Time flies…


Yes… Time flies, and we have been living here in Tokyo for going on 10 months. We knew the time would go fast… too fast. Our two year assignment will be over before we are ready for it to be over, I’m afraid.

It has been a couple of weeks since I last did a blog post…  Again… time gets away from me. The routine of daily life gets in the way. But, I have just a few somewhat random things to talk about in this post today:

  • Even after almost 10 months living here, some days I have to really force myself to get out the door.  It can be very stressful living in a culture where you don’t know the language well. Simple little tasks like paying bills and going to the supermarket can become nerve-wracking encounters of miscommunication. Some days I am just not up for it. Yesterday, I stayed in all day. Sure…  it was pouring rain until mid-afternoon, and by then I had settled into studying my Japanese. I find it is best if I can get myself out the door early. Kind of sets the tone for the rest of the day.
  • This morning the sun was shining and I went out for a run. Starting out with fresh air and exercise always makes the day better. Five miles along the canals, watching the ducks and cormorants, watching the boats on the canal, and “people-watching.” It still seems weird to me that I am living in the most populated metro area in the world, and I can still be somewhat close to nature. In this crowded and busy city, we have managed to find a beautiful and quiet place to run and walk and commune with nature. Not all of Tokyo is this peaceful… lol.
  • Ok…  I have mentioned this many times, but the Japanese people are really NICE people. They have elevated “nice” and “polite” to an art form. Honestly. The US could take a few lessons. (No offense, but really.) Today I went to the supermarket. They are always so nice, and they seem to genuinely appreciate their customers.  They are polite, friendly, helpful, and engaging… at least as much as they can be with this non-Japanese-speaking foreigner. The checker today apologized profusely when something rang up wrong, and she even carried my grocery basket to the bagging table for me.
  • That said… when I walk along the streets — at least here in Tokyo — sometimes I feel invisible. No one looks at me or makes eye contact with me at all. This used to bother me a lot. I almost felt rejected… like they didn’t approve of my being here. It would be easy to take it personally, but then I noticed they treat each other the same way. I think it all goes back to “meiwaku” again (see previous blog post.) The Japanese people are brought up to be kind and respectful to each other, and to be very careful not to offend or interfere with the people around them.
  • And… this shows up in their language. I am struggling to learn Japanese, but I have learned enough to notice this. For one thing, what I am learning is the “polite” form of the language. They have an informal form, but that is usually reserved only for family members and close friends. Polite form is very important. Also… when they need to refuse something or say “no” to something, they do it very indirectly. It is considered rude to directly say “no” to something. You have to do it in a very gentle and apologetic way. “Chotto… sumimasen…”
  • Sunday morning, my husband and I went out for a run. Many of the sidewalks here are divided into pedestrian lane and bicycle lane. Bicycles usually ride on the sidewalk and not out in the street. Anyway… we were running along in the pedestrian lane and came to a blind corner blocked by a construction wall. As I came up to the corner I was almost run over by a women on a bicycle who had “cut” the corner and veered into the pedestrian lane. It was a good thing we both had quick reflexes, or we would both have been sprawled on the pavement. She profusely apologized… “Sumimasen, sumimasen… gomenasai!” (I’m sorry!) In another culture, it might have been easy to get angry and snap an unkind response. But here… no…  As frightened as I was by almost being run down, I just smiled and bowed to her (at a loss for words again.) I find this culture is rubbing off on me… and I like it.

Lost in Translation… yet again…

Life anywhere is full of little problems that we have to deal with… the little headaches of daily life.  *sigh*

Last week while we were away in South Korea,my Japanese iPhone was turned off and stowed carefully in the bottom of my backpack. When we travel, my US phone which has free data and text messages…  and $0.20/minute calling (ala our T-Mobile plan) is what I use. In retrospect, I probably could have gotten by with just the T-Mobile phone for these two years in Japan, and not gotten a Japanese phone at all…  but I thought (at the time) that I would need a phone for calling here in Japan. So I have been carrying two phones…  my US Samsung phone for communicating back home, and an iPhone for use here.

Anyway… When we got back to Tokyo, I turned on my iPhone and it immediately said it needed to do an update.  Ok… I have done a couple of updates in the past few months, and all went smoothly. This time, however, after a few minutes, my phone said that it needed to be plugged into iTunes because the update had failed. Long story short, my Japanese iPhone failed to update, and though I have tried numerous things, numerous times (suggested by the IT people at my husband’s office, and from websites found on Google), it just will not update. It just gives me error codes.

So, today I went to the SoftBank Store — my cell service provider, and the place I bought the phone. “Eigo ga wakarimasu ka?” I said, and before I even got the words out, the guy at the counter crossed his wrists into an X, and said, “Eigo no” (“English no.”)  I still tried to talk to him, and showed him my phone, and told him the update failed. He seemed to know the word “update”, took the phone from me and turned it on. Then he handed it back and said “Apple su-to-a” and handed me a map — which was written entirely in Japanese.

Well… next stop, the Apple Store. I hope I have better luck finding someone who can speak English with me. I am still learning Japanese, and I am sorry I can’t communicate better than this…  I really am trying.

As I said…  I know life is full of these kind of little problems, but it would be so much easier if I could speak Japanese. I’m enjoying this time living in Japan…  It is just that some days are more difficult than others.