Fully Vaccinated

Time for celebrations – I got my second Corona shot yesterday afternoon! I was fine yesterday evening and today as well, but now I’m working up a bit of a fever. Nothing serious – yet – so I’ll just put myself to bed with some hot tea and my grandmother’s sure-fire cure for colds. I’m sure I’ll be fine again tomorrow.

I’m glad I am finally fully vaccinated, there were some bumps on the road initially. As mentioned before, I registered for my shots in the beginning of July and expected a quick turnaround. Unfortunately, there were supply problems, so Kyoto Prefecture stopped all vaccinations for about 3 weeks. So, my first appointment was only on August 14.

But once the schedule was fixed, everything went smoothly. We were asked to arrive 10 minutes early, and then we were taken through the procedure in small groups of 4 people to minimize waiting time. There were 6 stations for my first shot, and 5 for the second one (no need to make another appointment), from name taking to health checking to the actual jab.

Excepting the waiting time before and after, the whole procedure took only 10 minutes. Everything was super organised, the volunteers – many students but also adults – were very friendly and patient, and I felt well taken care of. Japan for the win!

Anyway, not much is going to change with respect to masks and other restrictions. With relatively low vaccination rates (some 40% have received both, 50% only one shot) and the delta variant breezing through the country, we’ll be lucky if there’s no further lockdown, pardon me: state of emergency. I’m not very optimistic though…

Anyway, off to bed with tea and a book. See you soon!

Still Busy…

Wow, I’m still swamped with work. A number of new projects that I’m involved in have started and we’re still kind of feeling our way through them. Then I have daily meetings where I have to out of the house *gasp* every day until next Tuesday, which will not help with the workload. And on top of all that are a number of private emails I have to answer and most of them are going to be pretty long. How is it that there’s nothing much for weeks and then everything happens at the same time? Standard work conditions for the self-employed I guess.

So, sorry for another super short post where I’m essentially telling you that not much is happening.

But: big things are afoot. Really big things, and I think I’ll be able to share them with you in a couple of weeks, if everything runs smoothly. So, bear with me for a bit longer, please.

Weather Woes

raindrops on a window

It’s a very cool August in Kyoto, much more so than usual. It’s been raining almost every day now, sometimes very heavily. Although this is the start of the typhoon season, there is no typhoon in sight right now. To me, the whole year seems to be more rainy than usual. Back in May we already had several weeks of rainfall when it used to be pretty sunny. And then of course the normal tsuyu – rainy season – kicked off in June just like every year.

Kyoto city has been taking the rain relatively well as far as I know, but in other parts of the country, the rainfall caused floodings, landslides, and a number of people were killed already. Let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse. While I like the cool weather right now – I don’t enjoy being drenched in sweat for months – I hope that this is not a foreboding of a chilly winter. Or something even worse…

No doubt what’s going on. Global warming (aka climate change) is real, and we’re feeling it already. So: turn off your lights (and your aircon) if you don’t need it, leave your car in the garage and ride your bicycle or the bus and let’s do something about this! Yes, we can! 😉

Passive Aggressive

I’m pretty happy living in Japan. Things go smoothly, and although most people don’t speak English (or don’t dare to even though they understand), they are very helpful throughout. But every now and then, things go wrong – annoyingly so.

About three months ago, I got a letter from my bank asking me to check and update the details I gave them when I opened my account. They do this every now and then because you must be a resident to have a bank account. It shouldn’t be a big deal. This time, I had to go to the bank anyway and thought I could take care of this in the branch instead of online. So, I handed in my letter, my ID and bank card to a clerk and was asked to wait. For a long time. 30 minutes. At the end of which I was asked to please go online and do it myself.

I was rather annoyed. Not because of the answer as such, but because she wasted my time. Surely, figuring out that she can’t do that for me doesn’t take half an hour? Of course, in Japan, getting loud doesn’t get you anywhere. The only thing it accomplishes is that they stop talking and at the end of your rant simply repeat what they told you in the beginning – an excellent strategy by the way. So I simply told the clerk that I was annoyed with her wasting my time. She apologised – what else was she supposed to do – and I left – what else could I do.

In an attempt to get all passive-aggressive, I waited until a couple of days before the deadline to go online and fill in the form. I thought I had cooled down sufficiently to deal with it but no – more obstacles. The form, while technically rather easy to deal with, is entirely in Japanese. Not even furigana so I could decipher the kanji more easily. Just to make this clear: This is not a form that any Japanese ever has to fill out, it’s exclusively for foreign residents. Thankfully, google translate does help with a bit of copy/paste and it took me a mere 20 minutes to fill everything in. All is good.

Or so I thought.

Because just the other day, I received another letter asking me to fill in the very same form from 3 months ago. What? I have no idea what’s going on. Either I made a mistake, which is entirely possible because there is no real right or wrong answer to “what are you going to do with your account” (with the possible exception of “use it to launder money for the Yakuza”). Or, another possibility is that some smartass actually looked at my answers and saw that the first deadline was just before my visa renewal date and he wanted to make sure I’m still in the country because that’s what the whole form is good for.

So, I’m back to square one. Dear Bank of Kyoto – when it comes to passive-aggressive, you win. Hands down.

Yoiyama 2021, Part 2

This week is the second yoiyama of Gion Matsuri, the three days leading up to the Ato Matsuri Parade on July 24th (which has also been cancelled this year). Only 6 of the 10 yamaboko that take part in the Ato Parade were constructed. I visited “my” Ofune Hoko, where I usually help selling souvenirs, but this year I was just a guest because I can’t stand on my feet for 5 hours with my hip problem…

It was nice seeing my friends again and they even got me free entrance to the top of the Ofune Hoko. This is the first time I noticed all the names and numbers on each and every piece the Ofune Hoko is constructed of.

There are more than 600 pieces for the main boat and the large dragon that sits at the front of the float is made from 12.

Just like last week, the Daimaru Department store, which is nearby where the yamaboko are built, showed miniature versions of them. They are maybe a meter high (excluding the poles) and are made in loving detail. These look like antiques, so they are probably priceless. I couldn’t find out whom they belong to, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are owned by one or more of the old merchant families of Kyoto that have been involved in Gion Matsuri for centuries (literally).

As usual around the time of the Ato Matsuri, it is very hot. Today it was around 35 degrees and the inner city streets were stifling. I went out pretty early and still got myself a nice sunburn… And yet, it is comparatively cool, several degrees below what is usual. There was even a slight breeze today and I haven’t used my fan a single time yet. Maybe tonight’s the night?

Hip Issues Resolved, Kinda

I guess it’s time to give you an update on my hip issues… Over the last 18 months, my condition has improved greatly, and although I will probably never be completely pain free again, I can now walk longer stretches without too much discomfort on most days. Therefore, my doctor and I have decided to end the physiotherapy and I only need to see him again if and when the pain increases again. Yay!

Somehow, I have the impression he’s not completely happy with that though. He started seriously talking about getting me a hip replacement, which greatly surprised me. First of all, shouldn’t we have talked about that before all the therapy sessions? Second, I feel way too young for this, we can revisit that one in 40 years or so. Hence, I declined.

Then he suggested monthly drug injections directly into the joint to more or less lubricate the joint and thus increase mobility. The thought alone makes me shiver with pain, so I declined again. While I do have some problems putting on my socks on my left foot (at my age, how embarrasing!), I’m pretty sure this can be fixed with regular stretching and exercise. So, he’s out of luck overall – for now. Let’s hope things don’t go downhill again any time soon…

Anyway, the day after my doctor’s appointment, I bought a little gift for my physiotherapist. She’s very young still, just out of school, and mentioned that she goes to Starbucks regularly in the weekends to study. Well, she won’t have to spend her own money for a while. Sadly, even if I do have to return for more therapy, I will probably not work with her again. She’s moving to a different part of the clinic and will work with inpatients only. I hope things will work out well for her – and for me too!

Blood Donations in Japan

I donated my first 400 ml of blood when I was 18. Not that it was my own idea, a classmate of mine was determined and in the end we were five, six girls who went. Everything went fine and I kept it up for years to come. Since I moved to different countries so often, I lost count of my donations, but I must have given blood at least 50 times, which amounts to roughly 20 liters.

blood types by 200 degrees on pixabay

Even though I’ve been living in Japan for years now, I never tried to find out whether I was allowed to donate blood here as well. I asked my doctor the other day to help me with that, and, to cut a long story short: No, I am not eligible.

Besides the usual criteria for disqualification like having had blood transfusions or organ transplants, having travelled abroad recently, or receiving dental surgery or a tattoo within a certain time span, there’s also one pertaining to BSE. Also known as Mad Cow Disease, it had a large-scale outbreak in the 1990s in Great Britain, and eating meat from an infected animal may cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans even decades after.

Since this disease can be transmitted via (donated) blood as well, in many European countries you will be excluded from blood donations if you lived in Great Britian between 1980 and the early 2000s. Asian countries go a bit further: In Hongkong they effectively exclude everybody who grew up in Europe in the 1980/1990s. In Japan, they ask you whether you lived in certain countries besides Great Britain, among them Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.

Well, that one does it for me… It seems that my blood donor career is over – unless of course I’ll move again to another (European) country, which I have no intentions of doing. Oh well, it was fun as long as it lasted.

PS: I hope you’re inspired to go out and give this blood donating a try. Just one thing: Please don’t lie on your pre-donation questionnaire, no matter how eager you are to “help”. You have no control over who’s getting your blood. It may be a burly truck driver after an accident or a 2-week old baby. Don’t play with their lives!

Early Onset Rainy Season

raindrops on a windowOh my, is it really tsuyu already? It’s been raining daily for a week now and people start calling this the rainy season. This would make it three weeks earlier than usual, and the earliest start of the rainy season ever recorded. It was the same with the cherry blossoms this year – everything seems to have shifted forward significantly. Well, as long as the trend doesn’t spontaneously reverse and provides us with three extra weeks of rain…

But in a way, it’s not too bad that the rainy season is that early. At this time of the year, it’s not yet very hot, so the additional humidity from the rain doesn’t make you feel uncomfortably sticky. Also, Kyoto is still under a state of emergency, which has been extended to much of the country a few days ago. The rain usually keeps people from going out, so it may also prevent a further increase of Covid infections, to date around 80,000.

So yeah, there is a silver lining even to these rain clouds…

I’m back!

My first post in 2 weeks! I had a great “holiday” at home. The three national holidays in a row provided some much needed peace and quiet, and I’m very happy to say that so far, it’s still pretty quiet since the construction next door is on a break. I’m feeling perfectly relaxed, which is wonderful.

flyer for 20 years of Sannenzaka Museum exhibition.In the last 2 weeks, I did some smaller things around my place, but mostly I spent my time reading. Not the weather was that good anyway. Unfortunately, it was also raining on Children’s Day (May 5), so I skipped the ceremony at Kifune Shrine, which I wanted to see. Oh well, there’s always next year (a dangerous thought, I know). However, I did visit my favourite museum, the Sannenzaka Museum. They specialise in Japanese arts and crafts from the Meiji and Taisho period, and I made it there just before the end of the last exhibition period. Since it is a rather small museum, they have chosen to remain open during the state of emergency, giving me some place to go.

Speaking of our state of emergency… Well, it was supposed to end yesterday, but it was not only extended until May 31, but now includes Aichi prefecture (Nagoya) as well. This is exactly what happened last year! Looking back, it’s quite hilarious how in June last year I thought that everything was over and “back to normal” already.

Even though some things are indeed more relaxed (definitely compared to last year), we should remain careful. Vaccinations go very slowly here, and Japan plans to have most elderly people vaccinated by July, which probably means that we young ones can get our shots then, finally.

Anyway, I’m back and I’m trying to stay positive and focused on what little work there is at the moment. There will be a “normal” soon. I hope I’m right this time around…

Wish Fulfilment…

Last week, on this very blog, in a comment to one of you dear readers, I vented my frustration about our Corona measures. Essentially, I said: Oh, just shut everything down already! Well, what can I say.

In the latest episode of the perennial hit series “Careful What U Wish 4”, the government has done exactly that: Kyoto, together with the neighbouring prefectures Osaka and Hyogo, is under a new lockdown, pardon me: state of emergency. Beginning last Sunday and ending, hopefully, on May 11, restaurants, bars, shopping centers, museums… are closed. And Kyoto Zoo. With more people sick in Osaka than in Tokyo (which is under lockdown too), the measure is understandable. Besides, I dare not complain again…

Well, here goes my holiday. For the last couple of weeks I was thinking of going out of town for a couple of days around Golden Week (which starts tomorrow). I didn’t want to go too far anyway, down to Nara again perhaps, or over to Otsu, more a change of scenery than a holiday, really. It’s not going to happen now. But, I have all intentions to take time off from tomorrow through next week, so that’s at least something.

There are other good news too: Just yesterday, they finished the demolition next door. The ground is level, the machines are gone, and it’s quiet again, for the first time in months! I very much hope that they will take their sweet time with the surveying before they tear everything up again and start constructions. I am pretty confident though that nothing much will happen until the end of my “home holiday”.

Yeah, I’m good, for now. Let’s hope it lasts.