Friday, 19 October 2012

My Days in Mino

A typical day for me in Mino. Thought you might like to know what I get up to every day.

I usually wake up around 6. Sometimes my alarm wakes me.  I get up, open the curtains and go down to the bathroom to wash my face and pat down my hair. 

Jo and I usually Face Time at around 6:15, (hence the reason for patting down my hair) we chat until 6:55. Face Time and Skype have really helped me feel less isolated, it's remarkable really, just how connected it makes me/us feel. 

Breakfast is served at 7:00. Before eating, we say something that sounds like "eatatakimas", its a sort of "I am thankful" kind of a phrase. I haven't missed breakfast yet, it's been close on one or two occasions, but I feel the least I can do is turn up on time! Akemi will often bake bread, sometimes lovely white bread that contains seeds and has a lovely, crunchy crust.  There is always yoghurt, fruit, cereal and occasionally we get English muffins with pizza topping and cheese; we sometimes get an egg too. The grandfather, interestingly, doesn't eat this kind of breakfast; what he will have is rice, miso soup and a selection of foods leftover from the night before,(served cold). The TV is always on, we watch NHK local news - broadcast from Nagoya I think. Yosuke, the nephew, will attempt to interpret the occasional story, his command of English is really good, he seems to understand the emotional content of my first ,(and shamefully my only) language, better than some native speakers. Yosuke and me share an appreciation of Raymond Carver and Haruki Murakami. Anyway, I get the most of the news and weather and have been interested in how the family reacts to stories such as the Tsunami catastrophe and items about disabled people - quietly, and it appears, with much contemplation and genuine empathy. The Watanabe's are a lovely family, they really are, Mr Watanabe and I gently tease each other, it seems he and Yosuke do too. I do love how each of them relaxes when they are alone with me, they seem more willing and able to speak English, it's remarkable, in fact, just how much English people can speak. Upon leaving the table, one says "Gochasausamadeshsta" a phrase to thank for the meal; everyone says it, or at least part of it.  I carry my plates to the sink, I haven't washed up yet; I honestly miss this, but it seems, it's not my place as house guest to enter into household chores. My place is to eat what I am given, be discreet at all times, leave the shower and toilet clean and do my own washing. 

I get time after breakfast to rest, read and browse the internet. Its not long then, before I collect my things and say goodbye for the day "Matanay", (later - casual). I cycle out towards the rice fields, passing people tending their crops and allotments, little white flatbed vans are whizzing up and down the narrow and flat pathways. The vans won't stop for you, you have to yield whenever you encounter cars, lorries and motorcycles; bicycles are very low on the vehicular pecking order in Japan. the smell of cut rice is strong, it's a bit like hay or straw, having been freshly cut and reminds me, once again, of England. I see eagles, wag tails and the occasional heron perched on the edge of the river.  The light is so good at this early hour, I've seen a kingfisher shooting along the surface of a man-made water channel, its feathers flashing vividly against the stony river bed.  The 'Okua' hypermarket isn't open yet, it opens at nine and there are usually people waiting to get in. Interestingly, there are also long queues of people waiting to get into the huge Pachinko parlor across the road.  Pachinko is a not seen as harmless gameplay here, it's seen as gambling, gambling, like alcohol is discussed cautiously by some people, even in hushed tones, as if it's their collective shame, something they need to apologize for.  Still, people choose to drink here,  people to choose to gamble, all things in moderation I say, but that seems impossible for some people to consider. 

I make my way along to the studio, the roads gently rising to the centre of Mino, towards the old 'Udetsu' district. Udetsu is a term used to describe the style of houses that have been preserved, (and in some cases re-constructed) in two or three streets.  The houses are peculiar because they have dividing brick walls that act as firebreaks between each of the properties. In between these walls, small waterways can found, these drains fill quickly when it rains. 
I reach the studio, slide the wood and glass door to one side and let myself in.  Kata, from Hungary is usually first to arrive, as she lives around the corner from the studio.  The house is separate from the working studio, to get to it, I have to walk through the downstairs area and kitchen, out into the courtyard, past the outside toilet, (which is more luxurious than it sounds) and into the Studio.  The studio has the feeling of a barn about it, it's an asbestos shell, with concrete floors and fluorescent strip lightning.  It serves the purpose, for me it leaves me no room, but to focus upon my work, its a space that allows me to concentrate, (i think I need a space like this in the UK).   

Lunch is at twelve, it’s universally taken at twelve in Mino, and is announced over the towns loudspeakers, it's announced by an electronic jingling tune, one that reminds me of a holiday camp or something.  The end of lunch is announced at one and we all, slowly return to our work areas, sleepy and, only partially, recuperated. 

So here I am now, at my work bench, and will be here till around 4:30 or 5:00, I'll then head home via the rice fields and be home, early enough to shower and do a few tweets before dinner at 7, prompt. After dinner, the family takes turns to shower and bath, I hear Mrs W using a hair dryer every evening in the room next to mine.  We are all in bed by ten, I guess, I get at least eight hours sleep every night and happily wake up knowing that it all starts again with a chat to Jo on Face Time:-)