I miss Japan

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Today I have a lot of physics work to do. I wish I could get everything done early, but I can’t. There is nothing on the agenda except physics, physics, physics, and Mass. But this morning after breakfast, I decided to screw around on the Internet a little, before beginning my work. A little Catholic reading, a little physics reading, and a little Japan reading. I should know by now that I shouldn’t bother reading about events in Japan, JET participants’ blogs, or anything else like that. I miss Japan so much, and my number one career goal is actually to get back to Japan — a significant reason why I’m still considering applying to OCS when I graduate. Lord, help me to graduate.

When I got back to the US, a friend of mine who had spent some years in Japan before me, said that it was a matter of time until I quit pining for Japan. The time has certainly flown by since then, but I miss every little thing about that country just as much now as I did the day I left. I miss the cheap umbrellas that are broken and lost in alleys after every heavy storm. I miss every one walking their shiba ken dogs. I miss the general cleanliness, politeness, and quiet even in city centers. I miss the sense of seasons in Japan. It isn’t only the weather, but it is a series of holidays and festivals and ways of decorating. It’s the seasonal food. It’s the seasonal fashion, even though very short shorts and skirts are never out of style in Japan.

I miss spending a lot of money for seemingly basic things, but not feeling like I’m getting ripped off at all — because everything I’ve bought in Japan has been great quality.

I even miss the unpleasant-at-the-time things, like getting soaked in rain as I biked to work, or not being able to have a conversation while hiking in the woods because the bugs were so loud. I miss getting drunk despite only meaning to have one beer, because some happy drunk Japanese guys would not stop being all of my friends and I Budweisers, so we could keep singing karaoke. I miss how things that seem so ridiculous in the US are totally okay, if not viewed in a positive way, i.e. cute, in Japan. I miss tasting the probably hundreds of different drinks sold in vending machines around the country (even in more rural parts), then desperately seeking a bathroom, only to find the “traditional” style, and, well… figuring it out.

I only remember one experience in Japan that I wish hadn’t happened, really. K. and I were in a crowded Kansai subway, and, long story short, I collided with a woman who turned out to be blind. It was embarrassing, frustrating, and made me feel like a horrible person. Also, by the time I realized that I actually had the ability to apologize (sometimes I forget that I actually am able to say things in my second languages), it was too late. I still feel horrible about that. I think few things in my past make me feel that bad, in fact. But a funny way to look at it is that if that had happened in the US, I probably would’ve gotten arrested, assaulted, or cussed out. And that’s the wonderful thing about Japan versus home in America: I don’t have to constantly work to avoid conflict. In America, you can be polite, drive safely, mind your own business, and still get victimized or at least hassled anyway. Sorry to say, but if you’re poor, or especially black, it seems like you still might just get shot. That’s just how it is. People yell at you because they perceive you looked at them a certain way. Some communities are worse than others, of course. But in Japan, the only hassle you’re likely to have is from another foreigner. Even then, it’s not as likely. In all my time in Japan, I was shouted out while in uniform by one Russian. The same night actually, a Japanese man did seem upset, but he wasn’t loud or threatening (a Japanese woman had drunk herself to unconsciousness, and he blamed Americans). The only violence or threat of violence… or even loud arguing I ever saw was among my fellow Americans, and sometimes an Australian who worked in the same area.

I’m beating a dead horse, even though I have physics work to go do. But I just miss Japan very much. The fact is that life there is different from life here. The food, the furniture, the company, and even the movie theater. The malls, restaurants, transportation… and of all the moving I have done in my life, I was sorriest to leave Japan, because that is where I first felt at home. So many kind people, so much childlike joviality, so much natural beauty.

Well, I’d better go. If I don’t study, I don’t know how I’ll make it back there.

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