Item from the past: March 4, 1992
Preface, 2005: Here it is, the middle of March, and it’s still cold every day. Last Sunday was an anomaly. Today it was cold enough to maintain the patches of snow still on the ground from last week’s light dustings. I see that a few bulbs are beginning to push out of the ground, but that’s the only clue that something warm might happen in the near future.
I used to complain about the same sort of thing in Osaka, which has a much warmer climate than here. Spring can’t come soon enough anywhere. Then again, I didn’t have central heating when I lived there, just a gas space heater I rescued from the street. Note this item from early March 1992:
We’re about halfway out of winter now. The nights are still mostly cold, sometimes with icy winds, but things are fairly mild during the day, sometimes reaching the 60s I think. Not much rain recently, but that picks up as it gets warmer. At the end of this month, the cherry blossoms will emerge, which of course is a big deal.
Too big a deal, in some places. The grounds of the national mint feature nice cherry trees, but teeming crowds as well, even on a weekday during cherry blossom season. Last year I went to Suminoe Shrine instead, 20 minutes south of where I live by bicycle. The shrine precincts include a cemetery devoted to war dead, and cherry trees grow among the stones and along the path to the main shrine. The wind separates countless petals and delivers them like snow onto the stones below. Maybe people are put off by the fact that it’s a cemetery, or maybe the place is simply obscure, but I was by myself that warm afternoon at Suminoe.
I went to the Oji Zoo last Sunday. It’s set between some train lines and the side of a mountain range in the outskirts of Kobe. Within that tight space, the zoo seems small, but when you walk through it, you realize it isn’t that small—paths between the exhibits switch back on themselves and a lot is packed into the available land. Still, except for the largest animals, most of its residents live in cages.
The zoo had an enormous collection of birds, another way to save space I guess, including a number of Asian species I’d never heard of, and a lot of colorful South American varieties. Elsewhere, there were a couple of koalas, and—I couldn’t believe it—I saw one of them jump from one tree to another, the most active I’ve ever seen those animals. At the gorilla cage, a surly-looking simian decided to pitch a handful of dung out at us, but his aim was poor, luckily.
It reminded me of the Alpine Zoo in Innsbruck, Austria, in size and mountainside setting, though that zoo was much more built into the actual side of a mountain, with tiers of exhibits connected by more vertical footpaths. Oji also reminded me, in its many cages, of the dusty animal prison of a zoo I visited in Pusan, South Korea, though it wasn’t quite as bad as that.