We are coming to the end of Golden Week, the week when Japan incongruously has major public holidays on the last Friday in April and then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the first week of May, leaving everyone to work, or, in our case, go to school, on Monday and Friday.
Japan, unlike Southern California, is a land of seasons. Two months ago, when we got here, the cold was quite sharp, relieved only by the arrival of cherry blossoms in late March. Now, it’s May and the weather is pleasant indeed. The rainy season and the beginnings of a hot and humid Tokyo summer await us next month, but for now, we are happily venturing out without sweaters, umbrellas or Uniqlos .
We have used some of our time off to catch up with our studies – the Naganuma School isn’t kidding when it calls our course “intensive”. But we have also had a few outings into this city of contrasts.
Saturday, we paid a visit to the Riviera Sports Club, where we swam laps in a pool that looked like the set of Scarlett Johansson’s swim on Lost in Translation. (That actually took place at the Tokyo Park Hyatt.) Here is the sign at the entrance. Most of it is in Katakana, the syllabic alphabet with which foreign loan words are adapted into Japanese. We have added transliterations – remember, these all started out as real English words. See if you can guess what they mean! At the end of this post, we have added a version with actual translations.
OK, on to other activities.
On Sunday, we went for a walk in Aoyama that began with a close-up view of political protest, Japanese-style.
On Thursday, we were lucky enough to be invited to a tea ceremony, conducted by a renowned tea master (or mistress, I suppose). One of the staff at our school happens to be a friend of the tea master and asked us to accompany her to the ceremony, which took place at the at the Tokyo National Museum of Art, Tokyo’s equivalent to the Met or the National Gallery of London (or LACMA!). This was quite an honor and so we donned our Thursday best and zoomed across central Tokyo on the Ginza line to Ueno Park, scene of some of our more spectacular cherry blossom viewings six weeks before.
Tokyo National Museum: Fountains and Haniwa – Kofun period clay figurines from the 6th century placed on top of tombs.
Ueno Park – late March – early May.
Children’s Day is celebrated this week and there was a Book Fair in Ueno Park which showed us that children’s books are a thriving business. So many wonderful and beautifully illustrated books! Michael is now reading his favorite Babar, in hiragana.
Here are some random things from our life: our local flower stall; our low maintenance garden; vending machines: is this meal hot or just casually cold?; slippers provided whilst shoes are mended; how to time the tea infusion; poster for a great exhibition of 19th century woodblock prints, we spent hours there (loan from the MFA, Boston).
And the maple leaves are out; the trio of my no-English, fabulous hairdressers; how much more traditional than a Japanese lantern?
And finally, here is the Riviera Sports Club sign, translated.