Thursday, August 30, 2012

Japan: 9か月 ; Nine Months.

     9 months; that's how long I've been living in Japan now.

     Initially, it was quite overwhelming... Tokyo is a huge city, packed full of sensory stimuli, after all. Every single outing I discover something new, see something different. From stumbling through the process of getting my transit pass, to setting up a bank account, getting a cellphone and getting lost in the subways it's been an exciting, challenging and fascinating learning process filled with fantastic food and adventures with an eclectic cast of characters.

     The changing of the seasons is extremely visible here; when I arrived the hills were dreary yellowed-grey things, quiet and cold. Through the spring (はる  ;  春) the plants revitalized with flowers bursting into vibrant life EVERYwhere and a tapestry of lush greenery stretching rapidly towards the sky. There was the rainy season (つゆ  ;  梅雨),  a drizzly humid period that involved many days of cursing at having forgotten my umbrella (coming from the desert,the only umbrellas I owned were given to me by well intentioned family). The summer (なつ ; 夏) is now rapidly drawing to a close but it's presence has been announced by the chorus of cicadas that croon from seemingly every possible is a nostalgic sound for me, reminding me of summers as a little girl out west curiously seeking their shed skins to admire. Here in Japan the skins are much larger and sturdier compared to their frail cousins in Nevada. It is also a sound you hear in many anime to set the mood; it is unquestionably the sound of summers in Japan, conjuring the heat, the humidity, the sunshine and sweat...

     Fall (あき ; 秋 )is now rapidly approaching, announced by the presence of many seasonal foods, including matsutake mushrooms. 
     Expensive puppies, they are. The grocery store by my アパート has bundles of them for 780¥ (roughly $8.50US) for two. They are a famous food both in Japan and abroad, rumor of their incredible prices and unique depth of flavor and cultivation abound. Their appearance unmistakably hint at the upcoming changing of the seasons... soon it will be winter (ふゆ ; 冬 ) all over again, with the dreary hills and bone-chilling cold. After the oppressively steamy summer weather, I'm looking forward to nestling in to many layers of comfy clothing and cooking soothing, warming foods again. I love making soups and always make my stock from scratch, ensuring that every time I brew up a batch it will be a direct reflection of the season, my eating habits of the last few weeks and a uniquely flavored blend. 

     Emotively, it's been a strange journey. I took one brief vacation to the US to visit friends and family and was left feeling all the more adrift than I had already. It is not a bad thing, necessarily; I have always been a bit of an outsider, observing the behavior of others as they cavort without feeling intrinsically immersed in it all. I am highly attuned to details and can read into people quite well and this tends to make many exchanges utterly exhausting to me; but it's also hard to pull one over on me. I have no fear in my adventures here and as far as safety...Japan is hard to beat. You can pass out pretty much anywhere and be completely safe (like this salaryman after a night in Roppongi);
     At this point in my life, it is a wonderful place to be. While I feel a nagging sense of distance playing on my affections for various people back home I knew what I had signed up for when I came. I welcomed it with the full knowledge it was precisely what I needed, as challenging as it may prove to be from time to time. Evolution is never easy or painless, but the end results are worth it.

     As they say in the native lingo; がんばります!! I will do my best!!
     じゃ、また! See you soon. Be well, my friends.