“The sight of the world put mad ideas into me; as if I could wander away, wander forever, see strange and beautiful things, one after the other.” – C.S. Lewis
January 29, 2015Posted by on
The goodbyes have begun. I’ve had a busy final two weeks and it’s all quite bittersweet. I’m ready to go home, but I’m already missing this city, my friends and my life here. My suitcase was picked up today and taken to Narita. I’ll go to the airport tomorrow and will fly back to the U.S. I’ve spent some great time with friends, mostly involving a fun hike and excellent Japanese food. The friendships in this international teaching field are ephemeral. We’re all used to forming bonds, such as they are, knowing they will be gently undone, yet with the potential to last, depending on the effort put into maintaining the connections, or the possibility of working together in future months or years.
My friend Tim, with whom I worked two years ago, still lives in Japan and teaches at a university in Tokyo. Every term he organizes a hike and it’s always a great time. Recently he led a winter hike to Sengenrei. We saw a waterfall, hiked in snow, ate lunch on top of the mountain and finished the day with shabu-shabu in an izakaya in Tachikawa.
Shabu-shabu is a traditional Japanese dish in which vegetables and meat are cooked in a pot at the table. It was so good and filling after a day of hiking.
We had such a great time that we decided to do an “encore” dinner the next week. Machiko organized our event at Okonomiyaki Honjin in Shinjuku. Okonomiyaki is another traditional Japanese dish that is also prepared at the table. We sat on the floor around low tables that had a grill in the middle. We ordered a variety of ingredients that were brought to us in bowls. We mixed the contents then spread it on the grill like a pancake. Then it was topped with different sauces and spices and cut into pieces. It was so good!
Our encore dinner turned into a bit of a going away event for me, which completely surprised me! Ikue, Machiko and Hiroko honored me with some very special gifts. They gave me chop sticks and holders, coasters with famous Japanese art, and a furoshiki – a cloth that is used to wrap bento lunch boxes. It was all so wonderful. I was especially touched by the booklet that Ikue made, which showed the various ways to tie the furoshiki. It was very thoughtful and special. I loved being with these friends and appreciated the gifts so much!
After dinner, we went to Golden Gai, a famous area in Shinjuku with over 200 small pubs and eateries within six tiny alleyways. We went to the Albatross, an old house that has been converted into one of the many pubs in the district. It was a fun way to end our night with good friends. It is a tiny place with three floors. We were on the top floor, which was reserved for bigger groups like ours.
After a most excellent evening, we said our final goodbyes at the station. This was the first time I almost missed the last train home! But I made it with a minute to spare. :)
January 21, 2015Posted by on
The title of my last post was misleading. It was just a farewell to Tokyo for 2014. I’m still here until January 30. I’m making the most of my remaining time, enjoying favorite places and seeing some new ones. I’m very satisfied with the life I’ve had in Japan and feel ready to proceed on with the next phase of my journey. (Yes, I’m working on some ideas!) The Westgate office staff had a week and a half of holidays and, with weekends included, it added up to almost two weeks of vacation. I didn’t travel anywhere because living in Tokyo keeps me busy and content.
I spent my free time running, reading, meeting friends for dinner and outings, seeing the illuminations and just wandering around. I made visits to the Tokyo International Forum, the National Diet Building (location of Japan’s parliament), iconic shops in Tokyo Station, and the (newest) tallest building in the city, Toranomon Hills.
Japan is rich in history, politics and… Hello Kitty.
Inside the depths of Tokyo Station is a mini-mall with specialty shops dedicated to favorite Japanese characters, as well as other beloved icons, such as Snoopy and the Moomins. There’s also a KitKat shop that sells mini-bars in 15 different flavors.
A few more pictures from Yokohama…
Many cities in Japan have signature manhole covers. Take a look at this link for some more.
Back in Tokyo…
I have less than two weeks to go in this grand city. I have not done everything, but I’ve seen and done a lot. I’ve always felt very content living in here. Sometimes I feel a bit of “Japan fatigue”, still not always “getting it”, never fully understanding what is going on around me, and trying to keep up with the perfectionistic standards that everyone adheres to. At the same time, Japan is quite accommodating. Someone always seems to be nearby to offer directions or help with interpreting. When I think about what I’ll miss, it will be scenes from this and other posts. I’ll remember the frenetic bustle of the city and the various districts. I’ll remember the way the wind whips around the buildings near Tokyo Station, and the lights of posh Ginza. I’ll remember the way the energy changes in just the few blocks from the Westgate office to the sensory-assaulting anime district of Akihabara. I’ll miss the calm walk around the Imperial Palace and the Marunouchi district, just across the road. I’ll miss seeing Mt. Fuji and Tokyo Skytree as I run along the river or take the train to work. The memories are countless, beginning with the first time I walked through Narita International Airport in the spring of 2012. What an adventure this has been.
I still have another post or two before this chapter is over. Stay tuned!
December 31, 2014Posted by on
I began this year in Japan and I’ll end this year in Japan.
After leaving Tokyo in January of 2014, I was in Colorado for a couple of weeks, then moved to Laramie, Wyoming, where I lived and worked online for a few months. Then I backpacked the Colorado Trail from Denver to Salida before returning to my parents’ house to regroup to return to Japan for my fifth term. Is this normal? For me it is.
My life in Tokyo has been great and I’ve been very content this year. I revisited favorite places, made new friends, and enjoyed all that Tokyo has to offer. Here are a few highlight of the last few weeks.
Happy New Year!
A walk through Ueno Park with Renu and Laura…
Laura and I took two tours on the Tokyo Skybus: one to Odaiba and another around Tokyo to view the illuminations. Unfortunately, these pics were lost in the new-camera stage. But this was the bus we took.
A visit to Yokohama…
See you soon, 2015!
December 25, 2014Posted by on
While Christmas in Japan is not considered a national or religious holiday, Japanese have adopted some Western customs related to the season. The focus is more on being out with friends and less on giving gifts. There are many beautiful lights and decorations everywhere called “illumination.” These begin to appear in November and some are up all the way through February and March, while others are taken down on December 25. Japan-Guide has a link to the seasonal illuminations around Japan.
In Nakameguro, the lights are illuminated over the canal creating the “Blue Cavern.” It’s a highly-anticipated event and many people started gathering around the canal well before dark when the lights came on.
In Shiodome people gathered for a light show at this display.
In Tokyo Dome City the lights were bright.
The Mikimoto Jumbo Christmas Tree is a holiday icon in Ginza. It’s lit with 6,500 LED lights. Today was the last night of its illumination for the season.
The lights in Maranouchi and at Tokyo Station are very popular and many people were out tonight to view them.
December 21, 2014Posted by on
Life has been good! My lack of posts have been more to do with new-camera issues than with lack of material. So we start where we are.
Tokyo is a-mazing! Bright lights big city in all its crazy glory. I love every bit of it. I’ll keep saying it: Sometimes I cannot believe I live here.
And then there are the suburbs. Where regular people live normal lives, exercise, catch the train, buy their groceries, ride their bikes, go to 7-11 for sushi and white bread egg sandwiches. (They’re not bad.)
This post is about my daily life. I run, I take the train to work, I walk to the store. I live in Adachi-ku, which is in the far northern reaches of Tokyo. Not Tokyo Tokyo (bright lights big city), but still Tokyo. I’d love to be a real author just so that on the book jacket it would say, “Robyn divides her time between Tokyo, the Appalachian Trail and Colorado.” Now I just need to be a real author.
I’m still running four days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. I love it and it’s what keeps me grounded and happy. On Tuesday and Thursday I’m usually running by 6:15, on the weekend, a bit later.
There is a river nearby with a path. On my way back I can see Tokyo Skytree and Mt. Fuji. (They’re too far away for my camera to capture their images).
I usually see this man at this road construction site when I run in the mornings. On this day he smiled and shook his head in that better-you-than-me kind of way. On my way back we attempted a short chat which ended with this photo.
Life in my neighborhood is quiet. I feel safe, secure and content. I could not ask for more.