Sunday, May 1, 2011


I am full of them, chiefly that I wouldn't blog about Japan at all until I'd finished my London posts. I have led you astray!

Ah well.

Some things:
  • I have located my apartment.
  • I have located my office.
  • I have located the grocery store closest to my apartment.
  • I have located the infamous デニシュブレド ("Danish bread"), a deadly buttery concoction that was the primary reason that I gained weight in Japan last time despite walking 6 miles daily.
  • According to Google Maps (which is not the most reliable source for Japan, admittedly) I walked about 7 miles this morning. Here is a somewhat loose representation of my route:

This is ignoring all the times I got lost.
  • It is very humid, though still cool.
  • I'm still trying to piece together the distinctive. . . smell of this place. It is a smell I recognize from last time I was here, though I'm not sure if it came from Tokyo or from my trips to various other places. The components I have identified are: old wood, cigarette smoke, water, mold/mustiness, and. . . and. . . a certain kind of deodorant? A little bit of it is Japanese food cooking, I'm sure. It's a good set of smells all together.
  • I had sort of forgotten but not really: I could write a love letter to Japanese convenience stores. Compared to American ones, they are so clean! so standardized! so filled with tasty fresh food! And, perhaps most wondrous of all: the customer service. In my experience the people who work in convenience stores in Japan are almost invariably prompt and polite, even if they're helping a dur-hur (to use my mother's descriptive phrase) foreigner who doesn't really speak the language. A cashier has plenty of opportunity to make you feel stupid if they are feeling pissy and plenty of chances to creep on you if they're bored (usually this is when it's a dude, cough), but while I've had plenty of icky/infuriating experiences in convenience stores, none of them were in Japan (that I recall.)
  • I also find it amusing that Family Mart's cheapie notebooks (sold where we would sell Mead brand in the U.S.) are Muji brand, a design label that is hyped up almost like Moleskin in the U.S. (Sadly when I was here before I didn't realize that Muji was a huge company that made a ton of cool stuff. . . I think I ended up throwing out the newsprint pad I bought because it got wet. Le sigh.)

  • So the cherry blossom season is pretty much over, which is sad, in the way that not being mowed down by hoards of tourists is sad. However, bushes with these flowers, which range from dark magenta to light pink, are everywhere, some still tightly closed up. Does anyone have any idea what they are? Because I don't. (Okay, I wouldn't have minded seeing the cherry blossoms. I'm just not heartbroken that it didn't happen.) (I didn't take too many other pictures today, for reasons apparent in this photo: It was raining. Ick.)
  • The train from Kyoto to Otsu takes about 15 minutes, but it goes through two tunnels through the mountains that make my ears clog up with rapidly changing pressure. Also ick.

I snapped this on the train back to Otsu. One of the great/distinctive things about Kyoto is that it's set into the mountains, such that you can look up from the busiest, most shopping-y part of the city center and see these green fuzzy mysterious masses looming around the city.

It's only 4:00 PM here now, but I am just not feeling very ambitious. I think I might do some Rosetta Stone and maybe practice some kanji, then take a nap. I have a bunch of thoughts about myself and travel and stuff -- after all, I always feel the need to write a big long introspective post when I start out on a new adventure -- but -- not right now. I'll think my thoughts a bit more.

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