29 April 2007

So three firsts came up today.

#1: I ran over a pigeon on my bike

I spent most of today on a long bike ride out along the Tamagawa river. There are various rec paths on both sides of the Tamagawa. At one point, there were a whole flock of pigeons on the path. When I'm riding and I encounter a pigeon in the road, because it's so hard to predict which way the pigeon will move, I generally stay moving towards the pigeon -- that way, whichever way it moves, it'll be out of the way.

Except this pigeon never moved! It just stood there in the road, even as all the other pigeons took off. It stood there so long that... I ran it over. I don't think I actually hit the bird itself, just it's feathers, because when I looked back there were feathers everywhere but the pigeon was flying. Still, I was amazed -- I've never seen a pigeon not get out of the way, whether it's a car or bike that's coming. That was an amazingly lazy Japanese pigeon.

#2: I saw a falconer in real life

I've heard of falconing as a hobby of course, but I had never before actually seen a falconer live. Along the other side of the Tamagawa, when I was headed back home, I saw a Japanese man training his falcon. He would hold the bird and feed it, then walk about twenty feet away and gesture the falcon to his glove. When it came, he'd give it another small piece of meat.

The falcon was beautiful. I don't know enough about falcons to know what species it was, but it was fairly large, maybe 20 inches from top of head to tip of tailfeathers, and had dark feathers with a golden hue; it was a stunningly beautiful and graceful bird.

Of course, when he was away from the bird, it was totally free. It's amazing that it didn't just fly off.

#3: I encountered my first (petty) crime in Japan

A few weeks ago I bought a rear splash guard for my bike. Rainy season is coming, and I know I'll need it by then. It installs without tools, but I just hadn't gotten around to attaching it to the bike.

This morning I thought I'd attach it, so I took it down with me. When I test-fitted it, it turned out to block the view of my tail light. That's no good, but I realized I could probably fix it if I rearranged the position of the tail light. So, I put the splash guard on the rack where I usually lock my bike, I figured I would finish installing it when I got back.

When I got back, the splash guard was gone. Now, in the U.S., I wouldn't even think of that as stealing -- I left something unlabelled, not attached to my bike, and in a public area. But in Japan, that's full-on theft; people here just don't steal stuff left around. As an example, Friday night on the way to a nomikai (drinking party) we saw a cellphone lying on the ground. After talking about what to do for a minute, we left it where it was -- that way, if the owner remembered where they dropped it, they could come back and find it. That's how Japan usually is, so when my splash guard was gone, while I'm not heartbroken or anything, I was pretty surprised.

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