Sunday, June 30, 2013

Kitchens, Cars and Quiet.

Finding a quiet place to write in a small, shared, hotel room is a challenge. Thankfully this room is in the middle of Japan and not the heart of Texas because outside the early afternoon air is comforting and fresh with a tinge of humidity hinting at a warm late June day. Through the back doors of the hotel is an enclosed park with a small children's play area and several covered picnic tables. The trees surrounding the park rustle gently with the tufts of wind that play around the building and glide though the hills. Looking west I see the mountain foothills and the ridge lines layered though the summer haze of the rainy season. Sitting here, with my feet on the grass, where the ants don't bite, I have found a beautiful place to think.

We only have a few more days in this temporary lodging; a house that will bear our name is waiting for us. When the phone call came that there was a house available we immediately scheduled a walk-through to check it out. I took no photos and don't even remember seeing a refrigerator, but it is bigger than I expected and shares many features common of Michigan houses built after the Second World War. Since our housing options are incredibly limited I focused more on the intangible feel of the place rather than the fixed features outside our control. Later this week we will go through the move-in inspection where I will take some photos. Once we receive keys, drive our luggage over and set up internet access I will write more. I will actually have rooms with doors and nooks where I can claim space of my own.

I am practically counting the meals until we have a real kitchen again. A free continental breakfast is nice, but it does not make up for the almost impracticable small kitchenette in our room. With the absolute bare minimal in dishes, cookware and accessories “cooking” has only occurred when it's too rainy to walk anywhere. Fortunately we have many dining options close by but with short distance comes high price. Healthy options are difficult to find when you can't read kanji, don't speak Japanese and have point to photos on the picture menu with an open mind. (I've learned that sake and shochu labels look the same but are, in fact, two entirely different beasts.) Once I have a real kitchen at hand the adventure of finding and navigating the Japanese markets and grocery stores begins; then learning about local produce and cooking methods and how to incorporate them into our diet. I am hoping for lots of experimentation with an occasional success.

Did you notice I mentioned earlier that we will “drive” ourselves to our new house? Yesterday we bought a car, although we will not take possession of it for a couple days. There is a local used car business that caters to Americans and performs most of the required foot-work and paper-pushing involved in buying a car in Japan, a much needed and incredibly convenient service. We selected a car smaller than we would ever choose in the US but bigger than the the smallest cars here. Once we get it I'll take some photos.

Speaking in generalities, vehicles here are much different than in the US. Obviously they are smaller, Japan is only as big as California but with millions more people in less habitable space. More than that though, a striking difference is in the emotional personification of the vehicles. In the US, cars are designed to look aggressive, powerful and, frankly, mean. Looking into your rear-view mirror you are confronted with an aggravated “get-out-of-my-way” demeanor – not very comforting. Here, on the other hand, cars look upbeat, happy and friendly. When confronted with an oncoming driver on a typical narrow road you carefully squeeze to the (left) side and either let the other person pass with a friendly wave or they let you pass while you share a nod of appreciation. Pedestrians always have the right of way, whether or not a designated crosswalk exists, and vehicles almost always stop. Oh, and the friendly waves and nods occur then also. The cultural difference is blatantly obvious and very refreshing.

Our temporary kitchen.
[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

No comments:

Post a Comment