Archives for posts with tag: Nature

I have lived most of my life in the Chicago area, and I suppose I have a love-hate relationships with the seasons. Especially winter. About 20 years ago, I moved to Los Angeles for a while. While I absolutely loved the year-round mild weather at first, I began to long for the seasons that I was used to in the Midwest. Now that I live in and experience the seasons of Osaka, I realize you need to be careful what you wish for. While the winter in Osaka is far milder than in Chicago, the rainy season here is the worst. So I have compiled a list of why 梅雨 (tsuyu – the rainy season) is the worst.

1) It’s hot. Now, I am no fan of the cold rains that we get in Chicago in April. But the rainy season in Osaka takes place in June and July. The hottest part of the summer actually occurs right after the rainy season (in July and August), so it’s pretty much building up to that. Plus, you have the added effect of point number 2, which is…

2) It’s sticky. Humid. Muggy. Sultry, stifling, mushiatsui. Whatever you want to call it, it’s pretty miserable. You know how in the Midwest we look forward to a good rain because it will cool things off? Not the case in Osaka. In fact, it gets worse. Now, instead of just having moisture in the air, it’s also steaming up from the ground. The second you walk outside, your clothes begin to stick to you. You learn to bring a fresh shirt with you everywhere. And your apartment? Fuggedaboutit. No longer able to open the windows because of all that rain, you are probably stuck with an air conditioner in only one room and/or a fan. Those of you who have experienced a power outage during a summer storm may have a clue what I’m talking about. But Japanese homes don’t have central air conditioning, so it never gets all that cool to begin with. Your home begins to feel a bit like you are living inside a bowl of warm gelatin. May God help you if you need to be in the tiny bathroom for more than 30 seconds.

3) It’s wet. This seems like a no-brainer. I mean, it’s raining, so duh. But what I’m talking about here is the complete inability of any person to stay dry. If you’re lucky enough to have a car, it’s not bad. But definitely don’t wear good shoes, because even driving can’t save them. Many places don’t have parking lots, so you can’t make a quick dash from the car to the door. You’ll probably have to walk a bit. Riding a bike? Yeah, that’ll be covered in #5 below.

4) It’s dirty. I always liked the clean, fresh smell after a storm. The rain always seemed to refresh things, make them greener and cleaner. Here the garbage just stands out more clearly. I don’t even like to think about it. And it’s not like Osaka is filthy on a fine day. The rain just somehow makes it worse. We don’t have puddles; we have tiny cesspools. I rarely wear sandals on rainy days here for fear of what I might step in.

5) Riding your bike becomes treacherous. And ridiculous. There are a couple ways to attempt to stay dry while on a bike. Neither of them are good options. #1, which few people do, is wear a full-length rain suit. A rain suit is pretty much a pullover plastic coat with hood and a pair of plastic pants. While this sounds like it will keep you dry, it actually has the opposite effect by causing you to sweat profusely. I mean, you’ve encased yourself in plastic, so what did you expect? The other option is to carry an umbrella. Believe it or not, this is actually illegal. Yet, almost everyone does it. I have yet to hear of someone who was ticketed for carry an umbrella while biking, though it’s probably a good rule. The problem with doing this is twofold (I guess threefold if you count the whole breaking the law thing). First, it only covers your head and torso. Your legs will still get soaked, so you’d better have an extra pair of pants with you. Secondly, it makes a slightly dangerous mode of travel extremely dangerous. I’m pretty good on my bike, but even I don’t feel like I have complete control when I’ve got only one hand on the handlebars. Biking is already dangerous because so many people do it and nobody ever looks where they’re going. Add to that umbrellas that could smack you in the head and loss of balance and you’ve got several accidents waiting to happen.

Really, if there’s any way you can hole up in your house or leave the country during tsuyu, do it. You won’t miss anything, trust me.

OK, kids, gather round the campfire because I’m about to tell you a horror story.  Forget what your parents always told you about there being no monsters under the bed or in the closet.  Because there ARE monsters, alright.  But they’re not under the bed or in the closet.  I know because…I SAW ONE ON MY STAIRS!!!

Seriously, though, this happened sometime in May or June, I think.  It was a beautiful warm day, not hot and humid yet.  The kind of day that makes you feel alive, and happy to be so.  The kind of day that you feel like nothing dangerous or evil exists; and if it does, then it’s certainly not going to bother YOU today.  But I would come to find out that that was so very wrong.  I left the apartment in the late afternoon on this fine Saturday, not a care in the world.  I had no sense of foreboding as I bounded down the steps of my apartment building.  But at the 4th step, movement by my foot caught my eye.  It’s amazing how quickly the mind works.  In just a split second, my brain went through the possibilities of what the movement may be: a mouse?  a cockroach?  a leaf? a dust bunny? an incredibly tiny and mute dog?   Then my brain registered that this wasn’t just any movement; this thing had snapped at me.  I skipped down the remaining few steps, turned, and was horrified to discover that the source of the snapping was…a giant Japanese clawed googly-eyed crayfish monster thing!  It was staring at me warily with one of  its eyes attached to the end of a stalk.  The other eye stalk was stretched out in a different direction, but I could tell me was giving me the stink-eye with that one, as well.  Anyone could see he was angry, just daring me to try and get back to the safety of my apartment.  He viciously snapped in my general direction with one of his jagged claws as if to say, “That’s right!  These are MY stairs, girlie!”  I was frozen with fear, rooted to my spot.  For a moment, I thought I’d actually gone insane and was having a schizophrenic hallucination, or something to that effect.  My mind reeled at the sight of the impossible creature.  And then I realized, I was in Japan, after all.  I mean, this is the home of Godzilla and Mothra, giant turtles and killer robots.  What’s a giant clawed googly-eyed crayfish monster thing compared to those?

Anyway, I quickly recovered my senses enough to escape, praying desperately that it wouldn’t follow me.  I dreaded coming home all evening, but it was all for naught.  It seemed the monster had better things to eat than me, and by 10:30 that night it had disappeared.  The truth is that as time passes, I wonder if I ever really saw it.  Was it just a figment of my imagination?  Had I eaten some bad sushi?  I only know that I never want to see it again.   I was so freaked out that I didn’t even have the presence of mind to take a picture of it with my camera phone, although it probably would have just wrenched the phone out of my hands and smashed it against the wall.  Anyway, I’ll post a picture of a creature that bears some resemblance, although please note that it lacks the same fury in its eyes:

This must be a much smaller and kinder cousin to the creature that I saw. Notice how he ISN'T snapping his claws menacingly.

I hope you all can sleep tonight…

We’re on week 4 now, and I decided to add some pictures of the little creatures that make their home in the rice paddies every year.  At night, you can hear tons of frogs, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of tadpoles swimming around.

Here’s the latest picture from the rice field by Grace Chapel.  Look how tall it’s getting!  And such a nice green color.

One of the weird little things that I have truly enjoyed during my time in Japan is watching the rice grow. No, seriously. I love seeing it slowly grow and change colors. When I used to teach at Kashiba Chapel, I had a looong walk, and the highlight for me was when I passed by a rice field. It looked different every week, and I was always a little sad after the harvest was over.   Anyway, I thought that this year I’d share it with all of you by posting pictures here every week. Naturally, I ‘m a little late, but here’s the first 2 weeks for you.