sechan19: (butterfly)
About a month or so back, I was invited to attend a research session (chōsa) at the Kōsanji Temple Museum in Hiroshima Prefecture with my Japanese cohort. (I didn't blog about it at the time, although I should have. Sorry!) During this session, I spent a lot of time doing odd jobs for the group—helping to hold the folding screens (byōbu) flat for photography, recording measurements of the objects, and even taking photographs for the cohort's image archives. I was pretty nervous about playing photographer; the camera I was using was expensive, belonged to my professor, and seemed a lot smarter than me. I carried on, though, and shot somewhere in the vicinity of one-hundred pics (both close details and distance shots that captured the entirety of the works). At the end of the session, I was heartily thanked for my contribution.

Flash forward to today. We had our first day of seminar after the New Year holidays, and there were a lot of announcements to be made. The professor handed out free tickets to museum exhibitions that she had received and mentioned that we'd be discussing plans for upcoming research sessions at next week's meeting. When class broke up, after three interesting presentations, we all milled about—as per tradition—making small (and large) talk.

I was about to pack up and leave when I heard the professor calling me.

"Teva, come and look at your photo!"

It turns out that the professor had used one of my shots from the Kōsanji trip for an article she recently published on Genji-e, and she wanted me to see it in all its glory. Myself and two other students had a look at the glossy shot, while the professor praised my photographic skills to within an inch of their life. It was apparently an incredibly well-detailed photo, perfectly suited to the specifications of what she wanted to illustrate, and she was exceedingly happy with it.

Admittedly, this was all a little embarrassing. I consider myself an indifferent photographer at best. When I do remember to take pictures of things with a camera, I typically point, shoot, and hope for the best. But I'm very happy that she was pleased with my shots, and it was incredibly kind of her to make such a big deal of what was a actually very small contribution on my part—even if it did cause me to blush profusely in front of my colleagues. The journal issue itself, which is entirely dedicated to Genji-e, looks very, very interesting. I'll have to see if I can get a copy of it...
sechan19: (butterfly)
In Japan, the coming of the new year (Shōgatsu) is far and away the most important holiday of record. (Other major holidays include Setsubun [the bean throwing festival], Tanabata [the star festival], and Obon.) In contrast to the anything-goes party aesthetic that often attends the "western" new year, Shōgatsu is a family holiday. Many people return to their hometown in order to spend the first week of the year with their parents and, rather than partying 'til dawn on the last night/first day, visit their local shrine at midnight and local temple in the next week to pray for a prosperous twelvemonth. Of course, that doesn't mean that the party 'til dawn approach to new year's isn't savored by the denizens of the city, and the beauty of living in Tokyo is that you often get the best of both worlds.

I was fortunate this year to have the opportunity to do just that... )

All in all, this was one of the best New Year's I've ever spent, and I've spent some damn good ones over the course of my life. Here's hoping that yours was just as lovely and the coming year of the horse lovely to match...
sechan19: (anne)
My first week went by in something of a blur. Multiple meetings with school administrators, my professor, and the realtor; piles and piles of paperwork; lectures, seminars, and workshop presentations; get-togethers with friends old and new. It's been great/busy/frustrating/scary/exhilarating/exhausting. Even though there's still so much to do (I've started learning hentaigana and kuzushiji for real, which is a massive brain-strain, and I've got a presentation coming up in the first week of November that's closer than anyone thinks), I know that sometimes you just have to take a break.

And so, I found myself at Kasai Rinkai Park on Sunday, taking in the day's spectacles with my friend Eunja and her son, Son'eu. I've talked about Eunja many times on this blog, but for those who are new a little bit of introduction is probably in order.

I met Eunja five years ago on a plane from San Francisco to Tokyo. Eunja, who is Korean and living in Tokyo with her husband, Kim, was returning from a visit with a friend; I was on my way to Japan for an additional round of language classes at KCP International. In the last quarter of the flight, we struck up a conversation (in Japanese as I don't speak Korean and she doesn't speak English), exchanged contact info, and vowed to meet up in Tokyo to hang out. Five years later, Eunja and I are the best of friends. She's been an amazing support to me in my travels in Japan, providing me with language assistance, accommodation assistance, and general moral support in everything I've done here. A year and a half ago, she and her husband had their first child, Son'eu, who is a complete delight: energetic, bright, and enthusiastic. I love hanging out with Eunja and her family, and I try to meet up with them at least once a week for a meal and conversation.

This week's excursion took us to Kasai Rinkai Park, a massive waterfront park in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward. The space boasts a giant ferris wheel, freshwater and seawater ponds, vast expanses for bird watching, barbecue stations for picnicking, observation towers, and an aquarium complete with penguins. Naturally, we did not even begin to see everything the park had to offer. But we did get ourselves some festival food (yakisoba, yaki onigiri, and sausages on a stick) and had lunch on the grass, while Son'eu rambled about the fields—seeming to be equally interested in running as far away from us as Eunja would allow and trying to figure out how to operate my parasol.

When Son'eu tired, we put him in his stroller and made for the Tokyo Sea Life Park, an aquarium dedicated to the recreation of the world's various marine habitats. There were tanks for the Great Barrier Reef, and the Caribbean, and the Pacific Northwest, and the Ivory Coast, and everywhere else in between. They even had a penguin habitat, which caused me to reassess the incorrect perception I'd held up to that point that penguins only live in cold climates. Apparently, plenty of species of penguins live in temperate zones. You learn something new everyday.

And another thing about penguins; they are noisy. And they sound kind of like donkeys. Or geese. Or donkey-geese. (Do we even have donkey-geese? We really should. They could be the most fearsome antagonists of an awful made-for-SciFi-movie. They wanted to create the single most ornery animal known to mankind; now they'll wish they hadn't...)

The trip to the aquarium eventually put Son'eu to sleep, although he fought it for a long time because fish are strangely mesmerizing and children always have to fight sleep on principle. But once he'd drifted off, Eunja and I sat down by the gift shop and chatted for a little while over sodas and ice cream. And then it was time to head back "home." I had emails to reply to and the week's schedule to draw up and lots of hentaigana practice waiting for me.

But it was a lovely day, and I can't wait for our next outing.
sechan19: (anne)
After a long and tumultuous flight across North America and the Pacific, I touched down in Narita Airport's Terminal 2 and began the process of getting home. I was seated in the back of the plane, which made take off really interesting because you can truly see the incline of the aircraft as it climbs to its cruising altitude—something I had never paid attention to before—from that position but also resulted in me being last for nearly everything: deplaning, immigration, baggage retrieval, customs. None of those things were problematic, however, and I was treated to an amusing Big-Brother-ish experience at immigration. Apparently, they make your foreign registration card on arrival now (instead of requiring people to go to their Ward Office to receive it), and they use the photographs that you supply in your Visa application—giving the impression that they knew I was coming and were waiting patiently for me.

Customs was a non-issue; I had nothing to declare, and I breezed through the checkpoint with barely a pause. My friend T. was waiting for me in the arrivals lounge. He took command of my largest piece of luggage and waited patiently while I withdrew money, purchased a new prepaid cellphone card, and reactivated my phone account. Then we made for the train station and went back to his place, where I struggled to stay awake for a few more hours to inform people that I'd made it safely before collapsing in exhaustion at 8pm.

The next day it was up and at 'em. My friend K. had set up an appointment for us to view a potentially desirable apartment at 11am, and T. needed to go into his office to do some work.

On the way to the station, which is a brisk twenty-minute walk from T.'s place, we chatted about various subjects before T. asked me to explain a concept he'd heard me mention once before in passing: Mercury Retrograde. Retrogrades are astrological phenomena (yes, I'm into astrology, deal with it) wherein a planet, by virtue of its position relative to the earth, appears to move backward along its orbital plane. When this happens, the planet is said to be retrograde and the elements of daily life that it influences are often stymied. Retrogrades occur at different intervals, depending on the length of the planet in question's revolution around the sun. Mercury goes retrograde 3-4 times a year, and—as it is the planet of communication—conversations, email exchanges, reservations, and so forth are likely to go subtly awry during these periods. For example, if you send an email message during Mercury Retrograde that never gets a reply, it's probably a good idea to send it again.

T. was fascinated by this explanation, his fascination due in no small part to the fact that it was nothing like what he expected it to be. T. thought that Mercury Retrograde was a term used to explain why we (in general, as Americans, I guess) are so fucked up—namely, that we absorbed too much mercury during our childhood (from thermometers or whatever) and that made us into low-functioning emotional idiots of some kind. He liked my explanation better, though, which is nice considering that it's accurate, and has decided to use Mercury Retrograde as his new excuse for everything. Forgot to respond to an email: Mercury was retrograde. Drank too much wine with dinner last night: Mercury was retrograde. Couldn't remember that Obi Wan Kenobi died in the original Star Wars: Mercury was retrograde.

As excuses go, it's not bad. Except for the part where Mercury is not actually retrograde at the moment. But in Japan, as elsewhere, it's best not to sweat the small stuff.
sechan19: (butterfly)
I'm the type of person who doesn't really feel hungry after I wake up. It usually takes me several hours after waking up to feel hungry, and for that reason I've never been much of a breakfast eater.

The last few days I've been staying with my friend Eunja and her family in Tokyo. Eunja lives with her husband, her son, and her mother-in-law. They've been feeding me extremely well at breakfast, although I've eaten sparingly in return. (I've been out most of the time the last couple of days for a conference, so I haven't had lunch or dinner with the family.) This morning, Eunja cut some fresh peaches for me and brewed a cup of tea, and I sat down to take care of some email and long-overdue reading—the usual drill—while I drank the tea and nibbled at the peaches.

As I worked, breakfast began to take shape around me. Rice was steamed, Korean vegetables, tofu dishes, and soups were brought out. Then Hamni (grandmother) and Eunja both began to ask me if I was going to eat. "Are you going to have some rice?" asked Hamni. I declined. She looked at Eunja in consternation. Eunja offered me yogurt, and I declined. She offered me cereal, and I declined. I explained that I never felt very hungry just after waking up, and the fruit was more than ample for me.

"I thought Americans eat lots and lots of food!" said Hamni.

"Oh, I suppose I'm not a very American American," I replied.

"Well, you have eat well to live well," said Hamni, and she went back to setting up the breakfast table, adding as she did: "I would have thought Americans need to eat lots and lots of food."

I returned to my work, and Eunja set about the task of spooning up bowls of rice. When she had two bowls prepared, Hamni broke in again: "Are you going to have some rice?" she asked me.

I looked at Eunja. Eunja looked at me.

"Maybe if I just have a small portion of rice?" I said.

Eunja immediately grabbed a bowl and spooned a half portion of rice into it. "Like this?" she asked.

"Yes, that's good," I said.

I took my bowl of rice to the table and sat down. Hamni ladled up a bowl of cold onion soup and gave me a dish of Korean daikon radishes. "You have to eat well to live well," she told me.

"Yes, that's true," I said and ate my breakfast.
sechan19: (butterfly)
Mom: Oh, look! Here's that commercial I was telling you about...

[I look up to see a commercial for Gillette that features Adrien Brody, Gael García Bernal, and André 3000.]

Commercial announcer: Come join the Masters of Style (tm)!
Me: Nice.
Mom: I don't know why I like that commercial so much.
Me: You like it because it features three totally hot guys.
Mom: Oh. Yeah. I guess that's it.
Me: You're funny.
Mom: How so?
Me (in falsetto): Gosh, I just don't understand why I like this commercial with three totally hot guys in it. That's so weird!
Mom: Are you making fun of me?
Me: A little, yeah.
Mom: Hrm.

[A few seconds pass.]

Mom: Well, we do like our eye candy.
Me: Yes, we do.
sechan19: (butterfly)
Excerpt of a recent conversation between myself and my new kitten, Yoritomo.

As I'm loading the dishwasher, a flash of black springs out of the depths and goes bounding toward the living room.

Me: Dude!
Y: [stops and looks back at me]
Me: Where you just IN the dishwasher?
Y: [blinks]
Me: What the hell were you doing in there?
Y: [bland stare]
Me: ... Okay, whatever.

In other news, I've rewritten the lyrics of "Trogdor" to be "Tomo-chan" (was a cat... I mean, he was a dragon-cat... or maybe he was just a DRAGON! but he was always TOMO-CHAN!!!) so I guess it's love.

Gummi cherries, spice cookies, and a new kitten. That is how I will live through my comprehensive exams.

End trans.
sechan19: (kusama)
The fabulous [ profile] alateaqoe and I had dinner tonight at one of our favorite restaurants. The weather was fine, so we sat out on the terrace--enjoying the sunset and the nearby wheat field, which was home to a flock of gayly circling blackbirds.

While we were ordering, a family of four--mom, dad, and two twin daughters--arrived. And the daughters decided to throw stones at the birds to make them fly up into the air. The parents laughed indulgently at this, and [ profile] alateaqoe and I were fairly horrified. It's always disheartening to see American un-exceptionalism in the making. We had a brief discussion on what we had witnessed and then went on with dinner.

Toward the end of our evening, the family came back by us on their way out. And they decided to take one more opportunity to throw stones at the birds, who were now roosting for the evening (the dad having decided to join the fray).

We watched for a moment, and I wondered to myself, "Can I yell at them?"

And then, I realized, yes, I fucking well can.

I stood up and stepped over to the railing that divided terrace from walkway.

"Hey!" I called. "Knock it off! How would you like it if someone threw stones at you?"

"Go ahead," the dad replied.

Big mistake, asshole.

Without a word, I hoisted myself over the railing (which, it is worth mentioning, was nearly as tall as I was). I walked to the stone pile, crouched down, picked up a stone, and faced the family--tossing the stone from hand to hand.

"Seriously?" I asked.

"Hey, now," the dad said--beginning to chuckle with nervousness. "That's a lawsuit waiting to happen. That's a lawsuit."

"Uh-huh," I returned, dropping the stone back onto the ground and thinking yeah, motherfucker, I figured that was pretty much a bunch of hyperbole.

"Raise them right," I said, and climbed back over the railing.

The family left. I sat back down at my table to resume the end of the meal. At a neighboring table a group of people were discussing how awesome what they'd just witnessed was. "Why would anyone want to throw stones at a bunch of harmless birds anyway?" they wondered.

The little girls seemed a bit disturbed by my outburst.

And I'm just terrible enough of a person to not really mind that.

Somebody's got to do it.
sechan19: (kusama)
A conversation from yesterday:

At the local beer dispensary.
Me: Do you have imported beers as well as domestic.
Staff: Oh yes. All of these are imports.

[I warily eye the indicated area, which is stuffed full of Penn Brewery, Magic Hat, Troegg's, Sierra Nevada, and many other good but obviously not-imported beers.]

Me: No, I mean, like, imported from another country.
Staff: Oh yeah. These [points to the same exact location] are our imports, and these [points to a section pitifully stocked by Bud, Miller, and other domestic rejects] are our domestics.
Me: ...
sechan19: (butterfly)
As I was leaving Chinese class today, I noticed a little card that was lying on one of the benches in the hall. It read: "Where will you spend eternity?"

I wrote "WITH UR MOM!" in bright red ink, put it back, and went on my merry way.

Hell ahoy!
sechan19: (butterfly)
On the road to Richmond...

Dad: the recordings go along with the backstage passes that Teva will get to sell on eBay one day. [pause] Poor Teva.
Mom: Yeah, I feel sorry for Teva sometimes.
Me: What are you talking about? I have the best parents in the world.
Dad: Yeah, but we've got a lot of shit.
Mom: We've got so much shit.
Dad: We've got tons and tons of shit!
Mom: We've got piles of shit!
Dad: We've got boxes and basements and backyards full of shit!
Mom: We've got endless amounts of shit!
Dad: We've got a lot of shit!!

And by that point I'd pretty much lost it.
sechan19: Photo of me in a Spider-man crop trop. (Default)
From only two lines of dialogue I was able to determine that the author of an article I read for seminar had incorrectly attributed a quote from the film Flash Gordon to the film Logan's Run.

When I pointed this out in class because I just couldn't stand to let it pass without comment, my advisor noted that I never ceased to amaze her but that I might better have been a film studies major than an art historian.

Sometimes I really do think that I am beyond the reach of any aid.

sechan19: (tormenta)
I'm sitting in a coffee shop at present, hard at work so that I can have time to devote to my dad when he arrives tomorrow for Thanksgiving vacation. The coffee shop has been steadily playing songs for me... ranging from The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen back to Men at Work and KaTe Bush. They just put on INXS's "Beautiful Girl."

The very first celebrity I ever had a crush on was Michael Hutchence. I was eight or nine when the album Kick came out, and I thought he had the most beautiful hair.

I saw INXS twice in concert, the second time at The Warfield in San Francisco in 1997. The Warfield is a tiny venue, and my mother, my best friend Nomi, and I were pretty close down to the stage in the general admission. At one point, Michael Hutchence leaned out into the crowd, reached out, took my hand, and sang to me.

I was deeply in love with Trent Reznor at the time, of course - my old puppy love for Michael Hutchence long since vanished away - but I was wise enough to understand the eight-or-nine-year-old part of myself that was sent into seventh heaven at the moment and to be glad that a childhood wish (minor and fleeting though it had been) was granted that night.

Michael Hutchence committed suicide a few months later, after the tour had ended, and I was devastated by his death in that quiet, though deeply personal, fashion of fandom.

It was lovely to hear one of his best compositions on the coffee shop radio just now and to relive that long ago evening and its wonder.
sechan19: (butterfly)
Last night I felt like I just had to have pizza for dinner. So, I got on the horn and placed an order.

I gave my number and address, specified that this was an order for delivery, and then I requested a medium pepperoni. The woman taking my order (her name was Donna) asked me, "And what would you like on that?"

And, seriously, folks. My mind blanked.

There was a brief silence and then she said, "Oh, yeah, pepperoni. Duh!" And we both laughed.

"Oh boy," she sniggered.

"It's okay," I told her. "These things happen."

"Yeah, well, sometimes people respond with a 'uh... pepperoni?' when I say that."

"No, no," I replied. "You see, I'm right there with you. When you asked me what I wanted on the pizza, I honestly thought to myself, 'what do I want on the pizza?'"

And we both burst out laughing again.

As the giggles subsided, she read my order back to me and asked if I wanted anything else. I told her that that'd do it.

"Okay," she said. "Your total's $14-- no, it's $11.13. I'm giving you a $3 coupon for making me laugh."

Well, naturally, I was surprised and pleased. And most of all, I was really happy that she found this small thing I had done so nice that she felt moved to give me a little discount for it.

I thanked her by name and asked her to have a good evening, and she wished me the same.

It really wasn't much, but it wound up being a bright point in my day. I guess we haven't completely lost it as a species yet.

sechan19: (morisot)
Mom: So, these vampires can't go out in sunlight because they sparkle?
Me: Yep.
Mom: They fucking sparkle?!
Me: Yep.
Mom: [blank stare]
Me: Yep.


Mom: So how long before she starts begging him to change her into a vampire?
Me: Any minute now, but he won't do it because he doesn't want to ruin her life.
Mom: So, he'd rather he wasn't changed? He'd rather be dead than be a monster?
Me: I don't think he spends a lot of time thinking things through to their logical conclusions.


Mom: So if vampires all have special powers, what's the blond girl's power?
Me: ...
Mom: What? She can suck the chrome off a trailer hitch?
Me: Yeah, pretty much.


Mom: Why does that guy want to kill Bella.
Me: Uh, so we can have a plot?
Mom: ...

sechan19: (kusama)
No matter how crazy the crazy woman sitting next to you in the reception area of the blood donation clinic is, do not carelessly comment on how your exposure to her is sure to be your dose of daily weirdness. The universe will most assuredly take that as a challenge, and before you can say "I gave blood today!" you'll be passed out at the Home Depot with a pack of paramedics coming down on you.

Moral of the story?
It can always get weirder.

For the record, I'm fine. (And so is Mom, who was so worried by the episode that she shortly followed me into a faint.) But it was not exactly how I envisioned spending my Saturday afternoon.
sechan19: (tormenta)
I had an interesting experience recently at a restaurant.

Since returning to the US, I've regularly found myself unable to eat all of the food I order at a restaurant. I generally eat only half. Not surprising, really, given that I've grown so used to the smaller portions and lack of doggie-bags that proliferate the world beyond US borders.

About a week ago, I went out to dinner with a couple of my friends - [ profile] unapperent and his wife - to a very nice restaurant where we each enjoyed a three course meal: appetizer, entree, and dessert. I ate all of the appetizer, but only half of the entree. Midway through the meal, I began to sense that eating much more would result in my being unable to finish the dessert, and I did not want that to happen.

(Dessert was a cherry cake with whipped cream and amaretto.)

So, I turned my utensils parallel to indicate that I was finished, and the waiter immediately approached in an ecstasy of concern. "Are you done?" he asked me. "Was there something wrong with the meal?"

I assured him that the meal was delicious, but that I'd been unable to finish and would he kindly wrap it up for me to take home and finish later. He took the plate and returned in record time with a box. I thought no more of his reaction.

It wasn't until a couple of days later that I discovered how upset he was with me.

Upon opening the box to finish off the leftovers for breakfast one day, I discovered that the waiter had literally thrown the contents of the plate into the box - not even taking care to ensure that everything made it in. I was quite astonished that exercising my right to indicate when I was full would result in such a retaliation. I haven't had someone go off on me for not cleaning my plate since I was eight. Talk about passive-aggressive!

And seriously, talk about unhealthy.

Cleaning one's plate can be a very bad thing to do; particularly if the plate in question is overloaded (as almost all restaurant plates are). I'm not one to argue that the Hollywood standard of beauty is a healthy one. Nor am I one to argue that all people who are technically overweight are so because they overeat. (I know for a fact that that is not true.) But there's no question that many Americans have a serious problem with overeating, and with overeating stuff that isn't good for them. This weird defense of overeating (by a random service professional, no less) was somewhat unsettling to me.

And it got me thinking about the bizarre habit some folks have of inserting themselves into other people's diets. My mother and I dealt with commentary about our food choices all the time when we lived in Paris, and I've grown accustomed to the Japanese tendency to discuss food at length (out of a deep and abiding love rather than anything else), but I was always under the impression that the American protocol was to avoid any reference to the eating habits of others, there being nothing more rude in a polite society.

UPDATE: Apparently, it's not just eating a healthy amount of food that's perceived as problematic. Eating healthy food has recently been deemed a mental disorder by a group of psychiatrists.

Healthy food obsession sparks rise in new eating disorder (Guardian UK).
sechan19: (tormenta)
I am a notable wuss when it comes to spicy food.  I'm the person in the Indian restaurant crying "spicy" while everyone in the near vicinity sniggers at my lameness.  Consequently, I was very keen - over the course of my recent short visit - to come up with a method of determining whether any particular Korean dish was spicy or not.  I came up with the following system:

If your Korean friend says...
...(straightforwardly) It's not spicy.

They mean...
...It's not spicy.

If your Korean friend says...
...(scoffing) It's not spicy.

They mean...
...It's a little spicy.

If your Korean friend says...
...(in a matter of fact tone) It's spicy.

They mean...
...It's fairly spicy.

If your Korean friend says...
...(under their breath) Spicy!

They mean...
...It's extremely spicy.

If your Korean friend says...
...(after a sudden gasp) It's... a little spicy.

They mean...
...You are about to take your life into your hands.

My lips went numb at one point.  But I soldiered on.  Heh.

More details about my trip will be forthcoming shortly.
sechan19: (kusama)
One of the best things about living in Japan for a year is the opportunity to expand my art book library. (I can see my dad cringing as he reads this; my dad always gets stuck having to help me move my damn books around the country.) But there really are all kinds of wonderful books here that are just not accessible in the States, and since I one day hope to be an educator in the Japanese art history field these books are going to be invaluable to me in the future.

At least, that's what I keep telling myself when I start to wonder about how on earth I'm going to get all these volumes home.

Today, between a trip out to the Tokyo National Museum and an hour spent browsing the spring Used Book Festival in Yokohama Station, I acquired six more books. I've been purchasing with a greater sense of strategy of late, however. I bought a book about Japanese symbols, and two books on the Edo period - one book on art terminology associated specifically with ukiyo-e and one book a catalog for a exhibit of the fusuma paintings of Kano Eitoku in the Daitokuji. I'm not an Edo specialist, but I recognize that I'll eventually have to teach the Edo period. (Although I'd really love at some point to put together a course that specifically focused on the Warring States period and the relationship of art and war in a "pre-modern" context. Blah blah blah.) Anyway, it's worth having major Edo-related touchstones at my fingertips.

I also bought two catalogs from Tokyo National Museum exhibitions - one that focused on depictions of children in Japanese art and one that was all about Sugawara no Michizane and Tenjin! The catalog on children in Japanese art will hopefully come in handy in helping me to think through some questions that I've developed in connection with my most recent project, and I've been trying to get my hands on a Tenjin-based catalog for a long time now. (There are similarly-themed catalogs from the Kyoto and Kyushu National Museums as well, and one day they will be mine). So all in all, not a bad haul.

But I think I need to go back to the book sale again. They had catalogs on Tendai art there as well, but I was out of money. Cash-only sales are a bitch. ;>

Yes, I'm terrible.

But I could be blowing all my money or drugs or whatever. So I suppose I can be kinda-sorta forgiven? Maybe? Please?
sechan19: (butterfly)
Last weekend, my friend Eunja and I made plans to meet at Shinjuku Gyoen on Sunday to indulge in cherry blossom viewing (hanami) before the last of the flowers fell. Mid-way through the week, I had an out-of-the-blue call from my friend Yoko (who lives in Tochigi Prefecture). She was in town for a short visit and wanted to get together. We settled on Saturday, and she suggested Shinjuku Gyoen and cherry blossom viewing.

Anecdote #1:
Supposedly, the cherry blossom viewing experience can be summed up in the phrase hana yori dango (lit. "dumplings over flowers"; fig. "hanami is about food rather than flowers"). In deference to this, Yoko brought along some snacks for us. Included in the snack collection was a pack of Japanese animal crackers. These tragically misshapen crackers each had the English name of its animal printed on the front. One of them was a porcupine. "What's a porcupine?" Yoko asked. "What is a porcupine?" I wondered, and dug out my dictionary. The dictionary defined the word as yamaarashi and also provided a sample sentence that we marveled over. Yamaarashi no you na atama wo shita otoko. ("A man with hair like the quills of a porcupine.") Yoko was at a loss, and I was somewhat at a loss myself to properly explain. Fortunately, however, providence intervened as we were on our way out. "Look to your right!" I abruptly commanded my friend. And there he was. Tokyo is a problem solver.

Anecdote #2:
Most people make the assumption that Japanese people are rule-lovers. Generally speaking, they might be correct. But when the rule is don't bring alcohol into the park, the Japanese become astonishingly non-compliant. As Eunja and I were making our way around the well-packed grounds, a little old woman walking with a group of friends suddenly sat down upon the ground. She rolled backwards kicking her feet up in the air briefly and then resumed a sitting position, laughing like a loon. "What are you doing?" her friends squawked at her. "I don't know!" she laughed in response. "I've had too much to drink!" Clearly, this disregard for prohibition is not merely an issue of rebellious youth.

May 2014

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