Happy birthday, Mom! I love you!
Narita Drum Festival
If the title didn't give it away, this weekend I went with my friend/neighbor/coworker to Narita for its annual drum festival. The festival spans the entire weekend, but we only went on Sunday since the day before I was meeting up with some friends in Shibuya, Tokyo. That place, by the way, is a f***ing madhouse. If you decide to visit Tokyo and want to give yourself a headache and sensory overload and see as many foreigners as you could ever care to see, that's the place to go.
The train ride to Narita is pretty long, taking three hours from Sano. That includes transit time and wait time, although we were pretty efficient with our transfers. The day's events included various concerts and performances all around the festival area as well as an afternoon street parade featuring taiko bands from all over Japan. I suppose you can use your favorite search engine to find out lots more about it, and I don't want to type too much more because I have to upload a ton of pictures. That's what the people want anyway. Shut up and show us the story.
Below are a handful of my shots from Sunday. These were taken with my new Sony A6000 camera, since the lens to my other camera broke a while ago. I'm still figuring out its capabilities, but I'm pretty satisfied with the shots I got. Enjoy.
Spring, sakura, school year.
Japan’s school calendar is different from the U.S. The year ends and begins in late March and early April. There is about a week and a half holiday during this time. As for me, I had to go to work at City Hall, where the Board of Education is located along with other municipal offices and service agencies.
The time can drag along as I am required to be there on certain school holidays, yet often have very little to do. This time around I did have some projects to work on, so that helped to pass the days. We’re also working in a brand-new building with great city views and swanky automatic window shades and hallways that light up when you enter them, so that adds to the intrinsic value of having permission to be behind the desks where citizens come to get questions answered.
I also took advantage of having an hour-long lunch. In the schools where I work by the time lunch is served and we’re working our chopsticks like elongated pinchers on a skinny crustacean, there’s only like 15 minutes to clear off my bento box. So lunchtime at the Board of Education is nice. I often walked to Shiroyama Park, sitting near the cherry trees and watching passersby as I slowly enjoyed my meal.
On my last day there before returning to school, a man from another section of the Education department approached me and my coworker, asking if we’d like to go for a walk. We agreed, and I was happy to have a local with whom to practice a few Japanese phrases. I don’t often get the nerve for that, so it was nice. I also made friends with a new employee in that same department, a quiet and sweet girl who walks like she wouldn’t give a damn if a pack of flaming wolves were chasing her. That’s just my take on it anyway.
On my first day back at school I was greeted to a rearranged staff room. Someone kindly pointed me to my desk, which isn’t too far from its old location. The teachers have shuffled around quite a bit; those who stayed now teach other grades, and the holes left by teachers that were sent to other schools have been seamlessly filled by teachers who came from other schools. Some of my favorite coworkers have gone, but a good number of them remain. And the new folks seem cool enough that I think we’ll get on just fine.
But not much has changed as far as the day-to-day darkness I feel. There are moments when I look around and, if I catch them, see teachers filing out of the staff room on their way to some ceremony or meeting, some of which I’m supposed to attend, and some of which I do attend if someone actually informs me that I’m supposed to attend. I ate lunch in solitude at my desk, as nobody informed me that the teachers would be eating together in another room in the building. The only way I had known it was lunchtime was from my clockwork hunger, which gets steadily more furious as the minutes of the morning pass along.
The rain has been hard and steady for the past few days, which makes my transit across the city less than ideal. My rain suit has a handsome gash in the crotch, and its overall waterproofing abilities are now in question. The hood does a fine job of keeping my hair dry while simultaneously feeding drops of water across my brow and onto my face. The same goes for the sleeves and pant cuffs; it’s as if I’m an organic house and my suit is my rain gutters, and my hands and feet are the lawn accepting all that channeled water.
Well, this has gotten a lot longer than I anticipated. ’Til next time.
A quick story
Recently the back tire of my bicycle went flat. They both slowly lose air over time, but this time it would no longer hold any air. My friend recommended a bike shop near her apartment – there seem to be countless bicycle service and sales shops here – so I pushed my two-wheeled machine and met her there for repair.
The shop is on a corner, and when I arrived there was nobody around but several bicycles had been lined up along the guardrail outside. The sliding doors to a space no bigger than a large bathroom were open, and only a desk and a shelf of tools occupied the space. Who would leave everything open like that? I wondered. But then again, this is Japan, and the honesty of the people in this place is unparalleled.
Within a few minutes a tiny truck pulled up and a small man hopped out and walked our way. He must have been in his late sixties, and he marched with steady determination and a clear destination even though the limitations of age were apparent. His shoulders were wide and square as if he had been carved out of a block of wood. He acknowledged our presence without saying a word or looking us in the eye.
He walked up to my bike and again without a word, grabbed it and began looking it over. He showed me how the back tire had been worn down to threads, and our brief exchange gave him the go-ahead to replace and repair whatever was necessary. Without missing a beat he flipped the bike over and dragged out an old wooden toolbox, which looked to show about as much wear as its owner. My friend left and the repairman offered me a seat next to his desk
Within moments there were pieces of bicycle metal, screws, nuts and bolts in a neat pile at his feet. He had done this a thousand times before, I was sure. Soon he had everything back together and I presented his payment. A slight bow and obligatory “hai, arigatou” followed, and the man went on with his day. And I rode away.
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