El Cerrito -- Two years later I'm preparing to return to Kyoto, this time for an extended stay. I got my ticket, arranged lodgings, and made a lot of lists. That's the easy part. When you've been completely out of touch with a place for so long you need to plan seriously what you're going to do to catch up so you don't land blind. Research and reading to learn current affairs on the ground; emailing Japanese friends ahead of time to seek advice on what's hot; brush up on Japanese to avoid bouts of aphasia when you can't call up words and phrases that once spilled out of your mouth effortlessly.
I was very fortunate to have a visitor this weekend who gave me a jump-start on the work ahead, His name is Tetsuya Matsuda, one of my oldest and closest friends in Japan. We were drinking buddies when I was a ryugakusei at Kyoto University in the late 1970s and he was a Kyodai medical student. I mined his considerable brain for intelligence on such things as recent popular movies and changes in the Kyoto environment. There's a suspicious looking Japanese video rental store down the street from where I live that have't checked out yet; I'm hoping it has more than porn in stock.
Probably the most important thing to think about now is mind-set. I don't want this visit to be a trip down memory lane like my last time, as documented below. I tried to explain to Tetsuya that I wanted to focus more on the present, with the then-and-now as a secondary narrative. Hopefully I can eliminate the maudlin nostalgia that turned the the earlier phase of this blog into a sappy diary. Nevertheless, probably one of the first things I'll do after arrival will be to see if my little red mailbox is still hanging at the foyer of the shabby apartment above the rice shop where I lived for a few of the happiest years of my life, If it's still there, as it was two years ago, it will be a symbol of how Kyoto is frozen in time and yet changing at a stupeyfing pace. Then the journey begins.