Monday, July 26, 2010

invisible fire

japan is on a bullet train to the center of the sun. the heat scalds every inch of your skin, and sweat runs like tears. my shampoo is hot, my towel is hot, everything i touch is hot. the leftover bacon grease in the skillet stays melted, the chicken breasts practically hiss when they hit the air. the soles of my feet are so hot, i just have to stand on something to iron it. the only good thing is that warm eye drops are pretty nice.
in the steamy day-to-day, my long hair was torture. not only did it make my neck about 300 degrees, it also looked like a messy scribble in the humidity. i could only tolerate having it in pigtails, which had to be folded over into loops so the ends wouldn't touch my neck. finally, two minutes from a heat stroke, i decided to cut it. my mom is a hairstylist, so i've watched her spray, comb, part, and cut for as long as i've been alive. perhaps as a result, i'm totally uninhibited about DIY hair.

before: naturally, it looks pretty ok in this picture, much better than any other time.

divide and conquer: the first cut, no going back.



well, once you get started, you might as well go the whole way. after you cut, you've gotta dye. it's been about four months since i last dyed my hair black, and i've been wanting something fresh. after some friends suggested it, i started thinking about red. i'm really loving allison scagliotti's hair lately, so i thought, "why not?"

in my super well-stocked drug store, there was only one box even resembling red at all, so there was no agonizing over what color to buy. i like dramatic color, so i was hoping for a head of flaming dark red hair. turns out the only obstacle was the black dye still at the ends of my hair. in the back i ended up with a lovely two-tone, but in the front, it's all but imperceptible and falls into the category i never aim for when dyeing my hair: natural-looking.
well, there's nothing to do but wait until the black grows off, but on a positive note, mom approves.

in the sunlight. just looks brown...

Monday, July 19, 2010

chickens guard the gate

the monsoon season has abruptly ended, shoving us face-first into that part of summer where you have to peel your legs off plastic seats like tape that's stuck together. in a perverse way, it kinda makes me happy. i also love little dresses, long daylight, and an excuse to eat fruit for dinner.

today was a holiday, so deana and i went to gifu city. i'd been there once before and was impressed by what an interesting, artistic city it seemed. mostly, though, i had a craving for the huge slabs of fish they serve at sennari sushi.

a typical serving vs. sennari's cut.

there you do sushi the real way and order it from the chef, who places it in front of you from behind the sushi bar. then you pick it up with your fingers. usually places like that cost $$ (or ¥¥, rather), but we had all we could eat for under $15 each. next we ambled our way to akawani (red crocodile) for some fresh fruit kakigori (shaved ice). the winter offering was this obscene (and incredible) strawberry concoction, and for july they have fresh peach.

gifu was deserted, but when we turned the corner to akawani, we realized we were going to have to wait in line for this popular treat. there are only about four tables inside, but they were doing a good job of double-seating tables and getting people in pretty quickly. even sharing a table, it still felt like we had our privacy. that's the beauty of being in a place where people speak at a reasonable volume most of the time.

waiting in the heat.

the peach; while i was at first disappointed by the puny amount fresh fruit, the juice they poured over the ice was clearly made from real peaches because it all tasted delicious!

i liked the tiny fork.

after that, we just lost ourselves in the unbelievably quiet streets of gifu. it was amazing how few people were around, and we headed in a direction that tapered off into tiny, more traditional shops and homes. i could smell a lot of the things i remember from the first time i came to japan...smells i can't even define because i don't know what they come from. one was a kind of preserving agent like mothballs, but it didn't smell musty, it smelled well-cared-for. the scents coming from people's doorways and garages seemed aged, but well-used, carefully cleaned and kept in working condition. camera shops, cafes, fabric stores, futon shops, places to buy kimono, tea, incense, prayer beads. i was thoroughly happy looking at the tiny doorstep gardens, faded and rusted signs, and simple old man and old woman shoes lined up by the doors.

a $27 tea cup

airy pajamas.

a cafe/antique store that seemed straight out of a different mine.

an inexplicable sign for salt.

we looked around a group of temples where we didn't see another soul...

guarded by chickens.

finally i bought three paper lanterns (made in japan, not china) with bamboo sticks and candles, and the whole bag of fun cost me $4.

i felt peaceful and refreshed in spite of the heat. without expecting to, i got to see more of my favorite side of japan, not the big city stores and crowds of people, but a real corner with a heartbeat and style of its own. i felt completely happy.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

living with ghosts

my apartment building is only half full. like many residential buildings in japan, it's pretty small: 12 apartments. in the year i've lived here, i've only run into another person inside the building maybe 15 times. i hear doors open and close, locks turn, air conditioners run, but it's like people are slipping in and out, creeping around corners and up stairs, dissolving into wet shoe prints.
i don't mind; i like the quiet, and i can see by the laundry hanging outside that there's someone around, but at times it has drawbacks. i discovered one tonight when i came home from work. as the elevator door yawned open, i came face-to-face with seven hungry spiders who had built a network of webs over the elevator door and into the hall! they must've started this afternoon after i left for work, and clearly no one else had been that way since. i seriously considered taking the elevator back down and coming up the stairs instead.
in mie i became desensitized to spiders, but after a year of not seeing them, my natural disgust has returned. instead of avoiding them, i did a careful sweep of the doorway with my orange juice bottle and then scurried low and fast under the horrible ceiling.

incidentally, the first time i did run into someone was last october, two months i after i had moved in. i was wearing this:

and carrying these:

not really the first impression i was hoping for. halloween isn't celebrated in japan, so...i'm not sure what he thought of me. my costume was after japan's endlessly inventive decorative lunches called "decoben," meaning decorative bento.

thanks to everyone who has started following my blog or who has stopped by! i love to hear your comments. <3