Randomata: There is a lot of randomness to the Japanese cityscape, to put it politely. It is hard to capture the helter-skelter character that seems pervasive in all urban areas; the awful colours of this picture are a meagre attempt. I recently read an article in a Japanese (English) paper lamenting the universal ugliness of Japanese cities, which lack any top-down regulations on appearance. The relatively beautiful little onsen-town of Noboribetsu had a balance of pretty and ugly sites, as did quaint little Jozankei, including one of the oversized, ubiquitious and hideous Pachinko gambling centres, complete with terrible blaring music and glaring neon lights that clash with everything around them. Every city and town I've seen so far has been a sprawl of construction that cares not one jot for a cohesive external aesthetic of any sort. With that said, please remember that I think Sapporo is a wonderful city with many, many beautiful buildings and places, not to mention the stunning natural beauty that surrounds.
This entry is a quick recount of my weekend, which may not interest you in the least. I promise I'll try to talk about more deliberative and expansive issues next post. But, if you want to hear what I sound like in a good mood, read on.
I am content and bubbly.
I had an awesome weekend, well-balanced in all the key areas, most importantly:
I FINALLY went for a hike. I've been itching and bitching to hit the hills for weeks and weeks and Saturday finally saw the fulfillment of that wish. I managed to keep the day free and tag along with some friends to hike up Kamui-Dake, just south of Sapporo and north of Jozankei. It was a 6 or 7 hour hike, with two peaks along the way. The views were spectacular; my eyes never tire of the contours of Hokkaido's volcanically and tectonically formed topography, rolling and jagged in turns.
Moreover, the dense and endless green of the forests is increasingly giving way to breath-taking reds and yellows that shout for your vision's attention. My friend said the scenery was middle of the road for what he's seen here so far. That means there is a lot more I have to get out and see.
Out of best hiking form, I hustled to keep up with my fit friends over the 14 or 15 km trek. It was worth every drop of sweat. It was worth the freezing cold wind near the summit that had froze the rivulets around us.
By the end of the day I was starting to feel the energy drain and muscle strain throughout my body. That was soon relieved. After hitch-hiking a short ride to Jozankei, we took in a lovely little rotemburo (outdoor onsen) with water at the perfect muscle-soothing temperature, picturesque landscaping, and an unobstructed view of the clear, star-filled sky. This is the primary reason I am so content this weekend.
But, balance is the key to everything, and my entire weekend was not filled with healthy and challenging treks through soul-filling nature. Friday was a fruitful (wine) and fermented (beer) evening for 'catching up with friends,' which meant Saturday's hike was done after a slight shortfall of sleep. This, in turn, meant Sunday morning was a write-off, good only for catching up on sleep. This is another reason I am so content: I took the entire morning - and then some of the afternoon - to get my beauty rest.
Everything went well this weekend. This evening, I chose a particularly friendly teller at the grocery store; he has blown me away with his friendliness before. I was so thrilled when he remembered me, seemed happy to see me, and proceeded to double check that the pasta sauce I bought was vegetarian! I think I was even able to tell him in Japanese that he's a really nice guy.
The big shop and money blow was so I could follow my parents' example and cram my fridge as full of food as possible, to enable better and more creative a diet, and preclude the annoyance of multiple trips the store. Consequently, for dinner, I made a tasty tofu dish for the first time, meaning I also worked on my personal goal of improving my abysmal cooking abilities.
Then, I studied Japanese for an hour, before corresponding with some people back home.
My spirit is elated, and my legs have been deliciously sore all day. And, incredibly, I don't mind the thought of waking up at 6:30am for work tomorrow.