This week was pretty exciting since Monday promised an almost 97% solar eclipse over Tokyo! The weeks leading up to this event had been pretty crazy with the special protective goggles selling out all over town. We managed to get our hands on some at the very last minute and got to pay a pretty penny for it too, but what the hell, this kind of thing doesn’t happen often. The eclipse max was supposed to be at 7:34 in the morning, so it was perfect to get up a little early before work. I walked over to one of the artificial islands in Tokyo bay to get a good view and everywhere you could see people with enormous cameras. I was at first rather bummed out that it was rather cloudy, but that turned out to be rather fortunate actually since I didn’t have a filter for the camera and those clouds provided just the right amount of filter for most of the pictures to turn out okay.
The coming week I am responsible for getting the Friday fika, a tradition exported by the many Swedes on our team. I thought I’d treat my colleagues to some Swedish crisp bread I had brought with me all the way from Sweden. So in a rather uncharacteristical fit of forethought I realized that I needed some traditional stuff to put on the sandwiches, so I headed over to IKEA to get some hard cheese and butter. I took the opportunity to get some meatballs and lingonberry jam and to see what IKEA looks like on the other side of the world. Turns out that it’s very much the same of course, but it was rather amusing to see all the Swedish names being kept even here.
AW is a dinner social for the entire department at a buffet place in Bay Quarters. Drinks are free and I fill up on sho-ju, a mildly alcoholic juice drink that’s one of my favorite Japanese discoveries. A bunch of us haven’t had enough so Nozawa-san picks up his phone, makes a couple of calls and before we know it we’re in an izakaya, eating edamame (lightly boiled immature soybeans with salt – the best beer snack ever). We end up going to yet another place before the night is over, honestly I don’t remember all that much since I got rather drunk in the end.
Saturday is spent in Harajuku as usual, it’s a very nice day and I wander around in the rather peaceful Jingumae quarters just north of Omotesando street. There I stumble upon some weird Swedish celebration, only without any actual Swedish people. It’s rather unclear what it’s all about and noone knows enough English to tell me what’s going on, so I just file it away under ‘Wonderfully weird Japan’ and move on. I happen across the ‘Free Hugs’ people and take the opportunity to fill up on hugs. In the Jingumae labyrinth I find a Hawaiian burger place (Tokyo has some obsession with Hawaiian burgers, and they’re super tasty). As I sit there waiting for my food I glance over at the Japanese girl on the next table and see that she’s studying some digital electronics. I can’t let this pass so I strike up a conversation and find out that she works at a software company and that she if she passes this course she will move up to the next pay grade. Her name is Sachi and her English is above average for Japan, but that really isn’t saying much – people here are generally lousy at English. But I’ve found that it’s mostly talking and listening that is the problem, reading comprehension is actually pretty good. So if you write stuff down you usually get further.
She suggests we go for some coffee and I take her to the tree house café, it’s kinda cool to be showing native Tokians hidden gems in their own city. We talk a lot about what I’ve been seeing here in Tokyo and my plans for the remainder of my stay. I don’t know if she’s shy or if it’s the language barrier, but I don’t find out much about her, the conversation is mostly about me. She adds me on Facebook though, which was cool. When we later say goodbye, obviously unsure of what to do, she awkwardly offers to shake my hand. I end up hugging her instead, which is probably a huge breach of protocol.
Sunday has a dive outing scheduled. Mariko-san, Umeda-san and I drive down along the coast to Miyagawa where we are doing two boat dives. They are actually nice sites, but the visibility is terrible, we see only about two meters so you really have to keep track of your buddies. Fortunately, at over 4000 dives, Mariko-san is pretty experienced and manages to keep track of me without much trouble. In spite of the visibility, we manage to see a sea horse, squid eggs, nudibranches, a gobi and a little octopus, hiding out in a little hole. Between dives, Mariko-san tells me that a couple from work has contacted her and asking for the Open Water diver course and since her English isn’t the best, maybe I can help out with explaining. I agree and she suitably knocks off a bit of the price for today’s outing. This means that the rest of the day is spent together with Enrique and Claudia as they go through some of the Open Water theory. It’s quite nice actually and I get to know them both a bit better.