The plum blossoms bloomed under a cold blue sky, the cherry blossoms appeared for a few days before scattering like snow, and the peach blossoms are now showing their deep pink souls. Spring is passing. April is always a busy time of year in Japan as it’s the beginning of the academic and fiscal year. I’ve been busy with work, and study. I’m aiming to be a polyglot and have set myself the goal of 10 languages in 10 years. I already speak two of them – English and Japanese, so really I only have 8 to learn. I’ve been prioritizing language learning over writing because I am taking exams in French and Chinese in the next few months.
Well, that’s my excuse anyway. Another reason I’m not writing is that I don’t have long stretches of uninterrupted time during which I can focus and concentrate deeply. I can’t write for ten minutes here and there like some people can. I envy them. I wish I could enter the world of my work-in-progress with ease. Actually, I’m still at the planning stage, so I need to take my time and concentrate. Maybe now is not the right time. The right time will come. I hope it’s soon (and after my exams…)
The fiscal year and the academic year begin in April in Japan, just as the cherry blossoms are fading and the leaves are appearing on the trees. It’s a busy time for everyone, but particularly for those of us involved in education. It leaves little time for writing.
When I came to Japan, starting the new academic year in April felt strange to me. Being from the UK, I always associated September with new beginnings – new shoes, new uniform, new textbooks, new pencil case, walking to school a year older as the leaves turn brown and start to fall.
Even though I’ve been in Japan for 21 years, I still feel like there is a kind of renewal when September comes around. The autumn breeze carries the scent of new beginnings, and I feel invigorated. I don’t feel that in April. I just feel sleepy and stressed at this time of the year! Fortunately, we have Golden Week (a week of consecutive holidays) coming up at the end of April and the beginning of May. I hope to get some writing in then, in between going to the gym (which I haven’t been to for 3 days!) and having a good rest.
I joined a new gym the other week. In the past, I sometimes used the municipal gym, but it’s quite small, and doesn’t have many machines. It also doesn’t require a membership fee – you just pay 300 yen when you go. It’s fine for short workouts during lunch or in the afternoon, but it isn’t a place you can stay at for hours.
I want to spend a few hours at a time in the gym, so, I took out a membership at one that opened up about a year ago. I’m satisfied with it so far. I do an hour of cardio, an hour of weights and about 15 minutes stretching. I also join a Zumba class when it’s on.
I work from home, so I tend to spend a lot of time in my house alone. Going to the gym gets me out and around other people (there is a no talking policy because of covid, so no one at the gym talks), and exercising makes me feel good. It has become like my second home. I’ve been going 5 times a week. It was a rainy Sunday today. Normally, I’d spend the afternoon in the house alone reading, and feeling, well, a bit depressed. I spent the afternoon in the gym, and I feel great. I’m going to get busier in the next few weeks, so I’ll only be able to go 3 or 4 times a week, but I can see it becoming a habit, and slightly addictive.
I also need to work on my second novel, and I am aware that going to the gym take time away from that pursuit, but it makes me feel good both mentally and physically, which in turn puts me in the mood to write. Now I just have to schedule the writing in….
I feel like fleeing. Like fleeing from what I know, fleeing from what’s mine, fleeing from what I love. I want to depart, not for impossible Indias or for the great islands south of everything, but for any place at all – village or wilderness – that isn’t this place. I want to stop seeing these unchanging faces, this routine, these days. I want to rest, far removed, from my inveterate feigning.
From The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa (translated by Richard Zenith)