...and as yet, there's no sign of giant spiders having moved into my apartment.
I feel I need to write about this. This trip to Tokyo was different from all my previous trips; from the start I knew that I was going up there to say goodbye. No, no one's died. But it was my last opportunity to take a good chunk of vacation time and spend it slowly, savoring the moments with my dear friends.
The majority of the time- the first week or so, in fact- I spent quietly with the M's, an elderly couple who have become like grandparents to me. In the mornings (more or less) I would jog around a park in the neighborhood, and then take a couple hours after lunch to choreograph and practice the 90-minute aerobic session I've been asked to lead at the end of May. Later in the afternoon I would chat with Mrs. M, read, or study German.
As dull as some people would find such a schedule, it was a real, refreshing rest. I hope that in the weeks and months to come I will be able to return to the memories of this time for strength whenever things get too stressful.
The latter part of the vacation was brimming with activity, beginning with a few hours at the Missionaries of Charity house helping many other volunteers prepare meals for the homeless, and ending with a memorable jaunt through pelting rain and eddying puddles in the streets as I hurried 'home' for a final dinner with Mr. and Mrs. M. In between, I went to some places I'd never been before, like St. Mary Cathedral, Tokyo University, and Yoyogi Park, and to some others that I know well enough: Shinjuku, Soka, and Harajuku. And my friends were good enough to make short video messages with me that I will eventually edit together and burn to dvd.
Dear, sweet Gabrielle (as I'll call her) lives in Tokyo itself. She was the president of the piano circle when I joined it, and her fine fingers can dance through compositions that would make me dizzy long before I reached the end of the first bar. Our first stop was the Cathedral, where one wedding was just ending, and another was about to begin. Gabrielle is also a photography hobbyist, and her sense of framing and graphic composition rarely fail to inspire me. From the Waseda University area we went to wind through the uber-fashionable streets of Ginza, where unfortunately signs warning "no photographs" abound, or else where a pristinely dressed and coiffed shop assistant will approach smiling apologetically, and ask you ever so politely to refrain from taking pictures in the stairwell. Gabrielle has a practical, clerical job at a certain company in the city, but her dream and ambition is to one day manage an art gallery, and we tiptoed through a few of those, too. Although we refreshed ourselves with the best coffee and tiramisu in Ginza (if not all of Tokyo), we were a bit worn out by the time we got to BIC Camera. Still, before we knew it we had spent about three hours inside, looking at lenses, filters, bags, and attachments.
Another friend-- I'll call her Noemi-- took a train out of Ibaraki and difficult repair and recovery work at home to meet me at my closest station. We decided to go over our old stomping grounds at Dokkyo University, and she was a great sport about trekking all over the city as I retraced paths left unwalked for five years in search of memories, in order to formally lay them to rest, and of course to capture it all on camera. It absolutely wouldn't have been the same without her. We didn't spend a lot of time together as students, when she was my senior or senpai in the karate club, but since coming here to work, Noemi has been as true and solid a friend as I could hope to have, miles away. She was there to listen and to talk when I really needed it. And on top of all that she's a strong, smart, and beautiful person. After the trek around memory-city, we forged a new adventure of our own in deciding to visit Tokyo University. As we reached it, as if on cue, the rain began to pour, and so we bought an umbrella at the same Natural Lawson I'd taken some high school girls to last summer, and made our way to the red gate entrance of the University. We laughed, we took pictures, and we found ourselves locked out of a Starbucks with a tray in our (well, Noemi's) hands.
If I don't end here, I won't get to the grocery store before it closes, so, this is all for now.