"The city is being swept away by the metropolis. This action does not just replace one noun with another, but radically turns one state of affairs into a state of perpetual motion. As a collective action -- a verb more than a noun -- the metropolis destabilizes our concepts of time and place. With the dissolution of the city into the forever- emerging metropolis, our existence slides into permanent mobility." - L. Lerup, in After the City


twenty-seven. pause: my machine and me
in an episode of true synchronicity, just when i arrived in my mom`s hometown of Hitachi, Japan for a few days of parental pampering and R/R, my machine began to play the click of death: HD fried and with it some Singapore info (thankfully that`s all). i drowned my brief sorrows with a spread of sushi, perfect miso soup, and pristine strawberries, followed by a long soak in a very hot bath. the next month through Tokyo and China will test my inventiveness for recording both visually and verbally, the lack of keyboard/Photoshop/Illustrator/Word whenever and wherever i want a privilege that will have to wait until my stateside return. so, please bear with (for those who are bearing).

Hitachi is the birthplace of Hitachi Electronics and a mid-size non-descript industrial seaside city of approx 300K. little has changed here since my childhood, when time spent here meant visits to a rowdy ocean that tumbled me underwater, the occasional fishing excursion with my grandfather, and endless neighborhood wanderings from playground to playground. when the rest of the world seems barely recognizable after a year or two, Hitachi`s lack of glamour and subdued economic base have prevented it from becoming either a tourist hub, or a bustling larger metropolis. between the unremarkable 3-storey tile-covered boxy buildings, the diminutive traditional wooden homes remain, the gravity of their weighty roof tiles pressing down into the earth through the grains of wood worn soft and dark with age. every little plot of land is occupied by either the vibrant colors of an erratically planted garden in dirt and moss, or the careful rows of vegetable cultivation. the constant sea-breeze and the cool temperatures have been a blessing for my city-tired lungs.

i have been finding delight in watching random snippets of strangers` lives here: an old man with a cane has picked edible yellow flowers by the root, and he carries them carefully in his hand, homeward bound. a group of 4 elders plays croquet in the morning on the uneven ground and patchy grass of an empty parking lot. a coffee shop that my mom frequented as a teenager is still open, it`s baroque bastardization of Viennese romantic kitsch now saturated with the character that only age and familiarity can ever bring. my mom`s small house, left from her father, is still redolent with the relics and scents of my grandparents.

it is a strange contrast to suddenly be thrown into this world of non-traveler, non-tourist, non-student, non-researcher. i see nothing here with fresh eyes, everything registered against a faint memory or sensation, or even, a personal feeling about this place and the role it has played in my life. i do not live here, and it has been years since i`ve been, but to be here will never be a simple movement through. of all the places i`ve spent time in my life, for school, or travel, or work, this is the only one to which i have returned with any degree of longevity. i have young cousins here, who regard me as the mytsical relative from America with wavy hair and big eyes; i look from them, to their mother (my first cousin), to their grandfather (my uncle) and my mom and beyond, sometimes finding threads that reverberate across time and distance and other times, finding only an empty silence and strangeness still laden with emotion, like the stone graves of my grandparents.

it is good and needed though, this breath of fresh air, these few days of quiet -- before Tokyo`s compressed spaces and quick speeds, and before the yawning, changing landscape of China (Beijing, Shanghai) and Tibet (via rail).

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