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Sunday, July 29

July 4th comes on July 27th here in Zushi, Japan

Friday night, we headed out to catch the Zushi fireworks display. Japan is known for its fireworks, of which at least one display occurs in the nearby towns and on the beaches every summer. My neighbor had stopped by earlier in the day with the Japanese flier of the night’s event. It was a truly kind gesture but I honestly couldn’t even read the date on the page. Nonetheless, I smiled and bowed graciously and accepted it. It will be a nice souvenir in my Japanese collection.

Kimono Hubby ended up working a little late but there was still hopefully time to drive ourselves down to the beach. The walk would be out of the question as we would miss half of the fireworks in the stroll there. The drive should have been out of the question knowing that parking would be a huge issue (as in there is no parking at the beach) and traffic would likely be horrendous on the tiny stretch of street that ends at the beach. Still, it seemed possible we might find something we would call a spot in some quiet neighborhood in which the police wouldn’t tow us away.

The traffic was terrible and the parking situation worse. We wandered through a tiny quarter that overlooks the beach stretch. There was no where to pull off the road so we stopped the car for a bit and watched the fireworks over the houses in front of us, hoping that we would be able to stay there until a car came. After enough pedestrians passed us staring mystified into our Capa with the funny Americans staring into the sky in it, we decided to find another spot of viewing pleasure. Back down the hill, we saw that people had forced themselves into nonexistent parking spots in the Red Lobster parking lot. (Yes, there is a Red Lobster and no it is nothing like back home.) There was one tiny spot left on the end, just small enough that most couldn’t fit but just perfect for my bad little machine. Traffic was going nowhere fast in either direction so I maneuvered across and into the parking lot. There we were blessed with the perfect view right over the bridge that crosses the stretch of the beach where they were setting the display off. And we had only missed about the first fifteen minutes thus far.

Feeling quite smug, we settled back into our seats and enjoyed the view for a good portion of the show. After some time, a man from the restaurant came up to the car. I shivered in fearful anticipation of them telling us we had to move or be ticketed. After much confusion (he spoke not a word of English), I realized he was only offering drinks. What a smart idea to wrack up some cash on the parking lot poachers! I declined only to be chastised by KH. Apparently the belief is that we were to purchase something in order to continue our viewing enjoyment. But when no one reapproached the car, we felt it safe enough.

After a half an hour, we were sure that the display was soon to be over and deemed it time to wiggle out of our tiny corner and finagle our way back home before the traffic resumed gridlock. As we drove away, we heard the massive crashing of the finale begin. The drive home took five minutes until we reached our narrow neighborhood. All the while, the snaps, booms and crackles continued to be thrust loudly into the humid night air. As we turned down our street, much to our amazement, we realized that much of the neighborhood was sitting out on the street edges watching the scene in front of them. That perfect viewing position we had sought in our travails that night now lay directly in front of us. By sitting in the street in front our own front door, we could have seen everything in a beautifully unobstructed view. Without the traffic. Without the parking concerns. Without the crowd.

Now, why didn’t my neighbor tell me that instead of sending us struggling to the beach? I would say that they are trying to lose the Americans but I know that these neighbors actually like us. Perhaps it was simply lost in translation.

Anyway… next time, I’m parking myself in a chair instead of a compact Capa with my own already-paid-for can of chu-hi out front. And I’m doing it in my pj’s. Gotta’ keep bringing that bit of class I know we do to this quiet neighborhood.

The fireworks are at the Kamakura beach next weekend and I think I am going to have to miss them. Unless I can figure out how to get on our roof to watch. Because I’m not trying that driving stuff again just for oversized sparklers in the sky. Although I must admit that it was a more impressive display than I remember ever occurring on steamy July 4th nights in Washington, DC.

Thursday, July 26

When Commercials Come To Life

When you are a bit bummed, there is nothing better than a friend who calls you up and gets you out of the house for a day. It is a particularly good friend that will take you to try on jewelry costing more than your own worth and then follow it up with a trip to one of the few clothing stores in Japan that suits the average American sized woman. This is just what one of my dear Japanese friends did for me.

She had received tickets to a special invitation only jewelry event for Camellia Diamonds and was sweet enough to think of me sitting and home and missing my family and how a day of seeing pretty things followed by a free lunch at a fancy Japanese restaurant might be just what the doctor ordered. A boy did I listen to those orders!

The event was held at the Bay Sheraton Hotel in Yokohama where one room was filled with Camellia Diamonds unique collection along with a large display from Vera Wang’s collection. The best part… we were encouraged to try on anything our eager, diamond-dazzled hearts desired. I was to discover this only as I stood ogling over the Vera Wang case that held part of her Flower Collection. I stood in shock as a jeweler placed a $50,000 rose pendant around my neck and attached the matching $50,000 rose cuff bracelet to my wrist. My friend donned a Vera Wang brooch from the Feather Collection. In the next case over, I was treated to a 3.5 carat ring worth $200,000. I swear at that size, they almost look fake, but I can assure you that these pieces were not. Row after row, case after case, I tried on pieces from various collections with my favorite ending up in a $100,000 diamond necklace that honestly put the weight back on my shoulders, but not quite the kind I had worn coming in to the event.

Every good event in Japan always provides some short of show. If you are actually in Japan and watch any amount of television, even if it is only ten minutes a day, you have likely seen the commercial for Camellia Diamonds. I have seen this commercial over and over again and can even sing along to the sappy music playing in the background… I promise if we try, it will never die ahem. Seriously, this commercial has become quite the joke in our household because of the number of times you may see it in the twice hourly commercial breaks. Kimono Hubby honestly despised the darn thing and won’t let me sing along anymore. I digress. For the show portion of our program, in walks the woman who makes are the touching faces in the commercial when this massive Camellia Diamonds necklace is placed on her by some mystery man in the background. This necklace is so big that, again I hate to say this, but it looks fake. Obviously, we can’t read or understand much of the little Japanese that is shown in the commercial to prove otherwise. Apparently, it is not a fake. It is a $15 million dollar necklace carrying over 52 carats of sparkle. And the woman modeling it both on the commercial and in person? This year’s Miss Japan 2007. Of course, you probably heard about Miss Japan 2006 winning the Miss Universe pageant. Well this woman is planning to go for it next year. She’s absolutely gorgeous and slight that the diamond necklace, earrings and ring combination almost overwhelm her beautifully petite frame. Unfortunately, she is the only one they allow to actually wear this piece. I can hardly complain when I tallied up my wear for the day and discovered that I totaled about $500,000 in my accessorizing.

This was actually a buying event (as well as for my personal entertainment), but there was nothing under a cool $1000. I just couldn’t see KH allowing such extravagance no matter how hard I had recently cried. (Although they did take pictures at the event of me wearing some of the larger pieces of which I will be sure to pass along to KH in case he would like to surprise me with a lovely and extravagant birthday gift that rivals the average yearly salary. Likelihood of this happening? Anyone want to place a wager?) Despite the fact that the jewelers were not able to talk us into purchasing, they still supplied us the gift certificates for an amazing bento lunch at a restaurant in the hotel. The food was more visually pleasing them helpful in staving off any real hunger but this was a day now solely for experiencing the high life. Or so I thought.

We were in the area where I had shopped recently with my friend’s daughter. On a mission to make someone happy, my friend decided we would find that place I had liked so much and spoil ourselves with clothes that we don’t really need. As I recalled, the store was a bit pricey but so is living in Japan… and especially so is shopping for my size in Japan. There is no bargain shopping because, as I have mentioned in the past, the average American size is gone on the first day the pieces hit the floor and usually only one of that size had ever arrived in the first place. Lo and behold on this gorgeous day, we hit a sale where the mother load was hanging in wait just for me… and all in my very own size. What I didn’t spend in jewelry, I made up for in trendy Japanese jackets.

It was already dark before we headed to the train station and home… a testament to the hours of frivolous waste we had just enjoyed. Remember that handful of friends I mentioned in my last post? The ones for which I am truly blessed? I had just spent a glorious day with one of them. And most importantly, with her help, the rain clouds were totally gone by the time I returned home.

Sunday, July 22

The Paper Anniversary

So. Here we are. One year later.

I’m not sure what there is to say about that. Should I be honest and tell you that there were times I wept and begged to go home? Should I mention the other times where I felt like pinching myself out of disbelief for how far I have come in this life and how blessed I felt for these new experiences? Should I tell you about the mistakes I have made along the way and the looks I sometimes get that make me want to curl into a ball and hide? Should I tell you about how I sometimes want to smother in kisses those that have made me feel so welcome in this strange land? Should I discuss how it seems impossible to make friends like those I have back home because you just know that everyone leaves eventually so what is the point of aiming at closeness? Should I tell you about the friends I have found that have made this experience so much more wonderful and joyful? Should I tell you that my heart continues in its mixed up state of happiness and sadness even now? One year later?

I guess I am still not ready to define my time in Japan.

My mom, aunt and uncle just spent the past two weeks with me. With the reality of their departure on Friday morning, being reluctantly pulled back into my every day life of studying and papers and this paper anniversary, one could speculate that I remain in a state of melancholy. The sound of quiet has resumed itself in the walls of our home which makes it hard for me to embrace this anniversary achievement when all I can think about is my dear family and friends that I have missed for one whole year. It seems I do so much better in the interim when I am ensconced in daily activities. In those long times between when I see then, I can welcome the newness that still remains here in Japan for me to see and experience. It’s just those rough patches right after someone leaves which compound to me the fact of how very important they are in my life. The words from an old friend still linger in my ear… is it true that out of sight is out of mind? Perhaps so. But never out of heart.

Every year back home my family headed to the beach. It is one of those things I look forward to every year. It was never some place fancy. Just a week in Ocean City or Chincoteague spending time together, laughing and playing in the sand. As my mom returned to the states, the beach trip was to begin. They are all there now and I can’t begin to put into words how much I loathe that I can’t be there without sounding like a selfish brat for not remembering where I am and what I have gotten to do.

Trying to stop my tearyness, a group of our friends rallied to my side and dragged me out last night. To the beach of all places. In Japan, they build up restaurants and bars along the beach which open on July 1st and close on September 1st. It seems a ridiculously short amount of time for all of the work that goes into building these places only to tear them down before the weather even gets its fall chill. We ended up in the beachside shacks on Kamakura beach in a restaurant serving my favorite Thai cuisine. The walk there took us along the shoreline where I kicked of my sandals and wadded in a bit, not caring that my jeans got soaked and my hair frazzled. I just wanted to touch a bit of the same ocean and feel a little closer to my family back home. But while I stood there staring out over the water, I only felt further away from them than ever. In the immensity of the sea, it made me think about the enormity of time until I may see any one of them again. Of course it didn’t help that my mind quickly did the math with me standing on the Kamakura beach, a stretch attached to the Pacific Ocean, which is obviously blocked by a whole continent. This certainly doesn’t allow the same water to reach the Atlantic shores where they would be standing. Stupid mind. The voices just won’t ever shut up.

Forgive me for my moping. Just this once. I promise to get my act together and return in a brighter capacity on another day.

If you are interested, I did spend my weekend not only catching up on homework and papers that I neglected while my family was in town but I also finally uploaded all of my Thailand pictures into the sidebar Flick link. Perhaps you will consider this a worthwhile small token of appreciation for your reading and suffering through the spouting of pouting that this post has subjected you to. To brighter days tomorrow…