Monday, September 18, 2017

Life on the Floor: 6 - Typhoon!

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My usual experience is that Japanese weather forecasting is good, excellent, even.  Japan likes to know what's going to happen, so that stores can roll out displays of raincoats or snow boots, and umbrellas can pop up for purchase everywhere, like mushrooms, only to be abandoned in outdoor storage racks after the storm has passed.

So we knew, far in advance, that a typhoon was coming.  A friend was traveling last Friday and while her plane was going, it was possible her dive trip might not.  She was going far south, between Kagoshima and Okinawa, to a not terribly remote island by Japanese standards.  And she went.

I found the day cloudy and oppressive, but quiet.  Yet the night brought some wind and long ocean swells.  Surfers loved it!  It was the first sign that indeed a typhoon was on its way.

Saturday was a little windy.  The swells continued.  The surfers had fun.  It started to rain while I walked along the beach, something which has become a habit of mine.  It started to rain about two, spitting off and on, while the surf continued to build, also there still wasn't much wind.  "Tomorrow," people said, predicting increasing wind.

By Sunday morning, I ran out of books and was also out of Intenet, so I had to dig out my duck shoes and walk 1.7 km to the station, where I could download some more at the ubiquitous Starbuck's.  The rain continued.  A little wind picked up and turned my umbrella inside out.

By evening, the rain stopped for a while and my umbrella righted itself in the increasing blow.  I loved it!  Crashing surf!  Crashing surfers!  It felt like the Oregon coast.  I felt right at home.

It rained all Sunday night, with lighting and thunder as the Dragon King reveled.  By Monday morning, it had stopped.  The clouds were gone, but the wind continued.  The sidewalk was an inch deep in the wind's gleanings from the cedar trees above.

Mt. Fuji overlooked a roiling sea, with waves breaking far offshore, and foam blowing streaks.  The heavy wind, now offshore, opposed the sea and surf, perhaps 4 meters high (which is pretty darned high) broke close in sequence several times as it approached the shore.  Sandpipers raced the waves, coming close to the long lenses of intrepid photographers.  I walked a long way past the fishing harbor and beach to reach a rock jetty, where holiday booths served alcohol (people seem to drink a lot here) and snacks, and kids from preschoolers to teens demonstrated their skills on skateboard ramps to live music.  Bicyclists raced down the paved path.  Sunbathers stretched out on damp sand, and the wind carved new edges in the sandy cliffs.

Spray crashed over the tops of the jetties, and only the best and bravest surfers dared the waves.  Looking towards Mt. Fuji, the foam waves obscuring its base, the foam blew seaward off the tops of the waves and shined platinum in the light.

The wind had dropped by evening, a pleasant 12 to 15K, but the long swells continued, bringing out the less expert as I tried to figure out their plans.  They seemed unable to paddle quickly enough to catch the steep waves, and when they did, worked hard to get out to the surf line once more.

At last the remnants of clouds turned pink as the sun set behind the mountain.  The surfers draggled in.  Photographers packed up.  Joyously running dogs and children were corralled and the local loudspeakers -- everywhere in Japan -- announced the closure of parking areas as everyone headed home.

A neighbor had blown the sidewalk clean.

It was quiet.

The typhoon was over.

Monday, September 11, 2017

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Life on the Floor: Playing Charades

It's September, and, as predicted, the national thermostat dropped by ten degrees.  Instead of the 90s, highs are now in the 80s.  In another week, they'll drop to the 70s, and life will be comfortable again.

It's been my experience that if Charades were an Olympic event, Japan would go Gold every single time.  Sure, saying an English word with a Japanese accent often works, but to develop the accent means studying Hiragana and Katakana so you know how an English word would be written in Japanese, plus listening to native speakers so you understand how they pronounce things.  Even after much study, I still need people to pronounce words for me so I can say them correctly.  This particularly applies to place names.  Also, the English word used in Japan might not be the one you're expecting.

But if you're coming on vacation, or coming to study or work and must get settled before you start, Charades are the way to go.  Your hosts are experts!  They will win, and so will you.

Recently, I bought a tea kettle, a proper stainless steel one that whistles!  I love it.  It has a nice black handle on top.  Unfortunately this isn't heat proof, so I needed to buy a potholder.

When I got to the store, Ito Yokado, which is something like a Japanese Target, I couldn't find them.  I realized I had no clue how to ask where they might be.  Sure, I can ask where something is, but what if I don't know the name of the something?

I resorted to Charades.  I pictured a pot and said (in Japanese), "The pot is very hot!"  I stretched out my hand, mimed touching it and said, "HOT!"  I then mimed putting something on my hand and reaching out again, and smiled.  I held out my hand again and said, "Where would I find these?"

The woman smiled.  She knew exactly what I was talking about and led me to the well-concealed display of pot holders and oven mitts.  I asked, "What are these called in Japanese?"

Her smiled broadened.  "Mee-ten" she told me.  So now I know, and so you do, that I ask for a "mitten" pronounced with a Japanese accent when I am looking for a potholder!

Try Charades!  It works.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Life on the Floor: 4 Laundry Day

Very few people in Japan actually own or, if they own, use electric or gas clothes dryers.  People talk about the cost of energy to operate them, and everybody dries things outside.
Houses and apartments have holders on balconies or near side or back doors into which one sticks long poles so they hand horizontally.  From the poles, one hangs clothing on hangers, or on special oval or square racks from which depend clothespins of various sizes to which one attaches small things like underwear, small towels and socks.
Today, the forecast was for cloudy weather and fairly cool temperatures.  Weather forecasts in Japan are usually very accurate, so I'm not the only person who started a load of laundry early.  I also wanted to run a few errands today, while it was cool, because it's going to get hot later in the week.  I thought I'd get the laundry hung, run my errands, and be able get the dry laundry in before dark.
More fool me.  As soon as the washer beeped in completion, it started to sprinkle.  I checked and a revised forecast showed showers on and off all day long.
I hung the damp laundry on hangers and drying racks, and hung those on the curtain rods before the windows.  My idea was that things would start to dry and I'd put them outside when I got back from errand running.
I was also not alone in this.  As I walked up to the station, where all the big stores are, I saw that many people, similarly fooled, had done exactly the same thing, so curtain rods up and down the streets were festooned with drying clothes.
It's now early evening and getting dark.  The clothes still aren't dry.  A couple of hours ago, I went to move everything outside to finish drying before dark.  As soon as I opened the balcony door, it started to rain.
It's still raining.
Tomorrow, predicted to be only partly cloudy, will see mostly dry clothes all over town moving from curtain rods to outside rods where they can finish drying in the sun.  If we're lucky.
I think I want a dryer.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Life on the Floor: 3 End Of Heat

I've previously mentioned the 24 mini-seasons, the seasonal subdivisions, of Japan.  On August 23, we entered End Of Heat, and sure enough, the temperatures are bumping their way down.  The next couple of days will continue hot -- high 80's -- but that's much better than low 90's.  Nights are cooling off.  By next week, temperatures will top out in the high 70's and will drop into the 60's at night.  That will be very pleasant.
Meantime, the beach continues to be the best place around.
I'm watching for Seahawks, also known as Ospreys, but haven't spotted any yet.  Ospreys may appear in Book 5, swirling around in my brain like clouds.
Meanwhile, Book 4 will start a month-long campaign through Books and the Bear, to spread the word about this exciting adventure.
I can't imagine how people existed in the normal Japanese clothing of 1872, much less the clothing the Westerners and the Japanese who followed their lead customarily wore, in this weather.  The humidity's down, and that's a huge relief.  It'll just get better and better.
School starts up again very soon, although neighborhood kids are already engaging in pre-season sports and activities, and the stores abound with fall clothes and fall foods.  I saw chestnuts in the store today!  I love chestnuts, and it's the start of their season.
Following the seasons, especially the mini-seasons, keeps one in touch with crops, with nature, and with the rhythm of life.
Meantime, I'm heading for the beach.  I have a bigger swim float and now a "cloth" (it's striped plastic material) to sit on.  Might as well stock up when everything's on sale.
This is the season of Book 4: Uncle Yuta Has An Adventure.  This would be a great time to start reading it.

Once again, I can't upload pictures.  There are some on the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy's Facebook page.  I can send them there, but I can't send them here.  Working on it.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Life on the Floor:2 Mushi-atsui

The month of August is hot and steamy in Japan.  Humidity is high and so are temperatures.  The Japanese word for this is "mushi-atsui."  At the end of August, which is rapidly approaching, summer is giving a last gasp with temperatures soaring and everybody -- and everything -- dripping.  There's good news, though.  In my experience, on September 1 precisely, the national thermostat will drop ten degrees.  The humidity is already abating (unless it rains, which it is predicted to do a few more times before August mercifully ends.)
The only way to counter this -- besides staying in air-conditioned spaces -- is to go to the beach and that's where I've been going.
The sand is silver, flecked with gold.  The gold flakes rise in the water of the surf, tossing and tumbling in the waves.  The water is warm.  Even though it's early, the water on Chigasaki's south beach is warm with the occasional undercurrent of cool lifted up as the tide recedes.
People bring tent-like shelters to shield them from the pounding sun.  People wear sun-protective swimwear, and though people do swim, most do so in short bursts, preferring to sit in the surf playing with children, floating on various kinds of inflatables and rafts.  Outside the official swimming area, some snorklers look for shellfish and fish around anchored swim tubes.  Further out, the commercial fishing boats circle the islets and reefs in search of the day's catch.
I float, I bask, I enjoy.
Birds circle.  Sea Hawks search for underwater prey.  Is there a character up there?
I'll be back tomorrow.
By the end of next week, the people, I'm told, will vanish as the summer holiday season comes to an official end.

Pictures will follow.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Life on the Floor

Moving halfway across the world is tough.  Getting settled is tougher.  I am having huge internet/computer problems.  The Web isn't really all that World-Wide. Each country has gatekeepers and challenges.  Languages switch (who would have guessed?)  Passwords are rejected, though they were all changed, on demand by the on-line providers, before I left and now neither the new ones nor the old ones work.  Starting over.  Good thing I read some Japanese and am pretty fearless about pressing buttons. I also keep written records, like any and everybody else with sense, and that sometimes helps.  I've been here just over two weeks.  I still like it, despite the frustrations.

I have finally managed to log in here.  I thought it was MAGIC!  And it was.  My Apple products are supposed to cross-reference and keep all my passwords safely.  Not my fault, really.  In The Toki-Girl and Sparrow-Boy's universe, many things operate via magic.  Why should I expect magic to vanish in Japan?  Here in Chigasaki, Apple Magic does not uniformly apply.

It's also tough getting used to life on the floor, not just for a few weeks, but for, if I'm lucky, the foreseeable future.

Traditionally, for reasons covered in The Toki-Girl and Sparrow-Boy books, and others, the Japanese lifestyle is mostly lived on the floor, with things brought out as needed, then stored away for a nice, clean look.  There are tables, and sometimes floor chairs, but even now what furniture there is rests very close to the ground.  In fact, right now, I am sitting in a floor chair, cross-legged, with my computer resting in my lap.

This poses problems for a stiff American.  I'm working at flexibility, because this isn't going to change.  Yes, once my residency visa is approved, I'll buy some furniture, but for now I am staying with a friend and furniture isn't a priority -- she's flexible!  When my visa comes through and I get my own place, furniture will be high on the list.

This move would be much harder on anyone who hadn't spent significant time in Japan and didn't know what to expect.

While I'm neither weeaboo nor Japanophile, Japan remains my quirky and eccentric friend who puts a slightly different spin on the universe than the one Westerners like me are used to.  I like the Japanese way, and I like being and living here.  So far.

Stay tuned, now that I can get in here, for more about life on the floor!