full bloom.

It will, very soon, be a year since I bought this flat. That's a bit hard to believe; it really doesn't feel like a year since we moved here. (Well, it isn't, since I didn't really move until I got back from the UK in early September.) We still like it here, though; we are both prone to spontaneously exclaiming that it's a really nice flat, which is slightly sickening, true as it is. We've got all the interior furniture sorted out (no room for any more...), and we're used to life here. Now, Yuriko is working on the balcony, stocking it with plants and planning on getting furniture.

Our walks have also impressed on us just how nice the area is. Yuriko occasionally describes it as "rural", which it isn't, but there are rice paddies within two minutes' walk, and quite a few places within half an hour's walk where you can hardly see any evidence of the largest city on earth, despite being pretty close to the centre of it. The Azalea and Hydrangea Temples are very nice, as are the various parks. The only park we've been to twice is the Higashi Takane Forest Park, but Ikuta and Tonmori are also good. Actually, we should find time to go to Tonmori fairly soon, because the fireflies are supposed to be good. And we get hydrangeas from the little park behind the flats, so we can enjoy those whenever we go out.

The weather is getting properly hot now, as summer draws in, and Yuriko occasionally suggests that we should go to live in a different country with better summers. Of course, this is at the same time as saying how nice our current home is. I can't argue with her negative opinion of the Japanese summer, though. Hot, humid, and generally unpleasant. And still about three months to go...