Well, it’s been almost three weeks since I arrived and I am feeling well and truly settled into a happy balance of writing, reading, tramping about and random other stuff. My neighbourhood of Motoyama has turned out to be very congenial indeed – urban and convenient but with regular pockets of green and stillness in the form of local shrines and other ‘time out’ spaces, something I find very necessary living in such close quarters with others. I find myself enjoying the more communal sense of space in Japan, the constant awareness that there is only a thin layer between your own space and that of many, many others, but as it is at such odds with what I’m generally used to I do need regular respite from it as well, and to actively seek out open space around me.
Writing-wise, I’m making good headway on my two projects. My adult novel, The Last Wild Thing, is still in the research and development stage at this point but I figure I have one last major burst of reading to do and can then start to make some real inroads into the writing. My YA project, a verse novel, is steaming ahead in a very satisfactory way and getting my teeth stuck into some poems in a wider narrative context is giving me a lot of pleasure.
Language-wise, I’ve been relieved to find that my Japanese, although very rusty, is still basically okay. I went through an interesting phase about a week into my stay where I found myself caught between languages – beginning to lose my easy facility with English but not yet really able to draw on too much Japanese. For a few days there, I just had to shrug and smile. Happily, that can also work (of course, it is also how I found myself a key player in a cheerleading team when I went to high school here, but that is perhaps a story for another time. Thankfully, I am now past the age where people are likely to thrust pom-poms and pleated skirts at me!). Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at a poetry symposium at Nagoya University and was pleasantly surprised to find I was able to keep up quite well with the (often quite academic) content of the discussion.
Of course, shrines and parks and universities are not the only places I’ve been visiting. I’ve also been checking out some bookstores. At some point, I hope to find Japanese translations of some of my favourite poetry collections, as well as some local work (though poetry here seems to be as scarce a beast in bookstores as it is in Australia), but in the meantime, I’ve been haunting the children’s section. Where’s Wally?, anyone?