Thursday, January 27, 2011

雪の華 on a Snowless Night

As the taxi glided through the streets of Tianmu, changes in the neighborhood began to pan out through the drizzles of the night - that restaurant where the junior prom dinner took place had turned into an insignificant office space; the line of trendy clothing stores is now replaced by a row of random eatery places or empty store front ready to be rented; Hirota pastry has undergone a much needed and successful face lift; and the major intersection has been given much more greenery decoration well suitable for a flee market to take place over the weekends.

How can I possibly expect things to stay the same when 13 years have passed since my last frequent if not daily visit to this neighborhood? Changes and renovations are bound to happen, only that instead of seeing an uplifting renewal of the all too familiar neighborhood, I see more signs of the aging/fading of a once hotly sought out neighborhood of foreign residents, foreign air, foreign diners and international interactions and exchanges in Taipei.

Perhaps on the cab home tonight, should have tuned into David Tao's very first CD on my iPod instead of Nakashima Mika's "Yuki no Hana". The missing of Tao's familiar melodies perhaps prevented a more accurate reminiscence of the good old days. But hey, if 13 years have indeed passed one by, no wonder even the tunes of Tao's aren't so eagerly longed for while Nakashima's sentimentality seems more fitting for a description of this current mood.

So right there, on a speedy taxi that zigzagged its way through the alleys of my high school neighborhood, I realized that it isn't just that time has outdone this neighborhood's best glorious days; rather, life has carried one to greater heights and deeper wonders that even the most familiar old-time street scenes or melodies can no longer satiate that supposedly craved feeling of "home".

"Home" - this infinitely unidentifiable object and subject has stopped to capture my innermost ruptures of feelings and emotions since Lord knows how long ago. "Home" - this place to which I had interestingly attached the verb, "去" (to go to) rather than "回" (to go back to) when talking about my itinerary to my students and noticed that "slip" of tongue when it was caught by them.

So what do the psychologists say again? That the slip of the tongue effect usually indicates the true intent of the speaker rather than a careless verbal mistake?

And what does it mean when, on a snowless, autumn-like January night in Taipei (for God sake, it's merely 12 degrees C here now!), Nakashima's melody still captures more of my quiet longing and reminiscence than the street scenes of this city that hosted 15 years of my life?


<雪の華> 中島美嘉











Although, my memory reminds me that on the very first snow night of this winter, I was rushing to make it on time to a work-related dinner appointment, trying very hard to keep myself from the slipping off the icy sidewalk of Hengshan Rd.

Too busy to make sense of my new life; too hurried to seal off my past. "Home" - definable or not, it is no longer within my control to decide where it may or shall be.

Nor has it ever been.

梅ちゃん at 1:22:00 AM


Saturday, January 15, 2011

物哀れ On the Train

8:33am Shinkasen departing from Shinagawa to Shin-Osaka. 11:57am Shin-Osaka to Fukuoka. 2:27pm arriving at Hakata. 4pm meeting.

In mere 6 hours I saw the crystal blue sky of Tokyo and Yukohama, snow flurries of Gifu-ken, overcast mountain ranges across Kansai, and calm winter sun again nearing Fukuoka.

There is something amazingly soothing about sitting on a high-speed train and just letting different landscapes and scenery fast dashing by. It is like sitting across from the immense body of ocean water, in which the rise and fall of the tidal waves impact all your senses, yet your mind remains surprisingly calm, knowing that no matter how the waves change or break, you are steady and could always remain steady.

Fall 2000, the first 7-day Shinkansen trip was taken across the Tohoku/Northeast region of Japan. Accompanied by a friend during the first half of the trip and finishing the rest of the trip alone, I took long walks in the countryside of Japan, was taken away by the beautiful fall foliage, and had plenty of inner dialogues with nature.

Spring 2001, another week-long Shinkansen trip, from Kyoto all the way to Kyushu region and back, stopping by Himeji on the return route and bidding my temporary temporary farewell to Japan after a fulfilling school year of study abroad in Kyoto.

Summer 2005, from Tokyo to Kyoto down to Hiroshima then back, squeezing in Aichi Expo in the middle, I was living out the best of my last week of summer holidays before returning to Boston for another 6 months worth of winter dread. Not a day went by that I did not try to soak up the sun and wonder how I could preserve it and bring it back to bean town.

Fall 2008, from Tokyo to Yamaguchi back to Kyoto and Osaka and spending a day in Ashiya, I walked through the unfamiliar neighborhood searching for the shadow of a familiar one. In the surrounding of unfamiliarity there was familiarity; in the seeing of someone else's past there was the realization of my own.

There was and still is always this quest for something in the distant future, the reflection of the past, confusion about the present pain, delight, or contentment.

The same summer of 2005, A. came to Tokyo to visit me for a few days. Sitting next to each other on the train home one night and staring at our vague reflections on the window across from us, A. popped the question.

"Can you imagine us seeing our own reflections of old age and wrinkly faces across the train years from now?"

It's the same question I always ask myself when I sit next to my mom on the train and watch her reflection across the train compartment next to mine.

"I could. I just don't know how I would feel by then," I said to A.

"Seeing just my own reflection alone or actually having someone else next to me, starting at the reflections together," I said to myself, keeping this thought quietly inside.

All the train rides and inner dialogues alone, watching my very own reflection flashing by as the dusk approached, all these years.

There is something amazingly soothing about these rides, yet something utterly lonesome as well.


【物哀れ】- なんとなくあわれであること。しみじみした感興を誘うこと。(辞書 大辞泉)

梅ちゃん at 10:27:00 PM