Sunday, May 20, 2012
I've never been very good about taking photos, but I was delighted to find someone who also stayed at the University of Tokyo (or East Capital Big Learning) Komaba International Lodge who actually did take and post some good pictures. So, for example, this picture shows what I tended to think of as the back of the Lodge; the small building on the right is where we took our garbage.
This view of the balcony indicates that he had a ground floor apartment on the same side as mine was -- in fact, although I don't think we were there at the same time (I was there in 1996, he seems to have only arrived in 2002), his room must have been right next to mine. (His room is mirror-reversed to mine, otherwise I would suspect it was the exact same room.) That little bit of greenery in the back yard was very important to my mental health, by the way; I had been afraid that I would see nothing but asphalt and concrete in Tokyo.
I occasionally tried drying clothes on the balcony. This did not really work very well, because the air pollution would stick to the clothes and make them dirty. I was shocked at how much soot I would have to blow out of my nose at the end of a day.
In the tourist materials I read before going, it said that Mt. Fuji is visible from Tokyo only a few days a year, when strong winds blow out the pollution. I didn't really believe this. I thought that even if Mt. Fuji were visible in principle, it would be small and near the horizon, so that it would never really be visible above the cityscape. Certainly there was no hint of the mountain from Tokyo the first 6 months I was there. Then one day in the fall, the wind really did blow the pollution away, and suddenly there was this huge mountain where before there had seemingly been nothing but empty sky!
On the other hand, the light pollution was not as bad as I had feared. That is, I've been in much smaller cities with just as much light pollution. I was pleased to see that I could still make out the shapes of the prominent constellations.
Even more impressively, I was actually able to see comet Hale Bopp from Tokyo. I had read about it in the news, of course, but never thought I would be able to see it from inside the city. I was walking back to the Lodge from the Yoyogi-Uehara subway station when I looked up and boom! There it was; unmistakably the comet. I made sure all the folks in the common room knew about this so that they could see it, too.
Back to the Lodge. I was thoroughly delighted to learn that I would have my own bathroom! The bathroom, like the apartment as a whole, was very tiny but very complete. For ease of cleaning, it seemed to all be made of one piece of plastic, and to prevent an overflow of water from damaging the outside floor, it had a rim about 2 inches high at the door. I nearly broke my toe on that rim, after which I was careful to always wear flip-flops so that they could absorb some of the energy of any kick.
That's really enough for one post, but I should not close without acknowledging the good people at Tokyo Baptist Church. The only ones I recognize in the staff pictures from when I was there are Takeshi and Miki Yozawa, who were among the best friends I've ever had, and Ted and Judy Oman; I didn't expect them still to be in Tokyo. I'm Catholic now, and the theological differences are real and important, but my affection for Tokyo Baptist Church is undiminished.