If you’ve never been to Japan, you might not be able to appreciate just how desolate the urban sprawl is. Hardly any houses have gardens, and the parks and playing fields are surfaced with sand instead of grass. The cats don’t even have anywhere to bury their droppings, with predictable results.

So I escaped from the city yesterday—I went to Minoo, north of Osaka, for a walk in the woods. The difference in the air quality was profound. Osaka air is not as bad as, say, London, but it’s still far from clean and sweet.

It was a change to see so many trees and a river that was more than a stinking concrete drainage channel. Of course, being Japan, there was still plenty of concrete, and all the routes had street lighting. It’s not quite untamed natural beauty.

There are supposed to be a large number of monkeys living around there, but I didn’t see any. Disappointing.

Tomorrow is my first day at elementary school. I’m beginning to get nervous. I have a bit of preparation to do, but worst of all, I have to get up at 6am. Too hard.