Autumn 2017

It’s September, late September. 

My fog-shrouded brain needs to remember that. I would like it to hurry up and not be September anymore because this month has been rough, but writing a list of 7s in the month column on K’s childcare schedule isn’t the solution to that. 

And whether you judge the seasons by the calendar, the equinox, or if you too are an optimistic UNIQLO retailer that realized everyone was sick of summer by early August and started stocking accordingly, it’s definitely autumn now. The days are getting steadily shorter, the light is turning more golden, there are autumn fruits and vegetables filling menus and supermarket shelves and the leaves are changing colour. There’s Halloween stuff everywhere and even though the temperature are still high, a wrap is becoming a good idea in the early morning and evenings. It’s very definitely autumn. 

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No way was it really that cold

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It’s funny, in winter or summer, how quickly you forget the opposite season. As I sit on the floor of my room, fixing the lining of my winter coat in preparation for storing it away * and feeling hot and bothered all the while, I cannot imagine needing to wear something so heavy anymore. But it’s really only a couple of months since I was doing just that, and a a month or so before that, I was having to force myself to take it off even when I was inside, it was that cold. It’s just hard to really remember that sensation now, in this gloriously mild, humidity-tinged spring weather. Everything passes, I guess.

How’s the May weather in your neck of the woods?

(* Normally, I would have put it away a month ago, but unplanned trip home, etc)

Japan has 72 seasons

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Recently, a link concerning Japan’s seasons was shared on one of my Facebook groups. It turns out that, in ancient Japan, the year was divided first into 24 periods. In each of those time periods, three “microseasons” were described:

The 24 divisions are each split again into three for a total of 72 that last around five days each. The names were also originally taken from China, but they did not always match up well with the local climate. In Japan, they were eventually rewritten in 1685 by the court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai. In their present form, they offer a poetic journey through the Japanese year in which the land awakens and blooms with life and activity before returning to slumber.

If you follow the link here, you can read the full list of microseasons, which have lovely names like “Mist starts to linger” (February 24 – 28), “Warm winds blow” (July 7-11) and “Chrysanthemums bloom” (October 13-17).

A couple of things strike me about the list. First, they seem to describe a cooler Japan. This could be Shunkai downplaying the awfulness of midsummer but, given what we know about global warning, it may be that the seasons really have changed now. In lieu of that, it also seems to be that there are some things missing. July 2-6, for instance, could easily be recast as “heavy rains fall” (i.e. rainy season) and, as I wrote about recently, mid February could be called a more poetic version of “fake spring”, like “brief burst of warmth.”

What about where you live? Are there some “microseasons” that vary enough within the regular four seasons that they deserve some special recognition and/or a beautiful name?

Dates of 2015 To Remember

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So. 2015. I know it’s done and dusted for most of us now, the focus shifted to what can be accomplished in 2016 instead. Still, I only started posting semi-regularly late in the year and I figured a wrap-up was in order.

The winter was mild, but it didn’t feel like it. While it didn’t snow, it was still definitely cold and the first three months of the year had the same energy-draining chill that they typically do over here. In early February, my former housemate came to Japan to visit, followed two weeks later by two former schoolmates; I went drinking and romped around Tokyo Disneyland with the former and, with roamed around the gardens in Shinjuku and had lunch at Takashimaya Times Square with the latter.

I was already pregnant by the time they all arrived and suspected it. Fertility treatment takes some of the surprise out of these things and by February 11th – between the two visits – a fatigue that I couldn’t shake off had set in. I didn’t confirm it, though, until February 20th and even then, the positive pregnancy test didn’t quite seem real.

Spring arrived, but the weather didn’t really pick up – again, as usual. March was morning sickness and exhaustion, weeks that dragged sluggishly by until late in the month, when I toppled down the apartment building stairs. It was terrifying. The baby was fine, though, and while I was covered in bruises, I actually was too.

Our housing contract was up and, after the stairs incident, we decided to move. The hunt for a new place to rent was on. The cherry blossoms bloomed. On April 2nd, my uncle passed away. I couldn’t go back for the funeral. Financially, it would have been difficult at best and physically, I just couldn’t imagine undertaking a 10 hour minimum flight. I still don’t see how I could have done it but I find myself wishing I had.

The days lengthened, the weather warmed up, the morning sickness abated and we found a new place to live. In mid-May, we moved, an experience I found oddly traumatic. R and I had several arguments, one very big one, and the hot water system at the new house was a nightmare that we paid to replace ourselves. June drifted in, rainy season started, and a stray cat started showing up at our house looking for food. R named him Neko Neko and he started bringing two other cats with him.

Prenatal classes began in July and the rain didn’t let up until the middle of the month, when it was instantly replaced by the soul-crushing humidity that defines the summer here. I slept under the air conditioning, hoping I would get some sort of second trimester energy increase and never quite managing it.

I began to look pregnant, at least if you knew, by the time August flopped in. The days began to blur together, but I do remember a Saturday, though, that was a bit cooler than usual. I walked more than usual and overdid it. That evening, I had a strange pain in my back and in the middle of the night, I woke to what I hoped were not contractions. Nothing else happened and I mentioned it casually at my prenatal appointment on August  13th, only to discover that I was in danger of premature labour. I started anti-contraction medication that left me with palpitations but it wasn’t effective enough and I was put on partial bedrest one week later.

Work stopped almost altogether immediately, save for a couple of students who came to me, and if the days were a blur of sameness before, it was nothing compared to the seven weeks that followed. I spent my days lying around in a state of bored anxiety, cramping often and unable to do much about it except take the side-effect inducing medicine. I watched TV, played The Sims, read articles about the baby I scarcely dared believe would be born alive and well, and tried to get my ever-growing body to cool down.

When October swung around and I was still pregnant, I was finally allowed to move around again. By then, I no longer entirely wanted to. I was big and lumbering, my back, hips and pelvis aching incessantly, but I welcomed the freedom. A flurry of baby shopping ensued and despite the cramping continuing and occasionally intensifying, I was still pregnant on October 27th, my due date. Juggling a combination of R’s schedule, the days my mother was scheduled to visit,  Dr I.’s work hours and the hospital’s own special requirement that babies be born by 41 weeks gestation, we scheduled an induction for the 29th and that day was when, at 5:02pm and entirely drug-free (thanks for that very… charming… tradition, Japan), my baby, Mr. K, was born.

I was in hospital for four days. My mother arrived in Japan on November 1st and I was discharged on November 2nd, driving myself and Mr. K home. Dealing with a baby was a shock and while I felt a semblance of control while my mother was here and being unbelievably supportive, it didn’t entirely chase away the sadness and I struggled some after she went back to Australia on November 9th. My mother-in-law helped some, albeit on her own terms and while R was very supportive and engaged while he was here, lengthy work hours in both November and December meant he wasn’t home as often as any of us would have liked. While life started to feel a bit more normal in December, it was an otherwise unremarkable month by comparison. I spent Christmas in Japan and it was something of a low-key occasion, and I even ended up at Immigration on Christmas Day itself, something R was chuffed about and I most definitely was not, collecting my 5 year spouse visa.

And then the New Year holidays came, and now they’ve gone, and here we are, working out 2016.

Yellowing leaves – October 2015

 October is typically quite a mild month in these parts. Even though the days are getting ever shorter and the mornings and nights can be chilly, the daily highs are still quite warm. Visually, the leaves are starting to yellow and the light is the more golden hue of autumn.