Saturday, August 31, 2019

Golden Week 2017 Part I (4.30 - 5.7): Shows, Cafés, and Strangers' Weddings for Days

Once upon a time, in the distant year 2017, which has long since passed out of living memory, Hannes and I enjoyed a third and last Golden Week in Japan.

If you have no idea what that means, Golden Week is a string of fairly arbitrary and obscure public holidays - with the exception of the much-loved, carp-windsock-bedecked Children's Day - during the first week of May that come together to form a sort of Holiday Voltron.

Together with the New Year, these comprise the only significant consecutive days off that many people get, or that they are willing and/or able to take. Even when you try to force it on them and make it mandatory, the oppressive collectivist mentality programming is so strong in the Japanese that they refuse not working. They also refuse not working when they're sick, and no one washes their hands or covers their mouth when they sneeze or cough there, so that's.. really great when your face is pressed against someone else's on every side on the train every morning. But I digress.

Basically, you don't take days off in Japan. It's a lot like the States in that there are a great many people who have never been outside the country and can't imagine going, and a great many people into whose hearts the thought of calling in sick to work strikes genuine terror. I don't know how many people get paid days off and how many, but probably not many, and probably not many.
If you don't have a decently high fever, in spite of whatever your other very legitimate symptoms might be, you're not sick. If you've just become a father, you technically are legally entitled to paternity leave, but that's as far as that goes. Almost no one takes it.

So when Golden Week rolls around, after the cherry blossoms and the cold grey drizzly weather that always accompanies them have been swept away by the weirdly powerful winds that herald in high spring, it's a whole thing. It's a big deal. Everybody plans stuff. 
Even the most minor and remote islands, castles, art museums, waterfalls, restaurants with views, and literally anything else you could possibly think of to do, even far off the beaten path, has an obscenely long line. Omnipresence is somehow achieved, and you can't avoid running into huge groups of other holidaymakers, so you just lean into it and accept it, even when you turn a corner and run face-first into disappointment, thinking that this time you had actually been really clever or that your timing was excellent.
But it's okay, because it's springtime, and you have plans, and time, and anything is possible.

Those almost violent gusting Pacific winds scour the sky of cloud remnants until only the original, opaque blue surface underneath shows. They're amplified between tall buildings in close proximity to each other, as any New Yorker or Chicagoan knows, but they're also crazily strong at the coast sometimes, and in some places. The previous year we went to Mito and then to Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki prefecture because I begged to see the rolling fields of baby blue eyes that blended into that sky, and the wind almost literally removed my clothes. Of course it tried very hard to take my hat, and wearing a skirt turned out to be what I can only describe as an ordeal, but I've never been in wind that blew my shirt completely up and almost off over my head before. It was crazy.

We also went to Kappunk and hiked Mt. Takao with Jharrod, if you're interested.

2015 was too uneventful, broke, and awkward to mention, and Korea has Golden Week too, but that's a whole other life.

This single rose was quite dramatic in person.

Same house. It's next to the railroad tracks just outside our old apartment.

Hannes brought home tiny adorable celebratory cakes to kick off the first weekend, as he so often did, from the quaint-as-fuck Andersen bakery I couldn't resist! I pretty much had a perpetual stomachache anyway, so a slice of cake 1/3 the size of a standard slice, you know.. 
Anyway, it was really sweet. He always brought home pastries or flowers or both because he knew how unhappy I was there.

My Gimme Flair order also came - look at this shit! Hrrnnggg!

Spike lives on my bright blue narwhal messenger bag strap with my Mori Art Museum and Ghibli store pins of the same size!

No idea what these are. No idea what so many of the flowers in Japan are. It's great.

I hope these found new homes.

This one is of course some interesting variety of iris, blooming proudly just outside Ekoda station, but I have no idea what species it could be.

These, at the tiny florists' shop nearby, are gloriosa, or very appropriately, fire lilies.

I was at the station to head just a few stops over to Ikebukuro to meet Rejon, because there was finally a pop-up theme cafe I decided to go to, because I knew I'd be leaving Japan that year and was like, fuck it, they have a gluten-free option and I'm throwing in: it was a Miffy-themed one, Christened miffy lekker cafe. She said she was all for it and agreed that it looked adorable. We decided to be there before it opened so that we wouldn't have to wait the rest of our natural lives.

-very deep sigh-