A blog back in bloom

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Here we are again folks – a heart-felt konbanwa to you all!

A little under a week ago, I was safely buckled in, fed, watered and treated to some quality on-flight entertainment by my good friends at KLM (Fantastic Beasts, Manchester By The Sea AND several episodes of French-Canadian Grand Designs – marvellous!) before a smooth touchdown at Narita airport, Tokyo. And true to form, Japan has wasted no time in simultaneously whipping me up into its automatised frenzy and drugging me into docile, wide-eyed reverence for its natural beauty. Man it’s good to be back.

My arrival has happily coincided with the highlight of the Japanese calendar that is hanami – cherry blossoms are beginning to erupt all around us, filling parks, pavements and private gardens with the first bursts of babiest pink. The effect on me is one of gentle optimism, a signal to tentatively raise our heads after months of bowing against the winter cold, to shed a layer or two and dare to dream of the warmth to come… The less poetic side of me also notes the boost this seasonal wonder must be giving Japanese business; every advert, billboard and flyer has taken on a pinky hue, petal motifs plastered over every available space… Plus the aforementioned raising of the head thing may not be quite literal, given the fact that at least 95% of the people I pass are staring unblinkingly down at their phones. The extent of tech obsession here far surpasses that of the UK, and I am beginning to find it genuinely disconcerting… but I digress. Let’s hope the phone fanatics manage at least one or two glimpses of the sakura anyway!

In non-hanami-related news, the first week back has been largely successful, and certainly not uneventful. The fun kicked off in the airport arrivals lounge, where I emerged bleary-eyed to be accosted by a small film crew (“Smiiiile – you’re on Japanese TV!!! Welcome to Japaaaaaan!!!”) Didn’t ask which channel my no doubt ridiculous interview went out on. Probably for the best. This was followed by navigating my way through a maze of paper work down at city hall, greatly facilitated by an army of smiling, hyper-efficient bureaucrats who managed to make watching the whole process comparable to going to the ballet. Only the Japanese could turn filing into an art form. Even my attempts at clarification in woeful Japanese didn’t throw them off! All that was left was to unload some key items from home at my new pad (see below essentials), attend a pre-term training session and bob on down to few social engagements…

The Holy Trinity

Sakura Saturday in Toneri Park. A student from last term honoured me with an invitation to his cherry blossom BBQ, an annual tradition observed by families up and down the country which involves parking up for a day under the trees to let the kids loose, admire the blossoms and cook unbelievable amounts of food (seriously, we arrived at 10am and left at 4pm, and some combination of prepping, grilling and munching was in evidence at all times). The weather wasn’t especially kind, and the blossoms were not quite ready to give us the full show, but the excellent company more than made up for nature’s shortcomings. I spent six happy hours prepping takoyaki (squid/veg/cheese/wheat balls) with Ryotaro’s wife and friends, chucking skewer after meat/veg/marshmallow-laden skewer over the grill, experimenting with newly-acquired Japanese cookery vocab (language learners take note: go and do some communal cooking with some TL speakers – works wonders!) and getting thrashed at Nintendo tennis by Ryotaro’s son. Simply wonderful.

Chidorigafuchi. The clouds and rain had thankfully sodded off by Sunday, so fellow teacher Amanda and I decided to head for a cherry blossom hot spot beside Tokyo’s Imperial Palace moat. Chidorigafuchi really is rather stunning – or at least will be when the trees stop being coy and start really putting their best frocks on for us! Premature though our viewing visit was, it was still an excellent opportunity to amble along the waterside, exchanging impressions and anecdotes of our respective stints in Japan, bemoaning the sad current state of our countries’ politics and anticipating the months ahead…

Coming up this week:

  • convincing lecture theatres of prospective students that learning English is fabulous;
  • practising what I preach by doing some much needed language-honing at some Japanese/French/English conversation exchanges (on a language binge and bloody LOVING it!);
  • reuniting with the lovely Yasuko and Kako who I met last semester (tragically sans my best bud Alaina – MISS YOU niña mia!)

I’ll leave you with a hilariously apocalyptic mis-translation I came across while doing lesson prep in the office… I HAVE BEEN WARNED.

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Have a beautiful week everyone!

Trina x x x x x

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