I’ve been reading. A lot. I finished one book in a day and started another right behind it. I’ve also been exercising – consistently – since my return to Tokyo last week. My food intake has been reasonable, not fantastic, but not only stuff from a convenience store.
I’ve also curbed my alcohol intake pretty significantly. I think I may have been at my peak just before my trip to the US… something like 3 or 4 beers a night 5 nights of the weeks. Why that much? That’s what Tokyo does for fun. It’s kind of a drinking society. You go out, you drink, it’s kind of that simple. Not only are there the obvious health impacts, but the wallet impact is pretty darn significant too. I think I’ll be able to fund Olivia’s college savings now!
The reading generally comes from the free time where I’m not drinking so often. It’s been nice – a couple of books from Charles Bukowski, a rather rude and crude guy with fairly simplistic stories. They were fun and I’ll be reading plenty more of those in time. However, Sunday, after reading Bukowski’s debut novel, I switched to Antony Bourdain. I bought the ‘box set’ for Kindle with Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw. I blew through Kitchen Confidential in two and a half days I think. I loved it, couldn’t put it down. It has been the same with Medium Raw. After exercise and shower in the morning, I’m draw to read… even though I need to get ready for work. So I just combine them – I stand in the kitchen, cooking my eggs, eating my salmon and kiwi, reading page after page on the ipad. I get dressed, glancing over words as I pull on my socks. Every free moment is consuming another page, no matter the device.
I also realized, as I was reading Kitchen Confidential, that I love reading about people going to Japan with Tokyo in particular. He dedicated a chapter of the book to his Japan trip and it was awesome. I knew what he was talking about in great detail, and yet it excited me to hear his version of it. It struck me later that day that maybe I should write a little more and talk more about the environment I live it. Maybe I should take my eyes off the sidewalk in front of me each morning to look up and around – really soak it in.
I might have written about it before, but let me tell you about the neighborhood I live in – not the seedy bits, but instead the softer, kinder parts. I walk out of the apartment building out the back entrance onto a tree lined street. As you might recall from this past spring, these aren’t just any trees, but Cherry trees. They’ve been groomed – as almost every tree in Japan is – to have a perfect shape, stretching their branches over the street like something out of a fancy picture, casting their shade evenly down the whole avenue.
Let me go tangent for a moment, on trees. The trees here are maniacally well groomed, sometimes by armies of arborists and landscapers. You find that the trees are cared for and groomed in a manner extremely similar to a bonsai tree. Pine trees tend to have their needles only growing up. The Cherry trees arch up and out, almost exactly like Olivia would draw a tree. The arborists climb on the trees or up shaky ladders, and expertly trim the trees. They wear the “uniform” of a laborer – tabi boots with thin soles and flared pants.
Oh, speaking of tabi boots and flared pants, that’s a whole different tangent. The super thin-soled shoes, as Wikipedia puts it, “gives wearers tactile contact with the ground, and the concomitant gripping ability lets them use their feet more agilely than rigid-soled shoes allow.” Then the pants – perhaps also described as “balloon pants” by some – are quite confusing. These pants are huge around the thighs and then suddenly come to a constricting tightness at the calf. Google image examples here. Unfortunately Wikipedia doesn’t have a very good explanation for these. I’ve heard, however, that it has been used for many, many years. We often joke that we should call OSHA for these guys – imagine welding and having a hot spark land in your pants, only your pants have two hundred folds in it because of the amount of fabric associated.
Anyway, I haven’t even gotten off the back street from my apartment… but that’s just it. There are so many things to see, so many unique aspects of life. You see construction workers in their tabi shoes and balloony tobi trousers everywhere. You find gorgeous, mature trees that are perfectly maintained at every corner. You find, almost ever single morning, at least one maintenance guy sweeping the freshly fallen leaves off the sidewalk. Yeah – by 11AM you aren’t likely to find more than 6 leaves on the sidewalk next to my apartment because a guy, a guy with a broom and pan, swept them all up.
I’ve written nearly 900 words at this point, so I’ll save the rest for another post. I’m excited to re-connect with this environment and to share the small details. I think, based on all the wonderful people I saw during my US visit, that this is something you might like, too… so I’ll keep at it.
I’m also doing a fair bit of travelling in the coming weeks, so maybe I can tell you about those places, too! I’ll be travelling to India again – Pune primarily – and then on to Manila. These are both work related trips. Shortly after that, however, I’ll be flying to Korea for a very short personal trip. I thought, since I’m in the neighborhood that I should see what else is around here. I don’t have any specific plans – I haven’t even booked a hotel yet – but I am sure I’ll find something.
I hope you enjoyed reading… I’ll post more soon, I promise it. I didn’t even get you off the block from my apartment!