Monday, October 18, 2010

A Taste of Months to Come

I know, I know, I'm slack. Here I set you up for a bi-weekly date with my exploits in LaLaLand (local name for Japan)(not actually)(because if that were the case it would have to be RaRaRand), and I'm not following through with my promises. I'm like a hair-dye that pledges to last for 30 washes and has eked down the drain in ten. I'm like herbal tea, which never tastes as good as it smells (though, actually, I do). But I promise I am still in Japan, still committing social misdemeanours regularly, the most recent of which indecent faux pas has been Entering A Changing Room Without First Removing My Shoes. I know - I am the devil incarnate. But this is literally the only thing I have done that has caused a Japanese sales-assistant to raise their voice, and this is including an occasion upon which I consistently insisted upon requesting a "more vegetable" thermal vest when I mistook the word "cheap" for "vegetable". The woman didn't even blink on that occasion, just, presumably, patiently continued to search for thermal underwear that more closely resembled a vegetable. It wasn't until I got home and reviewed vocabulary that I realised my error ("This one?" "Ahhh...No. Do you have one that is more vegetable, please?" "....").

Anyway, it is Monday, which means I have just returned home after a day containing a two hour commute, five hours of class, a morning meeting, and a two hour Japanese lesson. all of which adds up to a Scarlett whom only the most resilient people should come into contact with. Add into the equation the fact that there is now a definitive bite of winter in the air and that all my tights have holes in the crotch, and I have been both extremely cold in the fanny and cross ALL DAY.

That said, the weekend just drawn to a close was a lovely one . Friday night was spent at the whim of Nikki, a Scottish lass with an unhealthy addiction to chocolate and an ongoing attachment to dangerous long-haired Japanese men. She took Fay and I to a most excellent underground bar where we ate spaghetti and I spent the remainder of October's paycheck on sake. Nikki has lived here for some years now and has a fear of being identified with the American gaijin steretype (those who dance on tables, ask loudly for foreign beers and request menus in English, harrumphing loudly when these are unavailable because THEY SPEAK JAPANESE HERE) so I was forced to pretend to text whilst taking photos on my iPhone in order to remain in her affections. For your viewing pleasure therefore:

Yeah, yeah this could be anywhere. I'm not *INSERT NAME OF FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHER HERE* to begin with, and this was taken under my armpit. Just take it from me: this bar was wonderful. But anyway, under the guidance of my favourite Scottish Japanophile, I am quickly discovering the Sapporo that they hide from the tourists, the one with underground bars, and Indie Japanese Bassists and DJ booths and... other cool things which I enjoy being surrounded by. The tourist in me does still enjoy dancing on tables and asking loudly for foreign beers ("TUATARA! Tu-a-ta-ra!") but it would be nice to be able to identify with the true Sapporo local, those with Sapporo flowing through their veins. The last subway was caught home and lovely sake-stained dreams had.

Saturday was spent on the banks of the Toyohira River, a river which flows through much of Sapporo and catches the autumn light admirably.

Attractive, no? One might ask why they paved the river. I would answer to that one, I know not. But the Japanese do have a wonderful love affair with concrete. It brings them much joy. Perhaps this is because of the security of a paved surface. Or a paved river. Imagine a river in which you cannot drown (although you could graze your knees). A wonderful thing. The Japanese are so advanced.

At this party I saw my first snow bug, which is basically what you would get if you crossed a flea with a polar bear (artifical insemination would probably have to be utilized in this case); or a flea in a fancy fur coat, which has the romantic honour of being a fabled precursor to snow. When you see a snow bug, it means that it will snow within the month. Whether, if you keep your eyes tight shut and dismiss all notions of snow bugs as heresy, this then prevents the snow from falling, has yet to be seen (or not seen). At any rate I DID see a snow bug (actually a thousand of them. I counted) and so snow is, undoubtedly, on the way. Autumn is in its element, and even as I curse the cold, I must admit that Sapporo really does, like myself, look lovely in red. Look.

So pretty.

Unfortunately, this picnic on the river (literally, oh the benefits of a paved river!) lulled me into a false sense of security. After a quick afternoon nap, boyfriend and I then progressed to an enkai (drinking party - should have been forewarned by the name) at a private school in which he is teaching. This turned out to be more like an English lesson, fortified with wine and beer and peanut butter sandwiches. You do hear tell about how violently Japanese folk are subject to their alcohol, but until you have witnessed it close up, there is no description that can do it justice. They go genuinely insane. Inhibition is shed like undergarments. Suddenly they are fluent in English and have no qualms about grasping your face in both hands, bringing you within tasting-distance, and informing you that you are the most beautiful person they have ever seen. I was manhandled, frequently. Were it not for the presence of my stern-faced boyfriend, I firmly believe that I would be married to several Japanese people, both men and women, already. If the many requests made of, and invitations given to, me had also come to fruition, I would also have a dramatic new haircut, a Chinese girlfriend, and have visited both Russia and Korea. Honestly, if I ever considered prostitution as a valid career path, Japan would be the place to do it. I am hot property.

I left the party feeling as though I had been violated, but also a little bit like Heidi Klum. I don't think y'all back in NZ realise this, but I am actually the most attractive thing on the planet. Just so's you know (vanity makes me Texan, too).

Sunday morning was my favourite part of the weekend, and this is because of a fabulous discovery: Japanese flea markets. Oh, the clothes. The shoes. The china. The BEAUTY. And the price - everything in Japan is expensive, but everything in Japan is also cutting edge and brand-new, and I can only assume that things devalue steeply after they become outdated, because I threw money in all directions at all kinds of wonderful things (frivolous) and only managed to spend 12 dollars. My photos are refusing to upload from my iPhone, so instead of pictures of shoes and jackets and handbags, you get pictures of what best struck boyfriend about the market, which was this:


I would have spent much longer perusing the stalls, because there was so much to see, but the sky started to look alarmingly like this:

This made it much easier to leave than it might otherwise have been. So, it was time for a toasted sandwich, coffee and home.

This blog is ridiculous. I apologise. Normally, I like to have a theme, and stick to it, resulting in a neat little package of word play and observation. The theme, according to the title, was clearly supposed to be winter, but appears to have morphed into paved rivers and odd dogs. Next time I will try to be more coherent. In the meantime I leave you with this:

Make of it what you will.

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