Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dating in Japan: Distance

Despite striving towards uniqueness, humanity is divided into basic types. Introverts, extroverts, doers, thinkers... those with a drive to explore the world, and those happiest to stay where they were born and raised.

In my experience, and possibly due to my experiences, I get along best with those who wish to see the world, continue to learn and challenge themselves. This, naturally, means that the people I date fit this profile.

My ex has gotten himself to China, after a great deal of effort, and now Matcha-kun is also seeking to depart the Land of the Rising Sun, to move onto Asia's economic Tiger cubs.

I understand the desire to embrace a new country, and am proud of my friends who work abroad and seek greater fortunes. It is a necessity for the Japanese economy and even society, to go out and bring back wealth and knowledge. His desire to work in English, to submit to the different rules of a different culture, as I do every day, is praiseworthy.

But I am torn. Once again the long distance curse, which is perhaps a genetic trait. Nothing is even decided yet, but I cannot help worrying. 

He knows better than to ask me to come with him, as koto teachers of my ryuha are a rarity outside of Japan. I have moved so many times, and want to experience living in one place for more than 4 years. We both can budget for regular flights, and this is certainly not the end of the world... and yet I occasionally wish that he were more tied to Tokyo, gravitationally bound to my own orbit.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Sunday of Nostalgia: Bashamichi and Nihon Oodori

Yokohama is still something of a grand dame. Perhaps no longer the celebrated talk of the town, but with sparkle showing that, in her heyday, she was a beauty to be reckoned with.

The long wandering walk from Kannai to Nihon Oodori gives a glimpse into the exciting Meiji and Showa days, when this port brought the world to Japan, and viceversa. The sweeping stone buildings, reminiscent of Paris or London, topped with copper that has gone green with age.
Those born and raised in Yokohama are called Hamakko, children of the port. And even now, when in Tokyo more and more remnants of the past are torn down and replaced with conbini, Yokohama still protects her children and her history.

Stained glass, the scenes very different from those I grew up with in Europe, show in their tints the earliest memories of 'gaikokujin', of terrifyingly large ships and palanquins, overseen by the immortal phoenix.
Eventually, tired from walking and finding all restaurants closed for weddings (alas, the scourge of all port towns), we take refuge in the Cafe' de la Presse on Nihon Oodori. The press is quiet, and the sound of heels on wood parquet brings a hint of nostalgia. A very bistro lunch (main, salad, bread) rejeuvenates us, as we watch an omiai meeting unfolding (successfully, it seems) at a nearby table.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Runner's High

Every once in a while, amidst the usual series of runs that range from the quite good to the downright awful, you get a glimpse of perfection.

One of those rare runs that remind you exactly why you lace up, despite the cold, despite the hour, despite the fact that all you feel like doing is curling up in a futon and getting scantily clad Oguri Shun look-alikes to bring you endless cups of Earl Grey tea (anyone?...oh, just me then).

These experiences sneak up on you. The first 10 minutes may feel unremarkable, if anything a bit on the sluggish side, but suddenly something else takes over. Call it what you will, the runner's high or divine grace, it is unmistakable. Your body takes control, each stride smooth, your breath quiet and regular, your thoughts Zen-like in their passing. Your feet flowing seamlessly, effortlessly, as if you could run forever and never stop, into the purple and pink ombré of the sunset.
12 kilometres, over an hour of constant forward movement, pass in an instant. You are almost afraid to stop, a little sad as the memory chips in your calves guide you back home, because you know this state of endorphin-ridden grace will have to end. And you never know when it will reoccur, no matter how you try to recreate the circumstances to catch it again. I can only imagine that the true, ultimate goal of marathon running is to experience all 42 km in this perfect state.

Through the green, tapir-shaped basin of the Tsurumi river, with the wind cooling my face and Brooks Glycerins armoring my feet, I will continue to chase it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Sunday in Motomachi

There are some days which are just radiant with simple perfection, blue skies,laughter and tea punctuating the hours instead of a clock.

Sunday started with a sudden bout of inspiration, leading me to a coffee shop two hours before the start of our date, to write and write and write. Walking past the sunset colours of my favorite hydrangeas, feeling particularly pretty thanks to my fresh, bright nails.
A lunch of sushi, my favorite umeshiso and wasabi root rolls melding across my palate. But lunch is quick, as the main event of the day is next: a walk across several of Motomachi's pocket sized parks with a friend of Matcha-kun's and (more importantly) his corgi.
 It has been far too long since I got to play with abandon with a corgi, and his owner seems thrilled that we get along and Kai obeys me so well. Of course the secret is the little bag of puppy biscuits I brought as a gift. We stop for a drink at a little bar populated with sunburned expats, Kai trying to get a sneaky sip of Guiness, to no avail.

We separate, my new friend tired out from all the excitement. Now in two, we stroll down to Ishikawacho, then the long single backstreet of Motomachi until getting to Mutekiro. The restaurant is, unsurprisingly, closed for a wedding, long swathes of unfortunately cheap looking tulle winding up the iron banisters, a pity on such a lovely Showa building. However the cafe' is open, and we step in for a pre-dinner drink. The Fauchon au lait, a strange but delicious combination of chilled milk and tea liqueur, served in a thick chilled glass, enchants so much that my companion can't help but laugh at my blissed out countenance.
Dinner is also courtesy of one of Matcha-kun's varied acquaintances. We enter Hollywood's basement, all beloved film memorabilia and dark corners. Jekyll and Hyde's food is amazing, particularly the 'secret pumpkin', and I am told the omurice is fabulous as well. I sip a Casablanca champagne cocktail, as a neighborhood cat slinks in to say hello. Perfection.