With my birthday back at the beginning of February, I thought I'd treat myself to a nice present. I had been discovering the limitations of my Canon IXY digital camera over the past year, so I had it in mind to eventually upgrade. With the prospect of a period of extended travel on the horizon, it was the perfect excuse to get something new. So, on the first of last month, I picked up a sweet new Canon Powershot A640 - a fat 10megapixel digital camera with a baffling array of options and features. It's understandably taking some time to get familiar with, but I should have a good grip on it by the time we fly out in April.
Speaking of which, we also have our tickets arranged, so there is now an official date on the calendar. On the 8th of April we will be taking off from Chubu International and settling in for a long flight to Frankfurt on Asiana Airlines, via Seoul. Mayu has a 12-month open ticket, allowing her to flex her return date; she's planning on around three months or so of hopping around Europe, while I intend to eventually take the long way back. I opted for a simple one-way ticket, with the goal of taking the Trans-Siberian eastwards to distant Vladivostok after a few months bounding around Europe. From there I'll take in some of China before
hopping another plane back to Japan - likely resulting in a good six months out on the road.
With that in mind, we've got quite a bit left on our platter to do here to prepare. I'm not looking forward to moving, but it's absolutely non-sensical to pay rent for a place we won't be living in for some four to six months. That, plus I'm quite eager to get out of the current apartment. The location's great and all, but I'm tired of dealing with the lack of insulation, the excess of tatami rooms and the low doorways that I constantly smack my head on. Change is always good, even if it inevitably means more adjustments.
Anyhow, I've been making it a point to take some snaps here and there, both for the sake of getting used to the new camera and just simply memorializing more of Nagoya. The coming of the Hina Matsuri
(the Doll Festival or "Girls' Day") provided one opportunity - picturesque multi-tiered displays of dolls start appearing from about a month before. Mayu's parents put out
her old set at their house, so I got to try and get some good shots of the figures. This proved more difficult than expected due to the indoor lighting and colors (flash doesn't work well against the white paint of their faces!), but a few came out well. I then went out the other day to a few select spots around town, most notably the attractive Osu Kannon temple.
Today was far more rewarding though. The first signs of spring start popping up around the middle of February, manifest best in the arrival of the plum blossoms again. Since we missed it last year, I wanted to try and get down to Sōri-ike down on Chita-hantō. With my work and band responsibilities, we didn't have a whole lot of windows available for the visit, but we crossed our fingers that the weather would hold up for the 4th of April. Mayu did a regular check on the ume condition, and after discovering that they were at 100% on the 26th, we figured we'd be timing things perfectly.
Well, I was actually quite surprised to find that many of them had already fallen off, and a fair number of the trees were now looking pretty barren of
blossoms. Considering that the plum blossoms in Higashiyama Park were exactly perfect when we went at the end of March last year, it was somewhat of an unexpected disappointment. It's definitely been a far warmer winter than usual, but typically ume
blossoms last much longer than sakura
ones do. Still though, we were able to find quite a few trees that were relatively full; that fact, plus the festive atmosphere of the place with all the picnicking families made it more than worthwhile. Mayu's parents ended up joining us down there as well, having driven down from Kariya on inspiration from their daughter.
The weather was positively springlike today, with a daytime high of probably 20-22°. Such unseasonable temperatures have me really hankering for April and May to arrive. Judging from the enthusiasm of all the Japanese tourists today, people are already pumped up for the coming cherry blossoms. We, ourselves, are hoping to take in some of Kyoto during the sakura season before we get out of here. With about a week available between us moving out and our flight to Germany, we should be able to get there on a good day. But here's also hoping that we encounter similarly fine weather when we arrive in Europe. I relish the opportunity to enjoy the warmer months again without the responsibilities of the daily grind.
It's been a fairly busy past couple months here in Nagoya. Mid-winter means a ratcheting up of overtime work, what with the coming of "Kids Interviews" through my company's subsidiary. Basically imagine six straight hours of giving oral tests to one kid after another and you've got the idea. It's good money though, and there isn't really much else to do in the winter here since I don't ski or snowboard. On top of that, my band, Oran, has started doing gigs around town, so I've stayed fairly active in the free time department.