Ohgoodgrief, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Spring Break ended for me, and I’ve been swamped with papers to grade. My daughter’s graduation calendar has an item in nearly every square for May (I’ve volunteered to work at the Senior Breakfast–the last brushes with these kids before they all scatter for colleges…sigh), and my son just got back from a football scouting camp where he placed fourth overall over hundreds of kids AND he’s running two events in the CIF Track Finals in Carpenteria in a couple of weeks. Reports on Student Learning Outcomes are due at school; I’m putting (well, putting-off putting) together a Film & Literature class online for the Fall semester; my daughter and I booked a flight and room to Pennsylvania for her orientation and registration the first week of June.
It’s been a busy time.
But the walk is never far from my thoughts.
So how’m I doing with the Japanese lessons. Uhm…I get distracted. I may have to just take a class with deadlines and directions. I should be spending more time learning useful phrases: “Where is the bathroom?” “Help me I’m hopelessly lost!”–that sort of thing, but I get enamored of less practical words and phrases. I’m tickled by pipuru and shinboru (people and symbol) and other Japanized American words, and I become fascinated with glimmers of recognition (Hinokage, the town, means “shadow of the sun,” and in that I can see the root of the film title Kagemusha, “shadow warrior”). I really need to invoke the Nintendo DS Japanese tutor more. We’re at a year an ticking, and that’s NOT a huge amount of time.
I’m reading snippets of Alan Booth’s Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan, and I love it. In the second section he is following the path of general and samurai Saigo Takamori, and he’s finding himself in some very small, near-inaccessible places. Yes, he does show some of the darker elements of Japan (he’s particularly upset that the move to the cities has left much of the countryside chopped up, industrialized, cemented over with highways, deserted), but he also shares touching moments. In Hinokage, for example, one man spent some time encouraging the author to settle down in the town. He was treated royally in a local bar (not as an odd gaijin but just because the people were friendly and respected the effort he was making to follow Saigo’s tracks) and sent with glowing testimonials to a local ryokan where, after he thinks of songs praising Hinokage’s beauty, homeyness, and charming name, the following exchange with the proprietor took place:
“It’s nice to be staying in a town with a name like that.”
“It’s nice for the town that you’re staying in it….”
As for walking, I’m doing some, though I’m not on the tight regimen I need to work up to yet. Just yesterday I walked about 5k to pick up my daughter’s car from the service station. It was early (about 10 a.m.), but it was unseasonably hot and a bit muggy, and I remember my student saying that in Summer Japan is VERY hot and muggy. Booth is walking (at this point of his book) in August, and it’s uncomfortably hot and tiring for him in spots; he sings great praise for occasional breezes and patches of shade (and stretches of river to jump into). The heat, as I walked to the Honda shop, reflected off the pavement, off retaining walls. And I found that I was relieved with every circle of tree shade I found. The landscape was suburban Santa Monica, 40’s tract homes, contemporary multi-units, a freeway overpass, several for-lease store-and-business fronts. It’s much like I imagine I’ll be passing through on a lot of the Tokaido hike (though there are also the rural, forested, sea-view, mountain passes, reconstructed edo villages). But here’s my point (there was a point), walking on the reflective concrete in the heat was HARD.
Finals are coming soon; I’ll have a little more free time, and I’m just going to have to step things up.