The springing of spring

Finally, the slightly bitter Tokyo winter is almost over! Spring in Tokyo is a big deal, like I’m guessing is the case in most places that have some semblance of distinguishable seasons. Of course, one of the special reasons to look forward to it in Tokyo is the annual blooming of the cherry blossoms (sakura). There’s lots of parties where people go and sit under the trees and drink beer, so it’s a time of year where your social calendar can involve quite a bit of that. The blooming is spectacular, but only lasts for two short weeks.

Not wanting to waste a beautiful spring day indoors, I had a chance to visit Shinjuku Central Park this weekend.  A green oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle of Tokyo, it’s a welcome and refreshing change of pace. The crowds had already started to enjoy the spring weather, laying out tarps and enjoying packed lunches and beer in the big open spaces around the trees.   As popular as it was, my friend told me the place would just about be packed to overflowing by next weekend when the trees lit up in their vivid whites and pinks.

Even though we were there a bit early, there was at least one early bloomer getting some attention:

Nearby, a group of people had started a game of jump rope.  Others started to join in from neighboring groups, and there was a really relaxed, party vibe happening. Given Japan’s general reserve and incredible work ethic (more on that later), there was something especially joyous about seeing strangers joining in and enjoying the simple pleasures of jumping over a rope holding a can of beer or blowing their lungs out on a whistle like it was Mardi Gras time in Rio:

Hanami (flower-watching) season is also particularly significant to me, because it marks the anniversary of my arrival to Japan. More on that later, though…


Four out of five foreigners choose….

Picking the difference between laundry detergents is something I find difficult at best, even when I can fully comprehend the packaging. I am not a chemist (if that even helps), so other than looking for the box with the most fluorescent colours and promises of whiter whites, I am typically clueless in this regard. However, trying to buy laundry detergents in Japanese adds that little extra challenge that I wasn’t necessarily looking for. There are about twenty brands of laundry detergents at my local supermarket, and these are my shortlist.  Please also enjoy one of my favourite games, translating English words translated into Japanese back into English.

Name: Emaaru
Likely translation: any suggestions?

This was the laundry detergent I first bought upon arriving in Japan, because it had clean-looking shirts on the label, so hopefully it would also make my day-glo orange and lime-green shirts glow equally radiantly.  However, I later noticed that it has the “Woolmark” symbol on it.  As someone who likes to wear a lot of hessian, I realised that this was therefore far too girly for me.  It slightly atones for this by having an interesting mechanism where you hold the bottle upright and squeeze the correct amount of liquid up into the graduated cap.

Name: Arieeru
Likely translations: Arial (font?), Ariel (mermaid?)
Subtitle:  “ionpawaajeru” (Ion power gel)

This actually did a pretty lousy job of washing clothes.  I think it may be because although the picture up the top looks like a top-loading washing machine (which is what I have), the icon in the bottom right hand corner seems to show that it’s for front-loading washing machines, just to keep it confusing.  The label is blue however, so you’d have to assume that it will clean things a bit.  This assumption would be wrong.

Name: Atakku!
Likely translation: Attack!
Subtitle: baiojeru (bio gel)

It had me at “Atakku!”.  Though I should note that I once again didn’t notice this was for a front-loading washing machine.  Damn.  So, though it has a sufficiently bad-ass sounding name, it still doesn’t really clean my clothes that well.

Problem solved, though – I decided that clean clothes aren’t cool anymore.  My next job is to convince everyone else of this, which I’m sure will be much easier than finding another laundry detergent.