Once upon a time, in 2016, I was exploring the Tama River Trail via bicycle.
The Tama River Trail is a 30 mile stretch of asphalt path. It connects a good chunk of “Outer-rim” Tokyo with the rest of Japan. It also has numerous paths to the river and neighborhood parks connected throughout.
Ostensibly, it’s a major pedestrian highway.
It was phenomal bike riding weather that day. Cloudless sky, warm enough to make you sweat but not hot to the point of regret, it was the kind of day that made you feel like you could ride forever.
The photo below was taken on the way back home. I had learned about 60 minutes prior to taking it, that the trail was 30 miles long. I responded to that new knowledge by promptly giving that shit the finger and heading home.
In the photo, on the left and in between the two pedestrian signs, is a black oval.
That is a little old woman. I saw her on the way out. I smiled at her, and she smiled back. And at the time, I thought that that was the end of it.
After I took the photo, I saw that she was still there. As I rolled by, without an ounce of thought, I turned towards her, smiled again, and waved.
She returned the salutation, happy (in my mind) that someone saw her and acknowledge her.
And then there’s this beautiful son of a bitch.
I concluded that I would be remiss if I didn’t showcase the real reason my family is currently living in Japan. It’s because of this foxy lady right here.
Not only did she join the USAF because it was the right decision to make for all of us, but her presence in this branch of the armed services elevates the standards of everyone she interacts with on a daily basis. I’m sure she might have something contradictory to say, but we both know that my keen observation skills are infallible.
This photo was taken outside of the Cocoon Tower at the start of the workday, in the middle of the week in Shinjuku, a city outside of Tokyo, proper.
Fun fact? If you linger on the sidewalk a little too long during this time of the day, you will get trodden upon.
I have never been a fan of zoos.
Prior to living in Japan, I hadn’t given it that much thought. There could be any number of reasons.
Maybe I’m one of those bleeding hearts who believes that all animals should be free? Not likely. Aside from dealing with assholes such as myself, I’d have to say that those animals have it pretty good considering that their life expectancy is generally double in captivity.
Maybe I’m (subconsciously) ethically opposed to forking over cash for essentially going for a walk in the park? Closer, but not relevant.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m the only one who can see that, anytime you go to a zoo during peak business hours, the animals aren’t the ones who are on display.
The below pic was taken at Ueno Zoo. I only had to spend 6 USD (for myself), cheaper than any other zoo I could’ve gone to back in the states. The price of admission paid for itself when I pointed out (to at least two of my kids) that elephants only have four legs, not five. My kids and I got a good chuckle out of that.
For the record, there were three female elephants on the other side of the pen trying to stay way from poor old Babar.
Don’t be fooled: This picture isn’t showing you a simple story of mechanical claw prowess.
The morning of the photo, my wife was trying to shoo me out of the house. I had told her that I had wanted to go record shopping in a relatively close Tokyo neighborhood. That morning, I just wasn’t feeling it.
I woke up tired and semi-infected thanks to our children being incubators for all manner of disease. Catching a train (even though the rail system in Japan is superior to that of the States) that becomes a big petri-dish because of the amount of people that try to pile in, wasn’t something that I had wanted to partake in on that particular day.
As a compromise and to ensure that I got out of the house (because she had threatened to make me miserable if I didn’t), my wife suggested that I take the boy. I quickly reasoned that that option was the way to go. He used to be a train fanatic (and still is to some degree), he’s almost always good company, and he’s been having a hard time socializing with other kids his age.
His reluctance to socialize started before we left the states. On top of that, getting a straight answer out of him when it comes to expressing feelings is a Herculean feat. Unfortunately, he takes after his father in that respect. If I had to guess, I’d say that the impermanence of friendships when you live a gypsy lifestyle really sank in when he learned we’d be living in a foreign country for a couple of years.
So I took the boy on a train ride. A short train ride. We got off at Tachikawa, had lunch at McDonald’s, and I alternated between me, tripping on the generally laid-back-ed-ness of the city and trying to get him to participate in our semi exploration.
Then we found an arcade.
Arcades are plentiful here. Back in the states, they went the way of the Do-do bird. Personally, I think that they have survived in Japan because a large part of the currency is coinage (everything less that 10 USD is coin, you could probably apply my numb-but logic to the popularity of gambling here as well).
He perked up as soon as he realized what was before him.The video games he wasn’t interested in so much. Claw machines? That’s his shit.
Claw machines are even more of his shit when one of those machines has a clock in the shape of a cardboard boy. 25 dollars and a half an hour later, we had attracted the attention fo the Arcade attendant. Being amused by my dedication and my son’s fanaticism, he offered some pointers before going back to tending the other machines.
10 minutes laters the attendant came back to see us still at it.
Graciously, he opened the case, rigged the box to where a light breeze would have blown it over and said to me in perfect english, “Hit it right there”, while pointing at a crucial area of the box.