If I’m not careful, I might just let another month slip by : P I’ve been spending a lot of time studying Japanese literature, especially the Tale of Genji. I never realized just how huge the story is though. It has over 50 chapters, with the average chapter being about 20 pages. Thankfully, we’re not reading the whole thing this semester. We’ve been focusing on the chapters that occur after the main character, Genji’s death, which in a nutshell are about many different lovers not getting what they want. But it covers a lot about court society back in Japanese history and is a very significant and influential work in the Japanese literature cannon.
Anyway, one of the more adventurous things I’ve done in the past few weeks was the chance to go with my Aikido circle friends to hang out in some of the more stylish and well-known parts of Tokyo. The first thing we did was go for a picnic. In Tokyo.
Actually, I was surprised by how nice and spacious the park was in Yoyogi. Huge trees, and lots of people also having picnics with blankets set out. It was Golden Week, a special week of vacation, (actually, depending on your definition of special, maybe not so much. I asked several Japanese what Golden Week was about, and they replied that it was just a cluster of seperate holidays bunched together, an Emperor’s Birthday, Green Day—no, not the band, and Children’s Day) so there were lots of other people with blankets set out and having fun in the sun. Until we set out tarp down.
It was almost like we had stumbled across a secret lever. From the time we stayed there to the time we decided to leave, and only in that time, did it rain. We still managed to have fun goofing around underneath the trees and our tarp, trying to stay dry. The truth is I actually like the rain. And so far, the past couple times I’ve said that to one of my Japanese friends, they called me a romantic and a sentimentalist : P But I do like the rain. The way sheets of silver color the landscape, and millions of droplets seem to drown out sound with its pattering tap dance on whatever it touches, pavement, leaves, umbrellas. It’s calming. And it seems to bring everyone together, quite literally, under the tarp, because we want to stay dry. But rain has this affectionate way of touching everything and everyone, even the people under their umbrellas and in their houses.
Anyway, after that, we went and took a tour at the NHK studio, which is sort of like the NBC or CNN of Japan. They do news, as well as TV shows. In one particular room, they showed us how they do some of the effects needed for their shows (like ocean sounds, fighting choreography, costumes, etc.) They gave us an opportunity to take a picture with some of the costume stuff on, and in hindsight I can’t believe I took it. But I’ll try to stifle my deprecations of how I think I look rather large and anything but intimidating and just show you the picture.
After that, we walked around in Harajuku and Shinjuku. I’ve been to New York before, but besides that, having never lived in the city before, I was stunned at all the lights and huge buildings that towered over me. Suddenly the description ‘urban jungle’ came to life for me and I understood what people were talking about. And I know it’s not nature, and it’s all man-made stuff, and there are probably some environmentally hurtful aspects to it, but there it does bear a certain beauty to it. Completely different from nature’s beauty, to be sure, but in its own way, it feels like a wild frontier.
We ended the day with a dinner at an Italian restaurant with an all you can eat deal. The way it worked was that whenever you wanted more food, you just ordered more. it was pretty cool. And what was even better was that it was with the Japanese. That’s the beauty of this journey—No matter what I do, whether if I’m hanging out with friends or up late doing schoolwork, or having a good day or a bad day, rain or shine—it’s all Japanese.