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Friday, August 29, 2003


HANABI

I thought I could get away with crappy page design and zero tech skills since most of the people reading this are my friends and love me for my Luddite tendencies ( or so I like to think). Now I notice most visitors are people I have never met. Thanks for visiting; the layout will improve.... eventually. I am not going to commit myself to a deadline!


I meant to blog about our Hanabi celebrations ages ago, but never got round to it. For the second year running, we watched the Hanabi fireworks from a great vantage point: a Japanese-Indian restaurant overlooking Tokyo Bay with huge picture windows. The food was very very strange-sweetish beef curries, tandoori sausages, whole unshelled prawns for appetisers-all about as un-Indian as you can get without actually covering sushi with curry powder! But the fireworks made it totally worthwhile, and unlike everybodyelse we didn't have to queue for vantage points. I have never been very big on fireworks, but the Hanabi ones are something else. Where else can you see the sky covered with smiley faces, Hello Kitties and hearts in every shade of the rainbow? Maya was utterly awestruck. The first time I have known her to be at a loss for words, though she did let out an awed "So beautiful!" from time to time. Getting there was half the fun. We had to walk what seemed like miles shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other revellers, but it was marvellous to see all the ladies wearing their colourful yukata ( summer kimonoes), geta and hair ornaments. Some of the men were wearing yukatas too, or does it have a different name? I never really looked at yukatas before, but I found myself actually awarding mental prizes and going "Hmmm...very Dior... Oh no, too much like McQueen in his garish phase.. ( I know, I know, I read too much Vogue).

On the way back we decided to walk most of the way home. It was a lovely cool night for once, the streets were full of contented people going "Sugoooi..ne" as the last fireworks went off, and Tokyo Tower actually looked strikingly beautiful under the starlight. We got happily lost once or twice, the way you can do here without having to worry about getting mugged or leered at, then drifted back on course and eventually got home around midnight. Sometimes I really do love Tokyo.


Wednesday, August 27, 2003


MINI-BREAK IN SAIPAN


If you don’t know where Saipan is, don’t worry. I didn’t either until I moved to Tokyo and discovered it was a tropical island only three hours away and frequented by Japanese tourists in droves. When in Japan, do as the Japanese do. We just got back from a longish mini-break of the sort that Bridget Jones is always mooning about: sun, sand and snorkeling. Driving into the capital Garapan, it was a bit disconcerting to find ourselves back in Nippon again: Japanese signs everywhere, noodle shops, and karaoke cum massage joints aplenty. These last were surrounded by ladies of the night standing outside and crooning “Irrashaimase” to passersby. But when we entered the Hyatt lobby, all was well again, though the prices were very Japanese. We treated ourselves to an ocean view for the first time ever. And what an ocean! Calling it blue doesn’t do it justice. It was the shade of deep blue you only get to see on the cover of Conde Nast Traveller or on picture postcards. We spent most of our time sunning on the beach , kayaking, getting very very sunburnt ( I always thought Indians couldn’t get sunburnt) and snorkeling at Manegaha Island, a tiny islet a short ride from our hotel.

I have always thought snorkeling was a poor substitute for diving (not that I can dive), but the waters around Manegaha are clear, shallow and absolutely crammed with tropical fish. The fish are so daring that they swim right up to the shore, and there were schools of them swimming around Maya’s ankles. They weren’t as colourful as the ones we saw last winter in Hawaii, but there were literally thousands of them in all shapes and sizes, and some pretty pink and purple coral. We fed them bits of bread ( probably very ecologically unsound) and a couple of greedy ones bit us. We were in snorkeling heaven until a little boy very close to us suddenly burst into tears. Jellyfish bite! We went up to the lifeguard who told us that yes, jellyfish bites could kill you and no, they didn’t have any protective nets or warning signs because “nobody would take any notice anyway.” He also gave us a handy tip for avoiding jellyfish. “Stay out of the water.” Well, duuuh. So we spend the rest of the time swimming around very gingerly, sticking to the crowded areas and panicking at the sight of plastic bags in the water.

We also got to see some of Saipan’s traditional dances that evening. Very rousing and infectious stuff, performed by a bunch of grannies, fatties and little kids, not the pretty girls you normally see. We thought we heard some Japanese lyrics mixed in with the local Chamorro language. Most of the locals, even those of non-Japanese descent, speak Japanese. Apparently some of the older generation speak nothing else, since Saipan was under Japanese occupation before World War II.

All in all, v.good trip.


BACK TO BLOGGING

I am back in Tokyo after a very long and chaotic summer. Actually, I have been back for a while, but with school still being out and every minute spent keeping Maya busy, I haven't had a minute to blog. Resurrecting this blog is going to take some doing. I still haven't got the hang of the software yet, so my About page and photos are still in the incubator. I thought I would stop blogging for a while until I finished prettying up this page, but that's taking so long I have decided to just keep going, in the hope that most people reading this won't notice if the fonts are of different sizes and awkward gaps keep sprouting all over the place. ( This does not include you, Lisa!)

Our holiday in India was decadent as usual.The usual orgy of pigging out on Indian-Chinese, buying gorgeous Indian clothes which have to be handwashed and therefore will hang unwashed on the back of the bathroom door for ages, cramming in as many facials and head massages as possible, and trying to cram a year's worth of shopping into two tiny cases. The kids fought incessantly, but seemed to enjoy it. Maya goes back to school in a few days-yippee!- and then its back to blogging daily.




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