Sakura (さくら)

We can almost look cool.

 

Wednesday, April 4

 

April has come and with it warmer weather. I woke up early in the morning with a to-do list. First up: jogging. You know, get the heart pumping, get excited and tackle the day. I laced up and ran out the door.

The morning air was cool but felt good against hot skin. I was nearly back to my apartment and I saw the tall apartments near the station. I opened my stride and ran hard. I wanted to finish out of breath.

“Just another minute, you’re almost home free.” I thought to myself.

Suddenly— THUD!

I nearly fell over onto the concrete. I looked to my right and saw a car. — THUD! My elbow hit the side mirror.

My brain struggled to comprehend what had happened. Then it clicked. That car had just hit me. I slowed down my run to assess what had happened. I look at my foot. It had been driven over. I looked at my elbow. It was red from contact. I looked ahead at the car. They were pulling over to the shoulder of the road. I took a step toward the car.

Ahead the driver changed lanes. They steered off from shoulder and back onto the road. Then began to accelerate.

“Oh, hell no!” I shouted out loud.

I sprinted after the car. With an injured foot. The driver kept pulling away.

“Hey, come back here!”

Running in a dead sprint, I focused on the car’s license plate; す 31-8. I was glad I could read hiragana.

“す 31-8. す 31-8. す 31-8”

I repeated it over and over. Mrs. Cozad, my fourth grade teacher, told us to do this in a car accident. She’d be proud now.

Fortunately the road was busy with traffic and there was nowhere to go. The driver pulled to the side and came to a halt. I came to the passenger window, already rolled down.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Inside two women looked back at me. Mother and daughter. The driver, hiding behind her daughter and huge sunglasses replied; “Yeah. Are you okay?”

“I don’t know. You drove over my foot and hit my arm.”

It took a minute but I realized we were speaking English. I asked her, “do you speak English (英語は話しますか)?”

She did. Turns out she was a Japanese citizen married to an American and living on a nearby military base. What luck! Of all the people to hit me, it was an English speaker! Great! I suppose…

I sat down to look at foot. I slipped off my shoe. The heel had torn. I inspected my foot. It looked okay. A little red but nothing terrible.

Tis but a scratch!

 

The driver began to lecture me, “You shouldn’t run in the street.”

I interrupted, “Yeah and you shouldn’t hit people with your car. And then drive away.”

She asked me if we should call the police. Then she suggested we didn’t. Her sick daughter was in the car, they needed to go the hospital.

“Great!” I thought. “You can take me there too!” Then I thought better of it. I don’t want to be in a car with a person who hits pedestrians.

I didn’t want to call the police either. My brain was wasn’t operating normally. I couldn’t make a wise decision. I didn’t know Japanese road laws. I could have made a mistake. I couldn’t speak proper Japanese. The last thing I wanted was to get arrested. Deportation wasn’t on my to-do-list. So I agreed, no police necessary.

“I do want your phone number. Tell me your number, please.” Luckily I had my phone with me. I entered her number and immediately pressed call. I wanted to make sure it was her number, not a bogus one. Her phone rang. I took a picture of her license plate too.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do now. If something happens, I’ll call you.” I told her.

The narrow line I failed to make it through.

 

I returned home where I took pictures of my foot and immediately iced it. My brain was still going in too many different directions to make sense of the situation. I needed advice. I called Moto.

A sleeping Moto answered the phone. He quickly woke up and tried to make sense of the situation.

“Go the hospital. Save all of your receipts.” He told me.

Seemed like good advice. My foot wasn’t in tremendous pain. But I wasn’t sure if that was just because of the shock. I put my to-do-list aside and cleaned up. I left home wearing a suit and went to work. There our new teacher, Amina 先生, took me to the hospital across the street. Coincidentally her own foot had just been run over by a driver days before. Having just gone through the process she was a great help.

We arrived at the hospital and began the process. Paperwork. Preliminary inspection. X-rays. Follow up inspection. Payment and an exit. The whole process took only 90 minutes and cost ¥10,000 ($125). (That amount was for everything and wasn’t covered by any insurance. So cheap!)

I left the hospital with good news; no breaks! I hobbled back to work with a swollen foot and spent the rest of the day standing and teaching. Just another day, right?

In the days that followed my accident I was contacted by everyone. The city police, military police & insurance. They all said the same thing; no matter how close I was to the road it was completely her fault. I felt relieved. I will also be receiving full compensation for the accident.

I’ve since returned to the spot where it happened. The sidewalk is divided by a concrete wall separating two buildings. There is only a very small shoulder between the street and edge of the wall. During my run I had neared the street to clear the divider and that’s when I was struck. I was a fool for not checking the traffic behind me. And the woman was even more in the wrong for not seeing me running, driving over the line, and attempting to flee the scene.

It now seems things will be alright. I’ve learned a valuable lesson from all of this: always be aware of your surroundings. And you can bet I won’t run along that street anymore!

We're okay over here!

 

Sunday, April 8

 

Spring was in the in air and the cherry trees, or sakura (), were blooming. Mari and I visited Ueno Park (上野公園) and met up with Elisha. We joined her group of friends under a beautiful tree and enjoyed the party. This party is called “ohanami” (お花見). Translated this means, “cherry blossom viewing party.” Obviously I just say ohanami.

That's a lot of people.

 

Ohanami parties are very important in Japanese culture. April is the beginning of the year in Japan. School starts. The fiscal year begins and thus business. These parties have become a good opportunity for people to come together and start something new. Additionally the sakura is the national tree. And sakura, with one-week blossoms, are seen as representative of the fragility of life.

This is all good and important. But many people don’t care about the details. They just want an excuse to go outside with their friends and drink! This was largely the atmosphere when we arrived in Ueno. Drinking and picnics everywhere. We joined the fun for some time before packing up and saying goodbye. I had double booked us for two ohanamis.

Mari, Elisha, and Alex.

 

Next stop: Yoyogi Park (代々木公園). If you remember, this park is like New York City’s Central Park. It’s huge and busy. Cell phones wouldn’t work inside the park. Every possible piece of real estate was covered with tarps and blankets. We made our way to the my Trevor’s party. We said hello and then joined Moto and his girlfriend. A double date under cherry trees. It doesn’t get any better! Moto even brought a two liter bottle of sake (日本酒) that he needed help with. I had a few glasses against my better judgement and the party really got underway. Frisbee and snacks for all!

Moto always carries one of these bottles.

 

With the sun setting Mari and I made our way back to the station. A short time later I found myself conducting class on the train. A bit tiddly and two feet taller, I stood in front of a baseball team. I had the undivided attention of 12 10-year-old boys.

“Who speaks English?” I asked in a very deliberate voice.

“Half, half (ハーフー ハーフー),” they said and pointed to the tall kid. Half meaning half Japanese, half… “other.”

“Do you like baseball?” Again my fluency was very slow, my body using gestures to convey meaning.

“Yes! I like baseball!” A boy shouted.

This exchange continued for 15 minutes. The whole train watched the interaction. Although under the influence I was well enough composed that even my girlfriend didn’t know I was drunk. The boys soon left and I took a seat next to Mari.

“Now that was fun.”

Wednesday, April 11

Seven months with Mari! やった!

 

Sunday, April 15

 

Sunday was a model of maximization. I woke very early and Mari & I caught a train away from Tokyo. We went to a sleepy mountain town called Hadano (秦野). We took a taxi to the backside of a huge hill and walked the trails. Sakura only bloom for one week. We wanted to maximize our viewing chances. From the hilltop we could see Mt. Fuji (富士山), the Tanzawa mountain range (丹沢山地) and even Enoshima beach (江ノ島).

While the morning was spent hiking and in nature, the afternoon was spent working in the office. I arrived at the office directly from Hadano. I changed into a suit and immediately taught a lesson. I worked a short afternoon shift. I only taught two lessons and otherwise had three hours to do office work that can never happen during the week. Since there weren’t any students, or other teachers for that matter, I brought a stereo into the teachers’ room and listened to music while working. And I drank a hot coffee. It was fantastic.

After work I met up with Mari. We cooked up some tofu potstickers (ギョザ) and an assortment of other vegetarian friendly dishes. All while listening to the sounds of Van Halen’s greatest hits. We finished the evening watching the movie “Titanic” on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of the ship’s sinking.

My head finally found the pillow near midnight. It had been a stupendous day, and another great two weeks.

 

 

– ¥100 / 百円 –

If you remember from my previous blog, the yen is selling very well at the moment. (Traditionally 100 yen has equaled 1 dollar.) One of my favorite stores in Japan is the omnipresent ¥100 shop. These are just like the dollar stores in the States. However the quality of their products tends to be much higher. In fact most of my home furnishings have been bought from these stores. The often negative connotation with dollar stores is non-existent in Japan. It’s great. And as a matter of fact I think I’ll go shopping right now…

 

See you next time!

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About japanesealex

Alexander lived in Japan from 2010 to 2013. He is now pursuing a career in public service in Honolulu, Hawaii.

One response to “Sakura (さくら)”

  1. Claudia says :

    I’m glad the foot is healing:)

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