I still haven’t heard back from UHM, and it’s starting to make me twitchy.  If I’ll be moving off the continent again in January, I’d really like to know sooner than later so I can make shipping arrangements and stuff.  On that note, does anyone know of a good apartment  in Manoa for under a thou a month?

It isn’t like I’ve been back in the States for very long, but it’s been about a third of a year, and I’m starting to wonder when I’ll stop thinking of Japan in terms of every-day-life… more specifically *my* every-day-life.  To explain, there are more things (sometimes little things) than I can count that constitute every-day-life in Japan that simply are not easily available in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Take, for example, the stellar nation-wide public transportation system.  I find myself occasionally waking up in the morning and thinking I’d like to hop on a train and go somewhere completely different for a while.  This is a feat that is none-too-difficult from Tatebayashi or Midori-shi.  I could go to historic Kamakura, the ski hills of Nagano, or heck, I could go to the beach on the country’s east coast, and I could still be home to sleep in my own futon at night.  The landscape is extremely varied within *bike riding* distance from where I was living in Japan, but I can’t say the same for Albuquerque.  Point being, I still get the urge to just get up and go, and it isn’t so simple at the moment.  That aside, I still think of 4-hour to all-night blocks of karaoke with my friends, all-we-can-drink non-alcoholic beverages in a private room while we’re doing that, and the option of singing old Japanese cult classics as the height of the pleasant mundane.  I don’t think of matcha (green tea) or red-bean or sweet potato ice cream as novel.  It’s late summer, and I’m ready to air out my yukata and hit the fireworks festivals.  I sort of ache to do a gig at Veggie Popolo with JET Coaster (the tatami-band I played with in Tatebayashi.  I call it a tatami-band because we practiced and jammed in tatami (traditional woven-grass-mat) rooms rather than in garages, which are virtually nonexistent in Japanese homes.  I still have Japanese words dotting my spoken-English usage.  I think of manga as cheap, disposable entertainment to be picked up at train station kiosks.  I think vending machines should sell hot beverages (especially tea) in steel cans more often than candy bars and chips, and I must say, I really liked the fact that they were everywhere I wanted to be (more-so than any credit card).  These things are still very  much taken for granted in the back of my mind until it hits me that I can’t have them, at least not with the speed and convenience I could in, say, April.

I bring this up because CBS Sunday Morning did a story on the bento this morning, and it struck me as familiar, mundane, and intensely nostalgic.  A bento is a Japanese lunch box, inside which people often arrange a widely varied and artistically arranged set of lunch food.  This often includes food with faces.  Mothers will make rice balls look like pandas or smiley-faces, or they’ll carve little faces into hot-dogs they’ve cut and boiled specifically to look like octopuses, and then send their kids off to school to compare with their friends and generally feel special because their moms care.  Some very ambitious bento-makers will make roll sushi with centers that look like super-hero faces or flowers.  They’ll cut apple slices to look like rabbits, and use cookie cutters to make sliced carrots look like myriad other cute things.  Anyway, CBS Sunday Morning showed a shelf at the Daiso, which is a chain of stores where most everything costs Y105 (about a buck, USD), and I couldn’t believe it.  It was like a major national news show filming the kitchenware section at Wal*Mart or Target, only for me ten-times more familiar.  I had seen that bento shelf perhaps a hundred times.  I owned a couple of those bentos, and used them often enough so that the paint on the top was wearing off.  Suddenly, though, that Daiso shelf is on the other side of the world rather than a ten minute walk from my apartment.  Funny thing, international moves.  The bento is newsworthy, and I didn’t bring a single one home to the States with me.  I’d thought of those things as inexpensive and normal.  Maybe I should have brought a couple back with me, though.  Just for the nostalgia.