Oniko's Travel Diary:
The Three Mountains

(August 5-31, 1998)

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Wednesday August 12th, 1998
I got up early to walk to the only ATM in Ikebukuro I've found that will accept my American ATM card; I needed the cash to send a box off in the mail. On the way back to the small post office, I stopped by a convenience store and picked up some food and the newest issue of Shonen Weekly Jump -- "Young Boys Weekly Jump" -- to read while I waited for the post office to open... I also bought it so I could display it in my introduction page to this website, by the way.
If I haven't mentioned it before, I'll mention it now... Japanese weekly comics are big. Like phone-book-big. The average nationally distributed weekly manga has around 300 pages and carries about twenty continuing stories at a time. The one I bought, Shonen Weekly Jump -- an extremely popular comic that has been running for at least twenty to twenty-five years -- cost me 280yen... about $2.50 US at current exchange rates! And, considering that the average American comic book comes out monthly and only gives you about 32 pages of story for $2.00, the only real advantage to American comic books is that they are often in color, and Japanese comics often are not.
I think I've found a story I like, also... it's called "One Piece", and is basically a pirates with superpowers story, with lots of gags throughout. I saw a drawing of one of these characters at a book store near the Seibu train station in Hibarigaoka earlier this trip, but didn't know who it was a drawing of. Knowing how many of Japan's manga creators actually live in the Tokyo area, it's quite likely that the drawing I saw at the bookstore was by the actual artist of the comics series; I wonder if he/she lives in Hibarigaoka?
Anyway, after the post office opened, I mailed my first box off and then headed over to "GEO", a used music and games CD store nearby. I had been thinking about it since before I arrived, and didn't want to wait until the end of the trip when my finances would likely be strained... for just around $225 American, I picked up 12 PlayStation games and a Japanese PlayStation unit, then walked back to the post office and got them mailed off to home. What funner way can there be to practice your Japanese than to play games in the language?

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After accomplishing that -- which, admittedly, was one of my big goals for this trip -- I wandered around a bit before heading back to the hotel to rest up and be competent for the afternoon. That's when I ran into the kid to the right here, who was waiting for a bus and was so happy with his new pet that he was proudly displaying it to everyone who would look. Yes, it's a beetle... what's wrong with that? (This from a guy with three pet cockroaches at home.) The kid had a second beetle in his cage, and his friend also had two but was being a lot more reserved about showing them around.
Bugs like crickets and beetles have a long history as pets in Japan. Why? They take up very little room and don't eat much; and crickets were especially liked because of the musical cricking they produced. Small cages containing crickets were once worn by ladies as fashion accessories; and no less an author than Lafcadio Hearn [1850-1904] himself wrote a mournful little rememberance of a pet cricket he had kept while living in the land of the rising sun [though I will need to do some digging to find the right book again]. But the point is, it was not particularly unusual for this young boy and his friend next to him to both have plastic cages with beetles in them as pets... it would just be unusual in the United States, eh?
While I was still out, I stopped by Tokyu Hands and picked up some pens and ink so I could work on some artwork for this web page; of course, I also want some recent examples of art to show around the comic convention this coming weekend too, so I have a double motivation to get some stuff drawn. So, after grabbing a bento [box lunch], I sat down and did some work on this web page. I should be able to display this sucker by tomorrow... at least I sure hope so!

* * *
I like to draw; it's very relaxing. Under the circumstances, it's also a break from all the personal interactions that are now so difficult because I have yet to really speak and understand the language in use around me. Another calming aspect of drawing is the ability to create something all by yourself, and see it through to completion... there are so many things in life that a body starts but can never have complete creative control over, or the time and/or resources to finish.
Of course, there are also a lot of things in life that simply cannot be accomplished alone; these are, perhaps, the most frustrating -- and depressing -- things in life to deal with because they require some form of mutual interest and cooperation, and these always seem to fade abnormally fast unless they are paid for. Of course, a trip alone to a place where you don't know the ground rules or language will make you appreciate how often you do need the help of others.
And so we come to the only downside to drawing... it makes me sit still long enough for my thoughts to wander to things I don't want to think about, but that are seemingly forever just waiting on the edge of my awareness to pester me. It was a frustrating and depressing experience that drove me back to Japan in the hopes of finding something I've lost; in hopes of finishing goals I set out to accomplish long ago and got distracted from. I couldn't concentrate on drawing anymore; so I took a hot shower, then went for a long, cool walk in the early evening to the supermarket a long ways up the street to pick up stuff for dinner.
A light rain began to fall, exactly what I needed. I've always liked rain, largely because it was on rainy days that my ever-present allergies released me from their grip for a time as a child... now, gloomy and rainy days are rather comforting to me, be they ever so cold. When I got back to the hotel, I put on a J-Pop music channel, ate my dinner, and typed this up. Now I'm building the page structure for this web site before going to sleep, likely late enough for me to sleep almost until checkout time tomorrow. Tomorrow, I'll be busy moving to another hotel and exploring a new area; but for tonight, I need to be distracted by some hard work. Good night.

On to August 13th, 1998

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