Chasing Cherry Blossoms
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Step into [a healthier] Christmas!

I can't quite believe how quickly the past four months have gone, but - believe it or not - it's less than two weeks until Christmas! Of course, I wasted no time getting the tree up and decorating...

I didn't even have to buy it! Rummaging through my cupboards, I was thrilled to find my predecessor had left me one, fully boxed and intact! Amazing. I've also been lucky enough to receive some Christmas cards from home over the past week!

Surprisingly, I managed to do all my Christmas shopping and get it sent off (hopefully) on time! I certainly had to pay for the privilege... Y6000 to be exact (or around £40 for you English readers). Of course, it didn't help having a family of THIRTEEN to buy presents for. I knew it was never going to be a cheap endeavour... but WHO CARES?! IT'S CHRISTMAS!

As to my Christmas plans, I'm off West to China! I'm flying to Hong Kong from Osaka on Monday (12/19), where I'm staying with my friend Tiffany from Cambridge. Then, on the 23rd, I'm flying to Beijing, where I'll meet Claire - one of my best friends who I haven't seen since graduation - who I'll stay with in Tianjin until New Years' Day. Excited doesn't even come close. Perhaps it wasn't the most sensible idea to book my flight back to Japan on New Years' Day after what's sure to be a night's heavy partying and even heavier drinking, but I booked pretty late and dates weren't that flexible. It'll certainly be a memorable journey home if nothing else! 

Before all that, though, I've got to get to the airport. You can imagine my shock when I found that my inconvenient, nowhere town offered a direct, overnight bus service to Osaka. But, before you consider being impressed, remember...this is Johen. Nothing's that convenient. Yep. I may be just one bus ride away from Osaka, but that bus ride's going to take me a staggering NINE-AND-A-HALF HOURS... leaving Johen at 9.00pm on Saturday, and arriving in Osaka at 6.30am Sunday morning. Still, it's cheap and I don't have to worry about getting lost navigating the Japanese railway system...

Not quite sure what bit of a 9.5 hour journey registers as "EXPRESS", but sure...

...that being said, I'm going to be arriving in Osaka at 06.30am when my hostel won't check me in until 3.00pm. Just thank the Heavens for 24-hour McDonalds. You might think it seems like something of an unenviable voyage, but I know the end goal's going to be worth it. Plus, I always think there's something quite romantic about taking such a long journey. Especially this time around, when it's Christmas and I've got friends waiting at the other end of it all. Of course, I'm sure even I'll be giving up on the romance of it all after nine hours on a cramped coach with no iPod battery and only a screaming Japanese baby for company.

And it's not just the tiredness of a long journey I'm going to have to fight against. The weather's taken a sharp turn for the worst in the past few days, too. In short, THINGS ARE FUCKING COLD. Not that it stops everybody at my base school acting as if it were still summer. Yep, they all acknowledge that the temperatures are approaching zero, yet nobody seems to do anything about it. In the staff room, they refuse to switch the AC to heating mode and just leave it switched off, opting for the altogether more logical option of opening all the windows and letting the blistery winter winds in. Then they'll complain "さむいね!!" as if it's somehow out of their hands. It's insane. I'd laugh at the ridiculousness of it all if my facial muscles could unfreeze for long enough to crack more than a pained smile.

Luckily at home, I've got my heating and my kotatsu to keep me toasty. My kotatsu in particular is something of a dream. Basically, it's a big table with a heater built into the bottom, under the top of which you put a thick winter blanket to trap all the heat in and keep your bottom half warm. Confused? Here's a snap of Megu and Shogo modelling mine!

Just the thing to keep you cozy in these winter months! And when it's topped off with a hearty pot of homemade kimchi stew, you really can't go wrong!

Me, Megu and Shogo have got into something of a routine now. Whenever we're all mutually free, Megu will pick me up and we'll all go jogging together in the local park. Today, we clocked up a total of 4.2km jogged. I'm not sure if that's a particularly impressive distance to run in one session, but for Mr. Not-so-sporty, it's the world. It's a great chance to unwind after work and catch up with my two best Japanese friends. After we're done jogging, we'll then inevitably go back to somebody's house/a local eaterie to hang out over a post-exercise bite to eat. Monday, it was my house for kimchi nabe. Today, we went to Megu's, ate more nabe and watched a Harry Potter DVD. I always have dinner before I go jogging, but by the time I've done several laps of the park, I manage to build up an appetite enough to eat a whole 'nother supper. With all this bike-riding, jogging and nutritionally-balanced school-lunching, I can't help but think Japan is making me a whole let healthier!

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