Sunday, September 9
I bought a pair of crocs. And for the first time in months I joined my friends for some futsal. It felt good to be back out on the court. The weather felt even better. It was the perfect temperature and the sun sat at the perfect angle in the sky. Autumn is coming fast to Tokyo.
Tuesday, September 11
Tuesday was my one year anniversary with Mari. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been together for a year. On the one hand the time has flown by and it’s hardly felt like a full year. On the other hand we’ve done so much together that we could have been together for two years.
I didn’t expect to see Mari that night, it was a school night after all. But I was pleasantly surprised when she was waiting for me after work. I joined her with a bouquet of flowers and we were off to find dinner. We settled on a mom & pop restaurant and ate outside on their porch. Again the weather was perfect!
Friday, September 12
Sino-Japanese relations have been in the news a lot lately. The Japanese government has nationalized the privately owned “Senkaku” islands. The Chinese government, and also Taiwan, claim ownership of the island chain. There is some really strong rhetoric coming from China right now. I’ll let you know more as this develops.
Saturday, September 15
This was to be our anniversary weekend.
I fled work and met Mari at the station. We caught a train south and went to Izu (伊豆). (We were just in Izu last month for summer vacation.) Finally in Shimoda (下田) we found our hotel and settled in. The carpet was originally from the 1970’s but the sheets had been washed more recently. The price was right and we were tired. Lights out.
Sunday, September 16
Sunday we were up early. Early enough to impress the clerk at the counter.
Two coffees & one bus ride later, we were at our destination: sea kayaking. We checked in and took their van down to the ocean.
If you haven’t guess by now, Mari and I are very much outdoorsy people. Her favorite place is the ocean, my favorite place is the mountains. We’re happiest outside.
The first 20 minutes were spent learning the basics. How to paddle, turn, stop, and listen to commands. All of the directions were in Japanese, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out what we were doing.
In the boats and into the water. We paddled about in a pack and did some mild exploring. We ventured into a small tunnel and fought against the current to get back out. After a (very) short time, we set up camp on some rocks and had lunch. Lunch was followed by snorkeling.
An hour later we were back in the boats and swimming across a kilometer long open stretch of water. Mari sat in the front snapping pictures while I kept pace with the other boats. All too soon we were back on shore packing up. I was disappointed with how long we were kayaking, less than four hours. But I was pleased that the sport came very naturally to me. Mari and I both look forward to trying it again.
After kayaking we visited a hot spring hotel (温泉) and took a hot bath. Side note: I’m not too fond of hot baths in the heat. While most Japanese like a bath all year I find it unpleasant if the air is warm. Since it was warm I had a very fast bath.
Late in the afternoon we left the hotel and walked to our next guest house (民宿). The house sat on top of a huge hill. Bags and all we hiked it to the top. Covered in sweat we checked in and relaxed on the tatami (畳). Downstairs the dinner bell rang and we picked up our food from the kitchen. We took the food upstairs to our and spread it out over the table. It was a traditional Japanese meal. There were 10 different dishes each. It was a lot but we ate it all!
After dinner we exchanged gifts. Mari gave me a high quality coffee container that I can take to work. She also updated our shared photo album with four pages from previous vacations. I gave her a handmade flip book that told the story of our first year together. I also gave her a hiking stove that we can use together at the beach or in the mountains. I thought it was a good gift we could use together. Or maybe I’m wrong?
After the present swap we took another bath, drank a beer and crashed into our futons. Lights out before 10!
Monday, September 17
Seven AM and we were up. The early bird gets the worm. We ate a second massive meal in our rooms and set out.
We visited a local beach that was near empty. We walked in the surf and explored the rocky coast. Back in town we washed our feet in a ridiculously hot, and free, foot bath. We finished our trip with a stop in a coffeehouse, a run through the rain, souvenir shopping and hopping on a train. We were lucky enough to catch great seats on a special train. We had a nice view the whole way back.
Back home we had some hot ramen (ラメン) for dinner and said goodbye.
It had been a great weekend celebrating a great year with each other. Here’s hoping we can do it again next year!
It appears to me that Japan has a large number of blind people. Mostly empirical evidence can support my claim. The Japanese people who I’ve asked seem surprised to hear my observation. On the off-chance that I’m on to something here, I’ll share it with the world.
First observation: sidewalks for the blind. All over the city you will see narrow paths of raised yellow tiles. The paths start at stations and sprawl out in to the city. It’s really very cool. There are many different patterns on the tiles that tell the user important information such as steps, or a cross walk. These tiles aren’t just in Tokyo, they’re all over the country.
I’m sure it is a great expense to the local governments to install these tiles whenever they pour concrete. Looking at this from a cost-benefit ration it must be expensive. I figure, the only reason the government would spend so much on this is if there was a large enough demand from blind people.
Or possibly an important bureaucrat is connected to this industry and passed a frivolous law to line their own pockets.
Second observation: there are a lot of blind people in Tokyo. “Tokyo,” there’s the giveaway. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, it’s difficult to create empirical data in Tokyo. There are just too many people here that it’s impossible to find an accurate ration. That said, I do see at least one blind person everyday. A minimum of one on my short 10 minute commute. And where there’s one, there’s always more.