Springtime Tokyo, je t’aime!

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In the absence of any Easter tradition here (unless you count the bizarre glazed popcorn eggs being doled out in Harajuku this weekend), I shall start by sending everyone the happiest and bounciest of springtime wishes from the East! The air feels alive with optimism and productivity, which I am hoping wafts its way across the internet to anybody in need of a boost – at the risk of being obnoxious, there’s plenty to go round 😀

 

Last of the sakura. By mid-week last week, blossom season had reached its zenith in a fit of fairy-tale frilliness, transforming some of the university campuses I visited into snowy, petal-drenched wonderlands. The stand-out winner in the sakura stakes was Tokyo University of Science at Noda, which treated me to perhaps the most blissful lunch break of my life. I am finding it difficult to capture the sublime contentment of sitting in the grounds beneath a cerulean sky, feeling the soft spring rays on my cheeks and watching the petals flutter gently around me. Just glorious.

The weekend provided a last opportunity to enjoy this seasonal sensation with a night-time visit to the illuminations at Roppongi with Mayu, and a saunter through Yoyogi and Shinjuku with Amanda. Extraordinarily, the blossoms had all but vanished a few days later, apparently giving summer its cue to get to work with an insane temp leap to 26 degrees! As Mayu told me in her ineffably succinct Japanese way: “I think that is why we love the sakura so much; they are beautiful because they are gone so soon.”

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Tokyo, je t’aime. Once relegated to the periphery of my mind, the French language is fast nudging its way to centre-stage, and it is WONDERFUL. Daily I enjoy an immensely soothing sensation of half-forgotten knowledge trickling back through the cracks of my brain, revitalising a once stagnant linguistic pond and rippling out into new reflections on my language learning strategies. I cannot stress enough the true value of large amounts of genuinely enjoyable input within the learning process. For me, this has included watching Jean-Luc Mélenchon give Corbyn a top-notch lesson in left-wing leadership (and he could no doubt do with the extra tuition given the snap election announcement!) in the race for Président de la République, chatting with new contacts in Toulouse and La Réunion, plotting out my diary with French conversation exchanges in Tokyo and devouring some cracking French travel writing (Aurélie Conti’s Une nuit au mont Fuji has proved both entertaining and apt!)

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Trying to master a language without sizeable doses of said input is comparable to trying to get through the working day without eating – it becomes a case of staggering forward, surviving rather than delighting in the day’s activities, forgetting the joy of it all and probably building up a good deal of stress and resentment instead. Indeed, I feel I am sitting back and enjoying this language in a way that I have not allowed myself to do in a very long time (have I ever, even?!?). Incredible really. Years of box-ticking and hoop-jumping will do that to you I guess.

The stars truly aligned over this French-flavoured period yesterday, when the teacher of my new yoga class in Shibuya turned out to be a sparkly-eyed Parisian named Virginie, with whom I spent a happy half-hour post-class nattering about our respective yogic practice and language exploits. Her delight at the opportunity to speak in her native tongue fuelled my delight in speaking it, and whether due to the bubbly exchange or the intense sequence of stretches within Virginie’s routine, I left with a profound sense of lightness and rightness with the world.

Later on, I met Mayu at a super kawaii Keralan restaurant near Kamiyacho, ending the spice-stuffed evening with a visit to Tokyo Tower. Not only does the landmark afford those who ascend superb views over this magnificently bonkers city, but it is also an unabashed copy of the Eiffel Tower. How’s THAT for neat synchronism?!

 

With sample lessons out the way and the new semester on the horizon, I’ll be filling the intervening time with more language loving (both of the French and Japanese variety I hope), writing and a jaunt down to the Izu Peninsula at the weekend! Before that, however, I face my next linguistic challenge: my first JAPANESE HAIRCUT. Some of you will be aware of my unfortunate track record with dodgy hair-dos, but the vocab is prepared and I fully intend to do as much monitoring and wild gesticulating as is necessary, so I am confident! If I stop taking video Skype calls and posting photos in which I appear, you’ll know it didn’t go well.

Leaving you with some shots from the week, mes chers. I’m brimming with new observations but don’t want to cram it all in the same post, so stay tuned for those 🙂

Love and light to one and all! Have yourselves a smashing week.

Trina x x x x x

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