For the second straight day in a row, the rain continues to beat against my bay window, soaking everything outside. Happily, the new apartment is so close to the Supa Tamade discount supermarket that if I were to slip out for a half-price bento, I wouldn’t even need to take an umbrella. It’s not often that we get such なごり 雨 (lingering rainfalls) here; short spats are more typical. It’s difficult to ride a bike while holding an unwieldy umbrella with one hand, and it’s difficult to read a book in the park, too, which I certainly would have done on my walk back from the internet cafe if it wasn’t so wet out. The drink would have been hot green tea and the book would have been what has become my constant companion in the past month: my Intermediate Japanese text. Two months remain until the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and while certain things have stuck for good, other types of grammar muddle in my head to form a veritable hiragana, katakana and kanji soup. I comfort myself by making clever references to 70’s Japanese pop songs in my blog titles. Surely if I can do that, I must have some sort of Japanese ability, right?
Aboko is is my third neighborhood in Japan. Though I enjoy moving as much as I enjoy walking through a toxic puff of sarariman smoke, I can’t help but feel lucky to have intimate knowledge of 3 very different parts of the city in such a short time. Abeno, my first neighborhood, was all winding lanes, stained glass lanterns and grilled sweet potato trucks puttering through the streets, heralded by their smoky smell and their drivers’ hollered calls to yams. Tsurahashi was Korea Town, an enormous labyrinth of kimchi, chijimi, pigs’ feet, Korean wedding dress, cosmetics, household goods, and faux designer clothing vendors. Hidden under the train station’s tracks, the market was a hive of activity that left me heady with excitement each time I rode my bike through; a sack of kimchi cradled in my basket like a prize. Though I really came to love the Korean Market in all of its underground Phantom of the Opera magnificence, that world was dark. Sean and I lived under the train station tracks, too, and even though there was a decent-sized neighborhood past the station perimeters, living cloaked in either total darkness or florescent light made us laconic and irritable, unwilling to explore. It has only been two days since we moved to Abiko, but already I notice that waking up to natural light has had a profoundly positive impact on my mood.
Abiko is perhaps 20 minutes south of Tsurahashi by train and 10 minutes south of Abeno. It is a park neighborhood, radiating outwards from a giant botanical garden. The prefecture I live in is something of a wildlife-free zone and what parks do exist tend to be somewhat lacking; rich in trees and flowers but poor in grass. Sand and gravel dominate Osaka-Fu’s parks, and Sean and I tut officiously each time we pass one. The park in Abiko is no exception, but its massive size, lakes, tea houses and zen gardens have convinced us to give it a cautious A minus. The park dominates the area, which is otherwise chock full of amenities. My walk yesterday took me to several large supermarkets, a gym, an internet cafe, a shoe repair shop, tailors, and loads of tasty-looking new restaurants to try. Abeno and Tsurahashi were residential neighborhoods but the feeling here is young and, perhaps because of the trees, relaxed. I find myself with a new spring in my step as I take care of the annoying administrative duties that come with moving to a new ward in Japan: registering with the ward office, filling out a mail forwarding form, and updating my health insurance. All this lingering rain has made the fall air fresh and I can already feel the yakiniku smoke clearing from my head. I’m envisioning my bay window garden full grown and I’m seeing stories, posts, novel chapters, and articles.
Sean will be back from work soon, his tie rumpled and his heart filled with darkness towards unappreciative children. We’ve made plans to head out for an evening nosh; I’m thinking the dimly lit, rice barrel-flanked izakaya on the corner. Since we’ve lived together, Sean and I have become a team of sorts: Sean, who hates people, lets me deal with personalities like salespeople, landlords and bill collectors while I, who have about as much common sense as a teenage celebrity, let the ever-logical Irishman take care of … anything that requires brains. In short, I meet with landlords and Sean reads the contracts. I buy the new knives and Sean puts them away because we both know that, left to my own devices, I’d hang them from the ceiling with dental floss because they looked “cool” that way. How I’ve managed to live for so long is a mystery to me.