Oct. 6th, 2013

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.

May 2014

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