I would like to begin this week’s edition with a brief respect to all those affected by the Great Tohoku earthquake. It has been one month since the earthquake. The death toll has now surpassed 12,600 and the missing is over 14,700. More than 160,000 people are still living in temporary shelters. The Fukushima Daichii nuclear power station is also still crippled. Just today the Japanese government elevated the situation to the highest on the international scale, a seven, on par with Chernobyl. The results of this disaster continue to affect every aspect of Japanese life.
Since the major earthquake on March 11, I have personally experienced dozens if not a hundred aftershocks. This past week saw many earthquakes that were increasingly powerful. With each quake I feel myself maturing a little bit. My immediate reaction to the quake last month was sheer excitement. Every quake after that has been nothing more than an annoyance. Yet I am beginning to put things in perspective. A little earthquake here may be a larger quake somewhere else. A larger quake may mean further damage to an already sensitive nation. With each passing earthquake I find myself worrying about others more and more. If it weren’t for the others, I wouldn’t mind these quakes one bit.
Now on to some lighter topics, let me share with you some of my happenings this past week!
Last week’s Ohanami (cherry blossom viewing) party didn’t fully satisfy me. So I spent both days this weekend outside at some parks. On Sunday I returned to Yoyogi park with a friend and his posse. The weather was far better this time around. We made camp on a hill under a sakura tree and wasted away the day. We all brought food and ate to our hearts’ content. I personally brought strawberry’s and a traditional Japanese snack made of seaweed; oishii. We slowly sipped our drinks and drank in the sun. A pair of guitars made their way around the circle and we enjoyed some light music. As the sun started to set we packed up and went home. What a great day.
I was early to bed Sunday night, which meant early to rise Monday morning. I went into town to meet up with the Girls and some of Carson’s friend. I met Carson snowboarding with Moto and we seem to have hit it off. Our first stop was at Shinjuku Gyoen Mae park. This park is actually more like a garden. It was very well maintained and laid out wonderfully. We paid a reasonable ¥200 entry fee. The next two hours were spent wandering the winding paths. There was no alcohol allowed in the park, so the atmosphere was very tranquil. And much appreciated. Midway through the park we took a break. We sat down in an open field and played frisbee. I took off a few layers to cool off and work on my tan. The Japanese girls that were with us remained fully clothed. It’s very important to have young, healthy and pale skin here. I once stopped playing frisbee to take in the scenery. Behind the sakura trees and rolling hills sat some of Tokyo’s skyscrapers. It was am amazing contrast. One I will never forget.
We soon left the park in search of lunch. Our party was eight, very large in Tokyo. In fact too large to eat anywhere. Our group split. The girls; shopping. The rest; more ohanami. We were craving hamburgers and so stopped at Burger King for lunch. For the first time in 7 months I ate a Whopper. And I was disgusted. The American sized portion was far too much. The amount of red meat made my stomach churn. Still though, my inner Yankee came out and I finished the whole thing. The rest of the day was very lovely. We hung around Yoyogi park until the rain forced us out. We then did some karaoke before calling it a night. Another successful day in the city. The ohanami and sakura season lasts, at best, two weeks. Today the trees had reached their glory. Within days the festivals would be over. I had fully maximized the holiday.
I caught two trains back home Monday night. And just as luck would have it, I caught the rush hour. Because of the relentless Japanese work ethic, the rush hour in Toyko is at 8pm. I stood in line at the station waiting to board the next train. The train pulled up and the doors opened. What followed was 10 seconds of controlled hysteria. Dozens of people flowed like water out of the doors. Some wanted to change trains, others simply had to get off to allow those behind them to exit. No sooner had those people disembarked from their train then the new passengers wanted on. The new folks made a mad dash to get into train. Just before the doors closed I watched a tiny business woman wiggle her way in between two people. She pulled her high heel in just before the door closed. “I’ll catch the next one,” I thought to myself.
Right on time, the next train arrived. Just as before there was controlled pandemonium. People got off, people got on. I calculated the moving bodies and boarded. I was the last person to step on the train, I wanted a window “seat.” I stepped backwards into the car so I faced out of the train. I managed to get my feet set, but the rest of my body hung out. I reached up and secured my hands over the door, inside the car. I pushed with all of my might and the crowd gave. I sucked in my gut and the door snapped shut, grazing the skin of my nose. I quickly exhaled a hard laugh. “Hahaha, yes! Tonight I am THAT guy.” I was that man who had forced himself into the train. I was the straw before the one that broke the camels back. I spent the next half hour lodged against the glass in the doors, all the while smiling to myself. “Dang, I really love this city.”