As of October 11, 2022, Japan is finally, finally allowing individual tourists back into the country, and I am breathing a huge sigh of relief.Continue reading “Japan is open as of today”
You know, it’s been a while since I found something that sparked so much joy.Continue reading “Return of Japanglish fashion”
Also, hello to people who pop in to check out this blog! How’s it going? I know it’s been awfully quiet over here since the start of NaNoWriMo, but December happened in a blink.
Wait, January is already over?
…It’s almost March?
Anyway. How has everyone been? I know it’s been quite a while since the New Year Holidays, but did you enjoy yours? Are you staying warm? Healthy?
Let’s just both grab a hot beverage of our choice and then we can talk about how my past couple of months have been, as well as what I hope to achieve with this blog in the upcoming months.Continue reading “A very belated hello to 2022.”
Hello from the kotatsu! It is almost chilly enough here in Kyoto for me to merit breaking out the futon cover for this little table of mine… At least, at night. In the daytime, at most you still just need long sleeves. But hey, we’re slowly but surely (and finally) going from summer… and hurtling right into winter.
Autumn? What’s autumn?Continue reading “Delving into NaNo with two projects?!”
I’m going to talk about the past year and a half, so if you’re not interested in something that is related to current events, you might want to skip this post.Continue reading “You all right over there?”
Like most people, I haven’t been in a hotel in about two years (the photo you see is from 3+ years prior). But necessity pushed me into the unenviable position of having to book a hotel room for a few days during the height of travel season. The necessity? My air conditioner breaking.
That’s another story.
My stay in the hotel has reminded me of a lot of things. What it feels like to use facilities that aren’t your own. How nice it is to have someone else doing the cleaning for you. The awkwardness of timing yourself so that you don’t have to share an elevator with anybody else. That sort of thing.
And, of course, the cleaning wars with the housekeeping staff.
I’ve walked the Kamogawa so many times now that every little change there catches my attention. There are regular birds that I spot in their normal places, and new families (ducklings!) that I realize are new with delight. I witness the building of the dining balconies every year as restaurants prepare for hot summer nights… and their removal when everyone wants to withdraw from the cold. There are pet owners that I look forward to spotting, some with animals that made me do a double-take the first time I saw them.
The other day, for the first time, I saw a snake in the river.Continue reading “Summer and all that entails”
Today was a beautiful one, with a high of 20 degrees Celsius. Walking along the street, I saw a parent and child coming up the opposite way. The child was blowing big, fat bubbles into the air, and the wind kept sweeping them back the way the child had come. Unfortunate for the child, but I got to enjoy the fruit of their labors–walking surrounded by bubbles that caught the afternoon light, reflecting the cherry blossoms in full bloom.Continue reading “Less nose-gazing (hana-mi), more flower-gaping (hanami)”
Plum blossoms are already a thing of the past this year, and cherry blossoms are hurrying on by without a backwards glance, too. People are telling me that certain places are already past their peak in Kyoto, to hurry to such-and-such a place to see them NOW while one still can.
And I look at the surging number of students on spring vacation out with their friends; at the retirement parties that aren’t supposed to be happening, yet still are; and at the droves of people determined to get spring shopping in, at any cost.
And smile and say, “I’ll try to get there before they leave.”Continue reading “March-ing — to Kyoto Cryptids and beyond!”
What a year, eh?
Hello, everybody. I am still here, and I have been thinking about this blog a lot over the past decade. I mean month. I mean year.
What even is time, at this point?
I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. It sure has been a year. And I’m sure everybody else is ready for it to be over and to give 2021 a try.
Let me dust off this blog by talking about what I’ve been up to, what it’s been like over here, and how things are looking… and what I hope to do with this blog in the coming months.
What I’ve Been Up To
I remember having a conversation over Discord with a good friend of mine. He had heard about Coronavirus and said he was worried that it might spread to Japan and affect my life over here. I recall reassuring him that, even if it did, I would be perfectly fine. I also recall quite clearly thinking that it wouldn’t be that big an issue.
Well, I sure was wrong, wasn’t I?
Pretty soon after that, cases started appearing in Japan, and not long after that, we had a lockdown in April for several weeks. People took it seriously at that point. There were pictures all over social media of empty train stations, normally packed shopping malls looking like ghost towns, the whole nine yards. It was eerie stepping outside, as if you expected at any moment for a boogieman to leap out.
But following Golden Week, things started to ease back into a sense of normalcy. People eased out of their homes and back into the shopping centers, their work places. While sightseeing places began–and continue–to struggle, daily life for local folks more or less returned to normal with a couple of caveats: everybody wears a mask (well, almost everybody), and everybody social distances (read: some people).
Now in December, if you were to look out on a street in Osaka or Kyoto, it would look pretty crowded. Not as crowded as perhaps December 2019, but far more crowded than you would expect. We’ve had multiple campaigns over here, from the GoToTravel to the GoToEat endeavors to get the economy going again. From October or so I’ve started noticing people rolling suitcases around town again, and that’s… less than reassuring.
What It’s Been Like Over Here
Imagine having accommodation, a job, bank accounts, a phone, friends. Lots of things that tie you down to a given place. Now, imagine being told that, if you leave, you won’t be allowed back in to take care of any of those things.
That was the situation for months over here in Japan. Countless legal residents of Japan, regardless of their visa (spousal, working, etc), were locked out of the country from April onward. Those who were allowed in were given arbitrary criteria that they somehow passed while others were left behind.
Kyoto’s streets went back to 2007, foreigner-wise. Rather than have an obvious tourist every four or five people, I was back to blinking in surprise when I spotted someone non-Japanese. No doubt all of them residents, stuck in the same situation where you can’t go home but staying here was… questionable.
That said, sightseeing places lit up with excitement when I popped my head in because they weren’t getting nearly as many tourists. It’s been a prime time to see all the places that are normally swarming with people, and to get some lovely pictures.
Masks, of course, are a common sight in Japan anyway, but suddenly there was a market for them that never existed before. Every drug store and kimono shop I pass now offers masks with varying patterns and materials, whereas before your choices were white paper mask or black paper mask. And the latter could potentially land you in trouble. There was an article back in May about how people wearing the darker masks would be treated as potential troublemakers, though that stigma seems to have passed now that masks are so commonplace.
There’ve been a number of things for sale here that supposedly protect people. The governor of Osaka recommended a certain gargling solution a while back, and people rushed to buy it. There are little tags on sale that claim to ward off viruses, as well. And of course, shops began limiting how much soap each household could purchase.
How Things Are Looking
While I am beyond thrilled to hear about people already being administered the Covid-19 vaccine in certain parts of the world, it looks like the regular Joe Schmoes of Japan might not get it for months to come. The timeline may change, but as of right now, it looks like medical workers, folks 65+, and people with underlying conditions shouuuuuuld be all taken care of by the end of March 2021. Then the rest of us saps might have a shot (heh) to get it ourselves.
In the meantime, universities are debating whether to have face to face classes or online. Some have been face to face from autumn of 2020. Others are more cautious. Primary and secondary schools are, by and large, face to face, with closures of only a couple of days after a case is discovered “for cleaning” a common case here.
In other words, we’re looking at several months yet before anybody is out of the woods.
Given that we are, as of right now, considering having the Olympics in 2021, this is going to be an interesting situation.
What I hope to do with this blog
It’s been extremely hard motivating myself to do anything with this blog this year. Most of my “outings” have consisted of walks in my own neighborhoods in an attempt to get fresh air and exercise. It’s been difficult focusing on studying and reading (I’ve gotten through one book in Japanese this year).
But that said, I’m thinking of a few ideas now that might work given the upcoming months where we will need to continue remaining indoors. Things like:
-reading (yes I will get back on that horse)
-fiction based on my experience in Japan.
I hope to get back to posting regularly, and I hope to start seeing people on this blog again. I hope everyone reading this is safe, warm, and enjoying their New Year’s.
Let’s hope 2021 is a far better year for all of us than 2020 has been.
See you soon, internet.