Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Day 89 2016: We interrupt the cherry blossoms show...

Day 89: ...to bring a touch of tulips

Funny how all those boxes (all fourteen of them) that seemed to take so long to pack up over January/February, just happened to empty themselves today over about four hours or so. All the books, research materials and clothes, out and variously on shelves, in piles or waiting to be brought home (that would be the clothes). 

Of course, it might have taken a little less time if I didn't keep pausing to look at the view, for effect. It almost makes up for Moffat Beach. Almost. And I've always been of the view that if you have an excellent view, don't waste it...

I did pop out at one point to get some lunch, take a small break and get my bearings around the new work area. Actually, who am I kidding. Yes, I did go for lunch but really, it was to take a sneak peek at the tulips which look like they'll be ready well and truly for their April festival debut. 

Very nice.


With these little ones for effect



Just a small crowd

Yellow in the lead

And just in case you're missing them, there are a couple or three cherry blossoms around as well...

A lovely blue sky afternoon

Wait for the weekend, that will be the big blossom time, at least, that's the plan. Tomorrow, there is still just a little more unpacking to do. How exciting it is to have the office taking shape.

[Camera : Canon EOS60D, 28-80mm, 1.55pm-2.01pm, 29 March 2016]

Day 88 2016: Head in the clouds...

Day 88: ...well, comparatively

You see, today just went like clockwork, from start to finish, from getting to the bank on time and getting the account sorted and then on to the campus to hand in all the paperwork, signed sealed (literally) and delivered. 

Even better, all the boxes were stacked in my office, and although I can't have the key until Friday, my official day one, I am allowed to come in over the next three days and unpack the boxes and put everything in its place...well, more or less.

It also meant I could bring home the suitcase and a few extra woolly clothes which have been sorely needed during this unanticipated cold snap. 

Home to head off to a wonderful little bar up the road because everyone had had a good day. 

Even the sunset clouds had a particular appeal about them this evening that I haven't seen of late...

A touch of sun

A scattering of clouds

And just a minute later

...but then, that just might be because my head was a little more in the clouds than usual.

[Camera : Canon EOS60D, 28-80mm, 5.44pm-5.45pm, 28 March 2016]

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Day 87 2016: Sometimes posts need no words...

Day 87: ...OK, maybe just a couple or three

The full bloom sakura (cherry blossom) time is fast approaching. It features in the news each day. And given today is Sunday and I only had to walk to the shops to pick up my new 'seal of authenticity' (see last Thursday, Day 84...) there was not much else to do but go and check on the status of our local blooms. 

Which I did. 

...and the blooms need few words. 

They are only here for about ten days...

Tree trunk cluster bloom

Emerging blooms


Out and about

Prior to the mass blooming

Adventurous pair, right at the base of the trunk




En masse

Branching out


Except for the fact that what intrigues me is that the flowers come out in large groups, or single blossoms, or what appears to be even just out of the trunk. All shapes, all sizes, all types. 

Just perfect really. 

[Camera : Canon EOS60D, 4.15pm-4.43pm, 27 March 2016]

Day 86 2016: Normal programming...

Day 86: ...will resume shortly

Or something like that.  I very much appreciate that I am familiar enough with Tokyo so as not to be too overwhelmed by the experience of moving here to work. Still, this last week I've been over some new territory, and though not much of a problem, there were a few frustrations along the way. I have just a few more bits and pieces to attend to and then normal living, working, breathing can resume. 

Today though, I was able to get a bit of an insight into what a little bit of normal might look like in weeks and months to come. 

But first, the birds in my backyard and workplace back home have been quite a feature of this blog over the years. Here at my Tokyo home, we've taken to feeding a few apple pieces to the local birds. Now of course, I have to learn a whole new series of bird names and varieties. It was no surprise that the ones featuring here reminded me very much of the miners and mynahs back home...same kind of 'aggression' whenever other species appeared...they won.

The view from the first floor

Guarding the loot

Because camellias are pretty too

Then, in the afternoon, courtesy of a friend and colleague, he offered me a spare ticket to attend a concert by the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, playing Mahler 6. A nice venue too, Orchard Hall. It is part of a much larger arts centre called Bunkamura, which just so happened to be showing a stunning collection of ukiyoe prints, all the way from Boston. And being the woodblock tragic I am, what was I to do? I even managed to find a print with a whale on it for good measure (for research purposes of course). 

Never shy away from a program or a catalogue

Well worth seeing. Art exhibition and concert in one afternoon? It's almost beginning to feel like home. Woohoo. 

[Camera : Canon EOS60D, 28-80mm, 9.00am-9.04am; 8.55pm, 26 March 2016]

Friday, 25 March 2016

Day 85 2016: An early start...

Day 85: ...no false starts this time

Today is a bit of a continuation of yesterday. But something of a first for me nonetheless. You see, Japanese employers require a full medical check up as part of the employment process. Today was that day. We checked at the local hospital yesterday and there advice was to get here nice and early to get the process underway. 'Expect to stay for about four hours and it will cost about $300' was the advice. 

So, up bright and early to navigate the Japanese hospital system for myself. Now, I have visited friends in hospitals previously, but I've never needed to visit as a patient, here or, for that matter, in Australia (specialists rooms are another matter though). I feel pretty fortunate in that respect.

For a full health check, that means working my way around all the different departments in the order requested of the nurses, no more and no less: urology (yes, really), X-ray, hearing, seeing, weight, height, blood pressure...round and round and round we went. Folder here, number there, sit here, sit there...

Three hours later, I was done, a clean bill of health mostly...except for slightly higher than usual blood pressure which, I suggested jokingly, might be the difference between northern and southern hemisphere pressures...to a young doctor who didn't see my joke. Don't do small talk with the doctors...

All done, and for about half the estimated cost and with no major language barriers. I guess that was my main concern, this being the first time and all...achievement level doubly unlocked!

So there was little left to do except celebrate with a coffee and a stroll to check the progress of the cherry blossoms...since cherry blossoms paint a far superior picture to the inside of hospitals, wherever they might be.

Pink as white

On a stunningly clear blue sky day

In the park, admiring the beauty

Just a peek here and there

A lone bloom

And today I learned, via a TV screen during one of my interminable waiting moments, that many people confuse the cherry blossoms with almond tree blossoms, also blooming at this time of year. Fancy that. I'm pretty sure we're onto the cherries in this neighbourhood though.

[Camera : Canon EOS60D, 28-80mm, 10.55am-10.56am, 11.39am, 25 March 2016]

Day 84 2016: A false start...

Day 84: ...but with a burst to the finish line

I am presently in that interesting place where for A to happen, B must exist but B can't exist until A happens. It is all the paperwork for the new job that finds me going around in circles through nobody's fault but the bureaucratic maze...

Such was today. A trip to campus first to meet up with a professor (who, as it happens, was otherwise engaged), and I can 'sit' in my office, but can't lock the door. So I sat, and admired the view, again. 

One of the things on the list is to open a new bank account at a specified branch. I headed there, over the other side of town. OK, Tokyo is a biggish city, it was a bit of a hike. Got there to find that now even foreigners require their own 'seal' (a stamp with your name on it) to open an account. There was no budging on that point. Thirty years ago, when I did the same with a seal a friend made for me, it was judged by the bank as not sufficiently genuine to count...how times have changed. 

Home again then. Nothing quite going to plan. (Imagine, if you will dear reader*, going from say, Mt Gravatt to Logan and then over to Carseldine, all by public transport, only to go, quite literally, for the ride...) (*The dear reader being someone familiar with the Brisbane layout. Apologies to others.)

In lamenting the day thusfar, and then talking with my friends about what was left to do...well, we stepped up the game: completed three out of three necessary things with a hospital appointment tomorrow, collection of a new seal on Sunday and opening the new account on Monday.

After a rocky start, the day ended up alright. Achievements unlocked. All that was left was dinner at one of our local little pubs, then home...

It'll be alright on the night

To be reassured by the view from the window that whatever a false start might bring, there is always tomorrow, just around the corner and over the hill. We're almost there. 

[Camera : Canon EOS60D, 28-80mm, 8.52pm, 24 March 2016]

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Day 83 2016: New start...

Day 82: ...even if it is unofficial

So, my new job starts/started...hard to know really. Officially, I join the staff of my new university on 1 April but I've been writing course outlines since January, and exchanged many emails as well. Today I was able to go and visit, even if just a little early, because, today my new office was available for me to see (but I don't get the key until 1 April...but I can still visit). 

So I got to have lunch with one of the staff members I've known for a little while now and clarify a few points from yesterday's preparation of papers with some other staff. I think we are all pleased to put names to faces after so many emails. 

So, for you today, dear reader, just a few pics of the area where I will be working over the next five years...

The approach, just past the train station

A hint of cherry blossoms

And after the cherries...a tulip festival, soon (how excitement)

The university
 ...and my office: a room with a (wonderful) view of the water and the working area of Tokyo Bay.

Room with a (tenth floor) view

I can hardly wait until I start, 'officially'...

[Camera : iPad Air, 10.45am-10.56am, 12.28pm, 23 March 2016]

Day 82 2016: Take the long way home...

Day 82: ...by the light of the moon

A day today to work mostly inside, reading through all the papers for the new job ready for when I visit the office tomorrow. The usual material for new academic staff: the do-s and don't-s (and in this era of academic freedom, more don't-s), the course schedule, banking details, transport costs...all the things. 

And then later in the day I went to catch up with a friend and colleague downtown. 

It meant a bit of a late return home, and of course, learning something new: while I had managed the bus from home to the station, I hadn't yet had to get from the station to home by bus...that took a little working out. 

Eventually I got on the right bus and arrived at my stop next to this park...

Branch out


Eat the moon

...a children's playground in fact, but, given the sight of the sculpture by the light of the moon...I'm not sure it's a place kids would play at night...even by the light of the full moon.

[Camera : Canon EOS60D, 28-80mm, 7.32pm-7.33pm, 22 March 2016]

Monday, 21 March 2016

Day 81 2016: It is official!

Day 81: ...the first sakura have bloomed

Yes, dear reader, the blooming of the cherry blossoms is taken so seriously here that regardless of what I've seen in my neighbourhood the last few days, the blossoms received the official nod today. 

In a ritual that attracts sightseers and much media, the sakura season in Tokyo is officially declared open when a particular tree at perhaps Tokyo's, if not Japan's, most controversial shrine, the Yasukuni Shrine, comes into bloom. And that's just the start, the 'height of the blooming' is not anticipated for another week or so.

So, to recognise this moment dear reader, I went to a little neighbourhood park to see what the locals had to say...

Classic pose

Reaching for the sky

Not quite ready

Already over it

Not quite sure

A picture

This lasts about ten days or so. Sakura in full bloom is a sight to be seen. Be warned, dear reader, you might have ten days of cherry blossoms in every way, shape and form ahead...

And why not!

[Camera : Canon EOS60D, 28-80mm, 4.56pm-5.01pm, 21 March 2016]

Day 80 2016: How excitement...

Day 80: ...well, for me at least

I'm actually waiting a little impatiently to get started at the new job. Although it is not officially until 1 April (yes, that is the start date of the Japanese working/academic/financial year), I can visit the campus later this week once my office has been made available. (That will be Wednesday.)

In the meantime, I'm working on a little class preparation ahead of time and to that end, ordered some texts on Friday, they came in Saturday and I picked them up today. How excitement is that? OK, perhaps just for me. 

All the texts, all the politics
 I also engaged with my first group of peace protesters at the train station (for research purposes of course) and I will try and attend a recent movie about Okinawa. It is a good way to become active in the local community (for research purposes of course). 

Saving Okinawa

We also had a visit from my friend's younger sister and out of one of the drawers, she discovered an unused Japanese housecoat (a hanten), made by her grandmother many year's ago. Makko-san insisted that Jinko would like me to have it. It is an absolute treasure, handmade and in beautiful style. I will look after this one. 

Handmade treasure

A lovely dinner at a favourite sushi restaurant (where else) and we farewelled Makko-san, and I got stuck into my books. 

I am excited. 

[Camera : Canon EOS60D, 28-80mm, 6.19pm-6.20pm, 20 March 2016]

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Day 79 2016: A walk in the park...

Day 79: ... and a hint of things to come

It is probably a bit odd to be suggesting that much of this morning was taken up with updating this blog. It's important. And I do like doing it but I don't like getting too far behind. So, we are back to square one. 

As a reward for work undertaken, I went for a stroll this afternoon. It stopped raining and the weather is just sufficiently pleasant to be out and about. 

With camera in hand (of course), I went across to my local public park. It has plenty to offer in terms of things to see and do. 

Naturally, at this time of year, we are all anticipating the cherry blossoms, 'sakura'. There are some nearby...but first, scenes from a park. 

Very tall, bare trees

The moon and some clouds

A little reflection

A lone flower

A shade of mauve

Coming back to Tokyo has been a bit of a 'walk in the park' in fact. It feels like I've never really left, still. Next week once the work starts, might be a bit different though...

And here, on the way home, a little hint of things to come: 

Just a little hint...

...of things to come

Yes, a few trees are beginning to blossom. The full deal is eagerly anticipated next week. Be aware, the next week of posts might just be all about the blossoms...

[Camera : Canon EOS60D, 28-80mm, 4.20pm-4.46pm, 19 March 2016]

*This post is dedicated to my dear friend Jinko Hashimoto, who passed away a year ago today and in whose house I am now staying. We shared many good times photographing our worlds. We all miss her terribly.  

May she rest in peace.