Ordinary Chronicles

Well it’s been a hugely long hiatus this time since my previous post… Maybe something encroaching on 5 months. I guess I have a combination of excuses to defend myself this time, but primarily the fact that my 7 year old laptop finally broke on me back in August, putting me out of commission on blogging for a few months until I acquired this shiny new one a little while ago. I guess the pause has been so enormous at this point that I’m probably obligated to give a bit of update on my current goings on. Well not much has really altered in the past few months to put me in a different situation than I was earlier. I’m still living in Tokyo, generally happily, and teaching English at my same school, at least for now. Actually, to that end, I have a rather burdensome decision weighing on me this week. That is, whether or not to renew my teaching contract, which would sign me to my current school until July 2017, a time so immaterially far-distant as to make it seem ludicrous that I could even have the power to affect an agreement that would obligate such a non-existent future version of myself.

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Live video DJing/art performance in downtown Tokyo

Maybe this is evident already from the flow of this introduction, but I think I’m going to change the style of these posts a bit. Up until now, each post has chronicled a particular event, trip, or theme of my Tokyo life. And while that definitely supplies a more orderly framework for writing about my life, since my life isn’t really a collection of colorful short stories, to create a more genuine experience for my reader, from here forward my posts will not be so singularly thematic, or I might even say reader-friendly, but will rather flow and ebb over a rush of themes and insights, only connected through my own disorderly experience of them. But at least one thing I can maybe promise from this new arrangement is a more regular schedule of posting. Not that I really want to commit myself to anything so definite, but I guess my idealized aim for this blog for awhile has been weekly posts…

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Bike path to school – West Tokyo

 

One reason I have for moving off of this short-story blogging approach is that it doesn’t really give me room to post about the seemingly mundane events of my Tokyo life. And even though my mind often hearkens back to sipping coffee on the porcelain-white porch of Papa’s Island Resort cafe, looking out at crystalline Ogasawara beaches across the road, and even though every time I drink a Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha (okay yes too many of my recollections are coffee-related), I’m inexplicably, almost tearfully reminded of excitedly pouring over a map of Hokkaido with my friend, looking up the trains that could take us deep into the northern stretches of the wintery island, it’s really not this small handful of wonderful, isolated memories that explain my love for Tokyo and Japan.

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Last Wednesday I returned to Tokyo after a 2 week holiday back in the states. After 2 weeks of binge tv-watching and American food-eating, returning to both of my suitcases being left in Beijing by the crooks at Air China, a broken phone, a day and a half of jetlag, followed by 2 days of work, was not exactly the joyful return I had hoped for. So on Sunday, with no plans, many of my friends still out of the country, and the temperature a spotlessly sunny 55 degrees, I decided to do something I had been wanting to do for awhile– aimless bike exploration of Tokyo. Back in August, one of my good friends left Tokyo to return to Germany, leaving behind for me her awesome Mamachari bike. It’s a pretty standard bike with no gears and a giant wire basket in front, which is usually filled to the rim with groceries, my gym bag, my laptop, and whatever else can be stuffed beneath the blue and white cushion that was somewhat inexplicably left with the bike, and which I haven’t been able to throw away.

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Cafe I stumbled across mid-bike ride in Setagaya, Tokyo

 

 

 

 

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On this occasion, the basket was empty (excepting the cushion, of course, and my earmuffs), and I took off at a direction exactly opposite to my course to school. From there, I continued my weaving, aimless way, sometimes directing my course behind the drift of knowledgeable-looking middle-aged Japanese bikers, sometimes cutting abruptly back over my path to turn down a lane that struck my attention just as I passed it, but more often just guiding myself carelessly, objectlessly around the domestic snakes and turns. One thing that never ceases to amaze me about Tokyo is that, even within a 20-minute bike ride, you run through an incredible variety of neighborhoods, as though a few stretches of city blocks were snatched up from different countries all over the world and dropped soundlessly in front of the biker one by one before seamlessly dissolving into the next piece. I rode through rows of tiny wooden houses with modest Japanese gardens out front, down wide boulevards flanked by imposing university buildings, cut through grassy parks and pebbly dusty parks alike, and winded beneath underpasses and along barren little rivers. And as I biked through these mini-cities I found myself peering intently into the faces of the Japanese couples, families, loners, pretty girls, lonely girls, awkward boys, gangs of friends, and squealing children that I passed. And for awhile I couldn’t explain the queer but intense elation running through me as I went sailing along. And, groundless though this seemed to me even at the time, I realized I wouldn’t be able to feel this deep, almost magical fascination if I were biking through unknown territories in New York, or anywhere in America for that matter. And then, as I drank in all the constantly shifting unfamiliar landscapes and imparted quick narratives on all the unfamiliar Japanese characters, I suddenly understood the meaning of this elation–it was the wonderful, thrilling pleasure of discovery. It seems like such a simple, almost insubstantial observation, but in all corners of this interesting country, there is an all-pervasive, yet inexpressible sensation of different. It vibrates through the air invisibily and clings to the surfaces of buildings, and draws me again and again into a thrilling infatuation.

When the sun started to go down, I parked my bike inside a large park and watched a happy group of young adult friends finish a game of baseball. Then I biked home.

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