my oh-so-normal life

Location: California, United States

There are no random acts. We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind. (the five people you meet in heaven)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Daily Commute
I cut through this shopping center to get to work when it's cold, windy, or rainy.
Dog Mind. The cafe/restaurant that's attached allows pooches.
Yes, a Western shop in Osaka. And the other day I saw a punk inside looking to purchase some cowboy boots....

Crystal Tower
Crystal Tower seen from another building down the block.

In this one, you can see Osaka castle to the left.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Flurries of Mother Nature's Fury*
Yes, snow in Osaka on March 13th. 3月13日に大阪では雪。

*Try saying that if you're Japanese.... Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Country Western Ramen

Where else but Japan can you find a country-western ramen shop complete with wooden-stump stools and country music blaring? Great atmosphere to slurp your noodles in! (And you can see that it's right next to McDonald's. How's that for irony?) Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 06, 2006

梅林・Bairin (Plum Forest)

Plum blossoms take me back to the three years I lived in Gifu (岐阜.) East of the center of town, you will find梅林公園 Bairin Koen (Plum Forest Park.) While I lived in Gifu, I would cycle to work each day, 8 km one way. I always made sure to leave a little early in late February/early March so that I could take a detour and spend a few minutes lingering in the Plum Forest Park, one of my favorite places in the city.

I was delighted to find a similar grove of plum trees in Osaka near Osaka Castle (大阪城.) If you cross the first moat onto the lower portion of the castle grounds, you will find a large Plum Forest (梅林.) I had thought that the blossoms would already be out in full force by mid-February, but as February rolled into March, I was still waiting for the spectacular sight.
Everyone knows that Japan is famous for its cherry blossoms and the お花見 (O-Hanami, parties to sit and drink under the cherry blossoms.) However, given the choice, I will always pick the plum blossoms. While cherry blossoms are a light pink (薄いピンク), plum blossoms come in a variety of colors, ranging from white to light pink to magenta. I love the colors, but, really, it’s the scent that gets me. I have a very keen sense of smell, and as I approach a grove of plum trees, the smell often overpowers me. It is absolutely delicious. This is one of the best things about this time of year in Japan. Unfortunately, it’s too cold now to sit out under the plum trees and enjoy them like the cherry blossoms in late March/early April.

The other night, I had dinner in a sushi bar and was chatting with the chef. When I told him that I would be in Osaka until May, he told me that there are a lot of cherry trees around Osaka castle and that it’s very beautiful. When I told him that I preferred the plum blossoms, he told me that the smell of plum blossoms was extravagant. I have to agree.

The pseudo-intellectual in me always thinks about Vincent van Gogh’s Flowering Plum Tree and Ando Hiroshige’s Kameido Ume Garden whenever I see the plum trees. Or, maybe it’s really the pseudo-alcoholic who thinks of 梅酒 (ume-shuu—plum alcohol)?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

White Girl in Japan・日本にいる白人女性

Sometimes I just wonder. About me. About other people. This morning I went over to the Plum Forest near Osaka Castle to see how many were in bloom and then headed to breakfast with my laminated coupon when I got back to the hotel. When I was being seated, the woman told me that there were only seats in the middle of the restaurant. I asked if there were really nothing on the side, and she said she would find a table to clean up. I told her that I would be happy to wait.

So, I go back to the entrance to wait. Along comes a Japanese couple who are told that they need to wait in line (since they are trying to enter via the exit.) They come over by me, and since I’m the white chick, they both say, “Good morning.” I bow my head a bit but don’t quite know what to do or say. That conflicted feeling back again.

The woman who was seating me comes back and is telling me that she has a spot, it’s not next to the window, but is that okay? (All in Japanese. After all, they know me at the restaurant.) The couple behind me starts some low, embarrassed laughter. The woman returns once again, apologizes for keeping me waiting, and I am finally taken to me seat. I am left wondering what I should have done. I feel strange about the whole situation but haven’t figured out how to remedy those feelings or how to address this type of situation when it happens. Wavering between laughter and embarrassment.