The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Friday, September 22, 2006

Japan, Day 2 (or 3?)

Last night I had a "date" with a really cool woman that I met on the airplane from Tokyo to Toronto. We kind of hit it off, so we agreed that we'd meet again once I got back to Tokyo. We went out to dinner to a very interesting Chinese place, and had a nice time. It kind of made me sad to think that I don't live in Tokyo, because living in Oita means that it will be some time before we can meet again. This, in turn, got me to thinking about all the different places I've lived in Japan thus far, and all the nice people I've met, and how it's too bad that I can't see everybody. (Which also applies to everybody in Canada...) It would be nice to be wealthy enough to be able to travel around and visit everybody, wouldn't it?

After dinner, I was feeling a bit jet-lagged, so I went to bed at a good time and woke up this morning feeling pretty good. I think I'm over my jet-leg now, mostly. Today, I kind of hemmed and hawed about what to do. I had an appointment to meet another friend out in Abiko (where I used to live) around lunch, which left me a few hours this morning. I was considering going shopping for English books to tide me over in Oita (they're a bit harder to come by down there) but I wasted enough time to make that difficult, so I stuck around the hotel and then went out to Abiko in time for lunch. I had a nice visit there, and came back to the hotel.

The train ride to Abiko takes almost an hour, so I had a couple of hours to think about how weird it is to live in Japan. Well, perhaps "weird" isn't the word. I guess the thing I noticed is that I keep having the same thoughts when I ride the train. People in Japan scrupulously avoid making eye-contact with other people on the train. Staring at another person is rude, so they are careful not to look at all if they can help it. Often, they just close their eyes and try to fall asleep. Of course, as a foreigner, I just look around as much as I like, so occasionally I'll catch someone's eye, and they'll look away, but they'll always look back at me after a while to see if I'm still looking at them. ("Why is that foreigner staring at me?") That continues back and forth for a while... but I always feel kind of bad for Japanese people. I appreciate the overall level of politeness in Japanese society; the feeling of security, and so on; but by the same token, sometimes I feel like Japanese people are trapped by the elaborate set of rules they've created. Everyday, they travel on packed trains, and they try to make it as stress-free as possible by being completely non-confrontational (not even making eye-contact with each other) but when you think about it, what could be more absurd than a traincar filled with 200 people, all trying their hardest to pretend that the other 199 don't exist? If you've ever been in an elevator filled with strangers, you know the feeling. (By the way, elevators in Japan are even worse, because they rarely ever have Muzak, so it's so quiet you can hear a pin drop... or hear the other people breathing...) I think riding the train alone every day would drive me absolutely insane. In fact, I'm kind of surprised that more people in Japan don't snap and go on murderous killing sprees... to their credit, I suppose ...

Anyway, as you can see, I didn't do much today. Tomorrow is training, and then after that, we fly down to Oita. I won't miss Tokyo, but I will definitely miss my Tokyo friends. You can't have it all, I guess.


Post a Comment

<< Home