Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tokyo and Mount Oyama

It’s been a while since i wrote anything on here and there’s a pretty good reason for that; i haven’t done any travelling. However, last month i managed to leave Tokyo for the first time since last September when i finished peddling around Hokkaido.

I went hiking in Kanagawa on Mount Oyama, which is only an hour’s train ride from central Tokyo, in the sunshine with hundreds of other people as it was a national holiday. There were cloudy views of Mount Fuji to the west and a hazy Tokyo on the horizon to the east. And hundreds of other people, all scrambling around the mountain trying not to get in each other’s way and failing miserably. This may well be the quintessential way to spend a national holiday in Tokyo. Well, apart from shopping.

I’ve been working too much to travel anyway and after last summer’s excesses on a bicycle plus moving house four times in the space of 12 months i couldn’t really summon the enthusiasm for more bag-packing, bus-taking, train-hopping into places unknown.

I’ve got a few different part time jobs teaching English. One is at an office in central Tokyo where filthy rich people call and email to book tickets and make restaurant reservations for places that have been verified by a tyre manufacturer. It’s a little glimpse back into the world of office work where the low hum of air conditioning, perpetual grey colour schemes and muffled silences take me back to jobs in identical looking places in England, where i used to sit hoping the clock would go faster and the phone wouldn’t ring yet knowing precisely the opposite.

I started another job last month in Saitama, out of Tokyo to the north-west (so, now i leave Tokyo twice a week), at a university where i endeavour to coax words out of students who’ve just spent the last few years of their lives learning English in order to pass an exam and now seem genuinely surprised and scared to find out that actual human beings speak these unfathomable words as form of communication and struggle frantically to locate their imagination and social skills before they have to keep them in check again a few years later when they have to get a job in one of those offices. I hope a few of them will do a bit of travelling in between, speak the English i’m chucking at them and see some silly shit like i did.

I’ve met a variety of people in a different teaching gig which is just one-to-one conversation classes who provide me with excellent research for the other blog i’ve been playing around with ( Some of the people who take these classes work for multi-national companies or have travelled quite a bit in other places too. I met a guy last night who told me he was going to Borneo on Friday. “Wow.” i said, “Borneo. What are you going there for?” i asked, hoping he would say the words “holiday” or “volunteer” or “orang-utans” or “to stop the ecological destruction of one of the world’s oldest and endangered ecosystems” but knowing that his suit and his haircut didn’t offer much hope for this. He smiled and said, “Business, i, er, go for business building of new coal mine.” Deep, wonderful joy.

But it could all be a lot worse, couldn’t it? I’m living in Tokyo and i’m paid to chat with people (or contribute to the end of the natural world and civilisation; it depends how full or empty your glass currently is) which looks a bit like this from my point of view.

I'll be back in England for a week or two over the summer and i'll hopefully have more trips out of Tokyo to try to break the cycle of work, eat, drink, sleep, work, eat, drink, sleep which seems to have quietly replaced the work, eat, drink, sleep, panic, pack-bag, disappear routine that dominated the last ten years. Am i slowing down or is the world speeding up?

Anyway, thanks for reading. Keep moving.

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