Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Expedition In Japan




Expedition In Japan

The four photos at the top of this blog entry were all taken at Nogeyama Zoo, the free zoo in Yokohama. They show a white peacock, a mouse microcity, three-year-old daughter Cornucopia doing her "assault on Everest" act on a rock face, and Hugh fulfilling a life-long dream by holding a live snake.

We went to Nogeyama because Cornucopia had been asking to pay the place a return visit. For our purposes, it's much better than the main zoo at Ueno, because it's a lot closer, it's little- visited, and it has a better petting zoo. The petting zoo at Ueno is sensibly stocked with robust animals - sheep and goats - which can handle life with the masses. By contrast, the petting zoo at Nogeyama has small animals, chiefly chicks and mice.

And also a snake.

When we showed up, the snakes were all behind glass in their enclosure. But, in due course, a cheerful woman dressed in a kind of dark green park ranger uniform showed up and took one of the snakes out of its enclosure.

Before she started handing it around, she very carefully cleaned it with a rag. My image of a snake is something that is clean and glittering, but, evidently, there's a certain amount of zoo filth associated with these animals.

Snakes live wild in both Tokyo and Yokohama. I once saw a very large snake basking in the sun not far from Tokyo station, right in the heart of central Tokyo. I saw it in the small part of the imperial palace gardens which is open to the public, and I was astonished. The Japanese citizens who were playing tourist in the same location were also astonished.

Later, while living at Hiyoshi, I occasionally saw snakes on the path that I used to sometimes take to get to the local Co-op supermarket. But, until Saturday 30 June, I'd never handled one.

Having done the zoo bit we pushed on by train to Odawara then took the switchback railway up to the heights of Hakone, where we stayed two nights in an onsen. At the onsen, wife and daughter went swimming in the outside hot pool along with the brain-eating amoebas, but I chose to soak indoors in the bath which came with our private room.

On the Sunday we took a scenic route (a rather foggy scenic route, since this is slap bang in the middle of the rainy season) up over a mountain ridge by cable car then down to a lake, which we crossed on an ornate pirate ship.

We returned to Yokohama well-satisfied with our trip and pretty exhausted.

On the Friday, Friday 29 June, I went to Meijin Hospital for yet another routine magnetic resonance imaging scan of my brain, which detected no problems. I met with my new doctor, whose Japanese name translates literally into English as Riverfield, who replaces my former doctor, the hematologist Dr Gunma, who has moved on to other pastures.

He scheduled a blood test for me three months out, at which stage he will book my next MRI, which will be in December.

My next adventure will be to get my body into gear. It's been two years or so since I finished chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but I still haven't started a physical fitness program. The time to do that is, I think, long overdue.

Immediately after treatment was over, I could not run. Not at all. But now I can comfortably jog trot for a hundred paces, and my daily routine usually involves me in walking forty minutes or so.

And my plan now is to start running again, building up to it slowly. The route I have in mind will take me up out of the valley where we live, tucked just under the ridge which cups the valley, down past the daycare center, across the railway tracks, left past the Place of the Sacred Carvings, left again to follow a path up through forest to the top of a hill, then down the hill to intersect a road which will lead me back to the railway crossing.

I figure it will probably be about four kilometers in length, but I will know once I have figured out the exact route and have walked it, since my standard pace, regardless of terrain, is one kilometer in every ten minutes.

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