Happy New Year!
The last weekend of the Lunar New Year, Makiko and I hopped the train south to Yokohama, which houses the biggest and most famous Chinatown in the Tokyo area.
We’d heard there’d be one last parade for the new year festivities, and after a bit of hunting (it did not start in the park, like we were told, or on time, when it did start) we got ourselves a spot on the sidewalk to watch the procession.
A short but fun parade, with lots of cultural significance that neither of us got. But such is the joy of the internet – now that we’re curious, we can learn.
Sorry, I’m not here right now, I’m running the 2015 Tokyo Marathon. You can follow my progress at @jordanwyn, where I won’t be livetweeting, because I’m sort of busy running a race, but where an automated service tied to the timing chip in my shoe will be livetweeting, because technology is amazing. I don’t think it will tell you anything particularly clever, just where I’m at in the race, so please follow along.
I’ll update this post after I survive and get back to let you all know how it went.
Yukai and I went to Yanaka, a bit of Tokyo that retains its old-timey charm. In truth there are a lot of patches of Tokyo like this, but for whatever reason Yanaka has become famous–for its preponderance of temples, its shopping street, and its huge horde of stray cats.
It was a dreary day but it kindly didn’t rain.
Inspired by Braid Creative’s post on the same and a spin through the Zoshigaya Craft Market where I saw a lot of the kinds of art and handmade crafts I’d always tinkered with making when I was younger. Time is finite, and part of getting older for me was deciding what I really wanted to give my attention to. Pursuit-wise, that was writing. Social-wise, that was people who treated me with kindness and respect. Life-wise, that was going after adventures instead of staying “safe” in situations that seemed stable.
A lot of growing up was learning what to care about and what to let go. If I could send a reassuring note back in time, it’d sound something like:
There is no normal.
You’ll always be a little scared and unsure because everyone is always a little scared and unsure.
Friends are people who respect you and who you can respect. Nobody else is worth your time.
Be you, whatever that is right now. Be willing to let that change if there’s a good reason to, and don’t let anyone make you change if there’s not.
I went blueberry picking with my friend and her niece and nephew in Tsukuba last weekend, about an hour east of Tokyo, and completely spaced out. Part of it was the heat for sure – the blueberry bushes were under this black kind of netting which had some supernatural power to amplify the already hellish heat and humidity. Part of it was maybe the quaint rural setting, though that’s never really been a thing that makes me all contemplative in and of itself. Most of it is that I’m just prone to totally checking out, my brain going somewhere else.
We’ve got this cultural narrative in the West where people who daydream, or space out, or stare off wistfully into the distance fall somewhere between silly and unreliable. Types like us get a movie now and then about how we have BIG DREAMS that NO ONE BELIEVES IN but then WE SHOW THEM. So I guess it balances out. All that said though, there’s a lack of appreciation for just checking out. If you’re not really going anywhere good in your head, I guess that’s a mark against it – but I tend to drift off into thinking about the story I’m working on, or a story I could work on, or any number of fantastical creative things that I write down as soon as I snap out of it.
Being a space cadet has some real benefits for creative types, if you do it right. Just make sure to bring something back with you when you return from where ever it is you went.
Last weekend I took a quick trip down to Chigasaki, a beach town about an hour from Tokyo. It was an odd weekend. I haven’t really done the sleepover thing since middle school, and we stayed at my friend’s friend’s house, an old and eclectic two-story, Japanese-style house only a few minutes from the beach. Other than the friend I went with, everyone I met and hung around with was a stranger, and they were a fun and funnily curious bunch. Combine that with the beach-and-fireworks outings, the pretty serious medical news I heard from a family member just hours before I caught the train to the festivities, and my friend’s own recent life upheavals, and I was in sort of an existential pondering mood.
Calamitous life events feel weird. They feel like too much. They feel like, is this a thing that happens to real people? To people who aren’t in a Lifetime Original Movie? But of course they do. It’s just so much less dramatic and so much more random.
Life makes for bad stories because it isn’t built like one.
Who has two thumbs and isn’t sleeping on the floor anymore? This girl.
Back in March the famous department store Mitsukoshi hosted a number of old Japanese artisan/cultural families from across the country, who for hundreds of years have specialized in some kind of craft or art. For example making incense, or blown glass works, or horseback archery (!). Turns out you weren’t supposed to take photos in the exhibit, but I didn’t notice the tiny “No Photos” sign and no one said a word to me until the very last room. Well that worked out.