steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Fun Time is Short. Please Use Effectively

This was the message on a T-shirt nightie that I saw in Don Quixote the other day. There’s nothing so very wrong with the English, but I wasn’t sure how to read it, considering that the writer almost certainly didn’t have English as a first language. Was it a humorous hint to a potential lover that they (or the wearer) might be lacking in the stamina department? Or a poignant attempt to invoke the ancient carpe diem tradition? Or a clumsy translation of some culturally opaque Japanese sentiment? I don't suppose I'll ever know.

These days, I don’t linger over outright errors in English as I used to. If you see a sign in your Airbnb bathroom saying “Please remove the hair of the ditch,” it’s easy enough to work out that it’s trying to tell you to clear the shower drain after you wash your hair, after all. More interesting are things that almost make sense but hit some grammatical or semantic wrong note. Why, for example, did I find it so amusing that a hotel toilet roll holder should exhort me (on the grounds of ecology) to “Keep using toilet paper till the end”? It sounds like a noble credo, but still.

It's striking how many T-shirts, bags, notepad covers, and so on, are full of vacuously uplifting sentiments rendered in English. "Time spent at ease helps me to relax," one bag in my possession helpfully informs me, teetering on the brink of tautology and then toppling in. Or, take this sign, spotted in Enoshima:


I stared at this for a full minute, trying to work out whether it made sense, and if so what kind. What do you think?

But I digress. Or perhaps pregress, since the digression came first. You last saw me in the northern tip of Japan, in Aomori - but 25th April found me and Mami aboard the shinkansen, in my case all the way to Tokyo and then on to Yokohama, where I was to spend a night prior to going on to Odawara. I had no other reason to visit Yokohama than the facts that I'd never been there and it was more or less on the way, but that was good enough for me. I booked myself a room overlooking the bay.

The first problem came when I got out of the taxi. My controversial suitcase, which lost the use of a wheel earlier in the trip, chose this moment to lose its handle as well. Not only that, but when I manage to schlepp it up to my room, I discovered I was also missing my camera (last seen taking a photo of my scallop bento on the shinkansen). Those were not a good ten minutes.

The camera seemed a lost cause, but at least the suitcase broke in a major city, where luggage was freely on sale. So, although I had intended to sample the decadent delights of Minatomirai, I spent most of my time in Yokohama suitcase shopping. First, though, I did take a few photos of my nice bay view, using an iPad:


and behold the same at night:


And here is the pleasant seafront Yamashita Park:


It turns out that Japanese luggage is pretty expensive. My new case cost me more than four times as much as my old one (and was by no means top of the range). This may however be an index of what a piece of junk my old one was more than anything else. And I did get the sales tax taken off, so no hard feelings. After that, an anchovy pizza and bed.

The following day was drizzly, but my hotel was really close to the Yokohama Chinatown, so I ventured that far.


I wanted to eat a meat bun, but they are apparently insanely popular with Japanese school children, and every stall had a queue like this one, rain or no:


So, I made do with meat and potatoes (じゃが芋と豚肉 to you) at a small Japanese café round the corner. I think it may have been the first time - this trip, anyway, where I've been so much in company - that I ventured solus into a place so obviously not geared to tourists, but luckily the host was kindly and my Japanese on particularly good form, and I had a lovely time talking about sakura with him.

To Odawara then I came, where I've been ever since, enjoying the company of Haruka and her mother Yuko. Although we've had plenty of little day trips I've not been keeping a daily record, in part because my camera-less state discombobulated me, iPad notwithstanding. But here are a few highlights from the last week.

Last year, Mount Fuji played hide and seek with me. Despite my being so close to it in Odawara, I couldn't get a good photograph, due to mist, cloud, etc. This time it's been less coy, and here - as a for instance - is Fuji from the roof of the house I'm staying in, and again at Enoshima, with Haruka and Yuko:

Active volcanoes for the win!!

Odawara Castle in the Rain

A Wisteria Trellis.

The Japanese word for wisteria is also fuji (different kanji), and this is something else I'd been wanting to see for a while, though I believe there are far more spectacular ones. In the UK we tend to grow wisteria up walls, which looks nice, but is a shocking waste of its dangling potential.

Disappointingly Flaccid Koinobori. We were in the precincts of a shrine, so I took the opportunity to pray for wind so that we could see the carp streamers flying for children's day (admittedly not until 5th May): no dice.

Warriors at the Odwara Festival, glimpsed through trees...


Henry Moore and Anthony Gormley a long way from home at the Hakone Outdoor Sculpture Park. Visiting Hakone from Odawara was a strangely moving experience for me. It was just the same trip I'd made, alone and friendless (though perfectly happy) in Japan four years ago on my first visit. How different everything looked!

Oh, and of course, this being Japan, my lost camera wasn't really lost. It was found, packaged neatly, and sent to me here in Odawara by delivery service (complete with black cat), all for about £6.50. Thanks, Kiki!

Tags: nippon notes, voyage to japan
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