Silver Week

Monday, September 21st, 2015

It’s Silver Week.  A wonderful week that occurs every six or so years when 2 national holidays turn into 3.  Japanese law stipulates that if there is only one non-holiday in between two public holidays, that day should become an additional holiday, known as a Kokumin no kyūjitsu (Citizens’ Holiday).  Today is “Respect for the Aged Day” and  “Autumnal Equinox Day” is on Wednesday.

Major holidays are not a good time to travel in Japan so we have opted for staying at home.  We had friends over for a lazy weekend of playing games, eating junk food, and watching movies.  (I wasn’t expecting to like Zoolander, but it was O.K.)  We may venture out tomorrow to see a new apartment building but I won’t be surprised if we sleep late and forget all about that.  Marty is crazy about Splatoon, so much so that I’ve started to see squid creatures in my sleep, and if he plays to 4am again we may not get much done at all.  That’s not a problem though as I’m happy to be still for a few days.

It’s just a pity that the next one doesn’t take place until 2020!

Early Wake-up Call

Monday, May 5th, 2014

When I first moved to Japan earthquakes didn’t bother me much.  There were many of them and they didn’t really do anything apart from make everything shake.  But that all changed with the Tohoku Earthquake in 2011.  Now I’m very aware of the horror a quake can cause.  This morning shortly after 5am we experienced the strongest quake to shake Tokyo since 2011.  And it really wasn’t pleasant.  I think part of the problem is that I feel trapped when the building starts to shake.  There isn’t anywhere you can go as you certainly shouldn’t try to leave.  But when the building is jolted and swaying it feels unnatural to stay inside.  I want out.  The other issue is the uncertainty.  You can’t easily tell anything much other than the fact the earthquake is big. The earthquake this morning had a magnitude of 6.2 and was felt at either a weak 5 or a 4 in this area.  So, it was certainly big enough to to make me feel slightly panicked.

The earthquake got us out of bed when the emergency alarm system started.  The local government disaster administration wireless broadcast is tested everyday at 5pm, but it is tested with music.  This morning, when they used words, we had no idea what was being said.  It echoed and distorted off the buildings.  For all I know it was saying “we come in peace” but since we couldn’t understand it we turned on the T.V. and listened to the announcements.  The T.V. presenter looked nervous but things quickly calmed down and thankfully there was no tsunami warning.

I mostly enjoy living in Japan but I now have nightmares about earthquakes.

Greenery Day

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

It’s Golden Week in Japan – the name given to a group of national holidays that occur close together.  Today was Greenery Day.  I think it’s a day when you are supposed to spend time with nature, but the closest I got to anything green today was on my lunch plate.  We did consider going out but the horrible thing about national holidays in Japan is that the whole country goes out for the day.  Tomorrow I’ll at least brave the crowds at the supermarket as we’ve run out of green thing to eat.

Food Shopping

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Grocery shopping on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo is every bit as bad as grocery shopping on Christmas Eve in Belfast.  Normally I would avoid doing this but we only got back yesterday.  In Belfast, when I wanted to go food shopping before a major holiday, I would go to somewhere like Tesco in the middle of the night.  But here in Tokyo we don’t have 24 hour mega grocery stores. Normally I don’t miss them but being able to go to one shop would have made things easier today.

The first shop I went to was so crowded it was hard to get inside.  I persevered as it’s the only local shop where I can buy cheddar cheese.  The second shop I went to wasn’t much better. I wanted to see the display of crab and fish but I couldn’t face fighting my way through the crowds to do this.  I quickly decided that we weren’t going to have any traditional Japanese New Year food and instead bought the ingredients for making chicken soup, Irish stew, and chili.  The only Japanese thing I bought was a black Ebisu stout in the hope that I can use this instead of Guinness in my stew.

I’m also not going to eat soba to welcome the New Year.  Instead I’m thinking about chocolate and champagne, though neither of those things is likely to help me have a long life.

Happy New Year!

Disney Hallowe’en

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Marty and I spent a day at Disney Land so that we could watch the Hallowe’en parades.  He loves the silly songs and dances that the audience are taught.  I was impressed with the food.  We had a beautifully presented meal at the Blue Bayou restaurant.  My starter had a spider’s web drawn on the plate.  I don’t know what it was drawn with as it was so pretty I didn’t want to make a mess of it by eating it.

Scallop Starter

Scallop Starter

My dessert was shaped like a dragon. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it but the sweet potato cream was lovely, though I still think that food shouldn’t be purple.

Dragon Dessert

Dragon Dessert

Here Comes the Sun

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

The storm has passed.

Calm After the Storm

Calm After the Storm

Sunshine after the Storm

No More Rain

Strange Lesson

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I have learnt many things since coming to Japan but I’m not always conscious of having learnt them.

During the summer I was taken on a boat trip on the Aegean sea.  It stopped a few times so that we could swim but the sea was cold and I found it more enjoyable to sit on the deck and read.  During one such stop there was suddenly a lot of commotion.  My little sister was screaming and running away from Mehmet, the captain.

Mehmet had gone diving and returned with an octopus.  He had put this on his head and was chasing the woman and children around the boat.  He came rushing up to me and waited for me to run away.  But sticking an octopus on your head is not going to scare me.  Even threatening to put in on my chest is not going to have much effect.  I have eaten small octopus whole, I have seen them on sushi, freeze dried as snacks, and had them cooked in batter.  A live one is not a frightening thing and certainly not one that’s safe enough for a person to carry about on their head.

Octopus on his Head

Mehmet and the Octopus

Grand Sumo Tournament

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

On Saturday I went to watch Sumo.  This wasn’t on my list of things to do in Japan.  When I saw it on T.V. I found it really hard to watch the huge half-naked men slapping themselves and each other.  But Marty managed to get tickets and he wanted me to go with him.

Since moving to Japan I have started to pay attention to the flexibility of clothing.  When going out for dinner to a new restaurant I think of things like “how comfortable is it to kneel in this outfit”, or “are these socks O.K. if I have to take my shoes off”.  For watching Sumo the web was telling me that people wore “smart casual”.  In Japan this usually means some sort of skirt for woman.  Our tickets placed us in a “mass” seat.  This is quite a small area of the floor with four cushions to seat four people. I also knew that we would be there for at least four hours.  Looking through my wardrobe I managed to find a skirt that had lots of material that would make it easy to move around in.  I also decided to wear leggings underneath which made it very easy for me to sit either cross-legged or on my knees.

When we got there the seating area was a bit smaller than we were expecting but we managed to fit in and got fairly comfortable.  There was some sort of ceremony going on in the ring but I realised that not many people were paying attention. There was a stadium wide party going on with people chatting, eating, and drinking.  It reminded me of the parties that take place around cherry watching season or the large fireworks displays.  Thousands of people crammed together sitting on the ground enjoying themselves.

The top division goes on last with elaborate ceremonies.  By the time this started the arena was completely full and the audience was paying a lot more attention to the ring, yelling and chanting for their favourite Sumo stars.

Yokozuna Performing the Ring-Entering Ceremony

Yokozuna Performing the Ring-Entering Ceremony

I enjoyed the whole thing much more than I was expecting.  We were with people who were really into Sumo that explained the rules, traditions, and personalities.  Their enthusiasm was infectious and I found myself wanting the Rikishi they supported to win their bout.

Sumo Fight

Sumo Fight

I don’t see Sumo becoming my favourite sport but I do think I would go back and watch another tournament.

Limited Understanding

Friday, September 25th, 2009

It’s been a bad Japanese morning.  As I find it hard to understand people on the phone I try to avoid calls with strangers.  This morning, in my half awake state, I answered a call from a phone number I didn’t recognise.  From what little I could understand the caller had dialed the wrong number.  At one point during the short conversation the person I was speaking to said “Hai, wakarimashita” and I was so busy thinking that I was glad that at least one of us had understanding that I missed the rest of the sentence.

After I hang up I decided to comfort myself with reading some English.  But within 5 minutes of starting the intercom in the apartment sprung to life and an automated female voice started to speak.  I’m glad the building wasn’t burning down because the only word I caught of that announcement was “everyone”.

Cherry Blossom Snow

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

I went out today looking for the cherry blossom trees I could see from the  balcony.  I didn’t manage to find them all.  I have no sense of direction and managed to get lost even though I was trying to follow the river.

Cherry Blossom at Sumida River

Cherry Blossom at Sumida River

The wind has been picking up and I was worried that all the flowers would have blown away.  There are still trees in flower and I got to stand under them and watch the blossoms fall like snow.

Cherry Blossoms Covering the Roads

Cherry Blossoms Covering the Roads