Monday, October 01, 2007

life's a peach

This is the peach I paid almost US$5 for in Japan (480 yen, to be exact), when I was there a couple of weeks ago. I went for work – the annual congress of an international agricultural journalists organization.

I’m not an agricultural journalist. Some of what I do borders on agricultural journalism. But the main reason I got a guernsey was that the people who would’ve ordinarily gone were unavailable. It’s the first time the congress was held in Asia, and the organisers wanted my employer to sponsor the event by way of sending a delegate to chair a seminar session on rice. Their first choice was the chair of work’s board of trustees, an internationally renowned agricultural economist, from Japan. He couldn’t go, so they asked my boss. He couldn’t go, so he suggested me. It’s a bit like trying to organize a tennis exhibition from, say, Pat Rafter, and getting a guy who had a 50% record in his high-school team instead. But the participants didn’t know that…

Anyway. It was a good excuse to, on the weekend preceding the conference, pop down to my old stomping ground, Kochi Prefecture, and catch up with the indomitable TR, still there since we first arrived in July 2000.

I feel incredibly at home in Kochi, almost to the same extent as I feel at home in Oz. TR maintains a direct connection to the glory days of 00/01; I guess if he headed home to Eng-er-land, Kochi wouldn’t feel quite the same. My 13 months in Japan marked me for life, though. I have a tremendous affection for the country. As a foreigner, I probably escape, to some extent, the more trying aspects of culture (the pressure to work excessively springs immediately to mind). But I associate Japan in general and Kochi in particular with perhaps the most delightfully surprising, eye-opening and fun year of my adult life.

Why did I stay for only 1 year? Career anxiety. I was 28, had no career, knew that teaching English in Japan wouldn’t be my career, and my feet itched to get home and get something going. Which I did, but I know now that another year wouldn’t have made a jot of difference. It might have changed the precise direction I took, but not the progress.

Anyway. The peach. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t dream of paying $5 for a peach. But Japanese peaches tend to be good and I don’t get stone fruit in the Philippines. I wandered back and forth between a couple of fruit shops before I bought it, formulating the justification. Then I bought it, snuck off to a public bench and devoured it in all its succulent gorgeousness. It occurred to me it was one of those instances that speaks of understanding the price but not the value of things. It was a substantial peach, it was fucking delicious, and it was a hell of a lot healthier than any number of $5 snacks I could have bought without having to justify the price. But, in Oz, peaches just don’t cost 5 bucks, so I had to talk myself into it.

This is the stage where TR’s band headlined a local music festival, Local Motion, on the Sunday I was in Kochi. TR, his bandmates and a few others organised the whole thing to showcase and promote Kochi music. The typhoon that hit Taiwan and Shanghai last month threatened to dump enough rain to kill the event. The BMX and skateboard stuff was cancelled, but, almost miraculously, the rain held off for the music. Despite the weather keeping the numbers down, the atmosphere was sweet and the music worked really well. Brilliant weekend.

(A tragic footnote – the next day, around the time I was boarding the plane to head back to Tokyo, R, an American guy I’d met a few times when I lived in Kochi, who was still living there, headed out into the typhoon swell to surf the local river-mouth break, not far from the festival venue. He wasn’t so experienced, got into trouble and never made it back. A group of schoolkids who saw the commotion on the beach came out to look; one of them fell into the river, was washed out and drowned also.)

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Blogger Unknown said...

I loooooove peaches. Nectarines too! So good here. How much were they?

11:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

next you'll be wearing your trousers rolled.


2:10 am  
Blogger secret wombat said...

Jef: I didn't see any nectarines. Maybe too late in the season? But I agree with your sentiment. My aunt and uncle in Adelaide have a tree that produces absolutely brilliant nectarines.

EW: I am slow and unable to fathom your comment.

2:03 pm  

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