Hello everyone, sorry for the brief delay.
Why haven't I been blogging? Well the short version is simply that life as a student is very different to life as a traveler, and as the latter one is constantly doing new things, going new places and has their camera on them at all times - traits conductive to bloggification, whereas as the former tales of adventuring you want to post to friends and relatives halfway across the world are rather less frequent. That and I suppose I've fallen out of the habit.
But an update, some musings, some photos and thoughts: you know how it goes.
I'm on my spring holiday and will be until April the 8th. It has been Christmas and New Years and my 20th Birthday since I last wrote here properly. Can I technically say I've not written here for a decade? I'm going to Korea for a week in a couple of weeks. I'm revising for the Japanese Level Proficiency Test (JLPT) Level 2 to sit in June, the qualification which would let me work in a lot of Japanese companies. It's all pretty good.
Things are good partly in reaction to how bad, or at least boring they were earlier this winter. Japan is known for being a society which delegates seasonal changes a lot of cultural and emotional significance. I think I talked in an earlier post a bit about Waka, the Japanese poetic form from which Haiku would eventual spring, whose subject matter mostly consists of courtiers crying because they like flowers. If I were to romanticise the situation, it was a case of tapping into these deep wells of cultural riches and finding the desolation of winter too much for this poor aristocratic soul to bare and partook in that ancient Japanese tradition of hikikomori (引き蘢り), retreat for the tragic ways of this floating world. In actuality I got lazy, found the cold too unwelcoming, and apart from some lovely big get-togethers on Christmas and New Years, wasted away my winter break in my room, missing the short hours of daylight and not even getting any work done.
Returning to school was a fair bit better, but after a few weeks of lessons it was then exam time, but the exams being neither difficult, significant, or interesting enough to justify "crunch time" or "getting my act together", nor quite easy enough to simply ignore and take as them come, they were mostly a slightly annoying time of either doing a bit of work and begrudging it, or not working and thinking I should be. Oh, apart from a 5 page report on a subject of our choosing (as long as it contained statistics) we had to write in Japanese. I naturally set myself the title "Is Japan really a conservative nation" and wrote in the best, most academic Japanese of my life, remembering the nerdy satisfaction of hard work paying off that I've not felt in too long.
But anyway, I'm on holiday now. The weather's been slowly getting better, and we had our first day of real, beautiful warmth and sun for months just today. And with the thawing of winter comes too the thawing of my soul, or something? Rather than any big adventures just yet it's more been a case of enjoying Kyoto, seeing friends and actually doing a bit of work. It's amazing how pleasant actually doing some work can be when you're A) not told what to do and B) Working in a peng Japanese cafe with a friend while eating cheesecake and drinking too much coffee.
This as far as thing's get roughly chronologically, here are some things and thoughts.
It is not the year 2010 and I am now 20. These things are related in that they both happened recently and I think the latter might have caused the former. Back in December there were a lot of naughty (ooh err)/naughties retrospectives on everything from music to politics. It's quite an interesting idea that, summing up a decade, and it says something interesting about humanities inner geek/superstition that we attribute real significance and identity to a 10 year block of time (think 'The 20s' or 'Swingin' Sixies') that by all rights should be no more significant than a car's meter going from 999 to 1,000 miles. But the interesting themes which seemed to come up in a lot of articles were the related one's of the rise of the internet and the decentralisation of our collective cultural lives. It's certainly true that you can't put a particular image to the 2000s, like hippies to the 60s, or latex and the 80s. But it is interesting that all of groups continue to live on and even grow today, where like-minded rocker-billies or Neo Nazis, or Friend's Fanatics or Furries can meet on a forum, arrange and annual conference in Norfolk and get together for some old fashioned wearing leather/racism/sarcastic setences in sarcastic voices ending in the word "NOOTTT!!!"/having sex while dressed in animal costumes. With the mainstream belonging to whichever specialist group has the plurality for 2 weeks and the sub-culture replacing culture. Apart for the consensus on the death of consensus, was the consensus that the decade was shite. Lefties talked about Iraq, and the fact that the government has less and less control over the actions of big capital and more and more control over the lives of their people. Rightys just thought there were too many Blacks and Poles about. But whether it was because teenagers were becoming out of control and drinking too much at ex-church-strip-cubs, or because teenagers were so boring and didn't know how to party like we did in the 70s, whether because we bombed two Middle Eastern countries too many or one (Iran) too few, there was a heart warming consensus that the last 10 years where shite and we're glad to move onto the next lot.
I'm sorry, but being the decade I went from a quasi-fetus at 10, to a fully functioning real-boy-human-being-adult-all-around-man-about-the-town-and-gallant-extraordinary at 20, that was /my/ ten years and I'll kindly have you leave them be. Which is to say simply that in the macro-cultural-social overview of an era, it can be easy to forget the micro, as in, the people who live through it. Whether on nor the decade was any 'good' or not is completely irrelevent where I'm standing, as it was essentially the period of time in most of my life has taken place.
Which reminds me WAAAAAAAAAAAH I'M TWENTY NOW. Allow not being a teenage. 10 years ago I was 10, in 10 years I'll be 30, I'm practically dead. Apologies to anyone over the age of 21. I SUUPOOOOSE there is the fact that every year since the age 15 has been unquantifiable and near unbelievably better than the last. But shhh, I'd never let a good opportunity for an existentialist crisis go to waste ^ ^
Wheelup, cut, next topic.
One of the reasons I think I've been finding it hard to blog is my lack of big insights into Japan. The dedicated among you might know that this is my 4th Japan Blog since I was 16, and they have all contained a similar mush of comments on Japanese culture and more straight forward travelogue. By now, all of the big, bloggable realizations about Japan that have hit me and I've wanted to share I have, or at least am so used to that I'm no longer conscious of them. Instead a lot of what I've discovered this year, and a lot of the joy of this year is in the language, little discoveries of how a word can be used in different and interesting ways, or what an element of grammar says about the thinking behind it, or some ghetto localism, things which delight the inner grammar geek in me I never knew existed but who's charm I can only share with the other people studying this language and definitely do not want to bore you guys with. That or things I pick up campaigning and working with the homeless, little tragedies or outrages, moments of connection, stories I would like to be telling but need the right level of polemic desire and thematic approach to do so.
Which brings me to two things, the first being that yes, I'm still campaigning, every week when possible and it's just about the one thing (outside school) I've ever done this long without wanting to give up or slack off on. The second is that I'm pretty sure I'm loosing the ability to speak English. Hanging around other British Japanese Studies students when not with Japanese friends, we can all speak a nice Japlish, weaving in and out of the two languages and realising that there are some things Japanese can say with the exact perfect nuance, with the right sounds, so clearly, which are difficult or non-existent in English and vice-versa. But when it comes to this blog, or writing messages to my friends I find that unlike in Japanese, where the equivalent terms are casual and easy to use, you can't just drop a "from here on", or "by all means", or "in this manner" into an English sentence, can you?
Anway, that's words, here are some pictures.
Woah, actually, here are over 70 pictures o___o
I've been mostly eating good food:
(TINY EXPENSIVE COFFEE)
In good cafes:
And these cafes are in some cities:
(This is a playground inside a temple)
But sometimes in Kyoto there is nature:
(That's the Kyoto International Conference Center, where the Kyoto Protocol was signed and saved humanity from it's own grievous indulgences... ish)
And sometimes there are night times:
(Though sometimes at night time Kansai comedian's are stripped and thrown into rooftop jacuzzis)
And sometimes there are silly pictures of me:
And sometimes there are miscellaneous:
And that's about it. See you next time, hopefully a bit sooner~