An Introspective Moment About an Elephant

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Saying goodbye to objects from our past is a difficult and emotional event we all experience. It can be a small object with a closet of sentimentality attached, or a large item that carries only a handbag of memories. Either way, we grow attached to them, and to let them go can feel like burying a part of our past. Some people are never able to let go, and each room becomes a shrine to these attachments, no matter how insignificant.

Today I decided to let something go from my past; from my way, way back past. Growing up, we had a canary yellow ceramic elephant planter. And while I am sure at some point in its life prior to my memories, it had served the intended purpose of holding a plant; this is not how I learned to love it.

You see, my mom possessed the experience of teaching both first and third grades, and so when I came around, she already had a pretty good handle on entertaining young children. (Admittedly, she had to wait a few years for me to catch up to that age, but she did a bang-up job winging it until then.) Anyway, as a precocious young lady of 4, it was in the household’s interest that I be given some direction on a rainy day, lest I create a book tower from everyone’s books in the living room or attempt to disassemble the furniture. Enter the Yellow Elephant.

My mom’s solution was to write down a bunch of different activities (which I got to add to as well) on little slips of paper. These slips would then go into the Yellow Elephant’s back. On a rainy day, the Yellow Elephant would come out, and the papers mixed about. I would then reach my little hand into the hole and pull out my activity for the day. (Looking back on it now, I am pretty sure that mom would make a tactical decisions as to which papers were available to choose from each time.) If memory serves me right, I could draw again if I did not want to do that particular choice, but I could only draw once more. Then I could choose between the two. That was the deal.

As I got a little older and started going to school on a daily basis, the Yellow Elephant took on a new role, one of Weekend Coordinator. If there was a day where there was nothing previously planned (birthday party, out-of-town trip, visitors, etc.) an adventure would get pulled from inside. Sometimes it was the park, or the pool; later, when we lived in D.C. it was often going to a museum or a monument. And because it was the Yellow Elephant suggesting the adventure, I was less likely to be stubborn about the whole thing.

Eventually, I stopped drawing slips of paper out of its back, and the Yellow Elephant was repurposed once again. After I moved out, it came with me, and I used it for various things (mostly to hold my kitchen utensils.) Every time I moved, the Yellow Elephant was carefully packed away, and just as carefully unpacked in its new home. Every time, that was, until this most recent move.

Last May, I packed up my house in Alabama, and moved up to North Carolina to be with my fiancé. Eventually, we bought a house and started the process of shifting all the boxes from my storage unit to their new home. Every day I would pull some of the boxes stacked in the garage and start unpacking, tasked with the difficult job of finding everything a new home. I finally made my way to the box labeled “Yellow Elephant”, and excitedly opened it up, knowing exactly where I would put it.

Except my Yellow Elephant was not there. In its place were broken shards of ceramics; yellow on one side and white on the other.

This was last September.

Almost a year later, I have finally been able to face the contents of that box again. I laid out the pieces that I could find (some of the smaller pieces had been lost in the shredded paper and packing material) and I started to glue them back together. At this point, I don’t see myself keeping the final product. I know that even though it holds its shape again, it can never be the same. But I felt I owed it to my memories to at least try putting it back together, before I said goodbye.

The Yellow Elephant

The Yellow Elephant

I know that even though the object that gave me all those good memories is no longer what it was, I can still carry on the spirit of what that object meant to me.

Who knows what my children will draw paper slips from on a rainy day….

Perhaps an Orange Hippo.

Step Four: I Wonder if I Should Continue to Title These Posts With Progressive Step Numbers

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Once again the sun rose, as it usually does, over Ōme. Let us take a small break from my narrative to show you a quick view of the neighborhood.

Early Morning Tokyo Suburbia

Early Morning Tokyo Suburbia

 

Yes, the streets are about one car width wide.

Yes, the streets are about one and 1/2 car widths wide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, now that we have gotten ourselves a bit more oriented, let us continue.

Today’s first outing involved (SURPRISE!) food. (If you are not sensing a theme in these posts, then I’m guessing you have just been looking at the pictures.) We cruised on down to Sukiya for gyūdon, which is basically a beef rice bowl: Cheap, tasty, filling.

Drive By Gyūdon!

Drive By Gyūdon!

I continued to notice throughout my venture that many of the menus remind me of the back of a Waffle House menu; there are lots of colorful pictures, and all you have to do is point and smile to order.

Fortified with rice, beef, and another cup of endless tea (it’s like I’m in Japan or something, geez!) Nathan and I set off to board the Chūō line, connecting with the Yamanote line for Harajuku station. Putting the Harajuku spectacles for a later date, we ventured over to Meiji Shrine for some “culture and learning”. According to the internet, Meiji Shrine is a Shinto Shrine originally completed in the 1920’s, and reconstructed in the late 1950’s after suffering damage in WWII.

What I saw was a whole bunch of really awesome nature, some cool old buildings, and a whole bunch of people “really feeling it all.”

Feel the Awe and Glory and Various Other Things that this image inspires.

Feel the Awe and Glory and Various Other Things that this image inspires.

And a GIANT wall of sake barrels

I may have contemplated how long it would take a normal human being to consume all the sake that could fill these barrels.

I may have contemplated how long it would take a normal human being to consume all the sake that could fill these barrels.

As we wandered the paths and checked out the courtyard of the shrine, I had hoped to have the big, bubbly, excited reaction to the realization that I was ACTUALLY IN JAPAN finally kick in.

Everyone setting up for something.... Wonder what it could be?

Appears they are setting up for something…. Wonder what it could be?

So many prayers, in so many languages.

So many prayers, in so many languages.

Here I was surrounded by all of these culturally significant examples, and instead I was feeling very calm and at peace. Which looking back at it all, I WAS at a temple, so perhaps that reaction was appropriate after all.

Purification fountain, if you are into that sort of thing.

Purification fountain, if you are into that sort of thing.

Venturing further , we came to Homotsuden, the Treasury Museum, and an open park area.

Rounded a turn in the path, only to be greeted with this sight.

Rounded a turn in the path, only to be greeted with this sight.

This was the view from the other side of the bridge.

This was the view from the other side of the bridge.

Alas, the Museum was closed

I guess I'll just have to put this on the "return trip" list.

I guess I’ll just have to put this on the “return trip” list.

So we headed back to our entrance by the Harajuku station, to our next destination (and future post), Shinjuku.

Something old and something new.

Something old and something new.

Step Three: I Make Everyone Wait Months to See What Happens Next!

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The morning of my first full day in Japan broke in a colorful display of spring. My room faced a neighbor’s vegetable garden, and I cannot think of anything nicer to wake up to than a whole bunch of growing things.

This view made it impossible not to do my yoga in the mornings

This view made it impossible not to do my yoga in the mornings

Now, admittedly, “morning” is a relative term here, as I was still adjusting to the time difference. By the time movement towards the outdoors was achieved, it was lunchtime. Lunchtime, of course, being another opportunity to eat tasty, tasty things!

Now the sushi spot that Nathan had frequented for much of his time in Japan (“Within walking distance” has many advantages) had gone the way that it appears many things do there when change is imminent: Disappears, with no warning, in the middle of the night. Because of this a substitute sushi joint had to be located… and my first battle with Japanese Automatic Doors ensued.

http://www.designsojourn.com/automatic-door/

Except the one I confronted did not have handy-dandy English

This is the height of Japanese Door technology- because not only is it a door, it is also social entertainment in a schadenfreude way. On this day it was I who provided the entertainment. As a Southern Boy, my cousin stepped back to let me go though the door first, which would have been fine if it had been in the States. But this was not the States, and this particular door did not include the English as displayed in the above picture.

So I stood there, trying to figure out how the heck I’m supposed to work this door, until a nice gentleman inside took pity on this poor American, and opened the door for me. I like to imagine that Nathan had undergone a similar experience, and was therefore helping me fully transition into the Japanese world around me, but really I think he just wanted a good chuckle.

After the customary game of charades with the staff, we found ourselves seated in a booth of the most magical land of the world: The land of conveyer belt sushi.

I figured how to work the Sushi Spaceships much quicker than I did the "automatic" door.

I figured how to work the Sushi Spaceships much quicker than I did the “automatic” door.

Now, I have been to some of the conveyer belt places back home, but I’ve found nothing on par with what they have in Japan. First off, each plate was only ¥100, which is roughly $0.98 US Dollars. Second, everything just tasted much fresher.

Intermission before grabbing more of ALL OF THE FÜDS!

Intermission before grabbing more of ALL OF THE FÜDS!

Third on my list- See that little slot at the end of the table? You put your used plates down there and it uses that to total your bill, but it is also A GAME. Every few plates, a little game animation pops up on your table’s touch screen indicating that you MIGHT win something! (Ok, admittedly, I did not actually witness anyone win anything while I was there, but I was still entertained.) And fourthly (yes, FOURTHLY) above the rotating sushi-goodness is an express conveyer belt. EXPRESS FOOD TO YOUR BOOTH! Every so often, a plate of sushi would zip past, or a covered bowl of soup would zoom overhead. And the only human interaction to speak of was with the staff up front, when you received your booth number and when you went to pay afterwards.

After a successful stuffing of the gullet with raw fish, we proceeded to Yokota Air Base in Fussa. There are two things of particular note for this base:

1- You can get a good view of Fussa from the top of the commissary

Fussa 1

Dead-Center, you can see a ferris wheel. No lie.

Fussa 2

 

 

2- They have some spectacular sakura blossoms in the spring

sakura1

You want to look at me ALL DAY LONG!

Sakura2

Come! Stroll along my flowery path!

Like, REALLY spectacular.

 

sakura3

Time has frozen, and you are OK with this fact.

 

By this time Nathan thought I had had enough Zen, and that I was ready to experience the local rail transit, Japan Railways East, so we headed on to Fussa Station.

No, Really... it TOTALLY made sense. Eventually. At some point.

No, Really… it TOTALLY made sense. Eventually. At some point.

I can only let you imagine the looks that two rather tall Caucasian redheads got as they boarded the train to Tachikawa.

Tachikawa appeared to be a small downtown, with many tall buildings, designed to sell things to tourists and locals alike.

LOFT

Artistically crooked.

Looking Up

Oh the things you can buy!

Da Citay

I didn’t actually notice the KFC when I took this.

Although they had some rather interesting methods to do so.

Umm....

Umm….

After a long first day of exploring a new land, we headed back to home. Unfortunately we were too exhausted to check out the local evening events, but it had a definite dream-like feel in the warm spring air.

Maybe next Spring

Maybe next Spring