2018: the year I needed lots of covfefe
Updated: Dec 19, 2020
The song at number 1 on the UK Singles Chart on the day I was born was 'It's A Sin' by The Pet Shop Boys. Maybe that's why I do this recap every year. When I look back upon my life...
All the years that came before:
January: puppets and praying for more money
I spent a little time in the UK over the new year, visiting friends and family so we could bitch about Brexit together. (And I got lucky with the plane tickets. Seeing those return fare prices now is painful.)
When I was back in Osaka, I watched an epic live performance of the Avenue Q musical. It never gets any easier watching those puppets do stuff... even when you know the humans with their hands up the puppet butts are calling the shots.
Something new for 2018 was visiting the 'Touka Ebisu' festival at Daikokucho's Okuninushi shrine for the first time (Jan 9th-11th, with the 10th - 'touka' - being the main day). You know it's an important ritual when they put their umbrellas down in the pouring rain to bless you properly.
February: f is for food
Feb was all about taking photos of things before I ate them. Some are from the very start of the month, Feb 1st. The day I fell down a wet flight of stairs at a train station, then self-medicated with cake. (It isn't a method approved by pharmacists, but it worked for me.)
It can be argued that I needed all the comfort food I could get my hands on. I renewed my work visa, that took mental energy. But I did find out I passed JLPT N2 on the 2nd try. That puts me at officially 'slightly dumber than a Japanese high school student'. On paper, it's a great achievement, and I'm sticking to that script.
Feb was also the month of V-Day: the lovey-dovey one, and the local group performing The Vagina Monologues in Osaka for the 2nd time.
March: outside? in this weather? oh, okay then
There was a lot happening in March. Nipponbashi Street Festa, a Lego exhibition here in Osaka, and a sake festival in Kyoto. It was like coming out of hibernation into the sunlight. I mean it, those first 2 months were cold.
I also had some more friends visiting, and along with that came the chance to geek out. Yes, I took them to a cute maid cafe. Yes, we went to Nara and gawked at deer. Yes, we took purikura. These chances don't come along very often.
It was great weather for sightseeing all month. The sakura bloomed at least a week earlier than normal. Cherry blossom coverage should be in the April section! but that's just how climate change works.
April: there's always a brick wall, they just look different
Moving house is stressful at the best of times. Add 'needing a Japanese guarantor for most apartments' to the list of things to make you go mad during the moving process. I nearly tore my hair out... which would've meant my application got denied because I don't look like my ID card photo.
But somehow, I managed it, and I kicked off April in a newer, bigger apartment. A solid accomplishment for the first half of the year. I'm allowed to be proud of myself for that, right?
Near the end of the month, I went on a guided tour of the Nishinari area's dirt cheap dive bars. Tiny, old and pokey places, with decent plates of food at prices you can hardly believe. Hey, when you've just splurged on letting agent fees and apartment cleaning for someone else's mess, you scrimp where it counts.
May: the pros and cons of social media marketing
Golden Week 2018 was a gourmet week: a gyoza festival, a meat festival, and a Fanta soda float event in Kobe. I won a case of orange Fanta for posting a pic of my soda float on Instagram with a terrible Japanese joke. Yay!
Come to think of it, my pics from May '18 are very food heavy. And sugary. Pancakes, ice cream, chocolate, more pancakes, more chocolate.
Mid-May's my Japan-iversary - my 2nd, this time. (May - ha, May - there be many more!) Took myself out for cheese fondue, that most Japanese of foods...
And I admit I haven't blogged as much this year compared to in 2017, but I did find time to write about being a marketer in Japan. Triggered much.
June: wishes come and go, but caffeine is eternal
The heat was on. And by that I mean work stress I won't go into. There was a sake-infused nabe hotpot party in June as well somewhere, maybe they cancelled each other out.
I wrote a Tanabata wish for 'a less stressful life', and hung it up on a fake branch at a nearby subway station. We got a localised earthquake in Osaka the next day. I guess next year I won't bother.
On a rainy, humid day, I took a trip to the UCC Coffee Museum in Kobe. It's an interesting, caffeinated ride - highly recommended if you're ever in Kansai. If there's something Japan's museums need, it's more free coffee tastings.
July: drowning in stuff to do
When there's an art exhibition happening that covers a whole floor of fancy hotel rooms, you go look at it. I did, anyway. Without checking how much it cost to get in... but Art Osaka was worth paying to see, if only for a large Doraemon sculpture drowning face down in a bedsheet.
Summer festival season was in full swing, including the mighty Osaka tradition that is Tenjin Matsuri on my birthday. So many festivals, so little time. I took 'treat yourself' to heart, and got tipsy, sunburnt, and a bit pudgy around the waist.
I upgraded my phone for more data and a better camera, finally - just not quite in time to get better quality pics of Nara's Tokae lantern festival at night. Looks like I'm going again next summer.
When I look at my other photos from August, the evidence shows I made the most of the upgrade. I went to at least 3 BBQs that month, judging by the endless pics of grilled meat. Took a lot of artsy shots of the sunset off my new balcony. And I stumbled on a mini plastic train carriage full of dung beetles on display at my local subway station. You bet I took photos of that.
I also finally took on Escape Osaka, our local friendly escape room game. A challenge for all comers. Can't give any spoilers, but read the blog post for an overview.
September: you only get an 'ooh' with 'typhoons'
The start of quote-unquote "autumn" was signalled by signs for warm yummy oden popping back up outside conbinis. Never mind that it was still damn hot outside.
My Mum paid a visit, which meant yet more touristy stuff. We sang karaoke together for over 2 hours. We got some caricatures drawn, and some badass kimono photos taken. I love my Japan life, but I miss my family a lot. This time the solo train ride home from the airport was tough.
That meant I needed something to keep me distracted. And what better to occupy my thoughts than a typhoon? A day of hiding indoors while the wind trashed everything outside, ooh what fun.
October: feeling a bit nostalgic
A British Fair rocked up at the Hankyu Umeda department store. It brought me fish and chips from the UK's best chippy, fresh baked sausage rolls, Royal Doulton ceramic bowls, and afternoon cream tea sets. Don't tell anyone, but I cried into my battered cod (just a little).
Halloween was an interesting weekend, as usual. Except this year I realised I always miss the main event. It's crowded enough on the Saturday night, but the 31st itself - a Wednesday - looked insane. I only saw it on Instagram, sadly. That's something to discover next year.
November: from Halloween to wheeeeeeeeee
To look at Japan the day after Halloween, you'd think Nov 1st was actually Christmas. All my pics of Christmas trees outside buildings are from November. I stocked up on mince pies and stollen before they all sold out. (They did. Before December. Ouch.)
On 'November's Christmas Eve', the 24th (nobody else calls it that), I visited an illumination event in Wakayama called Festa Luce. The trippiest light festival I ever saw. Like Santa ate too many rainbow sprinkle mince pie doughnuts and threw up over the side of the sleigh.
December: the month that I forgot doing a lot
Red, red everywhere. But not Rudolph's nose this time - the burning autumn leaves in Arashiyama. We hiked up to the monkey park, trekked over a huge bridge, and spotted a tourist being caught defacing the bamboo. You don't get many days as eventful as that.
I was crazy busy with work, and buying Christmas gifts, and showing my face at Christmas parties, and prepping for the new year. It's been a pretty full-on month. And now it's already several days into 2019.
Have I ever written a year recap post this long? I don't think so. At least that means I got a lot done, and have a lot of memories to go with. If there's just as much to write about next year, then I can only hope that it's mostly good.