Journal entries: November 2005 - September 2006
WEDNESDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2005
Visa renewal time at the immigration office in Shinagawa and surprised to find the doors already open at 8:30. I get a ticket at the counter showing that I am No. 10 in line. Might just finish this usually long and tedious business early… An hour later I’m done and at a table on the second floor of Starbucks inside Shinagawa Station looking down upon the long station concourse. Below is a thick and steady flow of people, little more than 12 inches of space between any two, a flood of people that goes on unchanging. One small corner of Tokyo with people enough for a fair sized city. An impressive advertisement for General Electric hangs high over the river of pedestrians below. A huge rectangle of white showing a glass of water, and like an avocado seed pierced with toothpicks and sitting halfway in water, there is in this ad the globe of earth propped on toothpicks, a small tree sprouting from the top and a network of roots spreading in the water below. The words say: ‘ecomagination…GE imagination at work.’ Coffee is good as usual, but the Chinese sesame bun I mistakenly chose is a nasty lump of bland bread with cocktail sauce smeared across the top. The sesame seeds are too many and now stuck between my teeth.
THURSDAY 30 NOVEMBER 2005
Off to Minami Asagaya, to the Suginami Ward Office for visa-related business. The visa renewal every three years has to be followed by a renewal of my ‘Alien’ Registration Card, but it’s hardly an uncomfortable sort of business. The ward office is large, modern and impressive and looking around l see they’ve shifted things since my last visit. The time before my business was on the 2nd floor, but the same business has moved downstairs. Nothing long and troublesome like the visa renewal 2 weeks ago, this process is a quick fill-in of a couple of lines on a card and then a renewal notice stamped on the card. I remember being late once—coming in for the card renewal more than 2 weeks after my visa renewal—and being asked to sit down and write a letter of apology explaining why I was late. No penalty, just an “I’m sorry” to put in my file.
The Noodler’s Cayenne ink in this Sailor fountain pen is a pretty color but lacking any lubrication and annoyingly scratchy. I continue to think that American ink doesn’t compare well with ink made in Europe and Japan.
MONDAY 12 DECEMBER 2005
The writing of Donald Ritchie offers a warm and familiar pleasure, almost like listening to the conversation of a well-informed and intelligent friend. Finally got a copy of The Donald Ritchie Reader, a compilation of pieces written over the years. In a 1992 essay called “The Nourishing Void” from his book Partial Views, Ritchie has this to say about Zen, emptiness and meaning:
‘Emptiness can be a virtue…What else is the Zen koan but a riddle constructed to be empty? It is up to you to fill it. As [Roland] Barthes noted: Zen wages a war against the prevarication of meaning. It does so because meaning fixes fully and for all time just one single meaning. All those overtones that so resounded before this naming are stilled. Meaning closes. Emptiness, on the other hand, leaves open, all options still hanging. Meaning, wanting to fill this fruitful emptiness, prevaricates because it opts for the single rather than for the fruitful multiple.’
FRIDAY 7 APRIL 2006
Fascinated by a woman sitting opposite me in Doutor. She is up and down repeatedly to refill her water glass and now drinking her 14th glass of water. A glass of iced coffee stands on her table, but she sips only sparingly from that. Something must be wrong. This is maybe the 3rd or 4th time I’ve seen her here, and every time she does this water guzzling thing. She and her friend are strange birds, very fond of hats and umbrellas on rainless days… Mmm, punishment for my unkind remarks? A large blob of mustard just this moment fell splat! from my hotdog onto the lines above. Back to my book and my business.
THURSDAY 31 AUGUST
Goodbye to the beach and all the rest of New Smyrna Beach. Left there at 6:30, turned in the car at Enterprise and trammed to the airport. Security was a breeze and the flight to Detroit predictably uncomfortable with half the plane thick with children, and me wedged into a seat beside a woman too large. Had a cheeseburger in Detroit and got on the Tokyo-bound flight. Good seat this time. Several hours later…one book down and a spare one to begin at some point in the coming hours of flight. What Northwest calls dinner was served at 5:00 p.m., too early for me so I declined and missed another chance at airline food.
SATURDAY 2 SEPTEMBER
Pretty much settled in, back at home after 7 weeks in Florida, and happy to be here. Jet-lagged as usual, and up at odd hours. 4:00 a.m. this time, but no complaints because the early rising allowed me to do a couple of things around the house. Couldn’t get the hot water working in the shower and ended up cringing under icy water. Will call Tokyo Gas and ask them to send someone over to have a look. I’m back to reading newspapers, here now with my daily delivered Japan Times. Aquarium looks great, thanks to Takeshi N.
SUNDAY 3 SEPTEMBER
Good to be back in Tokyo, though I still feel a little off, a bit out of balance with the jet lag. The coming week is a light one as far as work goes and I expect it will be a slow and painless adjustment back into a regular diurnal schedule. For some reason a craving for an American style breakfast this morning. Odd, since I don’t eat such breakfasts even when in Florida. Re-stocking the kitchen today and later may wander over to Grazie Gardens for lunch, maybe a jaunt to Kichijôji for some mocha Italian coffee. Made dentist appointment for Wednesday, the 6th.
FRIDAY 15 SEPTEMBER
A Friday flock of crows whizzes and whirls through the early morning sky of Kugayama. Sitting at my kitchen table I watch through a window as they perform what looks like a series of social maneuvers. Newspaper reports that disgraced Congressman Mark Foley was ‘…trading Internet kisses with a certain 16 year-old house page.’
Expecting Sawane-san & Murai-san for a visit this evening…
A most pleasant evening, and I believe my two guests enjoyed the time very much. I could hardly drag them away from the aquarium, both going back again and again to stare longer into my little water world. Lots of fountain pen, and ink talk as well. I cleaned up and rearranged my ink cabinet this morning, and had all my pens lined up beside a stack of pale yellow memo paper, with the ink sample book to one side. Montblanc Sakura and Noodler Rattler Red were the two favorite shades of ink. Made guacamole, which went over well, and then a little later ordered an Italian basil pizza from the delivery shop. Beer and a tasty California Merlot. Sawane-san usually doesn’t drink alcohol at all, but this time had both beer and the Merlot. He was comparing the De Atramentis Merlot ink with the wine, saying the color is right on target, though not a very smooth writing ink.