Uguisu

A lot happened since we arrived, but a summary of 29/03 is food and sleep. Also meeting with Florin, Keiko, Sami and Irina. The way from Osaka to Florin’s home, in Nara, was a series of blurry memories. Square cars, the highway maze, rain, sakura, the old engine of Florin’s car, classical music at the radio, pieces of conversations and then quiet. I must have fallen asleep. I woke up staring at a steep alley that lead to a four-story building. I was too tired to be bothered that we had to drag ourselves and our luggage up the stairs.

The first thing that hit me when I entered Florin’s flat is a pleasant, unknown smell. The rain, the house, food? I can’t tell. The Japanese hall, with a special place to take your shoes off, leads to the living room through two doors, each at the end of the hallway. I can see the corner of a table through the slightly opened door. Keiko has awaited us with a table full of food. I am sure the names of the foods do not appear in my vocabulary. Sushi is as far as I go. That food was a spring of energy. The salads’ colours (carrot, radish, shrimp, crab, tofu?), a pizza with pastry (?) covered with ingredients whose names are lost in my memory, a stew, shiny chicken slices (caramelised?) covered with sesame seeds, resting on big salad leaves and a yellowish cake. (?)

I remember we had planned to wait for dad and Florin to eat (who went to park the car), so I started to explore the flat. The living room was split from the kitchen through a comfy-looking couch. The room was bathed in white light, coming from the balcony, piercing the door’s mosquito net. Next to it was a door that led to the hallway. Opposed to the door was Florin and Keiko’s room. I didn’t go in. I didn’t want to explore too much.  At the end of the hallway was Sami’s room, mine and Henri’s room for the next week. The room was special. It talked strongly about Sami, but in a quiet way.

The only thing I remember about the food, was that it was good. It was superb. I loved the chicken and the cake, the sushi, the salad, the pizza…you get the picture. Sleep is all I wanted. Florin showed us how to use the shower (much harder than you’d think) and made our beds (on the floor, of course, on the futon). After a hot shower, I ‘threw’ myself in bed and slept like a bear in hibernation, until mom woke me up at 20.30.

It’s 6.23 now. I am awake since 4.00 and can’t sleep, as much as I’d want to. So I write, using the futon as a table. We’re going to visit Kyoto by bike today, together with Sami and Keiko. Keiko and I have planed the route, then ate dinner (at around 22.00, but who cares). Apparently, the cake is made with buttercup and it’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I want the recipe. I’ve decided to hunt down Japanese recipes and Keiko promised to help.
It’s light outside. The surroundings are covered by a dense fog. There needs to be ‘noise’ in Japan, no matter where it comes from. In contrast to yesterday night, the morning ‘noises’ come from birds and distant highways. I’ve been listening to birds since 4.30.

Close your eyes. Stay still. Breath in deeply and expire fully. Imagine the birds in your garden, park or town, early in the morning. Listen to them. The songs of Japanese birds is nothing like that.

In Japan, birds discuss. A short deep whistle: a bird wants to speak. Then the message: a burst of crystal-clear sounds, like the rushing water of a river. Another pause (maybe the speaker didn’t finish) and then the answer, introduced by the same short deep whistle and a pause. God, they’ve driven me crazy…

I’ve gone numb. I slip into the kitchen and sit at the table. At least I can write better. The house is still under the spell of silence. The apartment was alive yesterday. Irina-chan’s shrieks of pleasure surrounded the flat; the boys’ video games thundering in the background; our conversations filled with laughter and cheerfulness. It all resembled my school breaks in Romania.

The door opens and Keiko come in, wearing a house coat, her glasses low on her nose.

‘Ohayou!’

PS: A futon is a sleeping mat. It’s great for the small Japanese rooms because it can be folded. Kids in Japan are usually dropped at the nursery alongside with their futon’s, for the daily nap.

Ohayou means good morning, but it’s only used among friends. Ohayou Gozaimasu is the proper way of saying it.

The birds I heard are called uguisu (Japanese Bush Warbler) and are one of the most commonly-heard birds in Japan. You can listen to them here.

picture from http://jyuluck-do.com

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