One of the most interesting aspects of my position of substitute teacher is going to different schools and parts of Japan. So far, I am always in "Higashi Kanto" which kind of translates to greater western Tokyo area, but also includes many country locations. I generally consider myself a country girl at heart, but have recently fallen in love with living in Tokyo. So here is a comparison of city and country life.
The first thing I always notice when I step off the train at a country station is how flat it seems. Even small towns have their daily hustles and bustles, cars wizz by, people chatter to their friends as they walk down the street. While small towns are indeed quieter, that's not the first thing I notice.
I live in central Tokyo. I live in a part of town where over half the buildings are over 10 stories high. I live in a city of glass and lights and height. The staggering statistic of 13 people/sq meter is achieved through the vertical growth of the city and the honey comb of subways and shopping mazes below the streets. The horizon is barely visible through the skyscrapers, or more likely not at all, once you consider the smog. I smile as I see Tokyo Tower, red and white, rising above the other buildings as I make my way to the subway. (though these pictures are actually taken from Mita, one station down)
In small towns, such as the one I am in now, Kuroiso, and the one where I was in November, Gyoda/Kumagaya, the air is cleaner and the stars are visible at night. Here in Kuroiso, you can see the mountains dusted with snow and the fields waiting to be plowed and planted.
I "teach" in a brand new shiny classroom. Or rather, I wait for visitors to come in and blog and write letters in the meantime.
I stay in the future teacher's apartment, only a 5 minute walk from the school, in a town where everything closes at 10pm. At night, it is dark. The apartment building in the middle of the picture is an average teacher dwelling and is reasonably comfortable.
I live up here, out of a suitcase, during the week and return to Tokyo on the weekends. I return to my tiny apartment situated down a tiny crowded street (one of the buildings on the left)
Living here has been an exercise in organization, at times. My room is 9 by 9 feet, this is where I live, sleep, eat, and cook. The only common areas I share are a bathroom and entry way (no living room, kitchen, hang out area). It's a decent arrangement and I'm usually pretty happy with it. Here's what my room looks like (in the cleanest it will ever be ever ever)
This "organization" involves lots of balancing things, as on the microwave, and stuffing them in bookshelves, like under the bed. *It's amazing that I never lose anything with such an amazing filing system* (that's in my most sarcastic tone)
I go walking a lot on the weekends and am constantly amazed by the shininess of my neighborhood. The people watching is great because it is a particularly foreign friendly part of town and there are many rich embassy people and bankers that live in this neighborhood. Many of the skyscrapers are high end apartments that go for 10 grand a month. I live among rich people with tiny dogs.
The seasons are less apparent in the city, and sometimes the country girl in me feels too detached from the world and the earth. I had a day off in the middle of the week--Spring Equinox is a National Holiday in Japan, and decide to spend the day walking along the river up here in Kuroiso, capturing the winter blues and browns of the countryside.
While winter has not released it's grasp on the fields and a chill is still in the air, things are beginning to bloom.
Things are blooming in Tokyo too, in their own way.
(two sweethearts in Yoyogi park)