Friday, April 25, 2014


Yes, Golden Week is soon upon us. The time of year when Japanese workers escape the stress of work with the stress of endless traffic jams and packed trains. We're taking a few days off early to beat the crowds, so tomorrow morning we'll be on our way to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam. To nobody's surprise we'll mostly spend our time eating, buying foods, and walking between places to eat. We'll probably take a cooking class as well, though we don't yet know where.

My bonsai is alive, and possibly even healthy, one year on. I call it "bonsai" because it's a small tree, it's in a pot and it's alive; that seems to cover most definitions. From the looks of it I suspect that were it a human it would have a spinal problem, work in an ominous basement lab and say "Yeth, mathter" a lot. Anyway, it survived its first year, so now I have to figure out how to start shaping it into an actual bonsai plant.

Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is surprisingly photogenic. And it tastes very good; just separate leaves and stems, fry the stems in butter for 20 seconds, then add the leaves and fry a few seconds until they almost start to wilt. Black pepper and a dash of either soy sauce or ponzu and you're done. This, by the way, is my new desktop wallpaper.

And some recent pictures:

Kawachi Nagano
Kawachi Nagano station, in south Osaka. A typical small, edge-of-rural kind of station.

Tennoji Midosuji line subway station. This, on the other hand, is one of the larger stations in central Osaka. It still has the insanely cool ceiling lights specific to the Midosuji line; unfortunately it seems they're being removed in Umeda as part of a platform renovation, and I suspect the same thing will happen on other stations along the line.

The elevated highway crossing in Honmachi, Osaka. I actually like this; I'm happy all that traffic up there isn't happening down on street level, and I approve in general of anything that brings us closer to the Blade Runner/William Gibson aesthetic.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Cherry Blossom Time
Cherry blossoms.

The long, chilly winter is finally over. The weather has been typical for April, with warm and sunny days alternating with cold and rain, The cherry blossom season was unusually short. Last weekend was our only chance for hanami, but the weather was mostly miserable. We gave up on a proper cherry blossom picknick this year, and just took a quick walk through Utsubo park before we escaped the weather at a nearby cafe.

Shinsaibashi in February this year. This is what much of April has felt like.

April is a time of change for people as well. April is when you start school, graduate, start a new job, a new project and move house, and it's usually the start of the fiscal year. Budgets and research grants go from April to March, so if you need something for work you either buy it in March to use up the last of your old budget, or buy it in April when you get access to the new one.

I ran into a welcoming ceremony for new high-school students in a park on Port Island in Kobe this morning. The horn section of the school band are warming up before their performance.

As I walked to work this morning, the sun was shining. It was already warm enough that I could walk in my shirt sleeves, and the trees were all glowing green with new leaves. I heard a brass band tuning up in the nearby park; a local high school were welcoming this years new students to the school. There's a hint of summer heat in the air today, not the threat of another cold wave. Today it finally felt as if the balance has shifted, and summer is coming. Change is in the air, and for now that feels good.

Spring Dress
A statue on Port Island is sporting a new spring hat, probably thanks to someone living in the apartment building next door.