Skip to main content

A Random Conglomerate of Things

This past few days there's been no clear narrative of what's going on--just a bunch of separate yet interesting events (including one that's sending my family and I on a semi historical quest!).

On Sunday (which was, all-in-all a very chill day) my host father had a choir concert. There were several groups that were singing (I think) a variety of nostalgic Japanese folk songs, mostly about the seasons or foods--one was about bananas, for instance. My host dad was part of the final, culminating song where 100 people were singing a song series called "furusatou four seasons" which was a huge medley of seasonal songs. There was piano and percussion accompaniment, mimicking the sounds of the wind, or snow, or falling leaves etc.

The whole group!

My host dad is in the front row, fifth from the right (to the left of the guy sitting down).

Then on Monday I received a very interesting letter. A woman named Yoshiko Flershem, age 95, saw that I was from Chicago in the newspaper. She wrote me a letter telling me that her husband was American and that in her possession since his death were some letters from his grandparents (I think--her letter was very hard to decipher) that dated back to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. She also requested that we track down the family grave (there's one in Buffalo, NY that my parents were able to find online, but after calling her today I think she meant another grave--maybe that of the grandparent's children? It's unclear.) and send her a photograph. I was able to find the one name she gave me--Lem W. Flershem-- in a 1905 edition of the Chicago Tribune, where he was mentioned in tandem with the marriage of his daughter, at Fourth Presbyterian Church. Coincidentally I went to preschool there for several years, so I have reached out to see if the church has any other records about the family. Hopefully after reading the historical letters I'll get back in contact with Mrs. Flershem and see if I can meet her to wrangle out some more concrete details. Either way it's a fascinating coincidence and a really sweet look into Chicago's history.

To top off the week (and I'm almost done with my week because from Thursday-Tuesday I am officially on my mid-summer break and am going on a weekend trip to Hiroshima!) today I did two interesting things.

The first was a (brief) stint at calligraphy with a very unique brush: the brush (including the bristles) is made of bamboo. The bamboo is halved and hollowed out, and then one end of it is basically sliced up into very fine chunks that acts as a brush. We were allowed to use some samples to try our hand at calligraphy so I wrote two characters, bird and dream. It's much different than a "regular" brush because the ink flows more irregularly.

After I finished, the lady at the shop says that based off how I wrote these characters, my personality is very 大胆 (daitan) which means "bold, daring, and audacious".

Finally (and perhaps most excitingly) today I went to an indoor rock-climbing gym with Nick (and coincidentally another Yale PII student named Jake who is actually a super rock-climbing pro was also there).

(It says: Kanazawa Climbing Wall)

There's no harnesses, so thank goodness the floors are covered with thick padded blocks. It's hard to see in this photo, but next to each grip is a piece of colored tape (or tape with a mark on it) distinguishing how difficult it is. Pink is the easiest and then yellow, then blue etcetc. down to brown and black. I mostly stuck to pink and yellow runs. It's amazing how tired your forearms get! It's frustrating because just as you start getting into the swing of things your arms get exhausted and start to give so runs that you could do earlier get progressively more difficult...I even got a couple rips in my hand which made using soap and shampoo this evening a stinging experience.

There's the guy who actually knows what he's doing--I swear he's half spider.

And here's a video of me scaling (rather well, if I may say so!) a yellow run:

Can't wait to go back (once my hands heal, though...)!


Popular posts from this blog

Taking a Breather

Sometimes when you're in Tokyo, as wonderful as its bustling atmosphere is, you just want to forget you're in the middle of Tokyo.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a guy from Sweden who regularly came to Japan on business and he said that despite how much he loved Tokyo he could never live here because of the lack of green space. Tokyo has its parks, of course, like all major cities, but if you want unspoiled greenery you have to be willing to head at least forty minutes outside of the sprawling metropolis limits. In winter this desire to surround oneself with greenery might not matter as much, but now that spring is seeping into the atmosphere and the upcoming sakura season is on everyone's mind (NHK even puts out an annual "forecast" for sakura!) the neon lights and concrete jungle start to feel a little oppressive.

That's when little hideaways like the Sato Sakura Museum and Kohmeisen come in handy.

The Sato Sakura Museum is a small museum in Nakameguro…

Short Hair, Don't Care: Model Behavior

I like to think I have a wide range of accomplishments under my belt:

Accidentally over-caffeinated myself conducting ethnographic research--check
Read 3+ books in a single day--check
Never (yet) pulled an all-nighter--check
Sung at Carnegie Hall--check
Published a poem--check

But now I can add a decidedly interesting item to that list:
Been a hair model in Japan--CHECK.

It's a bit of a long story.

It all starts with coffee, actually, like many of my adventures here in Japan do. I was checking out a coffee shop in the too, too cool area of Daikanyama (no, seriously, that entire neighborhood is just Too Cool for me, I don't even know why I was there). There I met stylist Yusuke, who asked if I wanted to appear in a PR photoshoot for the opening of his salon brand's newest branch, boy Tokyo, Harajuku. They're (wisely!) making a site to appeal to foreign clientele--it's a smart move because it's really hard to find a place that has stylists who truly are comfortab…

Feeling a Bit Blue

It astounds me that it's already the end of August. Time has seemed to pass in a bit of a blur: one hot, sticky mess of 100-degree days and only mildly more bearable evenings. I was also fortunate to visit the U.S. for a week (not Chicago I'm afraid, but Wheeling, West Virginia and then San Francisco) for a family reunion. It was lovely to see all the aunts, uncles, and cousins who I hadn't seen in person for several months, if not years. But given the short visit I essentially spent two weeks with my body clock completely confused about what time zone it was supposed to be in.  However, I'm now I'm back in Japan for the near future and have essentially settled back in to my usual rhythm of life. 
This past weekend I decided to engage with my arts-and-crafts side. The summer of 2009, when I first visited Japan, I was lucky enough to try my hand at aizome (indigo dying) in Kyoto. Recently I had a hankering to try it again, and e-stumbled upon a shop in Asakusa call…