Well, I think, I had an extra-long weekend that spanned three cities and was both destructive and productive, recreational, educational, and businesslike, pleasant and unpleasant. My feet are blistered at the front from one pair of shoes, and at the back with another. So I have to write about it.
Friday, direct from work, I drove north to the long-talked-of, never-seen onsen called Mahoroba. It really is one of the nicest onsen I’ve ever been to, and I think it’s the premier choice when it comes to Shiso onsen options. The only nicer ones I can recall are either the one Heke and I went to in Hakone, or the very historical and well known Arima or Kinosaki groups.
After that, I went almost directly to a work party held right next door to my house, and got to know some of my new coworkers a little better. I like Miss Piggy Sensei more and more as time goes on. She’s actually a little bit of a fireball, now that she’s found her feet. I think complaining was kind of her way of bonding, even though before I just found it a big turn-off.
It really began in Kobe, that city of flowers and culture, international port extraordinary. It was the last weekend of the “Body Beautiful in Greek Art” exhibit at the Kobe City Museum, on loan from the British Museum. I’ve never been to Britain, and it’s been a while since I got to see Parian marble.
I first checked in to my lodging for that night, the new R2 Hostel just a few minutes’ walk from Sannomiya. Since coming to Japan, lodging in Kobe has been one of my earliest and most recurring nightmares. I’ve learned that one, cheap lodging in Kobe is sparse, and two, thou must needs call ahead. I booked into R2 because I’d stayed there before with the group (on our way to Hokkaido), and it’s reasonable and close. When I checked in, the place was looking downright nice, with its cheery décor and helpful, laid-back staffpersons.
I was on the third floor this time (last time, it was floor 2, the mixed-sex dorm, third has private rooms and female dorms), and I settled all my stuff in my cute little room before rolling out to find the museum.
The pride piece of the display was the diskobolos, and the exhibit was all pretty nicely laid out and displayed. The titles of everything and room intros were in both English and Japanese, but the explanations of things were in just Japanese. Between what little I can read and what I already know about Greek (via Roman) myth, I was okay. It was nice to be amongst the gods again.
I had a little time afterward, so I wandered into the museum’s permanent exhibit on history in the Hyogo area, starting with Paleolithic settlements discovered, leading up through the Jomon, Ynantokanantoka, and Kofun periods, and then into the later civilization periods. I know pretty much nothing about ancient (truly ancient) Japan, so that was actually a little more interesting than the Greek Art I’d just seen; it was all new to me.
I then progressed to join my friends for a wedding party north of Sannomiya. Some of our JET friends have been in the process of getting married to their Japanese girlfriends. I imagine that now you’re picturing that special brand of Charisma Man that wants to catch a subservient Japanese chick to keep his house and rub his feet, but I assure you that this couple is far from that stereotype. Andrew is hilarious and smart, and Akina is a true match for him.
I had worn some shoes with bows I got at the secondhand store, and they’d given me blisters by the time we got to the venue. I changed into flip-flops on the way to the afterparty, and immediately and accidentally abandoned those cute, punishing shoes in the streets of Kobe (no, seriously, I just left them where I had perched to change!), not noticing their absence in my bag until I thought to remove them from it and lighten my load at the hostel.
The next morning, I considered just not showering at the hostel (there’s always a line, it’s not like home, I’m not that dirty, etc.) until I tried to fun my fingers through my hair and discovered the wedding cake that was stuck there (yaaaay). Riiight. I slowly moved my bum through the motions of morning preparation, talked with some people in the common room, drank some coffee, pet the dog (the dog, it turned out, was the pet of a frequent customer of the hostel who was always allowed to let the dog sleep in the common room overnight for free. The night before, this person had sought to stay at the hostel, but the place was booked solid by then, so they just kept the dog for this guy so he could stay somewhere else!), then rolled on to Kyoto to meet Dre and Nami-san at noon.
Dre and Nami are a few of my favorite people (I <3 Hiroshi-san too!), so spending the afternoon and evening with them was really wonderful. We started off with lunch at a swank place in Kyoto station, then moved on to a temple famous for its hydrangea blooms this time of year (turns out, that’s on my pilgrimage, too!). We walked through the lightly rainy lanes, joking about Dre and Hiroshi’s matching (pink) umbrellas, and catching up.
After dinner, I caught a semi-late shinkansen to Tokyo, and hung out with Allegranzi. The shinkansen was a lot more crowded than I thought it would be; I guess the last few trains at the end of a weekend will be like that, but I managed to get a seat by hovering next to a guy who was blocking a seat with his giant suitcase and looking around nervously at the people who’d just got on and who seemed like they would have to stand (or upgrade to reserved seats? Can you do that?). I left my bags on an empty rack above some old people and stood just behind this guy, assessing the situation, and he saw me and offered me the seat.
Hanging with Allegranzi was a pleasure, as always. Monday morning, I tried to sleep in a little, and eventually moved out to find my way to the meeting before it started just around lunchtime. Spent the afternoon planning our presentation for Tokyo Orientation in July, met the co-presenters, got a lot put together, got excited about going to orientation. Basically, it’s probably going to be a huge amount of work, exhausting, but also a lot of fun, and rather rewarding. I should also get first look at at least one of the new Shiso Ladies.*
It’s strange to be two years in, very often thinking about the end, about ‘what next,’ and one half my brain planning my great trips (the post-contract Japan trip, and the post-repatriation roadtrip), and then thinking about orientation, remembering what it was like to be brand effing new, trying to channel the sort of things those people want to hear in a presentation workshop at orientation.
This morning, I got to try my hand at Tokyo rush hour on the Tozai line. It was not quite as bad as I expected. My new shoes (got the day before, some sweet, comfy business-classy numbers) had, in the absence of stockings, rubbed my heels so badly by the time we reached the station that I actually changed shoes in this rush hour Tokyo and chanced flip flops on trains so crowded, at some stops they have to push you in.
So now I’m back on the superexpress, headed homeward; the rice fields are mostly planted, it’s almost Wednesday. For the first time maybe ever, I packed appropriately. I feel a little better about Tokyo as a city, maybe like it a little better, though I know I’m still a trees-and-rivers kid at heart.
* - term also applies to dudes